Authors: Rebecca Kertz
Rachel enjoyed the tour of the house with Noah as her guide. He showed her where the bedroom would be, the parlor or front room and the pantry, where she would be able to stock her canned and baked goods.
Every step of the way, Noah was conscious of Rachel beside him. He could hear every tiny exhalation of her breath, detect the clean scent of her skin. He could feel the warmth that radiated from her to him. She smelled like sunshine and rose-petal soap.
“You will have all that you need to be comfortable,” he said.
She followed him as he stepped outside the house.
“Preacher Stoltzfus and his family are donating the stove and freezer,” he said, “and the Zooks have given money toward a new gas refrigerator.” Before Rachel could comment, Noah continued. “We will put a clothesline here.” He gestured to a grassy area in full sun. “I will make the wooden T-bars for the line myself—”
“Rachel!” Samuel, Noah’s father, came up the dirt driveway. He carried a handsaw and a carpenter’s tool belt. “You like the house,” he said knowingly.
Rachel glanced over in surprise that he could read her thoughts. “It is wonderful.”
Samuel looked pleased. “Abram Peachy and your uncle Amos will be helping us to finish the floors.”
“Rachel brought muffins and water,
“Aunt Mae’s muffins,” Rachel said. She liked Noah’s
He was a gentle man with a ready smile.
Noah is like him,
she thought, but then was embarrassed by her own thoughts.
“Tell Mae we appreciate the muffins.”
Rachel nodded. “May I see inside the
again?” she asked.
Samuel grinned. “You will enjoy teaching?”
Rachel grinned back as she inclined her head. “I am glad I was asked to come. Everyone in Happiness has been kind to me.”
“We are glad that you came to us,” Samuel replied. “You will be good for our children. Come and I’ll open the school for you.”
“You are easy to be kind to,” Noah said softly as they trailed behind Samuel.
Surprised by the intensity of his tone, Rachel flashed him a look and was stunned by his expression. It was almost as if he liked her, felt the same little thrill that she experienced whenever they were together. But that couldn’t be… It was Charlotte who had stolen his heart and affections.
Samuel unlocked the schoolhouse door and then handed Rachel the key. “For you. So you…can come and visit whenever you wish. I’m sure there is much to be done before a new session of school starts.”
Rachel was touched by Samuel’s thoughtfulness. She saw Noah in his father’s face.
Is this what Noah will look like in the years to come? Cousin Charlotte is lucky to have a good and kind man,
Samuel and Noah accompanied Rachel inside the schoolhouse and reported on the progress made since her last visit.
“You now have writing paper and pencils,” Samuel said.
“We have installed a pencil sharpener,” Noah added.
Eyeing the metal crank sharpener, Rachel beamed. “I’m eager to begin.”
“The first day of class will be here in no time,” Samuel said.
Rachel noted that the
room still smelled like newly varnished wood but she could detect additional scents…of paper and chalk, pencil shavings—someone must have tried out the pencil sharper, she thought—along with the roses that someone had left in a vase on the teacher’s desk. The combined scents reminded her of her own
days and the joy she’d gained from learning English and math and other important lessons for life.
Shortly afterward, they returned outside.
“We’ll be putting in two swing sets for your students to use at recess.” Samuel showed her where they planned to construct the swings.
“Two! How wonderful,” Rachel said. The nearest
to her parent’s home had an old swing set in the yard, and she had often watched how much the children enjoyed it. With the number of students she expected in her classroom, she realized that they would need more than one set.
“There will be a bench for you there,” Noah said. “I should be done with it soon.”
Rachel felt her throat tighten with emotion. The Lord had brought her to this new home, and now she was beginning to see that He had decided that she and Abraham were not meant to be together. Some of her burden of pain began to ease. There were feelings, though, that would take longer to resolve, but with the Lord’s help, she would settle them.
“I’d best get back to work.” Samuel’s sincere gaze warmed her. “You come here whenever you’d like.” He nodded at his son. “You will help with the floors?”
“I will see you Sunday, Rachel,” Samuel said.
Samuel,” Rachel said. “Thank you for building me such a
house. I am grateful for your hard work.”
“Sunday service is at your aunt’s,” Noah said quietly after his father had gone back inside the cottage.
“We have been baking cakes and pies.” She felt tingling along her spine whenever she was in Noah’s presence.
Noah’s eyes lit up. “What flavor did you bake?”
“Strawberry,” she said, thrilled by his reaction. “And chocolate.”
He grinned. “I will enjoy having more of your pies.”
Her reaction to his grin made her glance away. She should have come with her cousin. Noah was Charlotte’s friend; she should not be feeling anything but friendship whenever she was with him. The closest thing she’d ever felt to this was when she and Abraham Beiler first started to walk out together. Only this feeling with Noah seemed more…intense.
Guilt made her stomach churn. She sent up a silent prayer that God would help her to control her feelings, to remember that she and Noah were meant only to be friends. The sound of a buggy’s wheels and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on macadam made Rachel glance to the road, where she caught sight of Charlotte behind the reins of the Kings’ gray family buggy.
“Rachel!” she cried. “I’m headed over to Abram Peachy’s for
Care to go with me?”
Noah stepped out and waved to her. “Charlotte,” he greeted with a grin.
“How’s the construction coming, Noah?” she asked, grinning back.
“Comin’ along.” He gestured toward the cottage. “Do ya have time to take a look?”
She appeared disappointed. “But I’ll stop by to see it the next time Rachel wants a look.”
Rachel smiled at Noah before hurrying toward the King buggy. “I enjoyed the tour, Noah. The teacher’s house is looking fine.”
“A few more weeks, and it will be done.” He nodded toward the school. “We’ll have the swing sets finished as well.”
“A swing set,” Charlotte said, looking pleased. “The children will enjoy that.”
Rachel said as she climbed into the buggy to sit beside her cousin. She could envision the
“We will see ya at Sunday church service,” Charlotte said to Noah.
He nodded, and with a last quick look in Noah’s direction, Rachel settled in to enjoy the ride with her cousin and remind herself that Noah had just been nice to the new schoolteacher when he took her on a tour of the house and school. It was Charlotte who was his friend, Charlotte who had his interest.
“I promised to watch Abram’s younger children whenever he and
head over to work on your new floors.”
“That is thoughtful of him to help,” Rachel said.
Charlotte nodded. “Abram Peachy is a fine man.”
Rachel looked at her, surprised by her cousin’s tone, but nothing about Charlotte’s expression gave away her thoughts.
“Noah showed you the progress?” Charlotte said.
as he said, the house is coming along.” Rachel sat back to enjoy the weather and the day. “Did you see the kitchen fireplace?
craftsmanship. I will enjoy using that.”
“And you will have a gas stove as well.”
“I learned to cook on a fireplace,” Rachel said. “I will use both.” She leaned closer to the side window to watch two Amish children at play. It jogged her memory. “Noah said that there will be two swing sets in the school yard.”
“Two?” Charlotte said as she steered the buggy onto a dirt road that led to a farmhouse surrounded by newly planted fields. “You will need both sets for thirty-one students.”
Rachel beamed. “I am eager to see them.”
The buggy’s wheels kicked up a small cloud of dust as Charlotte steered the vehicle into Abram Peachy’s barnyard. Driving the buggy close to the house, she pulled back on the reins and the old family mare settled to a stop.
Abram immediately came out of the house as if he’d been watching and waiting for them. His gaze went first to Charlotte.
“Charlotte.” Abram nodded shyly. “Rachel.”
“Abram,” Charlotte greeted. “
ready to come home?”
In fact, he thought this afternoon would be a
time to head over to the
yard to build the swing sets. Can you stay and watch Ruthie and Jacob? Nathaniel and Jonas are at the Masts’, helping William. Mary Elizabeth will be leaving for town soon with Alta and Sally Hershberger. Rachel, I didn’t know you’d be coming—do you mind if Charlotte stays? We could give you ride back home if you’d rather not.”
“I don’t mind staying,” Rachel said with a smile. “I am happy that you are helping with the schoolyard swings.” She saw the man redden slightly. There was kindness in the man’s features, a trait her cousin seemed to appreciate, if Rachel could read Charlotte’s expression accurately. She understood why Abram had been made deacon in the church.
Charlotte had remained quiet at first. She got out of the buggy and rounded to where Abram stood waiting.
“How is Ruthie today?” Charlotte asked.
Abram’s smile told of his affection for his youngest. “She is eager for you to stay with her.”
“I brought a pie and a few other things for the children’s lunch.”
“I’d appreciate it if you’d save me a piece of the pie,” Abram said.
Charlotte replied and Rachel saw the man’s face fall. Her cousin must have noted his expression, too, for she grinned and reached into the buggy to show that she had brought another dessert. “For you, I brought some peach cobbler.”
Abram’s eyes crinkled with delight. “Peach cobbler. You made it?”
Charlotte said. “From peaches we canned last summer. They are the sweetest we’ve ever tasted. I don’t know what we’ll do if this year’s fruit isn’t as tasty.”
He beamed at her.
Abram’s three youngest came out of the house—Ruth, Jacob and Mary Elizabeth. Spying Charlotte, little Ruth ran to throw her arms about the young woman’s waist.
“Charlotte!” The little girl wore no bonnet, and her hair was coming loose from its back roll. “Mary Elizabeth tried to do my hair, but it keeps falling.” She looked up at Rachel’s cousin with big blue eyes. “Will you fix it for me?”
Ruthie. Go back inside, and we will join you.” Charlotte placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “You remember Rachel?” Ruthie nodded. “No need to worry, Abram. All will be well here. I’m going to start by repinning Ruth’s hair.”
Abram nodded, appearing grateful. “
“We are here to help, Abram,” Rachel said. “Go assured that we shall take
care of your children.”
“I know you will,” he told Rachel.
Amos King, Rachel’s uncle, came out of the barn and approached. “You came with Charlotte.”
Uncle Amos.” She had climbed out of the buggy, and now she waited before securing the horse to the hitching post. “Will you take the family buggy?”
“We’ll take my wagon,” Abram said.
“We’ll stop by the house to tell Mae that you’ll be staying at Abram’s,” Amos said as he climbed into Abram’s wagon and took his seat beside the kind widower.
Rachel watched as the men waved and Abram steered his mare Mattie in the direction of the school yard. “Abram, we will have supper ready when you get back!” she called out.
Abram acknowledged her comment with a wave and a grin. Rachel turned and headed into the house to help her cousin watch the Peachy children and clean the house.
Within moments, Alta Hershberger came in her open market wagon for Mary Elizabeth, and Charlotte and Rachel were left to mind the two youngest Peachy
and enjoy the afternoon.
* * *
On Friday of church-Sunday weekend, Rachel heard the wheels of the bench wagon as it pulled into her uncle’s barnyard. From the house, she watched as Noah and two of his brothers jumped off the back of the wagon and began to unload. The wooden benches were long and backless and used for every Sunday church service. The day before, Uncle Amos, with Sarah’s husband, Eli, their son David and cousin John had cleared the great room of furniture to make room for the bench seats.
Rachel, Charlotte and Nancy had spent the latter part of the week cooking, baking and preparing for Sunday services and the shared meal afterward.
Soon, Sunday morning arrived and at eight o’clock came members of their church district. Noah climbed down from his family wagon and headed straight for Rachel, his gaze focused only on her. Rachel felt a rush of joy, which she quickly checked as she glanced toward her cousin and others around to see if anyone had noticed. No one seemed to note anything untoward in Noah’s behavior. Rachel closed her eyes with relief, and when she opened them again, Noah stood directly before her. He held his hand outstretched toward her with something on his palm. “Here is your key.”
Rachel blinked. “To the house?”
Noah grinned at her reaction, enjoying her surprise mixed with stunned pleasure.
“It cannot be finished.”
he agreed. “But we would like you to come and go as you please to see the progress.”