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Indiana Cousins Trilogy
By Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Wanda E. Brunstetter
All rights reserved.
Ach, there's a bee in the van! Somebody, get it out of here before I get stung!"
Loraine Miller looked over her shoulder. Her cousin Katie's face was as pale as goat's milk, and her eyes were wide with fear. Ever since they'd been children and Katie had been trapped in the schoolhouse with a swarm of angry bees, she had panicked whenever a bee got too close. Poor Katie had been pelted with so many stings that day, much of her body had looked swollen. The doctor had said it was a good thing Katie wasn't allergic to bee stings or she would have probably gone into shock.
"Get it! Get it!" Katie screamed. She sucked in a deep breath and ducked her head.
The bee flew past Loraine's shoulder, buzzing noisily.
"Open your window, schnell!" Loraine said to her fiancé, Wayne Lambright. "We need to get that bee out before Katie hyperventilates."
Wayne quickly opened the window and shooed the bee with his hand.
"Did ... did it go out?" Katie's chin trembled as she lifted her head. Her vivid green eyes glistened with unshed tears. Loraine found it hard to believe anyone could be so afraid of a bee, even though she knew the source of her cousin's fear.
"Jah, I'm sure it's out. At least, I don't see it anymore," Loraine said, hoping to reassure her cousin.
"It's gone, Katie, so you can relax." Wayne closed the window and nudged Loraine's arm. "You know what I'm thinking?"
"I'm thinking I can hardly wait to get you on the Side Winder I've heard so much about!"
She grimaced. "It would be just like you to try and talk me into going on the scariest ride at Hershey Park."
Wayne's eyes twinkled. "Do you really think I'd twist your arm and make you do that?"
"She doesn't think it; she knows it," Loraine's cousin Ella spoke up from the back of the van.
Jolene, Loraine's other cousin, giggled behind her hand, while Katie's boyfriend, Timothy, snorted like one of his father's pigs.
"Remember, Loraine, you're the one who suggested we take this trip to Hershey Park," Jolene's brother Andrew said. "So I would think you'd be looking forward to going on all the scary rides."
"That's right," Ella's brother Raymond chimed in. "Getting scared out of your wits is the whole reason for going to an amusement park."
Wayne nudged Loraine's arm again. "Don't you remember how much fun we had when we went to the Fun Spot last Labor Day weekend?"
Loraine nodded. It had been fun to visit their local amusement park, but those rides weren't nearly as frightening as the ones she'd heard about at Hershey Park. Even so, she was excited to take this trip. Ever since she was a little girl, she'd wanted to visit Hershey Park and Hershey's Chocolate World. She loved chocolate and had heard there was a ride inside Chocolate World that showed visitors how the various kinds of Hershey candy were made. Their plans were to travel through the night, arrive in Hershey around 2:00 a.m., and check into the hotel their driver, Paul Crawford, had reserved for them. Then they would sleep a few hours and spend all day Saturday at the park. They planned to rest awhile on Sunday, and then maybe take a drive around the surrounding area. Early Monday morning, they would head for home. Loraine figured this trip could turn out to be more fun than if her parents had taken her when she was a girl.
Even though the Amish didn't celebrate Labor Day, Timothy, Raymond, and Andrew worked at the trailer factory in Middlebury and had Monday off, as did Loraine, who worked at the hardware store in Shipshewana. Since neither Katie nor Ella had full-time jobs, being gone for three days wasn't a problem. The same held true for Wayne, who farmed with his father. Only Jolene, a teacher at the local Amish schoolhouse, was scheduled to work, but she'd been able to get a substitute for Monday.
"I don't know about anyone else, but I'm more anxious to eat some of that wunderbaar chocolate than go on any of the rides at Hershey Park." Katie smiled and relaxed against the seat, obviously feeling better now that the bee was gone.
"Listen to you ... talking about food already, and we're not even to Ashley yet." Timothy bumped Katie's arm. "Can't you at least wait until we leave the state of Indiana to talk about food?"
Katie muffled her snicker.
Loraine smiled. It was good to see everyone in such good spirits. Paul had been laughing and telling jokes since he'd picked them up at Jolene and Andrew's house in Topeka.
"Hey, Paul," Timothy called, "Katie's hungry, so we may have to stop soon and see that she's fed."
"I'll be stopping before we get to Highway 69," Paul said over his shoulder. "Will that be soon enough?"
Timothy needled Katie in the ribs. "What do you say? Can you hold out till then?"
She wrinkled her nose. "If you don't stop teasing, I won't go on any of the rides at Hershey Park with you."
"Is that a threat?"
"It's a promise."
Loraine looked over at Wayne and rolled her eyes. Katie was her youngest cousin, and she'd recently turned nineteen. Sometimes, like now, Katie still acted like an immature adolescent. Timothy, who was twenty, wasn't much better, always goofing around, mimicking others, and making all sorts of weird sounds. But the two of them seemed happy together and planned to be married in the fall of next year. Maybe by then, they'd both have grown up some.
"I wish people would quit cutting me off and tailgating," Paul complained as he merged the van into heavier traffic. "Seems like everyone and his brother is headed somewhere for Labor Day weekend. If it's this bad now, I can only imagine how it will be on the trip home."
"Hershey Park will probably be crowded, too," Andrew put in.
Wayne gave Loraine's fingers a gentle squeeze. "This will be our last chance for an outing with our single friends before we become an old married couple, so we'd better enjoy every moment," he whispered in her ear.
He looked at her so sweetly she wanted to tousle his thick auburn curls, the way she sometimes did when they were alone. In just a little over a month, she and Wayne would get married, and then she could tousle his hair to her heart's content. By this time next year, they might even have a baby, and their lives would take a new direction—one that wouldn't include weekend trips to amusement parks. A baby would mean changing dirty diapers, getting up in the middle of the night for feedings, and so many new, exciting things. Loraine could hardly wait to make a home and raise a family with Wayne. It would be a dream come true.
She leaned her head against Wayne's shoulder and let her eyelids close. She felt safe and secure when she was with Wayne—enjoying his company and happy to know she'd soon be his wife. I wonder what our kinner will look like. Will they have my brown hair and brown eyes, or will they resemble Wayne with his curly auburn hair and hazel eyes? Will they be easygoing and even-tempered like Wayne? Will they have a servant's heart—generous in spirit and sensitive to others in need?
In her mind's eye, Loraine could see a sweet baby with curly auburn hair, gurgling and reaching chubby hands out to his father.
The van lurched suddenly, and Loraine's eyes snapped open. "Wh–what happened?"
"We're stopping for those snacks I promised you could get," Paul said as he pulled off the road and into a gas station. "If anyone wants anything, you'd better get it now, because I won't be stopping again until I need more gas."
Loraine climbed out of the van ahead of her cousins and turned to smile at Katie. "Since you're the one who said you were hungry, I guess you'd better make sure you stock up on plenty of snacks."
Katie snickered. "I plan to do just that."
* * *
With a sack full of snack foods, Loraine crawled back into the van and released a noisy yawn. "Someone wake me when we get there, would you?" She leaned her head on Wayne's broad shoulder again. "I hope you don't mind me using you for a pillow."
He nuzzled the top of her stiff, white head covering with his nose. "I don't mind at all."
Loraine's eyelids fluttered closed once more. She was almost asleep when Katie let out an ear-piercing yelp. "Ach! Another bee's in the van!"
Loraine sat up straight. Sure enough, a bee buzzed irritatingly overhead.
Timothy and Raymond swatted at the troublesome bee with their hats.
"Ella, roll down your window!" Timothy shouted. "Maybe the critter will fly out like the last one did."
Ella quickly did as he requested, but the bee kept buzzing and zipping all around.
Katie screamed when it buzzed past her face. "Get it! Get it! Get it!"
"What's going on back there?" Paul called over his shoulder. "What's all the ruckus about?"
"There's a bee on the loose, and—"
"Paul, look out!"
At the sound of Ella's shrill scream, Loraine's gaze darted to the front window. A semi-truck headed straight for them!
Paul jerked the wheel, and the van lurched to the right. As the semi roared past, it slammed into the side of their vehicle. The van skidded off the road and smacked a telephone pole. It flipped onto its side and spun around. Metal crunching! Breaking glass! Screaming voices! Deafening silence. Loraine was sure everyone was dead.CHAPTER 2
Rivulets of sweat trickled down Loraine's bodice as she stood in front of the window inside one of the waiting rooms at the hospital in Fort Wayne, watching the last orange strand of sky fade into darkness. Her family and the families of those who'd been riding in the van with her should be arriving soon. Oh, how she wished she had better news for the parents of those who had died.
Loraine pressed her forehead against the window and closed her eyes, trying to shut out the memory of the accident.
She took a few short breaths and tried to relax, but it was no use. This terrible nightmare was real and would not go away. If she could only wake up tomorrow morning and find that everything was all right—the way it had been before they'd gotten into the van. If Paul hadn't turned around to see what the commotion was about. If she and her friends had only stayed home today. But all the ifs wouldn't change a thing. The accident had happened, and Loraine, along with the others who survived, would have to deal with it.
Loraine turned away from the window and glanced at her cousin Katie, slouched in a chair across the room. Wearing a blank stare, Katie looked at the floor as though she were in a daze. As far as Loraine knew, she and Katie were the only ones who'd escaped serious injury, although they did have several bumps and bruises.
What can I say to her? How can I offer comfort to her hurting soul? Loraine drew in a deep breath and made her way across the room.
"There's a vending machine in the hall. Can I get you something? Maybe a cup of coffee or a bottle of water?" she asked, taking a seat beside her cousin.
Katie lifted her head but stared straight ahead, knuckles white as she gripped the edge of the chair as though she might fall off if she let go.
Loraine shifted in her seat, unsure of what to say or do. Finally, she went down on her knees in front of Katie. Gently, she pried Katie's fingers loose and held them in her hands. "Please, talk to me, Katie. Tell me what's on your heart."
Katie blinked a couple of times. "T–Timothy's dead." Her chin trembled, and her voice came out in a squeak.
Loraine nodded as tears pricked her eyes. "I'm so sorry for your loss, Katie. I'm sorry for everyone's loss."
Katie pulled her hands away and folded her arms. "I wish we'd never gotten in that van. I wish we'd stayed home where we were safe. I wish Timothy wasn't—" Her voice trailed off, and her mouth snapped shut with an audible click.
"We need each other right now, Katie. We need to talk about our feelings."
"Katie, please say something. It's all right to cry. Don't hold your feelings in. Don't shut me out."
Katie didn't utter a word. It was as though an invisible wall had been erected between them, and Loraine's cousin had withdrawn to her own little world.
Loraine rose from the floor and began to pace, sending up to heaven a silent prayer. Dear Lord, please comfort Katie and be with the doctors who are working on the others. Please help me know what to say when their families arrive, and please keep my Wayne alive.
A middle-aged man with thinning brown hair entered the room. He smiled and held out his hand to Loraine. "I'm Robert Taylor, the hospital chaplain."
She shook his hand. "I'm Loraine Miller, and that's my cousin Katie Miller." She motioned to Katie, but Katie gave no response—just sat with her lips compressed and her eyes tightly shut.
"I heard about the accident you and your friends were in," he said. "I wanted you to know that I'm here to help in any way I can."
"I—I appreciate that."
"Are you waiting for family members to arrive?"
"I'd like to wait with you and offer my support."
"I'm sure everyone will need it as much as I do." Loraine looked at Katie again. "Katie's boyfriend was killed in the accident, and I think she's in shock. She's only said a few words to me since we left the emergency room and came in here. She seems to have shut me out."
"I'll try talking to her." The chaplain moved away from Loraine and took a seat beside Katie. "I'm the chaplain here, Katie. I'd like to pray with you," he said in a gentle, comforting tone.
"If you'd like to talk about what happened or how you feel, I'm here to listen."
Several minutes passed, and then Katie's lips started to move. She spoke so quietly Loraine couldn't make out the words. She moved back to the window, praying that the chaplain would be able to get through to Katie—help her deal with the pain.
Someone touched Loraine's shoulder, and she whirled around. Uncle Alvin and Aunt Leah, Jolene and Andrew's parents, stood behind her with worried expressions.
"We came as soon as we heard about the accident," Uncle Alvin said. "They wouldn't give us much information in the emergency room. Just said the doctors are still working on our son and daughter and that we should wait in here." His forehead wrinkled as he shot Loraine a pleading look. "Do you know anything?"
"Not a lot. The last thing I was told was that Andrew had suffered cuts, bruises, and a broken arm."
"And Jolene?" Aunt Leah asked with a catch in her voice.
"One of the nurses said something about possible damage to Jolene's auditory nerves, but that's all I know."
Aunt Leah glanced anxiously at the door. "I wish they'd let me go in. I need to see how my kinner are doing. I'm so worried about them."
"I understand. I'm worried, too." Loraine placed a hand on her aunt's arm, hoping to offer a little reassurance. Reassurance she really needed herself.
"What about the others? Was anyone seriously injured?" Uncle Alvin wanted to know.
Loraine nodded. "Our driver, Paul Crawford, was killed, and so were Katie's boyfriend, Timothy, and Ella's brother, Raymond."
"Ach! That's baremlich." Aunt Leah's eyes widened as shock registered on her face. "What about the others?"
"Ella has a concussion, and I was told that Wayne has some serious injuries, but I don't what or how bad they are." Loraine swallowed a couple of times. The not knowing clawed at her heart and made her body feel numb. If Wayne died, she'd probably go into shock the way Katie had.
For lack of anything better to do, Loraine motioned to the chairs across the room. "Should we have a seat while we wait to hear how Jolene, Andrew, and the others are doing?"
Aunt Leah and Uncle Alvin nodded and followed Loraine.
She introduced them to Chaplain Taylor, and they all took seats. Aunt Leah clasped Katie's hand. "I'm sorry about Timothy."
"Have Timothy's folks been notified?" Aunt Leah's question was directed at Loraine.
"Timothy's parents do know about the accident," Loraine replied, "but they haven't arrived yet and don't know he died soon after we got here."
Uncle Alvin grunted. "I hope we find out about Jolene and Andrew soon. I can't stand the waiting."
"I know it's hard to wait, but I'm sure you'll be told something soon," Chaplain Taylor said.
With a childlike cry, Wayne's mother, Ada, rushed into the room. Her husband, Crist, followed.
Ada clasped Loraine's shoulder so tightly she winced. "Have you heard any news about our son?"
Loraine rose from her chair and gave Ada a hug. "He's still being examined, but I was told earlier that he suffered some serious injuries."
"What kind of injuries?" Crist asked.
Excerpted from Indiana Cousins Trilogy by Wanda E. Brunstetter. Copyright © 2010 Wanda E. Brunstetter. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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