You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Realms (May 15, 2012)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Beth Shriver received a degree in social work and psychology from the University of Nebraska. She worked as a caseworker for Boulder County Department of Social Services before starting a family. Beth and her husband of twenty years and her two children live in Texas after moving from their first home in Colorado. She freelances for the local papers in her area and writes columns, devotionals for magazines, and novels in a variety of genres in both fiction and nonfiction.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Annie Bieler sets out on a journey of the spirit when she discovers she was adopted after being found as an abandoned newborn. Her father is strongly against her decision to go as it could mean Meidung, or excommunication from the community and even her family. But Annie knows she must find “the path that has her heart.” Her search also takes her away from John, the young man who is courting her.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The dinner Bell rang just as one of the milk cows slapped Annie’s kapp with its tail. Now she was late for the evening meal. She pulled the black kapp off her head. When Maggie swatted Annie, the pins were knocked loose. She wiped off the dirt and cow manure then hastily twisted up her hair into a bun and pulled the kapp over her mess of hair.
“Need some help?” John Yoder’s dark eyes smiled at her.
She jumped at the sight of him looking down at her with a
grin. “Nee, I can finish up.”
Her mamm would scold her for her tardiness and her unruly hair, so she quickly grabbed two containers of milk, clutching them to her chest. When she turned around, John was removing the cups from the Guernsey’s udders.
“Danke. The boys must have missed a couple.” The cover of one of the containers lifted, causing milk to spill out onto her black dress. Annie wiped her hand on her white apron. Frustration bubbled up and burst out in an irritated groan.
“Now what?” John opened the barn door and shut it behind them.
Annie pointed to the milk stain and slowed her walk so he could catch up. Her mamm wouldn’t be as upset with her if she saw Annie with John.
“I spilled on myself, my hair’s a mess, and I’m late.” She jug- gled the containers to keep them in place as she walked.
John’s smile never left, just tipped to the side while she listed her worries. “You’re never late.”
“You will be too if you keep talking to me.” The milk sloshed
around in the containers as she adjusted them again. “Taking the long way home?”
“Jah, thought I’d come by to say hallo.” He took one from her then reached for the other.
She turned slightly so he couldn’t reach the second bottle. “I’ve got this one.”
“Suit yourself.” He shrugged as his grin widened.
They walked together toward their houses, which were down the path from one another, divided by a dozen trees. John was three the day Annie was born and had been a part of her life more than her own brothers were at times. His brown hair brushed his collar as he walked with her, holding back to keep in step with Annie.
“Aren’t you late to help with cooking?” He nodded toward her white clapboard house. A birdfeeder was hung at the far end of the porch, which had a peaked black roof, and daisies filled her mamm’s flower garden in front of the house. Mamm created a colorful greeting of flora for every season.
She shook her head. “Nee, Eli’s helping the Lapps, so I’m helping the boys with milking. What were you doing, cutting tobacco?”
He nodded. “Nice day for it too. The sun was bright, but there was a breeze that kept us cool.” He lifted his strong, handsome face toward the sunshine and took in a deep breath.
He was just trying to irritate her, so she ignored his jab. John knew she preferred being outdoors and that she would trade places with him in an instant. When the time was right she would help with the tobacco harvesting and, along with many others, would then prepare the meal after the task was done.
“It looked warm outside to me.” She took the milk from him and kept walking. The last of the warm summer days were coming to an end, and soon it would be time for fall harvesting.
They reached the trail that led to John’s home on the far side
of a stand of tall oak trees. “Not as hot as in the kitchen.” He
snapped his suspenders and turned onto the trail leading away from her.
“John Yoder . . . ” was all she could say this close to her daed’s ears. She watched him continue on down the roughed-out dirt lane thinking of what she would have said if she could. Her gaze took in the many acres of barley, corn, and oat crops and then moved to the Virginia mountainside beyond, where the promise of fall peeked out between the sea of green.
Annie walked up the wooden stairs and into the kitchen. The room was simple and white, uncluttered. A long table and chairs took over the middle of the large room, and rag rugs of blue and emerald added color and softness. For a unique moment it was silent.
“Annie?” Her mamm’s voice made her worry again about being late, with a soiled dress and unkempt hair.
Her tall, slender mamm stopped picking up the biscuits from a baking pan and placed both hands on the counter. She let out a breath when Annie came into the kitchen. “Ach, good, you brought the milk.” Mamm’s tired gaze fell on Annie.
“I was talking with John.” She opened the cooler door and placed the milk on the shelf.
Her mamm’s smile told Annie she wasn’t late after all, so she continued. “He said it was a good day for baling.”
Hanna and her brother strolled in, and he grabbed a biscuit, creating a distraction that allowed Annie time to twist her hair up and curl it into a tight bun. A tap from their mamm’s hand made her son drop the biscuit back into the basket with the rest. “I’m so hungry.” Thomas’s dark freckles on his pudgy face con- trasted to his light hair and skin, so unlike Annie’s olive-colored
complexion, which was more like their daed’s.
She tousled his hair. “You are always the first one to dinner
and the last one to leave.”
“I’m a growing child. Right, Mamm?” Thomas took the basket of biscuits to the table and set them next to his plate.
“That you are. Now go sit down and wait for the others.”
Mamm placed a handful of biscuits in the breadbox and brushed her hands off on her white apron.
While they waited for the others to wash up, she addressed
Annie. “John walked you out this morning and walked you home?” “Like he has most every day of my life.” Annie’s voice almost
reached the edge into sarcasm, but she smiled to make light of it. Didn’t her mamm know that her obvious nudging turned Annie away from John, not toward him?
Hanna had been quiet, listening, and walked over to Annie. “Should we ask Mamm if we can look in our chests in the attic?” Annie peered over Hanna’s shoulder at Mamm. “Jah, but let’s
wait until after supper.”
Her mamm’s brow lifted just as the buzz of her family coming into the room sidetracked her attention from Annie and Hanna. The younger ones were restless with hunger, and the older sib- lings talked amongst themselves. Frieda, Hanna, Augustus, Eli, Thomas, and Samuel all sat in the same chairs they were always in, and Annie took her assigned seat with the rest.
Her daed sat at the head of the table and waited with watchful eyes until everyone was quiet. When Amos folded his hands, all followed suit, and they all said silent grace.
Geef ons heden ons dagelijks brood. Give us this day our daily bread. Amen. Annie thought the words then kept her eyes closed until she heard movement from the others.
Amos passed the food to his right until it made a full circle back to him.
“We’ve almost finished with the Lapps’s tobacco field,” Annie’s oldest brother, Eli, informed Amos. He and Hanna had Mamm’s silky blond hair and blue eyes, but Hanna didn’t have her disposition.
Amos nodded and lifted a bite of chicken to his mouth.
Eli leaned toward Amos. “I can then tend to our barley day after tomorrow.”
Amos spoke without looking at his son. “You will work the
Lapps’s land until they say you are finished. Not before.”
The gleam in Eli’s dark eyes faded as he took up his fork. “Jah, Daed.”
Mamm spoke then. “It’s an honor you are able to help them while their daed recovers.” She shifted her attention to her hus- band. “Have you heard how Ephraim is healing?”
Amos continued to eat as he spoke to her mamm. “His back is mending. It’s his worrisome wife that keeps him laid up.”
“Ach, I’d probably do the same if it were you.” Mamm waited a moment until Daed’s mouth lifted into a half smile.
He gave the table a smack to stop Frieda from tempting Thomas with another biscuit. “The boy can help himself without your teasing him.”
She set their hands in her lap. “Jah, Daed.”
He nodded for them to eat again. Conversation was uncommon during meals, so Annie let her mind wander. Harvest season was approaching, and the excitement of upcoming weddings was on everyone’s mind. Although the courtship was to be kept quiet, most knew which couples would most likely be married in the coming months.
Annie’s mind went to John, the one she knew her parents, as well as his, would expect her to be with. Although she had feel- ings for him, she wished her spouse would not be chosen for her. It had changed her relationship with him just knowing what their expectations were. He had been her best friend, but she now kept him at bay, hoping for more time before the pressure became too great and they were forced to marry.
She put the palm of her hand to her forehead, resting there with thoughts of who else she could possibly be with from their community. Names went through her mind, but not one appealed to her in the same way John did.
Hanna nudged Annie as everyone began to clear the table. Annie’s mind rushed back to the present. She knew why Hanna wanted her attention. She was thinking about the upcoming nup- tials too. Their wedding chests gave them promise for their own
“Let’s ask Mamm.” Hanna’s eyes shone with excitement. Annie felt a lift in her spirits at the thought of having the privi- lege to rummage through their special treasures. She looked at her mamm laughing at her brother’s story of his britches getting caught on the Lapps’s fence. Her smile faded when he showed her the hole the wire made, which she would be mending that evening.
“You ask her,” Annie urged.
Hanna was the closest to Annie’s age and her confidante, as she was Hanna’s. “After dinner.” Hanna got up from her chair to help.
Frieda started the hand pump as the others gathered the dishes and put away the extra food. Once the dishes were cleaned and dried, Hanna and Annie went to their mamm, who stacked plates in the cupboard as the girls walked over to her.
“What do you want to ask me?” Mamm continued with the dishes until the last plate was put away.
Hanna and Annie looked at one another. Annie furrowed her brows to make Hanna talk.
“We’d like to see our hope chests.”
“It’s a long while from any weddings being published.” Mamm placed a hand on the counter and studied them. “Okay, then. But after your lessons are done.”
Hanna grabbed Annie’s hand, and they walked quickly from the kitchen. “Jah, Mamm,” they said in unison. Annie hadn’t looked through her chest since she’d given up the doll her mamm had made for her. Since it was her first, Annie had chosen to store it after receiving another from her aunt.
Hanna urged Annie to stop doing homework after she com- pleted hers, but Annie wouldn’t go until she’d finished her story. Finally the girls ran up the wooden stairs to the attic. Hanna grabbed the metal doorknob and pushed on the door to open it. The door creaked in the darkness, and Annie held the kerosene lamp up to examine the room before entering. It looked exactly
the same as the last time she’d been there.
A chest of drawers held baby clothes, and beside it stood a cabinet full of documents and paperwork Daed kept but never seemed to use. Special dresses and a bonnet hung on the far side of the room alongside a box of old toys her daed and Eli had made.
The girls spotted the chests lined up next to one another, where they would remain until their owners were married. Amos had made each of his girls one in which to keep their sentimental belongings. One day, when they had their own homes, they would have a memory of their daed and the things they held dear during their childhood.
Annie ran to the last one. Amos had lined them up according to age, so Hanna’s was right next to Annie’s. “You first,” Annie told Hanna.
“Nee, you.” Hanna moved closer to Annie and watched her lift the heavy wooden lid. “I can’t wait.” Hanna went to her chest and opened it as well. “Ach, I’d forgotten.” Hanna reached for the doll Mamm had made for her.
Annie grabbed hers, and they examined them together, just alike and equally worn. “I loved this doll! I had forgotten how much I played with it when I was a child.” The black bonnet was torn around the back, and the hay stuffing peeked out the back of the doll’s dress.
“Mine is tattered as well. I’m glad we put them away when we did, or there would be nothing left of them.” Hanna glanced at Annie’s doll.
Annie placed the doll in her lap and pulled out her wedding quilt, the one of many colors. Hanna’s was a box design, and Annie’s was circles within circles, resembling the circle of life. She ran her hand across the beautifully stitched material and admired her mamm’s handiwork. When she looked up, Hanna was doing the same.
Their eyes met. “Hold yours up so I can see.” Hanna’s voice was soft and breathy. “It’s beautiful, Annie. You’re lucky to be
closer to marrying than me.”
Annie tilted her head and turned the quilt to face her. “I don’t feel ready.”
Hanna’s brows drew together in question. “Why? You’ve always known you’ll be with John. And he is a handsome one.” She grinned. “I’ll take him off your hands.”
Annie tried to force a smile. “Why has everyone chosen my spouse for me?”
Hanna put her quilt back into the chest. “Don’t let your mind wander. Just be happy with the way things are.”
Annie fell silent, in thought. “Questioning is how we find the
“The truth has already been found.” Hanna reached for her family Bible as she spoke.
Annie nodded, humbled, and looked for her special Bible. She moved a carved toy Eli had made for her and a book her mamm had given to her. Finally, at the very bottom, she found a Bible the minister gave her. As she opened it up, she skimmed through the flimsy pages. She went to the very front of the book and smiled when she saw how she had written her name as a young girl. The letters were varied sizes and uneven.
Her mamm’s and daed’s names were both written under hers, their dates of birth, and a list of her brothers and sisters under that. Births and other dates of additional relatives proceeded on to the next page, including the dates of their marriages. Annie flipped back to the first page and noticed the day of her birth was missing. Only the year was written; the day did not precede it, only the month.
“Hanna, come look.” Annie handed her the Bible and searched her sister’s face for some sign that she knew the reason for the omission. Annie thought back to the days her family recognized her birthday—one in particular.
Birthdays were often celebrated after church service on Sundays when everyone was already together and they wouldn’t take time away from daily chores during the week. This being
tradition, Annie didn’t think much of the exact date of her birth.
Thoughts of self were discouraged. Everyone was treated equally so as to prevent pride.
On Annie’s thirteenth birthday she had been surprised by her family and friends with a party. A cake with thirteen candles was brought out, and gifts were given. Her brother had made her a handmade wooden box, and her sister, a picture of flowers. Other useful gifts such as nonperishable food and fancy soaps made by her aunt in the shape of animals piled up on the picnic table next to a half-eaten cake.
The best gift was from John. He had taken an orange crate and decorated it with his wood-burning tools. It was filled with small, flat wooden figures of every significant person in her life. The time and care he had put into the gift had touched Annie. She treated the present with such care she had thought it wise to store it in her hope chest. Now Annie wished she had enjoyed the box more.
She searched for it now and found the pieces scattered throughout the bottom of the chest. She picked up the wooden figures one by one, examined them, and put them in the box. Although they all looked alike, as no graven images were per- mitted, she used her imagination to pick out each person. Frieda, Hanna, Augustus, Eli, Thomas, and Samuel were all accounted for, then Mamm and her daed, her mammi and dawdi—grandparents—then John and her. All of the boy fig- ures looked the same as well except for their height, facial hair, and a hat her dawdi always wore.
She’d envision John’s figure to be the exception. He had a thick head of black hair and always wore it a bit longer than he should. He could always get away with such things due to his charismatic personality. That was something not encouraged, so not often seen in their community.
Annie ran a finger along the small wooden likeness of John and wondered if she shouldn’t dismiss him so readily. As a friend she adored him, but the thought of marrying him annoyed her.
But did that feeling come because of him, or was it her?
Hanna’s sigh brought Annie back to the moment. Hanna looked from her Bible to Annie’s. “That’s odd, isn’t it?”
Annie turned a crisp page and stared at the words again. “I
wonder if Mamm simply didn’t remember to fill in the day.”
Hanna frowned. “It’s not like Mamm to forget to do anything like this.”
Annie didn’t want to believe that Mamm forgot, and Hanna was right in that their mamm never left anything undone, espe- cially when it came to her children. “I’m sure there’s a reason.”
“The only thing left to do is ask.” Hanna closed the Bible and handed it to Annie.
Annie took the black book, its pages edged with light gold. “Don’t you want to?” Hanna grasped her hands together and
set them on her knees.
“Jah, I do.” Annie stroked the top of the golden pages with her
finger. “And then I don’t.”
Hanna grunted. “Well, that’s silly.”
Annie stopped and took the Bible in both hands. “But I have a strange feeling.” Annie squeezed the Good Book. “Maybe it’s better if I don’t know.”