Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FERHOODLE (confuse or mix-up) (03/03/16)
TITLE: The Stranger on the Other Pillow
By Holly Westefeld
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"Mam, may I ask you something?"
"Of course, Ruth."
"Did things change between you and Dat after you had been married a few years?"
"Like you didn't understand each other the way you used to."
"We have had to adjust to the shifting responsibilities and needs of the family, of course."
Ruth placed the pot of jars on the stove, then began to knead the dough that had been rising, while Martha sliced potatoes.
"I am so ferhoodled, Mam. Sometimes I even wonder if Jacob still loves me."
"Why is that, Ruth?"
Ruth put the bread in the oven and started to slice carrots.
"When we were courting and newly married, his hand was nearly always in mine, and we talked about everything. Now it seems like he only tells me if I have displeased him, which I seem to do more and more, and is only affectionate..." Ruth blushed.
"Ah, the weight of responsibility is setting in. Life is not all buggy rides, singings, and ice cream socials."
"Of course not, Mam. I am busy with Aaron and Rachel, and he is busy in his family's harness shop. But it is more than that. We used to talk about our days, but now I put the kids to bed and clean up the kitchen, while he reads the newspaper, or even goes to bed while I am still hard at work. Unless he is fussing about me purchasing more fabric for the children's ever-increasing clothing sizes."
"Have you told him how you are feeling?"
"I do not want to seem disrespectful. If he loved me like he used to, should I need to?"
"Of course. No man is a mind-reader. It is not disrespectful to kindly share your heart. If Aaron falls and scrapes his knees, what do you do?"
"I wash them, and put salve and bandages on."
"And does he always find that pleasant?"
"No, he cries and tells me it hurts."
"So why do you insist on doing something that hurts him?"
"Mam, you know why. If I don't, he will get an infection... Oh, I see!"
Jacob picked up the next harness that needed to be rewoven.
"Dat, may I ask you a question?"
"Did you ever feel like Mam was sorry she married you?"
"Hmmm... You are sounding ferhoodled by your fairer half."
"Ferhoodled indeed! She hardly talks to me anymore, and almost everything I say seems to bring a sad look to her eyes."
"That can happen when the burdens of daily life build up."
Benjamin started to weave a new harness.
"But I never noticed you and Mam seeming unhappy..."
"That is because we learned how to communicate when you were too little to notice how much work it can be around the busyness of life. Have you asked what is making her sad?"
"No. Why wouldn't she just tell me?"
"Women folk can be funny like that, like you are just supposed to know somehow. Perhaps they think it would be disrespectful to speak up."
"But we used to talk about everything."
"But that was when you had more time, and there had not been misunderstandings to discuss and forgive."
"I do not mean this to be an unfavorable comparison, but how do you know when something is amiss with your horse?"
"By checking him over daily... I guess I really haven't been taking that time with Ruth. I have to admit that after a long day, I usually sit down and read the paper after the kids are in bed. And, well, sometimes my words may not be as gentle as I use with Blaze..."
The twinkle in Jacob's eyes, and the kiss that brushed Ruth's lips as she set the table for supper did little to ease her stomach's tightness about starting a conversation later. Her eyebrows rose when she returned to the kitchen after putting the children to bed, only to find her sister, Sarah, cleaning up. Jacob slipped an arm around her.
"It is a beautiful autumn evening, Ruth. Let's go for a walk."
For the first time in a long time, neither of them felt that there was a stranger on the other pillow that night.
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