Sadie never would've believed it if anyone had hinted at what might happen if she kept sneaking off to Strasburg come Friday nights. No, never. She had gone and done the selfsame thing several other times before this, discarding her long cape dress and black apron, even removing her devotional Kapp, unwinding her hair, parting it at the side instead of in the center, letting the weight of its length flow down over one shoulder. Ach, how many times in her most secret dreams had she wished...no, longed for a handsome young man such as this, and an Englischer at that? The tall boy headed her way, across the noisy cafe, had the finest dark hair she thought she'd ever seen. And, glory be, he seemed to be making a beeline right for her. Jah, as she waited, Sadie knew he was intent upon her! The look in his dark eyes was spellbinding and deep, and she could not stray from his gaze no matter how hard she might've tried. He seemed vaguely familiar, too. Had she known him during her years at the Georgetown School, when she and her sisters and their young cousins and Plain friends all attended the one-room public schoolhouse not far from their farm? Her mouth felt almost too dry, and pressing her lips together, she hoped he wouldn't notice how awful nervous she was being here in town, this far away from her familiar surroundings.
Quickly she glanced down at herself, still not accustomed to this fancy getup she wore, including what Englishers called bobby socks and saddle shoes. She wondered how she looked to such a young man, really. Did he suspect she was Plain beneath her makeup and whatnot? Would he even care if he knew the truth? By the sparkle in his eyes, she was perty sure her Anabaptist heritage didn't matter just now, not one iota.
Sadie felt her heart thumping hard beneath the sheer cotton blouse, the one she'd slipped on under her customary clothes so Mamma or Leah wouldn't suspect a thing if she ever happened to get caught leaving the house after she and her sister had headed on up to bed for the night. Excitement coursed through her veins. She lifted her head and tilted it just so, the way she'd practiced a dozen or more times, and smiled demurely her first hello to the well-to-do doctor's son, who, she would soon discover, much preferred the nickname his pals had given him-Derry-over Derek, the name his parents had chosen after his devout paternal grandfather, a minister of the Gospel.
For no particular reason, Leah awakened and saw that Sadie's side of the bed was empty. On a Friday night, yet. This was not a night for a scheduled Amish singing, she knew that for sure. Sadie's flown to the world again, she thought, wishing Mamma and Dat might've heard their wayward daughter leave the house after they'd all gone off to bed. Why must she be so defiant, Lord? Leah breathed her prayer into the darkness.
Slipping out of bed, she went and stood by one of the windows and pulled the shade away. She looked out at the glaring sky, almost white with the rising moon as its light lowered itself over the barnyard below. How had Sadie made her getaway this time? Sadie wasn't so handy outdoors, not at all couldn't have just hitched up one of the driving horses to the family carriage without making a ruckus on such a silent, moonlit night. Ach, it wasn't possible for Sadie. She must've gotten a ride with someone who owns a car. Such harsh speculating made Leah feel nearly sick to her stomach. Surely Sadie wouldn't stoop so low as to do something like that. Why, such things would not only break their parents' hearts but bring awful shame and reproach to their family. Yet Leah feared that was just what her sister had gone and done. Ach, she shouldn't let herself worry so, not about the unknown. Not about things she had no control over.
The cafe radio blared the tune "Chiquita Banana," the calypso-beat jingle: Pepsi-Cola hits the spot, twelve full ounces, that's a lot...as Derek and his pal and the two Plain girls they had picked up headed for Melvin Warner's car. Soon they were speeding down Georgetown Road, laughing and joking, toward Gobbler's Knob. He had known almost immediately that Sadie Ebersol, his unexpected date for the evening, was not accustomed to modern ways. Not in any sense of the word. "Stop here," he told the driver of the car. "Sadie and I...we're getting out."
"You're walking her home, through the woods?" Melvin said from behind the wheel.
Sadie cast a wary look at him, the first time he had sensed any hint of alarm from her all evening. "Must we go thataway?" she asked.
"Trust me. I know the forest like the back of my hand." He opened the car door and helped her out.
"Aw, Sadie, are you sure?" the other Amish girl asked, sitting next to Melvin in the front seat, leaning toward them now, seemingly very concerned. "You know what they say...you might never find your way out again."
Derry nodded his assurance. "We'll be fine."
"Don't worry, Naomi." Sadie flung a small knapsack bundle through the open window and into her friend's lap. "Here, take care of this for me. I'll pick it up from you tomorrow."
Once the jeep station wagon had rumbled down the road, Derry turned and offered Sadie a hand, helping her over the ditch that ran along the roadside, then through the underbrush that led to the knoll. "So you've never gone walking out here?" he asked, turning to look at her in the moonlight.
He didn't know so well the flower-strewn side of the hillock. But on several occasions he had seen the woman Sadie mentioned, as well as the No Trespassing signs posted around the perimeter to alert hunters of her five-acre property. Smiling to himself, he thought, Sadie must think I'm thickheaded...That woman is Amish. He remembered having seen her working in the flower gardens around the log cabin. "Is the woman a friend of yours?"
"Jah...er, yes." Sadie frowned for a moment, then turned to look at him, smiling. "Do you know Lizzie Brenneman?"
He shook his head. "I haven't met her formally, if that's what you mean."
"She likes living alone, always has. Loves that side of the woods...and the little critters that wander 'bout the forest."
"And she can't be too old," he said.
"Thirty-four, she is," replied Sadie, though it seemed she was holding back information, that maybe the woman was in all actuality a relative, maybe even Sadie's aunt. But he didn't press the issue. He had other more important things on his mind.
We'll be sure to avoid the area of the log cabin, he thought, glad Sadie had warned him, in so many words. He knew precisely where this late-night walk should take them. Nowhere near Aunt Lizzie, he'd see to that.
Sadie's inviting smile and the false air of innocence she seemed all too eager to exude spurred him on. "Ever kiss a boy on the first date?" he asked wryly.
Her warm and exuberant giggle was his delight. He knew he'd met his match. Hand in hand they ran deep into the seclusion of the dark timberland, where the light of the moon was thwarted, obscured by age-old trees, and the night was cloudless and still.