Tomorrow's Sun (Lost Sanctuary) - By Becky Melby


September 2, 1852

Hannah Shaw lingered on the last line of the letter she’d vowed to destroy, pressed her lips against the soft paper, and tucked it in her apron. As she opened the heat grate in the ceiling with the handle of her broom, she commanded the smile to leave her voice. “Biscuits or corn cakes, Papa?” she called through the opening.

Wiping the biscuit cutter on a flour-sack towel, she waited for the rhythmic sweep of the trowel to slow. Papa didn’t talk and work at the same time. She lifted the blue-striped bowl from the sideboard with one hand and set the biscuit pan on the table with the other.

The swishing stopped. “Is there buttermilk left?”

Peering out the back door, Hannah winked at the cardinal on the porch railing preening himself in the dawn light. “Just enough for a batch of biscuits.”

“Then you knew what I wanted before you asked.”

Hannah smiled. “You are the one who taught me that every man should have the right to choose his own destiny.”

Laughter rumbled through the grate. “Impertinent child. Fetch the buttermilk and—”

The front door rattled under the knock of a heavy hand. One rap, followed by two.

Hannah clutched her apron. “Someone’s at the door, Papa.” Her voice quivered. Too early for visitors. Too insistent for one of Papa’s customers. “Should I answer?”

“No.” Her father’s footsteps echoed as he crossed the empty second floor. The walls seemed to shake as he thundered down the stairs.

Hannah waited in the dining room. Warning shot from her father’s eyes as he reached the bottom step. “Carry on as you were.” Worry etching his face, he turned to the door.

How was she to carry on when her hands trembled and her thoughts raced like the river after a hard rain? Liam. Lord, let it not be about him. Keep him safe. She ordered her legs to carry her to the cupboard in the corner. With whitened fingers frozen on the handles and her ears straining toward the whispers in the parlor, she could not have remembered what went into buttermilk biscuits if her life depended on it. She opened the doors. The scent of cinnamon erased the past eight months, as if Mama stepped beside her, reaching from the grave for a pinch of spice for her apple butter.

“…danger is increasing…trust no one…” Scraps of sentences fell like quilt block trimmings. “Dr. Dyer, I assure you…” Her father’s voice rose then dipped again. Hannah held her breath, listening for the only name that mattered.

“…should send her to Elizabeth’s sister until…”

The men spoke of the growing risk, but what should have set her on edge calmed her. Their talk had nothing to do with Liam. She smiled. Dr. Dyer did not know her well, or he would never have suggested sending her to Aunt Margaret’s as if she were a child. Her grip on the cupboard handles relaxed.

Flour, salt, baking soda, lard. The recipe filled the part of her mind not occupied by deep dimples and midnight blue eyes. She pulled out the ingredients, filled the bowl with flour to the first blue line, and pressed a deep well in the center. She snatched the market basket off the hook by the back door, letting her hand graze the black iron shaped by Liam’s own hand. She loved how it stood out against the pale yellow paint Mama had started and Hannah had finished.

Two rooms away, the conversation grew intense yet more hushed. She gripped the handle and stood, still as death, but couldn’t decipher a single word. With a prayer-filled sigh, she opened the cellar door.

The earthy cold crept beneath her skirt. Goose pimples scampered up her arms like countless baby mice. The weak light from the only window hadn’t the strength to reach the corner. In the dark, she counted out five eggs, found the lard crock, and felt for the half barrel of spring water. Plunging her hand into it, she snatched the buttermilk jar and ran up the stairs. As always, the apple tree stenciled on the cellar side of the door gave her pause. Mama’s paints sat in a box atop the cupboard. If only she could paint like—

We will not speak of what might have been. Papa’s words, bracing as the water in the barrel, brought her back to the moment. She set the basket and the buttermilk on the kitchen table then pinched salt into the bowl. The talk at the front door ceased, and Dr. Dyer left.

“Papa?” She darted through