Take an Emotional Journey Into the Heart of Amish Country
The Hope of Refuge, Book 1
“Mama, can you tell me yet?” Cara held her favorite toy, stroking the small plastic horse as if it might respond to her tender touch.The brown ridges, designed to look like fur, had long ago faded to tan.
Mama held the well-worn steering wheel in silence while she drove dirt roads Cara had never seen before. Dust flew in through the open windows and clung to Cara’s sweaty face, and the vinyl seat was hot to the touch when she laid her hand against it.Mama pressed the brake pedal, slowing the car to a near stop as they crossed another bridge with a roof over it. A covered bridge,Mama called it.The bumpiness of the wooden planks jarred Cara, making her bounce like she was riding a cardboard box down a set of stairs.
Mama reached across the seat and ran her hand down the back of Cara’s head, probably trying to smooth out one of her cowlicks. No matter how short Mama cut her hair, she said the unrulymop always won the battle. “We’re going to visit a…a friend of mine. She’s Amish.” She placed her index finger on her lips. “I need you to do as the mother of Jesus did when it came to precious events. She treasured them in her heart and pondered them. I know you love our diary, and since you turned eight, you’ve been determined to write entries about everything, but you can’t— not this time. No drawing pictures or writing about any part of this trip. And you can’t ever tell your father, okay?”
Sunlight bore down on them again as they drove out of the covered bridge. Cara searched the fields for horses. “Are we going to your hiding place?”
Cara had a hiding place, one her mother had built for her inside the wall of the attic.They had tea parties in there sometimes when there was money for tea bags and sugar. And when Daddy needed quiet, her mother would silently whisk her to that secret room. If her mama didn’t return for her by nightfall, she’d sleep in there, only sneaking out for a minute if she needed to go to the bathroom.
Mama nodded. “I told you every girl needs a fun place she can get away to for a while, right?”
“Well, this is mine. We’ll stay for a couple of days, and if you like it, maybe we’ll move here one day—just us girls.”
Cara wondered if Mama was so tired of the bill collectors hounding her and Daddy that she was thinking of sneaking away and not even telling him where she was going. The familiar feeling returned—that feeling of her insides being Jell-O on a whirlybird ride. She clutched her toy horse even tighter and looked out the window, imagining herself on a stallion galloping into a world where food was free and her parents were happy.
After they topped another hill, her mother slowed the vehicle and pulled into a driveway. Mama turned off the car. “Look at this place, Cara. That old white clapboard house has looked the same since I was a child.”
The shutters hung crooked and didn’t havemuch paint left on them. “It’s really small, and it looks like ghosts live here.”
Her mama laughed. “It’s called a Daadi Haus, which means it’s just for grandparents once their children are grown. It only has a small kitchen, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. This one has been here for many years. You’re right—it does look dilapidated. Come on.”
Seconds after Cara shut the passenger door, an old woman stepped out from between tall rows of corn. She stared at them as if they were aliens, and Cara wondered if her mama really did know these people. The woman wore a long burgundy dress and no shoes. The wrinkles covering her face looked like a roadmap, with the lines taking on new twists as she frowned. Though it was July and too hot for a toboggan cap, she wore a white one.
“Grossmammi Levina, ich bin kumme bsuche. Ich hab aa die Cara mitgebrocht.”
Startled, Cara looked up at her mama.What was she saying? Was it code? Mama wasn’t even good at pig Latin.
The old woman released her apron, and several ears of corn fell to the ground. She hurried up to Mama. “Malinda?”
Tears brimmed in Mama’s eyes, and she nodded. The older woman squealed, long and loud, before she hugged Mama.
A lanky boy came running from the rows. “Levina, was iss letz?” He stopped short, watching the two women for a moment before looking at Cara.
As he studied her, she wondered if she looked as odd to him as he did to her. She hadn’t seen a boy in long black pants since winter ended, and she’d never seen one wear suspenders and a straw hat. Why would he work in a garden in a Sunday dress shirt?
He snatched up several ears of corn the woman had dropped, walked to a wooden wheelbarrow, and dumped them.
Cara picked up the rest of the ears and followed him. “You got a name?”
“I can be lots of help if you’ll let me.”
“Ya ever picked corn before?”
Cara shook her head. “No, but I can learn.”
He just stood there, watching her.
She held out her horse to him. “Isn’t she a beauty?”
He shrugged. “Looks a little worn to me.”
Cara slid the horse into her pocket.
Ephraim frowned. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Are you a boy or a girl?”
The question didn’t bother her. She got it all the time at school from new teachers or ones who didn’t have her in their classes. They referred to her as a young man until they realized she wasn’t a boy. Lots of times it worked for her, like when she slipped right past the teacher who was the lavatory monitor and went into the boys’ bathroom to teach Jake Merrow a lesson about stealing her milk money. She got her money back, and he never told a soul that a girl gave him a fat lip. “If I say I’m a boy, will you let me help pick corn?”
Ephraim laughed in a friendly way. “You know, I used to have a worn horse like the one you showed me. I kept him in my pocket too, until I lost him.”
Cara shoved the horse deeper into her pocket. “You lost him?”
He nodded. “Probably down by the creek where I was fishing. Do you fish?”
She shook her head. “I’ve never seen a creek.”
“Never seen one? Where are you from?”
“New York City. My mama had to borrow a car for us to get beyond where the subway ends.”
“Well, if you’re here when the workday is done, I’ll show you the creek.We got a rope swing, and if your mama will let you, you can swing out and drop into the deep part. How long are you here for?”
She looked around the place. Her mama and the old woman were sitting under a shade tree, holding hands and talking. Across the road was a barn, and she could see a horse inside it. Green fields went clear to the horizon. She took a deep breath. The air smelled delicious, like dirt, but not city dirt. Like growing-food dirt. Maybe this was where her horse took her when she dreamed. The cornstalks reached for the sky, and her chest felt like little shoes were tap-dancing inside it. She should have known that if her mama liked something, it was worth liking.
“Until it’s not a secret anymore, I think.”
Excerpted from Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall. Copyright © 2014 by Cindy Woodsmall. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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