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Chapter One


April 20, 1986

Ruth looked at her husband, kneeling in front of the Bishops and the Preacher, and felt a sense of shame course through her as the six week shunning was announced.  She and Melvin were married less than a year earlier with the Amish community they were raised in looking on, and now this same community found it necessary to vote for a shunning because Melvin refused to accept the Ordnung after making his kneeling vows.  Their farm was doing poorly and Melvin found it necessary to lunchpail it every day to an Englisch owned factory to make enough money for them to live.  They had no other family here; Melvin was an only child, which was rare in an Amish family, but his Mama nearly died giving birth to him, and there were no more children.  When Melvin was only twenty years old his parents were killed when their buggy was struck by a speeding car as they were on their way home from a frolic at a neighboring farm. 

After Ruth was married to Melvin, her parents took her younger siblings and moved to another state where they could buy more land to farm.  Ruth had five younger brothers, and her Dat felt that moving was the only choice he had to make sure he could buy enough land for his sons to farm in the traditional way.  Never had Ruth been more thankful than she was right now that her Dat and Mama were not here to see her shame and witness the people’s decision to shun Melvin in the hopes he would repent of his wrongful ways.  Working with the Englisch had given him a longing for fancy things.

Once the decision was announced, Melvin lost his quick temper, shaming Ruth even more.  He rose to his feet and cursed the community, declaring that he was done with the old ways.  He walked to where Ruth was seated and grabbed her hand, jerking her to her feet.  “We are leaving here, Ruth.”

Ruth was too stunned to argue. She knew that many times a husband or a wife chose to share in their spouse’s shunning, but Melvin did not ask her opinion.  And she did not know what she would do if he did ask.  Ruth had a child growing within her, and that child would need its father.  She packed their belongings and did the only thing she felt she could do; she followed her husband as he sold the farm he inherited from generations before him, and moved them to Cincinnati where he easily found work in another factory.  Melvin shaved off his beard and insisted she wear Englisch clothing.  Ruth was not happy, but she had no one she could turn to.  Wedding vows were sacred and lasted a lifetime.  To keep peace in her home, she obeyed her husband.

It was only two months after her baby was born that Melvin was killed.  There was an accident at work, and he was crushed.  Ruth buried her husband and did her best to go on as a single parent.  Even though she herself was not shunned, her Dat and Mama shunned her for allowing Melvin to yank her over to the Englisch ways.  Ruth was alone in a strange world, with a baby to raise by herself.

 

Chapter One

 

February 2011

Sadie Miller looked outside the front door of the restaurant in dismay.  Wade was not here in his van to pick her up from work and her shift ended thirty minutes ago!  This was quite unusual, and normally she would just shrug and walk home to her Dat and Mama’s farm, but given the weather, she did not look forward to walking five miles in what amounted to a blizzard!  She paid Wade every day to provide transportation to and from her job, and she knew full well that her stubborn Dat would not come looking for her.  He did not approve of her job at the restaurant even though he willingly accepted her weekly paycheck, which she was required to turn over to him until she was twenty-one years of age.  It was her rumspringa time of life, but her Dat was very strict and she had rules that she must obey, even at the age of eighteen.  She knew that he feared she would be yanked over and away from the old ways, and all of her promises that she would not permit this to happen were for naught.  Dat expected obedience in all things, even during the time she was permitted by the Ordnung to run around and experience life.

Sadie waited another ten minutes, while the storm grew worse, and then decided she had no choice but to get on home.  Her Dat would be upset if she were late to do her chores before it was time to go to bed.  The first gust of cold air took her breath away, but Sadie braced herself, and pulled her heavy shawl closer.  She feared it would be a long walk indeed with the wind whipping the wet snow at her face, stinging her skin.  Still, there was no help for it.  Sadie started walking, thankful that she had at least worn boots to keep her shoes dry. 

She noticed that most of the cars out and about were driving slowly on the treacherous roads, and none of her people seemed to be out in the horrible weather.  If they were, one of them would stop and offer to take her home.  Suddenly, a car veered around a curve, much too fast for the road conditions, and slid, narrowly missing her.  The driver did not stop to even ask if she was all right, choosing instead to show his contempt for the fact she was Amish by raising his hand and sticking up his middle finger.  Sadie knew what the gesture meant and she felt tears fill her eyes.  The Englischer did not know her but judged her based on her clothing.  She was used to tourists coming into the county with their cameras and asking rude questions, but this young man acted as though he hated her, and she had done nothing to earn his displeasure.  Another car pulled to a stop and a man quickly got from behind the steering wheel and came around the car to help her from the ditch.

“What are you doing out in the middle of this storm, young lady?” he asked, his voice deep and firm.

Sadie had been taught it was rude not to answer when asked a question.  “The man who drives me back and forth from work did not show up to take me home,” she admitted.  “I must walk.”

“Get in my car and I will drive you home,” he ordered.

Sadie was shocked.  She did not know the man and her Dat would surely disapprove if she allowed a stranger, an Englischer, to drive her home.  “No, but thank you for offering.”  She started walking again, only to have him reach out and stop her progress.

“I can understand that you might be afraid of me since we’ve never met, but I promise I won’t hurt you.  My name is Samuel Hilty.  Now come with me and I’ll take you home.”

“No, I will walk.  Thank you, Samuel Hilty.”  She tried once more to walk away, but Samuel stopped her.

“Am I going to have to spank you, young lady?” he asked.

“What?  I am grown, and you have no right to spank me!” Sadie told him, the shock in her pretty brown eyes visible to him.

“You are being foolish and stubborn, and it is dangerous to stand here arguing.  If another car comes around that curve too fast, we could both be killed.  Now do as I say or I am going to turn you over my knee and give you a good bletching.”

Sadie looked at him in surprise at his use of that particular word.  Most Englisch did not understand the language used by the people.  She would have recognized him if he was from one of the families in her district, even if he’d decided not to kneel before the community and join their membership.  Suddenly, he seemed to lose patience with her while she was trying to figure him out.  He grabbed her from behind with an arm around her waist, and lifted her off her feet and started spanking her as if she were a small child.  His hand fell hard once, twice, and three times before he spoke.

“You are going to get into this car right now, young lady, and permit me to drive you home.  Do you understand, or do I need to give you a bletching you will remember for a good long while?” Samuel asked quietly.

“You do not understand!  Dat will be very angry and displeased if I accept a ride with you.  You are not known to him, and he is strict with his rules.  I am not permitted to speak with strangers, nor accept rides with them.  Dat will make me quit my job!” she cried out, certain she was speaking the absolute truth.  Why, she would be lucky if Dat would give her a chance to explain what happened before he sent her to the woodshed to wait for him with her apron pulled aside and her skirt lifted past her waist to show her white cotton panties.  Just picturing herself in that position made her cry out.  “Please, sir, put me down!”

“I guess you need another good spanking,” Samuel told her, suiting actions to words.  He proved that her heavy dress was not a deterrent as he spanked her bottom over and over again.  He was sure he heard her sniffling and said, “I am taking you home, Miss, and I will explain to your Dat.”  With those words he easily put her in the car with an order to fasten her seat belt.

Sadie’s fingers were shaking as she did as he said, and then she wiped the tears from her cheeks with the backs of her hands, thankful that no one came along and witnessed her humiliation at the side of the snow covered road.  Such a disgrace would surely bring the Bishop to call to discuss her behavior with her Dat.  It was a mortification she could live without.  She swiped at her eyes again as he got into the car and behind the steering wheel. 

Samuel turned the heat higher and set the fan to a higher speed.  “You are shaking from the cold,” he explained to her as he reached for a packet of tissues and handed her one.  “Please don’t cry.  I am not going to harm you, and I will be sure to tell your Dat that I gave you no choice in the matter once I saw how close that other driver came to hitting you.”

“He will think it all my fault,” she whispered.

“I will make it very clear to him that it is not.”  He looked at her and asked with a smile, “Would you tell me your name?”

“I am Sadie Miller.  Levi’s Sadie,” she added by habit more than anything else.  The warmth of the car felt good to her cold toes.

“Where do you live, Levi’s Sadie?” he asked, his blue eyes twinkling in good humor.

“Straight down this road for a while, then to the right.”

“You will give me a warning before we reach the road we need to turn on?  I am recently come here to make my home, and am not completely familiar with the community.”

“Why have you come here, Samuel?  We are a community of plain people.  You will not find much to your liking.”

“I have already found much to my liking,” he said, looking at her with admiration in his eyes.  I know it is not the way to offer compliments, but I find you very pretty.  Why do you work if your Dat tells you no?” he wanted to know.  “I thought women and children were taught obedience?”

“I am obedient!” she assured the stranger who dared to tell her she was pretty, of all things, and then accuse her of willfulness and disobedience in the next breath.  “Dat does not approve of my working, but he does not forbid it… yet.” 

The look she leveled on him told Samuel that she expected to be told she could not go back to the restaurant on the morrow for accepting the ride home he offered.  She turned to look out the window at the swirling snow and then she tried to squirm without being obvious.  “Surely I didn’t hurt you with that little bletching?”

“Of course not!” she lied, her cheeks turning pink with embarrassment.  “You had no right to do that.  I am grown, not a little child!”

“I happen to believe it does more good to spank a grown woman than it does to spank a child.  Is this our road?” he asked, focused on the road and the swirling snow that was making it nearly impossible to see.

“No, not yet.  There are Millers who live on that road, however; Dat’s brother Abram, for one, and his cousin Simon as well.”

“Yes, the Millers are a large family.”  He nodded as if he had knowledge of this.

“Why here, Samuel?” Sadie asked him once again.

“I am keeping a promise, Sadie.  I wish to know more of the Amish and their faith, the Ordnung of this district, and if I am meant to be here within the community.”

“I have known of no Englisch man who has taken kneeling vows and joined the membership; only one woman has done so, and my Mama feels Nancy is not happy with her choice, but lives the Ordnung out of love for her husband.”

“If I were to approach the Bishop and Deacons and Preacher about kneeling, would you allow me to court you, Levi’s Sadie?” he asked, his voice low.

“The road is ahead.”  She ignored his question.  The road was narrow, full of hills and curves, and she did her best to tell Samuel what was ahead.  Finally, they reached her lane, and Samuel drove her as close to the house as she permitted.  “Please do not come inside,” she begged of him as her Dat opened the door and stood there watching to see who was getting out of the car he did not recognize.

“I am a grown man, little Sadie, and I will behave so.  I have done nothing to be ashamed of, and neither have you.”  He rounded the car as she opened the door.  He blocked her and said, “If you are ever in my car again, Miss, you will wait for me to open the door.  Is that understood?”

“I can hear very well, but it is unlikely this will ever happen again, Samuel.” 

The look she gave him was full of challenge and spirit and Samuel was positive she would make a good wife.  He put a smile on his face and followed Sadie to the porch.  The man standing there was clearly unhappy that his daughter arrived in a car driven by someone he did not know.  “Sir, I am Samuel Hilty.  I saw a car slide around a curve and almost hit Sadie, and I insisted she allow me to bring her home.”  Levi’s frown deepened, and Samuel forced himself to smile.  “Sadie did not want to get in my car and told me ‘no’ several times, but I am more stubborn than she, and I picked her up and put her inside.  She informed me you would not be pleased with my actions, but I assure you I was merely trying to keep her safe, as any good neighbor would do.”

Levi nodded, his dark eyes taking Samuel’s measure.  “Hilty…?  There was a family by the name of Hilty who lived in the community some time ago.  Would you be related to them?”

“Yes, sir,” Samuel replied truthfully.

“Dat, could we come inside out of the cold?” Sadie asked quietly and Samuel noticed she was shivering.

“You need to change into dry clothing, Sadie,” Samuel told her, his tone firm once again.

“I will be fine as soon as I am warmed,” she responded a bit more sharply than she should have by the look on Dat’s face.  She quickly lowered her eyes.

Levi moved inside and held the door open for his daughter and the man who followed her inside the house.  “Martha, we will have a guest at the table.  Mr. Hilty was kind enough to bring our Sadie home safely.”

“What of Wade?” Martha asked as she wiped her hands on a towel as she came from the kitchen.

“I waited forty minutes for him, Mama, and he did not come.  I decided to start walking, and that is when Mr. Hilty saw me.  Another car slid around that curve just beyond the restaurant and would have hit me if I did not quickly jump into the ditch.  Mr. Hilty brought me home, his intentions to keep me safe.”

“Thank you for your kindness to our family, Mr. Hilty,” Martha said quietly.  “We will have supper shortly.  Please take off your coat and hat and make yourself at home.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Miller,” Samuel replied with a smile.  Martha reminded him of his own mother.  She was filled with the same serene peace, and he felt welcome in her home.

“Sadie, you will change your clothing before you catch your death.  Go now and hurry to come help me put the food on the table.”

“Yes, Mama,” Sadie replied, wondering how Samuel managed to talk himself inside Levi Miller’s home and earn himself an invitation to sit down at the table with them.  Her Dat did not hold with befriending the Englisch.  He feared his children would be yanked over to the fancy way of life.  It was the main reason he did not approve of Sadie’s job at the restaurant; Englisch worked alongside the Amish, and Levi was determined that all nine of his children would become members and take their kneeling vows and marry within the community.  He prayed for this nightly.

Levi was quiet and simply stared at their visitor while Sadie was changing her clothing.  As she hurried to the kitchen to offer her Mama help he noticed the young man’s blue eyes following her about.  Levi knew his daughter was very pretty, but she would only marry a man of their faith, one who farmed in the old way, and one who would take his spirited daughter in hand when necessary.  And he knew it would be necessary, especially the first few years while they learned each other’s ways.  Levi remembered those early years of his own marriage very well:

Levi searched the house, and then the garden and finally the barn, looking for Martha, his bride of six weeks.  It was when he checked inside the barn that he learned the small buggy and Gus, the horse, were missing.  Levi sighed and took out his pocket knife.  He had a chore to tend to that would give him no pleasure at all, but one that was necessary.  His pretty bride needed a good bletching and his intention was to see to it she got one to remember.  He cut a switch and peeled it while waiting for Martha to return.

It was nearly an hour later when Martha finally turned into the lane.  He moved to help her unhitch Gus and put him in his stall in the barn while she chatted on and on about what she’d learned while visiting with her friend, Lindy.  When she finally stopped talking, Martha saw the solemn look on Levi’s face.  “What is wrong, Levi?” she asked.

“Have we not discussed your chores and responsibilities, Martha?” he asked quietly, and she immediately bowed her head and looked at the floor.  “Did you complete the work that must be done before you left for your visit with your friend?”

“I intended to do so when I returned,” she answered, her voice low and hard to understand.

“Is that the way we agreed to do things?” he asked.

“No, sir,” she admitted, feeling very small.

“What else did we agree upon?” he asked, putting his fingers under her chin and turning her face up so she was forced to look at him.  He could see that she had no clue, and that told him she needed a serious bletching.  “Did you leave a note telling me where you intended to go?”  He watched her face turn red as her eyes filled with guilt.

“I am most sorry, Levi,” Martha apologized.  “I forgot my promise.”

“You have earned a bletching, wife.  Push your apron aside and pull up your skirt.  I want you bared from your waist to your knees.”

Martha wanted to argue and plead with him not to punish her, but she was raised to know that she needed to obey her husband.  Tears started leaking from her eyes as she raised her skirts and lowered her panties.  Once she was bared, Levi marched her over to where bales of straw were stacked and he arranged them, and then lifted her and arranged her over the top.  Her feet couldn’t reach the floor, and her head and hands dangled from the other side.  She suddenly realized he had a peeled switch in his hand and she cried out in dismay.  “Please don’t use a switch, Levi!  I’d rather you used your belt or a harness strap!”  She’d been switched once, when she was much younger, by her Aunt when she and her cousin made a terrible mess in the kitchen Aunt Laurie had just finished cleaning.

“It is not for you to decide, Martha, and the switching will continue until you accept your punishment like an obedient wife.”  He raised the switch and brought it down on the crease beneath her cheeks and her thighs.  Martha yelped in pain, but she honestly tried hard to accept the punishment her husband felt was deserved.  The switching was much worse than any other bletching she’d experienced from her parents, and Levi knew he was being very firm.  He did not enjoy punishing his wife and making her cry out in pain.  It hurt his heart, but as the leader of his family it was his duty to see to it his wife obeyed.  When she did not obey, it was up to him to discipline her.  By the time he finished with the switching, Martha’s bottom, thighs, and her calves bore marks from the switch.  Her bottom felt hot to the touch, and looked like a thousand bees stung her at the same time.  He helped her to stand and instructed her to pull up her panties and fix her clothing.  Martha’s hands were shaking, but she obeyed him.  Levi held her then, telling her she was forgiven and that he loved her.  When she quieted, she said she was going to go and lie down, and he shook his head ‘no’.  “You have your chores to do now, Martha, and you will tend to them while your bottom burns.  It will remind you the next time you are tempted to waste a day visiting when you have work to do.”  Martha nodded respectfully, and he hadn’t had to punish her for putting off her chores since that time.

Martha sent Sadie to tell her Dat and Samuel that supper was ready and invite them to come to the table.  The men had been discussing the storm, especially since her brothers Atlee and David came inside from the barn and entered the conversation.

They all settled around the table, twelve in all, and as usual, Dat announced prayer. Sadie peeked and was stunned to see that Samuel had his eyes closed and his head bowed, just as if he did this every day of his life.  For some reason she couldn’t explain, the thought disturbed her.  She knew she needed to fight the attraction she felt for the handsome man.  Her Dat would thrash her if she permitted feelings to develop between them, but this was her rumspringa, and perhaps it was time to sow some wild oats?

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