Read an Excerpt
A Miracle of Hope
The Amish Wonders Series
By Ruth Reid
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Ruth Reid
All rights reserved.
I promise my name—not my heart.
Lindie Wyse recalled the words in Josiah's letter that detailed the terms. Not that it mattered what the marital arrangements were. As her older brother, Eli, had pointed out, she couldn't possibly expect more. All she had to offer any man was a marred life.
Eli leaned closer. "It's going to be okay," he said, repeating what he had said shortly after they boarded the bus last evening. Several hours later his tone still lacked certainty. "Cedar Ridge is a smaller district than ours. I think you'll like the people." He paused briefly, then continued when she failed to respond. "I met many of the members at Caroline Plank's funeral. Josiah was out of sorts coping with his fraa's unexpected death ..." His voice droned on, sounding like a far-off woodpecker hammering away on a rotting tree trunk. "The winters are longer than ours. You did pack your wool socks, jah?"
Lindie nodded mechanically, a trait she'd only recently acquired. She lent an ear but remained silent. She hoped her brother's assumptions were right. Eli had hardly mentioned Josiah Plank in the three years since his wife's death. It wasn't until her brother returned last month from what he called "a business trip" that he spoke about his childhood friend again. When Eli and his wife, Margaret, talked about Josiah, it was as if they were trying to set Lindie up on a pen-pal courtship. She discovered a few short weeks later that they were arranging much more than a distant courtship. They were setting her up for marriage.
Over the past few months, Lindie had carried the weight of the members' scornful stares. Nothing had hurt worse than when Moses, the man she loved, rejected her, or when his sister, Mary, openly rebuked her. Even after Lindie knelt in confession, the church members' estrangement continued. So did the gossip. She was plagued with nightmares and shrouded in shame. Her life would never be the same, yet the looming question wouldn't be pushed aside.
Could God's mercy extend far enough to reach her?
Daylight crept over the horizon. She leaned forward to peer through the window. Since the majority of their travel had been during the night, she'd missed the change of scenery. Northern Michigan had plenty of trees. Snow too. The farther north they traveled on I-75, the more a snow-covered roadside replaced the brown carpet of grass. She sank back against the vinyl bus seat, pulled her cape tighter against her neck, and watched as the landscape passed in a blur.
A few hours later the bus rattled over the steel grates on the Mackinac Bridge and Lindie's thoughts returned to their approaching destination. She'd overheard some of the other passengers chatting about the Great Lakes, but she hadn't envisioned anything so vast as these open waters. Her settlement was near lakes, but nothing as massive as the Straits of Mackinac. As they reached the end of the bridge, entering the Upper Peninsula, she craned her neck for a full view. The extensive distance that now separated her from her family took root in her mind.
Her stomach curdled at the thought. She lifted one hand to cover her mouth, held her belly with the other, and willed herself not to vomit. A moment later the queasiness subsided. She leaned her forehead against the cold, damp window and closed her eyes. She wished she was moving so far away for another reason —any other reason—than to escape her old life. Pride goes before destruction. The scripture in Proverbs was true. Only she never expected one bad decision would lead to such a hard fall.
"It won't be much longer nau," Eli said, then added, "Are you all right?"
She didn't risk responding. Even the motion of a slight nod might aggravate her stomach. She certainly didn't want to be covered in vomit when she met her soon-to-be husband for the first time.
* * *
Josiah Plank took a seat on an empty bus station bench. He propped his elbows on his knees, then buried his face in his hands. None of this seemed real. It certainly didn't seem right. Agreeing to marry a woman he knew little about was crazy. Normally he'd weigh the cost. This just proved how unstable he'd become since Caroline died.
She didn't know him either, other than from things Eli might have said.
She ... He drew a blank on her name. Perhaps his lapse in memory was a sign. Eli's little sister was just a kid, maybe ten, when he saw her last. Their Ohio settlements were too far apart to belong to the same church district, so their families weren't close. Even since he'd moved to Cedar Ridge, contact with his friend had been sporadic. Eli had made the trip for Caroline's funeral, but they'd talked about the lumber business, and nothing about either of Eli's sisters.
He didn't want to embarrass himself or the girl by stumbling over her name when he introduced her to the bishop. Josiah dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out the letter he'd received two days ago. He scanned down to the bottom of the page. Lindie.
"Lindie Rose Wyse." Fire rose from his stomach and shot up the back of his throat. He stood. He needed to find a drinking fountain.
He jammed the folded letter into his pocket, his fingers touching loose cash. He pulled out the money and made a quick count. Enough to purchase a return bus fare. He shoved the money back into his pocket and went in search of water.
Jah, he owed her that much for coming to his senses. She would be glad he did too. She, there he went again. "It's Lindie," he said to himself as he pressed the fountain lever and bent to take a drink.
Behind him, a bus squealed to a halt, its compressed air brakes hissing before the door opened. He studied each passenger as they disembarked. The area crowded with newcomers and a hum of greetings spread among the people. Josiah inched forward. Perhaps she'd changed her mind.
He glimpsed a woman in an Amish dress stepping off the bus. His breath caught. Eli had given an accurate description of his sister: early twenties, small frame, average height, and bright-red hair. He shook his head. What Eli hadn't told him was that she was beautiful. With those features, she would have distracted every unmarried man in her district. So why had Eli asked Josiah to marry her?
Eli exited the bus next, reached for his sister's elbow, and guided her toward the building. It only took a moment before Eli's hand shot up in a quick wave.
Josiah swallowed hard. He wasn't ready for this, but he weaved through the crowd in their direction anyway.
"Gut to see you, Josiah."
Eli extended his hand and Josiah shook it. "Jah, you too."
"This is mei sister Lindie." Eli nudged her shoulder.
"Hello." Her voice barely reached a whisper. She kept her head lowered and slightly lifted her eyes to meet his, but the moment she did, she glanced away.
"It's nice to meet you." He turned to Eli. "Was your trip gut?" Small talk. He hated every minute.
"It was a long ride, ain't so, Lindie?" Eli nudged his sister but didn't receive a response. He readdressed Josiah. "The wedder is much colder up here. Across the Ohio state line, we still have leaves on the trees."
"We had a few flurries last night." He lifted his gaze to the cloudy sky. "We'll probably have another snowfall tonight." That wasn't unusual for November.
Eli shifted his feet. "So what time is the bishop expecting us?"
A raspy noise, something between a cough and a gasp, escaped Lindie's mouth, but she continued to look down.
Josiah hadn't anticipated Eli rushing the wedding when they had only just made introductions. He took a moment to settle the quiver in the back of his throat. "He's probably expecting us anytime nau." He wished Lindie would speak up. Josiah cleared his throat. "Lindie," he said, hoping she would look him in the eye. She didn't. "The bishop will wish to speak with you first." Unless you say something and we end this now.
"If it's okay, Eli, I would like to talk with her alone," Josiah said.
"I'll get her packages."
She jerked up her head. Her blue-like-Lake-Superior eyes watched her brother, while Josiah tried to count the tiny freckles sprinkled across her nose.
"It's okay," Eli said to his sister. He waited a moment, then joined the throng of people waiting to claim their bags.
Josiah motioned to a bench in a less crowded area. "Let's sit."
She hesitated, peered over her shoulder in Eli's direction, then, with her head lowered, shuffled to the far side of the concrete bench.
He sat on the opposite end. The space between them might indicate they weren't a couple suited for one another. Josiah twiddled his thumbs, not sure where to begin. "You got mei letter, jah?"
Of course she had. He'd received a note stating she understood and accepted his terms, but he wouldn't be satisfied until he heard it straight from her. For all he knew, Eli might have responded on his sister's behalf.
"You probably know Eli's fraa and my fraa were second cousins. The four of us attended many of the same weddings and became friends. After I got married, mei fraa and I moved up here with her family to start a lumber mill." He paused, unsure why he was telling her this. If it was to ease his guilt for entering into an agreement he now wanted out of, it wasn't working. "I met you once ... I think you might have been ten. Do you remember?"
Lindie shook her head and a red spiral curl fell out from under her kapp. The loose hair dangled in front of her face. Her teeth chattered and white breaths escaped her mouth. She burrowed deeper into her cape.
The midmorning sun shimmered on the red ringlet. He forced himself to focus on his boots.
"I'm nett going to ask what kind of trouble you were in. Your bruder believes you need a fresh start ... But I'm thirty-two. At least ten years older than you. Why are you willing to marry me under my stringent conditions?"
She looked him straight in the eye. But before she spoke, the pinkish color drained from her face. She covered her mouth and bolted to a trash can a few feet away.
He stood, pulled a hankie from his pocket, and walked up beside her. When Eli had hinted of his sister's disgrace, Josiah had assumed the unthinkable and stopped Eli before he could share details. Her failure to come home one night led to repentance and that was what mattered. She finished vomiting and he handed her the cotton cloth.
"Denki." She wiped her mouth.
"There's a drinking fountain over there." He motioned to the side of the building and she hurried in that direction.
Josiah scanned the thinning crowd for Eli. He stood beside four reused apple boxes all tied closed with twine. If he noticed that his sister was sick, Eli didn't appear worried.
After a long drink, Lindie lifted her head. Although some of the color had returned to her cheeks, she still looked pasty.
"If you like, I'll buy you a return ticket home," he said.
Josiah expected some hint of relief to wash over her, but instead, he noted quite the opposite. She looked terrified. And that added to his confusion. He tipped his head to one side so he could look her in the eye.
"Lindie, why are you here? Your bruder talked you into this, ain't so?"
Eli joined them. "She's here because I know you'll take gut care of her." He turned to Lindie. "Wipe your face and get ahold of yourself."
"If you don't mind, Eli"—Josiah's voice hardened—"your sister and I have more to talk about." He flicked his head at the boxes. "You should stay with the packages." Josiah waited until Eli was out of earshot before asking, "Is he preventing you from marrying someone else?" Like the father of your unborn boppli?
"Nay." He strained to hear her words. She glanced at him a half second. "There is no one else."
He sighed. Prior to her arrival, he'd convinced himself this was a mistake, but in the half second that she acknowledged him, he saw hopelessness. "Are you sure you don't want to go home?"
"I'd like to stay." Her demeanor contradicted her words.
"I said in mei letter I would give you mei name, but nett mei heart."
"I'm nett capable of falling in love again. Your bruder is mistaken if he's told you otherwise. Even in time, I won't." He paused a moment. Though harsh, the truth needed to be spoken. It was important for her to give some sign of acknowledging this.
"Will you at least lift your head and look me in the eye?" The moment she did, he regretted being so direct. Her tearful blue eyes held a sorrow he wasn't prepared for.
He scanned the area. Other than Eli standing beside the boxes and a handful of people still loitering, they were alone. He looked at her. "This isn't something I would normally discuss ... and I certainly don't intend to embarrass you. Do you understand what a marriage of convenience means?"
She didn't blink as tears welled.
He had to stress the final point. "That means I'll give you a roof over your head and provide for you. Nothing more."
She squared her shoulders. "And in return, what do you expect from me?"
"I told you in the letter." Didn't she say she read and agreed to the terms? "I have a young dochder who is deaf. I can't have her running around the sawmill. In addition to caring for her, I expect you to cook, clean, and keep up the laundry. Things a fraa would handle. Also, Eli said you can do record keeping."
"Jah. I kept track of the income from my sister-in-law's vegetable stand."
Her bottom lip trembled and he groaned under his breath.
"I want to be straightforward with you. The winters are long and hard. You don't know loneliness until you've suffered through cabin fever." This wasn't the place for a woman in a weakened condition.
She bowed her head, wringing her hands.
"Lindie, will you please stop looking away?"
She met his gaze.
His chest expanded with a deep breath. "A loveless marriage might be unbearable. Going through the motions of marriage without—without love ... You might grow to despise me." He paused a moment. "If this isn't what you expected ... I'll buy you a ticket home."
Things a fraa would handle. Lindie was sure those were his exact words. That meant more than household chores. Of course a man would expect to have liberties with his wife—it was biblical—even if he didn't love her. Besides, he seemed to emphasize how lonely life would be going through the motions of marriage.
A brisk breeze sent a chill down Lindie's spine as she stood outside the bus depot. Shivering, she hugged herself.
Josiah stepped into the wind and, without asking, placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her to face him. A kind gesture to block the wind, but his touch caused her to flinch.
He dropped his hands. "I'm sorry."
A gust of wind pulled at her kapp, exposing her ears to the numbing cold air. With the ground covered in snow already, how long would it be before she experienced what he called cabin fever?
Another wave of nausea washed over her, and she fought to control it.
"Does the father of the boppli know you're about to get married?"
She coughed, almost launching what little stomach contents she had at him. How could he have figured it out when it took her two months after the sickness started? She had thought it was due to stress.
Josiah's brows rose ever so slightly. "He doesn't know, does he?"
"Nay." She sucked in a breath.
He shifted his feet and crossed his arms over his chest.
Josiah had indicated he wouldn't pry. She needed him to keep that promise.
"You said you weren't going to ask." She probably sounded too stern for someone in her situation, but if she didn't challenge him now, more questions would follow.
"Jah, that is true. I did say that." He looked down at his boots, then back at her. "I trust you have a gut reason to withhold such vital information."
He stared at her a moment, then waved Eli over to them.
What was he going to do, have Eli explain her predicament? She hadn't even told her brother all the facts.
Eli sprinted over and stood beside them. He buried his hands in his armpits, shivering. "Have you two worked things out?"
Excerpted from A Miracle of Hope by Ruth Reid. Copyright © 2013 Ruth Reid. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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