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Here it is – Book 11 of the Nurse Hal Among The Amish series.
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Bender Creek Bridge's Troubled Waters synopsis
The longest year of Joy Petermeyer's life is just about over.
Nurse Hal's stepson, Daniel Lapp, is due back from Tennessee
in August, and they planned to get married. Only according to
his Aunt Ida's letters, Daniel is having a good time in Tennessee
working with his Uncle Marvin's horses and dating an Amish girl
named Arlene. Joy worries that Daniel isn't coming home, and decides
she has to move on. Her only friend is Melinda Esch. One night, they
go on a camping trip which ends up tragically. Joy is determined to
never have anything to do with Melinda after that night. Just when she
considered her life was in bad shape, Daniel's friend, Jimmie Miller
invites Joy to step out with him to the teen singings. Joy is welcomed back
by the Amish teens after months of avoiding the singings. That date with
Jimmie leads to a picnic and horseback riding dates. Summer is fun again,
and Joy realizes she has developed deep feelings for Jimmie. To Joy's surprise,
not even her romance with Jimmie goes well. Samuel Nisely, Jimmie's stepfather,
tells Joy to stay away from Jimmie as long as she is promised to Daniel Lapp.
Even if Daniel doesn't come back to Iowa, Joy might not be able to see Jimmie
ever again as long as Samuel Nisely says Jimmie can't date her. This series of
events turned summer into the worst one of her life again, and it all started with
Bender Creek Bridge's Troubled Water.
“I am going to have a bobbeli.” After a time of silence while Joy Petermeyer and Melinda Esch practiced their fancy work, Melinda burst out with that startling statement. Her hands shook slightly after making the revelation. She bit her quivering lower lip as she laid the dish towel, snugged in a metal embroidery hoop, in her lap.
The pillowcase in Joy's embroidery hoop slipped from her fingers to her lap as her mouth flew open. For once she was speechless as she leaned back against one of two large limestone boulders wedged together. A gentle breeze blew a sprig of her bright red hair down over Joy's eyes. She moved the hair until it stayed behind her ear while she collected her thoughts.
On the bank of Buggy Creek, Joy's special place consisted of those two rocks shaded by a stand of plum trees. Joy used them as backrests. This was the spot in her uncle and aunt's pasture where she chose to go when she wanted to be alone. As well, it was the spot she shared with her friends.
“Please run that statement by me one more time?” Joy had been hypnotized by the ripples slapping against the creek bank. She worried about how high the creek was going to rise, knowing water could soon flood the pasture. With that worry on her mind, she hoped maybe she hadn't heard Melinda correctly.
Melinda focused her attention across the creek at the timber to avoid looking at Joy. Her voice flattened to just above a whisper. “I am going to have a bobbeli.”
Joy gave a disbelieving gasp. “A baby! No way!”
Melinda slowly nodded a yes. She nervously pushed her gold-rimmed glasses back to the bridge of her nose as she leaned against the other boulder.
Joy studied the dark-haired girl's fine features to see if she was serious. When her eyes lit on Melinda's swelling middle, Joy noted the dress fit way too snugly. A new life was taking form in her friend. What popped into Joy's head was that at seventeen Melinda was way too young to have and care for a baby. As for herself, in a couple of weeks, Joy would be sixteen. Her thought about her age was she was still too young to be responsible for a baby and so was Melinda. “You have knocked the wind out of my sails. I must admit I noticed you were putting on weight, but I never dreamed the cause was pregnancy. How long have you known about your situation?”
Melinda wrapped her denim jacket around the front of herself to stop Joy from staring at her stomach. “A few months now.”
“Like how many?” Joy demanded as she looked straight at Melinda.
Her friend shrugged. “Maybe close to four months.”
Joy huffed, “Is this Ben Beiler's doing?”
“Jah, but I share the blame,” Melinda took a deep breath through her open mouth, showing her crooked teeth. “We spent too many nights alone in Bender Creek timber.”
“When are you and Ben getting married? Time is ticking away toward your due date,” Joy pointed out.
“I am not getting married, and I am kronk about it.” Melinda's trembling mouth fine lined as she tried not to cry.
“You have the right to feel sick. Why forever not aren't you getting married?” Joy pushed, looking astonished. “That's what happens next when an Amish girl is expecting, isn't it? An English girl too for that matter.”
Melinda's shoulders sagged. “When I told Ben about the baby, he said this was my problem. He has no intention of marrying me. I have not seen him since I told him, so I reckon his mind has not changed.”
Joy slapped her leg. “Daniel was right about that guy. Before he left, he warned me Ben Beiler was bad news.”
“When Ben started taking me out my mutter told me Ben is full of the deibel and I should stay away from him,” Melinda muttered.
“I hate to judge a person I don't know, but I believe Daniel was right when he said Ben was no good, and your mother is right to say he is a devil. So what are you going to do?” Joy quizzed.
“I do not know yet.” Melinda's dark brown eyes filled with the tears she had tried so hard to prevent.
Joy scooted closer and put her arm around Melinda's shoulders. “Do your folks know about your --- uh --condition?”
Melinda laid a hand on her belly. “That I am pregnant? You might as well say it. I have gotten used to the idea. I had to. My mutter does know because I told her. I had no other choice because I have no idea what I should do. I needed her help.
Mamm says we are not going to tell my father unless we have to. She does not know how he will take the idea of me being second-hand goods. She fears he might be harder on me than either one of us would like. He is a very strict man.”
“It seems to me, he's going to be able to see for himself before much longer. Don't you think?” Joy pointed out.
“Jah, but Mamm says ferleicht she will come up with a plan before he figures it out. I will leave the solution up to Mamm. She usually knows what is best.” Melinda picked up her embroidery hoop and circled the rim with a finger. Sadness crept across her face.
Joy grimaced. “Doesn't sound like your mother is too sure what she can do to help you if perhaps is her best answer. I'm so sorry you're going through this difficult time. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Melinda shook her head. “Nah, not right now anyway. Just do not tell your family or anyone about my secret. I would rather no one else knew. It's just that I have been so upset I had to share my trouble with you, my friend.”
“If that is what you want, I won't say a word. Cross my heart and hope to die.” Joy went through the motion on her chest.
Melinda's problem wasn't hers to talk about. Sure, she'd keep the girl's revelation to herself, but Joy worried about what was going to happen to her friend. The girl wouldn't be looked on in a favorable light from now on when her secret was revealed. Behind Melinda's back, the Amish community would always call her second-hand goods.
That term still popped up when Plain people spoke about Bobby Keim's wife Priscilla. Bobby married her, knowing her baby was the result of rape by a no-good Englisher. Even though the incident wasn't her fault Plain people looked down on her. Now she had been married to Bobby Keim for some time and was expecting his baby soon. You would think that would make a difference in their opinions, but some people didn't seem to want to forget Priscilla's past.
A week later in early May, Melinda went to the phone shed at the intersection near the Esch farm and called Joy. She invited Joy to go horseback riding with her on that warm afternoon. Joy agreed and offered to meet her at Bender Creek Road turnoff on the Lapp-Bontrager Road.
Joy let her shiny, black horse, Raven, trot, enjoying the slight breeze that bounced her bright red braid back and forth. Ever since Daniel Lapp left, she had let her hair grow. Just before Daniel went away, she told him when he came home this August, after a year in Tennessee, she'd be ready to marry him. Hal Lapp had given her lessons in Pennsylvania Dutch and instructions on how to pass the catechism classes. When the time came, she'd pass the classes expected of her by Bishop Bontrager so she could join the church and become Amish. After that, Daniel Lapp and she would wed.
First neighbors next to her uncle's farm were Eli and Mary Mast, a young couple about Emma and Adam Keim's age. Their two small girls were hoeing in the garden. The fair-haired little beauties, with beaming smiles, glanced up and waved at Joy.
Joy noted the saying dangling from the Mast's black mailbox was Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they are there.
On the fence post next to the driveway was a sign painted with block letters that stated
For Sale Eggs
No Sunday Sales
The last line was added for the benefit of Englishers who didn't know that the Amish didn't do business on Sundays.
Mary Mast had a large flock of hens, so she probably had plenty of eggs for sale right now. The vegetables would be ready soon, and the fruit afterward throughout the summer. Behind the garden was an orchard with apples, plums, cherries and peaches. The trees were beautiful to behold as each variety of fruit took turns blooming.
As she rode past the Nisely farm, Daniel's friend, Jimmie Miller, raised his hand in a wave and continued on to the henhouse with a five-gallon bucket of water. The breeze caused the sign under the Nisely mailbox to flutter. It read, Great peace they have that love the Lord.
At the intersection was Chicken Plucker Jonah Stolfus's dairy farm. Jonah was hooking his six golden draft horses up to a disk in front of his new dairy barn. Across the road from the barn, Davie Stolfus was coming out of the house. He waved and walked away, dragging his left leg along. Daniel told Joy he broke his leg in a riding accident, and his leg didn't heal right.
First place on the Lapp–Bontrager Road was Bishop Bontrager's farm. Jane Bontrager stopped hoeing in her garden and straightened up to rub her back. Joy waved at her, and Jane waved back. The sign under their mailbox said God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. Reading all the mailbox signs made Joy want to paint one for their mailbox. She'd have to talk to Aunt Nora and find out if she had a favorite saying.
As Joy rode past John and Hallie Lapp's farm, she right away noticed the yard was quiet. Their three smaller children, Redbird, Beth, and Johnnie must be taking a nap. Their dog, Biscuit, must be napping under the porch swing. Maybe he was getting hard of hearing. Otherwise, he would be barking at her.
Suddenly, memories of how badly she missed Daniel came rushing in on her, creating a ladened weight in her chest. Joy pushed the thought away. Daniel wasn't here. As much as she missed him, she just couldn't dwell on him right now. If she didn't put him out of her mind, the sad feelings would ruin her whole afternoon.
Joy reached the Bender Creek Road turnoff before Melinda did. She dismounted and stretched her legs. In a few minutes, Melinda came trotting down the road on her red horse, Sam, waving a greeting.
They rode along Bender Creek Road with their horses at a walk so they could talk.
Melinda said, “I have been thinking. We should have a change from camping out by Buggy Creek this summer. Try a new place, ain't so?”
Listening to the horses' hooves clip-clop on the hard dirt road, Joy shrugged. “I am perfectly willing to camp in a new spot. Have you got a place in mind on your farm?”
“How about we camp out here in Bender Creek timber?” Melinda suggested, rubbing her fingers up and down her reins.
“That is a perfectly horrible idea,” Joy declared. “Those beer keg parties the teens attend get pretty rough. They never know when the sheriff is going to send his deputies out to raid a party. I don't want to get mixed up in one of those raids and get arrested. That would send Uncle Jim and Aunt Nora ballistic for sure.”
“You are right about that. My folks would not be happy with me either.” Melinda rode quietly for a time like she was giving what Joy said proper thought.
“Doesn't look like a good idea to go wading in the swimming hole right now,” Joy joked as she pointed toward the tumbling water.
Melinda frowned. “Jah, we would drown for sure if we tried.”
“I've watched the water rise in Buggy Creek the last few days. If the creek goes over its banks, I may have to move my sheep, the horses and cow up by the barn,” Joy shared.
When they reached the red covered bridge across Bender Creek, Melinda arched her back and rubbed it. “After we walk the horses across the bridge, I need to stretch my legs before we ride on. For some reason, I have been getting cramps in my right leg calf.”
“Fine with me,” Joy agreed.
The wooden floor of the bridge made the horses' clip-clops thud twice as loud. The girls felt safer, leading their horses through the bridge. When the noises made the horses nervous, Joy and Melinda rubbed their faces and talked soothingly to them. That was enough to keep the horses calm. About midway through the bridge, the horses became used to the noise. They figured out nothing was going to harm them. Once they were off the noisy, wooden floor, the girls led their horses over to the side of the road where they could graze grass and calm down.
Joy became enthusiastic as she took in the timber scene around them. “I love spring so much. That's when Mother Nature creates new births; leaves on the trees, wild flowers in the timber and ditches, and baby animals are born for us to watch.” When Melinda didn't reply, Joy glanced toward her friend. Melinda was rubbing her stomach, and her face puckered up like she might cry. “I'm sorry, Melinda. That was an unconscious slip of the tongue on my part. I will try to remember to be more considerate of your feelings from now on.”
Melinda drew in a deep breath. “It is all recht. I have to be strong and not think everything said is aimed at my problem.”
Joy focused on the dirty water as it rushed under the bridge, making an angry sound. Snow-melt and spring rains had filled Bender Creek as full as Buggy Creek was at home.
Near them was a narrow trail into the timber. Joy studied it for a moment. “Looks like someone has been using that trail on a regular basis. The grass has been tromped down. Must be hunters using the path, but I don't think there are any animals or birds in season to hunt right now. It can't be fishermen. River's too full to catch fish.”
Melinda nodded and faced her friend. “Joy, I was down that trail recently. I have something I want to show you. Sort of a surprise. Follow me and lead your horse down the path.” She clucked her tongue and pulled on her horse's reins. “Come on, Sam.”
Joy looked worried. “Are you sure we can make it with the horses? The underbrush is bound to be extremely dense to get horses very far down the path.”
Melinda nodded. “We can make it fine I promise. I have been down this path a few times recently, leading Sam.” She led the way. Joy noted the path did look like it had recently been beaten down for a long ways. The flattened plants in the path had wilted to a dark green color.
Joy talked soothingly to Raven when his ears laid back. Her horse was leery of these strange surroundings as bushes tickled him on one side or the other. As they passed under a hickory tree, a squirrel, flattened on top a high limb, barked an angry warning.
Raven's head bobbed up. He was on the alert. Joy rubbed his nose. “Easy, Raven. Mr. Squirrel isn't going to bother us. He just wants to warn us to be nice while we walk by his home.” Joy didn't like upsetting Raven. “Melinda, are you sure we can make it through this timber with the horses? I hate to work to hold onto Raven when he's upset. This underbrush and the noises are making him nervous. How much farther are we going?”
Melinda glanced back over her shoulder as she kept walking. “Jah, we can make it fine. Like I told you, I have led Sam down this path before. We do not have much farther to go. I promise.”
Melinda stopped about five hundred feet into the timber. “We can tie the horses loosely here so they can graze.” She tied Sam to one of the large limbs on a dead log.
Joy walked Raven a few feet away from Sam and tied him to another limb. The horses relaxed. Their minds were on snipping the tops out of tender ragweeds, mayapples and pink lady's-slipper orchids around their feet. Joy frowned as she watched the patch of flowers eaten and trampled. If there had been anywhere else to tie the horses, she'd have suggested it.
Melinda turned when Joy didn't follow her. “What I want to show you is just on the other side of these multiflora rose bushes.”
Melinda parted the branches and disappeared behind the bushes. Joy followed. They stepped into a small clearing. Melinda pointed to a large log. “Sit down for a moment so we can rest.” She eased down and ran her finger up and down the tight seam on the side of her purple dress. “I will be taking the seams in my dresses out again soon if my belly keeps growing.”
“You surely will have to enlarge your dresses since I'm sure you will keep growing. I wonder if there is enough seam left to make that dress as big as you will need it.” When Melinda gave her a quizzical look, Joy added, “But I'm no expert about having a baby.”
“Nah, and I know I am not,” Melinda said softly.
Joy surveyed the open grassy area. “You said you had been here before. Had hunters been using this clearing for a camp? From the way it looks, it has been kept cleared.”
Melinda licked her dry lips and fingered one of the ties on her prayer cap. “Nah, the hunters do not know about this clearing, I am pretty sure. That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Remember I said we needed a new place to camp just for a change. This clearing is the place I was thinking about. Lately, I have taken the time to clear away the underbrush and redd up the camping area. I made the path large enough to bring our horses in here with us.”
“You have been busy. That was a lot of work for you to do in your condition.” Joy contemplated the area, still doubtful.
“Ach, it did not take me long to get rid of a few months' growth. Ben and I had the place looking like this last summer. Ben did most of the work that time,” Melinda admitted.
Joy stared at her. “You camped out here with Ben Beiler?”
“Nah, we did not camp. We just came here to spend time alone. Mamm and Daed would not have let me stay here all night with Ben,” Melinda said.
“I should think you would have such bad memories about this place now that you wouldn't want to come near it,” Joy retorted.
“I do not have bad memories about this campsite,” Melinda retorted. “I have always liked coming here.”
Joy looked around. “I'm not sure this clearing is perfectly safe for two girls to camp in alone. Not like in my uncle's pasture or near the pond on your farm.”
“I know you sounded before like you had doubts when I mentioned camping in Bender Creek timber. That is why I wanted you to see this spot before you made up your mind. This is a big timber, and we are the only ones who know about this clearing. We are far away from the picnic clearing where the keg parties happen. No one would even know we are here. Recht?” Melinda asked, looking hopefully at Joy for her approval.
“Well, maybe,” Joy relented.
“I wanted a special place like you have. Joy, I chose this for my special place.” Melinda waved her hand in a circle. “Does this meet your approval? Please say jah.”
“I truly think everyone needs a special place to call their own. It's just the Bender Creek area is usually so public in the summer. People come just to see the covered bridge and cross it,” Joy reminded Melinda.
“People come to see the covered bridge during the day. They would not come after dark. This area is quiet at night when we would be camping here. Take it from me. I have been here enough in the evenings to know what I am talking about. Please say jah.”
Joy's stand softened as she saw Melinda's hopeful gaze. “It is your right to pick your special place. I guess if you are happy with this clearing I should be, too. Right now we have to watch the water level. Soon this area may be under water.”
“Gute, I will call you from the phone shack when I have a free time to go camping and set it up with you. It is so much fun to camp out when we do it together, my friend. I am looking forward to camping in this new spot in the timber.” Melinda stood up. She was satisfied now that she had persuaded Joy to go camping there. “I have rested long enough. We can go back to riding before the afternoon is gone. My mutter will worry if I am late getting home to do my chores.”
Once they were on Lapp–Bontrager Road again, Joy said, “You want to stop by my cousin Hallie's farm with me. We won't stay long. It's just that I haven't visited with Hallie and her children for two weeks.”
Melinda eyed Joy with a gleam in her dark eyes. “You sure we are dropping by to visit with Nurse Hal, or is that just an excuse to see if she has had a letter from Daniel Lapp lately.”
Joy narrowed her eyes, not liking to be teased about Daniel.
Melinda grinned and winked at her.
“Maybe a little of both.” Joy admitted sheepishly.
If the first chapter sounds interesting, get the rest of the story at the above mentioned places and don't forget to leave a review so others know you read my book.
Author Fay Risner