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Faith Fairchild, recently of New York City, paused to catch her breath. Benjamin, her five-month-old son, was sound asleep, securely strapped to her chest in his Snugli. Her aching shoulder blades and the fact that she had been focusing on the worn path beneath her feet instead of the autumnal splendor to either side reminded Faith that Benjamin was definitely getting a bit too chunky for this mode of transportation. She straightened up and looked around.
It was New England with a vengeance: riotous orange and scarlet leaves beneath enormous, puffy white clouds suspended in a Kodacolor blue sky. -A calendar maker's' dream. And of course brisk, clean air as crisp as a bite of a McIntosh apple just off the tree.
Faith hated McIntosh apples.
She walked up the Belfry Hill path a bit farther to a small clearing, which gave her an unobstructed view of the Aleford village green- far below. She Fiat down and sighed heavily.
Her life was becoming terribly quaint, Faith thought. Time was when "village" meant "the Village" and "town" was up or down. And when did she start using phrases like "time was"? She let another sigh escape into the pollution-free landscape and longed for a whiff of that heady combination of roasted chestnuts and exhaust fumes that meant autumn to her.
There wasnt even any litter in Aleford, she musedwistfully as she hummed ed a few bars of "Autumn in NewYork" softly to herself so as not to awaken Benjamin.Memories of the angry looks she used to hurl at offend-ers tossing candy bar wrappers on the sidewalk wereconveniently pushed to a far corner of her mind, a corner somewhere near Lexington and 59th Street.
She stared fixedly at the green--so very green and like a tablecloth spread out for a tidy picnic She blinked and wondered, not by any means for the first time, how Fate could have plucked her from her native shores and placed her in this strange, wholesome land.
But then Fate had nothing to do with it. It was plain old love and not a little of plain old sex AH in the seductive shape of Thomas Fairchild, a New Englander born and bred, and, to make matters worse, a minister.
For Faith, the daughter and grandaughter of men ofthe cloth, who had sworn all her life to avoid that par-ticular fabric, was the village parson's wife. It had beenand was a terrific surprise. Not at all what she had hadin mind for her life.
Benjamin gave a tiny burp and Faith welcomed the slightly sour, milky baby smell that, delighted as she was with her infant, she knewonly a mother Could love. She stroked his soft Cheek and cooed, "You sweet boy, you."
Hitching him up farther on her chest to a possibly more comfortable -position she added, ".My darling benign little, growth. " Faith was fond of outrageous endearments and the Snugli always reminded her of those trees with the bulges growing to one side , so obviously not a part of the original trunk.
A trunk in Faith's ease more like a sapling's. Faith was as slender now as she had always been, despite a pregnancy punctuated by voracious cravings for H&H bagels with Zabar's herring salad, which her mother kindly supplied. Her mother had also supplied Faith's big blue eyes. Her father's family was responsible for the blond hair, which she wore -in a blunt cut that just touched her shoulders. She was neither tall nor short. In fact she looked like a lot of other women, and people had a tendency to greet her warmly in the street, only realizing that she wasn't It I I Nancy " or " Jill I I when they were actually face, to face. But when they were, they always looked twice--an act that had never displeased Faith. Just now the despised New England air had given her complexion a rosy glow, which matched Benjamin's, and she looked beautiful.
Faith frowned and resumed her climb. She was annoyed with herself, all these Victorian sighs. But it washard not to think about what was wrong, and she wasdrawn to her misgivings just as one's tongue irresistibly searches out the sore place in one's mouth to see whether it still hurts and of course it always does.
I have everything anyone could possibly want, shetold herself sternly. A darling baby who sleeps throughthe night; a wonderful husband who fortunately doesn't.Good food, good health, and a pretty little house, maybea mite too much like an illustration for Mosses from an Old Manse, but as Parsonages go, a jewel. No damp andplenty of working appliances.
This wasn't a question of physical well-being. She had never felt better in her life. This was a mental sore spot. And the worst possible kind., She was bored. And not only bored, but homesick.
The parish, as well as the whole town, had welcomed her warmly, but there were few women her age who weren't working and those were busy with hearth and home. Faith was pretty busy with these things herself Benjamin took up more time than she would have be-' lieved, possible for one small. infant. She didn't begrudge it, but at the same time he wasn't exactly a scintillating conversationalist. Toni was around more than many other husbands--the parish office was in the church, which was in turn a mere stone's throw away from the parsonage, if one had been inclined to throw stones at the church, that in, and Faith had not reached that point.
She wasn't actually unhappy, she told herself. Yet there was an insistent, insidious whisper murmuring in the porches of her ears that nothing had ever happened in Aleford, at least not since 1775, and that nothing ever would. Especially to Faith.