Angie tugged her wrap snug against her chin and glared into the darkness. Distant shadows danced across the snow-covered valley; a tell-tale sign of a candle flickered from Old Cagney's cabin.
Willie whipped the reigns spurring the mare to jolt forward dragging the black sleigh through the night air. The lantern swayed.
Willie didn't smile.
"It's cold," he quietly answered.
She was angry and her older brother knew why. They spoke little as, sitting side by side, their buggy glided them toward home.
Sixteen years old, he thought. She has a lot to learn. He jilted the reigns again. I've got a lot to learn.
"It isn't fair." Angie brushed a snowflake from her face. Willie hardly heard her.
"It isn't fair," she repeated. "I made that quilt. And the time. I spent ages. Ages! Every dumb stitch."
He glanced sideways. There was that pout. He'd seen it a thousand times before.
"I like your quilt," he interrupted. "Every dumb stitch of it."
A ribbon of smoke could faintly be seen rising from Old Cagney’s cabin as the horse-drawn sleigh pulled them ever closer. It reminded Willie of the locomotives that barreled through the valley. And the horse’s breath as she trotted through the night air? Just like a little train, he smiled.
“So what are you going to with it?” Willie didn’t really care. He just wanted his sister to talk. It would help her deal with his disappointment.
“It should be hanging in the back of the church!”
Each year their little country church held a quilting contest for the teenaged girls; it gave them something to do in the winter months. Each week they gathered to sew, fellowship and talk about boys. The older women would select the best quilt of the year and the parson would hang it by the church’s entryway. There is would remain, a mute testament to the winner’s talent, for an entire year.
Willie had seen the quilts the girls had made. And quite frankly, he couldn’t tell the difference. He supposed the women just picked a quilt to encourage the girls to try again the following year. And tonight they selected the quilt lovingly sewn by Henrietta Henderson. Angie was more than disappointed. She was furious.
“She doesn’t even know to stitch,” she mumbled.
“So what are you gonna do with your quilt, Sis?”
“Feed it to the pigs!”
Willie couldn’t help but laugh — quietly — at Angie’s silly answer.
“I’m a loser,” she pouted again. “I can’t do anything right. I’ll never get married.”
Married? So that’s what this is all about, Willie considered. Having one’s quilt displayed in the church was more than a simple honor. It was a way of attracting prospective husbands. He offered a broader smile.
“Tell ya what let’s do,” he suggested. “Let’s give your quilt to Old Cagney. His little granddaughter could use an extra warm blanket. Better than feeding it pigs, eh?”
Angie didn’t answer. He pulled the reigns as the sleigh neared the cabin. The old mare reared her head and stopped. He gently pulled the quilt from Angie’s mittened hands. She offered no resistance.
“Hold this,” he handed his sister the reigns.
One rap on the door brought Old Cagney shuffling to meet Willie. The door creaked open.
“For your granddaughter,” Willie handed the old man Angie’s handiwork.
One tooth smiled through Old Cagney’s rough beard. Though his words politely refused, his hands gratefully took the quilt from Willie’s hands. It was, indeed, a blessing.
We’ll be home in a few minutes. Back in the driver’s seat, he whipped the reigns.
They were on their way once again.
“I’ll never get married,” she repeated, shoveling her feet toward to coals on the buggy’s floorboard.
And I’ll never see that quilt again. She was wrong.
Fifty years, twelve children and a slew of grandchildren replaced the memory of Angie’s quilt. And homecoming was a delight. The rickety carriages were no longer pulled by horses but driven by noisy engines. It was the same county town; but it was so different.
The druggist had gone; replaced, Angie was delighted to see, by a seamstress. Attracted by a lovely quilt in the widow, she entered the shop.
“Got started forty years ago when I’s ten year old,” the seamstress explained. “Someone gave my Papa that quilt when I’s just a baby.”
Angie turned to the window. That was her quilt hanging there. It had been there every year for forty years.