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Authors: Amy Lillard

Just Plain Sadie (10 page)

BOOK: Just Plain Sadie
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“You don't know what you want?”
There came that blush again. And Sadie ducked her head. “You know, from life. All she wants to do is cook, make recipes, and try out new foods. Who knows what she'll ask for next week. Maybe alligator meat.”
Ezra chuckled. “I'm not raising alligators. No matter how cute she is.”
Sadie laughed. And he loved the sound. “No, but if we don't watch out she'll have us going down to Louisiana to buy one.”
“That's interesting that your mother allows her to pick out foods for the restaurant.”
Sadie nodded again. “It is. But Cora Ann has always loved to cook. And the restaurant is all we do. Plus . . .”
“Plus what?” he asked.
Her eyes flickered ever so briefly to her brother, then she lowered her voice to where she knew he couldn't hear. “Since
died, she has been pretty lenient. You know, my sister even left go live with the
“That's right. You told me about that.”
“At first
wasn't very happy about it, but later she came to realize that Lorie had a different path to take in life. And she didn't hold that against her.”
“And you don't know what your path is.” He meant for it to sound like a question, but it didn't. Sadie frowned a bit, but he could see the wrinkles on her smooth brow and the flicker of the corners of her mouth as they turned down, then pulled back into place. “I thought I did. But now I'm not so sure.”
That was a loaded statement if Ezra had ever heard one. But he didn't have time to ask as Cora Ann bustled back in with two glasses of iced tea.
“Here you go.” She sat one glass in front of him and one in front of Sadie, then returned to her seat and the same position she had been in before.
It was a bit unnerving to have the cook stare at him so intently while he was eating her food, but it really was delicious. And he didn't think it needed anything at all. But for now, he was eating, taking in everything that Sadie had told him, and he would tell the chef later what a wonderful meal it truly was.
* * *
Sadie could not believe that she was sitting across the table from Ezra, eating bison meat and talking about her sister. Sure, she didn't have a lot of experience where guys were concerned, but surely she could find a better topic of conversation than her sister leaving to go live with Zach Calhoun in Tulsa. But it was better by far than talking about the rest of the things that happened around her father's death, like them finding his tattoo, and Lorie painting pictures in the storeroom and not telling anybody. The whole thing had been so hard on them.
Sadie felt that wearing black every day dragged it out even more. She missed her dad terribly, but did she have to wear black to prove it? She did it because that was what she was supposed to do. But if she could shed the black, put on something pretty and colorful, something that her father would have liked, she might be able to see him smiling down from heaven.
She took another bite of her stuffed pepper and wished it had more flavor. She had long since realized that it wasn't anything that Cora Ann had done to the recipe, but it was more about being across the table from Ezra and catching sight of those brown eyes every so often. Each time he looked at her, her heart stuttered in her chest. What exactly did that mean?
Maybe she was just nervous.
had made no secret that she didn't think Sadie should be hanging out with a Mennonite guy. But what was the harm in it, honestly? Sure, they said they were dating, but that didn't mean a whole lot at this point. They hadn't been out even one time yet. Not really. She didn't count the two visits to his ranch. Or meeting him at the market. No, this was really their first date, and they had two people hanging out with them.
What could
find wrong with that? Still, the thought made Sadie a little nervous.
would read too much into it. Just because Sadie was spending time with Ezra didn't mean anything more than they were spending time together. They had said they were going to date, but no one else knew that. How could they get to know each other unless they did just that? Who knew, they might not like each other after the second date. Her father had always said never date a man you wouldn't marry, but would she marry Ezra Hein?
She looked up and caught that brown gaze. Once again her stomach dropped two inches, and she found it hard to swallow the bite that she had been chewing for who knew how long.
She couldn't say if she would marry him or not. Could she? She barely knew him. And the only way she would get to know him any better was to date him.
It made logical sense in her head, but she had a feeling that if she said those exact words to
, the understanding would be a long time in coming.
They finished their meal, and somehow Sadie managed to get it down without a grimace. Again, it wasn't because it wasn't tasty, she simply had an awful time trying to eat with Ezra right across from her.
Cora Ann took up their plates and came back a few minutes later with a cheesecake for dessert. Sadie would've rather had something a little more traditionally Amish, like shoo-fly pie, but this was Cora Ann's night to try out a new menu.
Sadie had eaten cheesecake once, and it wasn't bad. She liked it when they put cherries on top, and Cora Ann had used some sort of blackberry sauce. Where the girl had gotten blackberries in late January Sadie had no idea.
She forked up a bite and was about to put it in her mouth when she caught Ezra's expression of pure bliss.
“Wow,” he said around his mouthful of cheesecake. “What is this?”
Sadie couldn't tell if his expression was one of pain or extreme pleasure. “It's cheesecake.”
He forked up another bite and shoveled it into his mouth before the first one had been swallowed. “Just regular cheesecake?” he asked. “I've had cheesecake before, but not like this.”
Sadie laughed. He ate the cheesecake with such joy that she offered him her piece.
“You don't want it?”
“I'd rather have pie. You can have this piece.” She offered it across the table to him. He didn't hesitate and took it from her, eating it in three bites.
Cora Ann took that moment to walk back with two cups of steaming coffee. She stopped short, noticing that both plates of cheesecake were empty and both were on Ezra's side of the table.
“I brought you coffee, but your cheesecake is gone. Would you like another piece?”
Ezra smiled. “Do you have another piece?”
Sadie had never seen anyone eat with such joy on their face. “Get him some more, will you, Cora Ann?”
Cora Ann set the tray of coffee down next to Sadie and well out of Daniel's reach, then hustled back to the kitchen to get some more dessert.
But instead of bringing one slice out on a plate, she brought the entire pie plate and set it in front of Ezra. “Eat what you like. I'm not sure anyone else here really enjoys it.”
“It's good,” Sadie said.
“It's too sour,” Sadie said. “I like a sweeter dessert.” She looked over at Ezra. “Don't you?”
He looked back up at her, a strange expression on his face. “What was that?”
Sadie shook her head. “Never mind.” He was too far gone in the cheesecake to pay attention to much else.
After three pieces of cheesecake, Ezra sat back and patted his stomach, apparently full.
“Did you get enough to eat?” Cora Ann asked.
“More than enough.”
“Why don't you walk it off in the park?” Cora Ann suggested.
Sadie whirled around to stare at her sister. “Are you going with us?”
Her sister shook her head, a mischievous gleam in her eyes. “No, I've got work to do, and Daniel is still here. Why don't you two go on ahead?”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Ezra said. “I haven't eaten that much in I don't know when.”
How could she say no? “Daniel, do you want to go with us?” Sadie asked. There was something bothersome about being alone with Ezra in the approaching darkness. It wouldn't be long before the whole town was blanketed in the midnight-colored sky.
“No.” Daniel shook his head, not bothering to look up from his coloring. He had gone into one of his zones and would have to finish before he would interact fully with them again.
Sadie pulled on her coat and her scarf and bundled up to keep from getting too cold outside. Surely they would take one lap around the park, then they would come back and it would be time for Ezra to leave. Not that she wanted him to. But the whole situation was making her so nervous she could hardly stand it.
They started out of the restaurant, Ezra as bundled up as she, though he had on a black coat and a baseball hat like she had seen Luke Lambright wear. The ends of his blond hair curled up around the edges, and Sadie had to squelch the urge to reach up and straighten the curl out to see if it would pop right back into place when she released it.
So not appropriate. What was it about this man that had her wanting to do things that she had never thought about in her life?
“You know, I've been to this town I don't know how many times, and I never really noticed the park.”
“How could you miss it? It's right smack in the middle of town.”
“I know. Kinda silly, isn't it?”
“Not if you've got your mind on work, I suppose. Isn't that why you come to Wells Landing?”
“Yeah, usually. Sometimes the grocer lets me put an ad up on the bulletin board for meats and things. And I bring some stuff down occasionally to the compounding pharmacy. But mostly it's families from Tulsa who want fresh meat who come to get my products. And I sell it at a butcher shop there.”
“I had no idea.” Sadie bumped against his shoulder as they walked along. They were almost in front of the bakery now. It was only a step across the street, and they would be at the park. No one was around; after all, it was late January. It hadn't been extremely cold lately, but it was cold enough that most people didn't want to go out and swing at six o'clock at night.
Sadie headed across the street to the park. A small patch of sunlight still shone, though most of the sky had turned a shade somewhere between dark purple and dark blue. The park was illuminated with tall street lamps that buzzed and hummed as flies flew around them. She sat down in a swing, fully expecting Ezra to sit in the one next to her. Instead he walked around behind her and started to push. How long had it been since someone had actually pushed Sadie in a swing? She couldn't remember. Maybe when she was in school?
“That's too much, Ezra!” She felt like she could reach out her toes and touch the setting sun. “Slow me down now, please.” Along with the feeling of freedom, she had a pitch in her stomach that had nothing to do with height and everything to do with the man she was with.
“Baby,” Ezra teased. But still he moved around in front of her and caught her swing, easing it back slowly again and again until she was barely moving. He moved his hands up the chains as Sadie stood, trapped somewhere between his arms and the swing.
A heartbeat passed between them and then another. And another, until Sadie wasn't sure how long they had stood there, just staring at each other.
“Ezra,” she started, her voice shaking and unsure. What was happening between them? Was this the beginning of true love? Whatever it was, she never wanted it to end.
“You know what I think?” he asked, his voice a whisper in the fading light.
“What?” Sadie asked. It could be anything, but she had her hopes. She wished he was thinking about her and him and how they should take things slowly, not rush into anything. Give them both some time to decide what they truly wanted from each other.
“I'm thinking about kissing you.”
Chapter Ten
Sadie's heart pounded in her chest. Kiss her? He was thinking about kissing her?
The night stood still. Even the Oklahoma wind stopped as Sadie waited, breathless. The January sky had been painted indigo, and a million stars twinkled above their heads.
Ezra took a step closer, and Sadie's indrawn breath sucked in the clean smell of him, detergent and aftershave. He seemed to be moving at a snail's pace, as if he was allowing her time to tell him no. To stop him. Like she could find those words in her heart.
Suddenly nothing else mattered. Nothing was as important as the two of them and right now. Not their families, not their faith, not their friends.
He took another step toward her, and Sadie shivered. Not from the cold, but from anticipation. How had she only known Ezra such a short time, yet she felt so connected to him?
Her dad used to say that there was someone out there for everyone, that God made someone special for them all. Up until tonight, she had thought that Chris was her someone special. Even after he told her he was flying away to Europe, probably never to return. But now,
, she knew her special someone was Ezra Hein. Another step closer and she wanted to shout at him to hurry. Not the most romantic thing she could say, but the anticipation would be the death of her. She had waited her entire life for this kiss.
“Sadie!” Cora Ann ran down the sidewalk toward the park. She didn't have on her coat, though the tail ends of her scarf trailed behind her, a base for the trailing prayer
Sadie took a step back, noticing that Ezra did the same as Cora Ann drew closer to them. Suddenly, the night didn't seem quite so magical, and she wondered if perhaps it had ever been.

wants you.” Cora Ann looked from one of them to the other as if she could sense the anticipation that still hung in the air around them.
“What does she want?” Sadie asked. Her voice held a trembling edge as unsteady as her feet. If she felt this way in anticipation of Ezra's kiss, how would she feel when he actually touched his lips to hers? The thought made her light-headed. She resisted the urge to sit down in the swing again.
“I don't know. She said to come in now.” Again Cora Ann looked from one of them to the other, as if somehow she knew what she had interrupted.
Ezra cleared his throat. “I guess we should be getting back, then.” His voice rasped, and she hoped it was from his own feelings for her and not that he was coming down with something. She would feel terrible if he caught a cold because he had traipsed out into the park to push her in the swings on a cold night.

,” Sadie agreed.
Cora Ann turned on her heel and started back toward the restaurant, pausing every so often to turn around and make sure they were still following her.
Sadie walked next to Ezra, so close, and yet there was such a distance between them now. As if the interruption had placed a chasm in the middle that couldn't be scaled.
They were silent on their way back to the restaurant. Sadie didn't know what to say anyway. She walked along next to him, wondering if his mind was as full of churning thoughts as hers was.
“I guess I better be getting back home,” Ezra said. He stopped at his truck, as if his feet had been dipped in glue.
Sadie couldn't blame him. If
had sent Cora Ann after her, then surely she wouldn't have a warm reception for Ezra. Her mother made no secret that she didn't think that Ezra was fit to court her. But Sadie thought the reasons were ridiculous. What was wrong with him? He was a great guy, kind and loving. Yet
couldn't see past his being a Mennonite to the person he was in his heart.

,” Sadie agreed. “I'm glad you came to dinner tonight.”
Ezra smiled, a flash of teeth in the indigo night. “Me too. Your sister is quite a cook.”
Sadie smiled. “That she is. She'll make some man a fine
one day.”
Ezra shifted from one foot to the other, as if he wasn't sure what to say next.
Sadie had no idea either. As far as dates went, this was pretty much her first one. She and Chris tended to hang out with other members of their group and didn't do a whole lot alone, maybe a walk here and there, but never in Chris's presence had she felt like she did when she was around Ezra.
“Well,” Ezra started again. “I really should be going. Thank you for dinner.”
“You're welcome.” Was this how it ended? She knew he wouldn't dare kiss her in front of the family restaurant. Plain people didn't go in for a lot of public displays, and certainly not where their overprotective
could see.
She tried not to deflate with the disappointment. It was probably too soon anyway. They needed to take things slow. What happened if, a few weeks down the road, they decided that they weren't as compatible as they appeared right now? No, it was better this way, regardless of how disappointed she felt.
“When can I see you again?”
Sadie's heart soared. He wanted to see her again! Those had to be the sweetest words she'd ever heard.
“I don't know.” It was Tuesday now, and they would have to work through the week. She knew Ezra was really busy on his ranch. Having him come to Wells Landing during the week would take more effort than she would've liked.
“Someone usually rents the rec center in Taylor Creek on Friday nights. Everyone gets together and plays volleyball. How about then?”
He wanted to take her to play volleyball? She hadn't got to do anything like that in a long time. “I think that sounds like a lot of fun.”
“Pick you up at five thirty? Six o'clock?”
Sadie smiled. “Better make that five thirty.” She didn't want to go a minute longer than she had to before she got to see Ezra again.
* * *
Chris walked to the edge of the field, looking out across the tiny green sprouts of winter wheat. It would be a while longer before they came out of their dormancy and started to grow again. Until then, there was more than plenty to do on the farm. There was always something. Never a day off, never time to rest—the farm sucked the energy out of him. It stifled him, made him feel like he was drowning. He couldn't wait to get away from it all.
A couple more days and it would be February. He was counting down the months until June. He hadn't said a word to his folks about going to Europe. They wouldn't understand. Not at all. How could he even explain it?
It wasn't something that he had taught himself. He just had this longing down deep inside, the urge and desire to see places, places that some people only saw in books. There was the huge Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Big Ben, the clock tower in London. There were the cliffs in Ireland and Scotland, beautiful rivers in Germany, and all the wonderful things the Romans left behind in Italy. He wanted to see it all. After all that, he might even go farther. Maybe over to Greece and beyond. There was so much to see, so much he wanted to witness with his own eyes.
It was nothing he could explain. It was a part of him as much as his eye color or his hair color, and he couldn't change either one of those even if he wanted to.
He continued around the edge of the field and swung himself back up onto his tractor. The fields were in good shape. It didn't look like the deer were munching on the sprouts, and that was a good sign. There were scarecrows posted all around in the woods that butted up against the Flauds' fields. Hopefully they would keep most of the critters out. But he knew that it would still have to be watched constantly. It was all part of a farmer's life. And he hated it.
He turned his tractor onto the highway and putted back toward the drive to his house. Well, his parents' house, the one that he shared with them and his younger brother, Johnny. As was Amish tradition, Johnny would inherit the house and the farm one day. That was perfectly okay with Chris, because that gave him the opportunity to get out. Johnny liked to farm well enough. Some men were cut out for that. Chris wasn't one of them. For twenty-plus years he'd been working side by side with his father, plowing, planting, hoeing, weeding, spraying, irrigating, and planting again. It was a never-ending, vicious cycle that he wanted no part of. How could a man look at a farm, look at mere plants, and think that they had done something worthwhile? He just didn't understand.
He wasn't trying to say that farming wasn't a valuable endeavor; it just wasn't the job for him. He was more than ready to set his boots on a different continent instead of this dusty Oklahoma farm.
He parked the tractor to the side of the barn, then went in to wash his hands before heading into the house. The screen door banged behind him as it always did. It was one of the few things that he would miss when he left. He didn't hate his family or want to be away from them, but he felt so closed in. Even out in the open fields full of green and growing wheat, he felt like the sky was low, sitting right on top of his head, and the plants were jerking at his arms, pulling him this way and that when all he wanted to do was get away.
“Just in time, brother.” Johnny came up out of nowhere and smacked him on the back. A few years younger than him, Johnny was everything that Chris wasn't. He was jovial, always had a smile on his face and a joke on his lips. His eyes twinkled merrily. Chris didn't know anyone who enjoyed life more than Johnny.
“I know when dinner is.”
“Then get on in here and get a plate.” His mother stood at the doorway of the kitchen. As usual when she cooked, she had a dish towel thrown over one shoulder. Her cheeks were pink from the heat in the kitchen, and the little wisps of her hair that had managed to work free during the day had curled around her face. He would miss her most of all. She was the one ray of brightness they had on the farm. Her and Johnny. He would miss them both. But his father . . . Chris pushed that thought away. His father was his father, and there was no changing that. But they had never been able to see eye to eye. On anything. No matter what he did, or how hard he tried, it was never good enough for Merlin Flaud.
Chris knew that most likely his father had grown up the same way, with stern parents who wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. He could barely remember his
on his father's side, but he remembered enough to know that his father was a walking image of that man. Every time Chris looked at his
he saw what he would one day become. It wasn't what he wanted. He didn't want to be old, gray, and bitter, with his mouth turning down at the corners as he stomped around in the dirt and tried to grow wheat in impossible climates.
Oklahoma had the craziest weather of any state in any country he'd ever read about. They had earthquakes and floods, blizzards and tornadoes. Anything weather related that could happen, happened in Oklahoma, and it happened with a vengeance. No wonder his father appeared so downtrodden all the time. Trying to grow something on this land was next to impossible. It was stressful, constant, and wearing on one's soul. Chris couldn't wait to get away.
“Come on,” Johnny said, nudging him toward the table. His mother sat the pan of biscuits down next to the rest of the food and wiped her hands on that ever-present dish towel.
?” Johnny asked.
Chris felt a stab of guilt. He should've asked where their father was, but he hadn't. Truth was, he really didn't care.
He closed his eyes and said a small prayer for forgiveness for such a mean thought about the man who brought him into this world. Yet these days, the times between their differences was growing shorter and shorter. Chris saw that one day soon there would be a time when they couldn't get along at all. He was getting out before then.
He'd told Sadie that he'd be back. Aside from his mother and his brother, he would miss Sadie most. She had been his friend for so long he couldn't imagine life without her, but he knew she wouldn't go with him. She'd joined the church long ago, and he felt more than guilt at the thought that she had been waiting on him to join the church and ask her to marry him. She deserved better than the likes of him. She deserved a man who wanted the same things that she wanted: a farm, a house, kids, and a green tractor to drive around the fields. She wanted Sunday in church, Sunday night singing. All that and more should be hers.
He had made his plans, and as much as he cared for Sadie, they didn't include her. He didn't blame her for breaking up with him, but he couldn't stop the stab of jealousy when he heard that she had been running around with a Mennonite boy from Taylor Creek. He had no claim to Sadie Kauffman. Not anymore. He couldn't even say they were friends any longer.
“There he is.”
sat the bowl of applesauce on the table and plunked a spoon down next to it as Chris heard the door open and close, then the swish of fabric as his father removed his coat and the thump of his boots as he came to the head of the table.
His father pulled his chair out and sat down, not saying a word as he bowed his head and expected the others to follow for the silent prayer.
Chris had no words for the prayer. He should be asking for forgiveness for his unkind thoughts, forgiveness for putting Sadie through so much when all she wanted was to get married, peace for his family, then the months to speed by quickly so that he could move on. But none of those things would come to his mind. All he could do was sit, hands clasped in front of him, head bowed, as he waited for his father to end the prayer.
An eternity passed before his father raised his head and reached for the first bowl of food.
BOOK: Just Plain Sadie
8.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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