Stone Orchards and Farm, Carters Run, Virginia
“Anna! Come have a turn.”
I couldn’t believe my luck as I joined my friends at the Stones’ kitchen worktable. Thomas and Benjamin’s sister, Elizabeth, a coltish thirteen-year-old, greeted me with an enthusiastic embrace and Betsy patted the seat beside her. Mary Kemper and her little daughter Catherine were among other women and girls I knew from church.
I’d been attending services with Joseph for about a month when word of the trouble at Carters Run Baptist reached Uncle and he forbade me to spend any more Sundays there. Dispossessed of contact with Joseph’s friends, I fretted. I had just turned eighteen and I enjoyed my first taste of a social life. The people I met there—especially the Stones—were much more to my liking than the ones in my uncle’s circle of acquaintances.
My exile ended when Joseph sent Uncle a note begging to spare me for a few days, saying someone paid him for a carpentry job in apples. He needed me to see to the drying and preserving. When Uncle gave his consent, I hid my smile, wishing I could leave right away.
My mount was ready to go but I was the one chafing at the bit when Joseph arrived the next day. As soon as we were away, he grinned at me. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We must go claim the apples at the Stones’ first. They’re having a cidering party today.”
When we arrived, he helped me down from the saddle. “Why don’t you go inside and say hello? You have an admirer who’s been fair bursting, waiting to see you.” He wandered over to hail Thomas and a group of men throwing hatchets at a target, leaving me wondering which of the Stones might be anticipating my arrival. Benjamin was nowhere in sight among the men, but I dismissed the notion it could be he when I found the kitchen filled with women and girls. Obviously, it was his sister who was excited to see me.
I sat and took up an apple and a knife. “What must I do?”
Elizabeth leaned her elbows on the table, resting her chin on her hands. “Peel your apple in one long piece, then close your eyes and throw the peel over your shoulder. It will land in the shape of your true love’s initial.”
I shook my head. “Let Betsy or Mary go first then.”
Betsy laughed. “It’s a game for unmarried girls.”
“It wouldn’t do at all for my peel to form the shape of a letter other than T, now, would it?”
One of the other young women raised an eyebrow. “Might take Thomas down a peg, though.”
This brought giggles from everyone at the table and I joined in at the thought. Elizabeth hovered nearby, watching me work. When I shut my eyes and threw the peel over my shoulder, everyone craned their necks to see.
Betsy winked. “Sure and it’s in the shape of a B.”
I studied the squiggle of peel on the floor. “I think not.”
“Oh, there’s no doubt. B it is.”
They waited to hear what I’d say—Benjamin was the only eligible bachelor I knew whose name began with a B.
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