Something Oldby Dianne Christner
Travel to Plain City, Ohio, where a Mennonite woman struggles to define her place in the world as childhood friends and a past romance get in the way.See more details below
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Travel to Plain City, Ohio, where a Mennonite woman struggles to define her place in the world as childhood friends and a past romance get in the way.
Dianne Christner has written a lovely Mennonite romance, presenting some of the struggles that their young people go through in remaining close to their faith, families and community. The story gives some real introspect into how they view themselves and outsiders. The main character, Katy Yoder, has chosen to be a housekeeper as her profession. Throughout the story, she keeps a journal of cleaning tips and recipes, hand cream remedies and their recipes, and spiritual insights. Her journal is shared at the end of the book. If you're a fan of Amish or Mennonite inspirational romances, you'll really enjoy this one.
Christner has written a novel about the Mennonites that is rich in detail without being overbearing. The characters are well written and believable. The main female character is unsympathetic at times, but redeems herself in the end.
This is a "different" kind of read ---- mixing the Mennonite, Amish and English together bring us a true to life read! Throughout the story, Katie keeps a journal of cleaning tips and recipes, hand cream remedies, other recipes, and spiritual insights. Her journal is shared at the end of the book. If you're a fan of Amish or Mennonite inspirational romances, don't miss this light, fun read! Great for summertime reading enjoyment!
Read an Excerpt
The Plain City Bridesmaids
By Dianne Christner
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Dianne Christner
All rights reserved.
Ten years later
Katy Yoder skimmed a white-gloved finger across the edge of the fireplace mantel. The holiday decorations, such extravagance forbidden at her own home, slowed her task. It wasn't just the matter of working around them; it was the assessing of them. Feeling a bit like Cinderella at the ball, she swiped her feather duster, easing it around the angel figurines and Christmas garland. A red plastic berry bounced to the floor, and she stooped to retrieve it, poking it back into place with care.
Her mother, like most members of her Mennonite congregation, shunned such frivolity. Gabriel of the Bible, the angel who visited the Virgin Mary, probably looked nothing like these gilded collectibles. Nevertheless, the manger scene caused warm puddles to pool deep inside her heart, a secret place of confusing desires that she kept properly disguised, covered with her crisp white blouse and ever-busy hands.
The pine-scented tree occupying the corner of the room moved her with wonder. Not the ornaments, but the twinkling white lights, little dots of hope. The cheery music jingling in the background was not forbidden. She mouthed the words to "Silent Night." In December they often sang the hymn at her meetinghouse. But her singing was interrupted mid-stanza as her employer's gravelly voice brought her out of her reverie. Instinctively, she lowered her arm and whirled.
Mr. Beverly's lips thinned and his white mustache twitched. "Katy. We need to talk." Bands of deep wrinkles creased his forehead. "I have bad news," he said. His petite wife stood at his side, twisting her diamond ring.
Apprehension marched up Katy's neck. Could it be a terminal illness? In their late seventies, the couple kept active for their age, always off on golfing vacations. Katy had grown fond of them. Smiles softened their conversation, and their hands were quick to hand her trusted keys and gifts. They even bought her a sweater for her birthday, made from some heavenly soft fabric. Katy gripped the duster's handle with both hands. "Oh?"
"We're going to have to let you go."
Her jaw gaped. Never had she expected such news. "But ... but I thought you were pleased." Her mind scrambled for some slipup, some blunder.
Mrs. Beverly rushed forward and touched Katy's white sleeve. "No. No. It's nothing like that. Our son wants us to move to Florida." She glanced at her husband. "At our age, it's overdue."
Katy propped the duster against an armchair and smoothed the apron that covered her dark, A-line skirt. "But is this what you want? Is there a problem with your health?"
Mrs. Beverly glanced at the beige shag carpet and back to Katy's face. "Just the usual, but we're not getting any younger." Mr. Beverly squeezed his wife's shoulder. "We'll give you a good reference."
Katy didn't need a reference. She needed a job. This particular job. Her best-paying, two-day-a-week job. To Katy, the tidy, easy-to-clean house classified as a dream job fast becoming a nightmare, if she was to lose it just when the doddy house came up for rent. Forcing a smile, Katy nodded. "I appreciate that. When will you leave?"
"Right away. We're turning the house over to a Realtor. Our son is coming to help us sell some things. There's really no need for you to come again. I'm sorry we couldn't give you more notice. But we are giving you a Christmas bonus."
Katy patted Mrs. Beverly's manicured hand. "Thank you. You have
enough to worry about; don't concern yourself with me." She bit her lip, thinking, I do that well enough for the both of us.
"We'll leave you to your work, then," Mr. Beverly cut in. He nudged his wife's elbow, but she looked regretfully over her shoulder at Katy. "Come along, dear," he urged. Then to Katy, he called, "Your money's on the counter as usual. Please leave us your house key."
"Yes sir," Katy replied, watching them depart through an arched entryway. Mr. Beverly paused under the mistletoe to peck his wife's delicate cheek before they headed out for the mall. The tender gesture gripped Katy. It never ceased to amaze her when folks who never went to church loved like that. At least she assumed they didn't go to church, for she dusted their wine collection, R-rated DVDs, and sexy novel flaps without noticing any evidence of Christianity in their home except for one solitary Bible. It always stayed put, tucked between Pride and Prejudice and Birds of Ohio Field Guide. That's why the Beverlys' consistent kindness and loving behavior was so disturbing.
As usual, anything romantic always reminded Katy of Jake Byler. Growing up, she was sure they'd marry, and because of his daring, often reckless behavior, she had dreamed of sharing an adventuresome life with him. In their teen years, he stared at her with an ardor that melted her toes through her black stockings. He'd give her a dimpled grin or a wink, never embarrassed. Every autumn at the youth hayride, he'd claimed her hand. And after he got his own truck, he took her home from fellowship functions and stole kisses at her back door. She'd always loved him.
Just before he'd graduated from high school, their relationship had started to wilt. Katy grabbed a watering pitcher and marched to Mrs. Beverly's poinsettia. Her employer was as clueless about plants as Katy was about relationships. Had she caused him to become restless and distant?
Without addressing the status of their relationship or so much as an apology, Jake had enrolled at Ohio State University and moved near the campus in Columbus. After that, he often skipped church and always avoided her. Then one fateful evening—the night of the incident—he finally stopped coming to church altogether.
Even though rumors circulated that he drank and dated a wild girl with spiked short hair and a miniskirt, Lil continued to defend her cousin. But Katy deemed Jake Byler spoiled goods. Lumping him in the forbidden pile along with dancing, television, and neckties didn't remove the sting and sorrow, but it did help her deal with the situation.
She heard the Beverlys' car purr out of the drive and glanced out the window at a gray sky that threatened snow. It distressed her that the Beverlys could love like that and not know love's source. Love like the many times since Jake had dumped her when the Lord had noticed her wet pillow and sent her comforting lyrics to a hymn so she could sleep.
"While life's dark maze I tread and griefs around me spread, be Thou my guide...."
The Beverlys had the nativity set; she'd give them that. Her hand slid into her white apron pocket and retrieved a small Christmas card she'd purchased. It had a picture of the nativity scene on the front and a Bible verse inside—John 3:16, her Christmas favorite. But was that enough? She could write something more on the card. Smiling, she drew a pen from a rose-patterned cup.
Katy used her best handwriting. Your love reminds me of God's love. She complimented them on their beautiful nativity set. It reminds me that Jesus died for our sin so that we can spend eternity with God in heaven. If that piqued their curiosity, they might open that dusty Bible. Surely they pondered eternity at their age, especially as they flew south toward their retirement nest.
She set the card in plain sight beside her house key. Then she put the feather duster in a utility closet and returned to the kitchen with paper towels and a spray bottle.
She spritzed the counter with her special homemade solution and polished, musing over her sudden job predicament. What would Lil say if she backed out of their doddy house plans because she could no longer afford it? She buffed a small area until it mirrored her clenched lips. She relaxed her grip. It wouldn't do to rub a hole in Mrs. Beverly's granite countertop right before a Realtor plunked a sign in her yard. Surely the poor old woman had enough to worry about.
* * *
Katy loosened the pressure of her seat belt with her left thumb and flicked on her headlights to stare through the Chevrolet's windshield at the silent twirling flakes. Since the news of her job loss earlier in the day, her stomach had worked itself into to a full boil. She veered off the country road onto a crackling driveway, where golden light streamed through the lacy windows of a white two-story.
Megan lived with her parents on the weekends and during school breaks. Otherwise, she lived on campus at the nearby Rosedale Bible College. As an only child and a tad spoiled, she had her own room where the Three Bean Salad could always meet in perfect privacy.
Katy swept up two identically wrapped gifts, stepped into the bright gray night, and slammed her car door. With her face bowed against the wet onslaught, she watched her shoes cut into freshly laid powder. She climbed the porch steps, giving her black oxfords a tap against each riser. Before she could knock, however, the front door opened.
Megan stood in the doorway, her straight blond hair shimmering down the back of her black sweater, and her blue eyes brilliant and round as the balls on the Beverlys' Christmas tree. Katy stepped into her friend's hug. "Hi, green bean. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Katy."
After being stirred in the same pot for so many years, Katy and her two friends resembled Bean Salad more than any particular bean. Yet of the three girls, Megan's nickname stuck, because it suited her style, tall and beautiful and prone to type term papers on world peace or ecology.
"Look. Lil's here, too."
Sure enough, Katy recognized the cough of Lil's old clunker, a thorn in her friend's pride and due for a trade-in as soon as she could afford it.
Katy followed the aroma of gingerbread and ham through the house to the country-style kitchen. She hugged Megan's mom, Anita, and removed her wool coat. "So where's the blues man?" It was Bill Weaver's nickname because he restored Chevy Novas for a little extra income. But the unusual thing was that he painted them all his favorite color, midnight blue. Some Conservatives drove plain cars, and although they weren't supposed to idolize their vehicles, his lucrative hobby fell within what the church permitted. Anita Weaver started calling him the blues man, and Katy had picked up on it. Since Bill Weaver was a good sport and loved jokes, she never felt she was being disrespectful.
"Bill's at an elders' meeting at church," Anita explained.
"Oh yeah. I think my dad mentioned that."
"Since Bills' gone and you girls are spending the evening together, I thought I'd get a jump on Christmas dinner. We're having all the relatives over." She swiped at a wisp of hair that had escaped her crisp white covering. Anita Weaver spoiled Katy and Lil like they were her own daughters. Fun at heart, she was the most lenient of all their parents, and she didn't sport dark circles under her eyes like Lil's mom.
"Smells good. We're hosting all our relatives Christmas Day, too." It was a marvel that Lil, Megan, and Katy were in no way related, as many from their congregation were in the small farming community. Their family trees might intersect in the old country since they shared the same European Anabaptist roots, but they'd never dug into the matter.
Megan swept into the kitchen with Lil, whose snowy-lashed eyes sparkled when she spotted the plate of gingerbread men. Katy bit back a smile, watching her friend pull up her mental calorie calculator and consider her options.
"Hi, Lil." Katy squeezed her friend. "You can diet tomorrow."
"Nope." She flipped the hood of her coat back, revealing shiny, nut-colored hair pulled back at the temples and fastened with a silver barrette beneath her covering. "Not a day until January."
Megan picked up the plate of temptations and motioned for them to follow her up to her room. "Not the whole tray," Lil moaned, shrugging out of her coat, but Katy knew she didn't mean a word of it.
"I'll bring up hot chocolate," Anita Weaver called up the stairwell after them.
When they'd sprawled across the Dahlia coverlet Megan's grandmother had quilted, Katy felt the butterflies in her stomach again. A night purposed for celebration, set aside for exchanging simple gifts and planning their future in Miller's doddy house, now pressed her secret heavily against her heart.
"Let's open our gifts," Megan suggested. They shifted and jostled until they each sat cross-legged with two gifts in front of them. Lil tore into hers first.
Shedding the dignity due her age—she was the oldest of the three by a few months, Katy followed suit. Gifts always stirred up a vestige of childlike excitement that stemmed back to her first store-bought doll. "It's gorgeous." She worked the hinge of the walnut recipe box.
"A cousin made them for me," Lil quipped.
Jake? Katy's protective instincts reared. She cast Lil an apprehensive glance, but she was tossing crumpled wrapping paper across the room, aiming for the trash can. Surely not, Katy dismissed. Inside was a handwritten recipe for Three Bean Salad, a twist from the norm with Lil's special ingredient. She always tweaked ingredients, especially intrigued by spices and herbs. Recently graduated from culinary school, Lil had been working for a month at her first real job at a small Italian restaurant. This set the course for the girls to consider renting the Miller's doddy house. Emotion balled up in Katy's throat.
"I'll keep adding to the recipes," Lil promised.
"Perfect," Megan clapped. "Now open mine."
She had embroidered pillowcases for them with roses and a Bible verse. Ephesians 4:26 read, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath."
Katy smiled. "A good reminder." If any of us ever got married. She watched them open the gifts she'd made. "They're lame," she apologized.
"No they're not." Megan jumped off the bed and tied the apron's strings, sashaying across the pine floor and sliding her hand in between each row of decorative stitching. "Wow. Six pockets."
Katy wished she'd done something meaningful or clever. Always the practical one. This was the third year they'd exchanged gifts for their hope chests, another reminder of the vow to be each other's bridesmaids. At the moment, the first part of the vow—the moving in together part—worried her most. She hated to ruin their doddy house dreams. It couldn't be helped. Katy swallowed. "I need to tell you both something."
Lil and Megan turned expectant gazes toward her.
"Did you girls pray for a white Christmas?" Anita Weaver interrupted, carrying a tray of hot chocolate into the room. Lil dove into the treat, and the conversation turned to the snowfall and how special it would make Christmas, drawing everyone to the window.
Anxious thoughts disquieted Katy's mind, but she pushed them aside. Her personal problem was small stuff compared to the miracle of Christmas. She followed the others to the window and made a spur-of-the-moment decision that she wouldn't ruin the spell of Christmas. The news could wait.
Outside, the flakes swirled like little, white feather dusters, turning everything sparkling white. Lil pressed her forehead against the cold windowpane and knocked her prayer covering askew. "Remember when we used to make snow angels?"
Involuntarily touching her own covering, Katy grinned. "I remember."CHAPTER 2
At four o'clock, Katy was late. The Three Bean Salad had agreed to look over the doddy house as soon as possible after Christmas. Squinting from the glare of sun and snow, Katy hurried around the east side of the Millers' farmhouse and headed toward the little doddy house.
Doddy houses were built for the older Amish folks after their younger family members took over the main house, what the outsiders called guesthouses. She doubted the Beverlys' son had such a sweet arrangement waiting for them. Katy sighed, and a visible puff of breath dispersed into the cold air. This one, a miniature version of the larger house, was picturesque with a snowy porch railing and a glazed blue roof. In shades of white and gray, the doddy house and its surroundings created a peaceful aura similar to a black-and-white photograph of an older era. It probably wouldn't remain that way long, once renovations began. If renovations began, Katy corrected herself.
A window with dark green window shades, partly rolled up, revealed activity inside. She stepped onto a little porch and up to a door cracked ajar. Taking another visible breath, this time for fortification, she pushed the door open.
"Hey, Katy." Lil waved with a joyful bounce.
"Hi, Lil." Trying to act enthused, Katy nodded at Megan and the newly married couple from their church. This was a mistake. She didn't want to get the Millers' hopes up and waste their time.
Excerpted from Something Old by Dianne Christner. Copyright © 2011 Dianne Christner. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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