The following is the first chapter of my novel Educating Autumn. The novel, in it’s entirety, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and Smashwords.
* Please be aware that the formatting in this blog does not match the formatting in this book. The necessity of cutting and pasting this sample changed the formatting somewhat.
Part I: The Girl
Suppertime in the Clare household was a busy time. Autumn Clare had just finished mashing potatoes when she heard the front door open, followed by the thump of boots on the wooden floor. Autumn turned to Katrina, her twin sister, and watched her empty a pitcher of water into a large basin.
“I do hope the man I marry is not a farmer. I hate mopping up the muck they track in,“ Katrina said softly. There she was again thinking about marriage.
Autumn never ceased to be amazed by how different she and her twin were. Looks wise Katrina resembled their mother. She was tall for a girl and too thin. She had subtle curves and adequate breasts. Her most distinctive feature was her straight strawberry blond hair. Autumn, on the other hand, had been told that she resembled her father’s mother. Autumn had never met her grandmother, who had died shortly after her parents married. Autumn was shorter then her sister but not excessively for a girl. She was heavier than her mother and sister but not overweight. She had pronounced curves. Autumn had wavy auburn hair that hung just past her waist. Their looks were not the only thing that differed. Katrina was the perfect wife in training. She was quiet, efficient, and obedient. Autumn knew she was none of those things though she tried to be. Their birthday had put them at the age of marriage and ever since they had blown out their candles Katrina had been talking about becoming a wife. Autumn knew she wasn’t ready.
Autumn, Katrina, and their mother carried serving plates full of food out to the serving table then stepped to the side and waited for grace.
Autumn’s father and four brothers were seated at the table. Josiah, Lawrence, Hamish, and Peter had all been named after Josiathan kings.
Josiah had been the first man to establish a country after the underground age. He was a boy still when the vaults opened releasing the people who had been saved from the wrath of God’s hands.
Hamish was the son of King Josiah who put it into written law that in Josiathan only men could attend schools, be involved in politics, and in the military. He also wrote the property laws that allowed a father to sell his daughters to a man wanting a wife. Hamish was a staunch defender of women. The laws of Hamish also protected a woman’s virtues. The laws made rape a crime punishable by castration. They made sex with a virgin one was not married to a criminal offense.
King Lawrence had written out the countries welfare code that protected the poor. He had also written the laws regarding estates and property transfer throughout generations from fathers to sons. King Lawrence was best known for creating a strong military force to protect Josiathan.
Peter had been born just days after King Peter, who was the current monarch, took the throne.
Autumn’s father bowed his head and clasped his hands in front of him “Lord, we are thankful for this food which you have seen fit to provide us with. We are thankful for a good spring rich in lambs. We are grateful that you led our ancestors out of the underground to such a rich and fertile land. We are grateful for the second chance you have given our people. Keep us humble before you. Fill us with a desire to follow you. Amen.”
Autumn’s watched her brothers unclasp their hands and attack the plates of food. She hoped they left some potatoes for her tonight.
“I have an announcement to make,” her father said. Lawrence and Peter sat back in their chairs at once. Hamish and Josiah looked up bit continued to load their plates.
“David Snodgrass came to see me today. He made an offer to take Katrina as his wife. I have accepted his offer.
Katrina, you are to be congratulated.”
The breath caught in Autumn’s throat. She had not expected her sister to be spoken for so quickly.
Her father gave a nod excusing the women. They now had leave to go to the kitchen and prepare the desserts. After they had served dessert and after the men had eaten their fill and returned to work the women would be able to eat their supper.
In the kitchen, Autumn and Katrina worked on dishes while their mother put the finishing touches on dessert.
“You are lucky Katrina to have been chosen as a wife by such a well bred man. Life is much easier for a wife in the city then it is for one in the country. You will be lucky to have women nearby to socialize with and your children will have plenty of friends,” her mother said.
“I am quite happy to have been chosen by David Snodgrass,” Katrina said.
“I will hope for as worthy a match for you Autumn,” her mother said.
“I am in no hurry to be married,” Autumn said quietly.
“You are old enough to be starting your own family and making your own home.”
Autumn yawned as she and her sister laid in the bed hey shared that night and listened to their parents talking downstairs
“David and Katrina are a good match,” Autumn’s father said.
“I am pleased with the husband you have found for Katrina,” her mother replied.
“David Snodgrass will be one of the wealthiest men in Willow Springs after he inherits his fathers business.”
“I will be sending Katrina to Mr. White’s store later this week to get fabric so I can make a nice dress for the announcement of her engagement.”
“Remind her that she doesn’t belong to a rich man yet. I cannot afford something overly fancy. We had a good lambing this spring but not as good as I had hoped.”
“I was going to have the girls get a few things at Mr. Snodgrass store as well,” Autumn could hear her mothers caution. When she married would her husband view a bit of lace or some extra seasoning a squandering of his hard earned money?
“Remind Katrina to act her best. I wouldn’t want David to change his mind. He offered a good price for her.”
“Katrina always acts properly,” her mother replied softly.
“Be sure Autumn is reminded to act properly also.”
“She does try. She is just spirited.”
“Spirited girls don’t get husbands. She is old enough to marry and I want to find a husband for her as soon as possible. I will even take less then she is worth. I don’t want her being another Laurie Rothman. That girl reached her age two years ago and they still haven’t found a man to take her,” Autumn’s father declared. Laurie Rothman was Autumn‘s best friend next to Katrina. Autumn was sure that Laurie’s lack of a husband was not due to her being “spirited” but being plain and a bit dim.
“I am sure you will find a husband for Autumn soon enough.” Then there was silence.
Autumn rolled over to face her sister.
“Are you happy about your engagement?” Autumn whispered. She and Katrina always had to whisper when they talked because they shared a room with their brothers. The room was separated in two by a large quilt but the quilt did little to absorb sound. Even as they spoke Autumn could hear her brothers snoring.
“You know that I am. I will have a wealthy and handsome husband and maybe in a year or two a baby,” Katrina said.
“I don’t think David is all that handsome,” Autumn said.
“I do. And I don’t see how you can say that. Are you jealous?”
“I will be marrying a well bred man in town. You are not yet spoken for. You could end up married to a poor farmer like father.”
“I hope I marry a man with more wit and intelligence then our father,” Autumn said.
“That is unkind. You should hope you marry at all. It is no secret that people think you are peculiar. It is like they know that you can read just like a man,” Katrina said the word read being too quiet even for Autumn to hear clearly.
“No one knows that other than you.”
“People may not know but they can sense you are different,” Katrina said.
“Of course I am different. I am not nearly as content as the others to cook and clean. I want to be a part of the adventures I have read about. I want to see a mountain and sail the ocean. I don’t understand how other people can not want those things. Still, like you I will probably die in Willow Springs having never seen or done anything in my life.”
“Then you might die a respectable woman. Once you are married your reading days will be over. You will be much too busy running your household to waste time with books. Plus, I bet your husband will not be as absent minded as our brothers and leave his books strewn about so that a missing one will not be noticed.”
“What kind of wife will you be if you are reading a book all day instead of tending to your chores. You will not have me there to tell you to put the book down and hurry to your chores before someone notices. If it were not for me you would have been found out by now,” Katrina said.
“I know and I love you for helping me even though you disapprove.”
“I would not want to see what father would do to you if he found out. I also would not wish that shock on mother.”
“No. Neither would I.” Autumn had been afraid of being discovered since the day she made up her mind to learn to read. She had nightmares from time to time of being found out. Nightmares in which her mother died of shame.