October 24, 2023
Miniseries: An Amish Holiday Novel, Book Three
When Promise Glen is struck by a vandalism spree around the Thanksgiving holiday, a community’s values—and two weathered hearts—are put to the test.
As a widow with two-year-old twins and a struggling orchard, Rebecca King’s dreams of expanding her business seem near impossible. To make matters worse, a troublesome string of destructive acts around Promise Glen threatens her roadside fruit and vegetable stand, forcing Rebecca to accept the help of her condescending new neighbor, Nathan Mueller.
Nathan didn’t intend to offend Rebecca with his offer to share the stand, especially since he’s a widower and single parent himself. He admires Rebecca’s strength and kindness in the face of adversity. If only they hadn’t started off on the wrong foot…
Despite their best efforts to shield their hearts, working side by side through the busy harvest plants the seeds of a budding friendship. But when the vandalism spreading through Promise Glen escalates to arson and rumors blaze through the town, they’ll have to learn to rely on each other more than ever. As Thanksgiving approaches, Rebecca and Nathan are forced to reconcile with their own grief, forgive what can’t be changed, and come to truly understand the core values of the holiday: love and gratitude.
Becca King pulled a wagon loaded with apples and late pears along the lane that led from her orchard to the main road. The farmstand her husband had built had done a good business all summer, but Thomas hadn’t been here to enjoy it. The familiar pain grasped her heart.
Hard as it was to believe, she’d been a widow for over a year. Sometimes it seemed an eternity, while other times she was sure it had been only yesterday when he was here with her, bending over their babies and looking at her with eyes filled with wonder and joy.
With an effort, Becca pushed the memories to the back of her thoughts. With their eighteen-month-old twins to chase and the orchard to look after, she was so busy sometimes she didn’t think of him as often as she should, and she felt guilty.
But then some ordinary thing reminded her, and grief stabbed her again, still fresh after all these months.
Get on with the job, she ordered herself. There wouldn’t be many more weeks before the harvest season was over and their farmstand closed for another year. The angle of the sunlight and the glow of color showed it.
Becca rounded a clump of overgrown lilac bushes, tugging the wagon loaded with peck baskets of apples and late pears when it resisted turning. There weren’t as many pears as she’d hoped, unfortunately, but the pear trees were getting old. She’d have to make a decision soon about planting more of them.
Would her grandfather be pleased with how she’d tended the orchard he’d left her? Sometimes she felt that the trees had borne more fruit for him than they did for her, but that was ferhoodled. Anyway, she hoped it was. Grandfather had always said the trees responded to the owner, and he’d certain sure loved every tree.
She set up the Open sign so anyone coming down the road would see it and began putting out the baskets she’d brought. Everything else had been loaded in the pony cart, and her sister Deborah would be along with it once she’d corralled the twins. James and Joanna loved to ride in the cart, but they could be a handful. Still, her fifteen-year-old sister managed them almost as well as Becca herself did.
She glanced back the lane to see if she could spot them coming but only saw the colors of autumn that seemed to brighten every day. The bronze plumes of the sumac came first, even as the meadow beyond began to turn golden. Beyond that, the trees took over, their yellow, orange and red calling out the tourists who had begun to drive along to enjoy the color and hopefully stop to buy.
The voice behind her startled her so much that the basket of MacIntosh apples nearly escaped her grasp, sending apples scattering around the feet of the man who stood there.
She stooped to get the apples, nearly colliding with the man who bent at the same time. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean…”
“No matter,” she said quickly, hoping she wasn’t flushing. She knew who he was, of course. He’d moved into the old Mueller place next door last week, inheriting it from his uncle, the rumors said. She could only hope, as did the rest of the Amish community, that he’d be a better neighbor than his uncle had been.
“There, that’s all of them.” He put the last handful into the basket. “You are Mrs. King, yah? I’m Nathan Mueller.”
“Next door, I know.” She tried for a welcoming tone. “We heard you were moving in. I hope the house is in good shape.”
Few people had been inside it for the last several years, given Joseph Mueller’s attitude toward visitors. Like as not to turn the dogs on them, so folks said. But she shouldn’t let that affect her manner toward this nephew of his.
At first glance, she saw little resemblance in the tall, sturdy man who stood before her to the shambling figure old Joseph had become. Except maybe for the frown he wore.
He seemed to be ignoring her comment, and instead was studying the farmstand. His preoccupation gave her another moment to assess what she saw. Brown hair and beard, firmly pressed lips, and thick brows that drew down as if in disapproval over cool blue eyes. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but this wasn’t it.
And what of the beard? She’d heard no mention of a wife and children…just a younger brother who lived with him. If he wore a beard, he’d have been married. Perhaps she was waiting for him to get the house ready before joining him.
He'd turned back to her while she was watching him, making her self-conscious. Had he noticed she was staring? She smoothed her apron down over the dark blue dress she wore.
“Are you interested in some apples? Or pears? I’d be happy to give you a basket to welcome you.”
His response was so abrupt that her hands froze on the basket she’d thought to arrange for him.
“I mean, denke,” he added quickly, as if he realized how brusque it sounded. Well, maybe he wasn’t one for chattering. “But not right now. I hoped we could talk business for a moment.”
“Business?” She looked at him blankly.
He nodded toward the farmstand. “I can see you don’t have much produce, and I heard…well, someone mentioned you might be willing to sell the farmstand to me. It looks to be well-made, and it could be moved over onto my property easy enough.”
Becca’s breath caught as she tried to understand what he was saying. For sure the stand was well-made. Thomas had been particular about his work.
But why would she sell the stand Thomas had made? And who was saying things like that?
Just then the pony cart came creaking into view. Deborah drove the shaggy pony and the twins bounced next to her, restrained by their harnesses. Deborah always claimed they needed harnessing more than the mare did.
Grateful for a breathing space before she’d have to answer the man, Becca hurried to help her sister. At least all the baskets on the cart should convince Nathan Mueller that she did indeed have plenty to sell.
Deborah hopped down quickly, reaching out to grab Joanna before she could attempt to get out of her harness by herself. Joanna was the more daring of the twins, and she was likely as not to try jumping down, just as she had from her crib a few days earlier, terrifying her mother.
So while James waited patiently for his aunt’s help, Joanna already came toward her mammi at the run that tripped her up more often than not.
“Slow down, little girl,” Becca reminded her.
Joanna stopped abruptly, overbalancing at the sight of a stranger, and plopped down on her bottom. James, safe in his aunt’s arms, chortled and pointed.
“Ach, don’t laugh at your sissy,” Deborah scolded, giving a quick glance of her own at the stranger.
Before Becca could reach her, Joanna was up again, and now she headed for Nathan Mueller at top speed.
But it was too late. Joanna did her usual trick of throwing her arms around any pair of nearby legs. She looked up at Mueller, probably expecting he’d sweep her up and toss her in the air the way her grossdaadi did.
Becca took a step toward them. “Sorry. That’s our little Joanna—”
She stopped abruptly, because she’d caught the expression on Mueller’s face. He was staring down at her child, looking as appalled as if he’d stepped into a bear trap.