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His Love Endures ForeverA Land of Canaan Novel
By Beth Wiseman
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Elizabeth Wiseman Mackey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDanielle perched on the edge of the tub. She looked at her watch, then at the pregnancy test in her trembling hand. In two minutes, she'd know if she was going to have a baby.
She bit her bottom lip as she tapped a foot against the white tile floor, her heart beating faster than normal. Please be a blue minus sign.
But it was barely a minute later when a positive, pink cross began to appear. She squeezed her eyes closed and tried to will it to blue. Please, please ... I can't be pregnant.
She'd been seeing Matthew for four months, but they'd only been intimate one time. No one gets pregnant the first time.
She slowly opened her eyes and swallowed hard at the realization that she and Matthew were going to be parents. After giving it a few minutes to sink in, Danielle tried to focus on the positive. Laying a hand across her stomach, she held her breath and tried to envision the tiny life growing inside of her. It would be a lot to take on since they were both only eighteen, but they were in love. They'd said the words to each other only once, but Danielle was sure he was the right guy for her.
Matthew's parents weren't wild about him dating someone who wasn't Amish, but Danielle knew that Matthew had no plans to be baptized into the Amish faith. He'd made it clear to Danielle that he was just waiting for the right time to leave. What better time than now?
She paced the small bathroom, taking deep breaths as she thought about a future with Matthew. It wasn't the first time she'd fantasized about a life with him, but it was the first time her vision included a baby. She'd just assumed that they would eventually get married and have children, but in that order. The Amish were all about having lots of kids, and Danielle planned to be the best mother on the planet, something her own mother hadn't been any good at. She was sure Matthew would be a great father. Even though he planned to leave the Old Order district, Danielle knew that he'd had a good upbringing, something he would pass on to his children.
Looking in the mirror, she pulled her hair to the side and gathered it in a loose braid as she fought the worry that began to creep into her mind. Surely he'd be happy about the baby, even if it hadn't been planned?
Only one way to find out.
Later that afternoon, Danielle shifted her weight on the log where they were sitting by the edge of the creek. It was their special place, the spot where Matthew had kissed her for the first time. As the sun began its descent behind the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Danielle reached for Matthew's hand and took a deep breath. A rush of adrenaline shot from her toes to her fingertips, and she briefly wondered if he felt it. Or could he see or hear her heart pounding in her chest?
As they sat hand in hand, Danielle held her breath as she watched the water. They were beneath the old oak tree as water trickled atop small rocks on the far side of the creek. She watched two cardinals fly by before she finally blew the air from her lungs.
He brought her hand to his lips, kissed her fingers, and smiled. "Ya?"
She'd practiced how she would tell him about the baby all morning, but as she looked at him, she couldn't recall any of her preplanned speech. All she could think about was whether their child would have Matthew's beautiful eyes, shades of amber and green.
"I'm pregnant." She swallowed hard but kept her gaze fixed on him.
His eyes widened as his jaw dropped. After a few moments, he closed his mouth and stared at the ground.
"I can't believe it either." She reached for his hand and squeezed. "But I love you so much. Together, I think we can do this."
Matthew eased his hand from hers and stood up. He pulled his straw hat off, rubbed his forehead, then paced along the bank as late-afternoon rays from the sun glistened atop the blue-green water. Danielle kept her seat and pulled her pink sweater snug around her. It was a chilly May afternoon in the shadow of the mountains. She glanced at her watch. Four o'clock. It was going to take Matthew a few minutes to realize what this meant for the future.
"Matthew?" Danielle stood up and put her hand on his arm. "I know we weren't expecting all this so soon, and—"
"So soon?" Matthew took a step backward as a muscle clenched along his jaw. He blinked his eyes a few times beneath cropped brown bangs. "I wasn't expecting this at all."
Danielle fought the wave of dizziness that came on all of a sudden. Surely Matthew just needed a few more minutes to sort out his feelings. She bit her bottom lip as a faint thread of panic formed a lump in her throat.
He walked closer and hung his head for a moment, fidgeting with his hat in his hands. When he finally looked up at her, Danielle tried to force her confused emotions into order. Please, Matthew ... don't say what I think you're going to.
She reached up and cupped his cheek in her palm. "I know we're young, but we can be wonderful parents." She paused, clinging to hope that Matthew would drop to one knee. Or at the very least, she hoped the tense lines across his forehead would relax and some color would return to his face.
"I don't want to do this." He pulled away and stepped back again as fear twisted around Danielle's heart."I—I'm not ready for a family. You know that I've been waiting for the right time to tell mei mamm and daed that I'm leaving here."
Danielle's mind was a crazy mixture of hope and fear. She swallowed and found her voice. "I know it's not the perfect situation, but you've already said your parents can't shun you because you aren't baptized yet, so maybe this is the perfect—"
"Danielle." Matthew latched on to her arms with both hands. "You're not hearing me. I don't want to get married, and I don't want a family. I want to go to college. I've been telling you that. How I'm going to get a job, then save so I can go to school."
"You can still do all those things. I know how much you want to go to college. I want you to have everything you—"
"Danielle, stop." Matthew held up both palms and avoided her eyes. "I don't love you."
He might as well have closed his hands around her throat and killed her. She couldn't control the trembling that began to take over. "But you said you did," she managed to squeak out after a few moments. "You said you loved me."
"Well, at the time, we were ..." Matthew looked at the ground, shook his head, and kicked the ground with the tip of his shoe. When he looked back up at her, he eyed her with a critical squint—almost as if she'd been the only one in his parents' barn that day. "I thought Englisch girls used birth control, took pills or something."
Danielle's mouth fell open. "I told you I wasn't on birth control, and you didn't seem to care." She touched her stomach with both hands. "It's not like I planned this."
Matthew started to pace again, shaking his head. "Ach, this is a mess."
Danielle's stomach twisted. She would have never agreed to be with him in such an intimate way if she'd known he didn't love her. She tried to recall if she'd pushed him into saying the words. She didn't think so, but did it really matter now anyway? He doesn't love me. Her own upbringing had been a disaster, and she was determined to be a good mother and to raise her child in a normal home, one filled with love.
She swallowed back the tears building and imagined telling Martha. If Matthew couldn't cope with it, how would Martha? The older woman had taken Danielle in a year ago, before they'd been joined by Arnold, Martha's new husband. She'd been more of a mother to Danielle than she'd ever had, but this news was going to be upsetting to them both.
Matthew finally stopped pacing and faced her. "Maybe you should give the baby up for adoption?" He looped his thumbs beneath his suspenders and stood taller.
Danielle's bottom lip began to tremble. "No. I'm not giving my baby away." She shook her head as she stuffed her hands in the pockets of her sweater. "No way."
Matthew put on his hat, tapped it into place, then stared down at her with eyes that no longer twinkled of amber and green, but instead were stony as jade. "You're on your own if you do this. I've been trying to get out of here forever. There're a lot of things I want to do."
Danielle wanted to cry, beg, tell him that this was a great excuse to leave the community, but she'd heard him loud and clear. He doesn't just want to leave the community ... He wants to leave me. She slowly backed away, holding her sweater tightly around her as the tears came.
"Please don't cry. I'm sorry, Danielle." He took two steps toward her. "I—I'm just not ready to be a father. Or a husband." He raised his eyebrows. "I don't think I'd be gut at either one. You deserve better than—"
"Shut up, Matthew! Just shut up!" She ran to where her car was parked several yards away from Matthew's horse and buggy. As she hurried into the seat, she could hear Matthew yelling something in Pennsylvania Deitsch. She couldn't understand his dialect.
Not that she needed to. She'd heard enough.
* * *
Levi slowed his horse, Chester, to a stop in front of Sarah's house. Sarah's father was sitting in a chair on the front porch, the way he had been the last two times Levi brought Sarah home from a Sunday singing.
"I think he's worried you might try to kiss me good night." Sarah tipped her chin down, grinning.
Levi was glad it was dark. He could feel the warmth in his cheeks even though his cold breath formed a cloud in front of him. Levi wanted to tell her that didn't make much sense. He could have kissed her all the way home, not just when he was dropping her off. But he didn't say anything. He stepped down from the buggy and walked around to Sarah. She eased the heavy brown blanket from around her, then Levi helped her down. She was almost as tall as he was.
"I had a gut time." Sarah smiled, her teeth chattering. "Danki for taking me."
"Ya, it was fun."
Sarah leaned closer, near enough that Levi could have kissed her. "See you next Sunday?"
Levi looked over her shoulder and saw that her daed was still on the porch, so he just smiled as he stared into her dreamy brown eyes. "Ya."
Sarah was beautiful; a perfect white smile, delicate features, and in the Englisch world, she probably could have been on the covers of those fancy magazines. Every guy in Canaan wanted to court her. Levi still wasn't sure why she'd chosen him.
"You're so sweet and shy, Levi. It's one of the things I love about you." Sarah kissed him on the cheek, then quickly turned and ran across the yard toward her house.
Levi moved fast too, hurrying back into the buggy since Sarah's father was now standing and holding a lantern out in front of him at arm's length. It was completely dark, but a full moon lit Sarah's front yard enough to make him wonder if John Troyer saw his daughter's bold move. He clicked his tongue and moved the horse toward the main road, glad that his house wasn't far. He pulled the blanket Sarah had used onto his lap and adjusted the small battery-operated heater on the floor of the buggy.
Once his shivering was under control, he thought about what Sarah had said. "It's one of the things I love about you."
Was that Sarah's way of saying she loved him or just a casual comment? He'd known Sarah since her family moved from Indiana to Canaan about six months ago, but it wasn't until recently that Sarah seemed to take an interest in him. Before that, Sarah had been spending time with Jake King, another newcomer to their small community. The talk around the community was that Jake might even propose. But a few weeks ago, Levi noticed that Sarah was going to the singings alone, and one night she asked Levi to take her home, then continued to do so. He hoped Sarah wasn't expecting him to propose anytime soon. He cared about Sarah, but they weren't anywhere near that kind of promise to each other. Plus, Levi wasn't even baptized yet. Marriage seemed far off in his mind, even though he was twenty-two and his mother constantly pushed him about the issue. Two of his siblings, Jacob and Emily, had both married when they were younger than Levi.
Thankful to be home, and looking forward to the warmth of his house, he pulled into his driveway, parked the buggy, then led Chester to the barn, lighting his path with a flashlight he kept in the buggy. It was then that he heard crying. He pointed the light to the crumpled-up shape in the corner.
"Danielle?" Levi hurried to her and squatted down. He pushed back long strands of blond hair from her face and saw tears rolling down her cheeks. "What are you doing here?" He sat down on the cold dirt beside her. "What's wrong, Ladybug?"
Levi had been calling Danielle by that nickname for almost as long as he'd known her, close to a year now. She'd plucked one of the red and black insects from Levi's hair last spring and told him that ladybugs were lucky, something she wasn't. Levi had told her that life wasn't based on luck, but on faith and God's plan. Danielle had gently placed the bug in her palm, smiled, and said, "I don't know about that, but I want to be lucky like a ladybug." And somehow the nickname just stuck.
"I wasn't ready to go home. I just needed—" Sobbing, she buried her face in her hands. "My life is a wreck. I've made a mess of everything, and Martha and Arnold are going to be so upset with me, and Matthew doesn't love me, and ..." She started crying so hard that Levi could barely understand her. After a few moments, she lifted her face to his and locked eyes with him. "And ... and ... I'm pregnant."
Levi hung his head and sighed before he looked back at her. "Ach, mei maedel. Are you sure?" Danielle was his best friend, the only person he felt completely comfortable with. It had been like that since they'd met. She was a high-spirited Englisch girl who said whatever was on her mind, and she'd lived life in a way that Levi didn't understand, but from the beginning, they'd fit together like bread and butter.
Levi's temples throbbed, and he wanted to leave right then to find Matthew. He'd never met the man, but he felt the need to punch him in the gut just the same. Matthew lived in a small district near Alamosa, about ten miles away, but Levi'd make the trip to straighten him out ...
He took a deep breath, reminding himself that it was not their way to be aggressive. But how did Matthew let this happen?
Danielle sniffled and studied his face. "It takes two, Levi. This isn't all Matthew's fault."
Levi gritted his teeth together for a few moments. "Well, he should have ... I don't know ... done something different." He paused, shining the flashlight toward the barn window. "Where's your car? You didn't walk here, did you?" His teeth chattered as he spoke.
Danielle nodded in the direction of the light. "It's out there, parked on the other side of the barn. I didn't want your parents to know that I was out here."
"You should have waited inside. It's not that late, and you know Mamm stays up until I get home."
Frowning, she sighed. "Your mom doesn't like me. You know that."
"She likes you." He let the lie slip from his lips. Vera Detweiler hadn't liked Danielle since the first time she noticed her spending time with Levi after worship service. Martha was friends with the Amish community, attended the Amish church service every other week, and often brought Danielle with her. His mother saw Danielle as a threat—an Englisch girl set on stealing away her baby boy, which couldn't have been further from the truth. If his mother only knew how much time he and Danielle had really spent together, she'd have been doubly worried.
Danielle smiled a bit, but sniffled again. "Thanks for saying that, but we both know it's not true."
Levi gave her a rueful smile. He'd hoped his mom would have relaxed once she found out that Danielle was seeing someone, and now that Levi was seeing Sarah. But no, his mother was still worried. "You are too close to that girl. She's wild, and she'll lure you into her world," Mamm had said. More than once.
Levi pushed back the rim of his hat, and in an effort to avoid another lie, he changed the subject back to her pregnancy. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know." She swiped at her eyes. "Remember when I got stung by that huge bumblebee when we were picking blueberries?"
Levi nodded. "Ya, your hand swelled up pretty bad."
"But you went to your house and got something to put on it, and the swelling went down right away." Danielle almost smiled.
He shrugged. "It was just an herb mixture Mamm keeps around the haus. It wasn't that big of a deal."
"I could name lots of other times, but the point is ... you always know what to do about things." She let out a heavy sigh.
Levi scratched his chin, knowing he couldn't fix this for her.
"I'm going to be the best mother in the world," she said. "That's what I'm going to do."
Excerpted from His Love Endures Forever by Beth Wiseman Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth Wiseman Mackey. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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