Who can Rebekah trust when the line between English and Amish becomes blurred?
An Amish Settlement. An English stranger. The Blizzard of 1888.
Rebekah's mother, Elnora Stoll, is the finest quilter in all of Gasthof Village but it seems Rebekah has inherited none of her skill. A sweet and gentle love blossoms between Rebekah Stoll and her childhood friend Joseph Graber, despite attempts by her saucy nemesis, Katie Knepp, to sway the young man's affections her way. When Joseph hints at the promise of forever, Rebekah is positive she should say yes to his proposal - until a mysterious English stranger shows up at her homestead and sets everything she thought she knew about her world on end.
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“Jeremiah! The barn’s on fire!” she yelled to nowhere, taking the stairs two and three at a time.
Her brother’s footsteps fell in behind her. “Let’s go!”
The pair hit the door at the same time, flinging it wide open. It cracked against the strain of its hinges. Not bothering to turn around and close it, they raced for the barn. Rebekah hadn’t grabbed a covering and her wet hair streamed out behind her like yellow ribbons from a maypole. It slapped her in the face when the wind whipped from a different direction.
Grinding to a halt at the water pump, Rebekah grabbed Jeremiah by his shoulders.
“You help Pa! I’m going in for the animals!”
Jeremiah ferociously began pumping for Samuel who, before that moment hadn’t even noticed that his two eldest children had joined him.
“Blitzschlag!” Samuel yelled in German. “Lightning struck the barn!”
The inside of their cozy barn was ablaze. Piles of the sweet-smelling hay, where Rebekah had hidden from her brothers on lazy fall afternoons, were engulfed by the roaring, ravenous flames. The yoke her father had hewn by hand as a boy was charred, hanging on a blackened beam. A rafter collapsed, shocking her back to her senses.
Cream and Butter were tied up in their stalls, pulling and rearing at the ropes that had become their enemy. Tiny Buttermilk bleated and mooed helplessly from behind her mother.
Rebekah yanked free the knots that held Cream and Butter at bay. The eyes of her normally-docile cows were wild and terrifying, but Rebekah grasped the lead ropes in her hands anyway and turned to lead them out.
She looked back at the tiny calf, frozen in fear. Their eyes met. “I’ll be back for you,” Rebekah swore.
Turning, she sang the flapjack ingredients song loudly, so as to be heard over the roaring flame, in a futile attempt to keep both her and the frightened cattle calm.
Another flaming beam snapped and fell behind them, spooking Butter. The milk cow bellowed and reared, dancing on her hind legs before jerking free from Rebekah and tearing off into the heart of the storm.
Rebekah stumbled and fell with the force of Butter’s yank, sending her sprawling in the mud. Pushing herself up, she managed to miss being trampled by Cream’s frightened hooves that stomped around her.
“Cream!” she yelled, her voice deep and foreign in her own ears, “Come on!” Ever obedient, Cream, though skittish, walked on to the house with Rebekah.
Tying the nervous cow to the front door, a strong pair of hands fell upon Rebekah’s shoulders, turning her around.
“It’s over,” her Pa yelled, pulling her to his chest in a tight hug. “It’s over, girl. It’s over.” It sounded as though he were trying to convince himself of that fact more than convince her. Over his shoulder, she saw that the fierce fire had overtaken the barn. Angry flames licked skyward from the loft.
Stiffening, a scream tore from her lips. “Buttermilk!”
“The baby’s gone,” her father yelled.
“No!” Struggling against his iron grasp was futile, but after a moment she managed to wean her way from under his elbow.
“Rebekah, stop!” Samuel bellowed. “Stillgestanden!”
Ignoring him, Rebekah dodged Jeremiah’s clutches easily, her eyes and heart already set on the glowing barn.
“Buttermilk, I’m coming,” she screamed again. Her father rasped behind her. Thankfully, he was all tired out from fighting the fire. She sped ahead, leaving him wheezing in the mud outside the barn.
“Rebekah, don’t baby, please.” His weak words sounded as far away as Germany as she raced into the barn.
Rebekah slid her legs over the side of her bed, easing them down until her feet met the hardwood floor. Her father had laid this floor expertly in just a few days’ time, or so she’d heard tale.
Shards of pain sparked up her leg from her bad foot, making her stomach turn over. She choked on the yell that strangled in her throat as the rest of her body joined her feet on the floor. Tears blurred her wobbly vision.
A strained groan came from the direction of her parent’s room.
Rebekah shook the foggy stars from her head.
“Standing up isn’t really an option,” she reasoned as she sat on the chilled floor that had moments before been her ally. She flexed her multi-hued ankle. “Nope, certainly not an option.”
A series of pants echoed in the dark hallway.
“I’m coming, Ma.”
Ignoring the seeping dankness, she stretched out on the floor in her thin nightgown, Rebekah pulling herself along the smooth boards with her hands. She slithered to the doorway like a snake through the grass.
Rebekah managed to navigate around the doorframe only to knock her head on something stationary that shouldn’t be there. “Ow!”
Her mother’s labored breathing drew Rebekah’s attention from her own sudden pain.
“Rebekah,” she rasped. She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that Rebekah’s head just met her nose. Hard.
“Ma, are you okay?” The absurdity of that question filled the air. Of course her pregnant mother, lying here alone in the early morning darkness, was not okay.
“The baby,” she started.
Rebekah didn’t wait for her to finish. She scurried to her mother’s feet and paled at what she saw.
By muted moonlight, it was obvious that the dark pool beneath her mother was blood.
“Mrs. Yoder said the baby wouldn’t be coming for a while,” Rebekah stammered. She chewed the inside of her lip as the sea of churning thoughts attempted to push a coherent solution to this predicament into the forefront of her mind. It wasn’t working.
Clear fluid puddled around her mother in stark contrast to the crimson stains. “Ahh,” Elnora gasped.
“Something’s wrong,” Elnora said, the tension causing her words to break in unnatural places. “With the baby, something’s wrong.”
The tears sprang up in Rebekah’s eyes without warning. “What Ma, tell me what’s wrong.” Rebekah swiped at her face with the back of her hand. “Tell me what’s wrong and I’ll fix it!”
A grunt from Elnora gave her pause. “I have to push!”
Fumbling with her mother’s nightgown, she sucked in a hard breath. “Ma, I see feet.”
Elnora stopped panting. “Feet?” She began to shake her head in tiny little shakes. “Oh Rebekah, no. No!”
“What do I do?” The hysteria was rising in her throat, pinging the ends of her words.
“Turn him. Turn the baby.”
The sea of thoughts began to churn again in Rebekah’s mind, this time vicious and wild.
“Ma,” she began. The icy fingers of fear clenched tight her throat. A very real pain seared there, just beneath her chin. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Dear Father,” Elnora prayed, oblivious to Rebekah’s plight, “Please turn the baby or he’ll die.”
Rebekah placed her hands alongside the tense bulge on Elnora’s stomach. “Please Father; help me save my little brother or sister.”
Sara is a mother of four, animal lover and advocate, and conservationist. Little House on the Prairie, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and Lonesome Dove are among her favorite shows/movies and books. Sara holds her B.A. in History and is the author of the historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart, from 5 Prince Publishing and recently debuted into the children's book realm with Chunky Sugars (5 Prince Kids), written for her own chunky baby.
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