Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: BROKEN (12/06/18)
TITLE: Sweet Savor
By Annette Griffin
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“What are you doing down here?”
“Just seeing what canned goods are left.”
Papa planted himself between her and the dusty shelf. “Is that so?”
Esther lowered her eyes to the dirt floor to hide lingering tears. “How’d you know where to find me?”
“This has always been your crying place, Esther. Ever since you were a little girl.”
“Oh Papa.” Esther buried her head in her father’s burly chest and exhausted her grief. “I wanted so badly for Robert to return home. But not like this.”
“There, there. All will be well. The Lord is in control. He knew what He was doing when he sent your husband off to battle. And His timing is perfect in sending him home.”
Esther peeled herself away from his embrace and glared at him. “How can you say that? You blame God for this? We were barely married a year before Robert was drafted. And now he’s coming home … injured. Do you really think God would have a hand in such a thing?”
“Seems He did, Esther.” Papa’s steel blue eyes held her captive. “Even if we don’t understand why. Do you think Robert will return as less of a man—just because he is missing his leg?”
“Don’t be cruel, Papa. You know I don’t think that. You know I never could. Robert would be no less to me if he returned with no limbs … and a tail.”
“Then what’s weighing so heavy on you?”
A hot mixture of fury and tears blurred her vision. “Do you know what Maggie Cooper had the audacity to suggest yesterday when I was helping her string the banner for the county fair? She said, ‘Sorry to hear about your poor husband. My father could use some help in the store if Robert needs work when he returns.’ Oh Papa, can you imagine? Can you see Robert—confident, self-assured, war hero Robert helping those snooty Coopers stock their shelves?”
“So, it’s pride that’s got you in a tizzy then?”
“Of course not. Not for myself, anyway. I’m horrified that Robert might think less of himself. His letters have been so different, Papa. He just seems so humbled … so broken.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing, Esther.”
A bur of frustration prickled her insides. How could he not understand? She turned from him. “I’m taking Mother’s last jar of peach preserves to enter in the fair contest. Today is the last day for judging.” She whisked past him and shoved the jar into a quilted satchel. “Mother deserves that blue ribbon on her grave. Lord knows she gave enough of these peaches to the neighbors. They practically begged her for them. I want her to have something to show for it.”
“Let me drive you in the buggy. You’re too riled to take the reins.”
“No Papa,” she turned and gave his arm a gentle squeeze. “A brisk walk will do me good.”
Before he could protest, she scurried up the stairs and out the front door. A fragrant gale greeted her. She ignored it—and every other sign of Spring that flourished along the trail into town.
By the time she reached the judging tent a light dew of perspiration coated her flushed face.
“Well hello there, Esther. Nice to see you. What can we do for you?”
The tent was filled with jovial townsfolk, but they were all a blur. “I came to enter Mother’s peaches in the contest.” Esther’s head swam, and heart ached as she reached into the satchel with shaky hands. “But … I’m afraid I’m not quite myself right now.”
Her mother’s peach jar shattered at her feet just before Esther succumbed to the dizziness enveloping her.
“Esther? Can you hear me?”
“Yes—you fainted. Here, sit up slowly.”
“Fainted? Wait—why is everyone crying? Doc, Is something wrong with me? Be honest.”
“No, Esther. They’re nostalgic tears.”
“The peaches, my dear. The fragrance.” The kind old doctor’s eyes grew misty. “It’s her. Your sweet Mother—she’s all around us.”
Esther closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet, spiced savor that filled the tent. He was right.
“And don’t worry my dear, there’s nothing wrong with you that a few months won’t cure.”
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