Kim Vogel Sawyer · 348 pages
Rating: (3.6K votes)
“the God I love and serve hears all prayers. He answers all prayers. Sometimes it is yes. Sometimes it is wait awhile. Sometimes it is no. He knows best.”
“People who have lost much are always worried about losing more. So they guard their hearts. It is not that she does not feel the happiness; she only wishes to hide it so as not to be hurt should she lose something more.”
“But don’t think for a moment I don’t know what you’re up to. And I won’t always be so easily manipulated.” “Ma-nip-u-lated.” Peter scowled. “I do not know what this means.” Her chin thrust out. “Oh, yes you do.”
“What for are you crying?” His gaze raised to meet Summer’s, the furrow between his eyes deepening. “What has happened?” He looked to the chair, where the grandmother held up her gnarled hands and shook her head, apparently attempting to offer assurance. “Nothing’s wrong, Pa. It’s onions.” Mr. Ollenburger seemed to wilt with relief. Summer felt a wave of sympathy for the real fear he had experienced. She swept away the tears with the backs of her wrists and held up a thick slice of onion. “Yes … see? You grow powerful onions in your garden, Mr. Ollenburger.”
“Why should you try to never have laughter again? Did you die? No, you are alive. So be alive! Laugh if you want to, cry if you must, let yourself feel.”
“I think this will please you.” The smile in his eyes made Summer’s heart lurch. “What is it?” “Open and see.” She peeled back the layers of rag. “My teacup!” He touched the delicate rim of the cup with one rough finger. “Surprised I was to find it all in one piece. The saucer was broken in two, but not even a chip does the cup have.” He pushed his hands into his pockets. “I save the pieces from the plate, and I will glue them for you.” Tears filled her eyes. There were so many things this man had put back together for her. She looked up at him and found him watching her with a secretive smile on his lips, visible behind the bushiness of his beard.”
“But, Summer,” Thomas interrupted, “if you have your own house, you won’t be living here anymore.” Summer pulled her attention away from Peter. “No, but I was only staying until you were caught up on your studies and could return to school. You’re all caught up and even ahead, I would wager. Your ribs have healed enough for you to ride Daisy to school when the winter break is over. So my time here is nearly done.” “But-but …” the boy sputtered. “What is troubling you, boy?” Peter asked. Thomas looked at the floor. “I wanted Summer to … always stay here. I wanted her to … be … my ma.” His words ended on a hoarse whisper. Summer felt as though her heart turned over in her chest. She looked at Peter, uncertain how to answer the boy. By Peter’s expression, he was lost, too. Maternal instinct took over, and she pulled Thomas into her embrace. As he had the night Peter didn’t return, the boy clung, burying his face against her shoulder.”
“Then, later, we are told we cannot gather to worship. We must to go somewhere else if we wish to meet together and learn from Scripture. So we go. And when we meet again, I never take lightly listening to the Word. I think less of the good chicken dinner and more of the food of the spirit. I listen close. I remember. I hide the words in my heart.”
“Leaning close, Thomas whispered, “I think she’s gonna be my new ma.” Even though Thomas had never dared to think such a thing, now that he’d said it, it sounded like a good idea. Even though sometimes she got bossy, he knew that’s what ma’s did—told children what to do. But most of the time she was nice, and he really liked Mrs. Steadman. He knew she liked him, too. Rupert stared at Thomas, bug-eyed. “Your new ma? But … but she can’t!” “Why can’t she?” He shrugged. “She doesn’t have a husband, and she and my pa get along real good. She can be my new ma if she wants to.” Rupert shook his head. “My pa’s a deacon, and I know the rules. Your pa can’t marry her because she’s not part of our church.” “But she’s going to be.” Thomas stuck out his chin. “You’ll see.”
“a stop to her musings. She turned, a sheepish smile tugging at her cheeks. “Of course not. I was just—” “Thinking.” He sent her a broad grin. “Always you are thinking. What is it now that makes your forehead wrinkle like a sand plum left in the sun?” Summer laughed as she closed the door, sealing out the cold. The things this man said! But she enjoyed their easy camaraderie. She would miss that as much as the boy when she moved into”
“It’s useless.” “You will find it,” he insisted, misinterpreting her meaning, “if your heart is open. So a way must be made for your heart to be open. I must change part of our bargain.” Summer lowered her brows. “Are you planning to manipulate me again, Mr. Ollenburger?” “No manipulate. Only say this—if you teach my son, you must go to church with us. Church, like laughter, is good for the soul.”
“She has lost much, son. We must be patient while we wait for her to smile, ja?”
“That man out there loves you, and you’re playing cat and mouse. I don’t understand the reason.” Heat flooded Summer’s cheeks. She flapped her jaw, but no words came out. “For months I’ve watched you finger the letters from the little boy, and each time you mentioned the father’s name, your expression changed.” Summer was amazed by Nadine’s observations. Had she really been so transparent? “Do you love him?” Nadine demanded. Summer dropped her chin, and Nadine gave her a little shake. “I said, do you love him?” Summer gave her a brief, painful nod. “Then why are you holding yourself aloof?” “I … I …” “Well? What!” “I’m afraid.” Nadine pulled back and lowered her brows. “Afraid? Of what?” Tears filled Summer’s eyes. “Oh, Nadine, he’s hardly spoken two words to me. We used to talk so easily, Peter and I. But now … He’s different. And I don’t know why.” She swallowed, and one tear spilled down her cheek. “I’m afraid his heart has changed.” “Nonsense.” Though the word was curt, Nadine’s tone was gentle. “He loves you—I could see it on his face at the train depot, and I saw it on his face at his house. His heart hasn’t changed—not one bit. Something is making him keep his distance, and you must find out what it is. I’ll take the boy away for a while. You talk. You work things out.”
“We agree—trade schooling for room and food. I cannot accept the schooling if you do not accept the payment. So …” He shrugged at Thomas. “No lessons today.” Thomas understood. While his eyes sparkled, he pushed his lips into a pout. “But I’m so far behind.” “You will have to study on your own, son.” Peter touched Thomas’s hair and brought forth a sorrow-laden sigh while Thomas played along, slumping his shoulders in disappointment. Peter peeked at Frau Steadman. Would it work?”
“I would like to speak to you about Thomas.” She jumped and clutched her heart. His thick brows came down. “I am sorry if I frighten you.” “It-it isn’t you.” She pressed her hands into her lap to steady their trembling. “So often I am lost in thought, not anticipating anyone talking. Then, when you speak with your deep voice … it startles me. Please don’t apologize.” “You are thinking of your family.” The words were a statement, not a question. “Yes.” “You will think of them often. I will try to give warning when I am about to blurt out loudness.”
“Mrs. Steadman, do you have a first name?” The question had taken her aback, and she had stammered out, “Well, of course I do. It’s Summer.” The boy’s eyes had widened. “Summer? I like that name.” She had shared the reason for her unusual name, watching his eyebrows rise. When she was finished, he had exclaimed, “You’re like me, then. You don’t have a ma, either.” She had shaken her head. “No, I don’t.” Abruptly, he had turned the conversation back to her name. “May I call you Summer? When it’s just us, I mean? Not in front of Rupert.”
“He touched her arm. “Frau Steadman, how old are you?” “I am twenty-nine.” She looked up at him, puzzled by the question. “Why?” He removed his hand and slid it into his trouser pocket. “You were a young bride, then.” She tipped her head. “Yes, I suppose I was. No one seemed to think I was too young, however. My sister-in-law was very eager to see me wed. She could be rid of me then, you see.” She offered a weak smile. “You are still a young woman. Do you—” his ears turned bright red—“do you ever wish to have another family?” Immediately she turned her attention to the pot of bubbling cornmeal mush. “I don’t know.” Why was he asking this?”
“angel took my flower away, but I will not repine, since Jesus at His bosom wears the flower that once was mine.”
“Only thing better than fresh onion is fresh onion in vinegar.” She held up the vinegar jar. “I have it here, ready to go.” At his look of surprise, she added, “Thomas said you especially enjoy eating onions and vinegar.” “Ja, I do.” He laced his fingers and pressed them to his stomach. “But I warn you, it will smell like a whole roomful of stout Germans when I am through.”
“You laugh at me, Frau Steadman?” Mr. Ollenburger touched his chest, his face twisting into an offended pout, yet his eyes sparkled merrily.”
“The boy stepped behind his chair, waiting with Peter for Frau Steadman to sit down. She removed the apron and hung it on a wooden peg, but then, to Peter’s surprise, she put on her coat. “Mrs. Steadman, aren’t you going to eat with us?” Thomas asked the question before Peter could form words. She tied her long scarf over her hair. “No. You two enjoy your meal.” “But you hardly ate lunch, either.” The woman paused at Thomas’s protest. Her cheeks still appeared pink—from the heat of the cookstove, or something else? “I don’t wish to intrude.” Peter gestured toward a chair. “You would honor us with your presence, Frau Steadman. Please, sit down and eat with us.”
“You are unhurt, Frau Steadman?” The genuine concern in his voice brought tears to her eyes. “I’m unhurt. Thank you, Mr. Ollenburger.” A sob of relief broke the last word in half. “You get up now.” In the dim glow of a single lantern, she watched him remove his coat. He wrapped it around her as he helped her to her feet. “We get you to the house.” “Your shariah … The chair, my teacup …” She muttered nonsensically as he guided her across the ground. Her teeth chattered despite the comforting warmth of his coat and his heavy arm around her shoulders. “I’m so sorry.” “You have no need for sorry.” His calm voice was incongruous to the storm that continued to rage. Snowflakes danced on the wind, stinging her cheeks. “You are safe now. That is all that matters.”
“Summer?” She jumped, splattering the front of her dress and apron with suds. Turning, she spotted Peter standing just behind her left shoulder. “You did it again. One would think feet as large as yours incapable of moving soundlessly.” He gave the expected chuckle. Then, without warning, he took the corner of the apron and brushed it across her chin. She felt her face go hot at the butterfly touch. “Mark of your surprise was sitting on your chin,” he said as he dropped the apron. “W-what?” “Soap sud.” He chuckled again. “The dishwater must be too hot. Red your face is.” She spun back to face the dishpan. “Would you like help?” She glanced at him. The eagerness in his eyes reminded her of his son. Without speaking, she nodded.”
“He did not wish to be formal. He wished to sweep her into his arms and welcome her with a kiss that would speak all the things his heart felt.”
“Peter paused, his gaze drifting to the shelf that held the china teapots. Beside the pots stood dainty cups and saucers with similar painted patterns. Glancing over his shoulder to ensure the woman did not peek in the window, he crossed to the shelf and selected a cup with the same rose design as that on the teapot she had admired. How ridiculous the cup looked when held in his big callused hands. Yet it would suit the woman. He handed the cup to Nick. “Wrap this and put it within her bundle.” “A gift, Peter?” Nick’s eyes sparkled. Peter felt his neck grow hot. “A … payment … for what she endured today with Frau Schmidt.”
“When he set her feet on the ground, she did not move her hands from his shoulders right away, but looked at him with a winsome expression. His breath came fast and hard, and he wished once more they could be alone and he could just kiss her and see what happened.”
“Summer Steadman,” came his voice of distant thunder, so tender Summer’s heart ached with the beauty of the moment, “the God we serve has brought us together. He has opened my heart to loving you with a love that endures. You would do me much honor if you would agree to become my wife.” Warm tears ran down Summer’s cheeks. She could not find her voice, but she gave an eager nod and allowed her smile to speak for her.”
“Suddenly he scowled. “How long were you out in the cold?” She shrugged. “I’m really not sure.” “How long, boy?” Peter glared down at Thomas. The boy shrugged, too, his eyes wide. “I don’t know, Pa. She went out after we cleaned up from lunch, and the sun was setting when she came back in.” Peter stomped across the floor. “Let me see your hands.” She held up her hands, too surprised to do otherwise. “Do you feel pain in them?” She cringed. His large fingers pressing her flesh created a new rush of discomfort. “Oh, yes. In my feet and ears, too.” He cupped her cheeks and tipped her head, looking at her ears, then guided her to the table. He placed her in a chair and lifted her feet in turn. Finally he sat back on his haunches and grinned at her. “You will be in world of hurt, but that is good thing. The pain tells you nothing will be lost.” He shook his head. “You are amazing woman, Summer Steadman.” Despite her discomfort, Summer couldn’t stop smiling as she looked at the gentle bear of a man.”
I found a box of this paper at the back of a bureau so I must write to you as I am mourning for my lost innocence. It never looked like living. The doctors despaired of it from the start...
I am never quite alone. Members of my family keep turning up and collecting luggage and going away again, but the white raspberries are ripe.
I have a good mind not to take Aloysius to Venice. I don't want him to meet a lot of horrid Italian bears and pick up bad habits.
Love or what you will.
“Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?”
“I am thrilled to be alive at time when humanity is pushing against the limits of understanding. Even better, we may eventually discover that there are no limits.”
“One need not be a chamber to be haunted.”
“Do we scream in the night when it touches our dreams? No. We don't dream about it because we don't think about it; we don't think about it because we don't care about it. We are much more interested in law and order, so that American streets may be made safe while we transform those of (Iraq) into flowing sewers of blood which we replenish each year by forcing our sons to choose between a prison cell here or a coffin there. 'Every time I look at the flag, my eyes fill with tears.' Mine too.”
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