Authors: Patricia Kiyono,Stephanie Michels
By Patricia Kiyono and Stephanie Michels
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
THE FRIENDSHIP STAR QUILT
Copyright Â© 2014 PATRICIA KIYONO and STEPHANIE MICHELS
Cover Art Designed by CORA GRAPHICS
With deep gratitude to the lovely city of Grandville where we added a few fictitious businesses. Grandville residents are warm and caring, and we hope you'll find our fictional characters suitable additions to your town.
* * * *
For my good friend and mentor, Diane Solomon. Your peaceful acceptance of God's will in the face of adversity is truly an inspiration. I am honored to be a part of your sewing circle, and I pray that you will continue to bless people through your Warming Ears ministry for a long time to come.
Also by Patricia Kiyono and Stephanie Michels:
The Calico Heart
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By Patricia Kiyono:
The Christmas Phoenix
The Partridge and the Peartree
The Samurai's Garden
Operation Rhombus (part of the Love and Diamonds Valentine Anthology)
“I think she's coming around.”
“Can you hear me, ma'am? Can you tell us what happened? Who did this to you? Who left you here like this?”
The voices buzzed in Sophia's ear like pesky mosquitos. The irritation threatened to drag her from the comforting blackness where she'd taken refuge from the pain. She'd been floating in a blissful state where she didn't have to think or feel or be afraid any longer. Now, the voices cajoled and called, trying to lure her back into the nightmare.
Leave me alone! I don't want to come with you.
But the voices persisted. They dragged her, inch by reluctant inch, from the sheltering darkness. She fought against them, clinging to the void's comforting embrace. But eventually, her strength weakened, and they drew her toward them like iron to a magnet.
Light, intensely white even behind her closed eyelids, was the first sign of her return. With the brightness came wracking pain and an agony so intense it nearly hurtled her back into the waiting arms of the comforting darkness.
However, the voices refused to let her slip from their grasp.
“Can you hear me, miss? I need you to tell me who did this to you,” a soft but insistent male voice urged.
She struggled to raise her eyelids, but they felt weighted down as if something tight and heavy lay across them. Gritting her teeth against the pain, she tried again and managed to raise them the tiniest bit. A blinding light speared through the slit, bringing tears to her eyes. With tears came remembrance.
He'd hit her. Not open-handed like in the past. This time, he'd used his fists, beating her until she'd been too weak to struggle and had fallen, broken, to the floor. He'd cursed at her, kicked her then dragged her to her feet so he could punch her some more. Finally, he'd tossed her in his fancy convertible and raced through the darkness, driving much too fast for the country roads. At least he'd stopped hitting her.
The squeal of the tires nearly drowned out his angry tirade. Maybe he'd realized how bad she was hurt. Maybe he was taking her somewhere for help. She cried out as the car reached a stretch of rutted, gravel road, and her lungs burned as she gasped for air. Where were they? This wasn't the way to the hospital. She tried to ask but her lips were swollen, her mouth too dry to form the words. She sank against the seat as he raced through the night, still travelling way too fast.
The car swerved, and she felt a rush of air as the door opened beside her. “Now, die!” he screamed then shoved her from the moving car.
“Can you tell us what happened? Who did this to you?”
Shadowy figures leaned over her and blocked the brightness. A kindly face wavered into view. Another figure hovered on her opposite side.
Who are they, and where am I?
Sophia heard the sound of distant traffic and crickets chirping somewhere nearby. So many questions flitted through her head. But her pain made it too hard to focus on them. She tried to look around to get her bearings, but something pressed against her forehead, preventing her from turning. She tensed, feeling more restraints on her arms and legs.
“It's all right, miss,” the shadowy figure reassured in a soft voice. “We had to immobilize you, so we could lift you without risking any further injuries. We're going to carry you up the hill and take you to the hospital now.”
The word triggered a panicked reaction until one thought bubbled up through the confusion and pain.
What about my baby?
“I can't wait to see what you'll make with this,” Anne Brown said as she counted change back to one of the Stitching Post's long-time customers. “I think every quilt you make is prettier than the last one.”
With Thanksgiving only six weeks away, Anne had decided to run a sale on some of the new holiday fabrics, and sales had been brisk. Myra Hodges and her husband Ed, the shop owners, had chosen to escape the Michigan winter with a three-month vacation in Florida, leaving Anne in charge of the shop. Now, Anne was tired, but it was a happy kind. She loved the small Grandville, Michigan, shop and her many customers.
This is so
much better than being weary and helpless and scared.
But those things were in her past life, and the memory was best left in the safety of the past.
“Thank you, dear,” Lila Haggerty replied as she put away the money. “I can't wait to cut this fabric for my new quilt. I found the most beautiful pattern in the book I bought last week. I plan to make it into a quilt for my youngest granddaughter. Natalie loves butterflies.”
“I'm sure she'll treasure the quilt, Mrs. Haggerty.”
“Mrs. Haggerty? Where?” the elder woman asked, pretending to look around the shop. “Has my late mother-in-law suddenly come back from the grave?”
“Sweetie, haven't we known each other long enough for you to call me Lila by now?”
“Sorryâ¦ Lila. Not all of our customers are as friendly as you.”
“Well, no one calls me âMrs. Haggerty' except children. And while you're still very young, I don't think you quite qualify for that category.”
If you only
Anne thought as she handed the bag of fabric to the older woman.
Instead of leaving, Lila made her way to the back of the store where tables and a circle of comfortable chairs had been set up in preparation for the evening's quilt group meeting. Anne would join the group herself as soon as she'd closed the shop for the day.
The Tuesday-evening quilt group meeting was the part of her week she loved the best. The women were a diverse bunch, bound together by their shared love of the art, and an art it was. A beautiful one created with needle, thread, and infinite love. At one time, quilting had been a necessity. The layered blankets, often pieced from scrap fabric and old clothes, provided warmth during the bitter winters. When the Industrial Revolution made inexpensive, machine-made bedding available, the craft almost disappeared. But some women continued to quilt, enjoying the pursuit as a creative outlet. Since the late 1900s, the craft had experienced a comeback as women of all ages came to appreciate the joy of creating beautiful masterpieces, one square at a time.
The Stitching Post had been hosting an informal gathering for quilters ever since it opened more than a decade ago. Once a week, women gathered to work on their projects and chat. Occasionally, they pitched in to work together on a charity project, making lap quilts for a nursing home or helping a member finish a special occasion quilt. But usually they worked on their own individual projects. Some of the women brought their own sewing machines, but the shop also provided a couple of machines as well as a programmable long-armed quilter for their use at a significantly reduced fee.
Anne checked her watch. The store officially closed in ten minutes, but she'd leave it unlocked until the rest of the group arrived. At the sound of the door opening, she looked up to greet the newcomer. But her guest wasn't a customer or a quilter.
Instead, a little blond cherub about six or seven years old stood in the doorway, studying the store with wide eyes.
“Do you need something, sweetie?” Anne asked.
The little girl turned soulful blue eyes in her direction. “It's raining outside, and my daddy hasn't come to pick me up yet. Is it okay if I wait in here?”
“Sure. Where was your dad supposed to pick you up?”
“The ice cream shop next door. I was at Suzy's birthday party, but everyone else is gone now. And the ice cream man turned the lights off so I couldn't stay there.”
“He turned the lights off while you were still waiting?” Anne had met George Connors many times in the two years she'd worked at The Stitching Post. She couldn't imagine the shop owner behaving so cruelly.
The child nodded. “He told me I had to wait outside.”
Anne poked her head out the door and glanced at the ice cream shop. Sure enough,
was dark and empty. “Well, come inside. I won't make you wait in the rain. What's your name, honey?”
“Jennieâ¦ Jennie Carmichael.”
“My name is Anne, Jennie,” she told the child, giving her a reassuring smile. “Would you like me to call your father and let him know you're here?”
“Yes, please. I have his phone number.” The little girl shrugged off her pink-and-purple flowered backpack and pulled a worn slip of paper from the front pocket.
Anne took the paper, squinting at the number scrawled on it. “Where does your dad work?”
“At the high school.”
“Is he a teacher? School was out a long time ago.”
“Daddy always stays after school to do work. Especially when there's a concert or something. He's the band director,” she added with a note of pride.
“Okay, let's see if I can reach him. What's his name?”
Anne nodded and dialed the number on the Jennie's paper. After several rings, a deep, velvety voice answered.
“Rivertown High Band Office.”
“Is this Brad Carmichael?”
“Mr. Carmichael, this is Anne Brown at The Stitching Post on Wilson Avenue. Your daughter is in our shop waiting for you.”
“Jennie's there? She's supposed to be at the ice cream shop for a birthday party untilâoh drat! I'm so sorry. I'll be right there. Thanks for calling.”
The loud click told her he had disconnected in a hurry.
Anne put the receiver down and smiled reassuringly at the child. “Your dad is on his way now. Would you like something to drink while you wait?”
“No, thank you. The school isn't very far away, so Daddy will be here soon.”
Anne was impressed with the girl's manners. “All right. Would you like to sit down? I can clear off one of these low tables. You can sit on it like a little stool.”
Jennie shook her head. “Thank you, but I'll just wait by the door so Daddy will see me in here, if that's okay with you.”
They both turned as two quilters, Debbie Adams and her mother Betty, entered the store. Both women pulled small, wheeled handcarts containing their sewing machines and supplies. They greeted Anne with friendly waves.
“Hi, Anne,” the younger woman called. “I hope I'm in time to buy some of the muslin you have on sale. I finally got my quilt top finished, and I'm ready to add the backing.”
Betty entered a bit more slowly than her daughter, coming to a stop near Jennie. “Do you have a new member for our group today, Anne?” The kindly, gray-haired woman asked.
“This is Jennie. She's waiting in here for her dad since it's raining outside.” Anne placed a protective hand on the girl's shoulder. The child didn't seem to need the reassurance, though, as she faced Betty with confidence.
“My dad gets busy and forgets what time it is sometimes.”
“Does your mommy work, too?”
The youngster's face clouded. “No. My mommy is in heaven. Daddy takes care of me, but I have to help him a little around the house.”
Anne knew how it felt to grow up without a mother, and her heart ached for the child. She kept an eye on Jennie while she cut the muslin for Debbie then rang up the purchase. But unlike other youngsters, who sometimes came in with their mothers, Jennie gazed with interest at the display of various fabrics in the front of the shop.
“These are pretty,” she said when Anne finished with her customer. She indicated a tower of small fabric cylinders in various colors stacked on a small table near the door.
“They're called jelly rolls,” Anne explained, joining the youngster by the display.
Jennie tilted her head and studied the display. “Daddy buys jelly rolls at the grocery store sometimes, but they don't look like these.”
“You're right, they don't. These are made from different colors and patterns of fabric that would work well together in a quilt. The material is cut into strips then rolled up tightâ¦ like those jelly rolls from the store. They save quilters a lot of cutting time.”
“I like this one,” Jennie said, pointing to a bundle with coordinating pink and purple fabrics. “They're the colors in my bedroom.”
“And your backpack,” Anne commented then leaned closer and confided. “Pink and purple are some of my favorite colors, too.”
A few minutes later, an early model sedan raced into a parking space in front of the shop, and skidded to a halt. The driver's side opened, and a tall man in a blue windbreaker jumped out. His dark hair practically stood on end, as if he'd been running worried fingers through it. He glanced around, spotted the shop, and hurried toward it. Without a word, he rushed to Jennie's side and scooped her up in a tight embrace.
“Jennie, I am so, so sorry! I knew the party was over at five-thirty. I should have set the alarm on my phone. I'm so sorry you had to wait for me.”
“It's okay, Daddy. This lady said it was okay for me to wait in here for you because the ice cream man turned the lights off and said I had to leave.”
“He what? Why would he do such a thing to you? Especially when it's raining! I ought to go over andâ¦”
“I think he went home. But it was okay, Daddy. I came in here to wait safely.”
Her dad took a deep breath. Although his face appeared somewhat calmer, anger still burned in his dark brown eyes.
“Smart thinking, Princess. I'm very glad you did.” He turned then and, shifting his daughter to one arm, held out his free hand to Anne. “I'm Brad Carmichael. Thank you very much for letting Jennie come inside to waitâ¦ and for calling me.”
She shook the outstretched hand and introduced herself. “I'm Anne Brown, and you're entirely welcome. Your daughter was no trouble at all.”
“Nonetheless, it was very kind of you,” he said then reached for Jennie's backpack. “I can see you're busy, so we'll get out of your hair now.”
“Bye, Miss Anne,” Jennie said from her perch in her dad's arm.
“Thanks again,” he called before heading into the night.
Anne nodded and stifled a desire to sigh. Brad Carmichael wasn't movie-star handsome, but he had such beautiful, warm brown eyes. More importantly, she could tell he cared about his little girl. His concern for her made him far more attractive in Anne's opinion than mere good looks. Although he was awfully cute with his hair all tousled and disarrayed.
“Anne, do you have more of this interfacing? I think I'm going to need it for my appliquÃ©s.”
Setting aside her musing, the young clerk hurried to help her customer. Pining for something she couldn't have was nothing but a waste of time, a daydream. The Stitching Post and its customers were her reality.