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Secrets of Willow Springs

Secrets of Willow Springs

Chapter 1

June 2017

Emma sat in the far corner of her parent’s porch protected from the rain and hidden from the watchful eye of her datt. Leaning her head against the back of the chair, she tried to remember when her datt started to act so strange. He told her again that morning that under no circumstances was she to go anywhere without him or her mamm.

Sitting back up in her chair, she petted Someday on his head and wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered. “I can always count on you to be glad to see me.” Listening to the sound of the rain on the roof was just what she needed to calm her anxiety over staying out of her datt’s way.

It was just about as soothing as working in the garden. She loved the feel of the warm soil in her hands and enjoyed tending to the gardens around the farm. The purple and white pansies along the picket fence were in full bloom, and she smiled at how they looked as if they were welcoming the spring rain. Closing her eyes again, she leaned back and replayed the conversation she had had with her datt at breakfast.

“Do you know what today is?”
“A canning day,” her mamm said as she put a plate of pancakes in the middle of the table. “We have three baskets of strawberries waiting for us on the back porch.”
“That too, but it’s June 17, and it’s just thirty more days until my birthday.”
She turned toward her datt. “I thought you might let me go to the market with the girls this morning.”
“Didn’t your mamm just say you were helping with strawberries?” “Ja, but I thought just this once you might let me go.”
“Well, you thought wrong.”

She knew better than to argue and just went back to her breakfast, feeling defeated again by his sharp tone.

The sound of the sliding barn door startled her, and she opened her eyes and looked across the yard. Matthew, her bruder, was in the barn tending to a sick calf. He was standing in the doorway as if he was looking for a break in the rain to make it back to the house.

She leaned back and thought how rare it was to be enjoying such a long break from her Saturday chores. They had been making jam all morning, and the smell of strawberries was still thick in the air. They had just come upstairs from the basement kitchen when her datt came storming through the kitchen door. She hadn’t even gotten a chance to pour a glass of meadow tea before her mamm shooed her outside.

Stella pulled a chair out so Jacob could sit down. She glanced to make sure Emma had left the room and grabbed Jacob’s hand and started to rub it lovingly. “What’s the matter?” she asked as she handed him a glass of tea. “I don’t understand how three orders got mixed up, the lumber delivery delayed, and why Matthew has another sick calf.”
“Let Kathryn worry about the orders, and Matthew will figure out what the problem is in the barn. You need to quit letting these little things upset you so.”

He knew she was right, but it was getting harder and harder to control his anxiety. When silence fell between them, Stella looked into his eyes and saw the same fear she saw six months ago, when the letter and the newspaper article came from his schwester in Ohio. “This has nothing to do with the orders, does it?”

He hung his head and started to rub the back of his neck with his free hand. “I have a notion this has more to do with Emma’s birthday than anything else. When she mentioned her birthday this morning, I saw that panicked look in your eyes. I pray Gott will give us direction and show us what we need to do. He won’t let us down, Jacob. There’s nothing we can do to protect Emma other than put our faith in the Lord. He gave her to us to protect, and we need to have faith that He’ll help her with the choices she soon needs to make.”

Jacob leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and said, “I know He’ll watch over her, but we’re running out of time. No matter how hard I try to keep her close, I think what I’m really doing is pushing her away. I promised Walter, before he died, I’d tell her the truth when she turned sixteen.”

“Jacob, we knew this day would come, and I’m as worried as you are. But what good are we doing by forbidding her to leave the haus? When she turns sixteen and starts her rumshpringa, there’s nothing we can do but let her make her own choices. What are you afraid of?”
“I’m afraid she won’t want to stay with us once she learns the truth.”

Stella leaned in closer and laid her head against his while she recited one of her favorite Bible verses, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Emma felt protected in the corner of the porch where she couldn’t be seen. Across the yard, she spotted her bruder again. Matthew was five years older and took care of the farm, while her datt tended to the furniture shop. Matthew kept to himself, and the only friend she knew he had was Daniel Miller from the feed store. She had been sure Sarah Mast would end up being her sister-in-law, but she moved to Ohio suddenly last year. Matthew never mentioned her name and spent most of his days in the barn with those calves.

As she continued to enjoy her solitude, she heard the clip-clop announcing her schwester’s wagon as it turned down the long driveway.

Her datt’s mood was getting worse, and she noticed the change in him every time she entered the room. Just yesterday, she asked her mamm again if he was upset with her about something, and her mamm just assured her she was just imagining it. Lately, she sensed she frustrated her datt to no end. She often felt him glare at her, always followed by him rubbing his hand along the scar that lined his face from his temple to his chin. She wished she understood his sudden reaction to her, and she vowed to stay out of his way the best she could. She had to believe the scar on his face had something to do with it, but lately, no one could break through his icy, cold stare but her sweet mamm. Years ago, she tried to get them to explain the scar, but they told her it was doings of the past and nothing would be gained by talking about it.

As Emma rocked in her favorite chair, she suddenly remembered the strawberry flower Samuel Yoder had picked and quietly passed to her without a word yesterday. Him on one side of the row, and her on the other, their fingers often brushed as they reached to pick the ripest berry. On one of her last reaches, he slipped the little white flower into the palm of her hand. When she looked up, he acted like he had done nothing out of the ordinary. As quickly as he passed the flower, he rolled one of his corny jokes off his lips. “What do you call a cow that has the jitters?”
She put the flower in her apron pocket without mentioning it and said, “I don’t know. What do you call a cow with the jitters?”

“Beef jerky!” Samuel laughed at his own joke and got up and carried his full basket to the wagon at the end of the row. No words were needed, and the silent connection and joyful way he had at making her laugh was all she needed. As soon as she got home, she placed the delicate small flower in her special memories box.

Samuel was two years older and was already attending Sunday night singeons. She smiled at the thought of being able to attend next month. Samuel’s sister Katie, and her best friend would turn sixteen two days after her, and they looked forward to going together. They had been best friends since they learned to walk and spent every spring picking berries and every summer playing in the creek. From the time they could carry a basket, they’d been crawling through the berry patches together.

The Yoders’ farm butted up against their farm, dividing the two properties with a line of sugar maple trees. Emma and Katie’s mamm had both grown up together and were best friends for as long as either of them could remember. Emma’s parents had inherited the farm when her doddi died twenty years earlier. Emma’s datt grew up in Sugarcreek, Ohio, and moved to Willow Springs to apprentice with doddi when he was seventeen. That was all Emma knew about her datt ’s past. He never spoke of his childhood or any of his family in Holmes County and never about the scar on his face.

The rain had stopped, and the sun was starting to peek through the clouds when she heard the screen door slam. Shortly after, she saw her datt walk across the yard to the wood shop, she heard her mamm ’s fingers tap on the window behind her, signaling for her to come back inside.

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You have a wealth of information about the Amish. I am so glad that you share this with the multitude of us who do not. I am dismayed by the huge addiction to anything electronic. I miss direct communication; phone calls, letters. I do not do well with texts and messages on my cell phone. I own the phone. It does not own me. No, I do not check it. I carry it because it is great for an emergency. All pay phones have disappeared. I have had limited experience with the Amish. I admire their courage to follow their convictions. I am amazed by their ability to forgive! I was raised to value hard work and a job well done. The Amish have this down. The more I learn about them, the more I admire them. Please keep up the good work!

Noreen McCafferty

Stories that put an emphasis on God, Family, and Community.