The liquid warble of several wrens out near the milk house awakened Leah. She hurried out of bed, whispering “time to wake up” to Sadie, who was still sleeping soundly. But Sadie only groaned and turned over, covering her head with the summer quilt.
Something was beginning to weigh on Leah’s mind, and she wanted to talk with Sadie about it. It had to do with Naomi Kauffman and her outspoken new beau, Luke Bontrager, who had shown a different side than she’d expected. Especially here recently after the baptismal candidates had met with Preacher Yoder and Deacon Stoltzfus for the required instruction. Naomi had actually seen the error of her ways, making things right with the Lord God and Preacher Yoder—a mighty good thing. A girl just never knew when she might breathe her last lungful of air. Too many teenagers had lost their lives racing trains with horse and buggy or in farming accidents. Being Plain could be downright dangerous sometimes.
The deacon and the preacher had been admonishing them mostly in High German that day, discussing at length the eighteen articles of faith from the Dordrecht Confession. Leah had a hard time understanding what was being taught, let alone how she should respond to the questions. She was brave enough to speak up—much to Luke’s surprise—to ask if it would be all right for her parents to help her read the baptism chapter found in Matthew’s gospel. Well, Luke had arched his eyebrows. “You ain’t studyin’ the Scriptures, now, are you?” he whispered her way.
“My father reads the German Bible to us in Amish each night, is all,” she’d answered, not one bit ashamed. Besides, Dat’s reading the Scripture aloud was far different than analyzing God’s Word like some folk outside the community of the People were known to do. She might have added that Mamma often prayed without putting in many “thee’s” and “thou’s,” like some Mennonites they knew who called upon the name of the Lord God. But by then she was cautious and didn’t dare say that much. It wasn’t anybody’s concern how Dat and Mamma went about passing on the faith to their children, was it?
In the end Deacon Stoltzfus said he was in favor of Leah getting help from her parents, that it was all right for her to ponder these Scriptures—it wasn’t as though they would be having an out-and-out Bible study like some church groups. “Your father can read you Matthew chapter twenty-eight, verse nineteen, as well as Mark chapter sixteen, verse sixteen ... in English or Amish, either one. ’Tis long past time all you young folk understand fully the covenant making,” said the deacon.
Preacher Yoder may have been less enthusiastic but gave his blessing on Deacon’s remarks. “Go ahead, Leah, speak with your father ... if you have any questions about your kneeling vow a’tall.”
Naomi had looked mighty eager to take Leah aside, which she did out in the barnyard after baptismal instruction. There Naomi had whispered to Leah that Luke had begun courting her, and to keep it quiet. “ ’S’okay for you to tell Sadie I’m getting married, though,” Naomi said unexpectedly. “She might be a bit surprised....”
Which would have been the end of it if Adah Peachey hadn’t come walking up to the two of them and said, “Hullo, Leah ... Naomi.”
For a while they stood there engaging in small talk. Then Naomi lowered her voice yet again, saying she’d like nothing better than if both Leah and Adah would consider being in her bridal party. Leah waited, expecting Naomi to correct herself on the spot and say she in fact meant Sadie—surely she would. But the uncomfortable silence was broken by Adah, who, all smiles, said she’d be right happy to be one of the bridesmaids.
“Well, Leah?” Naomi turned to her. “What about you?”
“I’m thinkin’ maybe you’d want to be askin’ Sadie, jah?”
“No, I asked you,” Naomi replied, big eyes shining.
“Then, I’d like to talk it over with my sister, seein’ as how you and she—well, you’re close friends and all.”
“Used to be.”
The words had sounded so final, it pained Leah to remember them. “Used to be.”
Now here she sat in the quietude of her bedroom, with Sadie beginning to stretch, there in the bed. Waiting for her sister to rise and shine, she felt quite uneasy. She let a few more minutes pass; then she spoke at last. “I want to ask you somethin’, Sadie.”
Suddenly she felt it might be a mistake to address the touchy issue. Yet it was better now than for Sadie to hear it elsewhere. “How would you feel if I stood up with Naomi on her weddin’ day?” she blurted.
“That’s up to you” came the quick and sleepy answer.
“You don’t mind, then?”
“Not any more than I mind you goin’ to her weddin’ at all.”
Leah sighed. “Well, aren’t you goin’?”
“Not if I can help it.” Sadie sat up in bed. “Friends and relatives are expected to attend the weddin’. I daresay I’m neither of those to Naomi.”
Leah paused, then asked gently, “Can you say ... uh, what happened between you and Naomi?”
“She has no business bein’ baptized, is all.” Sadie turned her head and was staring out the window.
“Then why do you s’pose Naomi’s goin’ ahead with it?”
“One reason, I ’spect.”
“To marry Luke?”
Sadie clammed up, and Leah went to the wooden wall hooks next to the dresser and removed her brown choring dress from a hanger. Standing there, she felt awkward, as if she didn’t truly belong in the shared room. “ ’Tis a sorry situation, Naomi’s ... if what you say is true.”
“Why must you be judgin’ everyone?” Sadie snapped.
Leah was startled at her sister’s biting words, but the conversation ended abruptly with Mamma’s knock at the door.
“Time to begin the day, girls” came her soft call.
Hastily, they dressed in their choring dresses and brushed their hair into low buns at the nape of their necks. Then they put on their devotional caps and hurried downstairs to help—Sadie with kitchen duties and Leah with the first milking of the day.
That evening when Leah and Sadie were preparing to dress for bed, Sadie brought the matter up again. “You surely think the same of me as you do of Naomi,” she said. “Ain’t so, Leah?”
Leah wasn’t prepared for this, even though Sadie’s accusation—“judgin’ everyone”—had echoed in her ears all day. “You know by now what I think,” she said, getting up the nerve. “I think God will forgive anyone for sin. And so would Mamma. She’s all for you, Sadie. She’d forgive you if you’d but ask.”
“Mamma might, but not Dat.”
“Ach, Sadie, how can you say that? If you went through the correct channels, bowed your knee in contrition before the People=—”
“Might be best to save your breath, Leah.”
Sadie’s comment pained her. She feared her sister was farther from the Lord God and His church than ever before. And for this Leah felt truly sad.
Sadie continued to seethe with anger as she picked up the lantern at the back door and walked out into the night, past the well pump and through the barnyard. The moon wore a silver-white halo, the sky black as pitch. She might’ve used the chamber bucket under the bed, but she needed to breathe some fresh air. The night was exceedingly warm, despite the afternoon shower, maybe more so because of the humidity that hung like a shroud over the farm. Both she and Leah had thrown off the covers before ever settling into bed. Of course, it could be the harsh silence between them that was making Sadie feel warmer than usual. Even her fingertips were hot as she walked to the wooden outhouse.
Who did Leah think she was, ordering her elder sister around? All this fussing between them had left Sadie emotionally drained. To think her best friend, Naomi, had bypassed her and asked Leah to be a bridesmaid, of all things! Well, she hoped not to be anywhere near Gobbler’s Knob by the time Naomi and Luke tied the knot.
On the return trip from the outhouse she made a stop in the kitchen to wash her hands and eat some graham crackers and drink a glass of milk. That done, she felt a little better and headed back upstairs only to discover that, lo and behold, Dat and Mamma were still awake and having a discussion in their room, behind closed doors. Sadie had never encountered this in all her born days because her parents were often the first ones to head for bed, especially with Lydiann waking up at three-thirty for her early-morning feeding.
Dat was doing the talking. “No ... no, I tend to disagree.”
“We ain’t never goin’ to see eye to eye—”
“Have you thought it over but good, Ida? Have you?” Dat interrupted. “Do you realize what an upheaval this’ll cause under our roof?”
“Indeed, I have. And I believe ... if you don’t mind me bein’ so blunt, it’s time we tell her.”
Sadie froze in place. What on earth were her parents disputing? Tell whom? Tell what?
The conversation ceased altogether with Mamma’s pointed remark, and Sadie assumed her parents had decided to retire for the night. As for herself, she was wide awake and crept back down the steps, hurried through the kitchen, then let herself out the back door without making a sound. Sitting on the back stoop, she stared up at a thousand stars.
“Have you thought it over but good?” Dat’s words came back to haunt her. “What an upheaval ...”
She slapped her hands over her ears, pressing tightly against her head ... hoping to halt the memory of what she’d heard. Could it be they had been talking about her?
King came wandering over from the barn and sat on the concrete next to her, his long black nose pointed toward the moon. She reached down to rub his furry neck. “Something terrible’s a-brewin’,” she whispered, trembling now. “I feel it awful heavy in the air.”
The Betrayal (ABRAM'S DAUGHTERS) by Beverly Lewis
Copyright © 2003, Beverly Lewis
ISBN 0764223313, 0764228072, 0764228064, 0764228080
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.