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A Quilt for Jenna (Apple Creek Dreams Series)

By Patrick E. Craig

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Chapter One
The Quilt

Jerusha Springer reached behind the quilting frame with her left hand and pushed the needle back to the surface of the quilt to complete her stitch. Wearily she pulled the needle through, quickly knotted the quilting thread and broke it off. She had been working on the quilt for months and as she leaned back in her chair she knew it was the best one she had ever made. Thousands of stitches had gone into the work, seventy every ten inches, and the work was indeed a masterpiece. Somehow that knowledge could not soothe the ache in her heart.
This has been the hardest time of my whole life.
Tears quickly filled her eyes and she reached up to wipe them away.
If only Jenna were here with me, I could bear this somehow.
The November sun shone weakly through a gray overcast of clouds and the pale light from her window made the fabric in the quilt shimmer and glow. A fitful wind shook the bare branches of the maple trees and the few remaining leaves whirled away into the light snow that drifted down from the gunmetal sky. Winter had come unannounced to Apple Creek and Jerusha hadn't noticed. Her life had been bound up in this quilt for so many months that everything else in her life seemed like shadows. She stared at the finished quilt on the frame but there was no joy in her heart, no sense of accomplishment, only a dull ache and the knowledge that soon she would be free.
She had searched without success for several months to find just the right fabric to make this quilt, and then stumbled upon it quite by accident. A neighbor told her of an estate sale at an antique store in Wooster and she asked the neighbor boy to drive her over to see what she could find. The English had access to many things from the outside world and she had often looked in their stores and catalogs to find just the right materials for her quilting.
On that day in Wooster she had been poking through the piles of clothing and knickknacks scattered around the store, when she had come upon an old cedar chest. The lid was carved with ornate filigree and there were several shipping tags still attached. The trunk was locked, so she called the proprietor over and when he opened it, she drew in her breath with a little gasp. There, folded neatly, were two beautiful pieces of fabric. One was blue, the kind of blue that kings might wear, and as she lifted it to the light, she could see that it changed from blue to purple, depending on how she held it. The other piece was deep red … Like the blood of Christ, or a rose.
The fabric was light but strong, smooth to the touch and tightly woven.
"I believe that's genuine silk, Ma'am," the owner said. "I'm afraid it's going to be expensive."
Jerusha didn't argue the price. It was exactly what she was looking for and she didn't dare let it slip through her fingers. Normally, the quilts that she and the other women in her community made were from plainer fabric, cotton or sometimes synthetics, but lately she did not really care about staying locked into the ordnung of her faith. Reuben had given her some money before he left and she had enough to buy the cloth. So, pushing down her fear of the critical comments she knew she would hear about "pride" and "worldliness" from the other women, she purchased it and left the store. As she rode home she began to see the design for the quilt in her mind, and for the first time in months she felt her spirits lift.
When she arrived home, she searched through her fabric box, looking for the cream-colored cotton-backing piece she had kept for just such a special quilt. She sketched out a rough design and in the following days cut the hundreds of pieces to make the pattern for the top layer. She sorted and ironed them and then pinned and stitched all the parts into a rectangle measuring approximately eight and one-half feet by nine feet. After that she laid the finished top layer out on the floor and traced the entire quilting design on the fabric with tailor's chalk. The design unfolded before her eyes like someone else was directing her hand and now she saw it completely.
The royal blue pieces made a dark, iridescent backdrop to a beautiful deep red rose-shaped piece in the center. The rose had hundreds of parts, all cut into the flowing shapes of petals instead of the traditional square or diamond-shaped patterns of Amish quilts. The quilting pattern was the most complicated she had ever done, but she traced it out, grateful for the means to occupy her mind and keep the thoughts of Jenna from overwhelming her. Then she laid out the cream-colored backing, placed a double layer of batting on top of it and over it all, she placed the ironed patchwork piece that she had developed over the past month. On her hands and knees she carefully basted the layers together, starting from the center and working out to the edges. Once she was finished, she called the neighbor boy for help. He held the material while she carefully attached one end to the quilting frame, and then they slowly turned the pole until she could attach the other end. Then she drew the quilt tight until it was stable enough to stitch on and she started to quilt. Delicate tracks of quilting stitches began to make their trails through the surface of the quilt as Jerusha labored day after day at her work. It was as though the quilt was consuming her, and her grief and the anger and the despair were all poured into the fabric spread before her.
Often as she worked she would stop and lift her face to the sky.
"I hate you," she would say quietly, "and I'm placing all my hatred into this quilt, so that I will never forget that when I needed you most, you failed me." Then she would go back to her work with a fierce look on her face, and a deep and abiding anger in her heart.
Jenna, why did you go? You were my hope, my dream and my faith, and now all of that is lost.
Now at last the quilt was finished.
"I will take this quilt to the Dalton Fair, and I will win the prize and be famous," she said out loud as she laid down her needle. "I will leave Apple Creek, Ohio, and I will leave this religion, and I will leave this God who has turned His back on me. I will make a new life among the English and I will never come back."
As she stared at the quilt, she decided, "I will call this quilt 'The Rose of Sharon.' Not for you, but for her, my precious girl, my Jenna." The quilt shone in the soft light from the window and Jerusha felt a great surge of triumph.
I don't need you, not now, not ever again.
And Jerusha turned off the lamp and went alone to her cold bed.

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