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Amish Secrets & Lies - Chapter 10

Over the next few weeks, as Katie went around Big Valley, she kept getting the unsettling feeling that someone was watching her. She would stop driving her buggy or walking and gaze around, but she was never able to spot the watcher. Maybe it was just another story, bubbling to get out of her mind?

One day, while she and Libby were leaving Libby’s client’s house, she got that feeling yet again. Stopping cold, she whipped around, looking for anyone who might be spying on her.

“Katie, what are you doing? Trying to dance?” Libby giggled.

“Nee, Libby. I just feel like someone’s following me. I’ve been getting that for a while now. And I hate it!”

Libby felt uneasy. Was this another story?

“You’re not doing ‘what ifs’ again, are you?”

“Nee. Nee!”

“Taking a step back, Libby said, “Uh…well, I hope nobody is following you. I’d better get back home. Mam had a lot of work for me to do.” Libby hurried off, too unsettled to keep talking to Katie.

“Libby! Libby! I’m sorry!” Katie called after her friend, but Libby didn’t look back.

Why do I have to destroy everything?

***

Katie was being followed…by Annie Yoder, the deacon’s daughter. Annie had decided she was going to take matters into her own hands—at least as much as the Ordnung would allow her to do. So, any time she had a few minutes free, she would look for Katie and begin tracking her as carefully as she could. Today, she had spotted Katie and her friend, Libby, coming out of Libby’s customer’s house. Edging back behind a large tree, she had peeked out, listening to the faint conversation taking place. As she did, she listened for any sign that Katie was the source of the ugly English rumor.

Seeing the girls approaching, she held her breath and prayed she was hidden well by the massive tree trunk. Katie must have noticed something, because she suddenly stopped, looked around, and shouted something about being followed. Fortunately, Libby didn’t believe it. Gut.

If Katie was the source of the rumor, it was safer for Libby to stay away from her. 

After Katie was gone, Annie emerged. She did her best to walk casually, as though she’d just happened to come out of the copse of trees. Just an ordinary stroll.

Oh, Libby, if you only knew what I suspect. I can’t say or do anything until I get some gut proof, though. I know what Dat and the other elders would say if I speak up any earlier.

It was safest to share her activities and findings with Eli. The next time they got together, she would. Clambering into her own buggy, she went home so she could write her notes down and begin working on a large, new order.

***

That evening, Eli stopped at the Yoder’s home. “Annie, do you have some time to spend together? It’s a Wunderbaar summer evening.” He smiled, hoping Annie would agree to go riding with him.

“Ja, I do. Let me just tell Mam.” Coming back, she made sure she had her house key. Climbing into the buggy, she waited until they were well away from the house. The trees were lush in their greenery as the flower gardens, crops and vegetable gardens all bloomed and spilled forth their abundance. But the beauty couldn’t calm her completely.

“Eli?”

“Ja?”

“You remember that discussion we had with your brother this past Sunday?”

“How can I forget it? He’s as prickly as a hungry pig!”

“I wonder…he may already be having doubts.”

“Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it. He’s still seeing Katie, and I think they’re already talking about marriage.”

“What? She hasn’t even been baptized yet!”

“Ja, I know. Amos’s already in his own instruction. But he doesn’t see what we see.”

“That’s what I want to talk about, Eli. I hope you’ll be able to listen without getting angry at me.”

Eli turned to Annie in surprise. “What? Why?”

Annie sighed. “Well—I’ve begun to follow Katie around. Like you, I just get the sense that there’s more to her than she’s revealing. Something that’s bad.”

“Annie. Ja, follow her, but be careful. I worry that she could have something off in her mind and I don’t want her hurting you.” Eli’s voice was low, a thread of worry coming through.

Annie let out a loud laugh. “Hah! Eli, I’m a gut five inches taller than she is! I outweigh her, by at least fifteen pounds! She can’t—”

“We don’t know what she’s capable of, Annie. Tell me what you learn. Any time you follow her, if you find out anything that connects her to this hateful rumor, write it down. Uh…” Eli was thinking about where they could exchange her notes. “Hide it in that tree next to your dat’s house.”

Annie was puzzled. “Which tree?”

“You know, the one that has that large branch about three feet from the ground. There’s a little hole in the bark. You can stick notes in there. When I drive by, I’ll check and take them home. For sure and for certain, we need to begin getting proof, if Katie is the one who started this rumor.

And it’s getting bad…”

Annie coughed. Hearing Eli say that the situation was getting worse caused her breath to slow down in her lungs. “Eli? What have you heard?”

“Just more of the same. Only now, this English person, fictional though they may be, is now saying that we have a deadline of one year to leave.”

Annie shivered. Hugging her arms around her ribcage, she shook her head. “I wish we knew more about her past!”

“Gut idea. I’ll ask my dat to see if there’s any way we can find out. Do you know where they moved from?”

“All I know is that it was somewhere in Indiana.”

“Well, that’s not too hard. Just find out which Amish community they lived in. Once we do that, I can ask Dat to allow me to travel there, maybe by train. Go talk to the elders there and see if she did anything like what’s happening here.”

Annie grew excited. “Ja, that shouldn’t be too hard. It’s just finding out where they came from.”

Eli grimaced. “Ja, and as busy as we are, we’re going to have to fit that into our schedules. One thing gut that’s come out of our argument with Amos, I think he’s beginning to experience a few doubts. Normally, he’s spouting all kinds of plans about what he wants to do with Katie, but now, this week, nothing.”

Annie closed her eyes, saying a fast prayer of thanksgiving. “Gut! Uh-oh, look who’s coming down the road. Shhh!”

She had spotted Amos and Katie, in Amos’s buggy. Far from looking on the outs with each other, Katie was sitting close to Amos, and he wasn’t objecting. As Amos recognized Eli and Annie, his flow of conversation stopped. “Eli. Annie. What are you doing?”

“Going for some hot cocoa. You?” Eli carefully kept a neutral expression on his face.

“We just came from the coffee shop. Katie needs to get home early—her mam is worried about this person who wants to chase us out of here.”

“Ja, she’s right to worry. That person is dangerous.” Eli deliberately used words that wouldn’t accuse Katie, but he sent a message to Amos as well.

Amos caught the message. Raising his head slightly, he sighed. “Well, I’d better get Katie home, or her mam will be angry. I’ll see you at home.”

Amos was uneasy. His older brother’s words had hit the mark almost dead center. Eli was talking about Katie. And he was also frustrated because Eli’s concerns were causing him to doubt the girl he wanted to marry.

Katie picked up quickly on Amos’s mood change. From being happier than he’d been since Sunday, he was now plunged back into moodiness. Katie said, “Amos? Have I told you yet about the funny feelings I’m getting?” Her voice was tentative, almost shy.

“Nee. What kinds of feelings? Any of the sort the bishop would frown at?”

Katie’s giggle was weak. “Nee! Nee, I just feel like someone is watching me. Wherever I go when I’m running errands for myself or Mam. It’s funny, but I don’t get them at home.”

Amos’s eyes widened, and he gasped. “Katie, that’s why I want you to allow me to escort you when you go to the shop or to deliver orders! What if it’s that English person?”

Katie shivered. Even though she’d made the rumor up, she was now scared. Maybe she hadn’t made it up after all. “Ja, I may begin taking you up on that offer. I am scared.”

“Well, let’s do this. Compare work schedules and, when we can get them to agree with each other, I’ll pick you up, and we’ll take your orders to your customers. We’ll have to combine yours and mine, though, so we can get done in the shortest amount of time possible.” Amos wondered about his worries, now.

Seeing Katie’s reaction to the feeling that she was being followed convinced him that she hadn’t made up a rumor. Pulling into her parents’ yard, he drove along the path to the barn and stopped as close to the house as he could get. “Let me get you down. I’m not letting you out of sight until you’re inside the house.”

Katie smiled, grateful. “Ja, thank you.” She landed gracefully and walked to Amos.

The front door opened, and Mary stood in the doorway. “Amos, denki for bringing our daughter home early. Did you see anything or anyone?”

“Nee, just my brother and his girlfriend. They were going for hot cocoa. Katie, I’ll stop by for your schedule for the rest of this week. If you know what next week looks like, I’ll see if we can coordinate those days, too.”

“Okay, ja. I’ll write them down for you. Gut night!” She waved at Amos, wishing they could kiss. But her mam stood right there.

Later, in her quilting room, Katie went through her schedule for the next two weeks. Writing the dates and appointments down on a sheet of paper, she folded it and stuck it back in her calendar.

“Amos’s worried, isn’t he?” Mary stood in the doorway, feeling curious.

“Ja, he is. Mam, I’ve been feeling like I’m being followed. I told Amos tonight, and he got really worried. Now, he’s going to escort me where I need to go.”

Mary’s eyes narrowed. “Daughter, I told you not to tell stories.”

“I’m not!” Why was it when Katie told the truth, nobody believed her?

Her mam continued, “Well, I hope you’re not going to keep that boy from his own work!”

Katie sighed sharply. “Nee, Mam. We talked about that. He’s just as busy as I am and we both agreed that we need to coordinate our schedules with each other.”

After being cast out of their strict Amish community in Goshen, Indiana, Katie and her family have found a new home in Big Valley, Pennsylvania. She’s doing well. She has a boyfriend she loves, friends, and her parents are even beginning to trust her again.

Everything will be okay as long as Katie can stop making up stories.

But she can’t. There’s a pressure inside of her, building up from a secret from her past, and eventually, no matter how hard she tries to stop herself, the lies spill out. So she tells one little story about an Englisher. And then, as before, everything starts to fall apart.

Will a new community offer Katie a second chance at a life and love? Or is she too broken to save?

Find out in Amish Secrets & Lies, Book 1 of the Big Valley Amish series  by Rachel Stoltzfus. 

If you love Christian Amish stories about love, healing and the power of community, grab this series collection today!

use coupon SWEETROMANCE to save 15%

Formats include Mobi for Kindle, ePub for Nook, Kobo, Android and most eReaders and PDF for print & reading on your computer. 

Or Grab the Books on your Favorite Online Booksellers:

Amish Secrets & Lies - Chapter 11

“Hmm. So you’re going to give each other your schedules for the week ahead of time?” Seeing Katie’s nod and frown, she went on. “He’s just starting out as a carpenter. He needs to make sure that he delivers orders to his customers on time so he can build a gut reputation and get more customers. Before long, he’s going to marry—possibly you—and you don’t want him to be struggling because he had to take on even more responsibility.” Mary sighed. “I just wish that Englisher, whoever it is, would leave us alone! Ja, accept Amos’s offer. But you make sure, Katie, that you won’t be taking him away from things he has to do.” Turning, she left the quilting room.

Katie stood, shocked, in the room. And what about my work? Deliveries? Buying new supplies? Are they as important as his? Blowing out the lamp, she hurried upstairs before she lost her temper. Once she was safely behind a closed door, she threw herself carelessly onto her bed. As she raged, Katie completely forgot that the Englisher rumor was just a rumor. One she’d made up.

She realized how much time had passed when her mam knocked heavily at her door. “Ja?”

“Are you in bed yet? Get ready, blow out your lamp and get to bed!” Mary’s voice was a low, angered hiss.

Of course it was. Her mam didn’t love her.

“I am, Mam!” Katie barely managed to hide her own anger. Jumping up, she changed, pulled her hair painfully out of its bun and blew the lamp out. Once in bed, she lay there for a long time, continuing to ruminate.

Maybe it’s time for the threats to go up. She yawned. Just before her eyes closed, she remembered she would also need to take her schedule to Amos. When she woke the next morning, she was unaccountably sluggish. She didn’t remember dreaming, and she was sure she hadn’t gone to sleep that late. Rushing into the kitchen, she quietly began to help Mary with making breakfast.

“Gut morning!” Her dat’s hearty greeting grated on Katie’s nerves. “Katie? What is it? You got to sleep pretty late last night.”

“I was just worried about the Englisher.” Katie didn’t have to specify which one. “We don’t even know who it is.”

“What’s this I hear about you feeling like you’re being followed, daughter?” David carefully sipped from his steaming coffee.

Katie dumped three spoonfuls of sugar into her mug and stirred it loudly. “Ja, I’ve been feeling like someone is following me. It’s been a few weeks. I turn around, but I see nobody there.”

David looked at Mary, his eyes wide. “Maybe we should return to taking you—?”

“Nee, Dat! Amos offered to escort me last night when he brought me back home. I’ve written up a schedule of my appointments for the next two weeks so we can coordinate them.”

“Well, gut! That’s kind of him. Just be…”

Katie waited for her dat to give the same warning her mam had. She was shocked when he said something different.

“…careful out there. Until this person is identified, everyone here is in danger.”

Katie felt warm. Happy. Maybe the lie wasn’t such a terrible thing after all. Her dat was worried, and for once not about something she might do. Her dat cared.

Katie nodded absently. Danger. That’s it. I have to make it to where this person begins to threaten us. Looking up quickly, she set her mug down and helped her mam to put breakfast on the trivets so they could eat.

David had gone back to his carpentry shop, and Katie was cleaning the kitchen before she retreated to her own planned quilting for the day. At a knock on the door, she looked for Mary. Not seeing her, she answered the door. “Amos! Come in!”

Amos came in quickly. “Do you have your schedule? I have mine here.” He waved a piece of paper in his hand.

“Ja, let me get it.” Katie trotted into her quilting room, retrieving the list she’d written last night. Comparing her commitments with Amos’s, she spoke. “Okay, it looks like Tuesday’s completely out. You’re going to be out of town all the day. What about Wednesday or Thursday?”

Amos brought himself back to the present. He’d been troubled by a vague thought that kept niggling at him. “Oh, uh…Wednesday or Thursday.” Looking at his scribbled notations, he sighed. “Wednesday is probably the best day for me. I only need to stop at the lumber yard and pick up wood I need for a new order. You have to deliver an order and buy your own supplies. I want to be done early, so I’ll pick you up right after breakfast. We’ll get my lumber—I’ll be in Dat’s wagon—then we’ll go into town, deliver your order and stop at the store so you can buy what you need.”

Katie was nodding. “Ja, that works.”

“Okay, well, I’d better get on, then. I have a busy day if I’m going to finish staining that cupboard. Bye!” Quickly, Amos left before Katie could even look up for a stolen kiss.

***

On his way back home, Amos tried to look around him everywhere at once. Where was this Englisher? Why had he been following Katie?

Everything seemed normal.

I don’t feel any creepy feelings. I’m going to start asking around. Maybe she’s right. I don’t know. Amos muttered under his breath. He wished his brother hadn’t put these doubts into his mind. Now, here he was, questioning his own fiancée!

Seeing one of his friends Thomas approaching, Amos waved. “Hey, need to ask you something. Have you felt like someone’s following you? Or just watching you?”

Thomas’ brow furrowed, and he shook his head “What? What are you talking about, Amos? Nee. Are you thinking of that English person?”

“Ja. I am. Katie says she’s been getting creepy feelings as if someone’s watching her. She says it’s been happening for two or three weeks.”

Thomas grunted. “I’ll ask Rachel and have her ask her sisters. But I have my opinions about Katie.”

“Ja, and I don’t need to hear them right now. I’m already dealing with enough as it is.” Amos nearly growled as he spoke.

“Hey, I’m just warning you. I get a funny sense from Katie. Like she’s not quite all there.” Seeing the clouds of anger building on Amos’s handsome face, Thomas took a step back. “Never mind. I’d better go. I have weeding to finish, or Dat will be on my back all week long.” He ran off before Amos could ask any more questions.

Amos was frustrated. Why didn’t people like Katie? How could he doubt her?

***

As Katie worked on a large quilting order, her mind whirred. She just needed a threat. Something dramatic, but nothing truly harmful. She wasn’t going to make the same mistake she made in Goshen.

An idea struck as she snipped thread that tethered the strip of quilt squares to her sewing machine and she smiled. That’s it! It’s perfect!

***

In town, Mayor Kerry Winters was puzzled. As she passed a group of young Amish women, they glanced up at her and quickly away. They looked afraid. She stopped and gazed after them as they hurried down the street.

“Linda, did you see that?” The mayor asked her aide.

Linda, a thin, energetic woman with close-cropped grey-brown hair and large, thick glasses asked, “See what?”

“Those Amish girls. They were scared of me.”

“Think they’re getting into some kind of trouble?”

“The Amish girls? No, I doubt it. Something’s wrong though. Can you look into it?”

Looking at her aide, she asked him, “What’s that all about? I’ve never seen anyone from the Amish area looking at me that way before.”

“Mayor, I’m not sure, but let me see what I can find out. Soon as I do, I’ll let you know.” Linda knew everything that went on in Big Valley. Her biggest asset was her ability to approach anyone and, with her empathetic character and friendliness, quickly gain their trust. “I saw how they looked at you. It’s kind of like they expected you to yell at them. And that’s never happened before.”

“No, it hasn’t. See if you can speak to the Amish elders. The community’s bishop is John Lapp, and their deacon is a man named Eppie Yoder. They’re pretty tuned into what’s going on, not only faith-wise, but also what members of the community are discussing and experiencing.”

“Great. I’ll get right on it as soon as we get back to City Hall.” Linda tapped a note in her smartphone to remind herself to deal with the matter.

The three Amish women who had just walked past the mayor stopped beside a small coffee shop. Leaning against a huge, decorative rock by the side of the road, they caught their breath and spoke quietly among themselves. “Could it be her? I think she’s the mayor.”

“I don’t know, Sarah. It could be anyone. I just wish we knew who heard what was being said and could identify them! Then we could approach them and find out.”

“That would be wunderbaar. But I’m afraid of talking to any of them, just in case we’re talking to the person who wants us gone,” said Sarah, who kept her face pointed down. She didn’t want to meet the eyes of any of the English walking or driving past.

Miriam’s smooth brow was crinkled in confusion. “That’s odd.”

“What?”

“I’m looking at all of the English passing by and they either look at us with curiosity or if they smile. I do not see any anger, frowns or hatred. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I’m beginning to wonder if someone’s trying to play games with us.”

Barbara and Sarah looked at each other. Sarah dared to look directly at the Englishers, and she saw what Miriam was seeing. Sarah made a mental note to go and talk to Libby King. “I’m going to talk to one of the girls at home. I trust her judgment. She’s pretty level-headed.”

“Gut idea. Well, we’d better get home, or we’re going to get in trouble with our parents.” The girls all shifted their bags and began walking again.

“I’ll let you know what I find out from Libby. She’s who I was talking about. Let’s meet in the field by the Miller’s house. It’s central to all of us.” Sarah veered off toward home. The remaining two girls sped up just a little bit. Even though it was only midday, cold, and they were tired, they still feared running into a hate-filled English person who wanted nothing more than to chase them away from Big Valley. As they walked, Miriam set one foot down on a large stone, twisting her ankle painfully. “Oh, ouch!” She went down hard, landing on mud and melted snow.

“Miriam! Are you hurt?” Barbara kneeled next to Miriam, who was holding her right ankle and grimacing.

“Ahh, ja. I think so. Look, that’s Amos Smits ahead. See if he can stop and get us home, please.” Miriam panted as she tried not to cry.

Standing, Barbara waved Amos down, and then ran to his buggy. “Amos! Please, you need to help us. Miriam and I are on our way home from town. She twisted her foot and can’t walk. And we don’t want to run into any English people!”

“Ja, I’ll help. Get in. Why are you worried about an English person in broad daylight?”

Barbara, now sitting next to Amos, caught her breath. Panting, she spoke. “We saw an English woman, probably the mayor, with her assistant. We—”

“Did they look at you with anger or anything?”

Barbara blushed. “Nee, not really. In fact, I don’t think they really noticed us. Amos, Miriam was saying that she didn’t see any of the English looking at us with anger or anything like that. She’s going to talk to someone about it and see what she comes up with.”

“Ja, gut idea. Here we are. Miriam, I’ll help you in.” After taking the girls to their homes, Amos continued on his errand, thinking. Gott, are you telling me that we have nothing to worry about? If so, who is carrying out such a cruel trick? I pray it isn’t Katie! By the time he arrived home from his errand, Amos was so twisted up inside with worry and fear, he nearly snapped at Eli.

“Mam just about has supper ready, Amos. Unload quickly and wash up.” Eli hurried past him.

“Can’t you see that I just got home?”

Eli turned and gave Amos a level look. “I don’t know what’s eating you, but don’t you dare take that attitude inside.” His voice was low and firm.

Amos sighed. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m just really worried about this idiotic rumor going around.”

Eli changed direction and trotted next to the buggy as Amos aimed it for the lean-to. “Let me help you. Did you run into any problems in town?”

“Nee. The only thing was that Barbara and Miriam were coming home. They were hurrying because they didn’t want to be harassed by anyone. Miriam twisted her ankle, so I took both girls home, and then I finished my errand.”

“And?” Eli knew there was something more.

Amos sighed. “They said they were worried about being threatened by someone they didn’t know.” He grunted as he lifted heavy bags out of the buggy. “They passed someone they think was the mayor and her assistant. Those two didn’t even see them, it seems. Then Miriam noticed that none of the English people walking past them was looking at them in anger or hatred, so that made her begin to wonder.”

Eli was silent, unable to speak. Seeing the pain and confusion darkening his younger brother’s eyes, he wished he was wrong about Katie. He resisted the impulse to say anything more to Amos. Instead, he finished emptying the buggy of Amos’s purchases, putting them into their workshop. “Amos, I am sorry. I know you have a lot of thinking to do. I pray you get the right answers.”

Amos looked at the ground, feeling guilty that he’d snapped at Eli. He was grateful for his brother’s compassion. Hurrying inside, he washed up, ensuring he washed the road dust from his face and neck. Back downstairs, he took his place at the table. “Dat, after supper, I have to run an errand. I’m not sure when I’ll be back home, but I’ll try to be in early.”

Eli looked at Amos’s face but could spot nothing of his brother’s feelings or intentions. If you’re going to go see Katie, keep your guard up and ask the right questions.

After being cast out of their strict Amish community in Goshen, Indiana, Katie and her family have found a new home in Big Valley, Pennsylvania. She’s doing well. She has a boyfriend she loves, friends, and her parents are even beginning to trust her again.

Everything will be okay as long as Katie can stop making up stories.

But she can’t. There’s a pressure inside of her, building up from a secret from her past, and eventually, no matter how hard she tries to stop herself, the lies spill out. So she tells one little story about an Englisher. And then, as before, everything starts to fall apart.

Will a new community offer Katie a second chance at a life and love? Or is she too broken to save?

Find out in Amish Secrets & Lies, Book 1 of the Big Valley Amish series  by Rachel Stoltzfus. 

If you love Christian Amish stories about love, healing and the power of community, grab this series collection today!

use coupon SWEETROMANCE to save 15%

Formats include Mobi for Kindle, ePub for Nook, Kobo, Android and most eReaders and PDF for print & reading on your computer. 

Or Grab the Books on your Favorite Online Booksellers:

Amish Secrets & Lies - Chapter 12

After supper, Amos changed to a clean shirt and combed his thick, auburn hair. In the barn, he hitched his horses back to his buggy.

***

Waiting for someone to answer the door at the Millers, Amos was nervous. When the door was opened, he smiled a little at Katie. “Hi, do you have some time for a drive this evening?”

“Ja! Let me just tell Mam.” Katie opened the door for Amos, and then sped off. She hurried back, smiling. “Mam just told me to be back by the time it gets dark.”

“Gut. That works. Let’s go.” Amos felt unusually tongue-tied. Helping Katie into the buggy, he prayed that he would be able to communicate as he always did with her. “How was your day?” He smiled, looking into her happy face.

“Gut. I made great progress on another quilt. My customer will love it. She always does. How was your day?”

“I delivered a large project to one of my customers. He was happy with it, and my bank account was especially happy. Then, I went to the store and bought a bunch more stuff that I needed. On my way home, I bumped into Barbara and Miriam. Miriam had just fallen after twisting her ankle on a rock. I asked them why they were in such a hurry on a rough dirt road. Barbara said that they were afraid of possibly running into whoever’s been telling us to get out of Big Valley. And I asked them why they’d be fearful in the middle of a sunny winter day.”

“Miriam twisted her ankle?” Katie clenched her hands in the skirts of her Plain dress. Now someone had been hurt. And if they found out Katie was responsible, they would shun her. Cast her out. Amos would hate her. Everything just got worse and worse.

“Ja. Are you okay?”

“What did they say?” Katie asked.

“They just don’t know, Katie. That the person making these threats only acts in the shadows, possibly at night.” Amos stopped speaking, surprised at the words that had come out of his mouth.

 “Well, that makes sense. If I was responsible, I wouldn’t want to be seen.” Katie rubbed her forearm absently. Too close to the truth. Usually lies were easier, but she was exhausted with everything.

Amos nodded, thinking carefully. “Ja, that person who hates us wouldn’t want to be unmasked. That’s true. Have you been confronted by this person?”

Katie kept her gaze on Amos’s face. “Nee! Amos, I wouldn’t know what to do if they came up to me and told me to leave.” Except they were telling her to leave all of the time. Her parents. Esther. The English ladies. The Bishop. She could hear them all scolding her. You’d better not. Katie closed her eyes. “It…It’s frightening. For once, I’m glad that Mam and Dat are telling me to be home by dark.” At least it showed they wanted her around. It showed they cared.

Amos nodded. Stopping the buggy under their favorite tree, he set the brake and leaned back.

It can’t be her. She’s just as affected by this mess as anyone else in town. But, just in case… He sighed, pivoting his body to face Katie. “Miriam, and Barbara said something else. They noticed that when they were coming back home, none of the English people were looking at them with anger or hate. With curiosity and friendliness, ja, but not hate.

“That made me start thinking that this rumor is just that. A rumor. I also know from spending so many wunderbaar afternoons, days and evenings with you that you love to create tales. Katie, if this is just a story you’ve made up to…I don’t know…amuse yourself, could you please stop? I won’t reveal you to the elders. I just want to see this stop.”

Katie went pale. His words, after ‘story you’ve made up’ were a rush, like a raging river, in her ears. “Amos! How can you accuse me? I’m just as affected—”

 “As anyone else. Ja, I know.”

Amos suspected her. If the rumor stopped now, he’d know for sure this was all her fault. She wanted to stop, but the thought of losing him was even more terrifying than keeping the story alive.

Amos said, “Libby came to me with her concerns, too. She knows you love to create imaginative stories.” He chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. “You could choose to leave our community, write books and get rich selling them.”

Amos wanted her to leave. Why else would he tell her to become an Englisher and write books? Tears rose to Katie’s eyes. “Amos….”

“Oh, Katie!”

Katie rubbed the top of her hand under her eyes. “You want me to leave and become an Englisher?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Then what do you want?”

“Katie, I’m so sorry. But Libby did say that your ‘what if’ stories always feature some English person who hurts one of us, either accidentally or on purpose.”

Katie hiccupped. “Is that—.” Had all of her stories been that way? She hadn’t even noticed. “Nee. I promise you. Ja, I love to create tales. And, like you, I want this nightmare to end.” Hot tears cascaded down her cheeks.

Amos, seeing this, felt lower than a worm. “I’m so sorry, Katie. Come here.” He gathered Katie into his arms. She nestled against his chest.

“Do you…believe me?” Katie asked.

Amos hesitated, and Katie’s skin felt like ice.

“Ja,” Amos said.

A voice in her mind, like a story, said, “He’s lying.”

Amos continued, “You’re living through this as well. But please, be careful about the topics of your stories. Okay?”

Katie nodded, wiping the tears from her face. As if she really had a choice about them. The pressure of her emotions would rise, and as hard as she tried to push it down, as hard as she tried to fit into the mold society had set for her, she would eventually fail. And the horrible stories, lies, and sometimes more horrible truths would all ooze out through the seams. No matter how tightly she tried to stitch herself silent. 

Katie sighed. “I’d better get home before it’s full dark.”

Maybe she could try harder. Be the woman Amos loved. But if she stopped right now, then Amos would know it had all been her fault. How long would it take for him to decide he couldn’t trust her? How long until he tossed her aside as well? Just like everyone else?

***

In his room, Amos stripped his clothes off, tossing them into his hamper. He rolled into bed after brushing his teeth and showering. Lying on his back, he prayed and thought. I want to believe her. I love her. But the facts do point to her. I’ll just keep trying to get to the bottom of this and make sure Katie’s not the source of this awful rumor.

***

The next day, the mayor and her aide came into Big Valley, stopping at the bishop’s house. After telling John Lapp what they wanted to talk about, the bishop sighed. “Ach, ja. This tale has everyone frightened. Nobody is allowed to be out past dark. When the youth come home from their sings, they do so in large caravans.”

“Bishop, I am almost positive that nobody in Big Valley has expressed such a hateful thought. We all love having you as neighbors. You’re peaceful, and you’re all wonderful examples of how we should treat everyone. Do you have any idea how this got started?”

“Ja. Some months ago, we started hearing that an anonymous English person had been heard saying that the ‘Amish should get out of Big Valley’ and settle elsewhere. Nobody saw who this person was. After several weeks, the rumor stopped, just seemed to die down. About a month ago, it started back up. Only now, that person was said to call us a cult.”

“Hmmm. That’s pretty hateful.”

“Ja, exactly. I’ve been to town, mayor, and I have felt nothing negative from anyone. Store owners, waiters, waitresses, people driving by—all have been welcoming and friendly.”

“Actually, Bishop Lapp, I’m not surprised. Big Valley is pretty accepting of people overall. Sure, we have bigots, just as any other community does. But I’ve never heard anything from anyone about wanting you out of here. I hope we can, together, get to the bottom of this. Before anyone is harmed.”

The bishop shivered slightly in the warm kitchen. “Ach, ja. If this is a rumor, I don’t want to see anyone hurt. But by the same token, if…”

“Anyone who is spreading this kind of hate, they need to be found. I understand.” The meeting ended on that note. The mayor was thoughtful as Linda drove her back into town. “Linda, I think we need to make this public. If anyone is saying these kinds of things, it may bring them forward.”

Linda was silent for a few seconds, thinking. “Yeah, I think you’re right. On the news? A letter sent to all households? The internet?”

“All of them. Work on something that could be written and sent to everyone, please. I’ll contact the television stations, and we’ll start from there.”

***

Libby paused as she saw Katie nearing the Amish Market. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to spend much time with her friend. Fortunately, Katie had her head down and seemed to be woolgathering. Quietly, Libby went to her buggy and hurried to get home before Katie came back to the present.

Katie was, indeed, thinking hard. She was barely aware of the goings-on around her as she considered her latest, and hopefully last, plan to ramp up the “Amish get out of here” rumor. I can take Dat’s paintbrush and some of his white paint. There’s that wood fence just as we come into the community. I can paint something that says we should get out of here. There’s too much doubt about the story, and even Amos doubted me the other night.

Decision made, Katie veered into the Amish Market so she could buy what she needed.

***

At home that night, Katie waited for her parents to go to bed. Her stomach roiled, and a sticky sweetness clung to the back of her throat.

This was wrong. But what choice did she have? She couldn’t afford to lose Amos.

After coming home that afternoon, she had found a can of white paint and a paintbrush, which she had stolen and hidden behind a large, bare bush. Disappearing into her quilt room, she straightened up and dusted so her mam wouldn’t realize that something was off.

Once this was done, she could return to her normal life. It was necessary. But a part of her still hummed with anticipation. Even now, the thought of telling such a whopper gave her a perverse excitement.

Hearing the familiar tread of her parents’ steps as they went upstairs, she stood in the doorway of her quilting room and inspected it. Blowing out the lamp, she made sure the house was locked up. She unlocked the kitchen door. She was coming into the living room when her mam called down to her. “Katie, don’t be very long! I’m going to need your help with the cleaning tomorrow.”

“Ja, Mam, I’m going to bed soon.” Katie took a book from the shelf. It was a dry text on carpentry. She avoided the old, leather-bound bible on the table beside the sofa. Gott’s words would only make doing what she had to do harder.

I am already a sinner. Just one more transgression, and I can beg for forgiveness for the rest of my life.

After staring blankly for a few minutes at a diagram of how to build a chair, Katie then went upstairs. She blew out her lamp after a few minutes, and then carefully slipped out of her room and back downstairs.

Making sure she had her house keys, she locked the back door and slipped out as quietly as she could. Hurrying to the bush, she retrieved the paint can and brush. She’d worn dark-colored clothing so she couldn’t be seen as easily. Hurrying, she made sure to walk just inside the bushes along the roadside.

Arriving at the tall wood fence, she panted and caught her breath. She set the paint can down and opened it. The harsh smell of paint fumes brought tears to her eyes. Or maybe it was the knowledge that after this point, she couldn’t turn back.

I should go home.

I can’t.

Go away. You’re not wanted here.

The English ladies’ voices deepened, and Katie saw them as the [Bishop of Goshen] and Bishop Lapp. “You are cast out. You can never be forgiven. Just go.”

I can never be forgiven. The best I can hope for is to steal happiness from the edges of my life and paint myself into a different future. One where I can, for a time at least, be worthy of love.

It may be a lie, but what else do I have?

Katie’s cheeks were wet as she painted out her message. After about thirty minutes, she was done.

Katie stepped back from the fence, inspecting her work. “Amish you must leave. Find another comunity! Go!”

The heavy block letters were nothing like Katie’s usual neat, cursive script, and she had deliberately misspelled a word. It scared her, knowing she had done this.

Maybe I can paint it over?

Before she could decide though, the loud rumble of an approaching truck thundered down the road beside her. By the sound, it was one of the tall, sixteen-wheelers. Was it tall enough to see over the line of tall bushes and scrub trees that partially hid the fence from the road?

Terrified, Katie dropped to the ground and lay with her cheek flat to the hard dirt. If they saw her, it was over.

When the truck had passed, Katie ran. She caught her breath in the barn, hastily putting the paint can and brush back where it belonged.

She was too scared to remember to wash the brush clean. Hurrying to the back door, she quietly let herself in and snuck back upstairs.

Shivering atop her quilts in her damp, mud-stained clothes, she tried to sleep. Even with her eyes shut, her guilt and fear brought her terrifying dreams.

Shouldn’t she even feel a little bit better?

The next morning, she forced herself out of bed, as soon as she saw the gentle pink of the sunrise.

Only then did she change into clean clothing and go to the kitchen. Forcing a smile, she said, “Gut, morning, Mam.”

“Did I hear you coming downstairs last night?” Mary was concerned.

Katie’s heart felt like it stopped for a second. She took a sharp breath. “Oh, ja,” the lies spilled out in an easy rush. “I couldn’t sleep, so I sat in my quilting room and drank some water. After a while, I was able to get to sleep. I’m sorry if I was noisy.”

“Nee, you were quiet. I just heard the stair creaking under your foot.”

“Oh.”

They ate. Her mam and dat chatted out the farm, an easy conversation that Katie barely heard.

“Daughter? Katie!”

Katie looked up. Her eggs were growing cold on her plate.

“Are you well?” Mary asked.

“Ja.” Katie shoveled a mouthful of eggs into her mouth. Her stomach twisted as she chewed and swallowed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not very hungry.”

“Perhaps you should lay back down?”

And be alone with her nightmares and guilt? “Nee, you need help with the washing, and I have two quilt orders, plus I have a meeting in town with someone who wants a quilt made as a wedding gift.”

If she stayed busy, maybe she could work herself into exhaustion and sleep without dreams or voices.

“Well!” Mary smiled, though her lips still held a tightness as she watched her youngest daughter pick at her food. “Your business is picking up, isn’t it?”

“Ja, it is! I’m going to be putting more money into savings than I’d planned.”

Katie finally managed to escape the house, and she hopped in the buggy. Maybe no one had seen the note. Maybe she could paint it over tonight.

Gott, please.

But as Katie hurried into town, to her dismay, a large crowd was clustered around the large fence she’d painted the night before. Assuming a look of confusion, she pulled up as close as she could. Setting the brake, she jumped out and approached one of her friends. “Sarah, what’s going on?”

“Look! Now, they’re painting signs!” Sarah’s voice quavered as she tried to hold back fear and anger.

Katie’s wide eyes swung to the large, white-painted sign. At that moment, in the stark daylight, it terrified her. What had she done? “Mei Gott!” Katie swung around, looking for Amos. Not seeing him, she continued to look for anyone else she knew. Her gaze stopped on Eli Smits, Amos’s older brother.

Eli caught sight of Katie’s surprised, white face as she looked at the sign, then around the crowd. Though Katie was pale and clearly upset, it didn’t convince Eli that she was innocent. She was too close to this. The sign was within walking distance of Katie’s family home. In fact, everything about this rumor connected in some way to Katie. He resolved to continue keeping an eye on her and share his observations with Annie.

Maybe he was wrong. But if he was right, then Katie was a bad influence who would drag his brother down too. Swinging away from Katie’s pale face, Eli jogged back to his buggy and hurried away.

“Katie. Katie! Did you see the sign?” Libby shouted.

Katie’s head pounded. The thick white lettering and those horrible words she had written whirled through her mind.

A small cut.

But it wasn’t. It was a gaping, bleeding wound and she couldn’t stop it. 

“Ja, I did. This…now…we know. Right?” Katie squeezed her eyes shut, feeling her headache growing more insistent.

“Ja, are you okay?” Libby put a hand on Katie’s shoulder.

Katie flinched. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

The truth lodged in her throat again like a chicken bone. Finally, Katie said, “My head.”

“Is it a migraine?”

“Ja, I think so. Oh, and I have a meeting with a new client!”

How could she meet her client when she felt so awful. When everything was so awful, and it was all so awfully her own fault. Katie took a step towards her buggy. Her guts roiled. She clutched her stomach and swallowed.

“Are you going to throw up?” Libby put a hand on her small of her back. Katie smelled candied apples, and before she could do anything to stop it, her guts rebelled. She leaned over as her breakfast splattered like her dreams onto the hard dirt.

“Oh, Katie!” Libby’s voice softened. “You can’t drive like this. Can you make it inside the buggy to sit down?”

“I’m fine.” Katie didn’t deserve Libby’s sympathy, even as the other girl’s hand warmed her. “I have to go home,” Katie said. She stumbled to the buggy.

“Nee, just sit down. I’ll drive you in my buggy, and someone else can bring yours over later. Who is your client? We’re going to have to let them know you’re suddenly ill.”

Katie sat down on the step of the buggy, her vision swimming as Libby talked. “Who is the client?”

Katie handed over the paper with her client’s address. “Denki,” she managed.

“Nee! Nee!”

After a few minutes, Katie’s stomach had settled enough for her to breathe evenly again. She had to go home. This was all her doing, and now Libby was going so far out of her way to make sure Katie was safe. If she knew, it would be a different story. None of this was fair.

“Just stay here, and I’ll be right back, okay?” Libby said.

Katie nodded. But when Libby ran off, Katie climbed up into the driver’s seat of her buggy and urged the horses home.

“Katie! Wait!” Libby shouted, her footsteps tapping against the ground as she tried to run after the buggy, but Katie kept going.

At home, Katie barely made it into the barn before her stomach rebelled again. There was nothing left except acid and spit, but she threw up again and again.

Her mam, probably wondering what was taking Katie so long in the barn, came in, and seeing her doubled over, put her arm around her daughter. “Steady now,” she said. “Is it a migraine?”

“I don’t know,” Katie said, truthfully.

“It’s a migraine. It must be. You haven’t had one so awful since you were eleven. Remember, after those English apples Levi brought gave you food poisoning? Too much sugar, I told him.”

It hadn’t been the sugar, but Katie murmured agreement anyway.

Her mam led her gently upstairs, put her to bed and shut the curtains. She gave Katie three aspirin, a glass of water, and placed a cool washcloth on her forehead.

Katie closed her eyes. She felt empty and lost. It was like she’d turned herself inside out, and now she was scrubbed raw. Even the stories were silent. It was just her and a pounding, unrelenting pain.

***

The bishop, deacon and two ministers stood in front of the crudely painted note and conferred. “We have to bring this up in Sunday’s meeting. In the meantime, I’m going to go see the mayor and let her know.” The bishop stopped, looking to his side. “Mayor. It’s progressed.” He indicated the sign with an open hand.

The mayor’s eyes swept over the large sign. “So it would seem. I’m going to talk to the city council. We’ve already started making this public. I’ll need a full accounting of everything that’s been happening. Witnesses, people who’ve heard this person, what the person has said, everything. Are you planning anything?”

“Ja. We’ll be talking about this sign and the rumors at our Sunday service. It’s a meeting Sunday, so we’ll be able to get the attention of just about everyone.”

“Good. I’m going to want to meet with you regularly until this gets figured out.” The mayor shifted her weight. “And…if it is anyone ‘English,’ we will stop them. I’m so very sorry.”

“Denki. I will be happy to meet with you. Here is the phone number by my house.” The bishop wrote the phone number down and gave it to the mayor.

This was no longer a rumor. It was a threat to his community. Jesus admonished his people to turn the other cheek, but in spite of himself, the bishop couldn’t force himself to conciliation. Whoever was responsible would be brought to justice. That he promised himself.

The End.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading this book as much as I loved writing it! If so, you can purchase the next book in the series here.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 1:

Three long hours later, the service finally ended. People were quiet, preoccupied as they filed out of the large room. Men and older boys moved the benches outside so everyone could sit at the long tables for the community lunch.

The women filed quietly into the kitchen, taking hot lunch dishes out of the oven and going outside with them. Katie set down a large casserole, grateful for the canopy of green leaves. She felt the warmth of the spring day building and wished she didn’t feel so cold inside.

Libby came up next to her, putting down two large bowls of freshly baked bread so the elderly community members could make sandwiches or add bread to their plates. “Katie? Are you okay? Is your head still bothering you?”

Katie shrugged. “A bit.”

“I know you’re scared, but we’re all doing everything we can to be safe.”

But who would keep Katie safe from herself?

The deacon suspected her. Katie had felt his sharp gaze on her through the bishop’s entire talk. “I don’t know. Maybe we should leave.” Go like they had been forced to do before. Except this time, she would run first. She would run before they confirmed their worst suspicions. “All of us. Move to a bigger community. Or even to other states with Amish communities.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Libby asked. In truth, her friend was scaring her. “Maybe you should sit down for a while.”

“Nee. It won’t help.” Katie walked slowly back into the kitchen, dropping the potholders in the hallway as she walked. Libby ran after her and picked them up.

“You dropped these.”

“Oh,” Katie said absently. “Thank you.”

Libby put the potholders on the counter. Katie grabbed two large pitchers of iced tea and lemonade.

“Are you sure you–?”

“I can handle it,” Katie said. Her hands were eerily steady as she carried the pitchers outside and placed them on the large, picnic table beside the cornfield.

Libby picked up a large container bearing hot coffee and carefully moved outside with it.

As she set the coffee dispenser down, she looked closely at Katie.

Something was deeply wrong with her best friend.

Words of the scripture, the Book of Jude, passed through Libby’s mind as she watched Katie go through the motions of helping with the after meeting meal: …waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame…

Was this reaction not fear, but instead guilt? And if so, did it mean Libby’s initial suspicions were correct?

Grab Amish Trust and Betrayal here (or at your favorite online booksellers).

Or *SAVE BIG* get all of the books in one discount collection here.

Lastly, if you enjoyed this book and want to continue to support my writing, please leave this book a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or Bookbub to let everyone know what you thought of the series. It’s the best thing you can do to keep indie authors like me writing.

Best,

Rachel

After being cast out of their strict Amish community in Goshen, Indiana, Katie and her family have found a new home in Big Valley, Pennsylvania. She’s doing well. She has a boyfriend she loves, friends, and her parents are even beginning to trust her again.

Everything will be okay as long as Katie can stop making up stories.

But she can’t. There’s a pressure inside of her, building up from a secret from her past, and eventually, no matter how hard she tries to stop herself, the lies spill out. So she tells one little story about an Englisher. And then, as before, everything starts to fall apart.

Will a new community offer Katie a second chance at a life and love? Or is she too broken to save?

Find out in Amish Secrets & Lies, Book 1 of the Big Valley Amish series  by Rachel Stoltzfus. 

If you love Christian Amish stories about love, healing and the power of community, grab this series collection today!

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