It never failed to amaze Sadie Lapp how the most ordinary day could be catapulted into the extraordinary in the blink of an eye. She was still a little dazed. She couldn’t shake the feeling that it seemed her whole life had been leading to this particular moment. She had a strange sense that this day had come into her life to change her, to change everything.
But that didn’t mean she felt calm and relaxed. Just the opposite. She felt like a homemade sweater unraveling inch by inch. As she caught her first glimpse of Windmill Farm, she hoped that, maybe, things could get straightened out, once she reached home.
Sadie had spent the winter in Berlin, Ohio, helping Julia and Roman, her sister and brother-in-law, settle into Rome’s childhood home. A part of every day was spent shadowing Deborah Yoder, an elderly Old Order Amish woman who was known as a healer. Knowing of Sadie’s interest in healing herbs, Rome arranged a meeting with Deborah that resulted in a part-time job. A part of Sadie wished she could have spent years studying and watching the wise old woman.
But last week, Sadie woke and knew she needed to return home. When Sadie told Julia, her sister’s face fell with disappointment. She had expected Sadie to stay through the summer and tried to talk her out of leaving. But Old Deborah understood. “The wisest people I know,” she had told Sadie, “learn to listen to those hunches.”
The taxi swerved suddenly, jerking Sadie out of her muse. A few more curves in the road and she would be at Windmill Farm. She hoped the family was there for her homecoming. Wouldn’t it be sad to try to surprise everyone, only to arrive to an empty house?
Maybe she should have called first, to let her father know she was coming. But he would have asked her why she was changing her plans and she didn’t want to say. Maybe she should have at least tipped off Fern, their housekeeper. The one person she knew she couldn’t confide in was Mary Kate, her twelve-going-on-thirty-year-old sister. It was well known that M.K. liked to babble and tell. She was the self-appointed bearer of all news—truth or otherwise.
Sadie gazed out the window. Coming home felt harder than she thought it would be. The family was much smaller now. It would be quieter without Rome and Julia. Without her brother, Menno. Even Lulu, Menno’s dog, was living with Rome and Julia now. Sadie leaned her head on the back of the seat and closed her eyes for a moment, remembering. They used to be a family with a mom and a dad, three sisters and a brother, and crazy Uncle Hank. Pretty normal.
Until her mom passed and her dad, Amos, developed heart trouble. Then Uncle Hank found a housekeeper in The Budget. The sisters secretly called her Stern Fern. She took some time to warm up to, but she was just what the Lapp family needed. Sadie would have to add the Bee Man to the “just what we needed” list too. When Roman Troyer came to live at Windmill Farm last summer, life took a happy upturn.
For Julia, especially.
But then Menno died in a terrible accident and his heart was given to his father. Everything changed again.
They weren’t a normal family anymore. Julia had married Rome and moved to Ohio. And wasn’t that also the way life went? Sadie thought, moving the basket beside her out of the direct sun. One minute you felt like laughing, and the next thing you knew, you were crying. She glanced at the basket. Would she ever feel normal again?
As the taxi passed along the road that paralleled Windmill Farm, Sadie scanned the fields, horrified. Dozens of cars were parked along the road. Near the barn, horses and buggie were stacked side by side. The amount of people up there looked like ants at a picnic. There was even a television van with a large satellite dish on top, like a giant sunflower turning to the sky. She unrolled the car window to get a better look. What on earth was going on?
She told the taxi driver to pull over at the base of the hill rather than go up the drive. After paying the driver, she stood by Julia’s roadside stand, a small suitcase flanking her on one side, an oval-shaped basket on the other, a small box in her hand. She wasn’t quite sure what to do next. The thought of walking up that hill into a crowd of strangers mortified her. Strangers were on Sadie’s avoid-at-all-costs list. She was shy to the point of sickness among strangers. When she was out in town, she almost swooned with fear.
Why had she let the taxi drive off? Why hadn’t she called her father first, to let him know she was on her way from Ohio and to find out what was going on at home?
What was going on at home?