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Her Amish Wedding Quilt
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Noah Stoll flung a rock into Miller's Pond and quickly reached down for another one. He repeated the action, over and over, until his throwing arm was too tired to continue.
He plopped down on the ground, knees bent, and dug his heels into the rocky soil. He tilted his hat back and rubbed an arm across his brow, clearing it of sweat. Realizing there were tears on his cheeks, he swiped roughly at them with his knuckles. He might be only twelve years old, but Daed had told him he was becoming a man and everybody knew crying wasn't something a man did.
A rustling in the brush behind him had him scrambling to his feet. But rather than an animal, he spied a little girl who couldn't have been older than six.
"Hello," she said with a smile. She held a pail in front of her with both hands on the handle. Her kapp was slightly crooked and her fingertips were stained purple.
He looked around but didn't see anyone else. "Are you alone?"
She nodded. "The others are lost." She didn't seem the least bit frightened or concerned. Rather she was studying him with a kind of bright curiosity.
Noah frowned. Just what he needed, a lost kinner to take care of. Then he sighed, this wasn't her fault. "You're one of the Eicher girls, aren't you?"
She nodded, twisting slightly from side to side at the waist. "I'm Greta. Who are you?"
"I'm Noah. What are you doing out here?" Strange how at ease and unconcerned she was.
"Picking blackberries." She held the pail out. "Want some?"
"No, danke." She was an odd one. With a freckled face and a gap between her front teeth, she had the look of a curious kitten. And with numerous strands of brown hair escaping her kapp, dark stains on her fingers and smudges on her dress, there was an untamed look about her as well.
She studied him for a minute and came closer. "You look sad. Is something wrong?"
Embarrassed she'd read him so well, Noah turned and sailed a rock across the surface of the pond. He counted four skips before it finally disappeared below the surface. "My little bruder hates me." He swallowed hard, remembering the look on Calvin's face and the six-year-old's pleading and crying.
"Why does he hate you?"
Her words pulled him back from that painful memory. "We found an injured fox cub in the woods a while back that we brought home. We named it Kit and even taught it a few tricks. Calvin loved that fox and treated him like a pet." Noah had grown fond of the frisky, intelligent creature too.
"Once Kit got better, though, Daed told us we had to release it back in the woods where we'd found it." It was the first time he'd wanted to protest against something his daed had said. Not only because he liked Kit, but because he knew how it would affect his little bruder. But his daed had told him that the mark of a man was how he handled things when duty interfered with desire.
"So why is your bruder mad at you and not your daed?"
"Daed sent me and Calvin out on our own to set the fox free. Calvin begged me to help him hide it instead, so we could keep it. I wouldn't." He knew it had been the right thing to do. So why did it feel so bad?
Greta came closer and turned to face him. "You really liked Kit too, didn't you?"
How did she know that? "Jah."
Setting her pail down, she raised her arms as high as she could and placed a pudgy, little-girl hand on each side of his face. Then she met his gaze with her unexpectedly earnest one. "Your bruder is wrong to be mad at you. You did what your daed told you to, even though you knew it would make you and your bruder sad. I'm proud of you."
He blinked. The words were a soothing salve to a throbbing wound. But she was just a little girl who was probably parroting words. "You don't know what you're saying." He immediately felt guilty for his rough tone. But she seemed more insulted than frightened.
Her chin tilted up and her hands moved from his face to her hips. "I do too know what 'proud of you' means." She retrieved her pail. "It's what Mamm says when I do something I don't want to but that's the right thing. Like helping my shveshtra finish their chores when I'd rather be outside playing." Her irritation was replaced with a dimpled, gap-toothed smile. "Like doing what your daed told you to, even though your bruder begged you not to."
"You really think so?" He couldn't help himself, he really needed some kindness today. Even if it was from an odd little girl.
Greta nodded, her expression solemn. "Obedience makes Gotte smile, ain't so? And that's a gut thing."
Something inside Noah eased and he was able to smile for the first time today.
"How did you do that with the rocks?" she asked, doing that twisting motion again.
"Make it bounce on top of the water."
Noah hooked a thumb through his suspender. "It's a trick my daed taught me."
"Can you show me?"
He was surprised—it wasn't something little girls usually took an interest in learning. Then again, she wasn't like his sister or other girls he knew. "All right." He searched the ground for flat, smooth stones. "And then I'll show you the way home."
Current Day (Seventeen Years Later)
Greta Eicher hopped out of bed and went to her window. She enjoyed watching the sun come up and she couldn't think of any better way to start off this New Year's Day.
Kneeling, she rested her forearms on the windowsill as she admired the view. It was beautiful, breathtaking. Those shifting shades of gold, orange and purple were a wonderful testament to Gotte's creation, and the patterns they created on the snow this morning were particularly lovely. If only she could capture such beauty in her own quilt designs.
The morning light bathed the milking barn where the inside lighting proclaimed that Daed and Amos were already at work. Skip, their dog, raced out of the barn then back in, obviously full of energy. The fields beyond, blanketed with four or so inches of snow, looked pristine, as if providing a clean slate for the new day.
With a happy sigh, she thought again about what a wonderful gut year this would be. She'd waited long enough for Calvin Stoll to figure things out on his own, to see past their friendship to what was so obvious to her, that she and he would be gut together. This was the year it would happen, she could feel it.
Even if it meant she had to prod him a bit to help him see it.
Martha's impatient call interrupted her pleasant thoughts. "I'm up!" she replied, quickly scrambling to her feet. The exasperated tone in her older shveshtah's voice told her she'd been daydreaming at the window longer than she'd intended. She rubbed her arms against the chill, then glanced out the window once more. The shifting colors of dawn playing against the snowy fields suddenly sparked an idea for a new quilt pattern. She grabbed the sketchbook she kept close by for just that purpose and quickly drew a rough outline, capturing the vision before it got away.
Another, more insistent call from Martha forced her to set aside her pad. She dressed quickly, humming as she pinned her apron and cape in place. Then she put her hair up and donned her kapp, securing it with a single hairpin. Nothing could destroy her good mood today, not even Martha's responsible-to-the-point-of-asperity attitude.
The familiar aroma of coffee and breakfast that hit her when she opened her door set her stomach rumbling. It seemed Martha and Hannah were already at work in the kitchen.
She entered the kitchen just in time to see Hannah, her younger shveshtah, pull a pan of sticky buns from the oven. Martha was frying eggs, with platters of cooked bacon and potatoes already resting on the counter beside her. As usual, they were getting in each other's way. How many times had she told them about ways to schedule their time at the stove so they could work more efficiently? But they never listened.
Martha, who took her role as lady of the house much too seriously, was the first to notice her. "Ach, you finally decided to join us. I thought I'd have to go knock on your door."
"Sorry. I got lost in the beautiful sunrise this morning and it inspired a new quilt pattern. What can I do to help?" The quicker they got everything ready, the sooner they could head to Onkel Simon's place. It was his and Aenti Ruthanne's turn to host the Eicher family New Year's Day gathering.
Hannah, who was arguably the best baker in Hope's Haven, gave her an understanding smile. "I could use some help with the sugar cookies. Just take the dough and form balls to place on the sheet pan."
"Be careful of the hampers," Martha warned, as Greta moved to the counter. "I've already packed up most of the food we're taking to Onkel Simon's today."
Greta looked at the array of hampers and rolled her eyes. She knew Martha and Hannah had cooked and baked all day yesterday—she'd contributed by doing the housework they hadn't had the time for. Still, this seemed excessive even for her two industrious shveshtra. "You do know we're just guests and aren't expected to feed the whole army of Eichers on our own, don't you?"
Martha wasn't amused. "It's impolite to show up without bringing a contribution for the meal."
"But this is so much more than just a contribution."
Martha shot her an exasperated look. "Really, Greta, must you comment on everything?"
Greta snapped her mouth closed and went to work on the sugar-cookie dough, focusing her thoughts on something more pleasant, like her idea for that new quilt pattern. She could already picture it in her mind—the colors of the new dawn radiating from the top of the quilt and seeping down into the solid white of the bottom half. The quilt stitches would outline the hills and furrows of the fields covered in snow. Something clean and crisp and filled with promise—much like this new year.
And like her feelings for Calvin.
There really was no other man in the district for her, literally. Twice before she'd thought a young man would ask for her hand. Once during the early days of her rumspringa, Henry Knepp had seemed interested, but he'd eventually turned his attentions to another. And three years ago Karl Schmucker had actually courted her for two months before deciding they were not suited.
But Calvin was different. Where others thought of her as too outspoken and forward, Calvin respected her spirit and encouraged her independent thinking. They'd make the perfect couple. Not that she was head over heels in love, but this was no fictional romance novel either. Instead, she and Calvin had a solid friendship and mutual affection. That made for a strong bond, love would grow between them over time.
Besides, not only were they well suited, but Calvin was a hard worker and progressive thinker like herself. Though he'd only been eighteen when his daed died, he'd done a gut job of running the family farm ever since. Noah, the older brother, had already begun establishing himself in his woodworking business by then and hadn't wanted to return to full-time farm work. So Calvin had stepped up to shoulder most of the load. And the farm had flourished under his—
The door opened, interrupting her thoughts and letting in a blustery burst of cold air. Daed entered, stomping his work boots on the mat, and right behind him was Amos Kurtz, the neighbor who worked as their farmhand.
"It smells like breakfast is ready." Daed's booming voice filled the room.
Amos inhaled deeply as he unwound his neck scarf. "Your dechder are the best cooks in the county, Isaac, ain't so?"
"Martha and Hannah take after their mamm in that respect," Daed replied.
"Happy New Year, Amos," Hannah called out.
"Danke, Hannah." The lanky farmhand grinned at all three girls. "And Happy New Year to all you lovely ladies as well."
Amos had a contagiously jolly personality that never failed to draw a smile from those around him.
The two men shed their heavy coats and hats, then Greta's daed rubbed his hands together. "It's mighty kalt out there, but the sky is clear. I don't think we'll be getting any more snow today."
"Wunderbaar." Greta could hardly contain her good mood. "Everyone should be able to make it to Onkel Simon's."
Everything was going her way today. Aenti Ruthanne and Calvin's mamm were sisters, which meant the Stoll family would show up at the gathering sometime today. And when they did, she'd find an opportunity to talk to Calvin and perhaps give him that little nudge he so obviously needed. Others might consider that too forward, but Calvin would see it for the initiative it was.
Martha swiped the back of her wrist over her forehead, then waved toward the table. "Daed, you and Amos have a seat. I'll have breakfast served in a few minutes."
That was Martha, not only was she gut at all things domestic, but she took her responsibilities to keep the house running smoothly very seriously.
As the men settled into their seats, Greta navigated her way around her shveshtra and grabbed the coffee pot from the back of the stove. She quickly poured up two cups of the hot brew, adding two teaspoons of sugar for Amos and a generous dollop of cream for Daed.
"To warm you while you wait," she said, as she set the cups in front of them. "You finished the milking in record time today."
"Jah." Daed pointed his coffee spoon at Amos. "Amos was already at work when I got up this morning."
Amos nodded. "I promised Mamm I'd be quick about helping you with the milking. I need to head back to help with the chores at home so everything would be taken care of before our guests arrive."
Within minutes, the table was set and the food laid out. After silent prayers of thanks were offered, the platters were passed around.
"So Amos, is your mamm preparing a big meal today?" Hannah asked.
"For sure and for certain. She was already up and cooking when I rose this morning. We're expecting Onkel Philip's family and Onkel Michael's family to eat lunch with us. There'll be at least twenty of us."
Greta hid a smile. There would be more than double that many at Onkel Simon's today. Daed had five siblings, and all of them, along with many members of their families, would be there. And of course some of Aenti Ruthanne's family would be there as well.
"I have an extra strawberry pie you must take to her." Hannah, as usual, was willing to share the fruits of her labor. Greta also spied her slipping some cheese in her napkin. No doubt it would make its way to Skip on their way out.
Greta lost track of the conversation after that. It was all she could do not to bolt her food down. She just wanted the morning to rush by. The new year wouldn't really kick off properly for her until she was able to talk to Calvin.
* * *
"Here, let me help you with that." Greta grabbed one of the urns of coffee while Esther Mast grabbed the other.
"Danke." Esther hefted the urn to get a better grip. "They're so awkward to carry."
Greta nodded, then shifted her hold as she opened the door. They stepped outside, headed for the barn using the path that had been cleared of snow. A number of the men had gathered out there this afternoon, and Aenti Ruthanne wanted to make sure they had access to the hot brew.
"You know," Greta mused, "someone should build a cart with special holders to keep these containers from tipping over. It would make transporting them so much easier." She waited for Esther to follow her through and then shut the door.
Esther laughed. "How do you come up with these ideas?" She gave Greta an arch look. "Me, I'd settle for a couple of strapping young men to carry them for us."
Greta grunted. "I'd rather count on a cart." Then she cut her friend a sideways look. "Maybe I'll share my idea with Noah. He could build them to sell."
"Noah is always open to moneymaking ideas, though he has to be convinced that's what they are before he acts."
"Calvin's bruder is a good businessman, for sure and for certain." It was Noah Stoll who'd had the foresight to expand his woodworking shop and display floor to include three shops in addition to his own, creating the Hope's Haven Amish Craft Mall.
And she not only admired him for that, she was also grateful he'd done so. She and Esther were partners in one of those shops, The Stitched Heart Quilt Shop, which not only sold their own work, but accepted work from other area quilters on consignment too.
Noah wasn't just an astute businessman, he was also a fair landlord to the shopkeeper tenants and, from all accounts, a talented craftsman.
Feeling slightly disloyal, Greta spoke up on Calvin's behalf. "Calvin is a gut businessman as well. He's always open to trying new things on the farm. He's made lots of improvements, both in machinery and practices, and they're paying benefits now." And best of all, he'd let her have a small hand in that. He'd not only discussed his plans with her to get her opinion, but he'd truly listened to the suggestions she'd had to offer.
Esther cut her a knowing look. "And has Calvin offered you a ride in his buggy yet?"
Greta felt her cheeks heat. A young man offered a girl a ride home in his buggy when he was ready to court her. "Not yet. But I'm thinking I might give him a little nudge today."
Esther's eyes widened, but she didn't respond right away. They'd arrived at the barn now, and it was full to almost bursting with men in black hats and dark coats. The bearded faces outnumbered the clean-shaven ones, indicating many of the single men had congregated elsewhere.
Noah, along with Esther's younger bruder Daniel, stepped up to take the urns from them.
When they headed back to the house, Esther's startled look had been replaced by a considering one. "Well, that's one way to find out where you stand."
Greta didn't let her friend's skepticism throw her. "That's the idea." Then she changed the topic. "I was thinking we could keep the shop closed tomorrow. I don't think there'll be many folks out shopping for quilts so soon after Christmas."
Esther nodded. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt. We need time to replenish our stock after the Christmas rush anyway."
"We did have a good season, didn't we?" It had been the best sales month they'd had since they opened the shop three years ago.
"So why do you want the day off tomorrow? Do you have special plans?"
What she hoped to be doing was making plans with Calvin for their new life together.
But before she could say anything, Esther looked past her and frowned. "Ach, there goes David, running around without his mittens. That boy goes through mittens like Daed goes through horse feed." She started toward him. "I'm sure Noah brought an extra pair." David was Noah's four-year-old son. Anna, David's little shveshtah, was somewhere around as well.
"Let me get him while you fetch the mittens," Greta offered. Truth be told, she loved Noah's kinner. Esther was Noah's cousin, and he occasionally brought his little ones to the quilt shop for her to watch when Maisie, his younger shveshtah, was unable to care for them. Greta had happily helped and had grown to love the motherless pair. It would be so nice when she married Calvin and the little ones could call her Aenti Greta.
Once David's hands were again swaddled and he'd been admonished to keep the mittens on, Greta and Esther headed back to the house.
"Speaking of courting"—Esther cut her an arch look—"I hear your latest pairing went well."
Greta nodded, feeling a glow of satisfaction. "Carl and Malinda are courting now and from all accounts are both very happy." Over the past couple of years she'd found herself taking on the role of a sort of matchmaker. It had started out almost by accident. Her cousin Philip, the painfully shy youngest son of her mamm's sister, had asked her to speak to Esther on his behalf. Unfortunately, Esther wasn't interested in him in that way. Not wanting to see her cousin retreat even further into his shell, Greta had offered to help him find a woman who was interested. She'd matched him with Elsie Wengerd, and the two had been happily married for over a year now.
While she'd intended for this to be a onetime thing, Philip had sung her praises to a couple of his friends. Those two others had come to her at different times, and she'd been able to help them as well, though it had taken more than one attempt to pair them up. And while she never actively sought out these opportunities, the idea that she'd played a part in helping friends find happiness brought her much joy.
Of course she wasn't a matchmaker in the literal sense. Her approach was more to figure out the kind of person who'd complement them, help them see the possibilities, perhaps initiate a meeting, then leave the rest up to them.
And now it was her turn to find that happy ending for herself, and the anticipation was like a song bubbling up inside her.
Once back inside, Greta went about visiting with her cousins and helping where she was needed. All the while she waited for an opportunity to speak to Calvin privately. But whenever he seemed unoccupied she was busy helping her aenti or watching someone's boppli. Several times when she had free time she lost sight of where Calvin was.
At one point she saw Calvin's mamm sitting alone in a corner of the living room. Debra Stoll had the reputation of being a difficult woman—a woman who was demanding and set in her ways and who always thought she knew best. But Greta figured if she was going to become a member of the Stoll household as Calvin's fraa, then she should learn to get along with the family matriarch. After all, a little tact and kindness could go a long way.
Pasting on a smile, she approached the woman. "Hello, would you like me to get you something to drink or some of my shveshtah's snickerdoodles? They're quite gut."
Debra looked down her nose at her, a surprising feat given she was seated. "Do you think I'm too infirm to get it for myself?"
Greta blinked. "Not at all, I just thought I'd save you the trouble—"
"It would be no trouble at all for me to fetch them myself. I'm not helpless."
"Of course you're not." She'd obviously stepped on a sensitive area of Debra's life. Time to try a different approach. "Aenti Ruthanne told me you made that rhubarb pie with the cherry topping. I don't think even my shveshtah Hannah has ever made one as tasty."
The older woman settled back down. "It's a recipe I got from my grossmammi. My own family claims it's their favorite, especially Calvin."
Greta filed that information away. She'd want to learn how to make it once she and Calvin were wed.
She settled in a nearby chair and spent the next twenty minutes with Debra, mostly listening to unasked-for advice and reminiscences about how things were done much better in the older woman's day. But Greta didn't mind, she considered herself to be laying groundwork for the future relationship she hoped to have with this important member of Calvin's family.
When Greta finally stood and excused herself, she saw Calvin head toward the back door, and for once he was alone. At last—this was her chance. She quickly donned her wool coat and slipped out the door behind him. She was in luck. Calvin stood alone, stroking the nose of one of the buggy horses.
She studied him as she approached through the ankle-deep snow. He wasn't as tall as his older bruder, but he had fine, broad shoulders and muscular arms, attributes that must serve him well in his work around the farm. His dark hair curled under the brim of his hat, and his profile was striking. He was already handsome, but with the beard he'd grow as a married man he'd gain a mature appearance that would only improve his presence.
She stopped a few paces short of him, waiting for the moment when he'd look up and notice her. When it came, his expression brightened in the smile he'd always reserved just for her. That smile was one she always looked forward to, one that could warm her on the coldest of days. It was what assured her he had to feel for her what she felt for him.
"Happy New Year, Calvin," she greeted, speaking first.
"And to you as well. You're looking nice today."
"Danke." Surely his words were confirmation that she was doing the right thing by approaching him. "Why are you out here with the horses?"
- "Griggs builds a cozy world readers will happily settle into, and skillful characterization makes her hero and heroine leap off the page. Fans of Amish romance won't be able to resist this sweet treat."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Dec 15, 2020
- Page Count
- 368 pages