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Authors: Shelley Shepard Gray

The Proposal at Siesta Key

BOOK: The Proposal at Siesta Key
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DEDICATION

To the members of the Buggy Bunch. You ladies
have inspired me more than you will ever know!
Thank you for everything you do.

The author is grateful for being allowed to reprint
the Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe from
Our Family's
Favorite Recipes
by Clara Coblentz.
The Shrock's Homestead
9943 Copperhead Rd. N.W.
Sugarcreek, OH 44681

EPIGRAPH

Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
P
SALM
119:18

Growing old is easy—the hard part is growing up.
A
MISH PROVERB

CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1

T
he moment Penny Troyer turned the dead bolt on the front door, she knew it was a big mistake.

No matter what her mother was doing, or where she was, she always,
always
heard the distinctive
snap
of the front door dead bolt disengaging.

Penny froze, feeling vaguely like a burglar caught red-handed, and mentally began to count to five.

She barely made it to three.

With all the fanfare of a trio of trumpeter swans, her mother's high-pitched call echoed down the hall. “Penny? Penny, what are you doing?”

Penny bit back an irritated retort—something she'd been doing more and more lately. “Nothing.”

“It must have been something. I am fairly positive I heard you at the door.”

God had really blessed her mother with hearing that was just
too
good. “I'm simply going to sit on the front porch.”

Practically before Penny had time to take another breath, her mother appeared in the entryway. Her hands clutched the
sides of her apron, and concern shone in her truly beautiful periwinkle-colored eyes. “Why?”

The question was so, so unnecessary, Penny almost smiled. But that would've been the wrong thing to do. Instead, she kept her voice even and respectful. “No real reason. I simply wanted to sit outside.”

“But you'll go no further?”

The correct answer was the one she'd given for the last twelve of her twenty-four years. No, she would not. She would stay close. Free from harm.

But she simply wasn't sure if she could do that anymore. “I don't plan to go anywhere. But I might.”

Her mother froze mid-nod. “What in the world does that mean?”

“It means that I'm far too old to be forced to promise to stay on my parents' front porch,” she replied, almost patiently.

Immediately, hurt filled her mother's expression. “You know I like you close because I care about you, dear.”

Penny knew that. She really did.

But of course, she knew that her mother asked for other reasons, too. They both knew those reasons. And they both knew that her mother would do just about anything to avoid speaking of them.

But today, Penny had finally had enough.

Fortifying herself for the drama that was about to ensue, she gestured toward the open doorway. “Mamm, why don't you come out on the porch, too? I think we need to talk.”

“Penny, you know I don't have time to lollygag. Your grandparents are coming over for supper.”

“Yes, and I know that everything is ready. I helped you set the table, make the casseroles, and marinate the chicken.”

For a moment, Penny was sure her mother was about to argue, but then at last, she followed Penny out to the swing situated exactly in the middle of the wide front porch. Surrounding them were her mother's carefully tended pink roses and a quartet of blooming pansies. Daisies, snapdragons, and begonias lined the footpath of their tidy, one-story home in Pinecraft, Florida—a small Amish community in the heart of Sarasota.

Once they were seated side by side, the fabric of her mother's blue dress overlapping with Penny's own teal-colored one, Penny tried to think of the best way to say what was on her mind. But as she mentally tried out different approaches, she knew there wasn't a single explanation that would be accepted.

Sometimes there really was no way to deliver bad news, even if that news was only going to be regarded as bad by one of them.

Steeling her spine, she decided to go for the direct approach. “Mother, it has now been twelve years since Lissy died. She's been gone for half my life.”

Her mother flinched. “We don't need to talk about your sister.”


Jah
, we do,” Penny said gently, though taking care to weave resolve into her tone. “Mamm, everything we do is a result of what happened to Lissy.” Before her mother could get up and walk away, Penny wrapped her fingers around her mother's wrist and held on tight. “Mamm, what happened to Lissy was a terrible thing. I know that.”

Before her eyes, her mother aged another ten years—as she always did when she thought about what happened to Lissy. “It was worse than terrible.”

Yes. Yes, it was. One winter's day twelve years ago, back when they'd lived in Ohio, Penny's older sister Elizabeth—Lissy to all who'd known her—had been lured away by a very, very bad
man. He'd raped her. He'd beaten her. And then he'd left her in a field. She'd died alone and in pain.

The event had sent shockwaves through the whole community, both English and Amish. Everyone in the area had attended the memorial service and contributed to funds set up in Lissy's name. Some had even begun neighborhood watch groups. Within a week, the police caught the man who later confessed to the attack. A week after that, the man died in his jail cell without having stood trial.

Many members in the community had written editorials in the paper about how happy they were that justice had been served, but for the three remaining members of the Troyer family, the man's death hardly mattered. Nothing mattered except their loss. They were nestled in a dark fog of grief, oblivious of everything but the passing of each never-ending, painful day. But as the weeks passed, it became obvious that nothing was ever going to ease their pain, and nothing was ever going to bring Lissy back.

Two years later, her parents decided to move to Sarasota, claiming they needed a change of scenery. Someplace fresh to start anew. Somewhere that would never be cold and snowy. Where there were no reminders of that horrible day.

Penny had been eager for the move, too.

But though they now lived in a place where the sun always shone and nobody knew about their hardships unless they were told, the grief and worry in her family hadn't changed.

If anything, it began to affect everything in their lives.

Over the years, instead of venturing out into their new world, her parents had become more reclusive. Their fears had begun to center on Penny, and their restrictions on her had become more and more pronounced. At first, Penny had been glad for all the
rules. She'd been afraid of strangers, and most of her nights had been haunted by memories of her sister and visions of what must have happened at the kidnapper's hands.

Eventually, however, the nightmares faded. As she became accustomed to their new life, Penny's heart had begun to ease. She'd started to think about Lissy in terms of her life instead of her death—she remembered the way Lissy had loved to can vegetables and how she could eat a whole jar of pickles in a single day. Penny recalled Lissy's infectious laugh and the way she'd hated to get up in the morning. In fact, she'd been almost insufferable until she'd had a cup of coffee. And as these memories flourished, Penny had realized that Lissy would have hated for her little sister to do nothing but mourn for the rest of her life.

And, deep down, she'd known Lissy would have been right.

Penny began to feel the pinch of her circumstances. Her parents' refusal to see her as a grown woman instead of a susceptible child was aggravating. Still, she'd kept silent out of respect, but there was no denying that their rules and fears had begun to chafe. After a while, it had festered, but now it pained her.

And when she'd woken up this morning, Penny knew she couldn't take it another day.

Not for one more hour.

“Mamm, you and Daed are going to have to give me more freedom.” Truly, she was proud of her firm tone of voice.

But even that didn't make an impression. “Don't be silly. You have freedom, Penny.”

“Not really. You haven't let me take a job. You don't even like me walking anywhere alone.”

“That's because it's not safe.”

“Mamm, if I was still a child, I would agree with you. But I am a grown woman. Of course it's safe.”

The skin around her mother's lips tightened. “Things can happen.”

“That is true, but I will be careful.” She ached to point out that she always tried her best to avoid eye contact with strangers. She even fought with her blond curls every morning, taming them as best she could so they would stay neatly confined under her
kapp
.

“Bad things can happen even when one is careful.”

“I know that. But I can't live like this any longer. I have a feeling if you let yourself actually see me as I am, you would see that, too.” As she felt her mother's blue eyes skim over her tan arms, loose teal dress, and blue rubber flipflops, Penny waited patiently. She knew she was dressed exactly like every other twenty-four-year-old Amish woman in Sarasota. “Why, many women my age are married and have their own children.”

“Is that what this is about? You are wanting a husband?”

“Nee!”
How could her mother have jumped from her needing to be able to walk down the street by herself to wanting a husband?

Her mother's expression gentled. “Don't worry, dear. We'll all go to more gatherings. You'll meet a man.”

“You don't understand. I am not simply looking for a husband. I am looking for friends, activities.” Around a sigh, Penny added, “I am looking for a life.”

“You have a life. And a good, safe one, too. Daughter, everything we've done has been to protect you.”


Jah
. But it's also been to protect you and Daed, too. Mamm, you and Daed must loosen your hold on me.”

“I'll speak to your father. Perhaps we can come up with a plan. . . .”

“I don't want to wait for a plan. Tonight, there is a gathering
at Pinecraft Park. A missionary group, the Knoxx Family, is speaking. I'm meeting Violet Kaufmann at the pavilion to hear them.”

“Violet?” More worry lines appeared around her mother's eyes, illuminated by the setting sun. “But she's not Amish anymore.”

“I know. But she is a nice girl from a nice family.” She was also one of Penny's few friends. “I'm going to go with her.”

“Your father is going to be upset when he hears about this.”

“I know and I'm sorry about that. But I can't live my life trying to make him happy with me.” Especially since she knew that nothing was going to ever truly make her father happy again. “Please try to understand my point of view, Mamm. I feel like I'm trapped. No one wants to feel like they are living in confinement.”

“I'm sorry, child. But you know I cannot support this . . . this whim of yours.” She paused, looking as if she was about to add something more, but then merely stood up and walked back inside.

Penny slumped against the back of the wooden swing. In that moment she knew she had two choices. She could either back down so she wouldn't hurt her parents . . . or she could finally do what Lissy would've wanted and live her life.

And suddenly, her decision was so very easy. Everyone at some point in their life had to stop being someone's child and start being their own person.

It seemed that it was finally time to do that.

With a new resolve in her heart, Penny stood up and started walking down the street toward town. It was time.

BOOK: The Proposal at Siesta Key
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