Katie explained with delight how the sale had gone. “She said she might have work for me in a couple months! Oh, Mam, I’m going to need to buy notions and more fabric.” She fished a shopping list out of her apron pocket and handed it over to her mam.
“Well, okay. Since you were back on time, get a cart and get what you need. We’ll be done here, so try to be quick. I want to get home, start dinner, then iron.”
“I will.” Hurrying off, Katie stifled the urge to tell someone else about the rumor she’d started. Filling her cart with fabric, rickrack, and spools of thread, she stood behind an English woman. Her parents were two rows away. Picking up the lengths of fabric she’d chosen, she listened to the English conversations around her.
“…Going to Chicago in about a month. We just booked our flight so we can go to my cousin’s wedding…”
“…looks so fresh and…unusual, don’t you think? I love their clothing! But they must get hot in the summer…”
“…ordered some fruit pies, cakes and that shoofly pie from one of the bakers here. Stella, they were so…mmm! The next time you need something, you need to order from one of the Amish bakers here!”
Katie pushed her cart to the conveyor belt, putting her items on it. She fished several dollars out of her small purse, ready to pay for her items. As she noticed some of the English looking at her, she gave them a shy smile. Then, she saw someone raising a smartphone toward her. Spinning, she put her hand at the side of her face, hearing the “click” of the phone’s camera as the person took her picture.
What did the woman see? A perfect Amish girl? How little she knew.
“Ma’am,” the cashier said, “No pictures of the Amish. They have a rule against that.”
Katie blushed. Had Esther taken photos when she’d run away? Had she bought a smartphone? Katie wanted to ask the Englisher to see the photo. She wanted to pose and have the woman take another. Would breaking the Ordnung within shouting distance of her mam make her feel as good as starting the rumor had?
No, it wasn’t safe.
“Denki,” Katie said to the shopkeeper. The Amish avoided photographs because collecting images of oneself was a form of vanity. But Katie felt most of the time like she was living inside of a photograph. What people saw was a snapshot in two dimensions of herself. It, like everything else, was a lie.
The shopkeeper, unaware of Katie’s thoughts, said, “No problem! Okay, that’s nineteen dollars and seventy-seven cents.”
Katie handed the cash over and waited for her change. Accepting the bag, she wheeled her cart to the store entrance to her parents.
At the wagon, she accepted her dat’s help after he helped her mam into the seat.
“You dealt with that picture situation well.” Her dat smiled with approval at Katie.
It warmed her. She so rarely earned any of their approval. It made living inside her own photograph just a little bit easier. Katie said, “Denki, Dat. I’m used to it, actually. They’re just curious. Tourist, maybe?”
“Ja. They don’t know our Ordnung.”
They didn’t. Lucky them. Katie kept up the pretense of being dutiful, grateful they couldn’t see in her expression how close she had come to embarrassing all of them with her curiosity. “Ja, I don’t think they did. It’s okay. At least I saw them raising their phone, so…”
“Ja. Did you find everything you need? We aren’t coming here for at least another week.”
“Ja, I did. I tried to remember everything when I wrote my list out last night. Besides, I’m going to be pretty busy finishing those three quilts, then starting my next order. That’s why I needed these fabrics. The couple wanted something bright and cheery for their babies. They’re having twins.”
The following Sunday was a meeting Sunday. Katie was well aware she could say nothing about the rumor she had begun. As she hung out with the other teens, she heard some whispers.
“…someone English doesn’t want us here.”
“…really know. I just heard it being said and was told to be careful when I’m in the English community.”
Each whisper was like a bubble of carbonation popping in her chest. Tiny cuts, tiny drops of blood. She felt lighter.
Katie looked up, her eyes wide. “Zeb, what did you hear?”
“Someone was saying that they heard that the English want us gone.”
“Nee!” Katie said, playing at surprise. “I have so many English customers! I hope it wasn’t one of them!”
“Don’t you quilt?”
“Ja, I do. I delivered an order just a few days ago, and I’m working on a couple other orders for English customers.”
“Well, just be careful is all’s I’ve gotta say.” Zeb sat up and drank deeply from his can of soda.
“Ja, I will. In fact, my customer, the one I took my quilt to last week, she was really happy with my work. This is the second time I’ve worked with her. I like her.”
Walking around with her boyfriend, Amos, Katie heard other young people chatting and laughing.
“Hey, are you ready for tonight’s sing?” Amos pressed Katie’s arm gently, getting her attention.
“Ja, I am! I’m looking forward to it. Are you?”
“Ja, of course! Wanna play volleyball? There’s a game starting now.”
“Ja, let’s!” Katie and Amos walked toward the volleyball net, joined by other teens and young people.
At that night’s sing, she heard more snippets of the rumor making the rounds.
“…may have been a tourist.”
“Nee! I have only ever had gut interactions with them!”
Katie looked around for Becky. Not seeing her, she sighed, feeling relieved. At the snack table, she grabbed an apple and a few chocolate chip cookies. Sinking her teeth into the apple, she dropped down next to Amos.
“You get anything for me?” Amos smiled eagerly at Katie.
“Ja, of course!” She pulled another apple out of her pocket and set the cookies in between them. She made short work of her part of the snack, and then cleaned her hands.
“Hey, Katie, did you deliver that quilt you were working on yet?” Amos’s face was serious.
“Ja. Why? You mean, that… Whatever it is that was said?”
“Ja, that. I want you to be careful. I’m hearing that it could have been a tourist, but you never know.”
A shiver passed through her. This rumor was supposed to relieve the pressure inside and make her happy for once, not threaten her already limited freedom. Katie shrugged. “My English customers are gut people. I’ve gotten repeat business from most of them. I have a gut relationship with each of them. I think, anyway.”
“Mmm. Just be careful. I know you’re trying to earn money and set it back for emergencies. When do you deliver your next order?”
“Three weeks, I think. I need to check my calendar.”
“Will you let me go with you when you deliver them?”
It was sweet and stifling. Katie didn’t expect this. Swallowing her soda quickly, she thought. “Well, maybe. I need to check with Dat.”
“Why? Do they know about this?”
Katie shrugged once again. “I don’t know. Why?”
“They need to know. And I’ll be going with you to make deliveries. Just let me know ahead of time, and I’ll make sure I can do so.”
Katie tried to hide her dismay. Smiling, she shook her head at Amos. “That won’t be necessary. I can ask Mam to go with me; I don’t want to take you away from filling your own customer orders. You rely on customer goodwill just like I do.” Her heart was hammering. She hadn’t foreseen this type of development!
“Two women, delivering quilts to English customers? I don’t know…”
Katie took advantage of his indecision. “Amos, really, it’s okay. Thank you for being so watchful over me, but it’s okay! Mam has a schedule similar to mine, so I won’t inconvenience her.”
Amos looked closely at Katie. “Are you sure? I just don’t want you in any danger.”
“Ja, I’m sure. If it turns out that I do need more assistance, I’ll let you know.” She was able to rest her head momentarily on Amos’s shoulder before everyone moved toward the barn for the sing. As they walked with everyone else, Katie sighed silently in relief. This was supposed to be a small, harmless rumor. And already things were getting out of hand.
On the way home, Amos brought up the statement the anonymous English person had made. “Katie, I really want you to think carefully about letting me escort you to your customers’ houses when you deliver or take orders. If your mam can’t, just let me know. I’ll be more than happy to help.”
Katie squeezed Amos’s arm in gratitude. Smiling at him, she nodded. “Ja, if she can’t, I’ll call you, for sure and for certain. I doubt I’ll have any problems.”
Amos looked at his girlfriend. “How can you be so brave?”
Brave? Hardly. Katie was a liar and broken inside, and now, Amos was staring at her with something between admiration and suspicion. Katie’s stomach roiled. She struggled for an answer. “I have Gott with me at all times. And most of my clients are mothers with small children. I can’t imagine them harming me. Besides, haven’t you heard that expression, ‘strength in numbers?’ I can get Mam, or one or two of my friends to make deliveries with me. I’ll find out who’s going in the same direction I am. And if they can’t help me, I’ll ask you.”
But Amos wouldn’t drop it. “Katie, I want to protect you–!”
“You’re just beginning to build up your own clients. I would hate to make you late on finishing an order and angering a client, especially if they are English. If this information is true, and who knows if it is or not, you don’t want to be selling a cabinet or dining room table to someone who wants us gone.”
Amos couldn’t argue with that. He wanted to, but Katie’s reasoning was sound. “Okay.” He shrugged, sighed and let his free hand drop by his side. Pulling into her parents’ yard, he stopped the buggy and looked all around them, trying to see if he could spot any English people lurking about. Seeing nobody, he chanced a peek at the front of the house. Seeing nobody peering through the drapes, he leaned over and gave a soft kiss to Katie. “I love you.” His hand drifted to her waist. The weight of it made Katie’s stomach twist.
Amos froze. “Katie, are you okay?”
“Fine. Gut.” Katie forced a smile. She liked kissing, but it made her nervous when he touched her unexpectedly. That wasn’t his fault, and it wasn’t his business either. “I love you too,” she said.
Amos grinned. “I’ll see you in a few days. Maybe we can spend an evening together this week?”
“Ja, maybe we can. Just let me know! I’d better go in. Mam is looking out.”
Amos’s eyes swept the front of the house again. He saw nothing. Chuckling, he asked, “How do you know?”
“Many years of experience. I saw her with my older brothers and sisters. She’s standing, just by the curtains, staring out at us.”
“Whoa! I hope she didn’t see me kissing you.”
“Me, neither! Bye!” Jumping down, Katie waved at Amos.
“Hey, wait up! Let me walk you to the door.”
Giggling, Katie stopped and waited for Amos to catch up. She took his hand. She liked holding hands. When she walked into the house, her mam was standing behind the curtain.
Katie gave her a wave. “Good night, Mam. I’ll be up early in the morning.”
“Gut. I’m glad you got home on time. I don’t want to be tired during the day again.”
Mary trudged up the stairs after Katie, yawning as she went.
Later in the week, Katie was surprised when her parents allowed her to go shopping for them. “We just have too much work to allow us to go. You take this list and the money and buy just what I wrote down. I want you home within an hour and a half because today is payday for the English. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
“Sure, Mam, denki for the trust! I’ll be back soo—” She stopped speaking as Mary grabbed her wrist, almost painfully. “Mam?”
“Do not even think of beginning any rumors, do you hear me, daughter? Speak to your friends if you see them, but no rumors!”
Katie carefully removed her wrist from Mary’s grip. The pressure was rising again. No matter how hard she tried, she failed. “Mam, please don’t worry. I won’t!” Looking straight at her mam, she tipped her head to one side, giving her a confused look. “I’ve learned my lesson. I know it was my rumor that made us have to leave Goshen, and it hurt our whole family.” She turned around and made sure the cash was in her apron pocket. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
Mary gazed after her wayward daughter, praying she had finally moved through this phase. If telling vicious lies could be called a phase. Katie has been behaving, and she does seem to have learned her lesson.
Mary thought back to the tumultuous weeks following the revelation that her own daughter was the source of the ugly rumor about Big Mike Hofstetter. The lie Katie had told, Mary was horrified and sickened, but she shouldn’t have been surprised. Katie had always told stories. As a child, she’d said awful things about her husband’s brother Levi, who had only been kind to their family. More kind than a brother-in-law had need to be.
Maybe Mary had suspected the rumor about Big Mike was a lie. Maybe that was why she and David had decided not to call English law enforcement, trusting in the Goshen community elders to deal with the problem.
She wanted to be the best mam to her children, but with the last two, she had failed. Esther, poor, always sad Esther, had run off and gotten mixed up with drugs. Mary didn’t know if her second to last daughter was alive or dead. Then there was Katie, who lied.
Mary wished she could love Katie like she was supposed to. Katie had been such a sweet baby, always smiling and reaching for things. If only Mary could go back to those days. Esther, a serious, determined toddler, and Katie, a rosy, grinning infant.
Mary remembered the day when everyone in Goshen, including David and her, had realized that their own daughter had told such a destructive lie. At the meeting, Mike had offered incontrovertible evidence that he’d been nowhere near Katie when she said the assault had happened.
And so, Katie’s problem had been dragged out into the open, and it had destroyed them all.