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Authors: Rebecca Kertz

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BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
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Charlotte said. “There is cooking to be done before we come on Sunday.”

Rachel had almost forgotten. They would be spending time at the Lapp farm on Sunday. She would meet not only Noah’s mother, but also all of his other kin. She was both terrified and excited by the prospect. Were all of the Lapp brothers as handsome as Noah?

They left the cottage, and it seemed a much shorter walk back to the buggy, where the old mare Janey waited patiently for their return. Rachel climbed into the back of the buggy, conscious of Noah waiting for her and Charlotte to be seated.

“I will be right back,” Noah said and he disappeared around to the rear of the schoolhouse. He was back within minutes with two handfuls of wildflowers. Without a word, he gave Charlotte and Rachel each a small bouquet of colorful, delicate blooms.

Rachel remained silent as Charlotte thanked him profusely. The gesture was sweet and thoughtful, and she didn’t know what to make of it. No doubt he’d wanted to give flowers to Charlotte but felt it’d be awkward not to give any to Rachel.

Whatever his reasons, Noah had pleased her, and Rachel tried to shut down her feelings. It wouldn’t do to like Noah, who was the man in her cousin’s life. It wouldn’t do to get involved with any man. She had learned a hard lesson from Abraham Beiler, and she should never, ever—could never, ever—forget how awful she’d felt.

* * *

Rachel went with the Amos King women to the Lapp farm on Friday. She hadn’t expected to visit so soon, but Katie Lapp had seven sons and only a baby daughter. Katie needed help getting ready for the five families who would come to visit on Sunday.

They had delivered pies to Kitchen Kettle Village on Thursday morning. On Thursday afternoon they had baked two more cakes and four more pies. These treats were for the social.

Rachel had a pie on her lap as Aunt Mae drove the family buggy over to the Lapp farm. It didn’t take long to get there. As her aunt pulled the carriage into the Lapps’ barnyard, Rachel stared at the house. It was a big house, bigger than the Amos Kings’ and bigger than her home back in Ohio. White with a large front porch and many windows across the second and first floors, it was a plain but beautiful structure that displayed signs of a contented life.

Her aunt and cousins alighted, and as she climbed out, Rachel was conscious of chickens clucking and running about the yard. A low mooing from the barn could only have come from the family cow. Two young Amish boys of about six or seven ran about, chasing each other, while an older boy, who looked to be eleven or twelve, carried wood from the shed with his gaze on his two younger brothers. Noah’s brothers? Rachel wondered.

“John! Jacob!” Aunt Mae called. “Come say hello to your new schoolteacher.” She turned to Rachel. “John is
mei kinskind.
He is your cousin Sarah’s son. He is five.”

Rachel blinked. “Sarah? Sarah is here?”

Aunt Mae nodded. “She and Eli live on the other side of Bird-in-Hand. They have been away to Delaware. They were due back late yesterday.” She smiled as the boys approached slowly, eyeing Rachel with cautious curiosity.

Rachel hadn’t realized that Sarah had had children. Sarah was the eldest of the Amos Kings. She had married when Rachel and Charlotte were young children, so it was natural that she now had one or more daughters or sons. She studied John, Sarah’s son. He was a handsome boy with blond hair and brown eyes. Did he look like his
or Sarah? Rachel could barely remember what her cousin Sarah looked like.

“Rachel,” her aunt said, “these boys will be your students. John, Jacob, this is your new schoolteacher. John, Rachel is also your cousin. Jacob belongs to Abram Peachy. Abram is deacon.” And then to Rachel, she whispered, “and a widower.” The boys had started to turn away, ready to play again.

She called after them. “Boys! What do you say to your new schoolteacher?”

day to you, Rachel. We are pleased to meet you.” It was Jacob Peachy who spoke.

John stared at her. “What do I need school for? I like working on the farm.”

“You must learn English,” Rachel said, “so that you can do farm business in town.”

Jacob was nodding as if he understood. “
John. You don’t want to be a bad farmer, do you?”

“I will be a
farmer! I know a lot about plowing and planting…and harvesting!”

“I’m sure you do, John,” his grandmother said. “But Rachel is right, it is important for you to learn things to help you someday when you are big and can take over your father’s farm.”

“We will both come,” Jacob added.

Rachel gazed at his sweet face and thought how unfortunate it was that this poor boy had lost his mother. “I will see you in class in two months.”

The boys nodded before they ran off to finish their barnyard play.

Rachel became aware of several things at once as she entered the Lapp family home. First was that the house was filled with women she didn’t know. Then she saw Charlotte greet another woman warmly with a hug. She heard “Sarah” and she realized that this was the cousin she had met only once when she was barely old enough to remember.

Charlotte came back and grabbed Rachel’s hand, leading her toward her older sister. “Sarah, this is cousin Rachel.”

Sarah smiled. She looked so much like Aunt Mae that Rachel had to keep herself from staring. “You were young when we met.”

Rachel nodded. “
You took me for a walk to see the barn animals.”

“That’s right.” Her eldest cousin looked surprised. “You were three.”

Rachel studied her cousin’s face carefully. “You have the look of your

“We all do,” Sarah said, referring to her sisters. She turned to softly scold a little girl who was trying to put her fingers into a freshly baked chocolate-cream pie. It was one of Rachel’s pies brought from Aunt Mae’s, which hadn’t been put in a cool place yet. “Rose Ann!” she exclaimed. “You must not touch that pie.” Seeing the little girl’s face begin to crumple, Sarah bent to scoop up the child into her arms. “You can have a piece of pie when we get home.” She kissed her daughter’s forehead and turned back to Rachel. “This is my youngest—Rose Ann. She is three and she likes chocolate.”

Little Rose Ann nodded vigorously. “Chocolate.”

Rachel felt her heart melting as she stared into her little cousin’s hazel eyes. Rose Ann’s hair had a hint of red highlights. She was a beautiful child with an inner glow.

“Ah, pie!” Noah was suddenly near the pie, ready to do what little Rose Ann was forbidden to.

Rachel exclaimed. She had sensed immediately when he’d come in. “That is for Sunday. You must not touch it now—”

“Just a taste?” he asked with a look of boyish innocence, but Rachel could see the mischievous twinkle that spoiled his whole act.

Charlotte exclaimed. “Rachel is right. You should not be here. We are here to do women’s work. You don’t look like a woman to me.”

Noah’s face beamed. “I’m glad you noticed.”

Katie Lapp’s sharp tone was like a shout across the room.

he said as his mother approached. Katie was a strikingly plain woman who would stand out no matter if she wore Amish clothing or a potato sack. Her white prayer
sat properly on her head, revealing a glimpse of sandy-brown hair, the same color as her son’s.

“Doesn’t Jedidiah need help moving the furniture?”

“We finished in the house,

“Then go check with your
I’m sure he has something for his wild son to do.” But Katie’s tone had become soft, affectionate. It was clear that she loved him.

“I only wanted a piece of pie.”

“Pie for Sunday,” little Rose Ann said firmly.

Noah flashed the little girl a bright smile. “Right you are, then, Rosie.” He lowered his voice. “We just wanted one little piece, didn’t we?”

Rose Ann grinned and nodded. “Just one piece.”

“I guess I had better find something to do before the pie begs me to grab a bite of it.” And Noah left, taking some of the fresh air that had come in with him.

“Charlotte, he will be a handful, that one,” Sarah said.

Charlotte nodded, but her eyes held warmth and something like affection…or more. “Noah Lapp is a man all to his own.”

Rachel, listening to the exchange, felt a little knot form in her stomach. She had to avoid him. He was Charlotte’s special friend—not hers. Something she couldn’t—mustn’t—forget.

She’d been amazed by Noah’s ability to make a small child feel special. She had seen him come in and pour himself a glass of water from a pitcher. The last thing he’d seemed to want was a piece of chocolate-cream pie, but he had heard the exchange between little Rose Ann and her mother.

He was a special man.
No, I mustn’t think about him!
She felt a twinge of guilt. There were reasons for her to forget Noah Lapp, and it was more than just his being her cousin Charlotte’s friend. They might not be courting yet, but no doubt they would be soon. And wasn’t that reason enough itself? The two were more than comfortable with each other. Just the way she and Abraham had been when they’d begun courting. She fought back mixed emotions. There were other reasons not to become involved with a man again—reasons she wasn’t ready to ponder too deeply.

The women began to disperse to different areas of the house, where they would work to give the rooms a thorough cleaning. Katie accepted their help with silent gratitude. Rachel approached to introduce herself, and Katie placed her arm around Rachel’s shoulder as she led her into the large front room.

“I have heard much about you, Rachel,” Noah’s mother said pleasantly. “You like the new school?”

Rachel beamed. “
Samuel and your sons have done a

“You will have a lot of children in class.” Katie walked through the room, checking that all was in order.

“Will I have some of your sons?”

You will have Daniel and Joseph, my two youngest sons.”

“I look forward to having them in school.”

A baby cried from above, but was instantly silent. Katie’s expression was soft. “That is Hannah, my baby daughter. She has been napping. Someone must have picked her up.” She seemed unconcerned about who had seen to her daughter. Unlike the Englishers, the Amish cared for their neighbors and their community and were always willing to lend a hand.

Katie straightened a framed embroidered wall-hanging. On it, the Lapp family tree was depicted. Rachel saw Katie and Samuel and all their children: Jedidiah, Noah, Jacob, Elijah, Isaac, Daniel, Joseph, and little Hannah. It was a lovely piece of stitchery.

Noah’s mother studied the family tree for a moment before turning slowly to capture Rachel’s gaze. “Mae and I are close, almost as close as sisters.”

Rachel waited, sensing the woman had something to say.

“Rachel, I hope you can begin a new life in Happiness.” She glanced back at the frame on the wall. “It is sometimes difficult to start over,” she said. “Are you doing well?” Her brown eyes found and steadily held Rachel’s attention.

Everyone has been welcoming.”

Katie smiled. “
That is how it should be.” She seemed to hesitate a moment. “You are feeling well?”

Rachel frowned, uncertain of what Katie meant. “I am fine.”

“Your accident. I read about it in
The Budget.

She must have looked upset, because Katie patted her arm. “No one knows but you, me and your aunt Mae. It is my relationship with Mae that made me understand what happened.”

How much did she know? Rachel wondered fearfully.

“You spent weeks in the hospital.”

Rachel nodded. “I was walking out with Abraham Beiler. We were in his courting buggy with my brother Moses as chaperone. It was winter and the road was icy. We were managing fine until a car came speeding around the bend and forced us off the road. I was on the right side and I fell into an ice-water-filled ditch. The buggy fell on top of me. Abraham and Moses were injured only slightly. I was hurt the worst.”

Katie’s eyes softened with sympathy. “It must have been terrible.”

It was a dark time, but I had the Lord to guide me until the darkness lifted.” If it hadn’t been for her faith in God, she would never have survived her injuries and the time that followed.

“And Abraham?” Katie waited as if she already knew but wanted to hear Rachel’s version.

“He decided that I was not the girl for him. He began courting Emma Mast, my best friend, before I even got out of the hospital. They were married in September.” Only six months after he’d asked to court her…and not Emma. They hadn’t even waited until the time most couples married in their Ohio Amish community.

“It must have been awful for you,” Katie said. “But I can see that you are well and doing fine. You are a schoolteacher and in our village of Happiness! I think you will like it here, Rachel. The Lord works in ways we can’t always understand, but I have a feeling that you were meant to come here…that Happiness was God’s plan for you all along.”

Rachel could only nod. “Katie—”

“I will tell no one of what happened to you in Millersburg, Rachel. Your secret is safe with me.” She gestured toward the door to the kitchen. “Let’s have a cup of tea. If we don’t stand watch, there may be no pies and cakes for Sunday. My sons are big eaters.”

Relieved at the change of subject, Rachel gladly accompanied Katie Lapp into the kitchen, where two neighbor women were rearranging Sunday’s desserts.

“Shall we put this in the refrigerator?” Agnes Troyer asked of Rachel’s chocolate-cream pie.

it will keep better,” Katie said.

“I’ll take it,” Rachel offered, eager for a few moments alone after her heart-to-heart talk with her aunt’s friend Katie. She picked up the pie and went into the other room, where a gas refrigerator and separate gas freezer were located. She opened the refrigerator door, her hands shaking slightly as she rearranged a few items to make room for the pie. When the pie had its own place, she shut the refrigerator door and leaned against it. Her heart was beating rapidly. There was a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t like to remember the accident that had changed her life and taken away her sweetheart.

BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
12.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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