A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, Jennifer Chaiverini was a former writing instructor at Penn State, and is the author of the nine volumes of the Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as two volumes of quilt patterns inspired by the novels. The Jack-of-all-trades is also the designer of the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines from Red Rooster Fabrics. She currently lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.
Clad in the faded apron she had sewn from a cotton feed sack, Rosa sat at the foot of the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee and planning her day while her husband bolted down his bacon and eggs. Sitting quietly side by side on her left, twelve-year-old Marta, and Lupita, almost five, ate their oatmeal in silence, sneaking furtive glances at each other or at Rosa but avoiding John. Rosa couldn’t blame them. She didn’t like to draw his attention either.
John wiped his mouth, pushed back his chair, and stood. “I’m going out.” “When will you be back?” She knew as soon as she spoke that the question was a mistake. “Why?” he asked, immediately suspicious. “Are you planning to have company?”
“Not unless someone comes for their mail.” John was the
postmaster for the entire Arboles Valley and ran the post office
out of their front room. Residents from the small town a few
miles to the west and neighbors from nearby farms might stop by at any time throughout the day to post letters or pick up the bundles of envelopes and catalogues Rosa tied up with twine for them.
“I only wanted to know when I should have your lunch ready.”
“I won’t be back for lunch.”
The girls incautiously brightened, but John had already left the kitchen and didn’t glimpse their sudden smiles. The front door squeaked open and banged shut, and a few moments later, Rosa heard John’s roadster roar to life in the garage. She listened for the sound of gravel churning beneath the new tires as he pulled out, and for the sound of the engine fading as he sped away. Only then could she take a deep breath and feel the tension leave her face and neck and shoulders. Even the kitchen windows seemed to let in more of the warm California sunshine in her husband’s absence, and the breeze that had felt clammy and oppressive as she served him his breakfast seemed newly refreshing as it carried ocean mists over the Santa Monica Mountains to the small adobe farmhouse on the mesa where Rosa had lived since her wedding day. Even after thirteen years of marriage and eight children, four of whom still lived, the adobe felt more like John’s home than theirs together.
As soon as only birdsong and the wind drifted through the open windows, Marta and Lupita began planning their Saturday adventures in earnest. “Mamá, do you think Ana will feel good enough to play today?” asked Lupita.
Rosa glanced down the hallway toward the bedroom where her middle daughter slept fitfully in the bedroom with Miguel, who at two years old was still her baby. “I don’t know, mija. I hope so.”
She hoped so every morning, but far too often, Ana could do little more than sit on the front step and smile as she watched her sisters play beneath the orange trees. She had become so accustomed to her illness that she had long ago forgotten to be jealous.
Rosa’s anger rose, sharp and sudden. John insisted he had no money to spare to search for a better doctor for Ana and Miguel, one wise and skilled enough to cure them of the terrible affliction that had already taken the lives of four of their brothers and sisters, and yet he had enough to waste on that ridiculous roadster, a lavish, impractical, and frivolous expense for a rye farmer in the rural Arboles Valley. When John first brought it home, beaming proudly through the open top, he demanded that Rosa go for a ride with him. “I will never set foot in that machine,” Rosa declared, “unless it’s to take Ana and Miguel to Oxnard or Los Angeles to see a new doctor.”
The card security code is an added safeguard for your credit/debit card purchases. Depending on the type of card you use, it is either a three- or four-digit number printed on the back or front of your credit/debit card, separate from your credit/debit card number. To make shopping at The Literary Guild® Book Club even more secure, we require that you enter this number each time you make a credit/debit card purchase. Please note that your security code will not be stored with us even if you have saved your credit/debit card information.