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Authors: Peggy Trotter

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Year of Jubilee

BOOK: Year of Jubilee
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YEAR OF JUBILEE
Peggy Trotter

 

Copyright 2015 Peggy Trotter

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Cover Art by Joan Alley

Editing by Susan Baganz

This book is a work of fiction and any
resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or
locales is purely coincidental. The characters are the product of
the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com
and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.

Published by Prism Book Group

ISBN-10: 1943104042

ISBN-13: 978-1-943104-04-8

First Edition, 2015

Published in the United States of America

Contact info:
[email protected]

http://www.prismbookgroup.com

 

DEDICATION

Thank you, Lord, for using my hands to write
your story. I pray it encourages others in their walk with You so
that we can truly embody Psalm 34:3.

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us
exalt His name together.”

Psalm 34:3 KJV

I thank my husband, Barry, who has supported
me throughout this process—my true better half. May my stories
enlighten readers to the blessings of a union ordained by God.

And to Megan, Renee, Misty, Nancy, Diane and
many others, thank you for your fingerprints upon this novel.

CHAPTER ONE

Gibson County, Indiana, December
31
st
, 1849

Jubilee Stallings’ forehead collided with
the wall. Stars flashed behind her closed lids. She lay completely
still. Her face heated and her body ached, yet she dared not
move.

“You’re worthless,” her husband’s slurred
voice continued.

She heard his footsteps stagger across the
floorboards.

“You’re nuttin’ but a dog, and…and…a
piece…of dung.”

The floorboards thundered as his body hit
the floor. Scraping sounds emitted from the other side of the
room.

“I…oughta…”

He continued mumbling unintelligibly.
Jubilee pressed her bruised brow against the icy wood of the wall
and prayed. Fresh tears wet her face.
Please fall asleep.
Almost on command, Colvin gave a snore. Jubilee continued to lie
immobile, although, now that the initial rush of adrenaline had
worn off, the frigid air made her naked body want to shake. She
clenched her teeth and fought against her body’s urge. Snores
filled the air.

She pushed to a sitting position and eyed
the straw mattress where Colvin had sprawled. Moving as cautiously
as a newborn colt, she crawled to her dress by the door. She pulled
it on as a set of shivers ripped through her body. With her sweater
in hand, she crept to the fireplace. Only dying embers remained,
but Jubilee couldn’t risk adding another log. Her teeth chattered
as she tucked her feet beneath her skirt and pulled up the ragged
cardigan to ward off the chill.

She grimaced as she rubbed the swelling on
her neck where he’d choked her. The moonlight broke through the
clouds, highlighting the marks scratched into the wall near the
stone mantel. She’d carved the last one this morning—December 31,
1849. More than a full year had come and gone since she’d begun
marking. Tomorrow would be her second birthday in this house. Once
again, tears threatened. She’d be eighteen.

The day had dawned in a gray haze, but the
day of her birth marked a new year, which always buoyed her with
hope. The hours had passed pleasantly. She’d filled the wood box,
baked fresh bread, and gone to bed looking forward to tomorrow.
Until Colvin had exploded through the door, startling her from a
deep sleep. She closed her eyes and her mind. It was always the
same. More tears spilled from her swollen eyelids.

She tensed as Colvin sputtered a few times
before going back to his ear-splitting snores. Noting where his
pants had dropped, she decided to wait a little longer before she
pilfered a couple coins. Any more and he’d notice and beat her
senseless. Now, time to rest and recover her strength. She’d make
sure she wasn’t near the cabin when he woke. Hopefully he’d follow
his usual pattern and be off and gone for the next several weeks.
Let it be months,
she prayed.
I don’t care if he ever
shows up again
. For now, she needed rest.

She woke a short time later, collected a few
coins from Colvin’s pockets, and opened the door, thankful for the
quiet leather hinges. Because of the cold, she wouldn’t head to the
woods, her favorite hiding place. She’d settle for the barn, a huge
hulking structure. Her breath formed a ghostly fog about her in the
chill, crisp air. Fear licked at her, and she ran from the evil
sleeping in the cabin.

Inside the barn, she moved quietly so as to
not stir the cow, who loved to greet her in the early morn. She
scrambled into the loft and buried herself in a cave of hay. The
exertion left her body panting, but warm. With the protection of
the sweet hay around her, she fell asleep.

* * *

Jubilee started. She blinked a few times
before she realized where she was. Dust tickled her nose. Noises
caught her attention. Colvin saddled his horse in the stall below.
He spoke in gentle tones. The man had always been kinder to his
beast than he had been to her. A door opened with a creak and a low
thudding indicated man and horse made their way to the exit.
Good riddance,
she thought as the barn door closed.

With Colvin gone, Jubilee took up residence
once more in the cabin. Her hands were like ice blocks as she
started a fire from the few remaining embers. Once her fingers
warmed, she brought the coins out of her pocket. They needed to be
hidden. Jubilee climbed on the rough table and located the canvas
bag she kept behind a loose board in the eaves. Not much left. The
stash might last two months if she were careful. After climbing
down, she pulled the bench as close to the hearth as possible.
Some birthday.
She sighed. At least a warm fire burned in
the fireplace. Perhaps now she’d have a time of peace.

* * *

Spring arrived and by mid-April, Jubilee’s
desire for peace fought with her need for food. She’d dropped a
good amount of weight since Colvin’s visit. All the meager supplies
she’d managed to purchase in January had long since been used.
She’d run out of flour six weeks ago, and out of salt in early
February.

She’d killed five of the chickens, one by
one, save the last hen and one rooster. Now she only took an
occasional egg for breakfast, hoping there’d soon be a new brood of
babies. Otherwise, the chickens would be gone too.

Elsie, the old cow, had been nothing but a
sack of bones wrapped in leather in early March, although now she
found tender grass to revive herself. She’d gone dry, and without a
bull, she wouldn’t freshen soon.

Jubilee turned her attention to the task at
hand and drove the cutting edge of the shovel into the packed sod
once more with her bruised heel. She paused a moment to wipe the
sweat from her brow and survey her accomplishment. The small
eight-by-ten patch of newly-turned soil made it hard for Jubilee
not to let discouragement grip her.

Her stomach clenched in hunger. A drink of
water would help, but the bucket and dipper stood a good twenty
feet away, which was too much work. She thought of the thin wild
onions and dandelion greens she’d laid on the table for lunch. The
meager meal duplicated what she’d eaten every day for weeks, but
she could hardly wait to devour them. Yet she had to wait. This
garden was vital and had to be big enough to allow her to store
sufficient food until next year. She sighed. It needed to be four
times this size.

Jubilee pushed herself away from the handle
of the shovel and rambled to the water bucket. She settled in the
new grass and grabbed the dipper. Her life depended on getting the
ground dug, raked, and ready for planting by mid-May.

Her ears picked up another sound. Her brow
wrinkled and her eyes flew open. A horrible dread washed over her.
Hoof beats. Distant, but very real. Her head snapped up.

Colvin.

Of course him. Who else? Seldom did anyone
come out this far. Her weary body, so tired before, tensed with
fear. She glanced from the woods behind her to the barn.
Where
could she hide?

The creak of saddle leather was audible now.
He’d soon be coming through the tree-lined pathway. The cabin
blocked his line of sight if she headed for the trees now. But it
had to be
now
. She turned and trotted past the outhouse,
praying she’d reach the woods before he saw her.

Another sound stopped her dead in her
tracks.
Whistling
. Colvin never whistled. She changed
direction and crept to the side of the cabin.

* * *

Rafe sat easily in the saddle. He tilted his
head toward the sky and shielded his eyes with his right hand. Had
to be near past lunch. He looked ahead and saw a break in the thick
branches. That had to be it. He urged his Appaloosa to a faster
pace, anticipating laying eyes on his new property.

Sure enough, the trees broke and Rafe took
the path. He located a clearing up ahead. As he emerged through the
tangle of limbs, he pulled the animal up in surprise. The barn, the
biggest he’d seen in the area, greeted him like a castle on a
hilltop. He grinned. Colvin had said it was worth twice the land
and he had, for once, told the truth.

He swung his gaze to the cabin. The front
porch sagged, nearly detached from the main house since the
foundation had given way at the steps. He’d have to walk uphill to
reach the door. Stumps, waist high, littered the yard. The place
would require some industry, but he hadn’t come to sit on his
thumbs.

His eyes caught a movement at the edge of
the shack. What was it? A face?

“Hello?” he called.

Silence greeted him. His hands yanked the
shotgun from the scabbard at his leg, and he urged Horse closer to
the house. He dismounted quietly and motioned the animal to stay.
Horse, well trained, stood steadfastly, watching him.

Rafe sidled up to the left corner of the
cabin with his gun held across his chest. In one swift movement he
stepped out, weapon raised, prepared for anything. But the yard
stood empty. With quick movements, he pressed himself to the wall.
He reached the back corner again and popped out in ready stance,
shotgun cocked.

It was a girl. She stood with hands out next
to the outhouse, about fifty feet away. Hunched over, she poised
for flight. He took a deep breath and brought the gun down. As thin
as she was, she presented no threat.
Must be a neighbor
girl.

“Hello?” he called again, and she
back-pedaled a half a dozen steps. “Wait. This the Stallings’
Place?”

She stepped behind the outhouse and peeked
at him.

“Hey there. Can you tell me if this is
Colvin Stallings’ place?”

She never moved. Was she addled? He strode
toward the outhouse. Time for some answers.

No sooner had he taken a step, when she took
off running. He jogged to get a good glance at her, but by the time
he reached the outhouse, she neared the edge of the trees beyond
what had once been a cleared field. Now, scattered with young trees
and weeds, it’d soon turn the open meadow into a woods. He gave a
sigh. What did it matter? She was probably trespassing and wouldn’t
return.

He turned and took a step toward the shack.
The hand pump caught his attention. Ah, that would come in handy
after a long day of tending crops. His eyes fell on another sight.
A shovel was stuck in the soil, the handle straight up in the air,
mid-row in a small patch of freshly turned dirt. He stopped short,
wheeled around, and studied the edge of the woods. Why would a
woman be digging in Colvin’s yard? This had to be the place. The
barn matched the description.

He moved to the back door of the shack and
pushed it open. What he saw made him want to choke his dead cousin.
The floor appeared swept. In front of an ashless fireplace, a table
stood, topped with a bowl of dandelion greens and wild onions.
Herbs and strips of cloth hung from the ceiling. But, worst of all,
was the worn quilt on a straw mattress on the floor, directly to
the right of the door. The bed was carefully made.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets.
Colvin had sworn no one lived on the place and now this. Rafe
turned and looked toward the trees. Did that girl live here? Was
she a squatter? Well, he could hardly set up house until he found
out. With an aggravated grunt, he left the shack and mounted Horse.
He’d have to find her.

BOOK: Year of Jubilee
12.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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