I dreamed of Suzy last night. In the dream, it was deep winter and heavy snow fell as we walked to the barn to feed the calvies ... little sisters once again. The whistle of a distant train, its sad, haunting sound, hung in the dense, cold air as it echoed through our cornfield. Yet why was the corn still tall and thriving in the dead of January?
All of this was crammed into a dream that lasted only a few minutes at most. My friend Rosanna King says dreams are like that, tantalizing you with a mixture of puzzling things that don't make a whit of sense.
Even so, I awakened with the knowledge that I must be moving beyond my initial grief. Jah, I long to see Suzy again, to talk with her and feel her gentle breath on my hair as she sleeps, sharing our old childhood bed. Sharing our lives, too. But something has changed in me. Maybe it helps to know that Dat and Mamma believe Suzy's in heaven, even though she died before she could join church. So terribly bewildering, as this idea goes against the grain of everything we've always believed.
Following her death, I didn't dream very often of my sister, though I'd wanted to. Now it's like going from a drought to a torrential rain. The floodgates have opened and she and I are together nearly every night as young girls ... as if the Lord God is permitting a divine comforter to fall over me.
I daresay it is a comfort I sorely need, what with the six-month anniversary of Suzy's death having come and gone --- December ninth, which my oldest sister, Rhoda, says was not long after Pearl Harbor Day. Another sad anniversary --- the start of a world war decades ago. Ach, such strife between our country and another, and now a terrible clash is going on in a place called Vietnam, according to Rhoda.
She brings up the oddest things relating to the modern world. I see the look of surprise in Mamma's eyes nearly every night at supper. Dat is more stoic, slowly running his fingers up and down his black suspenders as he quietly takes in Rhoda's remarks. My sister Nan's disapproval is evident in the jut of her chin and the way her blue eyes dim as Rhoda chatters about the foreign things she's learning while working for the Kraybills, our English neighbors who live half a mile away on the narrow, wooded section of Beaver Dam Road. She works every weekday, snow or not, and sometimes on Saturdays. At times I wonder if she'd be willing to work Sundays, too, given the chance.
Rhoda's not the only one working extra hard these days. Dat has been busy, as well. The bakery shop --- called Nellie's Simple Sweets --- will soon be home to three cozy sets of tables and chairs, about the size of those in the ice-cream parlors Englischers frequent. Three customers will be able to sit at each round table, and if some want to squeeze in, then four. Oh, such gossip that will fly. I must be careful lest I hear things not meant for my ears, especially from fancy customers.
Mamma's returned to working with me just recently. Nan still helps some, too, but only when things get real busy. Otherwise, it is my mother and me tending the store and, oh, the interesting tales she tells of bygone days --- like a tomato-growing contest she won as a girl by supporting the tomato with a hammock of netting, and raising pigs with her younger brother. Like Mammi Hannah Fisher, Mamma has a knack for describing past doings.
My beau, Caleb Yoder, has only dropped by the bakery once, but he won't be doing that at all now --- not if he wants to receive his inheritance of nearly a hundred acres of farmland. His father has forbidden him to court me, but Caleb has promised we'll see each other secretly ... somehow.
Already three weeks have passed since he revealed the startling news and we held each other before parting ways. Ach, but it feels like forever. There was no word from him during Christmas, so he's abiding by his father's wishes. No matter this temporary silence, I trust him to know what to do to gain his Daed's approval of me. Surely word has reached David Yoder's ear that I have not gone to Preacher Manny's church a second time --- nor do I intend to. I'm not walking the "saved" path that has enticed a good many families in our church district already.
My staying put has caused an awful rift in the house, especially on Preaching Sundays when my family and I go our separate ways. I to the old church, and my parents and Rhoda and Nan to the new.
Plenty of folk are at odds on this issue. There is even a growing division amongst those in the new church --- some have still stronger leanings toward the world, desiring electricity and cars, of all things. My parents won't hear of that, so we continue to drive horse and buggy and bring out the gas lamps and lanterns at dusk.
There's a hankering for light on both sides of the fence. For some this breaking away has required a quick decision, as Uncle Bishop has decreed a ninety-day grace period on excommunication and shunning for folk who want to leave the old church and join the new. The incentive is mighty strong for those already baptized into the Old Order church, since there are only a few short weeks to decide for or against the tradition of our ancestors. A right sobering thought.
Knowing that this new way was Suzy's belief makes it strangely appealing. But as curious as I am, I won't risk my future with Caleb Yoder, even though I am still in Rumschpringe --- a running-around time sanctioned by the People. The old church is where I belong, with my beau. Dear Dat and Mamma don't realize I've already decided against embracing their faith --- Caleb and I would stand no chance if I were to be baptized into the New Order. How can I think of doing so, when marrying him is my very best hope for happiness?
Excerpted from THE FORBIDDEN: Courtship of Nellie Fisher, Book 2 © Copyright 2011 by Beverly Lewis. Reprinted with permission by Bethany House. All rights reserved.