Read an Excerpt
A Road Unknown
Book 1 of the Amish Roads Series
By Barbara Cameron
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2014 Barbara Cameron
All rights reserved.
Some people say if you look at a map of Goshen, Indiana, you'd see almost all Amish Country roads lead into the town.
But as Elizabeth stood waiting for her bus all she could think about was the road leading out of the town.
The big bus lumbered into the station. Under her watchful eye, the driver put her suitcase in the storage area. She didn't have much and wanted to make sure it made it to her next home.
She winced at the word. Home. She was leaving everything and everybody she knew to go to a place she'd never visited in her life. It was exciting. It was terrifying.
"You getting on?" the driver asked, studying her curiously as he waited for other passengers.
Elizabeth nodded and taking a deep breath, she climbed up the steps into the bus. She walked toward the back of the half-empty bus and found a seat. She hoped she'd get a chance to sit by herself and not make conversation with a stranger. Especially an Englisch stranger. So many of them were curious about the Amish. She didn't want to talk about why she was walking—riding?—away from a community many of them thought was idyllic.
Oh, they liked the idea of a simpler life, but in the next breath they would shake their heads and say they couldn't imagine living without electricity or television.
She settled into her seat and tucked her small shoulder purse to her left between the seat and the window of the bus. Most of her money was pinned in a little pouch inside her dress but there were so many important things in her purse: a little address book, the resumé the job coordinator at the women's center had helped her with—everything she'd need for this new town where she'd be making her home.
Feeling a little self-conscious, she smoothed the skirt of her dark blue dress over her knees. Paula had said they could go clothes shopping at some thrift stores when she got there. Elizabeth had saved some money from her part-time job in Goshen, but things would be tight until she found a job. Paula hadn't wanted to take any money from her for her share of the rent until she got a job but she really didn't have any choice. Things were tight for her as well since she was attending college.
Paula had sent her photos of the apartment she'd be sharing. Elizabeth drew them from her purse now and looked at them. So much space just for two people. Imagine. And imagine having a bedroom of her own. She hadn't had one for ... eight brothers and sisters. As the oldest of nine kinner in the family, she hadn't had a room of her own or any peace and quiet in years and years.
A baby cried at the back of the bus. It was a familiar sound to Elizabeth. Too familiar. She loved babies, but she became exhausted taking care of someone else's. She'd read once the average Amish family had seven children, but she guessed her parents hadn't heard it. Stop, she told herself. Children were a gift from God. But, oh, had He blessed her family.
Exhausted, she leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes. She'd worked extra hours at the fabric shop this week to help the owner who hadn't been happy she was leaving. Angela had said she thought she'd finally gotten someone dependable and now she was losing her. Someone else to make her feel guilty.
Lately, she'd begun to feel like everyone depended on her and it was all too much. She'd tried to talk about it with her best friend, but Lydia was getting engaged and didn't understand. With working during the day and spending so much time helping her mamm when she got home, Elizabeth didn't get to go to singings or other youth activities. She knew she was hardly an old maid at twenty but she was beginning to despair of ever being able to date and get married. And who would help her mother then? Fourteen-year-old Mary, the next oldest, didn't seem interested in helping as she should.
Now, she would have to, thought Elizabeth. She opened her eyes as a woman in the next row of seats complained loudly about the bus being a few minutes late leaving the station. Elizabeth found herself biting her thumbnail as she pondered the selfishness of leaving home now.
The driver climbed on board, closed the door, and started up the bus, but he didn't immediately pull out. The woman in the next row who had been complaining turned to Elizabeth and shook her head.
Elizabeth turned to stare out the window. Goshen was the only place she'd ever lived. She'd never left it. Never wanted to. Now she felt like the woman who complained. When were they going to leave?
A thought suddenly struck her. Maybe it was a sign. Maybe she wasn't supposed to leave. Maybe it wasn't a part of God's plan for her. Hadn't one of the ministers at church once cautioned his listeners about fighting God, swimming upstream against His plan?
Maybe He thought she was selfish, too. Maybe He thought she should stay here with her family.
The bus began moving. Relief washed over Elizabeth. Dilemma solved.
She turned away from the window. Everyone knew what had happened to Lot's wife when she looked back ...
Instead, she glanced around at fellow passengers, feeling a little curious about them. Were they making big life changes like her? Going on vacation?
She realized the woman who'd complained about the bus not leaving the station on time was watching her. Elizabeth pulled her gaze away and glanced out her window. She had always been shy. She didn't want to talk about herself, answer questions about why she was on the bus. It might have been a good idea to change into Englisch clothes before she left home, but she didn't have any, and she didn't want to upset her parents more.
"So where are you going?"
Elizabeth blinked at the sudden intrusion into her thoughts and looked over. The woman across the aisle was regarding her curiously.
The woman laughed and looked incredulous. "Paradise?"
"Oh, right, there is a city named that there. You know people there?"
"I was wondering if you were in your rum—rum—" the woman flapped one hand. "I can't remember what it's called."
"Yeah, that's it. When you get to be like a girl gone wild."
Elizabeth wondered where the Englisch got their ideas about rumschpringe. Like the mother of a friend had once said, "You think we suddenly let our kids run wild and don't know where they are?"
In reality, rumschpringe was something rather tame in her community. Oh, sure, she'd heard stories occasionally about some of the boys she'd gone to school with buying beer and having wild parties. But those stories were few and far between. And most Amish youth ended up becoming baptized into the church and stayed in the community.
"I'm just going there to visit," she said.
It wasn't the total truth, because she knew she was going to stay there longer than a visit. But she wasn't sure how long she'd be there and besides, she'd been cautioned not to talk to strangers.
A big yawn overcame her. She clapped her hand over her mouth. "I'm so sorry. I was up late last night getting packed. If you don't mind, I think I'll take a nap."
The woman nodded and didn't seem offended. "We can talk later."
Elizabeth smiled and nodded. What else was there to say? She leaned back against her seat and closed her eyes.
And when anxiety rolled over her like the tiredness in her body, she told herself to stop thinking about where she'd come from and instead forced herself to focus on where she was going.
* * *
Saul nodded at the driver, handing him his ticket before climbing onto the bus. He'd made the trip from Pennsylvania to Ohio and back many times and felt a little bored as he looked for a seat. Then he saw the attractive young Amish woman sitting with her eyes closed.
Indiana, he mused as he walked down the aisle. The man ahead of him stopped at the woman's row and leaned down.
"Hey, pretty lady, dreaming of me?"
Startled, she woke and stared at him. "Excuse me?"
"How about I sit next to you?" he asked.
Saul could tell from the way she recoiled from the man it was the last thing she wanted.
On impulse, he stepped closer. "Gut, you saved me a seat," he said loudly.
The man turned and gave him a once-over. "Oh, you two together?"
Saul looked at Elizabeth and lifted his brows.
"Yes," she said, her voice soft at first and then she said it louder: "Yes."
Shrugging, the man moved on and found a seat a few rows back.
"Did you decide I was the lesser of two evils?" he asked her as he sat down.
"Yes," she said honestly, but the shy smile she gave him took away any sting he might have felt.
He knew from a glance at her clothing, she was from Indiana. It was easy to distinguish one Amish community from another by the style of the kapp and the dress the women wore. The Lancaster County women wore prayer head coverings made of a thin material with a heart shape to the back of them. This woman wore a starched white kapp with pleats and a kind of barrel shape. The stark look of it suited her high cheekbones and delicate features.
He studied her while she looked out the window. Her skin seemed almost alabaster. Her figure was small and slender in the modest dark blue cape dress she wore. She'd looked away before he saw the color of her eyes; he wondered if her eyes were blue—sometimes women wore dresses the color of their eyes.
A baby cried at the back of the bus. Its mother tried to shush it, but it kept crying, its voice rising.
The woman turned away from the window and frowned slightly as she glanced back toward the rear of the bus. Then, when she sensed him watching her, she looked at him and he saw her eyes were indeed blue—the blue of a lake in late summer.
"Poor mother," she murmured. "The baby's been crying for hours."
"Poor us if it continues," he said, frowning at the thought of listening to a baby cry for hours. Surely, the kid was tiring and would sleep soon? "So, you're from Indiana?"
"You're from Indiana?"
"I'm from Pennsylvania. Paradise, Pennsylvania."
She turned those big blue eyes on him and he saw interest in them. "Really? How long have you lived there?"
"My whole life. Is it where you're going?"
Her eyes narrowed. "How did you know that?"
"The way you perked up when I said the name." He moved in his seat so he could study her better and smiled at her. "There's no need to be suspicious. My name's Saul Miller."
When she hesitated, he smiled. "Just tell me your first name."
"Are you called Beth? Liz? Lizzie?"
"Ever been to Pennsylvania?"
"Once. For a cousin's wedding."
"Ah, I see. So, you were there in the fall." When she just nodded, he tried not to smile. Getting her to talk was like pulling teeth.
"Well, can't be the reason this time. Not the season for weddings."
He watched her glance out the window at the passing scenery. There was a wistfulness in her expression.
"So are you going to Pennsylvania for vacation?"
"You know, the thing people do to relax."
Her mouth quirked in a reluctant smile. She glanced around her, then whispered, "Now how many Amish do you know who go on vacation?"
He shrugged. "There are some I know who go South for the winter for a few weeks."
"Daed would think you were crazy if you talked about a vacation," she scoffed. "Why, when I—"
"When you what?" he prompted when she didn't go on.
She frowned and shook her head. "Nothing."
Saul fell silent for a few minutes, waiting to see if she'd say anything else. It felt a little strange to be doing it all—to be carrying the conversational ball. But he'd had no trouble attracting the opposite sex. Usually, women let him know they were attracted, and then went out of their way to engage him in conversation.
Elizabeth was being no more than polite.
"So, Elizabeth, if you're not on vacation, are you on your rumschpringe?"
* * *
Elizabeth was beginning to think maybe it wasn't so bad back home—even if she'd seldom gotten out. But since she had now, it seemed everyone wanted to talk, talk, talk.
Really, whether Amish or Englisch, people certainly were a nosy bunch. First, the Englisch woman had asked questions, then Saul had picked up where she left off.
She immediately chided herself for being judgmental. People who judged others often were guilty of the same thing as the person they judged. And goodness knew, Elizabeth possessed a deep curiosity about other people. Her leaving home hadn't just been because she was tired of her confining, unsatisfying life. She'd wanted to know what was out there—trapped as she'd felt being stuck at home as a caretaker of her brothers and sisters, she'd loved her time working at the fabric shop where she could interact with others.
Personal decisions were just that ... she didn't want to discuss it with someone who was a stranger.
The bus ate up the miles and she blessed the fact Saul had fallen silent and appeared to be watching the road. The woman across the aisle now sat, nodding, a magazine unread in her hands. Even the crying baby at the back of the bus fell silent.
The weariness of body and mind, which caused her to drift off earlier, returned. Her eyelids felt weighted; her body seemed to melt into the comfort of the padded seat.
"Give in," Saul said softly. "You look exhausted."
She frowned at him. "How can I when you keep talking to me?" she asked and heard the tartness in her tone. When he chuckled, she glared at him. "You know, you're acting like I'm here to entertain you."
"No," he said, obviously trying not to smile. "I just find you refreshing."
Refreshing? Her? "Are you mocking me?"
His smile faded. "No, Elizabeth, I wouldn't do that. You're just not like any of the women I know back home."
"I'm different from the women of Paradise? How?"
"You're not talking a lot. You're not trying to impress me."
"So you're used to being ... pursued?"
He had the grace to redden. "I wouldn't say that."
Now it was her turn to try to hide a smile. There was no question he was attractive with mahogany-colored hair, strong, masculine features. And those dark brown eyes looking at her so intensely. She'd seldom gotten much interest from the young men in her community. It felt exhilarating. It felt a little scary. This was a very different experience for her, this enclosed, enforced intimacy of riding in a bus, conversing with a stranger and feeling he was expressing interest in her.
Maybe she was dreaming. After all, she was so very tired. She'd been sleeping and then woken up to see him looking at her. It was entirely possible she was dreaming.
So, when Saul wasn't looking, she pinched herself and found she wasn't dreaming.
No, she wasn't dreaming, but it was certain his interest was flattering. She drew herself up. Being Amish didn't mean you didn't know what went on in the world, you were aware of bad people, and knew bad things could happen.
It was entirely possible this Saul wasn't even Amish ...
She blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Suddenly you're looking at me like I'm the Big Bad Wolf."
"I don't know what you're talking about." But Elizabeth had never been able to hide what she was thinking.
"Schur," he drawled.
She focused on the billboards on the side of the road. They were quite entertaining to someone who mostly traveled in a buggy on roads not big and crowded like this highway. Most of the signs advertised restaurants and shopping, but there were a few to raise her eyebrows. It took her a moment to understand what an adult store was, but once she did she averted her eyes quickly at the next one they passed.
Her stomach growled. She reached for the lunch tote she'd carried on board, pulled out a sandwich and unwrapped it. She'd packed several sandwiches with her mother's grudging permission—her daed had been out—but she didn't know how long they would last and she had to be careful with her money.
As she did, she felt, rather than saw Saul come to attention. She glanced at him, saw he was looking at her sandwich and not at her. Well, she thought, I found a way to make him stop asking questions.
She took a bite and chewed and tried not to notice his attention then shifted to her mouth.
Manners kicked in. "Would you like half?"
Excerpted from A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron. Copyright © 2014 Barbara Cameron. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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