JacobThe August sun made its slow and steady climb over the eastern horizon, wrapping Maribeth’s home in a warm yellow blanket, and alighting its interior in a soft amber glow. Sitting with a cup of coffee at the breakfast table, she thought back to a similar morning, so many years before, when Jacob showed up, out of the blue. Maribeth always thought it was curious that that day, when he came back, had started off so beautifully. She wondered, as she did from time to time over the years, how differently things might have turned out had Jacob stayed away.

Mornings have always been Maribeth’s favorite. Calm and quiet, she reveled in having the house to herself. Most especially when, like that morning, these many years ago, her family slept in a bit.

On that particular morning she remembered slipping out of bed, mindful of not disturbing Mitchell. These days a bulldozer knocking down the house wouldn’t wake him. But back then, she’d gently shut the door behind her and tip-toe down the hall, careful to avoid the three squeaky spots in the floor boards. She’d pause a moment to listen outside her children’s bedroom door, and when she was satisfied there wasn’t a peep from the baby or rustling of bed sheets from the twins, she’d continue her silent trip downstairs.

Once in the kitchen, she had the usual debate with herself whether to start the kettle before going out to the outhouse. She knew she would not be that long, but should that kettle start boiling before she got back, her the morning calm would be shattered. That whistle could spook a horse. Even if she left the kettle lid off, her presense in the back yard might set the goat to bleating and then the dog to barking. No one would remain asleep after that. They would come clammering downstairs, cranky from being so abruptly awakened, and then start in to pestering her with ornery demands to be fed, cajoled and otherwise seen to. Mitchell included.

She decided, as she almost always did on these solitary mornings, a trip to the outhouse could wait a bit. She instead went about preparing the morning meal. After all, waking up to the smell of brewed coffee, muffins in the oven and frying bacon would go a long way to keeping her family’s foul morning moods at bay.

Opening the ice box, Maribeth let out an exasperated sigh. Mitchell had failed to bring in eggs from the coop the evening before. So much for not disturbing the animals in the backyard. She removed the kettle from the burner, grabbed her house coat from its place on the back porch, pulled on her muck boots, and walked out the kitchen door.

Her head bowed; her thoughts lost in mild irritation with Mitchell, Maribeth was half way across the yard before she noticed someone sitting under the big oak. A man. She slowed her pace as she took in the unexpected sight. The goat was eating out of the man’s hand and the dog was sitting at his side. Maribeth froze.

It was Jacob. Greying hair and horribly thin, never mind the fact he was sitting with his back turned, Maribeth could still tell it was him.

Jacob and the animals seemed unaware of her presence and Maribeth took quick advantage, rushing back to the house. She’d wake Mitchell and then sit with the children in their room while Mitchell shooed Jacob off the property, preferably with the threat of his hunting rifle by his side. But the dog let out a woof and ran to her, and Jacob called out before she could get inside.

“Uh, heyya there, Maribeth.” Jacob paused, waiting for her to turn around and reply. Maribeth did not move from her position at the door. Nor did she turn around.

“Maribeth?” Jacob paused again, then continued. “Sorry to come calling like this, and on a Sunday morning and all, but, well…Here I am.”

Maribeth remained speechless and motionless. She raised her eyes upward, toward her bedroom window, hoping, praying her husband had awakened at hearing a man’s voice in the yard.

“Mind if I…” Jacob ventured.

Maribeth turned her head to the side and snapped, “Yes. I do.” She walked into the kitchen and slammed the door.

I started this story with a particular idea in mind, but almost as soon as I started to type, it took off in a different direction. The only constant is a woman opening a door surprised to see a familiar but unexpected man.

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