A New Sister

These Matthews, man.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Summer 1849

Ezekiel Matthews had no idea what was going on with his older brother Elijah. The young man hardly paid attention to anything Ezekiel said to him, which was highly unusual, because Elijah always listened to him. Always.

Maybe it has to do with the war with Mexico, Ezekiel thought one night, while watching Elijah mindlessly drum his fingers on the table instead of talking everyone’s ears off. Both Elijah and their older brother Manasseh had fought in the war, and Manasseh had come back with a limp so bad he needed a cane.

Ezekiel frowned and looked around the table. Neither of his parents or the rest of his siblings, sans his older sister Henrietta, seemed to have noticed Elijah’s unusual lack of conversation, much less that he was staring at a wall.

Only a few days later, Ezekiel appeared to get his answer: Miss Ruth Hardin—the young woman Elijah was courting—showed up to visit and it clicked in his head that his brother might be planning to propose!

Ezekiel gulped. In a way, he hoped not. Henrietta had already married and left home last year; he didn’t want Elijah to leave too!

Not yet at least.

He sat down on the bottom of the stairs with a heavy sigh, and propped his chin on one hand. Despite Elijah reminding him time and again he wouldn’t always be able to be there for him, it was still hard for him to accept. Of course he would still have Manasseh—but he and Manasseh weren’t particularly close, and Manasseh could end up married soon too, couldn’t he?

Ezekiel straightened, setting his hands on his knees. He really was being ridiculous; Manasseh and Elijah were both grown-up men. It made sense that they would want to have families of their own. Yet still, they were the only brothers he had—living, that is.


He started. Miss Ruth stood nearby with her head cocked and gave him a gentle smile, her light brown eyes inquisitive.

“Are you all right?”

Ezekiel shrugged.

Miss Ruth came over and sat down next to him. “What’s wrong?”

“Um…” Ezekiel drummed his fingers on his knees. “IsElijahgoingtomarryyou?” he blurted out, looking up at her.

Miss Ruth blinked. “Is Elijah going to—” Her cheeks flushed pink, somehow making her freckles more visible. “—marry me?”

Ezekiel nodded.

“Well…” Miss Ruth tucked a loose strand of red hair behind her ear. “I certainly hope so. I love him, and I know he loves me.”

He squirmed. “I know that,” he said. “But I don’t want him to get married this soon. It feels like we just got him back from the war!”

“Ah, I see,” Miss Ruth said. “Ezekiel, you know that he won’t stop being your brother if he marries me, right?”


“You also know that he’ll still try to keep his promise to you?”

Ezekiel considered this a moment, then nodded.

“There’s really nothing to be afraid of,” Miss Ruth told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Besides, you’ll be getting me as another sister. Won’t that be fun?”

Ezekiel heaved a sigh. “I guess.”

“You guess?”

“Well…all right, it will be fun,” Ezekiel said, smiling. “I do like you. Everyone likes you. And that’s a good thing!”

Miss Ruth smiled back. “And I like all of you.”

“But where will you live if you get married?” Ezekiel asked.

Miss Ruth shrugged, smoothing out her skirt and wrapping her arms around her knees. “I have no idea.”

Ezekiel released a sigh and propped his chin back into his hand.

“To be honest with you, I was hoping Elijah would propose when he got back last year,” Miss Ruth admitted, breaking the silence. “Here we are a year later, and nothing. Part of me wonders if he’s afraid.”

Ezekiel scoffed. “Elijah’s never afraid! He’s an adult man!”

Miss Ruth chuckled. “You would be surprised, Ezekiel,” she said. “Do you think that he wasn’t afraid when Manasseh was wounded?”

He blinked. Now that he thought of it, Elijah had told them in a letter that Manasseh’s wound had become infected, and according to Papa, that wasn’t a good thing.

“I’m sorry, that’s a terrible comparison,” Miss Ruth said. “Obviously, your brother having an infected wound and proposing aren’t the same thing.”

Ezekiel shrugged. “That’s fair. But I still can’t think of Elijah being afraid. He’s always been the bravest of us.” He paused for a moment, then added, “He really should ask you to marry him though.”

“Excellent point, little brother.”

Ezekiel nearly fell off the stairs in surprise. He caught himself and looked over his shoulder to see Elijah appear from behind the staircase.

“How long have you been there?” he asked as he stood, his heart still racing.

“Long enough.” Elijah’s gaze flicked from him to Miss Ruth. “Zeke, could you, ah, excuse Miss Ruth and I for a moment? Apparently, there’s something I need to talk to her about.”

Ezekiel looked between them. Miss Ruth was now standing and her cheeks were flushed again.

“Sure, ‘Lijah!” He gave them both a lopsided smile, then darted into the parlor and peeked around the door frame to watch as Elijah and Miss Ruth conversed in low tones.

A moment later, judging by the way Miss Ruth embraced Elijah and the way he picked her up and spun her around, it was safe to say that there would be wedding bells ringing soon enough.

Ezekiel approached them just as Elijah set Miss Ruth down. Both of their faces were glowing and they were smiling so wide Ezekiel figured that their cheeks hurt.

“Looks like I get to call you little brother now too,” Miss Ruth said, noticing him.

Ezekiel scrunched his nose. “Aw, noooo,” he protested. “‘Lijah calls me that almost all the time! I’m twelve years old; I’m too old for that!”

Elijah laughed and ruffled Ezekiel’s dark brown hair, causing him to duck away. “Well, I’m not likely to stop any time soon,” he admitted. “So you might as well accept defeat, little brother.”


© 2023 H.S. Kylian (Hannah Killian). All rights reserved.

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