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Hal's Worldly Temptation-Nurse Hal Among The Amish

Book By: booksbyfay
Literary fiction



Join the fun. You are invited to the wedding of John Lapp and Nurse Hal. So put on your bonnet or felt hat, hitch up your buggy and take a ride by scenic pastures and rolling hills to Wickenburg, Iowa. You will find a few surprises during the wedding. Daniel Lapp interrupts when the bishop asks if anyone objects. Stella Strutt has some sort of fit that makes this the most talked about Amish wedding for years to come. Hal's married life is down hill from there. She refuses to give up her car and cell phone. Getting caught by Stella Strutt at the Old Thrasher Reunion on a joy ride doesn't help her avoid punishment. At the member meeting is Hal going to get sent away before she settles in. Stick around after the wedding and find out, why don't you.


Submitted:Aug 12, 2014    Reads: 2    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


And they called Rebekah and said unto her, "Wilt thou go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."

Genesis 24:58

Chapter 1

Bacon! Hal pulled the sheet off her chin, wrinkled her nose and sniffed. Greasy, stomach rolling, strong smelling bacon. Whether she liked it or not that's what she smelled. Hal pressed one hand against her crazily pitching, queasy stomach and used the other to pull the sheet up over her nose to try to block the stink.

Mom must be cooking breakfast. She blinked her eyes and rubbed them, trying to wake up. A peek from one eye at the window told her it was still dark outside. What was Mom doing up this early? She glanced at the clock beside the bed and groaned softly. Three scarlet numbers, four and two zeros glared at her.

Hal grabbed her bathrobe and slipped into it on the way to the kitchen. She put her hands on her hips and studied her stocky, gray haired mother's back as she stood in of the cookstove. "Mom, do you know what time it is? I'd hoped I could sleep in a little longer. We've got a lot of work to do today to get ready for my wedding tomorrow. What are you doing up this early?"

"From what your Aunt Tootie found in a book about the Amish at the library, they always get up early. We need to get a move on so we get to the farm fairly soon. We don't want the Lapp family to think we're lazy people. You might as well get used to getting out of bed before daylight," Nora Lindstrom chided.

"I don't think they get up this early," groaned Hal.

Nora forked the bacon from the skillet onto a plate. "You sure? Maybe we should ask John so you know for sure."

"No, don't bother," Hal said brusquely and changed the subject. "No breakfast for me, Mom. I don't think I could eat a bit,"

Nora focused a knowing smile on her daughter. "Didn't fix you any. This is for your dad. I'm not so old that I don't remember my wedding day. Didn't think you'd be able to eat much today or tomorrow until after the wedding is over. The coffee's done if you want a cup."

"Sure. That I need to wake me up," Hal said dryly. As she poured, she said, "Thanks, Mom, for helping me box up my things last night. It won't take long to clear out the apartment now. I know that was a chore you didn't expect as soon as you arrived yesterday. You had to be tired after that long drive from Titonka."

"Wasn't that big a job. I was glad to help." Nora broke two eggs into the hot greasy skillet.

"I cleaned out my closet before I went to bed and sacked my clothes to give Good Will. We can put them in the drop off box this morning on the way out of town," Hal said, staring off into space.

The sound in Hal's voice made Nora twist to study her. "You don't sound so all right about giving away your clothes."

"That is hard. I like my English clothes, but when I think about choosing between a fashion statement and a family, there's no contest," Hal said, sitting down at the table with her coffee. "I've one box of photo albums I'd like Dad to put in the car trunk so you don't go off without it. You might as well take the pictures home with you. I hate to throw them away."

"I get it that the Amish don't want pictures taken of them," Nora started. "But ----."

"They think when someone takes a picture of them that's stealing their soul. The bible says no graven images," Hal interrupted.

"I know all that, but you weren't Amish when those pictures were taken. I'd think you could at least take the small album with your grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles in it to your new home. Someday John's children and hopefully, some of your own would like to see what you looked like as a child and their ancestors."

"You think?" Hal said optimistically.

Her mother's head, brown hair feathered with gray, nodded. She had her attention on the eggs she was turning. "Can't see how it would be bad to have pictures of people who didn't believe the graven image scripture. John and his family should be broad minded enough to allow you your family pictures."

"You're right, Mom. I hate to give that album up. The school pictures, it doesn't really bother me to not ever see again. All right, I'll slip the small album in with the bedding and tuck it away in a drawer for the future. Thanks, Mom."

"You're welcome." Nora turned her head toward the hallway and yelled, "Jim, get out here and eat. Your breakfast is ready." The toaster banged. Two pieces of toast shot up. Further warning breakfast was about to be served whether Jim was ready or not. Nora buttered each slice before she scooted them on a plate beside the bacon and hard fried eggs.

Hal's father, his gray hair sticking out in all directions, shuffled down the hall. He plopped down at the table. Hal stared at the cholesterol, heart attack precursor filled plate Nora placed in front of her father. She made a mental note when her mother wasn't listening to remind him to go to the doctor for a physical once in a while.

Jim winked at his wife and grinned at his daughter. "Well, how you feeling this morning, Hallie?"

"Not so hot," Hal conceded. She rubbed her stomach, feeling urpy now that she'd looked at and smelled his plate of food. She'd swear her mother deliberately waved it under her nose before she set the plate down.

"She's got wedding jitters," giggled Nora behind her hand to Jim.

"I have not. I'm just not hungry is all," snapped Hal, peevishly.

Jim shrugged his broad farmer shoulders. "Whatever you say, Daughter. But jitters are to be expected. If you was to have some, that is, it would be all right. By afternoon tomorrow you'll be feeling less nervous once the wedding is over. What time is the wedding buggy coming for us in the morning?"

Hal's eyebrows furrowed together as she set her cup down. "There isn't any wedding buggy. What made you think there was?"

"Tootie told your mother her Amish book said you'd have to arrive at the wedding in a buggy," Jim said before he crunched on a bacon strip.

"That might be if you were Amish, but you're not and you don't own a buggy. For your information, we're going to the Lapp farm in your car in the morning. You're driving because you are my father," informed Hal.

"I thought you couldn't ride in a car after today," he said with a puzzled look.

"I can so ride in one. I'm just not supposed to drive one including my own," Hal groaned, tapping the table with her fingers.

Nora poured a cup of coffee and sit down next to Hal. She perked up as an idea struck her. "When you're ready to sell your car, Dear, can your cousin, Cindy, buy it? Tootie's been looking for a car for her to drive to college this fall."

"I'm not selling my car," Hal barked.

Jim looked baffled. "I thought you just said you couldn't drive it. You might as well get rid of it. Not good for a car to never be run."

"I'm stalling while I try to think of a way around that," retorted Hal, tipping the cup for the last sip. "Listen, I'm going to go take a shower and get ready to leave. Emma will be bustling around, trying to do everything by herself." She darted a look at her mother. "We might as well be useful now that we're up."

"Does it matter what I wear to the wedding?" Her father asked, looking worried.

"A suit would be nice," Hal explained patiently.

"I brought that. What do Amish men wear?"

"Black suits and black hats with a white shirt," she answered.

"They wear hats! I just bought a white western hat. I have it with me," Jim said excitedly.

"Oh, please no! Not a white western hat!" Hal cried.

"Why not?"

"The Amish wear black felt hats or straw hats, but during the wedding or a church meeting, they won't have a hat on. To wear a white hat wouldn't do at all at the wedding and maybe never when you're visiting the Amish," Hal scolded.

Jim scratched a sideburn. The action reminded Hal of John when he couldn't figure out what to make of her way of thinking. Finally, he said quietly, "All right, I won't wear the hat, but I still don't see why not."

"Because I want John and his children to like you. That's why not. Mom, can you explain it to him?" Hal pleaded.

Nora sighed and patted her hand. "I'll try, dear, but I'm confused, too. I'm not so sure I understand all this myself. It seems to me from what you tell us Amish life may be entirely different from the way Tootie drilled it into us."

Hal showered and put on her pale green dress and white apron. After she pulled a wet comb through her copper red hair, she braided as much of it as she could. She wrapped the braid around her head before she clamped her white prayer cap down tight. When she studied her image in the mirror, Hal gave herself a disgusted look. She had to face it. With bright, frizzy hair like hers, nothing was going to keep her from looking like Harpo Marx with a bald spot.

At the same time as she chided herself, she knew she should feel lucky. No matter how she looked, John and the kids seemed to love her anyway. She was getting a good, understanding Plain husband and a ready made family of three kids. Dear fifteen year old Emma was a mother hen to everyone including her. Frankly, Hal didn't know how she would manage being a housewife or motherhood if Emma wasn't there to help her. Being a nurse was a breeze compare to what Amish housewives had to know.

John's oldest son, Noah, twelve years old going on thirty, was so serious and ten year old Daniel, kept excitement and fun in all their lives with his mischievous nature.

Hal grabbed the garbage sack stuffed with clothes out of the corner and headed for the living room. Mom watched out the window as a blue jay lit on the bird feeder. Her father had the local news channel on. Both of them seemed to be patiently waiting on her.

"Ready, you guys?" Hal asked.

"My don't you look -----," Nora searched for the right word as she surveyed her daughter.

"Different, Mom?" Hal questioned edgily. "Is that the word?"

"No, I wouldn't have said that at all. You look nice," Nora replied.

"Sorry it took me so long to get ready. I couldn't do a thing with my hair this morning," Hal complained.

"Why don't you get it cut off today," Jim suggested.

"Can't," Hal said quickly. "Amish women don't cut their hair ever."

Nora frowned, "Seems like there is an awful lot of don't rules when you belong to this group."

"Group? Mom, this isn't some club I'm joining. I'm getting married, and I'm part of the Amish faith now," Hal said plaintively.

"I agree with your mother. Can't you just tell them you forgot about rule 347 and go get your hair cut this once before they can stop you," her dad said dryly.

"No, I can't."

"Are there any good things about being Amish?" Nora asked, wrinkling up her nose.

"Yes, you're getting a nice son-in-law, three sweet grandchildren and a happy daughter," Hal assured her.

Putting a stop to the subject, Hal dropped the clothes bag and rushed back to her bedroom. She placed the box of pictures she'd forgotten earlier under her arm, letting it rest on her hip. Hal returned to the living room and handed her father the bag then ushered her parents out the door. She glanced back long enough to scan the living room and what she could see through the door to the kitchen. John and the boys would help her move her things out of the apartment before the end of the month. The living room furniture was in better shape than John's so he was going to put those items in their living room. She was glad about that. The Lapp couch was in sad shape after all the years the children bounced on it.

Hal eyed the crystal stemmed lamp by her recliner. A breeze from the open door made the fringe on the end of the shade shutter. She liked that lamp, but it was electric. Not being able to keep that lamp meant good bye to one life and get used to another entirely different way of living. She hoped from tomorrow on her life would be all she wanted it to be, and that she'd prepared herself well enough to accept the drastic changes she faced.

Hal turned the key in the door lock and twisted around to find her mother watching her intently. "Are you sure, Hal, that this new life is really what you want?"

"I'm sure. I was just making a mental of list of my things that I could take to the farm." Hal sighed before she added, "I really like my crystal lamp, but it's electric. Suppose Cindy could use it in her college dorm?"

"Don't know, but if she doesn't want it I can find a place for the lamp," Nora said eagerly.

"All right, before you leave for home let's go for a walk through the apartment and anything with a cord that will fit in the car is yours," Hal said.

"You can change your mind," Nora suggested.

"No, I can't. This apartment is full of just stuff. I don't need stuff. I need John and the kids. I wouldn't back out on them. This new life is what I want, but sometimes I wonder if I'm up to the challenge of being Amish," Hal said.

"You can succeed at anything if you really want to. All you have to do is keep trying until you get it right," Nora said sagely.

"Is that all there is to it, Mom?"

"Being Amish is a new way of life for you. There are bound to be some mistakes made along the way, but your Amish family and friends will help you. Before you know it, you'll get the hang of it with John and the children by your side supporting you. I'm sure of it," Nora said, hugging her daughter.

The car window whine down. "Are you two coming? I won't get to the farm before John has the cows milked if you don't hurry."

An amber glow lit up the dark eastern sky as the top edge of the sun peeked above the apartment house across the street. Hal hated to say so out loud, but she feared her dad was right. The milking would be over before they got to the farm.

Chapter 2

Trees and buildings in countryside glowed red from the sunrise. An old weather saying came to Hal's mind. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Not a good omen if she let herself believe in such old wives tales.

When they arrived at the Lapp farm at 5:30, the dark shadows of the farm buildings sprawled west into the driveway as the sun rose behind them. All was quiet in the barn, and the other helpers hadn't arrived yet.

When they got out of the car, Jim listened to the silence and groaned, "I told you if you two women didn't get a move on, I'd miss milking. That's just what happened."

"Cheer up, Dad. Maybe John and the boys were lucky enough to get to sleep in. If you did miss milking this time, chores happen twice a day. You'll get your share of milking until you're sick of it if you stick around," Hal assured him.

Nora teased, "Milking will make you remember why you sold the dairy cows."

Hal lead the way through the house and walked into the kitchen with her parents behind her. The sun shone through the open window and dappled the black and white linoleum, making the kitchen bright and cheery.

"Good morning, everyone," Hal greeted John and the children. They were eating breakfast.

John looked surprised. "Since your folks just got in last night, I didn't expect you this early."

"Mom's idea. Looks like my parents are eager to get me married off," Hal quipped.

"Hallie Lindstrom, what a thing to say," Nora chided, blushing when John smiled at her.

The prospective bridegroom stood up and motioned for his children to join him.

Hal introduced, "John, this is my parents, Nora and Jim."

John shook Nora's hand. "Wie bist du beit, Nora."

Nora looked at Hal for a translation. "He says it's nice to meet you."

As Jim shook hands with John, Hal finished with, "These are John's children. Emma, Noah and Daniel."

Jim shook hands with each of them. "We bust do bet, you all." The kids snickered behind their hands. "Was I even close?" Jim asked, grinning at them.

Emma laughed. "With some practice, you will be speaking Deutsche before you know it."

Nora, on the other hand, gave each of the kids a big hug. "It's nice to finally meet my new grandchildren and son-in-law." She smiled at the kids warmly.

Emma ducked her head bashfully. "Sit down please and have a cup of coffee. We will be running ourselves ragged to get everything done later. Have you had breakfast?"

"Yes, Dear, so you go ahead and finish eating before your food gets cold. Anyway, Jim did. I wasn't hungry, and Hal has the wedding jitters. She wouldn't eat," Nora shared.

"Mom, for Pete sakes," Hal groaned as John winked at her. The look on his face told her she was in for more teasing from him if Mom kept going.

"I guess you already milked," Jim quizzed John.

"Just finished. We were up and at 'em early this morning," John replied.

Nora brightened. "That reminds me. What time do you usually get -----."

"Mom!" Interrupted Hal shrilly. Everyone stared at her. She tried to breathe in easy and sound quietly calm when she said, "Mom, Emma is getting your coffee. Why don't you sit down at the table and drink it. Emma, I think I'd like a cup, too."

Very softly, Nora muttered to no one in particular, "We should shut you off. I think you've had enough coffee already."

None of them acknowledged they heard Nora, but Jim's mouth twitched at the corners as he spoke to Jim. "Can you stay a few days after the wedding so we can get acquainted? We have a spare bedroom that is yours as long as you want it."

"We'd like that. I'm thinking my farm can get along without me for a few days," Jim said. When he saw John lift an eyebrow, he added, "I gave up livestock some time back. All I have now is crop ground. Harvest is a few weeks off yet."

"Besides, we'd like to get to know Hal's family a little better. We live so far apart," Nora said regretfully. Emma sat down by Nora and received another hug. "Listen, if you ever feel comfortable with doing it, I'd love to be called Grandma." She looked accusingly at Hal, laying the blame on her. "Seems like I've waited forever to hear someone call me that."

Emma smiled at her. "Ja, to call you Mammi Nora des gute."

"Hey, how about me? I'm Grandpa," Jim said, pointing to himself. Then he ruffled the hair on the boy's heads, sitting on either side of him. They didn't speak, but Hal could tell they were sizing up this stranger. She just hoped her English father wasn't so forward that he scared the timid boys away. It was easy to do. She remembered her first encounter with them. Her sharp tongue had sent both boys scurrying from the room like startled rabbits when she was John's home health nurse.

"Jah, you are for sure our Dawdi Jim." Emma laughed as Jim gave her a wink.

Hal was proud of her parents at that moment. They had won Emma over. One down and two kids to go.

"Sounds like you just made it here before the rest of our help arrived. Listen," Emma said, heading out of the kitchen to the front door. The crunch of buggy wheels on gravel was loud, coming through the open kitchen window.

Hal peeked past the curtain at a dozen buggies coming from both directions. They slowed down to take their turn coming into the driveway. "Would you look at this? Mom and Dad, it's the Amish version of rush hour traffic."

As people filed up on the front porch, Hal introduced them to her parents. Emma directed women to the kitchen, and John took charge of the men.

Emma introduced Roseanna and Samuel Nisely to Hal's parents.

"Believe I'll go with the men otherwise the women might have me washing dishes or something else equally disagreeable. Mind if I tag along, Samuel?" Jim asked.

Ducking his head, Samuel chuckled. "Komm quickly with me."

Next in line was Luke Yoder, his wife, Linda, and his mother, Margaret. The four Yoder children, Levi, Jennie, Mark and Rose, tagged along back of their parents and grandmother. Behind them was a young man Hal didn't know. Hal hugged both women before she introduced them to her mother and then introduced the rest of the family. She told Luke to find John. He would be giving instructions to the men. The biggest chore was to help pitch the tent before the bench wagons arrived.

"Papa, we should get busy." Seventeen year old Levi, a fair young man like his father, started to leave, but he noticed Hal and Emma staring at the stranger, a gangly young man. "This is Josh Beiler. He is staying with us while he works for Papa."

The young man took his straw hat off to reveal a shock of unruly black hair. He nodded at Hal, staring listlessly at her from under his averted head. When his attention turned to Emma, he livened up as he inspected the girl from her head to the hem of her skirt.

Hal didn't like the curious gleam in his dark eyes. She was relieved to find the girl's attention was directed toward the women. She ushered them toward the kitchen and completely missed Josh's inspection.

By the middle of the morning, the driveway was filled with buggies. In the grassy lawn beside the clinic, men pitched the large tent. The two bench wagons arrived before lunch time. The drivers parked near the barn and hopped down, strolling toward the tent. The church district's one wagon of benches wouldn't be enough so wagon number two was sent for from another district. The tent was almost secured. Next, the men needed to unloaded the benches and carry them inside the tent. The legs were unfolded, and the benches arranged for the congregation.

While the men finished putting up the tent, John came in the mud room and stood in the kitchen doorway. Jim was right behind him.

Emma pointed to the two steaming pails on the wood cookstove. "Papa, the water is hot enough to scald the chickens. You ready to butcher? Cutting the chicken's heads off and cleaning them will take a while."

Jim asked from behind John, "How many chickens you plan on butchering?"

John turned to him. "Forty fryers should feed everyone for the wedding lunch."

Jim snorted, "Is that all. Maybe I better tag along and help."

"Not in those good clothes, you're not," admonished Nora. "I'd hate to see how you looked later with all that blood and feathers on you. What will all these people think of you for the rest of the day?"

John suggested, "Mind wearing some of my chore clothes until we get done?"

"Not at all. Get them for me," Jim said eagerly.

When the men came back downstairs and went out the back door, Hal grinned at how Amish her father looked except he was minus a beard. She peeked out the door later. Several headless fryers spurted blood as they flopped this way and that in the grass around the gathered men.

Emma said, looking over Hal's shoulder, "That group of men are witnesses to how good a job Papa does chopping off the heads. He needs to kill every chicken with one chop. Some people still believe he will have bad luck of some kind if he does not."

John held a rooster by the legs and raised the hatchet up high. He came down hard. The hatchet went through the rooster's neck with a resounding thud and cut into the wood block. The rooster's body struggled in John's hand until he let go. The chicken somersaulted in a circle and headed toward the men. They scattered. Somehow, the headless rooster got to his feet and made a stiff legged hop a couple of times then flopped over on his side, kicking. By that time, the chicken left blood from John's farmer shoes across the grass. A crimson trail that crisscrossed all the other headless roosters bloody paths.

Emma said to Hal, "I think it's time the witnesses willfully partaken picking feathers." She went after the water to scald the fryers.

Hal heard one of the men say to Jim, "Do you have as much wind up north as we do here?"

She froze in her tracks, waiting to see how her father answered.

"It's bad up our way all right. Wind gets so strong. Sometimes when the hens lay their eggs, the wind blows the eggs right back into where they came out of," Jim allowed.

"Oh Dad," Hal groaned to herself. She bent her head into the door facing to hide her face and waited for the farmer's reaction.

All the men looked at each other and at Jim. He grinned from ear to ear, and they burst out laughing. Hal blew out a breath. It might take a while but just maybe these Plain farmers would get the hang of her father's sense of humor.

"What was so funny?" Emma asked as she came out the door with a potholder around the hot handle of a pail.

"You don't want to know," Hal declared softly. "Trust me."

Emma sat the steaming water down near the men. She informed them they could dunk the chickens and start picking as her father killed the rest. She pointed to a metal grain basket nearby to put the feathers in.

When Emma came back by her, Hal asked, "What happens to the chickens after they're cleaned?"

"Four ladies will take them home to roast tonight so the meat will be ready by lunch time tomorrow. Now I've got one more bucket of water to bring out. Come with me and get the dish pans to lay the chickens in after they are picked."

Emma returned with the bucket and placed it in front of the men. One man was dunking a fryer up and down in the other steaming pail. Hal put the dish pans on the ground close by.

Emma said to her, "We better keep at it in the kitchen." The girl took Hal by the elbow and headed for the house. Once they were inside, she pointed to the table. "You have potatoes to peel."

Hal gasped at the mountain of potatoes piled on the table beside a large kettle and a paring knife. "That many?"

"Jah, this is going to be a big wedding. We have a lot of people to feed," Emma assured her. "Everyone has a job today. Some are cooking for today's meal and some for tomorrow. Look, Roseanna Nisely is making doughnuts for the wedding."

"Oh good! Roseanna, your doughnuts are the best," Hal complimented.

Roseanna blushed as she put flour in a big mixing bowl. She wasn't used to a compliment that caused her to be the center of attention.

"Three women have been assigned to bake cookies this afternoon for tomorrow. Margaret Yoder has already brought a large batch of oatmeal cookies for today," Emma said.

"How about I help you peel potatoes?" Margaret offered softly in Hal's ear. She adjusted her cap over her silver threaded dark hair as she looked in the utensil drawer for a paring knife.

"That would be great. As slow as I peel I could use the help," Hal whispered behind her hand.

Serious Emma ignored their banter. "Edna Esch is bringing peanut butter cookies. Jane Bontrager is baking sugar cookies and ----." She paused to wipe a wrinkle out of her apron. Then she said very quietly, "Stella Strutt has offered to bring molasses ones."

Hal glanced around to see if anyone was listening. She said pointedly, "Stella Strutt's coming to help?"

Emma nodded. "It wouldn't be right to not ask her. She is a member of this church district. If she wants to help, it would not be right to leave her out, would it?"

"No, I guess not," Hal agreed reluctantly.

Emma put her hand on Hal's arm and said softly just for Hal's ears, "You must act kindly toward her. That is our way."

Hal smiled wryly. "I get it. I need to turn the other cheek."

"Jah," Emma agreed smiling back. "You have it right now."

Hal sat down and picked up the paring knife. Margaret gave her a warm smile that lit her hazel eyes as she scooted her chair close. She reached past Hal for a potato. "So have you got wedding day jitters yet?"

"I didn't think so but my parents seem to think I have," Hal related, nodding at her mother.

A low vibrating rumble came from her skirt pocket. Hal darted a sheepish glance around her. Thank goodness. With so much talking and kitchen noises, the other women didn't hear the buzz. How could she have forgotten to turn the ringer off on her cell phone? To make matters worse, it was vibrating against Margaret's thigh.

When she felt the vibration, the wrinkles fanned out at the corners of the older woman's eyes as she tried to stifle a giggle and choked. "Is that a bee hive in your pocket by chance?" She patted her chest as she whispered.

Hal looked worried. "No, my phone. You aren't going to tell on me, are you?"

Margaret glanced over her shoulder. "No need to if it keeps ringing. Let these women quiet down a minute, and they will hear for themselves," she predicted.

"I'll be right back." Hal rushed from the kitchen, headed for the privacy of the clinic. In the living room, she tried to walk calmly past John's sister, Amy, busy knocking cobwebs out of the corner with the broom. The woman, so intent on reaching as high as she could, didn't hear Hal glide behind her.

After Hal closed the clinic door, she answered the phone in a whisper. "Hello."

"It's Barb Sloan. Why are you whispering?"

"I have a whole kitchen full of Amish women cooking and one in the living room doing broom combat with the spiders."

"And you're whispering because ----?"

Hal confided, "Because I'm not supposed to have a phone anymore. I don't think. Now I'm alone in the clinic with the door closed so we can talk."

Barb gave an audible gasp on the other end of the line. "You don't know if you can have a phone? Why don't you ask?"

"Oh sure! Calling attention to the phone is a sure fire way to get it taken away from me. I think I'll just keep still thank you very much," retorted Hal, mildly defensive.

Barb asked, "How's everything going? You sound edgy. Did your parents get here all right?"

"They came in yesterday afternoon and are driving me up a wall already," Hal admitted frankly.

Barb giggled. "Oh, it can't be that bad."

"Want to bet. They were afraid I'd wind up an old maid. Now they're thrilled to be marrying me off and going overboard with this whole getting to know everyone thing." Hal heard the uncontrolled laughter on the other end. She wanted to yell at her friend but she resisted. John's sister might hear her and come after her with the broom. How would that look the day before the wedding if John's family decided he was marrying a lunatic?

"What I called for was to ask if you needed help. I can come out and pitch in this morning," Barb said.

"I'd love it. Maybe you can help me keep an eye on my parents so they don't get me excommunicated before I get married," Hal pleaded.

Barb choked on a giggle. "You're not serious."

Hal tried to keep the desperation out of her voice. "Seems Mom's sister brainwashed my parents with all kinds of myths she found in a library book on the Amish. No telling what's going to come out of my parents mouth thanks to Aunt Tootie."

Barb smothered her laughter. "All right, I'm on my way."

Quietly, Hal edged behind Amy and back into the kitchen. When she sat down, Margaret gave her a light poke with her elbow and whispered, "Get rid of the bees?"

"I hid the bees in the clinic, and it shall stay there," Hal vowed.

Margaret leaned over to drop a potato in the kettle. With a dubious look, she said, "Gute."





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