Authors: Marta Perry
He raised an eyebrow in doubt, hoping she couldn’t see it in the dim light. “What?”
“I overheard Isaac saying something to Mary Ann. I guess they didn’t know I was there, and if they had, he probably wouldn’t have realized I could understand him. But the dialect has been coming back to me, and I’m sure of this.”
“You’re starting to sound like your mother, talking in circles,” he said. “What did Isaac say?”
And what could Esther’s brother know about the situation anyway?
“Mary Ann seemed to be telling him not to worry. And he said something to the effect of not wanting to have me here, because if I found out about
, I would cause trouble. Those aren’t the exact words, but close enough.”
“What was this ‘it’ that you might find out about?”
“I don’t know.” She sounded as if she hated to admit that. “He didn’t say, but he certainly sounded worried.”
“You can’t imagine Isaac would have anything to do with harming his sister.” He grappled with it, trying to think of a scenario that fit the words.
“No, of course not. But there’s definitely something wrong. Something that’s worrying Isaac, and probably Mary Ann, as well.”
“Funny,” he murmured.
“I don’t see anything funny about it.”
“Not that way. Funny peculiar. I had a talk with Bishop Amos. He gave me the impression there’s some sort of problem in the Amish community. He wouldn’t talk about it, but…”
“But it might concern Isaac,” she finished, jumping ahead to a conclusion.
“We don’t know that.” He’d like to damper her enthusiasm, but he doubted that was possible.
“We don’t know it yet, but I’m going to find out.” She reached for the flashlight.
The determination in her voice filled him with foreboding, and he caught her hand before she could pick the torch up and run off.
“Take it easy,” he said. “You can’t rush in there and start prying. That would be a quick ticket out of here.” Although come to think of it, that might suit him.
They stood facing each other, linked by his fingers clasping her wrist. The air seemed to thicken, pressing him closer to her.
Libby gave a quick shake of her head. “I’ll be tactful,” she said. She picked up the flashlight. “And careful. You don’t need to tell me that.”
“You took the words right out of my mouth.” He tried to keep it light. He had to, because otherwise… “I’ll be here tomorrow night. Meantime I’ll see if I can pick up any rumors about Isaac.”
“Wait until I get inside before you go.” Libby moved to the door. “Isaac might be watching for me, and we don’t want him to think I’m meeting a boyfriend out here.”
She was gone on the words, and he watched her cross the lawn and disappear into the house.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING passed uneventfully for Libby, so uneventfully that she almost began to long for something to happen, no matter what. She found herself thinking of Adam too often for her peace of mind, and when she managed to push him to the back of her thoughts, she’d start worrying about the investigation.
Enough, she scolded herself. She had to learn to immerse herself in the activity of the moment, the way the Amish did. Right now, that activity was brushing Esther’s hair gently, avoiding the injured area, and putting in the loose braid she’d worn since the accident.
“The physical therapist will be here soon.” Libby realized she’d been quiet too long. They all made an effort to talk to Esther as much as possible. “I’d better get your hair finished.”
Esther caught at her hand, frowning a little as she struggled to form a word. “Dress,” she said finally. She pointed to the wooden pegs on which her clothing hung. “Dress.”
“That’s right,” Mary Ann said, coming in just in time to hear and exchanging pleased smiles with Libby. Every new word was an occasion to celebrate.
But Esther shook her head impatiently. She tugged at the nightgown she wore. “Dress,” she said firmly, leaving no doubt as to what she meant.
Libby grinned. “Okay, okay, we get it. You want to be properly dressed when the therapist gets here.”
It was easier said than done, since Esther still didn’t have much control of one side, but with the three of them working, they managed. Until they reached the straight pins that fastened the front of an Amish woman’s dress.
Esther’s fingers didn’t work well enough, Libby had never done it, and Mary Ann, who could do it in seconds on her own dress, was all thumbs trying to do someone else’s. All three of them were weak with laughter when they finally accomplished it.
“Ach, I haven’t laughed so much since I was home with my sisters,” Mary Ann said, still chuckling as she placed Esther’s kapp on the back of her head. “What about you, Libby?”
“I only had brothers, and usually they were trying to get me to stop pestering them.” Libby held the hand mirror so that Esther could see herself. “There, you look like a proper Amish woman, see?”
Esther smiled at the image. Then she raised her hand and touched the fading bruise on her forehead. “How?”
Libby glanced at Mary Ann. It was the first time Esther had raised the subject of her injuries. They’d agreed not to bring it up until she did. Libby had had to acquiesce, even though she thought Esther might be safer if and when she did remember.
“You had an accident,” Mary Ann said, her tone soothing. “You’re getting better now.”
Esther’s frown lingered, and Libby held her breath. If she remembered—
“Hello.” The therapist’s cheerful voice sounded up the stairwell. “Ready for me? I’m coming up.”
Esther’s frown vanished, and with it probably any faint memory of what happened to her. Libby’s clenched her hands in frustration. But there’d be another time. There had to be.
The physical therapist from home health services was young, cheerful and relentless. So tall his curly red hair nearly brushed the door frame of the upstairs rooms, Keith Longman combined a gentle touch with an optimistic determination to get the best from every session.
The next half hour was strenuous enough to tire all of them. At the end of it, Esther was clearly ready for a nap, but she was smiling. She had actually stood and taken a couple of steps with help.
“Excellent job.” Keith handed Libby the soft balls he’d had Esther squeezing. “Add this to the routine every day. It will help with that left hand.”
She nodded. “Will do. Anything else?”
“Just keep it up.” His glance took in all three of them. “You’re doing a great job. At this rate, Esther will be outside planting a garden come spring.”
“Ach, that’s gut to hear.” Mary Ann spread a quilt over Esther. “Ain’t so, Esther?”
But Esther’s eyes were already drifting shut. Libby resigned herself to waiting for another opportunity to lead the conversation toward the accident.
“I’ll walk down with you.” She followed the therapist toward the stairs, waiting until she thought they were out of earshot to continue. “Esther really is doing well, isn’t she? None of us know quite what to expect from her recovery.”
“Nobody knows that with head injuries,” he said bluntly. “But she’s doing very well physically. Much better than her physician initially thought she would. She was very fit before the accident, and that helps. And she has a great attitude and lots of support. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Libby nodded. She was beginning to think Keith had more maturity than his boyish grin would indicate. “What about her mental recovery? How much might she remember?”
“About the accident, you mean?”
She nodded. She was probably being too obvious, but this was important for reasons Keith couldn’t know.
“That’s hard to say. Some head injury patients never recall the trauma, and maybe that’s a blessing. But it could return at any time. You just have to keep reassuring her and answering any questions she asks.”
She nodded, knowing she couldn’t expect more than his honest opinion. “She brought it up this morning, asking how she got the bruise on her head.”
“Natural enough.” He reached for the door and paused, hand on the knob. “Well, she’s sure got a lot of people pulling for her. Even people who aren’t Amish. There was a guy at the coffee shop this morning asking how she was doing and if she remembered the accident. He seemed to know where I was coming.”
Libby’s heart seemed to skip a beat. “What coffee shop?”
“The one right in Springville. I was running a bit early, so I stopped for a cup of coffee.” He grinned. “And a sticky bun, I confess.” He patted his flat stomach.
“I don’t think you need to worry.” She gave the expected answer. “But this man—what did he look like?” That sounded too blunt, and she tried to qualify it. “I mean, he’s probably someone we know, so I’ll mention his concern to Esther.”
“Youngish,” Keith said. “Maybe thirty. Well dressed. Looked like a businessman, I’d say.”
Jason Smalley fit that description. Of course, a few other people in Springville did, including her brothers. “What did you tell him?”
“Just something vague and polite. I don’t discuss my patients. Is something going on I should know about?” His glance was suddenly shrewd.
Now it was her turn to be vague. “The accident was a hit-and-run, and the police still haven’t identified the driver. It’s just as well to be careful.”
“Gotcha. Nobody will get anything from me.” He pulled the door open. “Keep up the good work. Your friend’s relying on you.”
That was more serious than he realized, Libby thought, her mind busy with the ramifications of what the therapist had told her. Natural enough, she supposed, that someone in the coffee shop would assume, seeing the logo on Keith’s jacket, that he was coming here. Natural enough to ask how Esther was or to express good wishes. But to ask specifically if she remembered? That wasn’t quite so natural.
She went through the enclosed porch between the main house and the daadi haus, intending to let Rebecca know they were finished with the therapy. Rebecca had been happy to turn the exercises over to Libby and Mary Ann, since the prospect of pushing Esther to do more than was comfortable brought Rebecca to tears.
The door opened into a hallway off the kitchen of the farmhouse. As she closed it behind her, she heard Isaac’s voice in the kitchen.
“…need the money now, not sometime in the future.” He sounded…what? Not angry, exactly, but worried and somehow fretful.
“Maybe you should have listened to Esther,” Rebecca said. “Maybe your sister was right about it.”
Libby had reached the doorway by that time, and Isaac saw her.
He seemed to make an effort to banish the worry from his face. “So, how did the therapy go today?”
“Very well. Esther actually took a few steps with help.”
“Gut, gut.” Tears glistened in his eyes for a second. “That is wonderful gut, ja, Mammi?”
Rebecca had turned from the stove, wiping her hands on a towel. “Thank the gut Lord. Does she need me?” She looked ready to fly up the stairs.
“She’s sleeping,” Libby said quickly. She didn’t want Rebecca to escape before she’d made an attempt to find out what she and Isaac had been talking about. “She was tired, so we thought it best to let her sleep. Mary Ann is with her. Maybe we can keep some lunch warm until Esther wakes. Can I help you?”
Isaac murmured something about the barn and went out. Rebecca gave her a doubtful look.
“Do you know how to make the dumplings for the chicken stew?”
“It’s been a while since I’ve done it, but my mother insisted I learn. You’ll need to remind me of the ingredient amounts.”
Libby pushed her sweater sleeves to her elbows and washed her hands. Another thing her mother had taught her was that women shared confidences while they cooked together. If she wanted to get Rebecca talking, there probably wasn’t a better opportunity.
With Rebecca’s sometimes anxious glances over her shoulder, Libby mixed up the light dough in the earthenware bowl, the technique coming back to her as she worked. She kept talking as she did, giving Rebecca a detailed description of the therapy session.