Read an Excerpt
Book 2 of the Amish Roads Series
By Barbara Cameron
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2014 Barbara Cameron
All rights reserved.
Pretty sweet sound, don't you think?" Isaac turned up the volume of the CD player in his buggy. Heavy metal music came pouring out.
Emma gritted her teeth and wished she felt brave enough to plug her ears with her fingers. Isaac called it music. It sounded awful to her. She wanted to ask him to turn it down because it was giving her a headache but instead, she smiled and nodded. Maybe it was wishful thinking but she hoped his taste for such music was just his going through his rumschpringe.
Joe, Isaac's horse, shook his head as he pulled the buggy down the road and Emma bit back a smile, wondering if horses got headaches.
Another buggy approached at a fast speed from the opposite direction. The driver leaned out and waved. It was Davey, one of Isaac's friends. As his buggy passed theirs, the sound from his own CD player blared even louder than Isaac's. A flock of chickens grazing inside a fence near the road squawked and scurried away.
She sighed. Sometimes she wondered whether Amish boys enjoyed music or beer more during their rumschpringe.
Well, perhaps she couldn't call Isaac Amish any more. She looked at him and wondered where the Isaac she'd loved since she was ten had gone. He wore jeans and a polo shirt.
And an Englisch haircut.
"Where are we going?" she asked him.
"It's a surprise."
"I don't know if I can stand another one," she murmured.
"What? I didn't hear you."
"Never mind," she said, raising her voice.
Now, as Emma sat beside Isaac in his tricked-out buggy, she remembered how she and her older sister, Lizzie, had argued the night before.
"I think Isaac's enjoying being a bad boy right now," Lizzie told her as they prepared for bed in the bedroom they shared.
"If he is, I can change him," Emma said with a confidence she didn't entirely feel.
"You think a good girl can reform a bad boy? It doesn't work," she said with the wisdom of someone only two years older than Emma's twenty-one. "You shouldn't try to change another person."
The buggy hit a bump in the road, bringing Emma back to the present. Isaac was driving into town, away from their homes. She thought about their recent conversations and tried to guess what kind of surprise he'd planned.
The day was perfect for a drive. She sighed happily. The breeze coming in the windows was cool, but the sun felt warm. Late spring weather could be iffy here in Paradise, Pennsylvania.
A week ago, Puxatawny Phil, the funny little groundhog the Englischers watched for a prediction about winter ending, had emerged from his burrow and seen no shadow, so spring would come early.
They passed the Stoltzfus farm and she saw the "For Sale" sign in the front yard. She waited with bated breath. Were they going to turn into the drive? Isaac had always worked in construction as a roofer and a carpenter ... maybe Isaac had decided he wanted to be a farmer after all. He hadn't seemed upset when his father told him one evening he was selling the farm to Isaac's brother, not to him. But Isaac didn't share his feelings about things as much lately.
Well, she'd been raised on a farm and liked the idea of helping run one. They'd have kinner, lots of them if God willed it and they'd help as they grew older ...
Lost in her daydream, it took her a moment to realize they were driving past the farm.
Okay, well maybe the farm wasn't where he was taking her. Maybe it was a different one. Maybe it wasn't a farm at all. Maybe it was a house he'd found and wanted to fix up. They didn't have a lot of money saved and property was so expensive in Lancaster County. He was so good with his hands, could build anything, fix anything. They could buy something run-down. A fixer-upper, she'd heard them called. They could buy one and make it theirs. Hopefully, they'd get it in good shape before a boppli came along to crawl in the sawdust.
She studied his profile, never tiring of looking at him, being with him. As scholars, they'd passed notes in class and the minute their parents had allowed it, they'd attended singings and gone on buggy rides together. He'd been the cute little boy with blond hair and mischief in his big blue eyes who'd grown into a handsome man.
Lately, though, he seemed different. He spent hours working on his buggy after he got off work, and this was the first time they'd been out in a week. When he picked her up he hadn't noticed she was wearing a new dress in the color he liked best on her—robin's egg blue—and he hadn't asked her about her new job.
"Can't stop looking, can you?" he asked, winking at her and giving her a mischievous smile. "Like it?"
"I—I don't know what to say," she told him honestly, staring at the short, razored cut replacing his Amish haircut. "You look so different."
"That's the idea."
"You never said you were going to cut your hair like an Englischer."
He shrugged. "Decided to try it. If I don't like it, it'll grow back."
"Have your parents seen it yet?"
"Nee. I mean, no."
She winced as he corrected himself. It was a small thing but he seemed to be ridding his talk of Pennsylvania Dietsch. "When did you get it cut?"
"Two days ago."
"How could they not have seen it by now?" she wondered aloud. "Isaac? Isaac?"
Emma reached over and turned the volume down. "How is it your parents haven't seen your haircut when you had it done two days ago?"
"I moved out."
Her eyes widened. "Moved out?"
"Yeah. I got my own place. I have a job. I can afford it."
"But I thought we were saving to get married in the fall."
He pulled the buggy into the drive of a run-down looking little cottage, stopped, and turned to her. "We don't have to wait to be together. You can move in with me."
* * *
The minute Isaac saw Emma's expression, he knew he'd made a bad decision.
Shock mixed with horror on her face as she stared at him. "You're ab im kop," she said finally.
"I'm not crazy," he said, frowning. "You keep saying you want to be with me."
"I do. I want to be married to you!"
He bent his head and stared at his hands. "I know."
"You know, but you bring me here and say this?"
There was no easy way to say it. Isaac looked up. "I'm not sure I'm ready to get married."
No, it wasn't the truth, he told himself. He owed her the truth.
"I'm not ready to get married," he said more firmly.
She pressed her fingers to her lips to stop their trembling. "But we've talked about it for ... forever."
He sighed. "Maybe that's the trouble. We got too serious, too soon."
Emma drew a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped at her eyes. "Are you saying you don't want to be engaged anymore? You want to date other women?"
"Nee!" he said quickly. "If I did, would I be asking you to move in with me here?"
She straightened, tucked her handkerchief away, and straightened. "I think you do want to see another woman, Isaac Stoltzfus. Because this woman isn't interested in living with you without being married."
He watched her look around her, at the fields just planted, and felt a stab of guilt when she took a shuddering breath.
"Would you take me home, please?"
"Please." She twisted the handkerchief in her hands and avoided his gaze.
"Allrecht. I just need to put a box or two inside. Are you sure you don't want to look around?"
"It's the last thing I want to do," she said quietly.
He climbed out of the buggy, stacked the two boxes on top of each other, and carried them into the cottage.
When he came back outside, she was gone.
He had other boxes he wanted to put inside the cottage, but they weren't important now. After he ran back to lock up the place he jumped into the buggy and retraced the route he'd taken. He looked up one side of the road and down the other, but there was no sign of Emma.
How could she have just disappeared? He hadn't heard another buggy or car as he carried the boxes inside the cottage. Had someone picked her up? She wouldn't take a ride with a stranger, would she? Surely not. She was too smart, too sensible.
But she'd been so upset with him. More upset than he'd ever seen her about anything.
"C'mon, Joe, help me find Emma. Where'd Emma go?"
The horse whinnied when he heard his name, but, of course, he couldn't answer Isaac. The horse's hooves echoed rhythmically on the pavement, but the sound was hardly soothing. Isaac called to Joe and shook the reins. Joe picked up the pace, and the buggy rolled faster back toward Emma's home.
Isaac pulled into the drive, and the wheels had barely stopped turning when he jumped out. He pounded on the front door.
Lizzie, Emma's sister, opened the door and blinked when she saw him. "Isaac! I thought you just left."
"Emma! Where's Emma?"
She just stared at him. "She went with you."
"Did she come back?"
"Isaac, you're not making any sense."
Frustrated, he ran his hand through his hair. "Lizzie, could she have come home and you didn't see her?"
"I guess." She glanced around her. "I'll check. Do you want to come in?"
"No. Danki," he added, aware he sounded impatient.
She shut the door and was gone for a few minutes. When she returned she wore a frown as she opened the door. "She's not anywhere in the house."
"Of course, I'm schur." She stared at him. "What did you do to your hair?"
"Cut it," he said curtly. "It's not important now."
"What did you argue about?"
Isaac met her gaze and he looked away. "I'd rather not say."
Lizzie crossed her arms over her chest. "I told her you were a bad boy, and she shouldn't try to change you."
Shocked, he shook his head and opened his mouth to protest. But she was right. He wasn't a boy, but he had been selfish in the way he'd treated Emma. How had he thought she'd just go along with moving in with him because he wanted it?
Well, maybe because Emma had always gone along with what he wanted. She was sweet, smart, and above all, his best friend.
Had he ruined everything?
He turned and walked back to his buggy. Maybe she'd decided she wanted nothing to do with him and it was why she had left the buggy. He wouldn't blame her.
But he was going to find her and make sure she was safe if it was the last thing he did.
* * *
She turned and saw Elizabeth Miller waving to her from her buggy.
"Can I give you a ride?"
Emma nodded quickly and fairly jumped into the buggy before Elizabeth brought it to a complete stop. "Danki."
"Where were you going?"
"Just out for a walk."
"Long walk," Elizabeth commented.
She took a surreptitious glance back and didn't see Isaac coming out of the cottage. Still, she was relieved when Elizabeth got the buggy moving again.
"So how are you and Isaac doing?"
"Fine. You and Saul?" She turned and focused on Elizabeth. "I don't need to ask. You're glowing. Married life is gut, ya?"
Elizabeth laughed and nodded. "Very gut. But you'll find out for yourself soon, I think?"
The question hit Emma with a force every bit as physical as a blow.
"I know, I'm being nosy," Elizabeth went on without waiting for an answer. "But it's so obvious the two of you are a couple and have been for years. You're not going to surprise anyone when you decide an announcement should be made."
Emma felt grateful who dated who wasn't discussed—or, at least, not encouraged. At least if it turned out she and Isaac were not going to be married in the fall she might not get as many questions from others.
Fearing Elizabeth might ask more questions, Emma decided to ask some of her own. Though it pained her greatly after what Isaaac had just done to her dreams, there was one topic which would take Elizabeth's attention completely from Emma: her new life.
"Have you been able to do much getting your household settled since you work at the store with Saul?"
Elizabeth sighed. "Not as much as I'd like. But there's time. I—oh!" she stopped and pressed her fingers against her lips, then pulled the buggy off the road and stopped.
"Are you allrecht?"
After a long moment she took a deep breath and nodded. "Ya, I'm fine. I feel like I'm having heartburn. Must be something I ate. I'm sorry, I'll get us back on the road in a minute."
"Don't rush, I'm in no hurry," Emma told her quickly. "Why don't you take a drink of water and see if it helps?" she asked, indicating the bottle of water on the seat between them.
"Why didn't I think of that?" Elisabeth uncapped the bottle and took a drink, then recapped it and set it down on the seat.
Emma thought about how much time had passed since Elizabeth's wedding the previous fall and tried to hide a smile. She doubted it was heartburn affecting her friend. By the time the next fall rolled around, she suspected Elizabeth might be a new mamm.
Next fall, when she'd hoped to be married. She sighed.
"What's the sigh for?"
"Oh, just thinking about something. Nothing important."
Elizabeth checked traffic, then shook the reins and her horse pulled the buggy back onto the road.
"You didn't have to work today?"
"I take one Saturday off a month to do bookkeeping at home. This afternoon I thought I might work in the kitchen garden."
She sighed and looked rueful. "I'm still getting used to the differences in weather between here and Goshen, trying to figure out what I can plant this time of year."
"Talk to my mamm. Or Katie and Rosie, the twins at the store. They're wonderful gardeners."
"Tell me about it." Elizabeth pulled into the driveway of Emma's house. "I told Saul we're going to lose them one day. Their Two Peas in a Pod jams and jellies sell out constantly at the store."
She brought the buggy to a stop. "I'm so glad we had a chance to talk."
"Me, too," Emma said. Once she'd led Elizabeth down a different conversational path, she'd enjoyed it. "Danki for the ride," Emma said as she got out of the buggy.
"Be sure to tell Lizzie I'll see her day after tomorrow."
Emma felt depression weighing her down as she climbed up the front porch steps and went inside.
"There you are!" Lizzie cried as Emma walked into the kitchen.
"Ya, here I am," Emma muttered as she filled the teakettle, set it on the stove, then turned on the gas flame under it. She rubbed her hands for warmth. She'd felt so cold since Isaac had blurted out how they could live together.
She turned. "What do you mean?"
"Isaac came looking for you."
"Oh." She turned back and stared at the teakettle, willing it to boil.
"Did you two have an argument?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Are you going to call him? He was worried about you."
"I don't want to talk about it."
An uncomfortable silence fell over the room.
"How did you get home?"
"I got a ride with Elizabeth Miller. She saw me walking home."
The front door opened, then closed. Their mother came in carrying several tote bags. "Will you put these things in the refrigerator? I'm going to go lie down. I don't feel so well."
"I told you it was too soon to be up and about," Lizzie scolded, acting like the mamm instead of the grown child. "The flu really took it out of you."
She helped her mother take off her sweater and hang it up. "You go change and get back into bed. I'll make you a nice hot cup of tea and bring it to you"
The teakettle began whistling as Emma finished putting away the items her mother had bought. Lizzie fixed a cup of tea for their mother, adding milk and sugar, and went to give it to her.
Emma fixed a cup of tea for herself and sat at the big kitchen table to drink it. When Lizzie returned, she carried the cup of tea.
"She was already asleep when I got there." She sat at the table. "Guess I'll drink it."
"You don't like milk in your tea."
Lizzie shrugged. "No point in it going to waste." She stirred it then took a sip. "Now tell me what happened with Isaac."
"I know what you said. But it's obvious you're upset about something."
Emma rubbed her forehead and tried to fight back tears. "There's nothing I can do."
"Are you saying you're going to break off the engagement?" Lizzie asked, her eyes wide.
Restless, Emma got up, dumped her cold tea in the sink, and poured more hot water into her mug. She sank down into her chair and dunked another tea bag in the water. "It's more like Isaac is breaking it off with me."
Excerpted from Crossroads 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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