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Historical Fiction


The last light of day was just about gone as Abby walked back to the old farm house she shared with her family.   Shabby and in need of repair as it was,  the warm glow of light from the Windows was a welcome sight,  her family inside and the normal chatter of the days sharing that was so much a part of this family, she could feel the welcome.   The contrast to where she had spent her day,  to where she spent every day was stark.   Never enough heat, or light,  never a smile and words so few that when spoken often startled her,  her mind always anywhere but in the present.   Glad to be home now and already dreading leaving in the morning to return to the thing she hated but was committed to,  a necessity, it was  not a real choice.


It was the way it often was in large families,  in these times,  never enough of anything,  always growing feet in need of shoes,  animals that needed feed,  rent to pay or taxes.   Just never enough of anything no matter how a person scrimped and saved or how big the gardens and so the older children were farmed out,  to live away,  earn a few coins and eat  someone else’s food.  She was lucky to come home at night,  she tried to come home with a full belly,  just for the time with family,  just for the warmth.


As was her custom,  just before opening the door,  she stood straighter and tried for a sunny expression,  no need to let her Mom know how bad it was…they both hated this,  they both knew this job was a godsend for the family,  and yet they both hated that they were separated,  herself gone for 10 hours a day,  her two older brothers gone for months between visits but it was working.   The family was surviving.


Coming in now to the warmth,  little arms around her legs and ankles,  her Mom smiling from the kitchen,  yes it was worth it all.  The enjoyment of her family.  She climbed the stairs to the room in the attic she had made her own,  a few personal treasures she kept in a box there and a pile of blankets and rags for warmth at night.   Opening the box,  she sat and wrote a few lines in her journal,  she liked to record her thoughts,  she could see how she was moving away from the foolish fantasy of childhood to the stark reality of becoming an adult.   Hours of silence in Mrs. Wilson’s house gave her time for the reality to sink in….she was learning a very basic skill,  if you could call it that,  earning a few coins to help her family and waiting…yes, waiting,  but for what?   She was waiting for?   A miracle?   To be rescued?   By whom?    Closing the book she placed it again in the box,  sliding it under her bed and went to her only pleasure of this day,  to be with her family.


Her Father at the head of the table still pleasant and encouraging to his children,  seeking out the strength or skill he could see in each one and trying to nudge them in that direction.   He had mellowed since his accident and since he demanded less of himself he was patient with them too.   Abby went to him, gave him a quick rub between his shoulders and murmured a hello,  he beamed at the attention.   Now to the kitchen and helping her Mom bring food to the table,  finally forcing her Mom to sit,  eat,  she would finish serving and then clearing.    Looking from face to face around the table,  she wondered what next week or next year would bring.   Joe and Jim both on farms within the county,  they had already changed from scrawny skinny boys to arms with muscle but also she sensed a pride in them, they would be alright,  learning new ways of farming,  the rewards of hard work,  but what of the rest of these faces?   There were still five here at home to keep fed and clothed for school.   Her sister Becky would be the next to go,  such a shy girl,  going out would be difficult.   Abby wondered how long they had until they found a place for Becky.   Sliding into a chair next to Becky,  she asked about school and got one word answers in return,  not to be deterred,  she tried to draw her out,  hoping one day to see something of a spark of special interest in her sister,  something that would be an unconscious telling of her heart’s happiness.   It would take time.   


It always amazed Abby the speed at which the bowls and platters were emptied,  the bread gone,  the milk pitcher empty but she was glad they had enough….and now the clearing away,  the kitchen work she and Becky would handle while her Mom took charge of the others with homework or clothes for the next day school, clean ears and into bed.  Her Father needed extra help too so the kitchen was left to the two girls.  Finally finished,  Becky slips her arm around Abby’s waist and gives a small hug,  just about the biggest sign of appreciation Becky can give.


Returning to her place in the attic,  Abby takes out her journal and looks back over the pages.  She has come far in some respects and has stood still in others.   Finding the pages where she drew the diagrams of the loom in the first days in the Wilson house,  she recalls panic and confusion…the monotone voice of Mrs. Wilson droning on,  naming the parts of the loom, heddles, beater, temple, prawn, weft,  words she had never heard before,  how the parts worked together,  sequences,  patterns,  yarns,  it was overwhelming to her.   Her salvation was coming home at night,  drawing what she could remember, naming the parts,  her mind in panic,  her heart heavy.   Tonight she flips past pages with more question marks than names,  she smiles now to know there is little mystery now,  she has the skill to use the loom with whatever pattern Mrs. Wilson has asked of her.  The pile of finished rugs grows every day,  some nice home would be lucky to have any of them on the floor.


Mrs. Wilson is never unkind,  Mrs. Wilson is just locked in her own reality having lost twin daughters to illness three winters ago and her husband last winter.   She has a lovely home but it is empty of all except herself,  the cook/housekeeper and Abby.  She rarely speaks and then only out of necessity,  Abby realizes it is a form of self punishment that she lives and her whole life has perished around her.  It is a sadness to Abby that she knows this, understands this,  but cannot warm to this woman.  Time to sleep,  Dawn comes as dawn will,  cold,  early and she has the walk back no matter the weather.


Today Abby sees that Mrs. Wilson has opened her special cabinet of yarns.  Soft subtle gentle colors in rows along the top and as your eye passes down the rows the colors become brighter and more alive.   The cabinet itself is beautiful and is a special thing to Mrs. Wilson.   “Today we begin something new” is how she begins this day!   Drawing a pattern from the chest of thin drawers meant only to hold papers and patterns, Mrs. Wilson lays it on the easel by the window.   And now an amazing flow of words that surprise Abby.   “You have never been to my bedroom but if you had, you would see a rug of this pattern,  woven before my wedding as a gift to my husband.”   “A special thing to me,  I wanted to teach my daughters to weave it for their husbands when the time came”.     “And now Abby, I think you are ready to try this pattern,  it is not easy,  it requires concentration, but it is beautiful!”     As quickly as the words had flowed,  just as quickly they stopped.   A very long moment or two of uncomfortable silence was broken as Abby moved her attention to the pattern on the easel.   It was beautiful,  intricate twists and weaving of colors and yarns,  she was impressed to think Mrs. Wilson thought her capable.   As she turned her attention back to Mrs. Wilson, she saw a smile on her face,  the first ever in the months she has been here.   Smiling back,  Abby tries to imagine the completed rug!


Weeks have now passed and the prize rug has taken shape,  a few errors early on until she got the method solidly in her mind have given way to smooth weaving,  each day a delight,  confident and pleasing.   A new feeling of having accomplished something very special fills Abby with the kind of pride she thinks she saw in her brother’s,  having gone out so afraid and having succeeded.   She thinks only two more days and then it will be complete!   By Friday,  perhaps a new pattern just as exciting!


On Friday as Abby arrives at the Wilson house,  the cook tells her a visitor is expected and she should tidy the loom and all of the supplies.    Going about the morning doing as she has been asked,  her eye goes to the new beautiful rug on the display table.   It is a marvel of color and skill,  she is proud.   Just after lunch,  she is called to join Mrs. Wilson and her guest in the loom studio.   Quietly she stands to the side while the gentleman lifts rugs one by one from the many piles around the room.   Finally Mrs. Wilson asks what he thinks,   He replies he will take them all except three …very early attempts with obvious errors and pulled knots.   Abby is not at all sure what is happening!    Mrs. Wilson introduces her as her artist assistant and he is a buyer for a textile shop and gallery.  It would seem the months of work,  the piles of rugs were being sold.   Abby looks about herself,  she will miss the colors,  the softness of touching the finished rugs,  the connection she feels with each one.   She leaves them to see to setting up the tea service and making things ready for Mrs. Wilson to serve her guest tea.    It is so strange to feel a sadness about the work leaving the house.   


Later in the afternoon the guest gone now,  arrangements made for a truck to pick up the rugs next week and her day just about over,  Abby sits in the loom room and wonders what strange thing will happen next.   She is very fearful that Mrs. Wilson will not need her any longer.  Yes,  fear, real fear.  Mrs. Wilson joins her, a cup of tea in each hand,  one for each of them.   “Sit down please Abby,  I have been thinking about us….you and me….and your family”.   “I have some thoughts, suggestions, ideas and I would like to talk about them”.


Her thoughts were first about the special rug that Abby had just finished.    She hoped Abby would accept it as a gift to keep for her husband when the time came for her to marry.   Short of that,  if Abby did not want that,  the textile buyer wanted it badly and would pay a handsome price for it and half would go to Abby.   Her choice,   The rug to own, or half of the profits if they sold it?   Abby’s mind was reeling,  money,  real money,  her family,  her husband,  her future….the word future suddenly had a clarity that had never seemed to apply to her before.    Stunned and in silent shock,  she was blinking back hot tears,   Family, she must take care of her family,  crossing the room she ran her hands over the beautiful rug she had woven.   She stroked it again and again.   She loved it as she had never loved a “thing” before.    Turning back to Mrs. Wilson she is ready to say “SELL” it,  the resulting money saving her family.    Before she can speak,  Mrs. Wilson begins again,  more words than Abby thought possible from her.   “Before you decide,  I have one other idea,  I wondered your thoughts on that too”.    “I wondered if your sister Becky may be of an age to join us here,  you and I and Becky,  weaving rugs and trying new patterns”?     “The same arrangement as we have,  home nights,  not too far from home,  sharing in the profits from the rugs,  voices in this old house at last”!  Not able to stop herself she is across the room,  her arms around Mrs. Wilson,  tears flowing down her face,  she knows she should let go of this very private silent woman but she cannot.   Long moments pass,  finally letting go she looks long into her face,  she sees a softness never there before,  she understands this is a good thing for Mrs. Wilson, too.    Becky.  Yes, Becky,  with time to come out of her shyness,  not with strangers but her with her,  teaching her,  showing her,  finding what she can add to the work.   They all added something different.    A way ahead,   A future!   She already knows in her mind how she will begin to teach her,  as she was taught…Threading…..Tie-up…Treadling….and Draw down…..oh please Becky,  be alright with this,  it is a future!



May 29, 2020 22:52

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10 comments

Zilla Babbitt
14:13 Jun 11, 2020

Here for the critique circle :) Interesting story! I like your descriptions-- they're good. Your character building is looking well too. A few minor things: 1. Pick a tense! Past or present, don't mix. 2. Try not to use ellipses so much. 3. Single-spacing, everywhere. 4. Indent just before someone speaks, and right after, unless you have a tag "she said forlornly," like that. 5. Also, just tell the story, don't try so hard to show how it's a different time period. Little descriptions about lighting or clothing shows the different period ...

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P. Jean
14:55 Jun 11, 2020

Thank you...I do struggle with tense...and also I find during the story I go from she to I...like I have become the character...constant battle...Thank you for your time to comment mostly. Also the expertise....thank you so much..

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Zilla Babbitt
14:56 Jun 11, 2020

Welcome!

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K.C. Dunford
03:44 Jun 11, 2020

Wow, what a great story! I like your style so wanted to let you know about a free writing contest that I am hosting now until the end of June. The winning story will be published by High Dive Publishing and both first and second place will receive some amazing prizes. Visit https://kcdunfordbooks.wixsite.com/contest if you’re interested! I hope you will submit! I’d love to see more of your work.

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P. Jean
04:18 Jun 11, 2020

Thanks K.C. I appreciate your kind comment and suggestion.....thanks for your time....

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Adam Wright
21:56 Jun 10, 2020

Great story! I like how it sets the time period nicely.

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P. Jean
00:44 Jun 11, 2020

Thank you so much Adam. It was a pleasure to write a period piece. Thank you for your TIME to comment!

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Aisoo Kim
07:57 Dec 06, 2020

Hello. I hope you have a good day ahead of you. I am actually a student from Malaysia and is currently in my last semester in college. I have to create a website for my individual project and I've decided to create a website for young writers to write to their heart content. If you would like to check out my website, here's the link. https://dayangnurulaisyah.wixsite.com/el-dorado Would you be interested in helping me out with the project by sending me your stories through email or participating in the festive writing/ monthly writing ...

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Mehak Aneja
05:06 Jun 26, 2020

BRILLIANT story!! literally loved it. I was SO fascinated after reading the story. You definitely got the feeling of characters and gave the detailing so well. Wish could write so well like you. :D Would you mind to read my story too and share your opinions on it.

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P. Jean
05:21 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you so much for two things, kind words and your time to comment! I appreciate both so much!

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