...

December had set in, this winter was colder than previous winters. A gust nearly blew out the oil lamp. Martha was chilled to the bone now, not because of the cold. But, with each passing day, the fact that Liam O’ Neill was no more hers, sunk deeper. 

 

 Before this solstice, Martha knew she’d have to hand over the Log Cabin quilt that she’d crafted for them. It was an article to be put amongst the many heirlooms in Madeline’s dower.

 

A deep longing seared her being.

 

Bertha, her roommate, had remarked, “What a delightful design, Martha! You’ve let your imagination run wild in piecing together the choicest scraps that I’d smuggled from O’ Keefe Quilters’ Guild. The blue scalloped border offsets the red Cabin motifs.” whilst Bertha continued musing, Martha recollected their clandestine meetings in the autumnal forest. This quilt was designed to encircle them when they consummated their love. 

 

Alas, this quilt, her sole belonging, had become a spinster’s dream.

 

***************

 

Last October, Mrs Anastasia Cadot had deigned to visit her. After a contemptuous look at her shabby dress, bonnet and nails she said, “ For Madeline’s Hope Chest, you are to craft three, no four quilts!”

 

Then she sighed, “Liam O’ Neill’s chalet must look like home, it’s barely furnished. I’ll send the swatches for three designs: a Heart and Gizzards for nuptials; Double Wedding Rings for the year round; and the Sue and Sam design for familial prosperity. That makes three!”

 

After a pregnant pause, she whispered, “And yes, this one-red Log Cabin, a nice design for guests.”

 

From her tightly pursed lips, Martha knew not a word about Liam O’ Neill. Anastasia stared at each template, while her eyes scoured their cosy cabin, looking for tell-tale signs. 

 

That evening Bertha found Martha uncontrollably sobbing. She consoled her: “Martha, listen! New settlers marry into the genteel families. Leave him be, you’ll find a better young man.” 

 

The more Bertha consoled, the more Martha’s narrow frame shook with indignation. Her eyes glowed: poverty was her sin, and she’d make that woman pay.

************

 

Thence, every Sunday at church, her eyes looked the couple up and down; Madeline, a frail girl, seventeen, flat chested, and pale as a lily! And her hips – neither shaped to offer comfort to a lusty man, nor broad to bear Liam’s child. 

******

 

Tomorrow, the Hope Chest would harbour these folded quilts. 

 

In the deadly evening silence, her scissors scritched against the smoldering hearts. As the bulbous moon rose behind the fir tops, the lamp guttered and an unsettling darkness filled the cabin. 

 

Martha’s ears pricked up at shuffling feet. Bertha, so late, impossible. Bertha was at Jack’s place. The door creaked and Liam stumbled into the opened Log Cabin quilt. His mouth silenced hers, and she gave in. 

 

Ecstatically, he thrust himself into her deeply. Pinioned under him, Martha’s hand, suddenly, rose to fatally stab him with her scissors. 

She smiled: A little more red wouldn’t matter!

 

Mumtaz N Khorakiwala

18-1-2024

Log Cabin: patches sewn to create a log cabin, symbolising family

Hearts and Gizzards: a floral applique, heart shaped petals

Double Wedding Rings: a quilt pattern depicting Rings Entwined

Sue and Sam: a quilt depicting a girl and boy child

 

 

 

 


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