They had lived next door to us since the day my parent's wed one another. Though I really never acknowledged the Millers, they always acknowledged me in some way or other. I always enjoyed relaxing on the steps of the backside of my farmhouse's wrap-around porch. I did this on a regular basis- mostly on the weekends or in the summer- and had a book in my lap. I'd sit there for hours, cross-legged, wiggling the foot that was on top, eyes on that book, sipping a sip of sweet lemonade every once-in-a-while. Often, I'd peer across the terrace that is my side yard, and see the Millers in their garden. They always worked in it.
I often considered them not normal, for they are Amish and I really don't know anything about them. I just know that they don't believe in electricity or sin. They seemed nice enough people, my parent's talk with them often. I usually watch from our side of the fence.
Though I didn't know much about their lifestyle, I am envious of them of one thing. Their horse.
They have an immense black stallion, a Morgan or Thoroughbred I'd say. Every morning, Pax- that's the horse's name- comes loping out from the barn. There is a hill behind the Millers house that Pax enjoys to rear upon the top. I enjoy watching him do this from my bedroom window. How regal he is. I always wanted a horse, I know how to ride, and we have an empty horse barn behind our house. But my mother considers the animals too wild for me to bring one home.
The Miller family is a family of only two inhabitants. Even I'm observant enough to catch that much. There's John Miller, the man of the family, from what my father says, he's only thirty nine. And there's also Grace Miller, John's wife. I've never actually talked to her, but she waves at me often, and I've been close enough to her to tell that she is quite beautiful.
But it wasn't until one night that I realized how awful it can be to be one of the plain people. I always thought that Amish had it easy, they work their tails off, have happy families, no divorces, no crime, and they earn respect from a ton of people. But I would soon find out different.
It was the summer of 1997. It was June 12, and it was the third week of summer vacation. The school year was long, but I was glad to have gotten tenth grade out of my way as fast as I did. As usual, I was on my back porch, reading a book about living patterns of different pond algae. Sounds boring, I realize that, but it's really not if you a big science nerd like I am often referred as by my friends. I was just about to get to the middle of the book, when my mother called me for dinner.
"Louise, it's time for dinner!" calls my mother, Annabelle from the kitchen window.
I sigh, and place my horse bookmark in place in the binding. "Alright, Mom."
As I hoist myself to my feet, I heard the familiar clip-clop of Pax's hooves. I run to the front porch, just to see the Miller's buggy exit their driveway. I clutch to one of the pillars, just pondering about what a beautiful mover Pax is. I dream of riding a horse similar to him someday. As they pass my house, my mother calls me again.
As I enter my house, I kick off my crocks in the corner, and join my father at the dinner table.
"Whatch ya lookin' at, Lou?" he asked, gesturing toward the window.
I set my book next to my plate. "Oh, just the Miller's leaving is all."
"She's absolutely captivated by that animal of theirs," remarked my mother as she enters the room, carrying a kettle of stew. "I don't know how many times I catch her just staring at it on a daily basis."
"Well, darling, she is a girl. All girls fantasize about owning a horse once in their life," my father pointed my father.
"Well, I never did." I knew how much my mother despised big animals, especially horses. "Nasty things they are," she mumbled.
"If you could just what a beaut he is, Mama," I said. "You'd understand too." Perhaps that was a bit snotty.
That got me a stern look from my mother's face. "I don't wish for you to go anywhere near any of those darn beasts. Deadlier than arsenic, they are."
Whatever, Mom, whatever.
We finished dinner with no more talk about it. After dinner was done, I did my chore of putting away clean dishes. Afterwards, I sat on the porch again, in my father's hammock this time; enjoy the last hour or two of sunlight. No one could keep me locked in the house for too long. I return to my reading, and try to understand my mothers despise for horses. I had ridden my friend Amanda's horse once at her house, and my mother had ripped from her horse's back. She had said that that thing would kill me. I tried to explain it to my consoler at school; she said that she's just afraid of them.
I finish twelve chapters of my book, when my mother calls me in.
"Louise, I want you to come in now. It's going to storm."
"Ah, Mom! I don't believe that weather man. He always lies!" I protest.
She appeared on the porch. "What did you just say?" She was now angered because I jinxed her favorite TV personality. As if a weather man is a personality at all! "You go to your room, young lady, and I don't count on seeing you for the rest of the night!"
I obey quietly. As I head up the stairs, my father protests.
"Annabelle, leave that girl alone. She worked her ass off at school; can't she just enjoy her reading?"
"No, I will not have her mocking the weather man because he's right, unlike her."
In my room, I read more. My father comes up to tell me that he and mom are going out for something and they won't be home until late. I agree quietly, and just go back to my book.
Later that night, it turns out that Mom was right for once. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed. The wind knocked tree branches heavily against my bedroom window. It gets to be eleven at night, and I'm still alone. I change into my pajama pants and shirt. I travel downstairs to fetch a drink before Mom gets home and see that I left my room.
I'm at the sinking, just twirling my cup in my hand, sipping it every once in a while. All the lights are off on the first floor of my house. Accept the one above my back door, and the back porch light. As I go to take a sip of my water, I hear a loud noise.
It's the sound of someone laying on their car horn. It's followed by a girlish scream and the whinny of a frightened horse. I quickly drop my glass on the counter, and run onto the porch. All I can see is a car swerving down the road, and regaining control, and moving onward. The light from the back porch stretches across the lawn, but isn't close enough to the road to see what's going on. Something in my gut doesn't seem right. I run in and grab my coat, a flashlight and my crocks. I bolt outside into the rain.
As I near the road, I hear an animal snort. I flick on my flashlight, and search before me.
That's when I saw it.
The Miller's buggy overturned in the ditch before my house.
Panicking, I rush to it. Pax is lying on the ground. He's in shock, so I'm too afraid to approach him. He neighs when he hears my footsteps. Like a true action hero from a movie, I peek up under the buggy, where I see the familiar bonnet of Grace Miller.
Do something, you fool! She's hurt!
I want to call for help, but I decide that no one will hear me.
I set my flashlight on the ground, and I unzip the canvas of the buggy. A small moan could be heard from Grace. At least I know that she's still alive. All I see is Grace. Where is John?
"Grace," I whisper. "Grace. Are you alright?"
Another small whimper. As I crawl toward her, I began to realize something that I never noticed before. Grace has a bump under her dress. I could have sworn that my father mentioned that she was pregnant. That made this even more frightening for me. Her forehead is cut and is bleeding. I gently touch her shoulder. She shivers at my touch. Should I really be doing this? Of course, would my parents want me to not? They raised me right!
Cars whoosh past, but none of the drivers seem to notice the black horse and matching black buggy lying in the ditch. I scream at them for help, but again they do not notice! I became very angry at myself for back-sassing my mother. I could run in a call 911 but I'm too afraid to leave Grace alone. What am I to do?
"Help!" I scream. "Somebody help!"
All of a sudden, a hand rips me out from under the canvas and holds me, it is my father. I begin shedding tears, for I am afraid.
"It's okay, Lou, it's okay, Daddy's here." He lets go of me and grabs my face to look up at him. "What happened?"
My throat stings and nothing comes out.
"Answer your father, Lou, we just want to know what happened!" my mother cries.
"I think a car hit Pax," I whimpered.
"Who's Pax?" Mom asks.
"The horse. Pax is their buggy horse. Grace is hurt, Dad."
He lets go of me, and reaches for Grace, who is too delirious to realize that a man is carrying her. Even though it seemed stupid and wrong, my Dad was very brave and entered their house, rather than ours. Mom and I follow close behind. My Dad carry's Grace up the stairs and sets her on the first bed he sees. Mom scrambles with a match from her coat pocket to light a candle. Mom begins asking Grace many questions. I knew that my mothers nursing skills would come in handy one day.
My Dad places a hand on my shoulder. "Lou, why don't you go and put Pax in the barn?" he asks.
"No," hisses my mother.
"Annabelle, we can't just leave the animal in the ditch, what if he seriously needs help?"
"That thing is in shock, it may hurt her, David."
"I can do it, Mom," I assure her. "I know I can."
She purses her lips. She sighs. "Just be careful."
That was enough for me; I bolted through the Miller's house, and out into the pouring rain. As I approach the horse in the ditch, he snorts. I run to his side, and drop to my knees by his head. I began stroking his cheek, telling him that I would not hurt him. After I thought I had a tiny bit of trust from the animal, I grab him by his bit, and try to hoist him up. It was a failed attempt; the buggy bars are pinning him to the ground. I quickly rush to the back of the horse, and pull the bars from the harness loops.
Pax neighs loudly, and begins to stand up. I take him by one of the driving lines, and I jog him to the barn. There are no lights, so I feel around until I find a kerosene lantern, and switch it on. The whole barn illuminates, revealing the heads of four huge Belgians. I walk Pax to his stall, and quietly remove his harness. I'm not quite sure that I had taken it off the right way, but the important thing was that I got it off in the first place. I threw it on top of a grain barrel, and just look at the amazing animal before me. The sweat just ran off of the animal, steam rose from his back. That was a sign of illness. He's thirsty, but I'm not allowed to give him any water on the fact that it will make him very sick.
"Good boy, Pax, good boy."
"What are you doing in here?" asks a manly voice. I turn to meet the bearded face of John Miller. "And where is Grace?" he asks worriedly.
I quietly explain to him what happened, and he rushes for the house. I begin to brush some sweat from Pax's back, John didn't seem to mind. By the time I was done, John re-enters the barn. He is carrying two steaming cups of something. He hands me one.
"Hot chocolate," he simply says. He sits on a barrel, and buries his face in his hands.
"John, I'm sorry for what happened to Grace," I say quietly.
He nods his head in approval. "That is alright, then." He looks up at Pax, standing proudly in his stall. Things between me and this Amish man are a little awkward, but I know that his faith would never allow him to hurt me, or anyone else, in that matter. I just quietly sip my hot chocolate. "Your mother is a fine studier of medicine. She'll help her out. I just hope God allows Grace to stay here with me."
"I think that God rewards people for the good things they do in life," I say quietly. I hope that I did not offend him in any way.
"That's true, girl, that's true." He looked more downcast.
"I'm sorry for looking after Pax without your permission. I just couldn't have left him in the ditch like that."
I begin to realize that not even Amish people live the easy life. They work their tails off in life and what they get is disrespect from the public. I was sure by now that I would never be afraid to approach John Miller or any Amish person again.
John looks at me and smiles a bit, and strokes his beard. "That's aright, Girl. I'm glad ya did, I'm glad ya did."