Been A Long Time Comin'
This story is written in response to the Sunday Scribblings prompt "drought"...
Nearing 40, Sarah was long past her courting years. Still, it pained her to hear the children of their dusty Kansas town referring to her as an "old maid" within earshot. It wasn't the way she'd wanted things to be, it just was.
Sarah had grown up on her parent's small farm, the oldest of nine children. Her Mother had been sickly since the last two were born, and most of the house chores had fallen to Sarah. It was she who took care of her younger siblings, cooked and cleaned, and did the laundry. It was back breaking work, and the years of toil showed on her face and hands.
Farming wasn't easy in the depression years, what crops they did manage to get in the ground often scorched in the sun, or were blown away by the dry wind. What managed to get a foothold was soon devoured by grasshoppers. It was a hard life, and money was scarce. Sarah did what she could to help out, baking pies to sell on Saturdays at the farmer's market in town, and taking in sewing and mending. There hadn't been time for entertaining thoughts of courting, she knew she was needed at home.
Sarah never got past sixth grade, but those few years in the small rural schoolhouse had instilled in her a love of reading. Late nights often found her in the rocking chair next to the fireplace, squinting to make out the words on pages in the pale light of a kerosene lamp. She'd read her Bible cover to cover more times than she could count, and had borrowed books from the teacher, the preacher, the store owner, and anyone else willing to lend her a copy. She dreamed of far away places and a life very different from her own.
It was late Springtime now, and a small sprinkling of rain had given hope to the local farmers. Sarah's father was getting on in years, and she didn't see how he was going to manage planting without help. His sons had long since grown and moved on to other places to start families of their own. They wanted no part of the uncertainty of farming.
Sarah left word with Sam, the owner of their small general store, that they were looking for a farm hand, someone who needed a place to stay and would be willing to work in exchange for food and lodging, and maybe a bit of money when and if the crops came in. He told her he'd be sure to pass the word along.
Just a week later, a man showed up at the door, hat in hand, bib overalls well worn. He said his name was Abraham, but folks just called him Abe. Sarah liked the way his blue eyes twinkled when he spoke, and he looked strong enough to do the job. He told Sarah's father that he was a widower from Wisconsin, his wife had died of pneumonia several years ago. Abe said he was looking for new start in a place where he wasn't surrounded with memories of the love he once had.
Sarah's father showed Abe the small shed beside the barn that held a cot, table and chair, and a small woodstove, and told him to make himself at home. Before long he was settled in and went to work on repairing fences that had long been neglected.
Sarah watched him out the kitchen window while she washed up the dishes. The sun was baking hot, and Abe soon pulled off his shirt, working in just his undershirt and overalls, stopping often to wipe the sweat from his brow with an old handkerchief he kept stuffed in his back pocket. Sarah noticed how brown he was, lean and muscled, and how quickly he worked on putting the fence right.
Sarah reached for the bowl of lemons she'd been saving for a lemon pie, and decided to make a pitcher of lemonade instead. She mixed the lemon juice with cool water pumped from the outdoor well, and sweetened it with a bit of sugar. Filling a tall glass, she took off her apron, tucked in the strands of hair that had worked lose from her tightly wrapped braid, and headed out across the yard to where Abe was working.
Abe looked up and smiled when he saw her approaching, that lemonade looked mighty good, and Sarah was a right pretty woman. He had noted that she wasn't wearing a wedding ring, and he wondered if she might be widowed too. Sarah shyly offered him the cool drink for which he expressed much gratitude. She invited him to join them for dinner at sundown. She had a chicken roasting she said. There'd be potatoes and baked beans as well, and apple pie for desert.
Abe broke into a wide grin, it had been a mighty long time since he'd tasted freshbaked apple pie. He thanked Sarah for the invite and said he'd be glad to accept. As Sarah walked back toward the house, empty glass in hand, her steps were a bit lighter and she didn't feel quite as tired as she had before. She was thinking that just maybe God heard her prayers after all, and the long drought was fixing to be over.