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Beyond Hope's Valley
By Tricia Goyer
B&H Publishing GroupCopyright © 2012 Tricia Goyer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMarianna scanned the crowd and then she saw him. Levi the man—no longer the boy—strode to her. Tenderness for her brother, even with his close-cropped hair and Englisch clothes, tugged at her heart. But as Marianna approached, she was sure she saw something. A shadow of stubble on Levi's face, the beginnings of a beard. Evidence he'd soon be an Amish husband. Her heart leapt.
Marianna held back her questions. She wanted to know about his plans, about the wedding, yet she noticed other Amish milling around. This conversation was one to be shared in private, around family. Only after the engagement was published, a few weeks before the wedding, would they be able to talk about such things where others could hear.
Though it was far from ladylike, Marianna lifted her skirt and ran to him.
Levi opened his arms to her, and she stepped into them. His T-shirt was soft on her cheek.
"Thank you for coming, Mari. I can't tell you how much it means."
She swallowed hard and nodded. Her lips parted to answer, but the quiver of her chin stopped her words. She looked back. Aaron gathered their suitcases with one hand, as he leaned on his crutches tucked under the other arm. She should go help him, but first she needed a moment with Levi.
"Are you crying?" Levi's hands touched her shoulders and he nudged her back to see her face. "You don't have to cry. I'm all right and Naomi will be too. We're figuring things out." He wiped away a stray tear from her cheek with his thumb. Levi's touch was gentle. "Don't cry, Marianna."
"They're happy tears," she whispered. "Levi, you have to know that. The days to come, I can't even imagine, how full of happiness they'll be."
"Yes, Marianna." Levi hugged her again. "I suppose it's what we've always wanted. It's just that we didn't know."
"We do now, Levi." Laughter replaced her tears. "We do now."
Levi moved to help Aaron with their suitcases and boxes, but Marianna carried so much more deep inside. More than the clothes and her journal that she'd packed in Montana. She carried more sweet memories, more of God than she had when she'd headed out west.
She looked around the train station, letting it sink in that she was home. Other Amish families mulled around the station, bearing testimony that it was so. The lack of snow on the ground outside told her she was no longer in Montana. God had sent her there for a reason. Now, more than anything, she wanted to share what she learned with her friends and family in Indiana. She wanted them to know God as she did.
A child's pained cry split the air, and Marianna paused. A small girl, who looked to be about five had tumbled off the bench and sat crumbled in a small heap on the white, tiled floor.
Without hesitation, Marianna turned and strode over to the girl. She knelt and reached out a hand. "Oh, sweetie."
The girl accepted the help and within seconds the little one crumbled into her grasp. The cries stopped, but the girl's shoulders trembled. Marianna looked around. A young woman with red hair pulled back into a ponytail hurried toward her with a baby on her hip.
"Ashley, oh no!" The mom rushed forward, offering an open arm to replace Marianna's. "I told you not too goof around like that!"
The woman met Marianna's gaze. Her eyes widened as if for the first time noticing it was an Amish woman who helped her daughter. "Thank you. I—I just left her for a moment to make a bottle for the baby in the restroom. I told her to sit still and watch our things."
Marianna patted the girl's soft, blonde hair. "I understand. I'm not a mom yet, but I have five younger siblings. Turn your back for one minute—"
The sound of a man clearing his throat sounded behind her, and Marianna turned to see Aaron and Levi waiting. Aaron shifted his weight from side-to-side and looked toward an Amish family who sat straight-backed—lined up on a bench from oldest to youngest—all eyes on her.
Marianna swallowed as she rose. "Yes, well. She seems to be fine now. We must get going."
The stares of her fellow Amish resurrected the memory of how things were in Indiana. She'd been in Montana too long—had gotten too comfortable with Englisch ways, Englisch folks.
The girl's cries stopped, and the woman adjusted the baby on her hip. "Coming or going?"
"Coming. Just arrived home." Marianna took a step back, drawing closer to Aaron. "You have a lovely family. Have a gut trip ..." She turned to the doorway—but not before she saw the woman's wrinkled brow. Was she more surprised that Marianna had helped or that she'd backed off so quickly?
Marianna hadn't meant to be rude. She'd forgotten that Amish and Englisch didn't talk much in these parts. She pressed her shoulders back and lifted her chin as she followed Levi toward the exit. It took every ounce of strength not to look back, not to wave and offer one last parting smile to the little one, who still whimpered at her mother's side.
So much I've forgotten ...
Tightness formed around her chest, the same as when she tried on her childhood winter coat only to discover she'd outgrown it.
She looked to Levi and forced a smile. "It'll take some getting used to, being in these parts again."
He glanced over and nodded. "It does take adjusting going back, but it'll come to you, Mari. We can leave our home for a while, but our heart knows the way back." She read something in her brother's gaze. Thankfulness, in part. After all, at least they had a gut way of living to return to. Uneasiness too. She'd prayed for Levi to return to the Amish—yet questions, concerns muted her happiness.
Did he love Naomi? Did he feel returning to the Amish way of life is what God wanted him to do?
A silent knowing flashed between them. They were returning, but not the same. Never again the same.
Levi held the door open for them and pointed to a blue van waiting at the curb.
A biting wind nipped at her nose as Marianna, one hand on her kapp, hurried toward the waiting van. Seeing her approach, the driver opened the door and jumped out. Taking Marianna's satchel from her hand, he hurried around to the back of the van.
"I've got this. Get inside where it's warm. The front seat is the warmest. Don't want to fall ill on your return." The driver smiled, not only with his lips but with also his eyes, as he said those words.
Marianna narrowed her gaze. Did she know him? She didn't think so. Yet the Englisch driver, who appeared to be in his late forties, acted as if he knew her. Or more than that, as if he were excited to see her.
The wind picked up again, and she hurried to the van, climbing in the passenger's seat. He was right. It was warm. He'd kept the van running for them, which wasn't typical. In the cup holder was a paper cup of coffee from the Garden Gate Cafe, where her best friend Rebecca now worked. Marianna told herself to ask about this driver. She thought her family knew all the Englisch drivers in the community. Perhaps she'd been wrong.
She let out a low breath. A bit of tension released. Her feet again walked on the soil of Indiana—the place she knew best. She was to marry a good man who loved her. She had a home waiting for her. Her future waited too. Montana is behind me ...
Marianna bit her lower lip. For some reason that thought didn't give her as much comfort as she imagined it would.
She turned in her seat and watched the driver load their luggage. As the rear door slammed, her brother Levi guided Aaron to the side door. Aaron's limp intensified with every step.
For most of the train trip Aaron's leg had bothered him. Even though the doctor had given Aaron clearance to travel, Marianna feared he was up and around too soon. Since Aaron hadn't been able to sleep for more than a few hours at a time, she'd stayed up with him as much as she could. They'd talked about her siblings, about their friends they'd gone to school with. They'd wondered if anything had changed in Shipshewana, the town closest to their farms. They'd guessed it hadn't. She and Aaron talked about new calves and spring planting. What they hadn't discussed was their future, their home, their someday family. As the miles passed, their dreams yet unspoken, filled the space between them and sat heavy upon their laps.
Aaron climbed in first and Levi followed, shutting the side door. Marianna was thankful her brother had picked up her and Aaron at the train station, and she wished she and Levi could get away to talk. But not today. She'd save their deeper conversation for another time. Today she needed to rest. Adjust.
Marianna turned back toward the front. The driver's eyes studied her.
She sat back in her seat. Who is this man?
He buckled his seat belt and checked his mirrors. "You look like your mother."
She glanced over, daring to look at him from the corner of her eyes. "You know our mother?"
In the backseat, Levi cleared his throat. The driver looked into the mirror, making eye contact with him. "A long time ago." The man sighed, then pulled out from the parking space. "Yes. I know her. My family's farm is near her parents' place."
Marianna studied the man. Had she met him before, when she was a child? No, she didn't think so.
"So, Levi, how's work yet? The community?" Aaron's weary voice broke the silence. He said nothing about Naomi.
"Gut. Things are busy at the factory, and I am moving into the dawdi haus on Naomi's parent's property. She's been busy as a beaver fixing it up. Soon as we wed she'll move in too."
At the mention of beaver, Marianna thought about the beaver lodge at the pond behind her parents' Montana home. She closed her eyes and tried to picture the still waters. She remembered the peace she found reading her father's Englisch Bible there. Before Marianna left Montana, her boss Annie had given her a Bible of her own, but as the van continued on, a sinking feeling puddled in Marianna's gut. Would she find the same peace in Indiana? Had God joined her on this journey?
How silly! Of course He had—but she needed to feel it, not just know it. Maybe ... she would find a special place here where she could pray to God, where she could expect Him to meet her. If so, where? Someplace private, where she could pray about sharing with her family and friends the hope she found in God. Would they listen? They knew the Ordnung, but would they cling as fiercely to God? Would they tend their souls as diligently as they tended their farms?
She released a breath. She needn't worry about that now. She'd returned, but not alone.
Marianna looked back to Aaron. He offered a weary smile. A peace she hadn't seen in months radiated from his eyes. How brave of him to journey to Montana for her. Only a man who truly loved a woman would do such a thing.
The thrumming of her heart filled her ears. And she reached back her hand. Aaron's eyes widened, and he grasped it, entwining his fingers with hers. She turned her attention to the road ahead, but he didn't release his hold. They took separate journeys to Montana but returned together. This drive was the beginning of good things to come.
He squeezed her hand tighter, and joy rushed through her, prickling her skin and making her skull tingle under her kapp. They returned not only to a place, but a history. Their history.
As they traveled over familiar roads, and the Amish farms passed outside her window, the spoken rules of her childhood played in her mind. And the unspoken ones. From an early age their parents taught them about the plain dress code. They could use no electricity from the public grid, and travel was to be by horse and buggy. Additional "rules" were taught more by action than word.
Your dress and kapp must be pressed and neat.
Neighbors help neighbors.
The earlier you're up for chores the better, lest anyone think you to be lazy.
In Montana, the Amish way of life had been relaxed. Although most of the rules were enforced, folks didn't watch each other too closely. In Indiana, eyes had followed her all the time.
Would it be that way again?
She brushed a stray hair into her kapp, then adjusted the kapp, making sure it was just so.
They drove down the highway and passed the sign that read Shipshewana City Limits. Another rule swirled in her mind: Amish must marry Amish. That was an easy one.
She'd marry Aaron.
They drove through town. Shipshewana was ready for Christmas, with tree lights, wreaths, garlands, and other ornaments trimmed everywhere. Some Amish families decorated with greens and a few candles, but most focused on family gatherings and the religious meaning of the holiday. No decorations would grace Aunt Ida's home. One thing her aunt would celebrate with was special cookies and candies. Marianna guessed making plenty of both would fill her time next week.
This would be the first Christmas for her and Aaron in their new relationship. Last year she couldn't have dreamed they'd be this close. If his accident back in Montana had done anything, it had given them more time together. It also showed they could handle trials with grace and care.
If you had never tasted the bitter you wouldn't know what is sweet. The familiar, Amish proverb made her smile.
Thankfully they were on the sweet end of this journey—not only their journey back to Indiana, but also in their relationship.
They passed a small house tucked in a thicket of trees just outside city limits, and a new thought stirred. The cabin. Today it was too late to travel to the place Aaron had built for her, but tomorrow ... tomorrow she'd see evidence of his love, displayed in wood, nails, and glass.
They spoke of simple things as they drove two miles past Shipshewana to her Aunt Ida's farm. As they approached, Marianna released the breath she'd been holding. Once inside her aunt's warm house she could forget about the Englisch driver and why he seemed to know her. She could take her mind off Naomi, and even off her own upcoming marriage. She could simply enjoy seeing her aunt again and partake of a good meal in front of the fire.
The van parked. The driver would take Aaron home next. They'd been together for so long, it seemed strange to be going separate ways.
Her eyes met his. She could see his weariness, but she also noted love.
"I can walk you to the door."
"No need ... you've been on your leg too much as it is."
Aaron nodded. "Tomorrow then?"
She tilted her head. "Ja, I'll see if I can borrow my aunt's buggy." She sighed. "I just hope I can sleep. I'm eager to see our house."
Aaron's face brightened. Joy bubbled in Marianna's heart seeing how those two simple words—our house—brought so much happiness to the man she cared for.
She opened the van door and climbed from the front seat. Around back, their suitcases sat on the gravel driveway. Levi was paying the driver, but neither turned as she approached. Tension froze the air around them, and a shiver raced up Marianna's spine.
Levi slapped a tip in the man's uplifted palm then narrowed his gaze.
"So, just how well, sir, did you know my mother?"
* * *
Ruth Sommer eyed her husband and fingered the letter in her hands. Abe had brought a small stack of mail home with him, and she knew he had paid no attention to the letter from her sister, Betsy. Ruth hadn't paid much mind to it, either, until she started reading. Now her sister's words burned through the envelope, all but charring her fingers.
You'll never guess who I saw in town today. Who's moved back to care for his parents and set himself up as a driver for the Amish ...
Ruth hadn't needed to read any more to know Betsy wrote of Mark. Her Mark. She and Betsy had shared the same room—the same bed—for eighteen years. Her sister alone knew the depth of Ruth's feelings for Mark—and of Ruth's struggle to stay with the Amish and not go with him.
Outside the snow fell. The three boys built another snowman, complete with an Amish beard made of pine needles they'd dug up from under the snow. Ellie sat content, playing at Abe's feet with her doll. Like all Amish dolls it didn't have a painted-on face, but that didn't bother Ellie, who dressed and undressed it with the numerous dresses and kapps Marianna had made for it.
Ruth clutched the letter to her chest. "I'm going upstairs yet to check on Joy."
Abe nodded but didn't lift his eyes from the Bible. Ruth moved to the staircase and hurried upstairs. Joy would be sleeping for another thirty minutes at least. It would give Ruth time—time to read the letter and time to sort through her feelings before she finished up dinner.
Ruth reached the top of the landing and moved to her girls' room, sitting upon the bed that Marianna had shared with Ellie. She missed her oldest daughter, but the fiery nervousness moving through her limbs took all of Ruth's concentration. She opened the letter again, reading its message. Betsy had written the letter just for her, but had also not written names—or a specific name— in case Abe or one of the children picked it up.
Excerpted from Beyond Hope's Valley by Tricia Goyer Copyright © 2012 by Tricia Goyer. Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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