Authors: Mary Ellis
Tags: #Religious, #Amish, #Christmas stories, #Fiction, #Religion, #Holidays, #Christian Fiction, #Christmas & Advent, #Christian, #General
arah rechecked her suitcase for necessities and her purse for money and directions for the tenth time. For once she was grateful it had snowed the previous night. Usually her family traveled to another district for church services on their district’s off week, but with several inches of new snow and more on the way, the Beachys were staying home today. And she had plenty to do yet if she was to leave tomorrow morning. At least Mrs. Pratt agreed to drive her to the bus station, although she too had tried to convince her to wait until spring.
Spring would be too late. Adam would never give her that much time. He was patient and kind with kids and animals, but he could be stubborn once he’d fixed his sights on something.
Her mother, on the other hand, had surprised her. Sarah had half expected
to forbid the trip or at least demand that one parent accompany her, but she had done neither. Maybe her mother realized she was an adult, fully capable of traveling alone and making important decisions about her life.
Setting aside her purse with a sigh, Sarah headed downstairs to help fix lunch before her mother hollered up the steps again. She entered the kitchen with a cheery
Katie and Rebekah both returned the greeting, while Elizabeth merely grunted acknowledgement that someone had spoken.
“What are we having for lunch?” asked Sarah.
Elizabeth pursed her lips and then pointed at the table, where a loaf of freshly baked bread, jars of pickled vegetables, and a cold meatloaf waited to be served. She took a bowl of pasta salad out of the refrigerator that had been fixed yesterday.
“Ah, good, meatloaf sandwiches. One of my favorites. I’ll slice a tomato and break off some lettuce leaves.”
“You’re not too busy to eat with us?” Elizabeth asked in a chilly voice.
Sarah’s head snapped around. Never before could she remember her mother being snide. She might not be forbidding the trip, but she certainly wasn’t happy about it. “I have plenty of time. I’m not leaving until tomorrow morning. Mrs. Pratt will take me to the station at eight o’clock.”
“Where’s Sarah going?” asked the younger girls in perfect unison.
“Never you mind where she’s going.” Elizabeth set the bowl on the table with a thud. “Katie, slice the bread and don’t make the slices too thick. Rebekah, cut that meatloaf in one-inch pieces. I hear your father in the mudroom.”
A moment later Sarah expected to see the rosy cheeks of her
, but instead Adam Troyer walked into the kitchen, rubbing his hands together to warm them up.
“Adam,” said Sarah, not hiding her shock.
, it’s me. Glad my face is still familiar.” He winked with a broad smile. “The snow is sure giving us a run for the money this year, no?”
“True, ’tis early. Usually it holds off till after Christmas.” Sarah stood holding a tomato in the palm of her hand like a prize. The other three females glanced between Sarah and Adam as though expecting something to happen.
, I see you’re ready for lunch. Sorry about my bad timing, Mrs. Beachy.” Adam twirled his hat brim between his fingers.
“Nonsense. It’s a simple meal and we have plenty. Pull up a chair.”
Adam did as directed as Eli trailed in, looking flushed from his morning chores. After silent prayers, Sarah tried to catch Adam’s eye to no avail. He had created an enormous sandwich and was eating with complete concentration.
Sarah smelled something fishy, despite the meatloaf filling. She ate half her sandwich trying to figure out the reason for his impromptu visit. He couldn’t know about her bus trip. She’d only recently decided to go.
Conversation around the table centered on the upcoming school play. But at the first lull, Elizabeth asked, “No appetite, daughter? Everyone else appears to like my meatloaf.”
“It’s delicious, but I’ll save the other half to finish later,” Sarah said, as Adam attacked a mound of macaroni salad like a man many days without a meal.
When he’d finished, he looked Sarah in the eye. “How about walking me to my buggy? My
sent some cheese streusels, and I forgot to bring them in.”
“First I must help with dishes,” she said, rising to her feet.
“No,” Elizabeth commanded. “You go with Adam. Your sisters will clean up. Maybe he can talk some sense into you since I couldn’t.”
Eli grunted—apparently the Beachy family reply of the day—and headed for the front room. Her sisters exchanged confused glances but kept silent. Sarah slipped on her cloak and followed Adam outside. Once they had reached his buggy she asked, “Did my mother invite you here today?”
He turned his sky blue eyes toward her. “
, she sent me a note. She’s very worried about you. She doesn’t understand your sudden urge to find your
, and I sure don’t, either. What’s going on with you?”
She pulled her hands up into her sleeves. “I don’t know really. I just want to find Caleb and make sure he’s all right. Nobody has heard from him in a long time. That doesn’t mean all’s well and good in the English city.”
Adam stepped up into his buggy and offered her his hand. When she’d settled next to him, he covered her knees with a wool blanket. “Okay, but this isn’t the best weather for traveling. Why don’t you wait until sometime next summer?”
“I need to go now, Adam. You want us to get married and become a family, but I look at dear Mrs. Pratt and see such loneliness in her life since her kids moved away. It upsets me.”
He scratched his jaw. “What does an English woman have to do with us?”
“Plenty. I’ve noticed that same unhappiness in my mother’s face too whenever someone mentions Caleb’s name. She still misses him, especially this time of year.”
“Not everybody born Amish stays that way. You know that. Caleb chose to leave, but again, I don’t see what that has to do with us getting hitched.” He reached for her hand under the lap robe.
might be nothing but a source of heartache for a woman,” she murmured. “I have some thinking to do before I marry, Adam. I want to know why Caleb didn’t want to stay Amish. How could he so easily leave the people who loved him? He owns a car. He could come home for a visit, but he never has.” Sarah heard anger in her voice and didn’t like it.
Why take my frustrations with Caleb out on Adam? He has every right to be curious about my plans
He rubbed the back of his neck. “All right, Sarah. I told your mother I’d
to talk you out of this, but I didn’t promise I would. Because you’re set on this idea, I won’t stop you, but I’m going along to make sure you get there and back safely.”
Sarah pulled back her hand and turned on the seat. “Why would you do that? I’m leaving tomorrow, and you have to work.”
“I’m coming because I care about you. Besides, I still have vacation time left.”
She felt a disjointed uneasiness. She didn’t want Adam to accompany her. If Caleb agreed to talk, he certainly wouldn’t do so in front of someone who was a virtual stranger. Besides, once she had determined a course of action, she looked forward to going alone. “No,
I’ll be fine. You shouldn’t use up all your vacation days. Your
will need your help with spring planting.”
Adam exhaled through his teeth in frustration. “Don’t worry about springtime. You’re not thinking straight. A bus terminal is no place for a woman. Someone might try to talk to you.”
“If somebody tries to get too friendly, I’ll tell him to be on his way. I’m not a child who hides behind her mama’s skirt.”
“No, you’re a pigheaded woman who won’t listen to reason.” His nostrils flared.
Sarah didn’t appreciate his overbearing attitude. They weren’t married yet. She had a right to make her own decisions at this point. She clenched her teeth. “Caleb will be more receptive if only his sister visits. I’m going alone, Adam. My mind is made up. Now I’m taking my
and the rest of me indoors. It’s too cold out here to argue about this anymore.” She threw off the blanket and jumped down from the buggy.
Adam muttered something she was glad she didn’t catch; then he followed after her. “Wait, Sarah. Give me one more minute.”
She turned, summoning every ounce of patience she had.
“Are you certain you’re going to the right house? What address do you have for him?”
“Eight-eighty-five Davenport Street,” she repeated from memory. She’d studied the MapQuest search results until her eyes had crossed.
Adam nodded slowly. “
, that’s his most recent address.”
Sarah, already halfway back to the house, froze in midstep. She turned again and stared at Adam with eyes as round as saucers. “How could you possibly know that?”
He shuffled his boots in the driveway. “I asked around at work a couple years ago. The brother of one of the men Cal left town with works at my plant. He gave me the address for safekeeping.”
? You knew where my
was all this time and didn’t say anything?” She huffed out air like a goat preparing to charge a stranger in its pasture.
“It was for your own good, Sarah.” Adam had taken on a goat-like appearance.
decide what’s good for me and what’s not, Adam Troyer, thank you very much. I’ll see you when I return from Cleveland.” She stomped up the steps and slammed the door with more energy than necessary.
Fortunately, the kitchen was empty of Beachys. And by the time Sarah reached her bedroom, her anger had cooled and been replaced with regret and shame for losing her temper. She lifted her window sash to call down a hasty apology.
But Adam and his buggy were gone.
At eight o’clock the next morning, Sarah stood with suitcase in hand at the back door of Country Pleasures. She’d put on her warmest clothes, kissed her two sleeping sisters, and crept downstairs quietly but discovered the kitchen empty. No hug goodbye from her
or last-minute warnings. However, her mother had left a brown bag bearing her name in red letters on the table. Inside, Sarah found two sandwiches, two apples, a granola bar, chips, and a bottle of water.
Mamm must fear Cleveland has no food,
she thought, but she tucked the sack into her tote bag with appreciation. After a hearty bowl of cereal, she headed for the B and B.
Mrs. Pratt chatted in good spirits on the drive to Canton. “Now, you be sure to see Lake Erie. It’ll look like the ocean—you can’t see across it.”
Sarah had never seen an ocean to compare the lake to, but she smiled politely.
“Make your brother take you to the zoo—it’s one of the best in the country. Don’t miss a single exhibit. And make sure you go to the West Side Market—so many good things to sample before you buy. You’ll feel right at home.”
“I’ll try to remember, but I’m not sure how much sightseeing time we’ll have. I’m only staying a day or two.”
“He might want to take you on a whirlwind tour. And those three places shouldn’t be missed.” Mrs. Pratt glanced at her. “The Cleveland Museum of Art is also spectacular, but I don’t expect that would be your cup of tea.”
Sarah looked at her dear friend, and the two women burst out laughing. “I don’t imagine, but I’ll keep it fourth on my list.” Sarah settled back to watch the passing scenery at sixty miles an hour. Excitement and anticipation replaced the anxiety and fear instilled by her
and beau. This would be her grand adventure—something to look back on when she rocked on the front porch, bouncing a grandbaby on her knee. She could tell her granddaughters how she’d traveled alone to Cleveland to find their great-uncle just like a private detective.
When they arrived at the bus station, Mrs. Pratt pulled into the drop-off zone. “Should I park and wait with you until it’s time for the bus to leave?”
. You’ve already done enough by buying my ticket online and driving me here. I understand where to pick up the ticket, so please don’t worry. I’m not the least bit nervous.” Sarah grinned as joy swelled in her veins like a tonic.
“Wonderful! I hope you have a smashing good time, but I want you to take something as a favor to me.” Mrs. Pratt pulled a cell phone from her coat pocket.
“You know our bishop doesn’t allow—”
“It’s for emergency use only. Your bishop won’t have a problem if someone uses a phone in an emergency. Most likely you won’t need it, and it’ll stay unused at the bottom of your purse. But in the off chance you land in hot water, you’ll be able to call me. I can jump in my car and be anywhere in Cleveland within three hours.” She lifted one eyebrow, and when Sarah didn’t respond, she hit the automatic door button. All locks clicked into position simultaneously. “I won’t let you out until you agree.”
The woman didn’t sound as though she were joking. Sarah shook her head, and then she leaned over to hug her employer. “
, Mrs. Pratt. I’ll take it along, just in case.”