Shannon here: Amish fiction author, Mary Ellis shares a romantic excerpt from her latest release, Abigail’s New Hope. Comment on any post dated March 28 – April 2 for a chance to win a copy. Deadline: midnight, central time – April 2. Here’s Mary:
Excerpt from Abigail’s New Hope:
Laura pulled down a low branch to sniff the dead blossoms. “Don’t expect Isaiah to talk much, Aunt Catherine, because he doesn’t.”
“All right, what else can you tell me?” Her heart pounded more than exertion warranted.
Laura released the tree branch and pulled buttercups up by the roots. “When he does try to talk, he sounds real funny, so don’t be surprised.”
Catherine knew as much, yet yearned to hear anything the child had to say. “Why do you suppose that is?”
Laura chewed on a weed for insight. “Daed said he never heard how words should sound so he can’t say the ones he knows, and he doesn’t know many because he didn’t go to school much.”
“Because the teacher didn’t know how to help him?” Catherine started walking along the path.
That explanation made no sense to a six-year-old. “No, because a couple of boys laughed at him, so he stopped going. Isaiah doesn’t like people laughing at him.” Nathaniel tripped but Laura pulled him upright before Catherine could intervene. “So even if something looks funny, like Nathaniel or a squirrel in the yard, remember not to laugh. Okay?”
Catherine smiled down on a child who possessed the sage wisdom of an elder. “I promise to keep that in mind.” As the trail entered the briar thicket, bees and insects buzzed around their heads. Catherine picked up Nathaniel so he wouldn’t get scratched or stung.
Laura also stayed close, grasping a tight fistful of Catherine’s skirt. “Daed says that Isaiah talks to those who cannot talk back,” she whispered as the path turned to follow the river.
Catherine stopped in mid-stride. “What do you think he meant by that?”
The child gazed up. “I dunno, but I hope we find out today.” Her grin expanded to fill her face.
The aunt and niece didn’t have long to wait for their answer.
The deeper they ventured into the forest, the quieter they became. Soon they were creeping like mice past a sleeping cat. Even Nathaniel watched with owl-round eyes as he clung to Catherine’s neck.
In a sun-dappled clearing with pine needles for carpet and blue sky peeking between the treetops, Isaiah Graber stood motionless with his hand outstretched. A single black crow perched on his shoulder, cocking his head from left to right. A large doe with huge eyes and twitching tail nibbled dried corn kernels from Isaiah’s palm. Two speckled tan and white fawns stood on spindly legs beneath their mother’s belly. The braver of the fawns timidly approached some fallen corn, even though he was too young to have been weaned.
The attention span of a four-year-old only lasted so long. “Hi, Is-sah,” called Nathaniel. He squirmed to be set down. The deer family ran off into the woods while the bird flew to an overhead branch with an annoyed caw.
“Hullo,” said Isaiah, not appearing surprised to see them.
When Laura and Nathaniel ran to him, he stooped to give each a loose embrace. Laura tugged on his sleeve. “Can we go to the swing?” She made a half-circle pendulum motion with her hand through the air.
“Jah, jah,” he said.
“Can we go, Aunt Catherine?” Laura asked as an afterthought.
“Well, I don’t know.” Suddenly, the hot sun was making her sweat despite a breeze through the trees. “Is the swing safe?”
The girl looked baffled. “I guess; it’s not high off the ground.”
“All right then.” Catherine thought to add “stay where I can see you” too late. They had already run off. She walked to where the doe had stood, feeling Isaiah’s gaze on her. Finally, she looked up and drew in a sharp breath. He was chuckling at her—not smiling or smirking—but laughing, at what she didn’t know.
With a sweep of his hand he indicated the direction the kinner had gone. Catherine marched down the path as though on a mission…right to the split log cabin with green metal roof and comfortable wide porch.
Isaiah easily kept pace by her side. While she breathed heavily and perspired, he remained cool and unaffected by heat or humidity. At the steps, he stepped around her to open the front door; then motioned for her to enter.
Her heart rose up her throat looking into the unknown interior. She knew she shouldn’t go in. She had no business here. Daniel had gone to town; no one knew her whereabouts. She was supposed to be the responsible person in the group. Yet, maybe Nathaniel and Laura were already inside. Inhaling deeply, Catherine walked past him into the dim, cool, sweet-smelling cabin. She waited for her eyes to adjust; then perused the room with fascination. Her eyes landed on a small wooden platform under the window. Twin aluminum bowls sat side-by-side, nestled in the recessed openings of the stand. The first bowl contained water, while food kibbles filled the second to the rim. Someone had burned the word “Boots” into the face of the wood, as though with the tip of a hot poker. Catherine stared as the memory of the phantom yellow dog provided explanation for the handmade apparatus. A feeding station so the dog wouldn’t have to bend down. Duly impressed, she perused the rest of the room.
Isaiah owned no curtains, upholstered sofa or comfortable recliner to read by the fire. Because nobody lived close enough to peek in windows and Isaiah couldn’t read anyway. But the furnishings he owned were tidy, functional, and possessing their own charm and beauty: an oak table and two chairs with slat backs and woven rush seats; two bentwood rockers that had taken someone months to make; and a rough-sawn bedstead with four high posts and an intricately carved headboard. Catherine crept deeper into the room to examine the woodcarving on the headboard. It was of a deer family like the one they’d seen in the forest clearing. A backdrop of tall pines and knee-high wildflowers indicated he hadn’t journeyed far for his inspiration. A thick multicolored quilt, probably sewn by her sister Abigail, covered the rustic bed while a plump pillow leaned against one bedpost. A braided rug in soft, muted colors lay beneath her feet. The sparse room looked inviting in its simplicity.
She suddenly felt shy and embarrassed by her intrusion. Wheeling around, her gaze locked with Isaiah’s. He stood in the open doorway, silhouetted by fading light, with his arms crossed over his dark shirt. The no-longer-mysterious Golden Labrador laid at his feet.
He tucked a lock of shoulder-length hair behind one ear. “Gut?” he asked.
“What?” she croaked, transfixed by his black eyes.
“Gut?” He gestured with his head toward the corners of the large cabin.
“Jah, gut, very nice. I must be going now.” Catherine set his lunch bag on the table, and strode past him out the door, practically jumping over the dog. She ran around the cabin on the narrow band of yard next to the river where she found the kinner. Nathaniel sat in a tree swing while Laura pushed him from behind.
“There you are!” She swept the boy up in her arms, grabbed Laura’s hand, and didn’t stop running until she reached the apple orchard. She ignored their questions as to what was wrong, and why were they hurrying so fast.
Because Catherine Yost didn’t have a clue.
About Mary: Mary Ellis grew up close to the eastern Ohio Amish community of Geauga County, where her parents often took her to farmers’ markets and woodworking fairs. She and her husband now live within the largest population of Amish in the country–a four-county area in central Ohio. They love to take weekend getaways to purchase farm produce and other goodies, stay with Amish families in bed and breakfasts, attend country auctions and enjoy the simpler way of life. This is her first series of novels set in the Amish community. Learn more at: http://maryeellis.wordpress.com/