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A year ago, Mary Katherine wouldn't have imagined she'd be here. Back then, she'd been helping her parents on the family farm and hating every minute of it.
Now, she stood at the front window of Stitches in Time, her grandmother's shop, watching the Englischers moving about on the sidewalks outside the shop in Paradise. Even on vacation, they rushed about with purpose. She imagined them checking off the places they'd visited: Drive by an Amish farmhouse. Check. Buy a quilt and maybe some knitting supplies to try making a sweater when I get back home. Check.
She liked the last item. The shop had been busy all morning, but now, as people started getting hungry, they were patronizing the restaurants that advertised authentic Amish food and ticking off another item on their vacation checklist. Shoofly pie. Amish pretzels. Chowchow. Check.
"Don't you worry, they'll be back," Leah, her grandmother, called out.
Smiling, Mary Katherine turned. "I know."
She wandered back to the center of the shop, set up like the comfortable parlor of an Amish farmhouse. Chairs were arranged in a circle around a quilting frame. Bolts of fabric of every color and print imaginable were stacked on shelves on several walls, spools of matching threads on another.
And yarn. There were skeins and skeins of the stuff. Mary Katherine loved running her hands over the fluffy fibers, feeling the textures of cotton and wool and silk. Some of the new yarns made from things like soybeans and corn just didn't feel the same when you knitted them or wove them into patterns— but some people made a fuss over them because they were made of something natural, plant-based, or more sustainable.
Mary Katherine thought it was a little strange to be using vegetables you ate to make clothes but once she got her hands on the yarns, she was impressed. Tourists were, too. They used terms like "green" and "ecological" and didn't mind spending a lot of money to buy them. And was it so much different to use vegetables when people had been taking oily, smelly wool from sheep and turning it into garments for people—silk from silkworms—that sort of thing?
"You have that look on your face again," her grandmother said.
"That serious, thoughtful look of yours. Tell me what you're thinking of."
"Working on my loom this afternoon."
"I figured you had itchy fingers." Her grandmother smiled.
She sighed. "I'm so glad you rescued me from working at the farm. And Dat not understanding about my weaving."
Leah nodded. "Some people need time to adjust."
Taking one of the chairs that was arranged in a circle around the quilt her grandmother and Naomi worked on, Mary Katherine propped her chin in her hand, her elbow on the arm of the chair. "It'd be a lot easier if I knitted or quilted."
Leah looked at her, obviously suppressing a smile. "You have never liked 'easy,' Mary Katherine."
Laughing, she nodded. "You're right."
Looking at Naomi and Anna, her cousins aged twenty and twenty-three, was like looking into a mirror, thought Mary Katherine. The three of them could have been sisters, not cousins. They had a similar appearance—oval faces, their hair center-parted and tucked back under snowy white kapps, and slim figures. Naomi and Anna had even chosen dresses of a similar color, one that reminded Mary Katherine of morning glories. In her rush out the door, Mary Katherine had grabbed the first available dress and now felt drab and dowdy in the brown dress she'd chosen.
Yes, they looked much alike, the three of them.
Until Mary Katherine stood. She'd continued growing after it seemed that everyone else had stopped. Now, at 5'8", she felt like a skinny beanpole next to her cousins. She felt awkward next to the young men she'd gone to school with. Although she knew it was wrong, there had been times when she'd secretly wished that God had made her petite and pretty like her cousins. And why had he chosen to give her red hair and freckles? Didn't she have enough she didn't like about her looks without that?
Like their looks, their personalities seemed similar on the surface. The three of them appeared calm and serene— especially Naomi. Anna tried to be, but it didn't last long. She was too mischievous.
And herself? Serenity seemed hard these days. In the past several years, Mary Katherine had been a little moody but lately it seemed her moods were going up and down like a road through rolling hills.
"Feeling restless?" Naomi asked, looking at her with concern. Nimbly, she tied a knot, snipped the thread with a scissors, then slid her needle into a pincushion.
Anna looked up from her knitting needles. "Mary Katherine was born restless."
"I think I'll take a short walk."
"No," Leah said quickly, holding up a hand. "Let's eat first, then you can take a walk. Otherwise you'll come back and customers will be here for the afternoon rush and you'll start helping and go hungry."
Mary Katherine was already mentally out the door, but she nodded her agreement. "You're right, of course."
Leah was a tall, spare woman who didn't appear old enough to be anyone's grandmother. Her face was smooth and unlined, and there wasn't a trace of gray in her hair, which she wore like her granddaughters.
"I made your favorite," Leah told Mary Katherine.
"Fried chicken? You made fried chicken? When did you have time to do that?"
Nodding, Leah tucked away her sewing supplies, and stood. "Before we came to work this morning. It didn't take long." She turned to Naomi. "And I made your favorite."
Naomi had been picking up stray strands of yarn from the wood floor. She looked up, her eyes bright. "Macaroni and cheese?"
"Oatmeal and raisin cookies?" Anna wanted to know. When her grandmother nodded, Anna set down her knitting needles and stood. "Just how early did you get up? Are you having trouble sleeping?"
"No earlier than usual," Leah replied cheerfully. "I made the macaroni and cheese and the cookies last night. But I don't need as much sleep as some other people I know."
"Can you blame me for sleeping in a little later?" Mary Katherine asked. "After all of those years of helping with farm chores? Besides, I was working on a design last night."
"Tell us all about it while we eat," Naomi said, glancing at the clock. "We won't have long before customers start coming in again."
"I worry about Grandmother," Anna whispered to Mary Katherine as they walked to the back room. "She does too much."
"She's always been like this."
"Yes, but she's getting older."
"Shh, don't be saying that around her!"
Leah turned. "Did somebody say something?"
"Anna said she's hungry," Mary Katherine said quickly. "And wondering how you picked a favorite when everything you make is her favorite."
Anna poked Mary Katherine in the ribs but everyone laughed because it was true. What was amazing was that no matter how much Anna ate, she never gained weight.
Nodding, Leah continued toward the back room. "We'll have it on the table in no time."
Anna grabbed Mary Katherine's arm, stopping her. "Shame on you," she hissed. "You know it's wrong to lie." Then she shook her head. "What am I saying? You've done so much worse!"
"Me? I have not! I can't imagine what you're talking about."
Turning so that her grandmother wouldn't see, Anna lifted her fingers to her lips and mimed smoking a cigarette.
Mary Katherine blushed. "You've been spying on me."
"Food's ready!" Leah called.
"Don't you dare tell her!" Mary Katherine whispered.
Anna's eyes danced. "What will you give me if I don't?"
She stared at her cousin. "I don't have anything—"
"Your afternoon off," Anna said suddenly. "That's what I'll take in trade."
Before she could respond, Anna hurried into the back room. Exasperated, Mary Katherine could do nothing but follow her.
The minute they finished eating, Mary Katherine jumped up and hurried over to wash her dishes. "I'll be right back," she promised, tying her bonnet on the run as she left the store.
Winter's chill was in the air. She shivered a little but didn't want to go back for her shawl. She shrugged. Once she got moving, she'd be warm enough.
She felt the curious stares as if she were being touched.
But that was okay. Mary Katherine was doing a lot of staring of her own. She had a great deal of curiosity about the Englisch and didn't mind admitting it.
She just hoped that her grandmother didn't know how much she'd thought about becoming one of them, of not being baptized into the Amish church.
As one of the tourists walked past, a pretty woman about her own age, Mary Katherine wondered what it felt like being covered in so little clothing. She suspected she'd feel half-naked in that dress she'd heard called a sundress. Although some of the tourists looked surprised when she and her cousins wore bright colors, the fact was that the Ordnung certainly didn't mandate black dresses.
Color had always been part of Mary Katherine's world. She'd loved all the shades of blue because they reminded her of the big blue bowl of the sky. Her father had complained that she didn't get her chores done in a timely manner because she was always walking around ... noticing. She noticed everything around her, absorbed the colors and textures, and spent hours using them in her designs that didn't look like the quilts and crafts other Amish women created.
She paused at the display window of Stitches in Time. A wedding ring quilt that Naomi had sewn was draped over a quilt rack. Anna had knitted several darling little cupcake hats for babies to protect their heads and ears from the cold. And there was her own woven throw made of many different fibers and textures and colors of burnt orange, gold, brown, and green. All echoed the theme of the colder seasons, of the weddings that would come after summer harvests.
And all were silent testament to Leah's belief in the creativity of her granddaughters, thought Mary Katherine with a smile. The shop featured the traditional crafts tourists might expect but also the new directions the cousins came up with.
It was the best of both worlds Mary Katherine said to herself as she ventured out into the throng of tourists lining the sidewalks.
* * *
Jacob saw Mary Katherine exit her grandmother's shop. His timing was perfect because he'd heard from a secret source what time they took a break to eat at the shop during the day.
He watched her stop to gaze at the display window and she smiled—the smile that had attracted him to her. Oh, she was pretty with those big blue eyes and soft skin with a blush of rose over her cheekbones. But her smile.
She hadn't always smiled like that. He started noticing it just a few months ago, after the shop had opened. It was as if she'd come to life. He'd passed by the shop one day a couple of weeks ago and stopped to glance inside, and he'd seen her working at her loom, a look of absorption on her face, a quiet smile on her lips.
Something had moved in his chest then, a feeling he hadn't had before. He'd resolved to figure this out.
He hadn't been in a rush to marry. It had been enough to take over the family farm, to make sure he didn't undo all the hard work that his daed had done to make it thrive. He didn't feel pride that he'd continued its success. After all, Plain people felt hochmut was wrong. In school, they had often practiced writing the proverb, "Der Hochmut kummt vor dem Fall." Pride goeth before the fall.
But the farm, its continuity, its legacy for the family he wanted one day ... that was important to him. To have that family, he knew he'd have to find a fraa. It was important to find the right one. After all, Plain people married for life. So he'd looked around but he had taken his time. He likened the process to a crop—you prepared the ground, planted the right seed, nurtured it, asked God's blessing, and then harvested at the right moment.
Such things took time.
Sometimes they even took perseverance. She had turned him down when he'd approached her and asked her out.
He decided not to let that discourage him.
She turned from the window and began walking down the sidewalk toward him. Look at her, he thought, walking with that bounce to her step. Look at the way she glanced around, taking in everything with such animation, such curiosity.
He waited for some sign of recognition, but she hadn't seen him yet. When they'd attended school, their teacher had often gently chided her for staring out the classroom window or doodling designs on a scrap of paper for the weaving she loved.
Mary Katherine moved through the sea of Englisch tourists on the sidewalk that parted for her when she walked as the waters had for Moses. He watched how they glanced at her the way she did them.
It was a mutual curiosity at its best.
He walked toward her, and when she stopped and blinked, he grinned.
"Jacob! What are you doing here?"
"You make it sound like I never come to town."
"I don't remember ever seeing you do it."
"I needed some supplies, and things are slower now with the harvest in. Have you eaten?" He'd found out from Anna when they took their noontime break, but he figured it was a good conversational device.
"Yes. We ate a little early at the shop."
He thought about that. Maybe he should have planned better. "I see. Well, how about having supper with me tonight?"
"Did you come all the way into town to ask me out?"
Jacob drew himself up. "Yes."
"But I've told you before—"
"That you're not interested in going out."
"But I haven't heard of you going out with anyone else."
She stared at him, oblivious of the people who streamed around them on the sidewalk. "Who did you ask?"
Her direct stare was unnerving. His collar felt tight, but he knew if he pulled it away from his neck he'd just appear guilty. "I'd have heard."
"I'm not interested in dating, Jacob."
When she started past him, he put out his hand to stop her. She looked down at his hand on her arm and then met his gaze. "Is it you're not interested in dating or you're not interested in dating me?"
Her lips quirked. "I'm not interested in dating. It's not you."
She began walking again.
"Do you mind if I walk with you?"
"Schur." She glanced at him. "Can you keep up?"
He found himself grinning. She was different from other young women he knew, more spirited and independent.
"Where are we going?"
She shrugged. "Nowhere in particular. I just needed to get out and get some fresh air."
Stopping at a shop window, she studied its display of tourist souvenirs. "Did you ever think about not staying here? In Paradise?"
"Not stay here? Where would you go?"
She turned to look at him and shrugged. "I don't know. It's a big world out there."
Jacob felt a chill race up his spine. "You can't mean it," he said slowly. "You belong here."
"Do I?" she asked. Pensive, she stared at the people passing. "Sometimes I'm not sure where I belong."
He took her shoulders and turned her to face the shop window. "This is where you belong," he told her.
She looked at the image of herself reflected in the glass as he directed. He liked the way they looked together in the reflection. She was a fine Amish woman, with a quiet beauty he'd admired for some time. He'd known her in school and, of course, they'd attended Sunday services and singings and such through the years. He hadn't been in a rush to get married, and he'd noticed she hadn't been, either. Both of them had been working hard, he at his farm, she in the shop she and her grandmother and cousins owned.
He began noticing her shortly after the shop opened for business. There was a different air about her. She seemed more confident, happier than she'd been before.
He reminded himself that she'd said she didn't date.
So why, he asked himself, was he trying again? Taking a deep breath, he turned to her. "Mary Katherine—"
"Jacob!" a man called.
He turned and saw a man striding toward him, a newcomer to the Plain community.
Though the man hailed him, his attention was clearly on Mary Katherine. He held out his hand. "Daniel Kurtz," he said. "Remember me?"
Excerpted from Stitches in Time Bundle, Her Restless Heart, Hearts Journey & Heart in Hand by Barbara Cameron. Copyright © 2012 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted February 27, 2014
This is a wonderful series! These young women struggle with the universal issues facing all women today. I found the characters to be well developed and very believable, with an incredible insight to the Amish way of life. I will definitely read more by this author.
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