Read The Atonement Online

Authors: Beverly Lewis

Tags: #FIC053000, #FIC042000, #FIC026000, #Amish—Pennsylvania—Lancaster County—Fiction, #Man-woman relationships—Fiction, #Christian fiction, #Love stories

The Atonement

BOOK: The Atonement
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Cover
Title Page

Copyright Page

© 2016 by Beverly M. Lewis, Inc.

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

www.bethanyhouse.com

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

www.bakerpublishinggroup.com

Ebook edition created 2016

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-4412-2937-3

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

This story is a work of fiction. With the exception of recognized historical figures and events, all characters and events are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cover design by Dan Thornberg, Design Source Creative Services

Art direction by Paul Higdon

Dedication

In loving memory of
Herbert Jones,
pastor, missionary, encourager . . .
and my dear daddy.

November 28, 1925—January 9, 2014

Epigraph

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

—George Iles

Prologue

A
UTUMN
2012

F
ILL
UP
THE
EMPTY
PLACES
in your heart. . . .

These were the words I'd written in the first of several journals back when I came up with the idea of doing charitable work. Looking at it now, my initial plan had been rather impulsive, like a New Year's resolution. But the more I sought out new places to offer assistance, the more I craved doing so.
Jah
indeed, the more I helped others, the less helpless I felt myself.

So here I was, three years later, still continuing my weekly volunteering: reading to hospice patients, serving food to the homeless, and organizing donations with other Amish workers to raise money for the Mennonite Central Committee. I also managed to squeeze in my housekeeper-nanny job for Martie, my married sister, and still keep up with daily chores at home. It could be a hectic pace, but I was determined to fill every inch of my emptiness with activity, the kind that made a difference for others.

But it wasn't easy. Sometimes, my sisters nitpicked about my
time away. Like Lettie and her fraternal twin, Faye, did just this morning in the autumn sunshine as we worked together to toss hay to the mules. As if to dare me, Lettie looked me in the eye. “Don't forget about
Aendi
Edna's canning bee tomorrow, Lucy. You promised to go.”

I groaned audibly.
The work frolic?

Lettie looked crestfallen as she took a swipe at the hay. “So you forgot again.”

Faye gave a weak smile. “Between your chores and everything else, you don't have much time left for us.”

“We're together
now,
” I pointed out.

Faye looked sad. “Remember when we used to get up before dawn and go walkin' to the meadow overlook to watch the sun come up? Now ya rush off right after breakfast for parts unknown.”

Despite the cloud of tension, we kept working silently. After a while, I tried to clear the air with a joke I'd read in
The Budget.

Faye forced a little laugh, and Lettie looked pained.

“You don't even have time for a beau, do ya?” Lettie said out of the blue.

Faye stopped working, as if waiting for me to respond.

Lettie pressed further. “Not even Tobe Glick?”

Tobe again . . .

It was time to go inside and help
Mamm
. “We'll finish this later,” I said.

On our way toward the house, with Faye and Lettie trudging quietly behind me, I could feel the westerly breeze picking up, carrying the scent of newly harvested corn. Yet despite the whispering wind, I could still hear my sisters' pleas.

Early the next morning, I hurried up Witmer Road to Ray and my sister Martie's place, just past a large Amish farm with a sign warning
Private Drive, No Through Street
posted near the end of
its long lane. Multiple power lines scraped the pure blue sky above the familiar dairy, though of course none ran toward the house.

Ray and Martie lived on a lush rise of land not far from
Dat
's farm, their fields spreading out below the barn and house like an immense quilt. Younger than me by two years, Martie had tied the knot at just nineteen and already had two little boys: Jesse and Josh. Several times a week, I gave Martie a hand by redding up or cooking or caring for her towheaded sons, doing whatever was needed.

On this particular day, as I came upon the tree-rimmed meadow on the left, I noticed an older
Englischer
gentleman on the footbridge, where Mill Creek's banks met the golden cowslips. The well-dressed graying man looked somewhat
schwach
—feeble—as he leaned on a three-pronged cane while the creek gurgled past.

Slowing my pace, I stared . . . then let out a sigh. I'd seen this man on the footbridge on other occasions, always around this time of year. Perhaps even on the same day, September twelfth, though I wasn't certain.

Today, however, the man was alone, without his wife or lady friend who'd always accompanied him before.

The first time I'd spotted them, maybe ten years ago, they were holding hands and facing each other on the little bridge. I was struck by their affectionate gestures—the way the man sometimes slipped a strand of the woman's light brown hair behind her ear, or touched her cheek, even leaned his head against hers. Such a tender way they'd had with each other, and in public, no less.

Over the years, I'd wondered about the older couple. Perhaps the man had been widowed and found love a second time—most couples married for decades showed nary a speck of affection.

When I'd seen them last year, the woman had been weeping, yet bravely trying to smile. The man had taken a white handkerchief from his trouser pocket and patted her tears.

Englischers,
I remember thinking.
Their emotions on display . . .

Even so, it had been hard not to stare, caught up in the wistful
what-if
s of my own life.

The picturesque footbridge
was
an exceptionally tranquil spot. Maybe that brought out feelings of nostalgia for the couple. Or was it something more?

Momentarily, I thought of going to meet the man simply to offer him a smile—willing to make a fool of myself—but he was clearly deep in thought and, if I wasn't mistaken, muttering to himself. Then I noticed his white SUV parked nearby and decided to keep on walking.

Although it was none of my business, I had asked around about the mysterious couple, but no one seemed to know anything, which wasn't surprising.

Still, I couldn't help wondering,
Where is the woman? Why did he come without her?

———

Up the road, I could see Tobe Glick coming this way in his two-wheeled cart, his hand shooting high in the air when he spotted me. “
Guder Mariye
, Lucy Flaud.
Wie bischt?

I smiled back and wondered if my friend had ever noticed the older couple on his trips past this area. When Tobe slowed his cart, I asked him.

He squinted into the sunshine, straw hat pushed down over his blond bangs. “
Nee,
can't say I have.”

“It seems strange.” I added that I'd seen the man and a woman a number of times. “But only around this time of year.”

“Might be some sort of anniversary,” Tobe suggested. “Would ya like me to go an' ask? You're dyin' to know.”


Ach,
Tobe.”

“Well, ain't ya?”

Puh!
He knew me well.

“Never mind,” I said right quick. “See you at Preachin'.”

“I'll be countin' the hours, Lucy.” He winked mischievously.
“By the way, we all miss seein' you at Singings. It's been the longest time.”

I laughed a little, and he grinned. Our private joke—Tobe had been hounding me about returning for several years. “You know I've outgrown youth gatherings.” Truly, nearly all the fellows my age in our church district were already married and starting their families. And I was reminded of my single status each and every Sunday, when I was required to walk in with the younger teens and others who weren't married.

“Well,
I'm
not exactly a
Yingling
, but I still enjoy attending.” Tobe paused a moment. “Even though it'd be more fun if you started goin' again.”

One year younger than me, Tobe was twenty-four and still unmarried, oddly enough. Despite his attendance at Singings, he didn't seem all that earnest about his search for a life mate. Most Amish girls in East Lampeter Township thought he was too picky, but that didn't stop them from competing for his attention. He was handsome and very hardworking, yet there was more to his appeal. Tobe was a kind young man with a reputation for integrity—had a good sense of humor, too.


Gut
seein' you, Tobe.” Tears were welling up. I had to get going.

“You too, Lucy.” He clicked his cheek and the mare obeyed, pulling the carriage forward.

I kept my face forward.
What's the matter with me?

Forcing my thoughts again to the older man on the footbridge, as well as to the missing woman, I knew I would never celebrate any sort of romantic anniversary—not in my best of dreams.

BOOK: The Atonement
8.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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