The sun was shining, the trees were starting to show signs of spring, and everyone Teena and Lizzy passed had a smile on their face enjoying the first warm day of spring. All around they both agreed it was a perfect day for a trip to the dry goods store to set their plan in motion.
It had been weeks since they’d cornered Barbara Miller at church hoping to talk some sense into the young widow. The two older women were dead-set against her leaving Willow Springs to move to Sugarcreek to marry a man she’d never met. They knew it was her day to work the counter at Shelter’s Dry Goods and they couldn’t get there fast enough to put step two into action.
Lizzy clicked her tongue and gently slapped the reins to lead her horse into a slow trot as she said.
“I know if we can just get the two of them together Barbara will see that Joseph has changed. He’s not that same lanky know-it-all boy that left home five years ago to give the English world a try. I’ve talked to his mamm, and he’s all set on taking his kneeling vow and joining the church. He’s been helping his datt at the harness shop until he finds a farm to buy of his own.
Teena turned in her seat as they passed the Miller farm and said.
“I understand that there’s no way Barbara can take care of that big house and farm all by herself, but selling it and moving away from her family is crazy. Especially when Joesph has made it clear, he wants to buy the farm and allow her and the kinne to still live there. It sounds like a perfect solution to me. I just don’t understand what happened between the two of them that she won’t even consider his offer?”
Lizzy shook her head and snickered. “She was pretty adamant that she had no desire to let him buy the farm. Whatever it is between them just has to be dealt with. He’s her brother-in-law, and there is no reason she won’t take him up on his offer. These young kids don’t know a good thing when it’s staring them in the face and if we have to step in the middle of it then so be it. That’s what we’ll do.”
Tenna dug the screwdriver out of her purse and held it up and asked.
“Do you think it will work? I brought the screwdriver like you said and left word with Joesph’s mamm that we’re having trouble with the harness on Belle. I told her to have Joesph meet us at ten o’clock at Shelter’s.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t know that Barbara just took a job at the store and as long as we get there first, he’ll come in looking for us, and we can go about forcing them to talk.”
As they rounded the bend in the road, Lizzy slapped the reins to hurry Belle along as she looked at the parking lot ahead.
“Oh good, he’s not here yet.”
Once they got their buggy tethered to the hitching post, they wasted no time getting down and heading up the stairs. They stopped for only a second as Lizzy took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and pushed the heavy door open. She leaned into Tenna and whispered.
“If we have anything to do about it, we’re not letting Barbara ruin a good thing.
“Good morning,” Barbara said as she stood at the counter filling bags of pretzels.
“Well hello to you as well. It’s a beautiful spring day, jah?”
Teena looked over her shoulder and out the window just as she saw Joesph pull into the parking lot. She grabbed Lizzy’s sleeve and gave it a gentle tug as she tilted her head toward the window.
Lizzy cleared her throat and started to rummage through her purse looking for her list. Once she found it, she held it up and took her time reading it trying to stall for time as she waited for Joesph to come inside.
“We’re doing some extra baking for the Benefit Auction, so we have a few things we need.”
Just as she was about to start reading from her list the bell above the door rang, and Joesph walked in. He ducked his head as he came through the door and took his hat off once he was inside.
It only took a few seconds for both women to sense there was more to the story than they knew just by the way Joesph looked at Barbara. She quickly turned her attention back to the older women and started to ask for their list when Joesph spoke up.
“I hear one of you ladies is having trouble with your harness. If you’ll tell me what the problem is I’ll get out of your way and see if I can’t get it fixed while you’re shopping.”
Fumbling over her words Lizzy looked down at her list and then over at Teena trying to figure out how they were going to get them in the back room together.
“Before you go look at our harness do you think you can help Barbara get a couple fifty-pound bags of flour out of the back room and loaded into our buggy?”
With more force than necessary Barbara closed the lid on the bucket of pretzels, and cleared her throat and said.
“I can do that myself I don’t need his help.
With a sharpness in his voice, he turned toward Barbara and said.
“I’m sure you can, but since I’m here, I can carry it out for you.”
Knowing she wasn’t going to get rid of him until she showed him where the flour was she headed to the back room and motioned him to follow her.
Tenna reached into her purse and took out the screwdriver as Lizzy grabbed her armed and followed them to the back room. As soon as they were sure Joesph and Barabara were in the back of stockroom, Lizzy closed the door, flipped the hasp over the latch and slid the long screwdriver through the hole to secure it in place, locking the storeroom door from the outside.
It happened all too fast. The door closing, the hasp being flipped, and the room turned black.
Barbara had just reached the area where the flour was stored when the room went dark. As she turned toward the sound of the door closing, Joesph ran smack into her knocking her backward. In one swift movement, he wrapped his arms around her steadying her and keeping her from falling into the storage shelves.
She was shocked at the response her body had by his touch. How could just a few seconds erase five years of heartache and disappointment? In the darkness of the room and without being able to see in his eyes she let him pull her into his embrace. He wrapped his arms around her tighter and reached up and placed his large hand on the back of her head and pulled her into his chest.
She had built a wall around herself trying to keep him from seeing her true feelings ever since he moved back to Willow Springs. The last five years had been a hard on her. First losing him to the English world and then losing her John in a farming accident leaving her to raise Charles and Johnny by herself. For a few seconds, she let her guard down and let him hold her again.
Still holding her close he rested his chin on the top of her head and asked.
“Will you ever trust me again? I know I hurt you by leaving, but you have to believe I wanted to come back to you. By the time I got my head on straight and realized that the life I was looking for was here all along you had married John.”
Pushing her arms down and breaking the hold he had on her she stepped back and away from him.
“John was the only friend I had when you left. He always looked up to you, and you hurt us both. He lost his brother and his best friend when you took off and shattered our lives. One minute you and I were planning on getting married and the next minute I was facing life alone. John was there for me, and it only made sense that I married him when he asked. I still loved you, and even though he knew I would never love him like I loved you, he accepted that and wanted to take care of me anyway. Little did you know that he loved you so much he wanted to take care of me for you.”
“I can’t change what happened in the past, and if I could, I would have never left you. All I can do now is help you keep the farm John worked so hard to build up. I don’t expect you to welcome me back with open arms and I am not asking for anything else than to work my brother’s farm. Please don’t run off to Sugarcreek, please stay here and let me prove to you that I’ve changed.”
She didn’t say a word as she walked past him toward the door.
She grabbed the latch and when she found it still locked she reached up and banged on the door.
“Lizzy you open this door right this minute, I know what the two of you are up to, and it won’t work!”
“What are you talking about? Did they lock us in here on purpose?
“Those two have been trying to talk me out of going to Sugarcreek for weeks. They’ve been talking you up and begging me to reconsider your offer. They think I’m unreasonable in not letting you buy the farm. But, as I see it I am just protecting myself.
He reached out and grabbed her hand and pulled her close again as he whispered an Amish Proverb in her ear.
“Regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow are twin thieves that rob us of the moment.”
Just then the door swung open, Lizzy and Teena stood smiling as they could see that their plan was working.
As quickly as the door swung open Joseph released Barbara from his hold, but it was going to take longer for Barbara to break the hold he still had on her heart. As she looked up into his eyes, she couldn’t help but want to give him another chance.
She had been praying for weeks that God would show her what He wanted her to do. Did He want her to go Sugarcreek or did He want her to stay in Willow Springs? Was this the answer she was hoping to hear from Him?
Pushing her way past him and out the door she gave a stern look at the two older women standing at the door with smiles on their faces a mile wide.
“You two never stop do you?”
Lizzy and Teena followed her back to the counter just as Joseph swung two bags of flour over his shoulder and headed out the door. The air was even thicker than it was when Joseph first got there, but they felt they had made progress.
“So, are you going to let him buy the farm? Teena whispered.
“Ten minutes of being locked in a storeroom by two noisy old women changes nothing. But I promise I will think about it and take it to the Lord before I make any hasty decisions.”
Knowing they had irritated Barbara by their meddling they quickly paid for their supplies and were on their way.
Barbara stood at the window looking out at Joseph as he worked on the harness. His hair was starting to grow out to an acceptable Amish length, and it was curling up at the ends around the straw hat he wore tight on his head. Had she ever stopped loving him? Could she open her heart and let him back into her life? What was it God was trying to tell her?
She closed her eyes and leaned her head on the cold glass and asked God to show her what He wanted her to do. When she opened her eyes, she saw lying on the floor a bookmark that had fallen from the shelf to the left of the window.
On the bookmark, it read. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”. Colossians 3:13
As if the whole world had instantly been lifted from her shoulders she knew what God wanted her to do. She opened the door and hollered out for Joseph to come back inside when he was done with the harness.
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“Do not ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you are not willing to move your feet.” Amish Proverb
The lush green pastures along the interstate had Savannah Carmichael in awe as she listened carefully to the directions