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Authors: WANDA E. BRUNSTETTER

the STRUGGLE (6 page)

BOOK: the STRUGGLE
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Hannah nodded. Some people might be able to sacrifice that much, but she wasn’t sure she could. And she hoped she’d never have to find out.

Someone tapped Hannah’s shoulder, and she turned around to see Penny. “What is it?” she asked, trying to keep the edge out of her voice.

Penny pointed at Mindy and said,
“Schuck.”

Hannah looked at Mindy and noticed that she’d taken one of her shoes off. “It’s fine. Don’t be a
retschbeddi
,” she said, frowning at Penny.

“I don’t think she means to be a tattletale,” Esther said, jumping to Penny’s defense. “She was probably concerned that Mindy might lose her shoe.”

“Well, it’s not her place to worry about Mindy—especially when she wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Hannah couldn’t help but notice Esther’s icy stare.
She obviously doesn’t like me, but I don’t care. I don’t care if anyone here in Christian County likes me
. She swallowed around the lump in her throat.
But if nobody likes me, I’ll never fit in. Maybe I should try a little harder to be nice
.

“Just look at those maple trees,” Esther said, bringing Hannah’s thoughts to a halt. “It’s hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago they were a brilliant reddish gold, and now they’ve lost most of their leaves.” She sniffed the air. “That pungent odor tells me that someone in the area is burning leaves.”

“It sure is chilly today,” Hannah said. “I wonder if we’ll have a cold winter.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. A few years ago we had a terrible ice storm that left many Englishers without power. A lot of us Amish pitched in to help out wherever we could.”

“I’m sure everyone needed help during that time,” Hannah said.

Esther nodded. “They sure did.”

They rode a little farther, and then Esther guided the horse and buggy up a long, graveled driveway. “See that big house at the end of the drive?” she said, pointing out the front buggy window. “That’s Bonnie’s bed-and-breakfast.”

Hannah studied the stately old home. On one end of the long front porch was a swing, and two wicker chairs sat on the other end. A small table was positioned between them, holding a pot of yellow mums. The place looked warm and inviting. Even the yard was neat, with bushes well trimmed and weed-free flower beds in front of the house. “The outside of the home looks quite nice,” Hannah said. “Where’s the guesthouse you stay in?”

“Over there.” Esther pointed to a smaller building that was set back from the house. It didn’t look like it had more than a couple of rooms, but Hannah figured it was probably big enough for Esther’s needs. Since she spent most of her time helping out at the B&B or watching Samuel’s kids, she really only needed a place to sleep.

Just then a little brown-and-white mixed terrier bounded up to the buggy, barking and leaping into the air like it had springs on its legs.

“That’s Bonnie’s dog, Cody,” Esther said. “He gets excited as soon as he sees my horse and buggy.”


Hundli!
Hundli!” Mindy shouted from the backseat.

“No, Mindy,” Esther said. “Cody’s a full-grown dog, not a puppy.”

“All dogs are puppies to her,” Hannah said in Mindy’s defense.

Esther silently guided her horse up to the hitching rail and climbed down from the buggy. After securing the horse, she came around to help Penny and Jared down, while Hannah put Mindy’s shoe back on and lifted her out of the buggy.

Then, with the dog barking and running beside them, they made their way up to the house.

When they stepped inside, Hannah sniffed at the scent of apples and cinnamon. She figured Bonnie must have been baking. A few seconds later, a young woman with dark, curly hair and brown eyes stepped into the hallway. “Oh Esther, it’s you,” she said with a look of surprise. “I didn’t expect to see you again until this evening.”

“I came by because I wanted you to meet Samuel’s sister-in-law, Hannah. They’ve moved here from Pennsylvania.” Esther motioned to Mindy, who clung to Hannah’s hand. “This is their daughter, Mindy; she’s three.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Hannah. I’m Bonnie Taylor.” Bonnie shook Hannah’s hand; then she bent down so she was eye level with Mindy and said,
“Brauchscht kichlin?”

“Why would you ask if my daughter needed cookies?” Hannah questioned.

“Oh my!” Bonnie’s cheeks flamed as she straightened to her full height. “I’ve learned a few Pennsylvania-Dutch words from Esther and Samuel and thought I knew what I was saying. What I meant to ask was if Mindy would
like
some cookies.” She looked down at Jared and Penny, who were smiling up at her with eager expressions, then motioned for them to follow her into the kitchen.

“What’s that delicious smell?” Hannah asked, sniffing the air.

“Oh, you must smell my new apple-pie fragrance candle.” Bonnie pointed to the candle on the table. “I bought it the other day at Walmart in Hopkinsville.”

“I hope I’ll get to go there soon,” Hannah said. “I could use a few things that I probably can’t find at the Mennonite store in this area.”

“I’d be happy to drive you to Hopkinsville whenever you want to go.” Bonnie motioned to the table. “If you’d all like to take a seat, I’ll give the children a glass of milk and some of the peanut butter cookies I made yesterday, and we ladies can enjoy a cup of tea.”

“Can we have a few cookies, too?” Esther asked, wiggling her eyebrows playfully while smiling at Bonnie. It was obvious that the two women were good friends, and Hannah felt a bit envious.

After the children finished their cookies and milk, Penny asked if she and Jared could take Mindy outside to play with the dog and see Bonnie’s chickens.

“I don’t think so,” Hannah was quick to say. “Mindy’s never been here before, and she might wander off. I’d feel better if she stayed inside with me.”

Esther instructed Penny to keep an eye on her little brother and told Jared to stay close to his sister and remain in the yard. The children nodded, and after being helped into their jackets, they skipped happily out the back door.

Hannah gathered Mindy into her arms. She couldn’t believe Esther would send two small children into the yard to play by themselves. She wondered what Samuel would think if he knew how careless Esther was with his children.

Bonnie took a seat at the table, and as she visited with Hannah and Esther, she couldn’t help but notice the look of sadness on Hannah’s face. The young woman was polite enough and appeared to be interested in hearing how Bonnie had acquired the bed-and-breakfast, but her voice seemed flat, almost forced, like she was making herself join in the conversation. Bonnie remembered when Timothy had come for Titus and Suzanne’s wedding, she’d been surprised that his wife hadn’t been with him. He’d said Hannah stayed home to take care of her mother, who’d sprained her ankle, but Bonnie had a feeling it was more than that. She was pretty intuitive and had a hunch that Hannah didn’t like it here. Probably hadn’t wanted to leave Pennsylvania at all.

“It’s so nice to just sit and visit like this, with a warm cup of tea and some delicious cookies,” Esther said. “I enjoy such simple pleasures.”

Bonnie nodded. “I remember when I was a girl visiting my grandparents here, Grandma once said to me, ‘Whatever your simple pleasures may be, enjoy them and share them with someone else.’ She also said that we sometimes take for granted the everyday things that give us a sense of joy and well-being. These simple things are often forgotten when problems occur in our lives.” She lifted her cup of tea and smiled. “Since I’ve moved here I’ve been trying to savor all the down-to-earth pleasures I possibly can.”

Hannah smiled and nodded. At least she was responding a bit more.

Bonnie was about to ask if either Esther or Hannah would like another cookie when the back door bounced open and Penny and Jared rushed in.

Penny dashed across the room and clutched Bonnie’s hand. “Eloise is
dot
!”

“Eloise is dead?” Bonnie looked over at Esther for confirmation. “Is that what she said?”

“I’m afraid so,” Esther said with a nod.

“Oh my! I’d better go see about this!” Bonnie jumped up and hurried out the door.

C
HAPTER
8

H
annah shuddered at the thought of someone lying dead in Bonnie’s yard. “Wh–who is Eloise?” she asked in a shaky voice.

“She’s one of Bonnie’s laying hens,” Esther replied. “If you don’t mind keeping the kinner in here with you, I think I’ll go outside and have a look myself.”

“No, I don’t mind.” Hannah said with a shake of her head. Truth was, she had no desire to see a dead chicken, and she didn’t think the children needed to be staring at it either.

Esther leaned down and gave Jared a kiss on the cheek. “Be a good boy now.”

After Esther went out the door, Hannah seated the children at the table and gave them each a piece of paper and some crayons she had brought along in her oversized purse.

While they colored, she studied her surroundings some more. The kitchen was cozy, with pretty yellow curtains at the window. There was a mix of modern appliances—a microwave, portable dishwasher, and electric coffeemaker, along with an older-looking stove and refrigerator on one side of the room. Several older items—a butter churn, a metal bread box, some antique canning jars, and an old pie cupboard that looked like it had been restored—added character to the room. Everything in the kitchen looked neat and orderly, much the way Hannah had kept her kitchen back home. It was nice that Bonnie had been able to use her grandparents’ place as a bed-and-breakfast so others could enjoy it. Hannah hoped when Bonnie came in that she might show her the rest of the house.

Being here, in this place so warm and inviting, made Hannah miss her home all the more. She felt like a bird without a tree to land in, and it just wasn’t right. She knew, according to the Bible, that she needed to be in subjection to her husband, but it was hard when she felt he’d been wrong in insisting they move to Kentucky.

I mustn’t dwell on this
, Hannah told herself.
It’s not going to change the fact that I’m stuck in a place I don’t want to be, so I need to try and make the best of my situation—at least until Timothy wakes up and realizes we were better off in Pennsylvania
.

“What do you think killed Eloise?” Bonnie asked after she and Esther had dug a hole and buried the chicken.

“I’m pretty sure she died from old age, because her neck wasn’t broken and there were no tears in her skin or any feathers missing. You can be glad it wasn’t a fox, because they can really wreak havoc in a chicken coop. In fact, a fox probably would have killed every one of your chickens,” Esther said.

Bonnie breathed a sigh of relief. Taking care of chickens kept her busy enough; she sure didn’t need the worry of keeping some predator away.

“Shall we go back inside and give Hannah a tour of the B&B?” Esther asked once they were done.

Bonnie shrugged as she jammed the shovel into the ground and leaned on it. “Do you think she’d be interested? She seems kind of distant.”

“I believe so. She did comment on the outside of your house when we first pulled into your yard. In fact, she seemed impressed by what she saw.”

“Well, she wouldn’t have been if she’d seen the way it looked before Samuel and Allen did all the repairs on this place.”

“It just goes to show that there’s hope for almost any home, even those that are really run down,” Esther said with a chuckle.

Bonnie laughed, too. “This old house was definitely run-down. I think if my grandparents were still alive, they’d be pleased with the way it looks now. And I know they’d appreciate their home being put to good use.”

“I believe you’re right, and I’m glad your business is doing well.”

“You get the credit for some of that, because if you hadn’t taught me how to cook, I couldn’t offer my patrons a decent breakfast as part of their stay.”

Esther smiled. “I’m glad I was able to help, and I’m appreciative for the job you’ve given me.”

“You’ll have it for as long as you like, because I have no plans to go anywhere.” Bonnie gave Esther’s arm a gentle squeeze. “You, on the other hand, might have other plans that don’t include the B&B.”

BOOK: the STRUGGLE
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