• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 01


Two Mennonite daughters stand behind the low partition, separating dining room from kitchen. Father yells at Mother again for a lifetime of small infractions, as the orange tabby calmly looks the other way.

Eight-year-old Arleta is like the cat. She’s heard it all before. Every word, every backhand for porridge that dared cool before Father’s arrival. Part of the boring, everyday scenery. Hannah, 16, cannot look away. Not anymore.

“This bonnet makes my head itch,” Arleta says, absently stirring her porridge to keep it from turning to cement. “Eli says I should just take it off. Let my scalp breathe when I’m in the fields. No one will see anyway. What to you think?”

Hannah nods. “Uh huh.”

“Ahh, you’re not even listening,” Arleta says, tasting the sludge in her bowl, spitting it back.

Hannah turns. Smiles briefly at her little sister.

“Go clean up,” she says, “and meet me in the cow shed, by the workbench.”

“But I’m supposed to be out picking in the fields with Eli,” Arleta says.

Hannah places a hand on her little sister’s back. A gentle signal to move along.

“Not this morning,” Hannah says, “Maybe never again.”