Authors: Vannetta Chapman
The Christmas Quilt
Other Books in the Quilts of Love Series
Beyond the Storm
A Wild Goose Chase Christmas
Path of Freedom
Jennifer Hudson Taylor
For Love of Eli
Threads of Hope
A Healing Heart
A Heartbeat Away
S. Dionne Moore
Pieces of the Heart
Bonnie S. Calhoun
Pattern for Romance
Carla Olson Gade
Sandra D. Bricker
Scraps of Evidence
A Sky Without Stars
Linda S. Clare
Maybelle in Stitches
The Christmas Quilt
Quilts of Love Series
The Christmas Quilt
Copyright © 2013 by Vannetta Chapman
Published by Abingdon Press, P.O. Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or transmitted in any form or by any means—digital, electronic, scanning, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without written permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations in printed reviews and articles.
The persons and events portrayed in this work of fiction are the creations of the author, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Authorized (King James) Version. Rights in the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom are vested in the Crown. Reproduced by permission of theCrown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The Christmas quilt / Vannetta Chapman.
1 online resource. — (Quilts of love series)
Description based on print version record and CIP data provided by publisher; resource not viewed.
ISBN 978-1-4267-7803-2 (E-book; ePub)—ISBN 978-1-4267-7802-5 (E-Book; Adobe PDF)—ISBN 978-1-4267-5277-3 (trade pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Quiltmakers—Fiction. 2. Christmas stories. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
To Martha Casbeer, my friend and a gifted quilter
While this novel is set against the real backdrop of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, the characters are fictional. There is no intended resemblance between the characters in this book and any real members of that community. As with any work of fiction, I have taken license where needed in order to create the necessary conditions for my characters. My research was thorough; however, it is impossible to be completely accurate in details and description, since each community differs. Any inaccuracies in the Amish and Mennonite lifestyles portrayed in this book are completely due to fictional license.
This book is dedicated to Martha Casbeer. When I first moved to my town and asked around for someone who could help me learn to quilt, everyone gave me Martha’s name. She has been invaluable to me in reading all of my manuscripts, but especially this one. Her patience is tremendous and her quilting skill a real treasure. Any mistakes in details regarding quilting are my own.
Melissa Neff and Sara Kalmbach provided insight into the nursing details.
I’d like to invite readers to visit www.locksoflove.org. This organization is mentioned in passing in this novel, and from what I have learned, it is a fine charity.
Thanks to my pre-readers: Donna, Dorsey, and Kristy. They do an excellent job of catching my mistakes. I also appreciate every member of my family and their patience with me when I’m working under a deadline. I’m indebted to my agent, Mary Sue Seymour, for always finding the best place for my work, and to the wonderful staff at Abingdon Press for publishing this story.
I enjoyed this return visit to Annie and Samuel and the fine folks in Mifflin County, whom you first read about in
A Simple Amish Christmas
. It’s easy to grow attached to fictional characters when you spend so much time with them. My prayer is that these characters will bring you into a closer walk with our Lord.
And finally, may we give “thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
against such there is no law.
Mifflin County, PA
nnie tried to quiet the nervousness in her stomach. She pressed her hand against the fabric of her new dress—her wedding dress. The fabric’s bright blue color reminded her of the clear morning sky outside. From the upstairs window, she could see much of her parents’ farm—the recently harvested fields, the barn, the yard, and the rows of benches where her family and
were waiting. The lane stretched past it all and led to the road that would take her to Samuel’s, to her new life.
Soon she would be Annie Yoder.
A light tap at the door caused her to turn. Leah peeked inside. “Can I come in?”
I was watching out the window, trying to freeze this moment in my mind.”
Leah joined her there, linking their arms together. One year younger, slightly thinner, her hair a shade lighter, they could have been sisters. Annie’s brother, Adam, had been courting her for over a year and already she felt like one of the family. Afraid her knees might give out, Annie sat on the bed.
“You and I will be sisters soon, before the noon meal.”
Leah reached forward and tucked a wayward curl into Annie’s
. No matter how she pinned her hair, it insisted on escaping. Last night Samuel had confessed he’d loved her the moment she’d stepped into her father’s room, when she’d come home to nurse Jacob, and he’d first seen her hair loose and cascading beneath her nurse’s cap.
“You’ve known this for months,” Leah reminded her.
my mind knew, but today my stomach finally understands.” She ran her hand over the hand-stitched quilt covering her bed, the bed she would no longer sleep in once she was Samuel’s
“I’m nervous, too. The crackers I had for breakfast helped.”
“I couldn’t swallow a thing.” Annie studied the blue and yellow pinwheel pattern of the quilt. “Do you think these feelings are normal?”
“It’s the excitement. Think of all
has in store for us. It seems Adam and I have waited for so long, and I know Samuel would have been content to marry you months ago—”
“I was so surprised when he asked me on Christmas.”
“Today we begin our new lives.”
Annie smiled as a calm assurance settled her nerves. “By this time next year we could have a family of our own.”
“We’re marrying on the same day.” Leah stood and straightened her blue dress. “Perhaps we’ll also share the day our babies are born.”
wo years later
nnie and Leah strolled along the sidewalk, peeking in the windows of the shops, enjoying the afternoon sunshine.
“When was the last time we had a day that didn’t include freezing temperatures and snow dusting the doorstep?” Leah stopped suddenly as two young boys playing a game of tag ran around her.
“Maybe Saturday was the wrong day to come to town though. A weekday might have been better.” Annie stepped closer and scowled after the boys. “Less traffic. Less
“It’s not their fault I’m as big as Adam’s workhorse.”
“You are not.”
“I am! Look at me . . .” Leah rested her hands on her stomach, which was quite large. She’d recently begun her seventh month of pregnancy, but a stranger might think she was in her final week.
“Belinda told you—”
“Twins take up more room.
, I know. But, Annie, I can’t even put on my own shoes. Adam has to do it for me.” Leah stuck out her bottom lip and lines formed across her forehead.
Annie knew that look—pure misery.
“I should have stayed home.”
“You should have done no such thing. Let’s go on to the general store, then stop by
shop for some tea. Being out is
for you and the babies.”
“Says Nurse Annie—”
“Yes, she does.”
“Who is four months pregnant and still not showing?”
The smile spread across Annie’s face until she was giggling. Then they were both laughing, behaving like schoolgirls. Two pregnant women, standing in the middle of the sidewalk and causing traffic to stream around them.
“Four and a half months,” Annie corrected Leah. “And she moved last night. Samuel and I both felt her.”
Of all people, you should know better than to predict whether your baby is a girl or boy.”
“You’re right, but Samuel seems so certain. After listening to him for four months, I’ve fallen into the habit of saying
.” Annie hooked her arm through Leah’s and pulled her along the sidewalk. “I need to purchase the lavender fabric for the nine-patch crib quilt I’m making you, and I happen to know Rachel received a shipment earlier this week.”
“Oh, do we have to? I’m not sure what I need today is an encounter with Samuel’s sister-in-law.”
“I think she’s mellowing.” Annie whispered as they pushed their way into the general store, causing the small bell above the door to announce their arrival.
Instead of answering, Leah gave her
. It was enough. After nearly three years back at home, back in Mifflin County, Annie had learned to read most of the unspoken cues from her sister-in-law. Packed with all of their previous conversations about Rachel, it said
you know she hasn’t changed at all
we’ll do our best to love her anyway
at the same time.
Annie didn’t talk to many people about Rachel—her mother, Leah, and, of course, Samuel. No one had the answer, but they all knew prayer was the one thing capable of healing the wounded places in Rachel’s heart. Until those places mended, chances were she would remain difficult and even occasionally somewhat nasty.
When they entered the store, a thousand memories surrounded Annie. Her family had shopped at the general store for as long as she could remember, but her recollection and what her eyes saw told two different stories.
The store she had visited as a child was crowded with delightful items in every available spot. Like most Plain folk, Annie had learned not to covet and to appreciate what she had rather than focus on what she didn’t. Growing up, the general store had been owned by Efram Bontrager. She remembered it clearly—it didn’t prick her desires as much as it sparked her imagination. When she walked over the doorstep, she’d always imagined herself stepping into an
fairy tale. He carried supplies for Amish and
alike, so all manner of things were on his shelves. Annie’s favorite spot for years had been Efram’s book nook in the front corner near the window. Her brother Adam had loved the old-fashioned candy counter with its jars of delicious penny candy.
Most of those items had vanished.
Two years ago Rachel Zook, Samuel’s sister-in-law, had moved from Ohio—after her husband died. Annie knew from comments Samuel made it had not been a happy marriage. Rachel never talked about her life before moving—so Annie had no way of knowing if she was still mourning her husband or regretting that her two boys were being raised without the help of a father. There was a third possibility. Perhaps Rachel had fallen into a habit of discontent. She had simply shown up in Mifflin County one day. Efram had decided to put the general store up for sale so he could move closer to his family. Families in the community were hardly aware of Efram’s plans, when Rachel bought the store and settled into the upstairs apartment with her boys.
The store had changed.
Rachel’s store was clean and orderly and was stocked with items she was certain would appeal to the maximum number of customers. In other words, there were no surprises. The charm was gone.
Annie had to admit the place was cleaner.
“Leah, I’m surprised to see you out today.” Rachel sniffed from her place behind the counter. Tall, thin, with a beautiful complexion only the scowl on her face could ruin, Rachel was dressed in her usual gray dress and black apron.
Why the sniff? Did she have a perpetual cold? Or was she suggesting they smelled bad? Annie knew they didn’t, but she was tempted to check. Her mind went back to a psychology class she’d taken while pursuing her nursing certification, during the time she’d lived with her
, among the
. The psychology instructor would have had a good time with some of Rachel’s mannerisms.
“And Annie. I thought you were helping Belinda deliver the infant to the family on the south end of our district, though why Samuel would allow you to go scurrying around the county in your condition—”
, Rachel.” Annie aimed to keep her voice low and calm, as if she were speaking to a child. An image of Kiptyn immediately jumped to her mind, but she pushed it away. Although she’d had letters from her former patient for three years, she hadn’t seen him since she’d left Philadelphia. She still missed the children she once worked with, and today wasn’t a good time to focus on that loss. Today she needed to concentrate on making Leah’s outing a pleasant one.
“I’d hardly call it morning.” Rachel stared at the clock above the register, its hands ticking toward noon. She tapped the counter with her pen, as if to suggest they were late, or perhaps they were keeping her from something.
Annie glanced at Leah, who rolled her eyes. The immature gesture reminded Annie of her youngest sister, Reba. She nearly started giggling again, because Reba had not learned to abide Rachel’s sternness. Reba insisted Rachel reminded her of the old bull out in the pasture—bad-tempered and mean.
The bell over the door rang out again. This time three young boys entered the store, but Rachel was having none of it. “Back out you go.”
“Not without your parents. Go and find them and then you may come back. I don’t have time to keep my eye on you. I have work to do. Now out.”
The boys—good boys who belonged to their church—tugged down on their hats and hurried back out the door. As they left, one murmured to the other two, “I told you she wouldn’t let us come inside.”
Annie plastered on her brightest smile. “I was hoping to pick up the lavender fabric for the quilt I’m working on for Leah’s
“You haven’t finished it yet?” Rachel tsk-tsked as she maneuvered behind the cutting table and pulled out the bolt of lavender cotton. It reminded Annie of the purple flowers which grew on the south side of her vegetable garden. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather use the off-white I carry?”
. This will be
“I think I’ll check and see what infant things you have. Maybe there’s something I’ve forgotten.” Leah waddled off down the aisle, her hand on top of her stomach as she went.
“You shouldn’t have brought her to town.” Rachel made no attempt to lower her voice as she unrolled the fabric with a thump, thump, thump that seemed to echo her disapproval.
“Do you honestly believe she’d be better off sitting at home? She has two months yet before the babies are due—”
“She won’t make it two more months and both of us know it.” Something resembling concern crossed Rachel’s face, but when she glanced up at Annie, she blinked her eyes and whatever had been there, whatever she’d been feeling, had disappeared.
Possibly Annie had imagined it, or maybe for a moment Rachel had remembered what it was like to carry a child within her. Rachel’s boys were older. Matthew had turned ten this year and Zeke was eight. The boys had adjusted to living in Mifflin County. They seemed to have adapted to life without a father—Rachel had moved to their town a year after her husband died. If there was a soft spot in Rachel’s heart, it was for her boys, but she didn’t show it often. Perhaps she was afraid of spoiling them. Where were Matthew and Zeke today? Samuel had reminded her to ask about them.
Certainly, a part of Rachel did remember the miracle of carrying a child inside for nine months and the hope life would turn out to be all you dreamed it could be.
“How much do you need?”
“Half a yard will be more than enough. I can use any extra on a patchwork quilt I plan to start after Christmas.” Annie watched her measure and cut the fabric. “Probably you are right about Leah making it to term, but the
will come when they’re ready. It’s
for Leah to be out of the house and it helps her mood to—”
“Do not come in this store.” Rachel paused in the middle of folding the fabric she had cut. For a moment, Annie wondered who she could be talking to—the bell over the door hadn’t rung. In fact, the store was surprisingly empty for midday on a Saturday.
Annie angled her head to the right. When she did, she caught sight of her two nephews. The younger, Zeke, was halfway through the back door. Matthew stood behind him and had his hand on the door.
At the sound of their mother’s voice, they both had frozen.