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By Kim Vogel Sawyer
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Kim Vogel Sawyer
All rights reserved.
A wash of melted colors splashed across the concrete floor of Quinn's Stained-Glass Art Studio, coloring the toes of Beth Quinn's white leather sneakers. She raised her gaze from the reflection on the floor to the windowsill, where a scene of a dogwood branch with a cardinal nestled among white blossoms perched. Backlit by the late-afternoon sun, each carefully cut piece of colored, leaded glass glowed like a jewel.
As always, Beth got a chill of pleasure from seeing one of her finished creations. "Ooh, yes." She hugged herself and gave a satisfied nod. "Perfect."
The back door to the studio burst open, bringing in a gust of chilly wind. Beth spun toward the door, her hand on her throat. She slumped with relief when she recognized Andrew Braun, her lone employee, stepping through.
Andrew held up both hands as if in surrender. "I'm sorry—the wind caught the door. I didn't mean to startle you."
Beth laughed, shaking her head. In mannerisms and appearance, Andrew reminded her a lot of her stepfather, Henry, who was Andrew's uncle. He was tall, with short-cropped brown hair covered by a billed cap that shaded his dark, walnut-colored eyes. He was so shy it had taken weeks before he would say more than Hi to her in conversation. But over the past two months of working together in the studio, they had finally formed a friendship.
At least, it was only friendship from her angle. She sensed a need to tread carefully. Getting romantically involved with Andrew Braun would open a can of worms the likes of which Sommerfeld had never before seen. And she'd already opened plenty.
"No harm done. And look!" She pointed to the stained-glass piece.
He carefully latched the door and glanced at the window. His eyes widened in surprise. "You got that cardinal one done already? I was going to solder the reinforcement bars for you."
Beth smirked. "All done. I didn't need'ja." She laughed at his crestfallen expression. "But you know if this one goes over well, there will be plenty of other opportunities for you to put the soldering iron to work." Oh, she hoped her statement proved true! Skipping across the floor, she grabbed his elbow and tugged him over to the window. "Well, look at it, and tell me what you think."
Andrew stood before the scene, pinching his chin between his thumb and forefinger. Beth waited, hands clasped in front of her, while he took his time seeming to examine every inch of the finished piece. Even though he had witnessed the creation of this window from her first drawings, there was always an element of excitement when pieces were viewed away from the worktable.
Finally, he gave a nod. "Yes. It's a well-done piece. I like the little yellow bits between breaks in the branches, which make it look like the sun is shimmering through. You were right not to put the cardinal in the center. Even though it's the focus of the piece, its placement to the lower right gives a better balance to the scene overall."
Beth smiled, basking in the approval of another artist.
"But"—he leaned forward, tapping one dogwood blossom with a blunt finger—"should this petal have been placed lower to give the illusion of lapping over the cardinal's tail feathers a little more? It would have added more dimension, I think."
She sent him a brief scowl. "I think it's fine the way it is. I've built in dimension with the varying background sky colors and the deeper green on the undersides of the leaves, which creates shadows." Defensiveness increased the pitch of her voice as she pointed to the elements she mentioned. "And look at the cardinal itself—the way it's positioned at an angle on the tree branch. There's plenty of dimension."
He looked at her with one eyebrow raised. "Yes, there is. But you asked me what I thought, and I think if the flower right above the cardinal had been brought down some—maybe a quarter of an inch—it would have enhanced the dimension."
Beth set her jaw, wishing she could return to the days when all he said was Hi.
Nudging her with his elbow, he grinned. "I made you mad."
She jerked away. "I'm not mad!" But even she recognized the irritation in her voice. Taking a deep breath, she said through gritted teeth, "Thank you for your opinion. I'll take it under advisement if I choose to duplicate this piece. Now ..." Tipping her head, she pushed her long ponytail over her shoulder. "What are you doing here again? I thought you went home."
He shrugged. "I came back to do that soldering. But I guess I don't need to."
She grinned, satisfaction filling her as she looked once more at the cardinal. "Nope. You don't." Much work went into the completion of a stained-glass project, but Beth enjoyed each step of the process, from drawing the design to adding the reinforcement bars that prevented buckling of the leaded-glass piece. Yes, whether creative or structural, she relished every facet of stained-glass art.
With the tip of her gloved finger, she traced the line of soldered zinc that bordered the cardinal's wing. She shook her head, chuckling to herself. Never would she have thought when she made the journey from Cheyenne, Wyoming, a little over a year ago that she would stay in Kansas. Her goal had been simple—sell off the unexpected inheritance from her great-aunt, collect as many antiques as possible from the Old Order Mennonite community citizens, and return to Cheyenne to open an antiques boutique.
But those three months in Sommerfeld had turned everything upside down.
Clamping her hands around the edges of the glass, she lifted the scene from its perch on the windowsill. She grunted with the effort. The piece was larger than any others she'd made so far and heavy from the metal that bordered each glass segment. Andrew reached for it, but she shook her head.
"I can do it." She shuffled across the floor to the display bench along the back wall of her small studio. Sweat broke out across her forehead and between her shoulder blades. Once the scene was secured behind the wood strip that kept the finished pieces from sliding, she wiped her forehead and sent Andrew a triumphant grin. "See?"
His frown let her know he wished she would let him handle the heavier tasks, but Beth was determined not to depend on Andrew too much. Beth was determined not to depend on anyone too much.
She offered a suggestion. "As long as you're here, you could put away the shipment of glass that came this morning."
Andrew shrugged and turned toward the crate in the corner. Beth removed her gloves and put them in the top drawer of her storage cabinet. This cabinet is really too pretty to simply house supplies, she thought as she ran her hand over the smooth pine top. Two of her mother's cousins had built the cabinet for her, varying the sizes of the drawers and inserting dividers to keep everything organized. A quick glance around the steel building that served as her studio brought a second rush of appreciation. Watching the building go up in one day, reminiscent of an old-fashioned barn raising, had been thrilling—and scary.
She still marveled at the support she'd received from the community after their initial mistrust. Yet she realized their willingness to help didn't indicate approval of her. Since she hadn't joined their meetinghouse, she was still an "outsider." But Mom had rejoined, so they offered their newly claimed member's wayward daughter a helping hand. And now that they'd all had a hand in getting her studio up and running, she felt a real obligation to make it a success.
Her gaze returned to the dogwood and cardinal scene, her heart pounding with hope. A gallery in Wichita had commissioned the piece—her first real commissioned work after nine months of selling smaller, copper-foil pieces at craft fairs. If the gallery owners were pleased, it could lead to more work, and eventually she would be able to establish herself as a bona fide stained-glass artist.
So far, the response to her work had been favorable—her unique blending of colors that created a three-dimensional effect was unique to the stained-glass community—and she credited God with giving her the special talent. She longed to glorify Him through this gift.
Heading for the corner to retrieve the broom, she couldn't help smiling at her thoughts. A year and a half ago, she wouldn't have considered including God in her conversation, let alone being concerned about pleasing Him. But so many things had changed for Beth, both inside and out, and God was the most important addition to her life.
Andrew paused in transferring glass squares to felt-lined shelves, his brows puckered. "I swept just before I left at noon. You're sweeping again?"
"Did you run the cutter while I was gone?"
"Nope." She ignored his sour look and drew the broom's bristles across the floor, collecting tiny shavings of glass. No matter how many times they swept, they could never get it all. The carbide cutter sent out miniscule fragments, and they had a way of traveling to every square inch of floor rather than politely staying beneath the cutting table. The small pile of multicolored bits took on the appearance of sugar crystals, but eating them would be a huge mistake. She'd have to exercise caution when the babies her mother was carrying were big enough to come visit.
Beth paused in her sweeping, her heart skipping a beat with the thought of the twins who would arrive in another four months. That was a change to which she still hadn't adjusted. After twenty-one years of having her mother to herself, she now shared her with a stepfather, a host of relatives, and soon, a new brother and sister. Although it had once been Mom and her against the world, now Beth often felt as though it was Mom's world against her.
Pushing the thought aside, she whisked the glass bits into a dustpan and dropped the broom. She crossed the floor and held the dustpan out to Andrew. "See? Glass sugar. I could sweep again right now and find more. I think it comes up through the concrete."
Andrew chuckled—a deep, throaty sound that always made Beth feel like smiling. "Oh, I doubt that."
She shivered as she dumped the glass fragments into the trash bin right outside the back door, lifting her gaze briefly to the crystal blue sky. No clouds, which meant no more snow. At least for now. She had discovered the weather could change quickly here where the wind pushed unhindered across the open plains.
After clamping the bin's lid back in place, she scurried through the doorway and nearly collided with Andrew, who stood right inside the threshold. His nearness made her pulse race, and she took a sideways step as she slammed the door closed with her hip.
He reached into his pocket. "I almost forgot. I got you some horseshoe nails like you wanted." Holding out a small, crumpled, brown bag, he added, "There's a dozen in there, but if you need more, I can get them."
Beth took the bag and unrolled the top to peek inside. "Thanks. I'll probably need more eventually, but this will get me started." She offered a smile. "This will work so much better for keeping the assembled pieces in place when I work with larger sections. The lead scraps are fine for holding my smaller works, but as I try to enlarge ..."
Andrew nodded. "Just let me know when you want more." He started for the door, then paused and turned back, giving his forehead a bump with the heel of his hand. "Oh. Uncle Henry and Aunt Marie are coming to our house for supper tonight. My mom said to ask if you'd like to come, too."
Beth rolled the bag closed as she considered his question. While she appreciated the efforts made by her stepfather's family to include her, she always ended up feeling out of place with her worldly clothes and pierced ears. Andrew's father was one of the worst—his scowling disapproval made her want to disappear. Not once had the man smiled at her, even in her mother's presence, and Mom was his sister-in-law!
As she sought an answer, she felt a yawn build. She gave it free rein and then pushed her lips into a regretful pout.
"I'm sorry, Andrew. Tell your mom thanks for the invitation, but I've been putting in some long days finishing up the cardinal piece. I think I'll just head home, eat a sandwich, and turn in early."
Andrew shrugged. "Okay. Have a good evening then." He stepped out the door, leaving her alone.
* * *
Andrew pressed his fork through the flaky layer of crust topping the wedge of cherry pie in front of him and carried the bite to his mouth. His mother made the best pie of anyone in Sommerfeld, where every girl learned to bake as soon as she was old enough to wield a wooden spoon. If he could find a girl who cooked as good as his mother, he'd marry her in a heartbeat.
Heat filled his face at his bold thoughts, and he glanced around the table at the visiting adults. They seemed oblivious to his flaming cheeks, and he released a small sigh of relief before digging once more into the pie.
Lately his thoughts turned too frequently to matrimony. Part of it, of course, was his age. At twenty-three as of a month ago, he was old enough to assume responsibility for a wife ... and children. He chewed rapidly, dislodging that thought. Part of it was being the only son still living at home, his brothers all having established homes of their own. And part of it was Beth.
His hand slowed on its way to his mouth as an image of Beth Quinn filled his mind. Her long, shining ponytail, her bright blue eyes, the delicate cleft in her sweet chin, the way her slender hands held a pencil as she sketched her designs onto butcher paper ...
Mother's voice from across the table brought him out of his reverie.
She pointed at his fork, which he held beneath his chin. "Are you going to finish that pie or just hold it all evening?"
A light roll of laughter went around the table. Andrew quickly shoved the bite into his mouth, certain his cheeks were once again blazing. On his right, Uncle Henry gave him a light nudge with his elbow.
"If a man's not eating, he has something important on his mind. Want to share?"
If the two had been alone, Andrew probably would have asked his uncle's advice on how to cope with these odd feelings he harbored for Beth. After all, Uncle Henry had loved Beth's mother for years—even during the period when she wasn't a part of the fellowship of their meetinghouse. Surely he, of all people, would understand Andrew's dilemma.
But they had an audience—Henry's wife, Marie, and Andrew's parents. So rather than approach the topic that weighed heavily in his thoughts, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"Beth got that commissioned cardinal scene finished, and it's a beauty."
Both Uncle Henry and Aunt Marie smiled, their pleasure apparent. Equally apparent was Mother's worry and Dad's disapproval.
Dad cleared his throat. "One picture doesn't make a career, son. Don't put too much stock in it."
The cherry pie lost its appeal. He pushed the plate aside. For as long as he could remember, his father had discouraged his interest in artistic endeavors. How many times had he been told in a thundering tone that a man couldn't make a living with pictures, that he needed to set aside such foolishness and choose something practical? More times than he could count. The only reason Dad tolerated his time at the studio now was because during the winter months he wasn't needed as much on the farm. Yet Andrew knew that even when spring arrived he'd want to be in the studio. Unlike his brothers, his heart wasn't in farming or hog raising.
Mother put her hand on Dad's arm. "Andrew's doing Beth a big favor by helping in her studio."
"I know that," Dad countered, his gaze fixed on Andrew. "And I'm not telling him he shouldn't help her out. It's a Christian thing to do. We've all offered Marie's girl assistance in that undertaking of hers. I'm glad she's enjoying it and doing well. But neither should he start thinking that one commissioned stained-glass art piece is going to lead to a career that could take care of a family, which is what Andrew needs to consider. I want him to think."
Mother's hand gave several pats before she pulled it away. She sent Andrew an apologetic look. Andrew gave her a slight nod to show his appreciation for her attempt at support, but he knew any further talk would only lead to an argument with his father. He'd endured enough of those in the past. Didn't need one now.
Pushing his hands against the edge of the table, he said, "May I be excused?"
Excerpted from Beginnings by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Copyright © 2007 Kim Vogel Sawyer. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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