Authors: Rebecca Kertz
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Jedidiah Lapp led the singing, his strong voice clear and vibrant. His brothers Jacob and Elijah and Mary Hershberger quickly joined in, and the others followed, their voices raised in Jedidiah’s choice of song. Noah took a seat next to his brother and across from Rachel.
Rachel met his gaze as Noah sat and smiled at her. She attempted to smile back, but she knew that she’d failed miserably. She had no reason to be upset. She knew that Charlotte and Noah were friends, and she shouldn’t be surprised that Noah wanted to talk with her cousin alone. But it was hard to watch him walk away from her and go to Charlotte. She wasn’t jealous or envious—it was a sin to be either one. She felt sad.
Jedidiah sat across from Annie Zook, and Annie gazed at him as she sang his choice of hymn from the
After everyone finished the hymn, it was Annie’s turn to choose. Each teen would get a chance to select a favorite hymn. In between songs, there would be refreshments and other little games to make the evening fun.
The evening passed quickly. Rachel relaxed and began to enjoy herself. She was no longer upset. It was hard to be upset when she remained the focus of Noah’s gaze and smile as she sang along with the others.
Soon it was time for all to head home.
“May I walk you to the house?” Noah asked Rachel as he came up from behind her.
“It’s just across the yard.” Rachel searched for Charlotte, but her cousin had disappeared, perhaps in the company of Nancy as she headed home.
He tugged on the bottom of his black vest. “I’d like to walk you across the yard,” he said.
Uncertain what to think, she could only nod. Truth was…she liked spending time with him.
A full moon lit the night, making it easy for them to see. “Nice evening for a walk,” he commented conversationally. He seemed reluctant to move.
Rachel glanced at him and caught him staring at her. “
There is a cool breeze.” She quickly averted her gaze. “A
time to leave the windows open.”
There was a long moment of silence, or so it seemed to Rachel.
“Charlotte asked me to take her to town tomorrow,” Noah said. He leaned a shoulder against the barn and crossed his legs. “Will you come?” His stance seemed waiting…expectant.
Suddenly nervous, Rachel fiddled with her
strings. “Charlotte didn’t mention going into town.”
A mosquito buzzed in her ear. Noah straightened, raised his fingers as if to swat the insect away. He quickly dropped his hand to his side, as if he’d thought better of it. “She asked before the singing this evening.”
Was that what they were discussing earlier? Rachel wondered.
“Charlotte may not want me to go.” She began to walk toward the house, and Noah followed her lead. “Aunt Mae may have chores for me.”
“Charlotte wants you to come.” He stopped and caught her arm before quickly releasing it, but not before Rachel saw something flash in his eyes. He continued across the yard. “I’m sure she’ll ask you.”
Did she dare go into town with Charlotte and Noah? Rachel wondered. She shouldn’t; she liked being near Noah too much. Still, if they both wanted her to come, why shouldn’t she?
She paused and turned toward him. “Will Joshua be coming for ice cream?”
Noah grinned. “
I’m sure he’ll want some.”
“It was delicious ice cream.” Smiling, she walked on, and he fell into step beside her.
“Then you will come?” he asked, sounding hopeful, his soft voice close to her ear.
Rachel inhaled sharply and fought the temptation to lean into him. “If Charlotte asks me and Aunt Mae does not mind.”
“Charlotte will be shopping for Aunt Mae.”
Another mosquito buzzed in Rachel’s ear, and she stopped to swat it away. Noah’s hand was there first, brushing the insect from her
Their fingers touched briefly and withdrew.
His nearness in the semidarkness had a strange effect on her. “I’m here,” she announced unnecessarily as she climbed the porch steps. She turned, placed a hand on the railing. “It was nice of you to walk me across the yard.” Her voice sounded shaky to her own ears.
“The pleasure was mine,” he said huskily as he leaned in closer to her. He withdrew but seemed reluctant to leave.
Rachel thought she heard him sigh. “I will see you tomorrow morning, Rachel.”
She nodded, silent, and then she opened the door, stepped inside, and quietly closed the door.
“Rachel!” Charlotte came out of the kitchen, holding up an oil lamp. “Would you like some cake?” The light cast shadows on her features, making her eyes shine.
Rachel grinned as she trailed behind her cousin into the kitchen. “Chocolate?”
Charlotte waved her toward a chair.
Rachel sat down at the table and accepted the plate of chocolate cake that Charlotte handed her.
“Would you like to go to town tomorrow?” Charlotte sliced a second piece of cake and took the seat across from Rachel. “Noah is going to take us.
gave me a shopping list.”
Rachel paused with her fork midway to her mouth. “You want me to come?”
Charlotte frowned. “
Why wouldn’t I? We’ll have a nice day.”
“It would be fun to go.” Rachel ate a bite of cake. “I haven’t been into town since I first came. Will Noah bring Samuel’s market wagon?”
Charlotte nodded as she finished swallowing a spoonful of icing. “He is a
driver. You won’t have to worry,” she assured her cousin as if she’d suddenly recalled what had happened in town with the runaway hired buggy.
“I know he is.” Rachel got up and went to a cabinet. She opened a door and took out two drinking glasses.
“Noah is a
man, isn’t he?” Charlotte said.
Rachel filled the glasses with water and returned to hand her cousin a glass before she sat down again. “He has been kind to me. His family has done a lot for the school and the teacher’s house.”
“He will make a wonderful husband someday.”
Rachel shot her a glance and found Charlotte grinning at her.
“Noah makes quality furniture.” Charlotte spooned up a taste of cake.
“I like the desks he made for the
” Rachel tugged off her
and set it on the chair next to her.
“He makes chairs and house furniture, too. And he can make cabinets. His
taught him well.”
Rachel felt a little pang. It was obvious that Charlotte was in love with Noah. Her cousin couldn’t stop talking about him…how kind and good he was…his ability to make quality furniture…
Charlotte must be thinking about marrying Noah and perhaps soon….
The conversation about Noah dwindled, for which Rachel was grateful. She had known that Charlotte and Noah had a special relationship. She forgot that fact every time Noah did something nice for her.
They finished their cake in silence and then decided to head to bed. Charlotte picked up the oil lamp and led the way. The house was quiet. Their footsteps echoed on the wooden stairs as they climbed to the second floor. The air held the scent of burning lamp oil and the lingering aroma of their evening meal of cold fried chicken and sweet-and-sour chow-chow.
“Charlotte,” Rachel whispered as they reached the top landing, “are you certain you want me to come tomorrow?”
why wouldn’t I be?” Charlotte answered. “The day wouldn’t be the same without you.”
“I will come, then.” No matter how difficult it might be to see Charlotte and Noah together, she would go and try to enjoy the day.
They slipped into the bedroom with barely a sound. The windows had been open and the room had the fresh smell of the day’s sunshine mingling with the rich floral scents of the night from outside.
“Nancy?” Charlotte whispered.
Rachel leaned toward the bed. “I don’t think she’s here.”
“Who?” Nancy entered the room with a pleased look on her face.
“Where have ya been?” her sister asked, studying Nancy from beneath lowered eyelids.
“Jacob and I were talking. He walked me home.”
Charlotte grinned. “Jacob Lapp?”
Nancy scowled at her.
She dropped down on the end of her bed, which squeaked softly under protest.
“You had a nice time,” Rachel said quietly.
“I did.” Nancy removed her black prayer
and reached over to hang it on a wall peg. She began to remove her hairpins. “Jacob is nice. I like him, and I think he likes me.”
Rachel wasn’t surprised. From what she’d seen, Jacob was interested in someone, and Elijah probably had been teasing his brother about Nancy.
“All the Lapp men are nice,” Charlotte said. “But if you like him, I hope he likes you the same way.”
With the pins out of her hair, Nancy donned her nightgown. When Rachel and her sister had done the same, Nancy turned out the oil lamp while Charlotte and Rachel climbed into bed.
“It was a great night,” Charlotte said.
Rachel could hear the rustling of the bedsheets as Charlotte and Nancy got comfortable. Thoughtful, she was silent for a long moment. “A great night but a long day. I’m suddenly tired.”
“Me, too,” Charlotte said softly.
night,” Rachel murmured.
night,” her cousins echoed sleepily.
* * ** * *
The two weeks that followed passed by quickly with several days of rain. The trip to town with Noah had been canceled due to the wet weather. Since the rain cleared, everyone had been too busy to take the buggy to Miller’s. Aunt Mae had garnered some of the supplies she’d needed from Katie Lapp. The rest could wait until there was time to visit Miller’s Store.
Rachel had kept occupied helping her aunt with chores, and when she was done at the King residence, working with Charlotte at Abram Peachy’s house. The next Sunday church service was to be held at Abram’s. With no wife to ready the house for him, he was happy to see Charlotte, Nancy and Rachel arrive to clean and cook and keep an eye on the children while Abram went about his chores.
“Mary Elizabeth, would you like to make a cake with me?” Charlotte asked as she tied on a patched but clean work apron.
that would wonderful,” the little girl said, looking pleased.
“What about me?” little Ruthie piped up as she entered the kitchen.
Charlotte smiled. “I have something special for you to do as well. Have ya ever made pudding?”
Ruthie shook her head. “We ate pudding together.”
we did. What kind of pudding would you like to eat on Sunday? Chocolate?” She opened a cabinet and pulled out a large porcelain bowl.
Ruthie nodded vigorously. “And I can help?”
“You can help,” Charlotte agreed. She tied her
strings to keep them from swinging too close to the stove while she cooked. She then reached to remove Ruthie’s
and set it on the table, out of harm’s way.
Nancy came out of a back room. “Charlotte, I think we need to clean out Abram’s refrigerator. I’m not sure everything is safe to eat.”
“He receives a lot of food from our friends and neighbors,” Charlotte told her. “Probably more than he and the children can eat.”
Nancy wrinkled her nose. “Some of it is not something a child would want to eat, and I’m sure Abram is too nice to turn someone’s generous offering away.”
Rachel checked through the cabinets for baking supplies. “We may have to go to Miller’s Store for a few things. I don’t see any vanilla or cocoa powder.”
has extra,” Charlotte said as she pulled a bowl out of a cabinet. She hunted through a drawer for some utensils. “Would one of you mind taking Abram’s buggy back home for what we need?”
“I could go,” Nancy said after a quick look at Rachel.
“I can drive the buggy,” Rachel offered, but a knot of fear became lodged in her throat.
achel realized that she was right; Nancy didn’t want to go after the baking supplies.
I can do it,
she told herself,
and I’ll be fine.
She hadn’t driven a buggy in over a year, but she would drive one today. “What else will we need?”
“I’ll make a list,” Charlotte said, searching through a drawer for paper and pencil. “While you’re gone, we’ll finish cleaning the bedrooms upstairs. Mary Elizabeth, Ruthie, would ya like to help us?”
“May we?” Mary Elizabeth asked just as Ruthie exclaimed, “
With list in hand, Rachel went outside and unhitched the horse. Telling herself to remain calm, she settled herself into the King family buggy and picked up the reins with shaking hands. She took several deep breaths, then, with a click of her tongue and a light flick of the leather straps, she guided the horse in the direction of her aunt and uncle’s farm.
She was more than a little nervous at first. She hadn’t driven since before the buggy accident that had hospitalized her for nearly two months, but soon the tension lifted and she started to feel at ease. It was a lovely warm June day, and she encountered little traffic on the roadway. She enjoyed the gentle roll of the carriage and the clip-clop sound of Mattie’s hooves on the macadam.
A car came around a bend, startling her, and she held her breath and waited as the vehicle slowed as it passed.
How fast the Englishers go! They have little time to enjoy the simple things in their racing cars…the sights and sounds of early summer…the bright colors of rudbeckia or black-eyed Susans that grow profusely along the roadway and in folks’ yards…the scent of clean, damp laundry drying on the clothesline.
As she drove along the road, she spied a familiar face—Thomas Schrock, a young boy in their Amish community. Thomas was riding his Amish scooter bike, a two-wheeled bicycle without pedals that was propelled with one’s foot.
“Rachel!” Thomas greeted with a wave. The young towheaded child was Sarah and Eli’s ten-year-old nephew, son of Eli’s brother Matthew and sister-in-law Jane.