A Wife for Jacob

By: Rebecca Kertz

Chapter One

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The windows were open, allowing the warm breeze of early autumn to flow throughout the two-story farmhouse. Anna Zook sat in the family gathering room, folding laundry from a basket of line-dried clothes. She pulled out her youngest brother Peter’s light blue shirt, held it up for inspection and then laid it across the back of the sofa.

It was quiet. Her mother, Peter and her sister Barbara had taken her grandparents up north to see her grossmudder’s sister, Evie, in New Wilmington, an Amish community north of Pittsburgh. Her older brother Josiah had left early this morning to visit the Amos Kings, most particularly his new sweetheart, Nancy. Dat was making some repairs to the grosseldre’s house while her grandparents were away.

As she reached into the basket for another garment, Annie glanced at Millie, sleeping on the floor not far from her feet. Every day she thanked the Lord that Dat allowed her to keep her dog inside the house instead of out in the barn where the other animals were kept. In her community, most pets were excluded from homes, but Millie was special, at least to Annie. And her father was kind to understand what Millie meant to her.

She spread an apron on the cushion beside her, smoothing out the wrinkles before laying it on top of Peter’s shirt. Millie lifted her head and eyed Annie briefly before closing her eyes and lying back down. Annie smiled tenderly at the animal. Millie was a black-and-white mongrel—“mutt” Peter called her—with soulful brown eyes and a mouth that looked as if she were smiling whenever she sat up, panting for a treat. She loved Millie; the dog gave her unconditional affection, following her wherever she went. It had been Millie who had helped her get over the heartache and loss of Jedidiah Lapp. When he’d talked of being friends, she’d known he was telling her that he was no longer interested in her as his sweetheart.

I’ll not be hurt again, she thought. Only by marrying for practical reasons would she keep her heart safe. I’ll wed a church elder or a widower with children, someone who will appreciate me and be happy to have me as his bride. Then after the wedding, she would learn to become fond of her husband. No handsome young man would hurt her again.

As she folded pants, socks and undergarments, Annie frowned. Lately, her mother had been hinting that she wasn’t getting any younger. “You should find someone to marry and soon,” Mam had said.

How could she find someone to marry? Didn’t they have to show an interest in her first? She tried to think of all the older men who were free to marry. Preacher Levi Stoltzfus. Amos King’s brother Ike, newly back in his home community from Indiana, where he’d lived with his wife before she’d passed on.

Annie loved it in Happiness. Whomever she married must stay here. Charlotte King had married Abram Peachy, their deacon, and she was happy raising Abram’s five children. If I can find someone as nice as Abram, I’ll be content. First respect, then love will follow, a safe kind of love that brings only peace rather than heartbreak.

She picked up a stack of socks and set them carefully in the laundry basket. Next to the socks, she placed the folded undergarments. Suddenly, Millie rose up on all fours and began to bark fiercely.

“Millie!” she scolded, startled by her dog’s behavior. “Stop that this minute!” What was bothering her?

But the dog continued to bark as she scurried toward the window, rose up on her hind legs, propped her front paws on the windowsill and then barked and whined as she peered outside.

“Girl, what do you see?” Annie frowned as she approached, looking over the dog’s head to search the yard for the cause of the animal’s agitation. And she saw the ladder against the grosseldre’s house leaning crookedly against the gutter. Suddenly apprehensive, Annie searched for her father and then saw him, lying on the ground not far from the base of the ladder.

“Dat!” She rushed out of the house and ran to him. Millie slipped out behind her, but Annie cared only to get to her father to see if he was all right. Millie hovered nearby, wanting to get close enough to sniff Dat, and Annie had to scold the young dog to stay away.

“Dat,” Annie breathed as she knelt near his head.

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