As the sun shined on the early morning dew, Anna touched her stomach and leaned against the doorway to her parents’ house. She felt an uncomfortable cramping pain that was all too common for Anna, only it wasn’t the kind of pain she wanted to be having. It felt strange wishing for pain, but according to Anna’s mental and internal clock, she should have been holding a two month old baby, not her lower abdomen thanks to her monthly reminder that perhaps her biggest commitment as a wife hadn’t been fulfilled yet.
It had been a year since Anna wed William Stewbren and ever since their wedding day, everything had been yet.
Her parents were beyond thrilled when the successful businessman sat at the dinner table, reached for Anna’s slender, eighteen-year old hand, and said he planned on marrying her. It wasn’t a request. It wasn’t a question. It wasn’t even an offer. It was a command and one that Anna had to go along with. William had ties to the bank and with his help, her parents’ house and land were saved from being taken away. Not to mention a sudden influx of cash that allowed her father to grow more crops, turn a bigger profit, and provide the family with many upgrades.
The money was just the beginning for the life William promised Anna and her family. But to truly become Mrs. Stewbren, William wanted one thing.
That demand came with plenty of laughter around a dinner table so long that Anna felt she was at a church gathering rather than in the dining room of her new husband’s house. Then again, it was her house too, in a way, but only if a child were born. Nobody thought having a child would prove difficult, not even Anna. Going to bed with William had, at first, been uncomfortable. He wasted no time in wanting to enjoy the fruits of marriage and Anna really wanted to give William what he wanted.
After the first month passed, Anna told herself it hadn’t happened yet because of nerves. The sudden change in her life. A wife at eighteen with the implications of motherhood were a huge burden to carry. After the third month and heading into an extra harsh winter for the small Massachusetts town of Lowemills, everything became a blur for Anna. The endless touching from William became a feeling of use. William didn’t look at her and when she looked at him it almost disgusted her. There never existed a real attraction to William. A desperate feeling constantly raced through her body leaving Anna wanting to regret every decision in her life. But she reminded herself it wasn’t her decision to get married, nor to try and birth a child. The attraction came from what could be which was a family.
Her family blamed the winter and how the extreme cold and above average snowfall had an effect on everyone in town. How word came that over twenty locals were killed in the winter; the most tragic being Margie Miller, whose roof literally caved in, collapsing on her and freezing her to death.
When spring finally came and the ground thawed and the first flower buds climbed from the ground, all hopes - and eyes - were back on Anna. Each time her parents saw her, they didn’t look at her face. They didn’t look in her eyes. They looked at her stomach. It became too uncomfortable that she always kept a hand on her stomach, feeling self conscious, and quite honestly, worthless.
The front door opened and Anna hurried to stand tall and smile, not wanting to show any discomfort. This happened once before - two months ago - and her family quickly began to rejoice, thinking she was pregnant. Even William smiled that day, wanting to hold her hand, touch her hair, showing affection that Anna certainly wasn’t used to from her husband. When it was revealed she wasn’t pregnant, the smiles and peaceful feeling faded in a hurry, like a late spring frost rolling across their fields, wanting to steal the life of plants and crops alike.
Anna expected to see her mother, but it was just her older sister, Abigail.
“Anna, are you trying to listen?” Abigail asked, her big blue eyes shining.
Abigail was twenty years old and had a sense of beauty that made Anna jealous. Abigail’s husband was killed in a tragic accident while trying to cut down a tree, so for now she lived home, still grieving. There were days when she seemed like she was going to be fine and then others she looked like an empty shell of the beautiful woman she really was. Thanks to Anna and her marriage to William, the pressure of remarrying remained away from Abigail, for now.
“What are they talking about?” Anna asked.
“Well, what do you think they’re talking about?” Abigail offered as she took Anna’s hand and guided her towards the end of the small porch.
The air smelled clean, crisp, and had a rewarding freshness to it that anyone should have enjoyed. But for Anna, the burning pain in her stomach only seemed to fuel the doubt in her mind.
Time was up.
That’s what it was all about.
In passing Anna had heard William suggest to a few friends that he would give the marriage a year. If there was no child or even the intention of a child, the marriage would have to end.
“He’s going to leave me,” Anna whispered.
“Anna... they’re talking...”
“About me. Why I can’t carry his child.”
She touched her stomach again.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Abigail said. “Our father is a great negotiator.”
“When he’s selling crops or buying supplies, sure,” Anna said. “But not with William. William is so... intimidating. He’s got this look...”
“He’s just a businessman,” Abigail said.
Anna wasn’t sure whether to cry, or scream, or maybe even smile. Sure, she wanted to do well by her family, make her parents proud, and give them a life they wanted and rightfully deserved, but at what expense? If someone dared to ask Anna about happiness it would take all her might to force a smile and say she was truly happy.
Abigail touched her back in a soothing sisterly way.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this,” she said.
“Do you think maybe it’s not happening because...” Anna looked over her shoulder. The front door was closed. Nobody could hear them, but she leaned to Abigail to whisper, just in case. “Do you think maybe it’s not happening because I’m not meant to be with William?”
Abigail stiffened and puckered her lips.
The question teetered on being blasphemous, but Anna needed to ask it. She had to get it off her chest and Abigail was the only person in the world she could trust.
“I can’t speak to that, Anna,” Abigail said. “A man who will marry you and care for you is a decent man. There aren’t enough men around this area as it is, so to question the one who wed you...”
“I know it sounds terrible,” Anna said. “I know. It’s just, the way he looks at me...”
“I think that’s enough,” Abigail said. “Let me go check and see if they’re done talking.”
Anna didn’t watch her sister go back into the house. When she heard the door shut, tears filled her eyes. It was the oddest feeling inside her. She felt horrible for letting her family down and letting her husband down. But at the same time she felt as though she were about to be set free.
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Genre - Western/ Christian Romance
Rating – PG
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