Prologue to Steeple in the Distance

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July 15, 1918

The breeze roused itself as the late afternoon gave way to the evening. It stirred and shook the languid August heat. Briefly it nudged the drooping branches of the three spruce trees that shadowed the west side of the farmhouse. A young woman took refuge from the sun’s heat and glare on the bench beneath them. Her simple cotton work dress hung as limply as the branches above her. A tight, dark braid fell down her back, but not before strands of rebellious hair escaped in various stages of straggling curls around her forehead, ears, and neck. Impatient with trying to control them, she reached at intervals and simply pushed them backwards.

More curious than lazy, the breeze began to twitch the leaves of the book lying open on her lap. One page and another, forward and back, the pages turned in the capricious breeze. The girl did not mind. She sat back with a pleased smile that engaged her entire countenance. Her dark eyes pooled with happiness; her cheeks, always with a pink glow about them, deepened into a rosy blush. A door slammed. She shook herself slightly, as if putting her thoughts back into the present required a physical effort. When no voice called, she remained on the bench.

The pages flipped in the breeze, bringing her attention again to the book on her lap. Hands, sturdy and hardened from work, brushed across the satin covering and her fingers traced the watermarks that embellished the satin. When she opened to the fly page, the firm, blue-inked handwriting of her mother stared up at her. Under that, lower on the page, her eyes scanned the scrawling letters that were her father’s. She traced them with her finger, as if by touching the letters she could touch the past.

Hesitantly she turned the page. A new handwriting, inked and often blotched, covered the page. She scanned the words. The blush of pleasure on her face deepened to an embarrassed red. Quickly she paged through the book. The entries, the dates flashed past her as she turned. Summer, fall, winter and spring, the seasons, the birthdays, the last three years lay open in her lap.

“What a dunderhead I was!” She chided herself with a laugh, “What a giddy little goose!”  Taking up the book she began to read what her own hand had written there.

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