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Authors: Rebecca Kertz

Noah's Sweetheart (18 page)

BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
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Rachel nodded. It was church-service Sunday.

“Will you let me drive you home afterward?” He held his fork in midair, and several heartbeats passed as Rachel digested what Noah was asking. It was one thing to have him walk her across the yard at her aunt and uncle’s farm. But the journey from the Zook house to the teacher’s cottage was longer and would require more time alone with him…unless his brothers would be accompanying them.

“Jacob will be taking Nancy,” he quickly added, as if he had read her mind.

Did she like Noah Lapp enough for him to consider her his sweetheart?

Ja,
she thought. Hadn’t she gone over this in her mind again and again?

“I will be happy to ride home with you this evening, Noah Lapp,” she said quietly, for she wanted no one else to hear.

His features lit up and his grin widened. “I missed talking with you today, Rachel Hostetler.”

“Me, too.” She felt suddenly nervous, as if meeting him for the first time.

“I’d better take Hannah her dessert.” Noah held out his plate for another helping, and Rachel laughed and sliced more chocolate loaf. “I will talk with you later,” he said softly.

“I will see you later, Noah.” Rachel watched him walk away with two plates of dessert, and the day suddenly seemed brighter…while the night loomed excitingly ahead.

Chapter Fourteen

T
he gathering at the Zooks’ ended at eleven-thirty that night. Everyone had a wonderful time. This night the singing was held in the Zook home rather than outside or in the barn. Miriam and her younger children stayed in the kitchen to help with the food before the children retired upstairs. Joseph Zook, the head of the household, had gone to William Mast’s house for a time before arriving home and joining his wife in the kitchen for a bite to eat before heading upstairs with her. Their daughters Annie and Barbara were at the singing along with their eldest son, Josiah.

Annie had confided to Rachel that her parents enjoyed hosting the singing for the young people. It reminded them of their days of courting when Annie’s
vadder
had driven her
mudder
home.

Rachel liked hearing the story of the Zooks. Horseshoe Joe and Miriam obviously cared for each other still, and it was nice to see another example of a successful marriage.

Neither Noah nor she had joined the church yet. Most of the young people at the singing had not. Joining the church was the decision of the individual. The older young people could enjoy a time of
rumspringa
to help them decide. During
rumspringa,
young people could discover a taste of the English way of life. Amish elders were lenient about the actions of young people during
rumspringa,
sometimes ignoring when they heard a radio playing out in the yard or when one of their sons temporarily exchanged his Amish garments for English clothes for trips into town.

Their being lenient didn’t mean they liked
rumspringa.
They tolerated it as long as their children’s actions weren’t destructive or didn’t end in arrest. The Amish community felt it necessary for young people to test the waters of outside life to help them make the decision of whether or not to join the church. Once they joined the church, then they had to abide by the
Ordnung,
the rules set by the community. If they did not, they could be shunned or banned, a terrible fate for a member of the community. But if a teen decided not to join the church, he could leave and not be shunned, for it was only after one made the commitment to join the church and to God that the
Ordnung
took priority.

Noah stood outside by the wagon when Rachel exited the Zook farmhouse. He approached when he saw her.

“It is a nice night,” he said. “It should be an easy ride home. I have the lantern for the trip.” He held up the light. There were also lights on the back of the wagon to alert any automobiles of their presence on the roadway.

“Have you seen Jacob?” he asked.

“Still inside.” Rachel looked over at the house. “Here they come now.”

Jacob and Nancy walked outside together, chatting and smiling into each other’s eyes. Elijah, Noah’s other brother, followed behind them. Charlotte was accompanying him, but as friends, not as sweethearts, for Charlotte liked Abram Peachy and Elijah liked Rebekka Miller, who had been unable to come to this evening’s singing. Jedidiah stayed behind at the Zooks’; he would ride home with Benjamin Mast. He wanted to spend a few more minutes with Annie.

Noah helped Rachel onto the front seat and then climbed up next to her while everyone else piled into the back.

Laughter and socializing went on in the back of the wagon. Noah and Rachel were quiet as Noah guided old Bess onto the road toward home. But it wasn’t a tense quiet, more like a pleasurable silence during which she and Noah exchanged warm glances and smiles.

As they traveled away from the Zook farm, Rachel felt a light brush on her left hand and looked down as Noah clasped her fingers.

No one in the back had noticed. Once or twice, Charlotte had to remind the merrymakers to lower their voices, as it was late and people in the neighboring homes they passed wouldn’t appreciate having their sleep disturbed. After each scolding, the voices would lower and the giggles would soften until someone said something to make them all forget and their laughter would ring out loudly and Charlotte would hush and scold them once again.

“Noah.” Jacob leaned over the back of the front seat, and Rachel quickly removed her hand from Noah’s. “How about we take a side trip?”

“A side trip?” Rachel asked. She met Noah’s glance, which looked soft beneath his hat brim in the lantern light. His brother’s words made him frown. He obviously didn’t care for Jacob’s idea.


Nay,
brother,” he replied. “
Mam
will be wondering where we are.”

Jacob made a face. “
Ja,
I suppose she will be.” He seemed to think for a moment before he said, “We can go another night!”

Noah shrugged. “It’s possible,” he said and then didn’t say anything more.

Jacob turned back to the others, and the group continued to enjoy the ride, although they were disappointed that the night would soon end.

They arrived at the King farm, and Jacob climbed out of the wagon and helped Nancy to alight. Elijah in turn helped Charlotte. Noah and Rachel sat in the front seat for a while longer.

The silence was peaceful, but it seemed as if there were things to be said, only neither was speaking.

“It’s late,” Rachel finally said.

Noah nodded and turned to face her. “Rachel…”

“Ja?”
She looked uneasy.

He studied her face, her brown eyes, her pink lips. “I’d like to court you.” He saw her eyes widen.

“Noah…”

“I like you. You like me.” He watched her and saw the truth in her expression. “We can enjoy each other’s company.”

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” Rachel whispered, although her heart was saying
ja, ja!

“Ready,” he murmured. “Rachel, did someone hurt you?”

She drew a long breath and inclined her head.

“You want to tell me about it?”

She shook her head vigorously. She wasn’t yet able to discuss her former betrothed, the accident and Abraham’s decision to marry her best friend.

Noah was studying her. Rachel tried to smile but failed miserably.

“I don’t want to push you,” he said, “but will you think about it?”


Ja,
I will think about it,” she said softly.

“You aren’t against the idea?” His expression was solemn.

She smiled, a genuine smile. “
Nay,
Noah, I’m not. I do like you, only…”

“You’re not sure you’re ready to court anyone?”

Her look was his answer. He grinned. It wasn’t that she had a problem with him; the problem lay in her past, whatever that was.

“Will you meet me in the schoolyard tomorrow night?”

Close to the cottage, but out in the open,
she thought. “What time?”

“After supper…about eight o’clock?”

She inhaled sharply. “I’ll be there.”

“I had a nice time tonight,” he said.

She regarded him with warmth. “Me, too.”

Jacob and Elijah were nearing the wagon. “Time to take you home.”

Noah’s brothers climbed into the back, and Noah guided old Bess back down the lane and onto the road toward the cottage where Rachel now lived.

Noah climbed down and assisted Rachel from the wagon seat. He walked her to her door, and she was conscious of the fact that his brothers were near, watching. He must have been aware of them also, for he spoke softly after he’d opened the door for her.

“I’ll see you soon, Rachel Hostetler.”

“See you soon,” she echoed.

He entered before her, checking the house to make sure all was well. He allowed her to go inside once he knew that she’d be safe.


Gut
night.” He touched her hand.

She laced her fingers through his briefly before pulling her hand away. “Until tomorrow,” she said and then went inside the house and watched from the doorway as he rejoined his brothers. After one last look, he drove the wagon away, and Rachel shut the door and locked it behind her before heading to her bedroom, where she thought of the day, the night and her next meeting with Noah.

He wants to court me.

She was thrilled; she was excited. But she couldn’t be his sweetheart. The accident…

Or could she? The doctors hadn’t been sure. What if they were wrong and she
was
able to have children?

Tomorrow night she would meet him. She felt a wild little thrill.

She made sure both doors and all the windows were locked except for the one room where she needed fresh air—her bedroom. Still, she opened that sash from the top and not the bottom, and put a chair piled with books beneath the window. If someone tried to enter through the open window, she would know about it.

She smiled as she put on her night garment. After brushing her hair, she climbed into bed.
Tomorrow will come soon enough. It is time for sleep.
Morning would come quickly, and there were things to be done in the schoolhouse…and she’d offered to help Aunt Mae with the baking.

Her last happy thought before she fell asleep was of Noah’s excited expression when she’d agreed to meet him in the schoolyard.

* * *

Noah was standing by the swing set when Rachel entered the schoolyard. Her heart leaped at the sight of him. He looked wonderful in a green shirt with his triblend pants held up by suspenders. His wide-brimmed banded straw hat was pushed back to reveal the look in his eyes as she approached. Her heart started to pound hard.

“Rachel,” he said with a formal nod, but his gaze was anything but formal.

“Noah.” She glanced about the schoolyard and lane. “Did you walk?”


Nay.
I took the only buggy that was available.” He gestured beyond the yard to where he’d tied up the horse. He had brought the single-bench courting buggy. “I don’t suppose you’d like to go for a ride?”

Rachel eyed the buggy and then turned her gaze onto Noah. She trusted him. Hadn’t he saved her when she was clinging for dear life on the runaway buggy?

The mare was Janey, a gentle soul who heeded Noah’s commands.

“I’ll go for a ride.”

Noah felt a sudden lightening within. Rachel must trust him to agree to take a ride in the courting buggy. Not that they were officially courting yet. If he had his way, he’d be courting her soon, but he would go slowly. He didn’t want to frighten her. He’d go slowly as long as he could.

He held out a hand and she accepted his help as she climbed into the buggy. The buggy moved under her weight, but Rachel smiled as she settled down onto the seat.

Noah climbed up to sit beside her. “You ready?” he asked softly.

She nodded as she straightened her skirt over her legs. “Where are we going?”

“We can travel down the paved main road a little or we can continue down this dirt lane, past the cottage and onto Lapp land.”

It was light, but darkness would be descending soon. She preferred the farm lane rather than the road. She didn’t trust the cars that might speed past—or the drivers who might not see them. “Your land,” she said.

“Onto our farm we’ll go then,” he said, pleased at her response.

A light rain had dampened the lane earlier, tamping down the dust. As Noah guided Janey past the cottage and onto the part of the lane used mostly by his family, Rachel enjoyed the cooler evening temperature and most especially Noah’s company.

They said little at first. Rachel thought that it might be because they felt comfortable and content in each other’s company.

Noah pulled up on the leathers to stop the buggy. “Look!” He gestured toward animals in the field on the left.

Rachel beamed. “Deer! And so many.”

There must have been five or six deer standing in the field. They ran and jumped across the lane far head of them and then disappeared through a windbreak of trees and out of sight.

Noah grinned at her as, under his guidance, Janey continued down the lane. “We may see raccoon or fox,” he said.

Rachel narrowed her gaze as she searched the surrounding scenery for signs of animal life. Noah continued to drive for a time until they reached a stream where he parked the buggy and helped her to alight.

“I used to play here a lot as a child. I usually got in trouble for slipping and falling into the stream.
Mam
was never happy to see me arrive home drenched in water and mud.” He smiled at the memory. “She wasn’t angry—not really. She gave me a scolding, but I got the sense that she didn’t really mind…as long as I wasn’t hurt and got home safe.”

“Your
mudder
is an amazing woman,” Rachel said sincerely. She liked Katie Lapp. Katie had been kind to her from the first, understanding what had happened to her during and after her accident, mentioning it once to let her know she understood and then never mentioning it again. She had seemed to sense Rachel’s need for privacy and the secret that Rachel kept from all but her family.

BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
11.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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