As Samuel was helping Rhoda gather cards, Landon’s cell phone buzzed, and he reached into his pocket. He usually glanced at it and slid it back into his pocket unless his grandmother was calling. But this time his smile faded, and he held the phone out toward Samuel. “It’s the number from your family’s farm in Pennsylvania.”
Since the only phone for this place was in the barn office and they spent very little time out there when it was below freezing, Samuel had given Landon’s number to his Daed in case of an emergency. The room grew quiet, and all eyes were on Samuel. He took the phone and slid his finger across the screen. “Hallo.”
“Samuel, what’s going on up there?”
His Daed’s tone was severe, and a bad feeling washed over Samuel. “Can you hold for a few minutes and let me get elsewhere?”
Samuel got up, hitting the mute button. “I need to talk to him, but apparently there isn’t an emergency.”
Leah tossed her cards onto the pile. “I’m done.”
Landon and Steven nodded and gathered the cards. Clearly, the mood was broken. Samuel had fielded many more calls from his Daed lately, each one less tolerant of this new settlement than the previous call.
Leah moved from the floor to the couch. “For him to stay this riled, he must be on that Amish chat line again, hearing negative stuff about us.” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “They ought to call it what it is—the Amish gossip line.”
“Leah, kumm alleweil.” Steven’s gentle correction was meant to settle her, and as the only church leader for this new settlement, his words carried weight.
While walking into the kitchen, Samuel turned off the mute. “Hey, Daed. I’m surprised you’re using Landon’s cell when there’s no emergency.”
“It might be a crisis. What’s this rumor I’ve heard about Leah seeing that Englisch assistant of Rhoda’s?”
Samuel pressed his lips together. Which of the new Amish families that had moved here over the last six months had shared that information? Apparently someone intended to end the relationship.
“Leah is in her rumschpringe, Daed.”
“But I let her leave Pennsylvania under your charge, and I’m not going to put up with these rumors.”
Dozens of arguments ran through Samuel’s mind. As he opened his mouth to rebut, he saw movement in the living room that caught his attention.
The three women—Rhoda, Leah, and Phoebe—had moved to the couch. Arie was sitting in Leah’s lap, and her hair had been taken down from its bun. Leah brushed Arie’s hair as the women whispered and giggled. They worked hard and loved deeply. He’d never witnessed the kind of unison they had.
“Samuel,” his Daed growled, “are you even listening to me?”
Samuel’s mouth went dry as angst grabbed hold of him. He’d been clinging to the hope that if he handled the situation right between his Daed and Leah, he could keep all the relationships intact. Had it been a false hope?
The Amish had ways of applying constant pressure when they disagreed with someone’s behavior, and if that failed to change the person’s actions, he or she was shunned. Not officially through the church, but through mandatory actions that said you’re not welcome here anymore unless you change. How could he possibly shun Leah? Worse, how could Rhoda and Phoebe do so? But if it came to the point of shunning her and they didn’t do as told, they would be subject to the same treatment.
Besides, Steven was a church leader now. He and Phoebe would have to uphold the Ordnung, or the consequences would be unbearable. Maybe Daed just needed a reminder of who was the spiritual head here.
“Steven is working with Leah, praying for her, guiding her as he sees fit.”
“He’s young, not yet thirty, and some don’t think he’s handling the Old Ways as carefully as he should. Others doubt he should’ve been chosen since his sister remains under a shadow of doing witchcraft.”
“That’s absurd. Rhoda doesn’t—”
“Save it, Samuel. I heard on the chat line that a bishop in Berks County is thinking of moving his family to your area. If he does, he’ll outrank Steven and bring the kind of order Orchard Bend Amish should’ve had all along.”
Every Amish person who’d helped establish this new settlement firmly believed in the Amish ways and culture, but they had pushed a lot of lines since arriving here sixteen months ago. Their hearts were in the right place, but sometimes the Amish rules got in the way of believers following their consciences. That’s when those on Orchard Bend Farms bent the rules, and Samuel didn’t regret doing so.
Somehow Samuel had to stop his Daed from doing anything that would cause the Old Ways to move into this home like a poisonous gas, choking the breath out of the relationships.