Authors: Lurlene McDaniel
“I guess I have a lot to learn about you Amish,” Leah said, taking a cup of punch from Ethan.
“Things are not always what they seem, Leah. Everyone here is free to try the things of the world. But we are still accountable to our families and our traditions.”
“So I’m learning.” She wondered what was going on inside Ethan, where he fit in in this strange no-man’s-land of Amish tradition and English worldliness. She felt a kinship with him. They were both searching for a place where they belonged.
an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
a division of Random House, Inc.
Text copyright © 1997 by Lurlene McDaniel
Cover art copyright © 1997 Kamil Vojnar
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers
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RL: 4.7, ages 12 and up
A Bantam Book/November 1997
First Laurel-Leaf edition August 2003
This book is dedicated to my friend
Mary Lou Carney—who took the notes!
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
91: 11-12, N
eah, this makes no sense to me. Why would you want to rent an apartment in a hole in the wall like Nappanee, Indiana, when you could be sailing to Fiji on a windjammer with Neil and me for the summer?”
Not bothering to answer her mother’s question, Leah Lewis-Hall dragged her suitcase into the bedroom of the sparsely furnished apartment. She was seventeen, but if she lived to be a hundred, she still wouldn’t be able to explain it to her mother. She’d tried before they’d driven from Neil’s sprawling, wonderful farmhouse that morning, but her mother didn’t get it. How come she couldn’t understand that Leah did not want to tag along with her and
Neil, husband number five in her mother’s life? An entire summer with them would never be her idea of fun. Not when she could be near the Longacre family, the kindest people she’d ever met: Rebekah, Charity, Ethan … Especially Ethan.
Leah’s mother glanced disdainfully around the small room. “Good thing Neil had a friend in the real estate business up here, or I would never have let you come.”
In spite of Neil’s being many years older than her mother, Leah liked him. After six months of being married to her mother, Leah realized, Neil had a better understanding of her than her mother did. When Leah explained to Neil her plan and what it would mean to her, he had helped her get both a place to live and a job working at a bed-and-breakfast in Nappanee. Neil truly seemed to understand when Leah had flatly said to him, “I wanted to make my own summer vacation plans. It’s been a rough year.” The nine days Leah had had to spend in the hospital just before Christmas while her mother and Neil had been in Japan on their honeymoon were the toughest of her life. That was when she had been diagnosed with bone cancer.
“Dr. Thomas does want me in for another checkup at the end of June,” Leah said now.
“They misdiagnosed you in the first place,” her mother insisted. “You could come to the South Seas with us. You are fine now. That doctor just scared us to death.”
Leah didn’t know what to believe. Her early X rays and bone scans had clearly indicated that parts of her knee had been eaten away by cancer. Then, during her hospital confinement, Gabriella, a mysterious figure, had come into her life. Later X rays showed that the dark spots had shrunk even before any treatments. This had totally shocked her doctor.
“I went through six weeks of chemo for nothing then?” Leah asked her mother with a grimace.
“Insurance,” her mother countered. “Besides, you did fine with chemo.”
“Not much fun, though.” Leah would never forget the bouts of nausea following each drug protocol. “Well, I’m here already. Neil understands, so why can’t you?”
Her mother grabbed a grocery sack full of Leah’s shoes and headed to the closet. “Can you cook well enough to even feed yourself?”
“I can cook. And I have Grandma’s recipe
box.” Her deceased grandmother was another sore subject between Leah and her mother, so Leah was glad when there was no comment. “I really will be fine, Mom. Stop worrying.”
“I can’t believe you’d rather clean toilets than sail to Fiji,” her mother grumbled.
They’d already visited the small inn where she was to work. It was a two-story frame house with an old-fashioned parlor, family-style dining room and four quaint bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. Leah would be responsible for fresh bed linen daily, cleaning chores, and serving breakfast and lunch to guests. Her workday would begin at seven
and end at three every afternoon. She’d be off on the weekends.
“You’ll be a
Her mother chewed her bottom lip fretfully.
Leah rolled her eyes in exasperation.
Her mother tagged behind Leah as she went into the tiny kitchen. “Is your phone working? I sent in a deposit and told them to turn it on.”
Leah picked up the receiver and held it out so that they could both hear the dial tone.
“I’ll call and check on you before we drive to the airport tomorrow.” Neil and her mother were to fly from Indianapolis to Los Angeles,
then to Hawaii, where they would board the sailing vessel that would take them to the South Pacific island of Fiji.
“I’ll be fine, Mother.”
“Are you positive those Amish people will look after you? Don’t you think I should meet them?”
“You read Charity’s letter. She’s glad I’m here for the summer. And no, you do not need to meet them.” When Leah had first formed the plan to work in the area for the summer and had written Charity about it, Charity had written back to say it would be nice to see her again. Now that Leah was actually here, she hoped she’d not acted presumptuously.
“It just seems so … so … odd to go off and leave you, that’s all.” Her mother broke into Leah’s thoughts. “And I can’t believe you’re so casual about living alone all summer. Even though the diagnosis was wrong, it still makes me anxious.”
Leah sorted her mother’s mismatched silverware into a drawer, knowing she was acting more self-assured than she felt. She reminded her mother that it was she who’d taught her self-reliance and independence in the first place.
“Mom, I’m going to have a good time this summer, and so are you and Neil. August will be here before we know it.”
“You have the ship-to-shore phone number,” her mother reminded Leah. “If you have any problems—”
“Don’t worry,” Leah interrupted.
“There’s still time to change your mind, you know.”
“I’m not changing my mind.”
Her mother sighed and glanced at her watch. “Maybe we’d better buy some milk and things at the grocery store before I go.”
“I can shop by myself. You’d better get on the road if you want to be home before dark.” They’d driven up in separate cars, Leah’s mother in the car Neil had given her for a wedding gift and Leah in the sporty red convertible he’d given to her after her last chemo session. “You deserve it,” he had said, handing her the keys.
Her mother hugged Leah. “I’ll miss you.”
“Miss you too,” Leah said. “Give a hug to Neil. He’s really a nice guy, Mom. And don’t get seasick.”
Her mother made a face. “Don’t even mention such a thing.”
Leah walked her mother down to her car and waved goodbye when her mother drove away. Then she stood alone in front of the apartment building and hugged her arms to herself, blinking back tears.
she told herself. This is what she had wanted—to be on her own. And now she was.
Leah wasted no time going to the grocery store; instead she took out the roughly drawn map Charity had sent her and followed it to the Longacre farm. The Indiana countryside was flat, the road straight as an arrow as it passed fields of young corn plants. The late-afternoon sun felt warm on her head and shoulders, but although it was late May, the breeze still held an edge of coolness. In less than fifteen minutes, she turned off the main highway onto a gravel road marked as the entrance to the farm. Far back on the property, she saw a rambling two-story farmhouse. Of course, no telephone poles, no wires for electricity led up to the house. The Amish kept their own ways and did not want modern conveniences.
Leah stopped shy of the well-cared-for lawn.
The screen door banged open and Charity, gathering her skirt, darted off the porch. She wore a long, plain brown dress covered with a long white apron. The ties from her prayer cap flapped as she ran toward the car. “Leah, how pleased I am to see you!”