Their Amish Reunion  

By: Lenora Worth

CHAPTER ONE

He thought of Ava Jane.

The memory of her sweet smile had held him together for so long, Jeremiah wondered if he’d ever be able to face her again. The real her. The one he’d left behind. Remembering her pretty smile was one thing. Coming face-to-face with her and seeing the hurt and condemnation in her eyes would be another.

Something he’d dreaded during the long bus trip across the country from California to Pennsylvania.

But he wasn’t here today to meet with the bishop about Ava Jane. He’d lost her and he’d accepted that long ago. He didn’t deserve her anymore. Twelve years was a long time. She’d made a good life with a good man. Or so he’d heard.

She had not waited for Jeremiah to come home because all indications had shown he never would come home again. At times, he’d thought that same thing. Thought he was surely going to die a world away from the one he’d left. At those times, he’d think of her rich strawberry blonde curls and her light-as-air blue eyes. And her wide, glowing smile. And he’d wish he’d never left her.

But he was here now, waiting inside the bishop’s home to speak to him. Here and needing to find some solace. He came back to help his family, whether they wanted him to or not. His younger sister, Beth, had tried to keep in touch, but her last letter had been full of fear and grief.

“Daed is dying, Jeremiah. Please come quickly.”

Bishop King walked into the sparsely decorated parlor where Jeremiah waited and stood for a moment. The man’s gaze was solemn and unreadable, but his dark eyes held a glimmer of hope.

“Young Jeremiah Weaver,” the bishop said before he took his time settling down in a high-back walnut chair across from Jeremiah. “Have you kumm back to your faith?”

Jeremiah held his head down and studied his hands, horrible memories of rapid gunfire and grown men moaning in pain filling his brain. Studied his hands and wished he could change them, take away the scars and calluses of war and replace them with the blisters and calluses of good, honest work.

He needed to find some peace.

That was why he’d come home to Lancaster County and his Amish roots. So he looked the bishop in the eyes and nodded.

“Ja, Bishop King, I’ve kumm home. For gut.”

Home for good. One of the hardest things he’d ever had to do in his life. Because the hardest thing he’d ever done was leave Ava Jane crying in the dark.

* * *

Ava Jane Graber grabbed her ten-year-old son, Eli, by the collar of his shirt and shook her head. “Eli, please stop picking up things, alleweil.” Right now. “You might break something.”

“Sorry, Mamm,” Eli replied, his mischievous brown eyes reminding her of her late husband, Jacob.

Jacob had drowned two years ago while trying to save a calf during a storm, but he used to love teasing her. Eli had inherited his father’s gift of mirth and his gift of getting into trouble.

Sarah Rose, soon turning seven, seemed to have Ava Jane’s sensibilities and logical nature. Her blue eyes grew as she twisted her brow. “Eli, you know Mamm doesn’t like it when we break things.” Putting her little hands on her hips, the child added, “And you break things all the time.”

Hmm. Her young daughter could also be a tad judgmental at times. Had she also inherited that from Ava Jane?

Ava Jane shook her head and gathered the few supplies she’d come into town to buy. “No, Mamm does not like it when you misbehave and accidentally break things.”

Smiling at Mr. Hartford, the general store owner, she paid for her items and said, “Denke.”

“You’re welcome, Ava Jane, and thank you for the fresh apple muffins,” the Englisch manager said with a wide grin. “Good to see you out and about today.”

“It’s a fine spring morning,” Ava Jane replied, her items and her children in tow. Mr. Hartford loved it when she brought him fresh baked goods to sell, but he also liked that she saved a couple of choices just for him. “A wonderful, beautiful day.”

“One of the Lord’s best,” Mr. Hartford said with a nod.

But when she walked out onto the sidewalk toward her waiting horse and buggy, her beautiful morning turned into something she couldn’t explain.

She looked up and into the deep blue eyes of the man walking toward them, her bag of groceries slipping right out of her grip. The paper bag tore and all her purchases crashed down, the sound of shattering glass echoing off the pavement.

“I think Mamm just broke something,” Eli pointed out, his gaze moving from her to the hard-edged man wearing a T-shirt and jeans, his dark hair curling around his face and neck.

“Who is that, Mamm?” Sarah Rose asked, her distinctive intuition shining brightly as her gaze moved from Ava Jane to the man.

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