Belongingby Karen Ann Hopkins
I left everything I knew behind.
But it was worth it. He was worth it.
No one thought an ordinary girl like me would last two minutes living with the Amish, not even me. There are a lot more rules and a lot less freedom, and I miss my family and the life I once had. Worst of all, Noah and I aren't even allowed/em>/em>/em>… See more details below
I left everything I knew behind.
But it was worth it. He was worth it.
No one thought an ordinary girl like me would last two minutes living with the Amish, not even me. There are a lot more rules and a lot less freedom, and I miss my family and the life I once had. Worst of all, Noah and I aren't even allowed to see each other. Not until I've proven myself.
If I can find a way to make it work, we'll be Noah & Rose together forever.
But not everybody believes this is where I belong.
Read an Excerpt
Peeking out the window, I watched Noah limp down the pathway behind his mom. The sunshine caught the golden highlights in his hair, making him look like a grungy angel fallen from the cloudsan injured one, that is, with the metal brace that was attached to his leg glinting in the sun.
Seeing the brace sent a chill down my back when I remembered the buggy wreck that had nearly killed Noah. A few weeks had passed, but my knees still felt like jelly when I pictured that rainy night on the road and the blur of the giant truck heading straight for Noah and his horse, Rumor.
I shivered, closing my eyes. If I'd lost Noah on that fateful night, a part of me would have died also. I couldn't even imagine a world without himit would be as if the sun disappeared from the sky. My heart wouldn't have recovered, and that's why I had to be brave right now. I couldn't live without him, and somehow I had to make my decision to become Amish workso that the two of us would never be torn apart again.
When I opened my eyes, Noah was gone, and I suddenly felt very alone in a foreign world. The murmurings of the strange language behind me didn't help the feeling of displacement I was experiencing, either. If my ears and eyes weren't deceiving me, I really was in some faraway land.
Dad's voice drifted into my mind, You know, Rose, no one is holding a gun to your head to do this. You can back out anytime.
My belly tightened at the remembrance of his words.
It still amazed me that my dad was allowing me to move into the Amish society to be with Noah. Of course, his reasons were less than honorable for sure. Tina, Dad's girlfriend, had talked him into believing that his baby girl would run home after a week or two of living the harsh and restrictive lifestyle of the Amish. They'd both be in for a big surprise, I inwardly vowed, despite my uneasy feelings.
Whenever the little doubts would eat away at me, I'd think about the first time that Noah had kissed me, and liquid warmth would coat my insides, giving me strength. Even now, with the heat of sunshine through the window warming my face, I could smell the leaves and the pine of the hidden forest clearingand feel his lips moving on mine. Our secret rides into the trees, which I'd nicknamed the fairy wood, because of the hazy, magical feel of the place, were the most wonderful moments of my life. Knowing that there would be many more of those times waiting for us in the future made me smile. As long as Noah and I were together, everything else would be all right.
The sudden stillness in the air told me that they were all gathered, waiting for me to turn around.
Trying to be brave, I sucked in a quick breath, cleared my mind of anxiety and turned to face my audience. I was immediately met by six serious faces. Five men and one lone woman greeted me with what could only be described as wariness.
I recognized the bishop straight off with his Abraham Lincoln features and long, snowy beard. His eyebrows were as white as his beard and were bushy on his jutting brow. I'd hoped that the sight of him wouldn't instill as much fear in me as it had the first time I'd seen him, so long ago now. Unfortunately, he still gave me the jitters.
Really, this whole scene wouldn't have been as bad if I'd had some warning. I couldn't blame Noah. He had been taken by surprise as much as I had to learn that mere moments after I'd arrived at the Hershbergers, who, for lack of a better description, were my new Amish foster parents, I would be ambushed by a meeting with the bishop and ministers. I didn't even have time for a proper get-to-know-you before Ruth Hershberger, Noah and his mom were being hustled out the back door only a minute following the sight of the three black buggies making their way up the driveway.
I had no idea who the woman standing off to the side was, but she immediately struck me as a happy person. When my eyes met hers, she smiled warmly. The smile was genuine, if the deep wrinkles at the corners of her pretty brown eyes were any indication. Because of that smile I felt a bit more at ease.
And of course there was Noah's dad, Mr. Miller. He wasn't usually a scary guy, but seeing him standing there with his buddies, all grim and uptight, prickled the hair on my arms. The image flashed in my mind of Amos Miller astride his black horse in the rainstorm, fury distorting his features.
From firsthand experience, I knew Mr. Miller could be intimidating. Upon learning that his son was having a secret relationship with an English girl, he'd been incredibly angry. And he sure hadn't been shy expressing his displeasure at the discovery that stormy day, either.
I only had a few seconds to register the faces of the other three men in attendance before Mr. Bishop broke the silence. One was old Mr. Hershberger, who, up until that point, I'd only had a chance to say hi to. Rebecca Miller had informed me upon arrival that he wasn't really an active minister any longer, being in the process of transitioning away from the duties of the job. But I guess, since I was his new daughter, he wasn't going to miss the excitement.
The other two were middle-aged guys with no gray showing in their lengthy beards, beards which, despite their length, didn't hold a candle to the bishop's Gandalf-inspired do. The tall guy put me in mind of Ichabod Crane with his skinny face and large nose. His blue eyes were friendly enough, though.
"Miss Cameron, I'm Abram Lambright, the bishop here in the Meadowview community." He looked me straight in the eye. Although I wanted to turn away, I managed to keep my gaze locked with his. I definitely didn't want to give him the idea that I could be bullied.
Funny that he didn't offer his hand for a shake, though. That would have been the polite thing to do. Taking charge of the situation, I stepped forward, thrusting my hand out.
"Hey there, Mr. Lambright, you can call me Rose."
Bishop Lambright's mouth twitched at the one corner, maybe in amusement or perhaps he wanted to ring my neck. No telling, but he humored me by shaking my hand firmly. Then he did spread his mouth in an attempt at friendliness. Seeing the almost-smile made me relax a little more, pushing more of the tension out of me.
"I've heard much about you, Rose." He paused as if trying to pick his words carefully. "And to put it frankly, the other ministers and I would like to talk to you personally about your presence here in our community. We don't often find ourselves in the situation of taking stray English children into our lives."
My hackles were up, but before I said something unpleasant to the charming Bishop Lambright, the woman made her presence known. "My dear, I'm Martha Lambright, Abram's wife. You can address me by Martha, though." She flowed across the floor smoothly, and before I knew what was happening she had me locked in a hug, tight against her slender body. "We are so pleased to have you with us."
Seeing Martha up close I was shocked that she was the bishop's wife. She must have been twenty years younger than him, showing just a few gray hairs at her temples and flecking through her root line. Her round face and wide-spaced eyes hinted at the beautiful girl she must have been in her youth.
"Glad to meet you," I murmured, startled by her swift dousing of the flames.
She went on to introduce Mr. Marcus Bontrager, the Sleepy Hollow guy, who nodded several times in my direction and smiled awkwardly.
Then she said Mervin Weaver's name and I felt a tickling of recognition before realization dawned on me, hitting me like a brick. Ella's father-there was no mistaking the family resemblance now that I gave him a longer appraisal. He'd passed on his large eyes to his daughterthe girl who was supposed to be courting Noah, instead of me.
Besides his attractive eyes, Mr. Weaver was completely ordinary in height, stature and coloring. But those eyes were bright with thought, and my mind quickly processed that I'd have to tread carefully around him.
"Rose, why don't you have a seat here at the table, my dear?" Martha ushered me to a chair, and although she didn't really shove me into it, somehow her hovering presence got my butt seated in a hurry. She pulled a chair out beside me and made herself comfortable. Maybe I was wrong, but Martha Lam-bright appeared to be highly entertained by my situation. Of course, who could blame her? Without TV or the internet to occupy a person's time, community gossip would be the next best thing. I was the show.
While the five guys were arranging themselves across the table from Martha and me, I resisted the urge to scratch at my bun, which felt itchy under the cap. Sitting there all dressed up Amish was quite strange. I felt as if I had a Halloween costume on.
"I'll not beat around the bush on this matter, even though my wife would like to coddle you like a weanling." Bishop Lambright eyed Martha with distaste before focusing on me again. "There is much more to being one of us than just wearing the dress and covering your hair. Our way is the old way. The traditional way. The difficult way."
My mouth began to form words, but the bishop raised his hand, cutting me off before I even got started. He leaned in a bit closer and said darkly, "This is no trifling matter that you've gotten yourself into, young lady. I've only consented to you being allowed to live among us under the pressure of Amos Miller, here, who has vouched for your honest intentions and good behavior."
I glanced at Mr. Miller, who, catching my gaze, nodded his head reassuringly. His smile was controlled, though. The poor guy was my bond man, and if I screwed things up, he'd be the one paying for itand me, of course. I didn't even try to say anything this time. Bishop Lambright obviously had a bunch of things he wanted to get off his chest, so I slouched back in the chair, preparing myself for the long haul.
The bishop let out an annoyed huff, and after looking briefly at his comrades and then his wife, he fixed on me, saying, "I can't teach you all you need to know in the brief amount of time we have this afternoon. Obviously, this will be an ongoing learning experience for you, but there are a couple of issues that you must be fully aware of now." After a more agitated breath, he went on. "Like all the other young people in our community, you will not be allowed to begin courting Noah Miller until you have become a member of our church."
At this point Bishop Lambright's eyes narrowed, and again, he leaned across the table.
Yep, he was scary. I resisted pushing still farther back into the chair.
"And I will not have you joining the church until you have had ample time to acquaint yourself with our rules and customs."
It suddenly occurred to me that I might be waiting years before I could even date Noah and I blurted out, "Excuse me, sir, but ah how long will that be?"
"Ach, you are an impetuous child, aren't you? You can't even hold your tongue for a moment while you're being spoken to." The bishop's eyes sparked while his mouth tightened.
Somewhere deep in my mind was the feeling of utter confidence as I looked back at Bishop Lambright. After all, my Dador even Samwould get me out of here in a heartbeat if I called. Still, I would not let this puffed-up old guy get the better of me. And he was not going to keep me and Noah apart. I would do what I had to do to gain the bishop's trust.
I'd walk the lineand I would not fall.
"I'm sorry, Bishop Lambright," I said meekly, lowering my eyes. Yes, I could play the part when needed.
"There, child, it's all right. We understand that it will take a bit of time for you to know how to behave properly," Martha said, squeezing my shoulder for good measure.
"First things first, MarthaRose, you are a young woman, and you will act accordingly with our customs. As spoken in first Timothy, 'A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.' Therefore you will not be interrupting me again, and you will always show respect to the men in this community. The womenfolk will fill you in on all the details about following our customs and being obedient in time. Do you understand?"
His words made my feminist side dizzy with anger, but I was up to the challenge.
Peeking my eyes for an instant, then dropping them again, I answered, "Yes, sir."
"All right, then." The bishop leaned back and breathed evenly, seeming satisfied with my response. I hardly even noticed the other men, the bishop's type-A personality was so blasting.
"To answer your question, I do believe a few months of living our ways will be sufficient for you to join with us. That is, if you obey our rules and don't cause any trouble." The tone of his voice deepened. He took advantage of my full attention, and strengthening his voice, he said, "And be advised, young woman, that I will be watching you we all will be watching you."
The warm air in the kitchen seemed to tingle with his words. I looked away from the bishop, staring at the burgundy-colored curtain swaying above the sink from the breeze.
The desperate need to be with Noah had been at the forefront of my brain since the accident. I hadn't seriously considered all the other stuff that came with himlike a pack of grumpy old men telling me what to do.
My tummy felt rocky again. I summoned a picture of Noah before me, and seeing his handsome face drove the fear and anxiety back. Reaffirming my decision, I knew in that instant that I'd do anything to be with Noah.
"I will be good, I promise," I said, hardly above a whisper.
"Our idea of good and your view are probably entirely different." His voice oozed sarcasm, causing me to raise my head and meet his gaze again. He held my eyes for several uncomfortable seconds before he seemed to crack. Or maybe he was simply growing bored with me.
He said resignedly, "Fair enoughfor now, anyway." The bishop stood abruptly, inciting the others to rise quickly from their chairs also. "We all have work to get back to, so let us end this meeting."
Meet the Author
A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in Northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons, or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel. Karen loves to hear from readers. You can find her on the Web at Facebook.com/KarenAnnHopkins.
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