"Why does everything have to be so complicated?" Madison shook her Blackberry at her mom as she entered the Manhattan penthouse. "I'm sick of it! Sick of the stress --- sick of everyone pushing and pulling on me. I can't take it anymore!"
"Calm down." Her mom set what looked like a new Falchi handbag on the side table. Tossing her cashmere cloak onto a chair, she strolled into the living room and gracefully settled herself on the sofa with a calculated smile. "Tell me what's going on, dear, and I'll see if I can fix it."
"You cannot fix it." Madison folded her arms across her front. "You are part of it."
"Oh, Madison, are you still complaining about spring break? Do you know how many girls would love to be in your shoes?" Her mom's brows arched as she nodded to Madison's feet. "By the way, aren't those my Manolos?"
"You can have them." Madison kicked off the wedge sandals and flopped down on the ottoman with a loud groan. "I would rather go shoeless than be controlled by you or anyone else. I'm serious, Mom. I'm sick of it. Sick of everyone telling me where to go and what to do, and how they're planning my future for me."
Her mom's smile was fading fast. "Don't be such a drama queen. Honestly, I never heard anyone complain as much as you do . . . over nothing."
"Nothing?" Madison stood up. "You and Grandma keep pressuring me to give up spring break to go to Tuscany with you --- so I can hang with a bunch of old people." She rolled her eyes. "And Vivian insists I must go to Palm Beach with her and her family. Plus I've got Garret pushing me just to stay home and do some things in the city." She held up her Blackberry. "Now Dad calls up and tells me he's decided that it's time for a father-daughter bonding vacation, which is really a thinly disguised excuse for visiting Harvard --- "
"What?" Her mom leaned forward. "Are you serious?"
Madison nodded. "He wants me to come to Boston to stay with him. He said we can spend some time on campus and meet his --- "
"Harvard?" Her mom grabbed her handbag and jerked out her phone. "Your father knows good and well that you are going to Yale, Madison, and if he thinks he can waltz in and --- "
"Please, don't call him, Mom." Madison paced back and forth, sorry she'd even brought this up. "That will just make everything worse."
"Your father cannot start dragging Harvard into the college conversation. Not at this stage of the game. We've already been all over this, and he knows --- "
"See!" Madison stopped pacing and held her hands up. "This is what I'm talking about. Everyone is treating me like I'm five years old, or like they think I'm their puppet!"
"Oh, Madison!" Her mom looked seriously irritated now. "Just grow up."
So much for the "I can fix it" spiel.
"I wish everyone would just leave me alone." Madison hurried to her room, and just as her mom began speaking into the phone, she slammed the door behind her. Immature, yes, but if everyone was going to treat her like a child, she might as well act like one.
She went into her bathroom, closing and locking the door, trying to get as far away from her mother as possible. For a long moment, she stood in front of the mirror over the sink, just staring blankly. On the outside, she looked like the typical spoiled little rich girl. Impeccably dressed, long and sleek blonde hair with roots that looked natural, clear skin, blue eyes, good teeth --- her mother was right, lots of girls would like to be Madison. Just not Madison! Sometimes it felt like she'd been born into the wrong family . . . or the wrong century.
As if to remind her that this was the twenty-first century, her Blackberry rang again. As badly as she wanted to flush the stupid phone down the toilet, she saw that it was her best friend. Weren't BFFs supposed to be understanding? Madison could use a little understanding right now.
"Hey, Viv," she said in a forced cheerful tone.
"Why didn't you call me back?" Vivian demanded. "My parents are already on their way to the airport. Are you coming with us or not?"
"I can't, Vivian."
"Can't?" Vivian's voice grew shrill. "Don't you mean won't?"
Madison attempted to explain all the pressure on her just now, including her dad's Harvard plan, but Vivian cut her off.
"That means I'll be stuck down there all by myself, Madison. Do you know how boring that's going to be?"
"Oh, I'm sure you'll find someone to entertain you." Madison wasn't surprised that, as usual, her friend was primarily thinking of herself. It was like Vivian hadn't even heard her. One more reason Madison was relieved to pass on Florida. "Anyway, have fun down there, Viv. If I change my mind, I'll
call you, okay?"
"Yeah, right!" Vivian hung up.
"Great." Madison flopped on her bed and tried to figure out just when life had gotten so complicated. Wasn't being seventeen supposed to be fun and carefree? And spring break --- wasn't that supposed to be, like . . . a break?
Madison could hear her mom's voice now --- loud and angry. She was obviously talking to Madison's dad (aka Mom's ex) on the phone, and she was obviously enraged over this Harvard development. Madison wrapped a down pillow over her ears, attempting to block out the sound. It took her straight back to childhood, to times when Mom and Dad could fight like this for hours. Why had she even mentioned Dad and Harvard to Mom? No good would come out of it for anyone.
A part of Madison was tempted to do what she used to do --- just give in to keep the peace. Except that giving in was probably what had gotten her to this feeling of frustration in the first place. No, she decided, no one was going to stick up for Madison except Madison. The sooner they all figured that out, the better it would be.
The truth was she didn't want to go to any of the Ivy League schools. Not Yale or Harvard. If Madison could have it her way, which was highly unlikely, she would rather go to college in Colorado or Oregon or somewhere equally remote --- someplace different from here. A school that valued things like individuality and creativity and respecting nature and living green --- and not the green of the almighty dollar either. Not that anyone was listening to her . . . or cared. All this stress over spring break seemed like the tip of the iceberg to her. Like a bad omen --- as if the pressures in her life would only get worse if she didn't resist.
"Madison?" It was Mom, and she was trying to make her voice sound sweet and kind --- enticing. It was a familiar tone.
"What?" Madison called back in an irate voice.
"I need to speak to you, dear. May I come in?"
"I don't care." Madison knew it was useless to say no.
Her mom came in and sat down in the lounge chair by the window. Crossing her legs, she leaned back and smiled. "I tried to talk some sense into your father, although I'm not sure it's possible. That man can be such a mule."
Despite feeling slightly relieved that Mom was dealing with Dad, Madison was tempted to tell her to butt out and that she'd deal with it herself. Even if it made no sense, a part of Madison wanted to argue with her mom, to declare that maybe she did want to spend the week with her dad and maybe she did want to go to Harvard. Not that that was true, but what if it was?
She knew that was nuts. Plus she didn't have the energy to go there right now. She was so tired of conflict.
Her mom cleared her throat. "Now, I need to know what you've decided to do for spring break."
Madison groaned. She considered the family vacation homes. Maybe if they weren't already rented out, she could sneak off to one of them.
"You know Grandmother Marabella isn't getting any younger," Mom continued. "She would very much like you to join us in Tuscany." She smiled in a catty way. "I know she wants to show you off, darling."
Madison sat up. "What if I don't want to be shown off?"
Her mom waved her hand. "Madison, what is going on with you? I thought you'd outgrown teenage angst by now. Is it PMS?"
Madison let out an exasperated sigh.
"It's just that you seem so touchy lately," her mom continued. "You're taking everything so personally --- "
"Personally?" Madison frowned. "It's my life. Isn't it supposed to be personal? Maybe the idea of Grandma Marabella parading me around in front of her old friends feels a little personal to me."
"Why not just humor her, darling? You know you're her favorite, and you know she'll probably leave much of her fortune to you. Why not cater to her whims for once?"
For once? Madison stood up and began pacing again. How many times had Madison given in to various members of her family? Try always. How many times had she heard her mom say this --- like she thought money was the answer to every single question?
"What if I don't want to cater to anyone's whims, Mom? What if I don't even want Grandma Marabella's fortune? What if I want a different kind of life altogether?"
Her mom laughed. "A different kind of life? You mean a life without money? Seriously, Madison, what kind of life would that be?"
"It would be a life of my own."
Her mom stood, looking directly at Madison. "You want a life separate from your family? A life with no trust fund, no inheritance, no credit cards, allowance, college tuition, or expense accounts? Do you really think you could make it on your own, Madison?"
"What I need to know" --- her mom's voice was getting that sharp edge again --- "is whether or not you'll be going with us to Italy. Yes or no?"
"No." Madison braced herself for the fit that would follow.
Her mom took in a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds. "Fine." She narrowed her eyes. "But just so you know, if you stay home, your father will be calling. He will expect you to come up to Boston."
"I'll deal with it." Madison turned away.
"Have it your way." Her mom's voice was icy. "I will inform your grandmother of your decision." This was followed by the clicking of high heels across the hardwood floor and the solid closing of her bedroom door --- a sound of finality.
Madison questioned herself --- what if she'd made a mistake? Should she run out and tell her mother she was sorry and that she was willing to go to Tuscany after all? Besides, if staying home meant dealing with Dad and Garret --- plus she knew Vivian wouldn't let her off the hook --- what was
Madison knew that Dad wouldn't give up on Harvard easily. She could hear it in his voice this morning. Garret would continue to pressure her to forgive him for yesterday and to go to his parents' vacant beach house. Viv would probably call every hour and text every few minutes in an attempt to entice, guilt, or coerce Madison into flying down to join her. Eventually one of them (Dad, Garret, or Viv) would wear Madison down, and she would cave. Right now, caving was what her mother expected too. Mom was probably just waiting for Madison to slink out and sheepishly backtrack,
recant . . . apologize.
"Not this time," Madison whispered as she went over to the window. Looking out, she longed for some form of escape, some place to get away to. Despite the weatherman's promise of spring in the air, Central Park looked gray, gloomy, and cold in the morning light. Even so, Madison thought she'd rather be stuck in New York than placating her mother and grandmother over in Tuscany. Except that New York had its own set of challenges --- namely, Dad, Garret, and Vivian's pestering calls. Madison sat down on the window seat and wondered what to do. Stay . . . go . . . run away?
She heard a tap-tap-tap on her door. Nadya. Their live-in housekeeper had been with them only a week and was still trying to figure things out, but at least she didn't come blasting in without knocking the way Maria used to.
"Come in, Nadya," Madison called pleasantly.
Nadya timidly stepped into the room, looking down at the floor in an apologetic way. "Excuse, please. Your mother . . . she ask me to help you pack, Miss Van Buren."
Madison blinked. "Pack?"
Madison rolled her eyes. "I am not going to Italy, Nadya. My mother was mistaken. Sorry."
Nadya tipped her head to one side. "Oh?"
Madison forced a smile. "My mother and grandmother are going to Italy. I am staying home."
Nadya's expression was a mixture of confusion and disappointment. Madison suspected that the housekeeper had been looking forward to some peace and quiet and having the penthouse to herself. Perhaps Nadya had already invited friends or family to join her. Madison had heard stories about housekeepers doing all kinds of things while home owners were absent.
Just then Madison's phone rang again, and with downcast eyes Nadya made a fast exit. This time it was Garret. She'd been avoiding his calls and ignoring his texts for almost twenty-four hours now. She suspected he'd be knocking on the door before long if she kept up the freeze-out.
"What is it, Garret?" Her voice was flat.
"Are you still mad at me?" he asked in a hurt tone.
"Come on, Maddie, let's move on, okay?"
She didn't respond.
"Did you decide yet what you're doing for spring break?"
"Maybe . . . maybe not. What's it to you?"
"Come on, Madison," he pleaded. "I told you I was sorry."
"Sorry that you were flirting with Constance Westfall? Or sorry you got caught?"
"I told you --- she was the one flirting with me. I already explained the whole thing. Why won't you believe me? You know I love you."
"I saw the photo, Garret." The image of her so-called boyfriend and that loser girl in what looked like a completely mutual embrace flashed through her mind again. Why was she even speaking to him? "A picture's worth a thousand words, and it will take more than that to erase it from my brain."
"Which brings me to another subject. Madison, why are your friends suddenly spying on me?"
She laughed, but not with real humor. "Spying? Vivian happened to be minding her own business going to journalism when she ran into you two. I'm just thankful she had the sensibility to snap a shot." Okay, the truth was Madison had been hurt and shocked when Vivian sent the photo to her Blackberry. But if she hadn't seen it for herself, Madison probably wouldn't have believed it.
"I told you that Constance kind of trapped me yesterday --- everyone knows she's been after me since eighth grade. Seriously, the only reason she came to our school was to get her hooks back into me."
"And I thought our school had higher standards than to admit someone like her."
"Her aunt's on the board. Anyway, Madison, you know my heart belongs to you. If you let me, I'll prove it to you this week."
Madison closed her eyes and shook her head. She didn't need to be having this conversation right now. More pressure.
"So, did you decide to stick around then? I've already ordered a bunch of food and stuff to be sent to Nantucket and --- "
"Sorry, Garret." Madison made up her mind. "I won't be around during spring break."
"You're going to Tuscany after all?"
"I'm not really sure."
"Well, you're not going to Palm Beach, right? You said you'd rather --- "
"No, I'm not sure where I'll be, I just don't think I'll be around here either." She hung up, turned off her phone, and tossed it in her bag.
She was getting out of here. She had no idea where she was going, but she knew she had to get away --- and fast. Her guess was that Garret, who lived only a couple blocks away, might be here any minute. And if he looked at her with those chocolate-brown eyes and started sweet-talking, running his fingers down her arm, she would begin to melt and lose her resolve. She had to make her getaway.
Tempted to escape without saying a word to her mom, Madison knew that would simply lead to more trouble --- possibly the cancellation of the vacation in Italy, which would be blamed on Madison for the entire spring break.
She knocked on her mom's door, planning her strategy as she waited for her to answer.
"Have you come to your senses?" Her mom sounded hopeful as she opened the door.
Madison let out a sigh. "I really don't want to go to Tuscany, Mom. I feel bad about it, but you told me it was my decision, right? I hope Grandmother will get over it in time. I just can't deal with all the pressure. Can you understand that?"
Her mom frowned. "Are you feeling okay?"
"I just need some downtime." Now this was the honest-to-goodness truth. "I don't want to go to Italy and I don't want to go to Palm Beach and I don't want to go to Boston. I feel stressed and I need a break. Okay?" Madison felt on the brink of tears.
Mom put her hand on her shoulder. "Okay. I'm not thrilled with your choice, Madison. But I understand. Nadya will be here, and you can always call your dad if you need something. Or if you change your mind, just call me and I'll arrange for your ticket."
Madison hugged her mom. "Thanks for understanding."
Mom looked at Madison's bag. "Are you going out?"
"I just need some fresh air to clear my head." She smiled. "Tell Grandma I'm really, really sorry. You guys have a great trip!"
"Our flight leaves around two." Mom looked at her Chanel watch. "I still have a million things to do."
"Have fun, Mom!" Madison turned away, hurried out of the penthouse and into the elevator, and counted the seconds as it went down. The sooner she got away, the better she would feel.
Relieved not to have collided with Garret in the lobby, she went directly to the under-park and waited impatiently for the garage guy to bring her car out. The Mini Cooper had been a present for her sixteenth birthday. Naturally, everyone questioned her choice --- she wondered how many other teens had to fight their parents to get a less expensive car --- but she liked that it was green. Of course, it had taken her another six months just to get her license, but that was behind her now. Although her driving skills weren't stellar, and despite the fact that her mother thought she was crazy to keep a car in Manhattan, Madison liked the feeling of being behind the wheel --- in control.
Of course, that control was questionable as she pulled out onto the busy avenue where taxis were blaring horns and traffic was moving at a snail's pace. Still, she knew it would've been worse on a weekday during the business commute. Driving in the city required two basic things --- patience and courage.
As she turned onto a less busy street, she had no idea where she was going or when she would come back, but to start with, she would go with the flow of the traffic. After that she intended to just drive and drive --- like she was running for her life. Maybe somewhere out there, on the open road, she would find what she was looking for. Perhaps she would even find herself.
Anna Fisher was bored. But she knew better than to say that out loud --- especially when everyone was busy with farming and fixing and all the additional chores that came with springtime. Anna knew from experience that her mother's response would be simply to heap more work on her. Not as punishment, mind you, but as discipline --- or so Mamm would say. Despite being seventeen, Anna still had trouble distinguishing between punishment and discipline. In fact, it seemed the older she got, the more confused she grew about much of the Ordnung.
As a child she hadn't questioned the community rules, but now she was unsure. To make it even more confusing, as a teenager she wasn't even subject to the rules. According to the bishop, Anna needed to discover for herself whether or not she wanted to be part of this community. If so, she needed to be baptized. In the meantime, no one seemed to really care what she was doing. Call it rumspringa or just plain indifference, but Anna felt caught in the middle, and there was much she did not understand. Yet she kept most questions to herself.
Now as Anna hung the morning wash, she felt unusually restless, and as she looked down the road toward the Glick farm, she felt exceedingly sad. Anna's heart ached whenever she thought about Jacob Glick. The two of them had been best friends since childhood. As they entered adolescence, Jacob had become the love of Anna's life, and everyone in the community seemed certain the two would marry.
But Jacob had always questioned everything, and not just silently. He sometimes argued with the deacon about doctrine and faith and the ever-changing rules of the Ordnung. Then last fall his attitude and actions were described as rebellious. Jacob had been nearly eighteen when his parents decided to take action. Although their community's form of rumspringa didn't usually include exiling a teen, when Jacob explicitly informed the bishop that he never intended to be baptized, Jacob had been allowed to leave. He'd seemed glad to go, but Anna felt it was unwise.
"We let Jacob leave so he can return," his father had announced at a December meeting. "As you know, the apple will fall but not roll far from the tree."
Anna wasn't so sure about that. For all she knew, Jacob might never roll back to the tree. That felt wrong --- and it made her begin to secretly question things even more. One of the things Anna had always loved about Jacob was his questioning mind. He was always thinking deep thoughts, searching for answers. Like she'd read in a book recently, Jacob thought "outside of the box." And now he was living outside of the box.
"I want to experience New York City," he had told her last summer on one of the evenings when they'd sneaked out to meet by the irrigation pond. "I want to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. I want to walk through the Guggenheim Museum and Madame Tussauds."
"How do you know about all these places?" she asked.
"My great-grandfather's photo album," he confessed. "He wasn't born Amish. He was born in New York and then he went to war --- World War II. I think it was hard on him. He became antiwar --- I'm sure that's why he came here to live."
"I did not know that."
"It's an old story. My family doesn't speak of it. But someday I will visit New York City. I know it deep inside of me."
As much as Anna enjoyed listening to Jacob, his dreams had sounded impossible to her. Yet it was possible he was living them out right now. She hoped he was all right, safe from danger and not starving . . . but perhaps just hungry enough to roll back to the tree. Every night before going to bed, Anna said a secret prayer for Jacob, praying he would return to his senses, return to the community --- and return to her
In the same way Anna longed to see Jacob again, she longed for something different in her own life too. She couldn't put her finger on it exactly, but deep inside of her she desired something exciting or unusual or interesting to happen. Although she knew that was unlikely, since every day seemed to be almost the same as the one before. She knew she was supposed to practice contentment and give thanks for the goodness in her life --- she was supposed to appreciate what God had given her. Sometimes she did, but not today. Perhaps it was spring in the air, or perhaps it was missing Jacob, but Anna was not simply bored and restless, she was discontented.
Anna knew this was a time in her life to practice some independence --- this era was called rumspringa, and all teens were allowed to experience some safe exploration of life within the confines of the community. But that was as far as Anna planned to take it. She had no desire to be exiled out into the English world. She had heard horror stories about other teens, and the mere idea of being cast out like that was unsettling. To be out in that great big world all alone, fending for oneself, exposed to God only knew what . . . no thank you. Anna was not that bored. Better to be content with the morning sun on her back and the smell of the ripe earth, knowing today was pie-making day.
As Anna pegged the last towel on the line, she wished she hadn't finished her novel last night. She had read too fast. She should have been able to make it last at least one more day, perhaps even two. Now she wouldn't get another new book for almost a week. Why hadn't she considered that instead of selfishly devouring the words as fast as her eyes could move?
This "guilty pleasure" (a phrase she'd learned from last night's book) was something Anna and Mamm had shared for more than a year now. While the practice of reading novels was frowned upon by the deacon in their settlement, it was not against the rules, thankfully. However, her father did not approve.
"Why do you let your daughter read English trash?" her father had asked her mother the first time he'd caught Anna with one of the bright-colored paperbacks.
"It is not trash," her mother had patiently responded. "Grace Riehl recommended this book to me. Her Leah has already read it. Grace says it improves her reading skills." The Riehl family was respected in the community, so her father would not fault them. Still, Anna knew he was not convinced.
"Is it a true book?" he had demanded as he waved the book in the air.
"It is a story," Mamm had quietly explained.
"So it is not true." Her father's dark beard jutted out even farther, a sign that his stubbornness was kicking in.
"It is a story," her mother said again. "A story about life."
"But not real, not true," he insisted.
Her mother simply shrugged, returning to her darning.
For the sake of reading these books, Anna decided to step forward. "Jesus Christ told stories," she offered. "Jesus told stories to teach principles. Is that not right, Daed? Is that not real?"
His blue eyes grew troubled. "Ja, ja. What are you saying?"
"Were Jesus's stories true?" Anna persisted. "Were his stories real?"
Her father simply nodded. He reluctantly handed the paperback back to Anna and returned to fixing a harness. Fortunately, that had been the end of that discussion. Just the same, Anna had sewn herself a plain brown removable book cover that she claimed was to protect the books from wear and tear, but was in actuality her way of protecting her father's eyes from the book covers.
A few women in the community shared books, but the best resource for "Christian fiction" was found in the general store in the nearby town. Mrs. McCluster kept quite a large rack of these books right next to the kitchen utensils section. To Anna's delight, new books seemed to arrive with the same regularity as the fresh eggs and produce that Anna's family delivered to the store. Thanks to money earned from Anna's sewing plus the reselling of her gently used books, she always made sure she had the funds to purchase a new book or two whenever she got the chance to go to town. Unfortunately, her next trip wouldn't be until late next week.
"Anna!" Mamm called from the back porch, waving a white dish towel to get her attention. "Come --- come fast!"
Using one hand to hold the empty wicker basket, Anna used the other to hold up the full skirt of her dress so she could run full speed. Her mother did not usually call with such urgency --- not unless something was wrong.
As Anna sprinted across the dew-dampened grass, she wondered if her mother's anxiety was the result of the jangling of the telephone Anna had heard while hanging the wash. Their telephone, like that of their neighbors, was kept in the barn. There were many reasons for this inconvenient location, but primarily, Anna suspected, it was to discourage its casual use. Everyone knew the telephone existed primarily for business, and occasionally for emergencies.
"What is it?" Anna breathlessly asked her mother as she set the basket down on the boot bench.
"My sister Rachel is in a bad way."
Mamm patted her tummy. "Aunt Rachel is with baby --- she must not work so much."
"Oh dear." Anna tried to recall how many children Aunt Rachel had. Was she expecting her fifth or sixth?
"You know how Rachel is regarded in her community."
Anna nodded. She had seen it herself the last time she went to help Aunt Rachel. For some unknown reason --- whether love or desperation --- Aunt Rachel had chosen to marry into a different community. One where the Ordnung was Old Order and much more conservative. Unfortunately, Aunt Rachel did not always agree with the Old Order. As a result, she had been warned by the bishop, and although she hadn't been shunned back then, Anna didn't know how she stood in her community now. Many women in her settlement had distanced themselves from Aunt Rachel, almost as if she'd been shunned. But she did not seem to mind, except when she needed help. The last time Aunt Rachel had been in need --- a couple of years ago --- Anna had been called upon. It had not
been an easy time then, and it might be worse now.
"You must go help Aunt Rachel, Anna."
Anna wanted to protest. She wanted to argue and say it was unfair and ask why someone else couldn't go help her aunt. But she knew it was worse than pointless. Perhaps Anna had brought this on herself. Was this God's answer to her boredom?
"Run and gather your things," Mamm urged. "Hasten! Daed is gettin' the wagon ready. Matthew will drive you to town, but you must be quick. Daed and Matthew must to finish planting the west field."
With a heavy heart, Anna hurried up to her room. Why this? Why now? Anything would be better than getting stuck at Aunt Rachel's. The last time Anna had visited, she had begun to suspect another reason Aunt Rachel's neighbors avoided her --- her uncontrollable children. Who could stand to be around such wild things? The twins, Ezra and Noah, had been four or five and full of mischief. Two-year-old Jeremiah had been unstoppable and into everything. Even baby Elizabeth had been colicky, crying day and night. And her solemn uncle Daniel, unless he came in to eat, which he did silently and sullenly, had spent all his time in the barn. Anna had been so relieved to leave that place.
As she stuffed her clothes and nightgown into the duffel sack that her mother had placed in her room, Anna was tempted to tuck a couple of previously read paperbacks inside as well. Except that she suspected they'd be confiscated if discovered by her uncle. Anna felt certain that English novels were verboten in Aunt Rachel's rigid community, and not wanting to forfeit what she could possibly sell later, she reluctantly left the precious books in the drawer. Hopefully Aunt Rachel's baby would come soon. Last time Anna had been stuck there for two whole weeks, and it had seemed like two years. But she was older now. Perhaps she could endure more.
"I'm ready," she told her mother as she came down the stairs.
"I wish I could go," nine-year-old Katie said as she expertly slipped a round pie crust into the pan.
"I wish you could go too." Anna kissed her sister's rosy cheek. "Someday."
"Here is food." Mamm shoved a brown paper bag into her arms. "You must to wait in town until Uncle Daniel can fetch you. He cannot leave the farm until the work is done. Not until late midday."
Anna suppressed the urge to show her delight at this news. A whole day in town --- all by herself! Well, that might almost be worth the sacrifice she was making for Aunt Rachel. Perhaps she'd risk buying a new book. She might even have it read before Uncle Daniel picked her up.
"How long will I stay with Aunt Rachel?" she asked as she and her mother went outside. "When is her baby coming?"
Her mother frowned. "Rachel says late April."
Anna blinked. That was a month away --- and last time Rachel's baby had come late.
"I did not promise you for all that time, Anna."
Anna wanted to ask how she'd been promised at all --- without agreeing to it herself --- but she knew that was futile. It was not as if she had any say in these things. When someone needed you, you went. If a neighbor's barn burned, you helped build another. If a friend needed food, you shared from your table. That was how it was in the community --- helping others. And if the others were your own family, even more so. But so many weeks with Aunt Rachel's irrepressible children? Anna blinked back tears.
"You will miss us." Mamm hugged her. "We will miss you too, dear daughter. But God will be your strength. When you return, you will be stronger. God will make you a strong woman, ready for marriage and children of your own."
Anna just nodded, swallowing against the hard lump that was growing in the back of her throat. It was bad enough being sent to Aunt Rachel, but her mother's talk of Anna becoming ready for marriage and children --- combined with knowing that her parents had recently been favoring Aaron Zook for her match --- well, it was all too frightening!
Excerpted from DOUBLE TAKE © Copyright 2011 by Melody Carlson. Reprinted with permission by Revell . All rights reserved.