A Love Undone
Rosanna peered out the kitchen window, trying to see through the sheets of rain. What was taking her husband so long? Had the wheels of his rig gotten buried in mud somewhere? After days of hard rain, the ground was saturated. Or was her very social husband simply visiting with his brother, thinking he had more than enough time to get Rosanna to Viola Mae’s house?
Rosanna glanced at the clock. Viola Mae had called two hours ago, thinking her labor may have begun. Perhaps it had, but from her experience as a midwife, Rosanna was pretty sure Viola Mae’s first child would take all night and perhaps half of tomorrow before entering this world. And that was if
Viola was actually in labor.
Nevertheless, the young mom-to-be had to be seen tonight. Rosanna drove herself when the weather was good or even half-decent, but her easygoing, supportive husband insisted on driving her whenever there was snow, fog, or heavy rains. If Rosanna’s examination indicated Viola Mae was in labor, Rosanna would stay the night, and her husband would return home.
She wished, and not for the first time, that the Amish in Winter Valley weren’t so cut off from the rest of the world. The serenity of living in northwestern Pennsylvania couldn’t be beat, but there wasn’t a clinic or doctor in the valley, and after her Mamm
passed away, Rosanna was the only midwife in the region. When at twenty years old Rosanna had given birth to her first child, her own Mamm had delivered the baby girl, declaring the little one would also become a midwife. That was nineteen years ago, and Jolene was many wonderful things, but a midwife was not one of them.
A thud pulled Rosanna’s attention to the happenings in the room. A book had fallen from the kitchen table. Her three schoolage children were sitting around one end of the kitchen table, homework spread out in front of them as Jolene helped. Four-year-old Hope sat at the table with them, but she wasn’t in school yet. She liked homework hour, though, and Jolene had her close to reading and writing already. But the child who required the most help was Ray. After his near-fatal accident three years ago, no one had believed he’d be able to attend school at all—no one except Jolene. Rosanna’s chest tightened with anxiety when she considered how difficult an adjustment Ray would have when Jolene moved out of state.
The light aroma of cooked celery hung in the air. Dozens of jars of freshly canned goods filled half the kitchen table. She and Jolene had made good use of the last three days of rain, finally catching up on their canning of September’s produce, especially the overabundance of celery for Jolene’s wedding. They’d planted more potatoes than ever before just for the wedding feast, but they didn’t need to can those. Her eldest child, the one Rosanna couldn’t get through a day without, would marry and leave the state in a few weeks. Was Rosanna doing a decent job of hiding the grief she felt? As for her daughter, she was so excited to embrace her future she could hardly sleep.
Where had all the days gone between giving birth to her and giving her away to be wed?
Jolene glanced up from the mounds of papers and looked out the kitchen window. “Is that his rig coming down the road?”
Rosanna couldn’t tell, not yet. But she did notice her lone and beloved dogwood, the one her husband had given her as a wedding present. Most of its red leaves had been beaten from the branches, and it’d been looking rather puny the last few years. Would its roots survive such a drenching? At the end of last winter, she and Jolene had cut a few shoots from the tree, hoping to grow new trees before this one died. They should’ve started that years ago when the dogwood was still healthy.
.” Jolene recognized his rig before Rosanna.
She didn’t have to ask Jolene to finish helping with homework or to get supper on the table. If Viola Mae wasn’t in labor and Rosanna returned home in a couple of hours, the kitchen sinks and counters would be spotless. Maybe the floors too if Jolene and her siblings got into another soapsuds battle. They loved those, and the upside was that the floors had to be mopped dry when they were through.
But on the nights when their Daed wasn’t home by eight, Jolene would put her sixteen-year-old brother in charge, and she’d retreat to the phone shanty to talk with Van Beiler for hours. Jolene’s loyalty to her brothers and sisters had a clearly marked line when it came to Van. Once he was home from work or arrived for a date or visit, he came first. Rosanna supposed that was how it should be, especially since Jolene was mere weeks away from her wedding. And when he’d said he thought the best place for them to live was in Ohio near his parents, Jolene hadn’t hesitated for a second. She’d said that as long as he was by her side, she could live anywhere and survive anything. Later Jolene told Rosanna that Van wanted to move there to support Jolene’s desire to do artwork. Painting and drawing scenery and animals and people weren’t considered idolatry by the bishop in that district. Van was perfect for Jolene, but did he have to take her to Ohio?
Rosanna bit back her tears. Was it this hard for every mom whose child moved far away? She tried to focus on the bright side of today. “Despite the rain it will feel good to get out. Except for church the Sunday before last, I haven’t been off this farm in weeks.”
Jolene picked a pencil off the floor. “If you feel cooped up, you should’ve gone out with Van and me the other night like we asked.”
Rosanna clicked her tongue at the absurdity of that idea—her on a date with them. It was ridiculous, but the invite had tempted her and made her feel loved.
Van would make a wonderful son-in-law. He was thoughtful and kind, and he and Jolene were so good together. Rosanna had absolutely no doubt they’d make a strong family unit. Van was older than Jolene, and she had been in love with him since he’d moved here to work in his uncle’s blacksmith shop when she was fifteen. But Van hadn’t noticed her until two years ago. To hear him tell it, he wasn’t interested in finding somebody. A girlfriend came with too many responsibilities for his liking, especially since he was still a teen. Then one day he’d barreled out of his uncle’s blacksmith shop hurrying to grab lunch at the nearby bakery, and he saw Jolene trying to open the door to the bakery while balancing a basket of pastries. He said she’d owned his every thought since.
Rosanna had never seen a man as much in love as Van was, so she couldn’t begrudge him for taking Jolene to live elsewhere. Since Jolene had never really been allowed to paint, maybe she’d give it a try and decide it wasn’t that important to her after all, and then she and Van would move back.
A mother could only hope.
The door banged open, and her husband walked in carrying a large package. His blue eyes held the same zest for life she’d fallen in love with more than twenty years ago.
She put her hands on her hips. “Benny Keim, what have you done this time?”
He grinned. “A surprise for Jolene. But first”—he held up the gold, shiny box—“cookies.”
“Benny.” Rosanna frowned. “Not before supper.”
He walked over to her. “But I need to distract them.” He raised his eyebrows up and down. What did he have up his sleeve?
He kissed Rosanna’s forehead, and then he pointed at Jolene. “You stay put.”
Jolene grinned and pointed at the floor. “Won’t budge.” But she looked quizzically at her mom, and Rosanna shrugged, feeling a tingle of excitement.
Her husband set the box on top of the homework papers and opened it. “Only two cookies for each of you until after supper.”
Benny returned to Jolene and unbuttoned his coat, revealing a brown paper package about the size of a flat shoebox pressed against his chest. He held it out to her. “It’s not for anyone to see except you.”
Jolene kept her back to her siblings and opened it. Before Rosanna could see what it was, her daughter’s eyes filled with tears, and she engulfed her dad. “Denki
,” she whispered.
Rosanna’s heart sang, but she hid all joy from her tone. “Well, let’s see what he’s done this time.”
Jolene released him and let Rosanna peer over the brown paper. Paintbrushes. While she was hoping her daughter wouldn’t like to paint and would talk Van into returning here to live, Rosanna’s husband was encouraging her to paint. “I can’t believe you.”
Benny put an arm around her shoulders. “She’s been obedient all these years, Rosie. We couldn’t have asked for a better daughter. Let her enjoy the gift.”
He was right, but it was so hard to let Jolene move that far away. He released Rosanna and touched the paintbrush with the longest bristles. “When I ordered them, the lady on the phone said they’re the very best.”
Jolene shook her head. “No, they aren’t.” She hugged him again, tears trickling down her cheeks. “You’re the best.”
Benny grinned, his face red from the fuss Jolene was making over him. “Well, we’d better go before Viola Mae’s husband passes out from panicking.”
Rosanna opened her special kitchen drawer, lifted the false bottom, and waited as Jolene put the contraband next to a few forbidden photos of the family. Jolene’s radiant smile warmed Rosanna’s heart. This time next month Jolene would be married and finally living under a bishop who would allow her to discover if she had a gift for creating artwork. That thought would bring Rosanna a lot of comfort when she desperately missed her daughter.
She put on her coat, and before long she and her husband were in the buggy, lumbering toward the next town. It’d be nice if she weren’t the only midwife in this area who could help deliver babies. Maybe one of Rosanna’s other daughters would enjoy such fulfilling work. Torrents of rain fell from the sky, and she was grateful her husband drove her in foul weather and never complained that birthing babies was an interruption to their home life.
Memories of yesteryear filled Rosanna’s heart. When Jolene was little, they’d played dolls, snuggled while reading, attended church, and caught fireflies. By the time she was three, they began to welcome new babies, tend the garden, and end the day playing simple board games. As she grew, they sang while canning goods for winter, sewing clothes for the little ones, and washing mountains of diapers. Jolene’s childhood days had rolled in and out day after day.
As much as Rosanna tried, she had never learned how to grab hold of even one day and make it stand still. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Jolene’s school days were behind her, and at fourteen she began to work for the local bakery. Not long after that she’d shared her greatest secret just with Rosanna—her dream of one day marrying Van, if only he’d notice her. He’d moved to their district at seventeen years old to apprentice under his uncle, and all the teen girls had their eyes on him. Especially Donna Glick, Jolene’s most ardent competitor since they were schoolgirls.
The rig wobbled hard, and she was pulled from her yesterdays, feeling sudden concern for today. The rains fell harder the farther they went. Could her husband see the lines on the road? She couldn’t.
Benny gripped the reins tightly. “We have to turn back.” The alarm on his face assured her there were worse things than letting a new mom deliver a child without a midwife.
But before he could turn the rig around, something hit one of the wheels, and the rig jolted hard and then seemed to float several feet.
What was happening? Rosanna’s head spun, and nothing seemed to make sense. Why was Benny pulling back on the reins but the rig continued to move?
Their carriage struck a yellow sign with the symbol for a river, and the rig floated right past it. “We’re in the river!” Her husband’s scream pierced her heart.
The rig tipped, and water rushed inside. Benny’s strong hands pulled her out.
The world became a blur of muddy snapshots. Branches of trees overhead. Debris floating downstream with her. Gray raindrops hiding the sky.