At ten years old she’s injured and feels damaged beyond repair. Years pass, and she buries the incident deep.
Only twenty-three, Rebekah has to make a hard choice without knowing what Dustin will do…how he will feel.
Her fiancé is not with her when the Old German Baptist Brethren Annual Meeting ends.
Will she meekly accept the dishonest way the conference was handled? Accept the irregularities? Accept the way nine powerful men hijacked the Church she loves?
Or will she stand for the truth even if the man of her dreams says “Farewell?”
The peeling paint on the florist’s sign caught Rebekah Reed’s eye. She was going to miss Studebaker’s landmarks and the people who lived here. Pangs of homesickness ambushed her like a tumultuous wind—churning her emotions—leaving her limp and forlorn.
Everyone said the day a girl mailed her wedding invitations was a milestone. This would be the most gratifying day of her life, if only something would cause her future husband to move to Ohio. Like his brother, Duane, had done.
She rolled her eyes. Huh. She should be so lucky.
Of course, Old German Baptist Brethren don’t believe in luck. And she didn't want to be a source of unrest in her marriage. After all, unless the Lord built her house, it would all be in vain.
Rebekah had only been ten years old when Dustin Cripe had rescued her from the bully. It was the most traumatizing event in her life, and she’d always felt God had brought the two of them together. Still, she struggled with the idea of leaving her family and moving to Indiana.
Like a floater in her eye, a black Lincoln Town Car materialized in front of her Explorer. She hit the brakes. The seat belt caught, jerking her back. But in spite of gripping the steering wheel and putting all her weight on the brake, the SUV’s tires screeched against the blacktop until her vehicle tapped the Lincoln’s bumper.
The basket she’d placed on the passenger seat earlier somersaulted onto the floor with a crunch.
She flinched. What if the hamper had flipped into her lap instead? Rebekah glanced to see if it had opened.
Horns blared, snapping her to attention.
Goose bumps sprouted on her flesh as she jockeyed the vehicle to the side of the road. By the time she stopped under a large maple tree and shifted into park, she was dizzy with adrenalin.
What ifs flooded her mind. If she’d been two blocks farther into town, she might not have had space to move to the side. On the other hand, if she’d been two blocks farther, the big black car might not have tried to pass.
Years ago, she’d determined not to let the loss of her left eye hold her back. She prided herself on her defensive driving skills in spite of her monocular vision. Pride. The thought reminded her of Dad’s words from yesterday.
“Pride goes before a fall,” he’d told her for the umpty-dumpth time. “Anything worthwhile in life takes trust in God and plenty of hard work.”
She had not seen the Town Car before it pulled in front of her. Now parked at the side of the road, its pulsating hazard lights drew her gaze. The driver’s door hung open. A huge black dog peered out the back window.
A tapping sound coming from her left startled her. Focused as she was on the animal, she hadn’t seen anyone approach her car. A man wearing dark wraparound sunglasses, with windblown hair curling around his ears, knocked on the glass again.
Rebekah punched the down button for the window. “I am so sorry—”
A sharp bark was followed by a loud howl. The animal sounded excited about the near miss—perhaps even more rattled than she was.
She shifted her attention back to the man standing by her door. Twenty to thirtyish, she’d guess. Hard to tell with those dark glasses. He didn't appear angry, but she’d learned looks could be deceiving. “Your dog seems a bit shook up.”
“Ahh. He just likes to bark.” The man rubbed his hand over his five o’clock shadow then gripped her door handle. “What about you? Are you all right?”
Although she often wore wraparound glasses herself, it bothered her that she couldn't see his eyes. She wished his black shirt and three-piece suit would stop screaming mafia at her.
The locked car doors didn't provide much protection with the window down. She swallowed. “I’m fine. What about you?” She tried to shut off her frenzied thoughts as cars continued to whiz past. Surely, she was safe enough with all these witnesses around. “Is your car still drivable?”
“Should be. It’s a tough car, and I was able to pull off the road just fine. Even so, I want to apologize. I can’t believe I didn't see you. Can’t believe I pulled right in front of your vehicle.” The man gestured toward his car. “By the way, you handled it well. Great driving on your part.”
“Thanks…I guess,” she stammered, unused to dealing with scary-looking people.
“Let me give you my information.” He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a business card.
She searched for his name. “Carlo Valentino.”
“Just call me Carl.” He straightened, whipped off his sunglasses, and used them to point. “Here is my address and phone number. Let me know if you have any problems at all because of this mishap.”
Van-Guard Wholesale, she read. She glanced at his fancy car. Whatever he sold, his job must pay well. Her thoughts swirled as she tucked the card into a pocket of her purse. Now she could see his warm brown eyes, and he didn't seem so dangerous. “Do you need any information from me?”
“I wouldn't mind checking on you later, to make sure everything’s okay. Do you have a card?”
“No, but I guess I could write my name and phone number on something.”
“Why not use the back of this?” he said as he handed her another card along with a pen.
She jotted down her name and cell number, which should be safe enough, and returned it to him.
“Thanks,” Carlos said as he took the information. With a salute, he turned and headed for his Lincoln.
The Studebaker Post Office was on Rebekah’s route to work, and she’d planned to stop there on the way to the clinic. This was the reason she had the invitations with her in the first place. She checked her watch to make sure she still had time to mail them.
She picked up her basket and unlatched the lid to check for damage. Some of the corners had crinkled during the scuffle. Minor though. The envelopes looked as if they’d already run through the postal system. She patted them into enough order to refasten the lid.
As the tension left her shoulders, she looped the seat belt through the handle to anchor the basket. Why hadn't she thought to secure it before she left home? The simple precaution could have saved her a lot of grief.
The Dr Pepper cradled in the drink holder called her name, offering relief to her stressed nerves. With trembling hands, she twisted off the cap. The cooling liquid soothed her dry throat. The bubbles energized her, and she welcomed the caffeine.
Her thoughts drifted to her upcoming marriage. “One man sows. Another man reaps, but God gives the increase.” Although Dad was a carpenter rather than a farmer, he’d told Rebekah this principle applied to every occupation. “Our actions have consequences,” he’d said. “Even for a housewife.”
The Bible tells a man to leave his father and mother, but in her case, it would be reversed. And with God’s help, she would do it. As hard as it would be, she’d leave her folk’s home in Ohio and depend on Dustin for everything.
Rebekah would be a good wife. She was determined. Because, even though she was prone to mishaps, Dustin’s love was not an accident. She knew his love was a treasure and a gift from God.
She’d turned her life over to the Lord as a young teenager, and she trusted Him to watch over her. But expecting so much from the guardian angel He’d sent wasn’t fair. Guilt forced her head lower. Was He up there shaking His head, wondering when she’d finally get her act together?
“Sorry, Father. I should have asked You to calm my nerves instead of depending on a soft drink. Thank You so much for keeping me from harm. Why do I keep thinking I can do this on my own? With Your help, I can be a good wife. You know I’m counting on it.”
After a few more sips, she felt somewhat restored, and when the traffic cleared, she merged back into the morning rush.
Ten minutes later, Rebekah parked her SUV in the last open spot in front of the old brick building. She slipped the slender strap of her handbag over her shoulder and reached across the passenger seat. After unhooking the hamper from its restraint, she ran her finger over the bumps where cording, dyed her favorite shade of green, intertwined with flat wicker reeds. Nothing felt broken.
The handwoven basket was a birthday gift from her cousin, Evalena Davidson. Cousin-in-law, if she wanted to be technical. Evalena gave her the basket the same day Rebekah and Dustin became engaged.
Her heart swelled and she smiled as she remembered how he’d gotten down on his knees. She didn't know men still did that.
“Did you ask my dad?” she’d questioned him.
“Of course,” Dustin had answered. “I want to do this right.”
Rebekah approached the post office with the hamper slung over her arm. She’d only climbed a few steps when her foot tangled in the fabric of her skirt, and she tripped.
She removed one hand from the basket and grabbed the metal railing to steady herself. Obviously, she needed more practice walking in the top-of-the-shoe-length dress. It was only two inches longer than her normal dresses, but it wwouldn'tdo to stumble on her wedding day.
Although she wasn't superstitious—not at all—she’d learned klutzy ways held consequences. She’d taken no chances since the accident in the barn. Even when she chose her kitten, she’d bypassed the sleek black one and picked a tabby.
As she entered the large room, customers bustled about coming and going. The soft murmur of the postal clerks filled her ears. The scent of paper and glue lingered in the air. And something else. A hint of floral and musk?
Rebekah nodded greetings to the other customers who glanced her way and chose the shorter line behind a balding man. A farmer, by the looks of him. At least, the red hankie protruding from the back pocket of his frayed denims reminded her of Dustin’s father. The man smelled of Old Spice, like her grandpa.
As he aged, would her fiancé lose his hair like her elderly relative had? She smiled at the thought of growing old with Dustin, picturing his dark-blonde head turning gray.
Her mind drifted to the place they’d soon call home. The little farm cottage had an interesting roofline. The opposite of a barn look—with the top part pushing out and then taking a sharp drop downward—this one had a high pitch first, then bent halfway down and sloped outward.
Kind of cute, really, despite it looking like a dollhouse compared to their parents’ accommodations. Rebekah tingled at the thought of making a home there for her new husband. She’d looked forward to it ever since Dustin had driven her to the farm and showed her the small house. Later, she’d probably repaint the blue shutters a dark green.
She couldn't help wondering if anyone had cleaned it after the renters moved out. But she wasn't supposed to worry about it. She’d agreed to concentrate on the wedding plans and trust Dustin to provide their home and prepare the dwelling. So she would.
As she reached the front of the line, Rebekah breathed in the scent drifting from a lilac-filled Mason jar that rested in the space between the two postal workers.
“Love the flowers,” she said as she set her basket on the counter. “You don’t often see white ones. Did you bring them from home?”
Tight salt-and-pepper curls tumbled across Mrs. Garber’s forehead. “Sure did. I got the shrub from Spring Hill a couple of years ago.”
“Wish I had some in my yard. Only the blooms would be long gone before my wedding.” Rebekah fingered the flowing ribbon tied around the threads of the old canning jar.
“Please, don’t. I doubt Evalena would make me another.”
“She made it?” Mrs. Garber opened the hamper and peeked inside. “Nice.”
“It is the perfect size for so many things.”
“And I remember when you purchased these stamps.”
“Me too.” Rebekah giggled. She’d haunted the post office day after day until this branch received the latest Love issue. “I like the wedding cake on them. It’s a good sign that Dustin and I picked the right year to get married, don’t you think?”
Grandmotherly, Mrs. Garber glanced over the top of her wire-rimmed reading glasses. “Your invitations are a little bunged up at the edges. You try to mug someone on the way over here?”
Reminded of her narrow escape, Rebekah’s heart raced. “Will it jinx my wedding to send them like this?” she whispered.
The older woman reached across the counter and took her hand. “I shouldn't have teased you. What happened, child? You’re shaking.”
“On the way over here a car came at me from nowhere. I almost couldn't stop in time.”
“Oh my. Anyone hurt? Your car damaged?”
“Just my pride and my poor invitations.” Rebekah raised her hand and caught herself before she rubbed her eye. Wouldn't do to shift her prosthesis.
She couldn't believe how much she was unloading, even though she’d known the older woman since she was ten years old. After the barn accident, which caused Rebekah to lose her left eye, Mrs. Garber had delivered the first stack of get-well cards. She’d gotten through Rebekah’s defenses at a time when she’d refused to see anyone besides her mother, father, and the doctors.
“Will these envelopes go through your system okay?” Rebekah asked.
“The way the edges turn up won’t be all that noticeable to the recipients, but if I toss them in with the others, some might jam the machine.” Mrs. Garber tapped her finger on her bottom lip. “I think the one we have is about on its last leg, and I doubt anyone will think to sort or postmark these envelopes by hand.”
“Can I flatten them enough? I better get out of line and work on them.” Rebekah’s hair tickled the left side of her face, and she instinctively tucked the wayward strands under her Dunkard-style head covering.
“We can make it work. I’ll help you.” Mrs. Garber picked up a sorting tray and placed it on the counter. She separated the few invitations that had escaped the rough treatment.
Rebekah took one of the bent envelopes and pressed it smooth. Sort of. She looked askance at the envelope. If she were home, she’d try to iron them. Would that help? Or just ruin them? Since there was no iron here, she took her thumb and pressed the edge of the next invitation.
“Sorry about your scare. I remember all the research your father did before you got your driver’s license. I never knew a man more safety conscious.”
“I’m glad Dad learned many people with one eye prefer an SUV. The height really does help my vision when I’m driving.” Rebekah slipped the envelopes she’d flattened across the counter and smiled. “I enjoyed the hours he spent teaching me to drive.”
“And now you’re all grown up and getting married. Are you ready for your big day?”
“Almost. Other than a few last-minute things we can finish when we get home from California.”
Mrs. Garber’s twinkling eyes widened. “Why would you go clear across the country this close to your wedding date?”
“Don’t sound so scandalized. It’s just…our church conference is in California this year.” Rebekah despised the way her voice wobbled. “It’s my last trip with my folks.”
The postmistress nodded wisely. “And you are their only child.”
“I’m ready to be Dustin’s wife, but Milridge is three-and-a-half hours away. I’ll miss my family when I move to Indiana.”
“Finished.” The hamper made a soft swishing sound as Mrs. Garber slid it across the counter. “Listen, I’ll hand-cancel these myself.”
“I don’t know how to thank you.” Rebekah glanced at the line behind her, which had grown long. She turned and headed toward the door.
“No problem at all,” Mrs. Garber called after her. “Tell your mother hello.”
As Rebekah left the building, a cloud covered the sun. Shadows falling on the aggregate stairs added to the illusion that the establishment was as old as the village of Studebaker itself. She avoided the chips and cracks as she moved down the steps.
Holding her long skirt away from her feet, Rebekah climbed into her vehicle. She slid her purse from her shoulder, set it in her lap, and rummaged through it. Her fingers dismissed the large rectangle of her wallet, the bottle of eye drops, and a pillow pouch of tissues before they touched hard plastic.
She smiled and pulled out her cell, placed it in the holder, and punched Dustin’s number on speed dial. He’d be pleased to learn she’d mailed the invitations. And she needed to hear his voice.
While she waited for his answer, she pulled onto the street and aimed the Explorer toward Hillcrest Family Practice.
By the time she passed the Wot-A-Dog drive-in restaurant, she was daydreaming again. In her imagination, Dustin stood on a ladder painting the rooms of their future home. He pushed the paint roller across the walls and ceiling with his strong arms muscled from loading hay bales every summer. She grinned as she visualized splatters of paint falling onto his face and even more in his hair.
Dustin wasn't organized in the same way she was. But who knew? Maybe he’d surprise her and prepare before he painted. Maybe she wouldn't find any smudges to tease him about. She giggled. Maybe.
Disappointed when the phone continued to ring without an answer, she disconnected.
About The Author
Sharon A Lavy lives with her husband in SW Ohio. When not reading, writing, or sewing for her family, she enjoys traveling with her husband in the small plane they call Papa.
She is best known in the novel writing community, as that German Baptist lady. In the Old German Baptist community she s a dressmaker, a pattern maker, and the sister who writes.
And in her own mind she’s a wife, a mother, and a grandmother, but above all a child of God.Her greatest desire is to be a woman after God s own heart.
Sharon writes with a heart for hurting women, because when it’s all said and done…it’s all about relationships.
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