Saturday, June 18, 2016


A follow up story to Leaving the Amish,

another Just for Fun Fiction by C.J.

"Do not be afraid of them;
remember the Lord who is great and awesome,
and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters,
your wives and your houses."
Nehemiah 4:14

The simple wedding of Jed and Adelle was enjoyed by most.  A few, were disgruntled when the handsome young man had slipped through their fingers into the hands of another.  However, it was easy for Adelle to overlook those few scowls to place her gaze upon her family.  She would never have dreamed that her mamm would defy her stepdat and come to her wedding along with her younger siblings.  Not only that, but her stepdat's sister Eleanor brought her Aunt Ellie from Mapleton clear to the wedding.  These were the dearest to her in all the world besides her new husband. 
They caught her eye as she watched them huddled across the fellowship hall with their heads together.  Aunt Ellie was busy gesturing with her gnarled hands then patting her young sister's arm.  Anna was vigorously nodding.  Adelle took in her sister's beauty from across the room wondering when she had grown up so much now that she was seventeen.  Adelle saw her mother's resigned sigh in the let down of her shoulders.  Then the bride was recaptured by her husband's attention, and all other thoughts were lost apart from him.
Anna could hardly breathe as these women dared to make plans outside of her stepdat's wishes, her mother included.  Since her sister had left their home to become a Mennonite, it was as if the man felt his authority had been challenged so had cracked down all the harder, especially on her.  It pained her mother, and a smile was seldom seen in their home anymore.  Now that her stepdat's sister had come from Mapleton with her Great Aunt Ellie, everything was falling into place.  Those two invited her to come live with them.  Anna would finally be able to walk away without telling him when the aunts left in the morning to return to Mapleton.  Her small bag would be slipped in among theirs when they loaded them into the trunk of Eleanor's car.  Then they would pick Anna up from further down the road. 
All who would be left in their home would be her mamm and her two younger brothers.  They did not seem to rile the stepdat like the girls had.  He allowed the boys the freedom to hunt and fish and even to run off with their friends from time to time.  Anna was sad for her mamm who would receive the brunt of his anger, but she did not think the man would actually physically hurt her, only verbally.  Anna could hardly remember the happy home she grew up with  before her dat had suddenly died when kicked by a mule.
Aunt Ellie interrupted her thoughts, "I know that you are still in your time of Rumpsringa here, but once you're at my house it will be over.  You will be almost an adult and will be learning to make the right choices that will guide you for the rest of your life instead of making mistakes and regrets that can follow you like a dark shadow.  I'm too old to put up with nonsense, so you have to promise to abide by my house rules."
At this point Anna would agree to anything just to be out from under her stepdat.  It was a good thing that he would have to behave in front of his sister and Aunt Ellie when they returned from the wedding.  She only had one more night to endure.  In the morning, she would get up extra early to get the milking and other chores done before slipping away.
The man was a simmering pot of anger when they got home and put out a cold supper for him.
"Can't a man have a hot  meal after working all day while you are all out on a lark?  Is that too much to ask?"
Aunt Ellie had no man-fear and calmly said as she helped herself to another deviled egg.  "It's a shame you missed the wedding  and the potluck afterwards.  There were so many wonderful hot dishes to choose from, and you would still have been back in time to milk your cows." She tsked.  "Irene, do you remember Susanne's recipe for berry cobbler?  That was about the best I've ever tasted."
"It was the crumb topping with extra cinnamon and brown sugar mixed in with the butter.  We'll try it once we get back home," their stepdat's sister answered as if nothing was wrong ignoring the tension around the table.
The man wasn't used to being spoken back to like that, but he had been raised to respect his elders so kept his peace, at least outwardly.  To show his displeasure though, he ate everything put on the table that the others had not managed to serve themselves to as if he were a starving man.  "A man can't hardly survive on such a meager meal he grumbled before bowing his head in a silent prayer at the end of their supper.  He left even before they brought out the left-over cake people urged them to bring home.  The boys finished that off before scampering out after their stepdat to do their barn chores.  Not a crumb was left.
As the sun rose the next morning, Anna peeked out her door and saw the door to the spare room cracked open.  She tiptoed over and put her small bag inside  alongside the other suitcases lined up ready to go.  She knocked on her brothers' door to wake them for chores before going downstairs to hug her mamm.  Then Anna put on her rubber boots and walked out to the barn as if it were a normal day.  The hug had left them both aching with tears pooling in their eyes, but they wiped them away, not wanting any evidence of a parting to be discovered.
As Anna leaned her head against her favorite cow's side with the smell and sound of the milk filling the pail, she realized she would not be milking for a long, long time, if ever again, for Aunt Ellie did not keep a cow.  A lump formed in her throat.  She wouldn't truly miss it, just the warmth of the trusting animal had been a comfort for so long.
Aunt Ellie kept the conversation up with the help of Eleanor.  Those two were a pair.  It had been a blessing when Eleanor had moved in to help watch over their elderly aunt after Adelle had come back home to marry Jed.  It would be crowded with the three of them sharing the small house, but Eleanor graciously offered to share the room with Aunt Ellie to leave the small spare room for Anna.  A thrill went through her at the thought of leaving town, leaving the Amish life far behind.  Even living as a Mennonite would be more freedom than she'd ever known.  She would finally be able to wear pretty dresses.
She hoped Aunt Eleanor would teach her to drive. It tickled her to see the way her stepdat had been barely able to be civil when his own sister drove up in a car.   He was practically gnashing his teeth. 

Anna was lost in thought about how she wished she could go to high school, but felt she was probably too far behind.  The ones her age were getting ready to graduate anyway.  Eleanor had already told her that she would  take her to the library so that she could study for her GED exam on the computers there. 
She jerked her head up when her stepdat barked at her.
"I need you to take the buggy to town after breakfast and pick up more nails.  I need to finish the roof on the barn where the wind blew off those shingles."
"I can do that," her mother offered.  She was standing in the barn door. "I want to get a few things at the grocery store."
"Neh, let the girl do it.  You have plenty to do here at home."
Anna looked at her mother who slightly nodded. 
"Alright.  I'll just tell Aunt Ellie and Aunt Eleanor goodbye after breakfast and then leave."
After breakfast Aunt Ellie said with a twinkle in her eye, "When we see you next time, you'll be quite a changed young lady!"
Even her mother had trouble keeping a straight face.  Anna took a deep breath and tousled her brothers' hair causing them to protest pushing her hand away.  She hoped they did not pick up their stepdat's grouchy ways thinking that was the way a man should behave.  She would miss them and their teasing.  Her mother got up from the table to supposedly write a grocery list for her.  She put her arm around her waist for one last squeeze as Anna read what her mother had written, "Never forget how much I love you, sugar.  That's the only thing on this list."
Anna turned and said to their company, "I'll look for you later when you drive by the store on your way out of town."  Then she went out to harness the horse to the buggy.  She'd take an extra feed bag for the horse since it might be tied up at the store for a while before her stepdat came looking for her.  By then she'd be halfway to Mapleton and her new life of freedom!

Anna was wound up tighter than a top.  The women had picked her up in front of the grocer's as bold as you please.  She took a couple of deep breaths.

"Well, Anna," Aunt Ellie cackled, "what will you do with yourself, do you think?"

"I imagine I'll help you with your canning, and cooking and sewing.  I also want to study to pass that exam, then it will easier to apply for a job."

"I do live a mile and a half out of town, but I'm sure something could work out even if it meant we needed to get a horse and a buggy."

"Oh, I want to learn to drive!  I was hoping Aunt Eleanor would teach me."

"All in good time, Anna," her younger aunt laughed.   "The young people at church like to get together often for fun.  I'm sure you will enjoy getting to know them."

Anna chewed on her lip.  She thought that the youth gatherings the Amish youth had were okay.  Volleyball games and softball were fun, she guessed.  But the last few times she was supposed to be at one of their singings, she'd sneaked away to other gatherings of Rumspringa Amish youth with Englischers.  She'd even put on make-up and worn jeans and a tee shirt.  They had turned on their car radios out in a field and danced.  Now that was her idea of fun.  It wasn't like she'd gone totally wild, just a little over the line. 

She'd even let one young man kiss her.  It made her face flame at the thought of it.  The kiss had disappointed her though as his breath was rank with beer, and he'd been rough instead of the tender way she thought a kiss should be.  After a moment she'd had to shove him away.  Maybe some things weren't all they were cracked up to be.  She sighed.

Aunt Eleanor looked at her in the rear view mirror but then looked away.  Anna was sure she would have to be careful not to cross the line with these two.  She never wanted to be sent back home even if it meant acting like a sweet Mennonite young lady.  Still, her jeans and shorts were stuffed in the bottom of her bag just in case.  Maybe sometime...

Sure enough, things fell into a routine, a very boring routine.  It made Anna study all the harder.  Passing her exam was her ticket to a job, to being able to move out on her own.  Then her decisions would be all her own.  Oh, how she longed for that day not to be accountable to anyone.  She talked more to the old dog than to the two old ladies she lived with, her aunts.  She just didn't care to talk about the same things they did, like quiltings, the preaching at church, the small town gossip.  She mainly sat with them quietly sewing on her new dresses.  Aunt Eleanor had let her pick appropriate material with pretty flowers and bought it for her.  It wasn't that she didn't appreciate what these women were doing for her, it's just that she wanted to be independent. 

Anna had her first dress done in time for church Sunday.  It was exhilarating to think that she would not have to wear a plain dress ever again.  She wished she could get rid of her kapp as well.  Aunt Eleanor had made her a new one, the kind the women in this area wore that was a little different than the ones back home with the Amish.  The day had almost been spoiled when she found that one of the other young women in church wore a dress made from the same fabric.  Errgh!  Now she hated that dress and would only wear it at home to do chores in.  But the service was nice and short, not like the three hour ones she was used to suffering through.  She had no idea what the pastor had preached on, even though it was all in English and not in German.  It was because she was distracted by looking around at the young people in the small church.  She caught a few boys looking her direction as well.  One even winked!

After church, the young people surrounded her asking her questions.  They invited her to join them that evening when they went out for sodas at the local drive-in restaurant.  She was glad that one of the boys actually offered to come by and give her a ride in his car, a Mustang.  It was the young man who had winked at her in church.  He was kinda cute.  At last she had something fun to look forward to.

Jimmy sat in his patrol car watching the church kids laughing and hanging out at the Lickety Split.  He drank his soda slowly.  Their fun looked innocent enough.  He would more likely be pulling over a drunk driver leaving the bar, but the night was still young.  He'd been busier than usual as the local deputies had been working with the county drug enforcement officers staking out a meth lab way back in the hills.  Finally, arrests were made.  All their hard work had paid off, and the scums were now behind bars.  This was the first chance he'd had to be able to slow down on the job in a couple of weeks.  He took a slow slurp of his root beer. 

Suddenly, a girl caught his attention making him choke on his drink.  After coughing, he did a double take.  It couldn't be.  He'd heard she'd just got married.  But why did that young women look so familiar?  The more he looked, the more Jimmy was sure he'd never seen her before. Yet,  there was just something about her.  He narrowed his eyes. 

The girl was laughing with the Stoltz boy.  The hair escaping from her kapp was lighter than Adelle's.   And this girl was more petite, and  a lot more flirty than Adelle had ever been too.  He rubbed his chin thinking of the one that got away.  It was a good thing he'd never let himself fall  completely head over heels with Aunt Ellie's niece, well maybe he'd been just a little twitter-pated.  If that Jed fella hadn't showed up when he did...nah, that was just wishful thinking. 

A call came in on his radio.  A cow was loose on the road just south of town.  Now he had to turn into a cowboy and drive the road hazard back to its pasture.  That's why he always kept a lariat in his trunk.  He'd been a pretty good roper back in his rodeo days.  He drained his cup making a loud slurping noise and tossed it into the trash from his window: score!  He still had it even if he wasn't on a basketball court any more. 

He hadn't been by to see Aunt Ellie for awhile, not hardly since her friend Eleanor had moved in to take care of her.  She didn't need him to deliver Meals on Wheels anymore.  But hey, couldn't a guy go see his gal once in awhile?  He'd take her some flowers, real ones, not just weeds.  They often had a day-old bouquet left at the grocer's he could buy and head out there after his shift was over the next day. 

He leaned up against the door jam with his straw hat tilted back waiting for someone to answer his knock.  But when it was that girl who opened the door, it made him straighten and almost stagger back.  She looked more like Adelle up close, only prettier, which at one time he wouldn't have thought possible.  He narrowed his eyes to glare at her.  There was no way in a hound dog heaven, in a blue tic minute that he was going to fall for another one of Aunt Ellie's great-nieces.  This one looked too young anyway.  Besides, the way she stared at him with almost a boy-hungry look in her eyes, made him want to grind his teeth.  Weren't there enough girls like that in the county without importing more?  

"Who is it, Anna?"  Ellie used a walker now, and he heard her clomping up.  "Jimmy, I just about feared you'd forgotten me until I heard about that big drug bust that kept y'all so busy.  So I decided to forgive you for neglecting me."

He stepped carefully around the girl and gave Aunt Ellie a kiss on the cheek.  "Brought something for my gal just to show I didn't forget you." 

"You're too good for this old woman, Jimmy, but I'm loving every second of seeing your face.  I bet you can't guess who this young lady is!"

"I bet I can, and I think her name is Trouble," and he winked at the old woman who cackled.

The girl had gasped then pouted.  But he whipped out the bouquet for Aunt Ellie turning his back again on the pretty gal.  "It was the last one they had.  Wish it was a dozen roses, but hopefully daisies will cheer you up just as well."

"O lands sakes, Jimmy, if that don't beat all," Eleanor laughed.  "Here, let me put those in a vase for you.  You sure do know how to put Aunt Ellie in a good mood."

Aunt Ellie was already clomping as fast as she could go back to her chair, her throne as Jimmy liked to call it.  The girl sat perched on the edge of the sofa, so he found a chair to sit in as far away as possible in the little room. 

"Well, let me introduce another great-niece, Jimmy.  This is Anna.  As you probably guessed, she's Adelle's younger sister."

He glanced at her then away.  He didn't care if she was cuter than a girl oughta be, he wasn't interested.  These Amish turned Mennonite girls were not his type.  He'd dated a few Mennonite and other church girls to keep his mother happy, but then gave up.  For awhile he'd been going into the city to meet girls his friends wanted to set him up with.  They were too fast and all apart of the bar scene that he wanted nothing to do with.  They weren't his type either.  He saw enough of that seamy side of life as a deputy. 

He'd had a front row seat to the bar across the street from his Uncle Sid's gas station for as long as he remembered too.  At least Sid was maintaining his sobriety now better on his own.  Jimmy wasn't his constant babysitter anymore though the man had gone back to chain smoking.  Jimmy never claimed to be a miracle worker.

"So, Jimmy tell me the news of the neighborhood.  I already heard all about the big drug bust from your mother.  She's so proud of you, you know."

He grinned.  He did love his  mama.  "Well, we caught Old Man Peters out gardening in the nude again.  I don't know if he's getting senile, or if he just likes to shock his neighbors."  The girl Anna giggled.  He scowled.  Aunt Ellie was just giving him her rapt attention.  "Then a raccoon got in the grocery store over the weekend.  Since it was closed on Sunday, they didn't discover the damage until this morning.  What a mess!  It's amazing the trouble one critter can cause in such a short amount of time.  The Pearsons think they lost another goat to that mountain lion.  I checked out the tracks and called fish and game.  That's under their jurisdiction, but I hope the parents keep a tight leash on those little Pearson kids until they can hunt it down.  Unfortunately, I had to lock Elmer back up for beating his wife again.  She refused to be taken to the clinic, but I took pictures of her bruises just the same.  Let's see..."

"My goodness, I didn't know a fella could gossip worse than a whole room full of women at a quilting bee.  I'm surprised you let him go on like this, Aunt Ellie." 

Anna acted all astonishment, but he knew that's all it was, an act.  Jimmy whipped his head around to that niece and stared at her hard enough for a scorching.  What business was it of hers to try to give him a set down. 

Aunt Ellie only laughed.  "Why for crying out loud, child, without a newspaper, a telephone or a television how's a body supposed to know the goings on?  Jimmy's always been good about keeping me up on things.  Don't let her stop you, Jimmy.  You were just getting started..."

"Nah, that's about all." He yawned and stretched.  "I'm all for getting some shut-eye now that my shift is over."  He gave that saucy girl a side glance, "I hope I don't have to report any goings-on about some girl with that Stoltz boy though.  It's a good thing this town has eyes everywhere.  There's no such thing as keeping anything a secret for long around here, that's for certain."  He  at least got a little satisfaction at hearing the girl huff as she got his meaning.  And he would too: he'd catch her quicker than catching flies on a frog's tongue.

With that he took off his badge, put it in his pocket and kissed Aunt Ellie's cheek one more time.  "You take care, little lady, and don't get too rowdy with that walker-thing thinking it's your dancing partner or something."  He winked and let himself out. 

He loved hearing that sweet lady's crackling laugh as he walked out the door.  It did his heart good.  She'd been the one who had stood closest to his mom when his dad had run off with the preacher's wife.  The woman had brought over more casseroles and pies than they could cram into their freezer.  Ellie had held his mom as she cried herself sick night after night.  Then she never forgot the boys and would read them a bedtime story every night before she went home.  He'd adopted her as his own grannie from that time on.  But as for her great-niece, now that was a different story.  As much as he loved Aunt Ellie, he wouldn't stand for any matchmaking machinations, not even from her.  Nope.  He was staying as far away as he could from that pretty young thing.

What he didn't figure on was constantly seeing that girl whenever he turned around.  If she was walking into town along the dusty road, he didn't stop to offer her a ride.  If she was riding with the Stoltz boy in his Mustang, he'd tail them into town.  If she was at the grocery store, he'd turn and leave, sometimes  forgetting his groceries in his cart.  If she was at the library, he'd just drop off his book and not look for another though he'd paused long enough to look over her shoulder to see what she was doing on the computer.  It was that exam.  Good.  Maybe she'd get a diploma, get a job, and move out of Aunt Ellie's, maybe even move out of the county.  Now there was a cheerful thought. 

The problem was, she was causing a traffic jam in his head making all other lines of thought stop with her, the way she laughed, the way she looked in her cotton flowered dress walking barefoot from the mailbox, the way she twisted her hair with her finger, the whisps that fell from her kapp as she leaned over the computer in the library concentrating with her lips in a pout.  The way she sat too close to the Stoltz boy just about drove him crazy.  It seemed like the summer scene was the gathering at the drive-in for sodas, not just on Sunday nights, but almost every night of the week.  She was always there sitting on a bench by that young man laughing at his jokes and smiling while Jimmy watched from his patrol car.  When the boy'd reach to hold her hand, it made him grind his teeth.  She was nothing but a flirt rolling her big green eyes up at him.  Sometimes she'd look over at Jimmy in his patrol car and glare back at him.

"I swear, Aunt Ellie, that deputy is stalking me."

"I know you don't swear, honey, but I don't even care for that expression.  As a matter of fact, there's not enough room in our little county to keep from looking into everybody's business.  Besides, that's what he's paid to do.  In fact, you can't hardly blame a young fella for keeping his eyes on the prettiest thing he's seen come around since your sister was here.  He'd been pretty taken with her too."

"What?  Adelle?  He liked Adelle?"

"Every since the night she rode in late on the bus and was stranded at his Uncle Sid's gas station.  He was her knight in shining armor coming to her rescue bringing her out to my place."

"Well, he wouldn't do that for me, I'm certain.  He acts like he can hardly stand me," she groused.

"Oh honey, what's that saying once burned twice shy, or something like that.  He's just afraid of a cute little ol' thing like you," Aunt Ellie cackled.

"What makes you think so?" Anna twisted her kapp string.

"Why the way he wouldn't hardly look at you when he was here.  He's running more scared than a dog from a rabid cat.  Besides, his mother says he can't stop talking about you, how irritating you are showing up here with the Stoltz boy and there with the Stoltz boy.  He thinks you are running into him on purpose..."

"Of all the insufferable, conceited..."

 "You can't tell me you didn't notice how handsome the man is, or how nice he looks in his uniform or his jeans or..."

"Now I know you're just egging me on, Aunt Ellie," and Anna grinned along with Aunt Eleanor.

"You are a bad, bad woman for trying to be a matchmaker again, Ellie.  Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" Eleanor laughed.

"I've just been praying for my Jimmy for so many years.  Who am I to say that God doesn't have some special purpose in all this, Anna being here and all."

Anna walked back to her bedroom rolling her eyes, "Oh, Aunt Ellie, I had no idea you were such a romantic.  I bet you have some paperback romance novels stashed around here somewhere.  Besides, the Stoltz boy is more my type."

"I hope not.  He's known to be a bit on the wild side with a girl in every hill and holler in the county.  Be careful with that one, Anna."

"How do you know this stuff, Auntie?  No, don't tell me, Jimmy told you."

"No actually, he told his mother who told me, but you were close," and she chortled.

Anna just shook her head and went in to her room where she lay on her bed to think. 

"Does Tim really have other girlfriends?  Does he kiss them too?" she whispered to herself.  It wasn't that she was all  that taken with the guy, it was just that he had a car, and was happy to pick her up all the time to take her where the youth hung out in town.  He promised to take her to a real party this weekend too.  But her thoughts wouldn't stick to the boy any better than an old Bandaid to a new wound.  He was a boy, not graduated yet from high school whereas Jimmy was a man, a handsome but intolerable one at that.  She wondered how Adelle had attracted him while she didn't.   A pang of jealousy shot through her. 

But the real question was, would she risk everything by going to a forbidden party?  If she was found out, she'd be sent home.  Anna gritted her teeth.  If that happened, she'd run away.  As grateful as she was to her aunts, she couldn't be all they hoped she'd be.  The Rumspringa parties back home had been a lot of fun.  Maybe this one would be even more so.

Anna was wearing cut-offs and a tank top under her dress.  Flip-flops were in her large purse.  As soon as Tim picked her up at her mailbox, she took off her kapp, let her hair down and began unbuttoning her dress.

"Hey there, that's what I like to see!" he whistled and kept glancing at her instead of the road.

"I've got on my other clothes underneath, you idiot. Watch where you're going," she glared at him.

"You can't fault a guy for looking.  And you're a looker alright.  I like all that leg showing with your shorts too.  I haven't seen you out of your good-girl Mennonite dress before.  I think we are going to have some real fun tonight!"

"What is the plan, I mean, what will they be doing at the party?"

"Oh, there's a firepit to roast hot dogs and marshmellows.  Then we'll drink all the beer we want, some'll be doing a little dope smoking, but I'm looking forward to just you and me having fun..."

"You won't drink too much though, right?  You'll still have to drive us home afterwards.  I told my aunts not to wait up, but they still want me home by eleven."

"In your dreams, sweetheart.  I'm not going to let two little old ladies dictate to me how much time I'm allotted to have fun.  No sirree, and remember you're with me.  There'll be plenty of guys hitting on you tonight that you haven't met before.  I wouldn't trust any of them to take you home though without trying something, so you'd best stick with me."

Anna chewed her lip.  This wasn't going to be like she thought.  She'd expected Tim to respect her wishes but it didn't sound like he cared much.  This might be her ticket right back out of Mapleton, clear back home.  It was enough to make her stomach hurt just thinking about it. 

She tried again, "If I get to their house too late, they'll probably send me back home away from here, so I hope..."

"You can just go around and slip in your bedroom window in back and pretend like you've been there all night.  They won't catch on.  You worry too much.  Relax."

Anna looked out her window noticing how far out in the country they were going.  Tim turned on a dirt road called Elvis.  She thought that was a funny name way back here in the middle of nowhere.  Soon Tim was parking in the midst of mostly pickups.  Music was blaring. She expected to see people dancing, but they seemed to be more interested in drinking.  Anna saw several couple making out right there in the open, for goodness sakes.  Her eyes were as big as saucers.  

"Come on, Anna.  Let's go have fun," and he winked at her.  "Stick by me, and you'll be alright."

Tim seemed to be the youngest by far.  Most of the crowd were older.  Like he said there would be, guys were oogling her.  She grabbed Tim's hand and held on for dear life.  He went over to an ice chest and pulled out two beers and handed her one. 

"No thanks.  Do they have a Pepsi?"

Tim scoffed.  "Of course not.  Here, take it."

She did, popped the top and pretended to drink.  The taste made her shutter.  She never had understood how anyone would like the taste.  They must be desperate for the buzz.  When he wasn't looking she spilled some out acting like it was an accident.  Tim was already on his second and they had only been here ten minutes.  He was practically guzzling his. 

"Why don't you go over there and get us a couple of hot dogs and bring them over here.  There's the sticks to roast them on.  I'll hold your beer."

She shrugged and wove her way through the crowd.  A time or two, guys tried to grab her acting overly friendly in a drunk way, but she was able to pull away.  As she got the hot dogs, she glanced back at Tim.  He was putting something in her can.  That scared her like nothing else ever had.  She hurried back determined not to take another sip.  She wasn't stupid. 

"Here's the hot dogs.  I'll hold the drinks while you put the dogs on the sticks."  He grinned at her extra big.  She didn't like the look in his eye.

"Sure, sweet thing," and handed over the cans of beer. 

Anna could tell which was hers by the weight of what was left after spilling it half out.  She switched the cans as she gave him his back.  He leaned over to kiss her.  In fact, he forgot about the hot dogs and pulled her to him kissing her.  She tried to stop his hands from roving and pushing him away. 

"That's enough, Tim!  I'm not like that."

"We'll see," he grinned at her again with a gleam in his eye.

She began roasting the hot dogs in the fire pit trying to ignore him.  He'd slid down onto the ground with his back against the log where they sat.  He'd  finished her drink and was popping open his third.  At this rate, she'd be driving back home even though she'd never had a lesson yet from Eleanor.  Just thinking of her aunt made her groan.  How had this gone so badly?  She took the hot dogs to the table and put the works on them.  By the time she carried them back over to Tim, he was snoring.  She sat down forcing herself to eat her hot dog while staring at the fire.  Couples all around her were being so embarrassingly amorous that she was disgusted.  She wanted to go home. 

Anna heard Tim's phone ring and saw it sticking out of his jeans pocket.  She pulled it out.  He never stirred.  It was a kid from youth group asking where he was.  They were hanging out at the usual drive-through food joint.  How she wished she were there instead of here.

The mosquitoes were really bad, so even though it was hot, she put on a long sleeved shirt.

A guy sat down by her and said, "Whose dog is this?" 

"Yours if you want it.  Obviously he's not going to be eating it," she said pointing over to Tim who was leaning back with his mouth wide open sawing logs.

"Hi, I'm Dan.  What's your name?  I haven't seen you hear before." 

He sounded like he had gravel in his voice.  This guy wasn't the most handsome man she'd ever seen, but looked a whole lot better than Tim right now.  "I'm Anna," she offered.

He scooted over until his leg was brushing up against hers.  "Can I get you something to drink?"

"Not unless there's a Pepsi or a water."

"Nah, sorry, but there's a lot of brands to choose from," and he started naming off quite a few.

"No thanks."

"What are you doing hanging out with this idiot anyway?  If you want to have fun, you've got your man."  Though his grin seemed friendly enough, Anna was not about to trust a stranger about now.  

"I'm just going to wait until he wakes up.  I think he slipped something in my drink, so I switched it on him, and now he's the one sleeping.  It's the last time I'll ever hang out with him, that's for sure."

"Hey, why don't we get out of her and go somewhere a little quieter, just you and me."

"No, thanks."

Dan tried to put his arm around her, but she shook him off.  He was no small guy. His arms were more muscled than her stepdat's who worked all his life doing the hard labor of farming.  This guy probably lifted weights.  He just put his hands down around her waist then not taking the hint.

"Hey, I'm not interested, okay!" she protested jumping up.

"Maybe I am though," he stood and tried to pull her into a kiss.  She couldn't break his hold, so she stomped on his toe.

He let her go laughing.  "I like 'em feisty.  Listen, I'm going for another drink, but I'll be back.  Don't let any other guy take my place."

As soon as he left, Anna felt in Tim's pocket for his keys.  When she found them, she ran and locked herself in his car with her heart pounding.  These weren't teenagers but grown, burly men.  What was Tim thinking bringing her here?  What was she thinking coming with him?  She sat in the driver's seat and studied the dash and wondered which was the brake and which was the gas  petal trying to decide if she could drive the thing.  She saw Dan looking around for her so she ducked down out of sight. 

It was so hot in the car that she felt the sweat dripping after five minutes.  Anna cracked the window open just a little, not that it helped much except to let mosquitoes in.  When she couldn't stand it anymore, she rolled the window down a little more and went back to slouching down.

She about screamed when someone knocked on her window.  It was Dan not looking as happy as he'd been.  She'd heard alcohol made some people sloppy happy while others it turned mean.  Dan looked like he was the mad mean kind.

"Open up!"

"No thank you."  She kept her eyes glued to the phone and even acted like she was on it for a minute."

"This old rust bucket can't keep me out." His massive paws started pushing the window down.  Much more and he would have his hand inside to unlock the door. 

Anna called 911.  "Yes, I'm somewhere out on a dirt road called Elvis and a big guy is scaring me right now breaking into my car..."

He reached in and pulled open the door handle after unlocking it.  Then he grabbed her around her arm and jerked her out.

"Hey, that hurts!  I told you I don't want to hang out with you."

He just pushed her up against the car and penned her there crushing his lips against hers. She was not strong enough to push him away, so she just cried out a prayer and hoped God was faster than the sheriff.  It was obvious that the guy wasn't going to stop, and she began to cry.

"Miss, miss?" The dispatcher was still on the phone clutched in her hand.

She was able to yell a feeble, "Help!" before he forced himself on her more.  She didn't have a prayer, figuratively or in any other way, except she began hearing a siren in the distance.  It was getting louder. 

She finally was able to push him off enough to say, "I called 911. That's them, so let me go!"

"Well, you can just come with me then.  There's a back way outta here."

Anna turned into a wildcat then and began fighting him with all she had, kicking and biting, and stomping on his feet.  He twisted her arm until she could barely breathe as he pulled her through the randomly parked pick ups.  He picked her up like she was nothing more than fluff and pushed her into the cab and was holding her back with one hand while climbing in and shutting the door, only it didn't shut.

A deputy pulled him back out and spun him around, "You're under arrest."

Anna slid over and opened the far door and peeked over the bed of the pickup.  It was Jimmy.

That's when Dan started swinging. 

"Anna, call for backup!" 

She realized she was still holding the phone, and it was still on.  "Did you hear that?  He needs backup!"  Anna only thought she was crying before, but now she was into ugly sobs.  Dan was hitting Jimmy and hard.  So far he'd got in his own punches, but he couldn't stay standing for long.  She didn't realize how quickly a fight could be over if one went down.  Suddenly she was mad!  Anna started looking in the bed of the truck and saw a hammer.  She climbed in over the tailgate and went over where the men were still struggling, hitting each other with that sickening sound, and grunting.  As soon as Dan staggered to brace himself against the pickup before launching back into Jimmy who was swaying, she landed a good one with the hammer.  He dropped  into a pouf of dirt.  She'd knocked him out.

"What'd you do, Anna?" Jimmy was holding himself up against the truck now.  A couple more sheriff cars were pulling in and people were scattering including the crowd that had circled around to see the fight.

"I guess I hit him harder than I thought.  Are you okay?  Is he?  Did I kill him?" Anna swallowed hard.

"I've been better, but are you okay,...did he, did he hurt you?  And what were doing hanging out with him anyway? And no you didn't kill him, but he'll have a massive headache when he wakes up."  He was starting to glare at her out of the eye that wasn't swelling shut.  He bent down and put cuffs on the big guy just in case he woke up too soon.  "What were you doing hanging out with this guy anyway?  He's got a rap sheet longer than you are tall.  He was one of the meth lab suspects we were looking for.  He's probably on meth now is why he was acting so crazy with you."

"I didn't, I mean, I came with Tim, but he passed out over there.  I switched the drinks on him after I saw him put something in mine.  Evidently, it worked to put him to sleep instead of me."

Now she was crying tears of shame more than fear.  "I didn't know it was going to be a party like this."

Another deputy walked over and asked, "How old are you?"

"She's seventeen," Jimmy answered for her.  "Underage."

"I didn't drink, honest!"

"We'll have you take this Breathalyzer test just the same.  Climb down and stand over here by me.  Looks like Dan was working you over good, Jimmy.  I can't believe you stayed with him that long, pal.  Good job.  How'd you knock him out?"

Jimmy coughed and came away with blood on his hands where his mouth had been cut.  "Umm, she hit him with a hammer.  It did the trick."

The deputy's head swiveled back around like someone spinning a globe.  "You knocked him out?"
Then he started laughing.  He bent over holding his stomach and then had to hold onto the side of the truck to keep himself standing.

"Hey, aren't you supposed to be giving her a test right now?" 

"Yeah, right.  Okay, George Foreman, breathe into this."  He keep chuckling so that he almost did not hold it still enough for her to do what he asked.  "Are you the one who called 911?  Was this guy bothering you?"  The officer had his pad out ready to take notes.

Just then Dan was waking up woozy.  He still made it to his feet  madder than a bull when he realized he was handcuffed and standing in front of two sheriff deputies.  So he tried to glare her down as he let out a string of expletives that she'd never heard before.  It left her blushing.  The deputies muscled him over and pushed him none too gently into the squad car.  Then they both returned.

"As I was saying, do you want to press charges, young lady?"

"Yes, she does," Jimmy answered for her.  "I came on him attacking her and she was obviously trying to fight him off.  It's a good thing that I had heard about the party and was staked out at the turn-off to ticket drunk drivers when they left the party tonight.  Otherwise..."

"Yes.  I do," Anna said, hitting the hammer into her palm and staring over her shoulder back at Dan.  "And I want to press charges against Jimmy Stoltz too who put something in my drink.  It obviously was a date rape drug because he's still over there sleeping it off after I switched the cans without him knowing it."

The deputy raise his eyebrow and looked at Jimmy who nodded tight-lipped.  "The Sheriff will just have to deal with it, even if it is his son."

Anna gasped.  "I didn't know."

"It'll be harder to prove that charge unless we can get enough evidence from the can.  I'll go get it.  When you're done here, I'll take Anna home.  I know where she lives."

"I'll bet you do, you lucky dog."

"That's a little inappropriate tonight, Aaron."

He looked chagrinned over at Anna.  "Sorry, miss, no offense, it's just that..."

"Just take her statement.  I want to get out of here.  You can take Dan in and I'll get Stan to take Tim in to book him.  It's a good thing he's under eighteen is all I've got to say."

Jimmy stalked off.  The crowd had evaporated.  The other deputy was throwing water on the fire.  Ice chests were left everywhere as well as dozens of hot dogs and the fixings. She saw Jimmy point to the sleeping Tim, saw the shock on the deputy's face and the reluctance to be the one to take the kid in.

"Are we done here?"

"Yep.  Looks like this little lady is as sober as a choir boy and has managed to round up two offenders in one fell swoop."

Anna realized she'd be home by eleven, but not the way she'd planned at all.  It was all about to hit the fan, and she had the feeling that Jimmy was about to plug in the fan."

It was silent in the squad car. She felt sick about the beating he'd taken and couldn't look at him.

The lights were still on in the house when they pulled up. 

"I'll get you ice for your, um, face as soon as we're in the house."

"You just do that, then sit right down, and we'll have this out with the aunts.  I knew you were trouble the first time I saw you and wondered what on earth Aunt Ellie brought home.  I must admit, you were fighting like a wildcat back there.  Just no spitting and clawing against those two sweet little ladies sitting in there.  They don't deserve this, and I don't want it killing Aunt Ellie.  I might try to put a little spit and polish on the story for their sake, not yours, by the way.  I'd like to spare them as much as I can."

He was putting heaps of burning coals on her head speaking so nice and quietly.  Anna was used to her step-dat's angry yelling.  She was swallowing down shame until it made her want to throw up.  She nodded with her head down unable to look at him.


"As I'll ever be."

"Lord be merciful, what happened to you, Jimmy?"  Aunt Ellie tried to get up out of her chair three times but had to sink back and stay there.

As promised Anna went into the kitchen and made an ice pack for him then braced herself to walk the plank where the alligators were swimming below.

Jimmy glanced over at Anna and sighed.  "Your niece had a little problem tonight.  Instead of going to the youth group outing, she let Tim take her to a different kind of party.  When things got out of hand, she was smart enough to call 911 for help.  Fortunately, I'd gotten wind of the party, though I had no idea she was there or I would have gotten there sooner.  Anyway, Tim fell asleep and some bad guy decided to try to make unwanted advances.  That's about when I arrived and the two of us had a little go around.   The short story of it all is that two young men are in jail tonight because of her, one of which had outstanding warrants for his arrest.  I think that about sums it up.  What do you say, Anna?"

"Thank you," and she finally looked Jimmy in the eye, his one eye that was still open and not covered with an ice pack.  He was and would forever be her hero.  "And I'd also like to say, 'Bad company corrupts good morals,' will be my theme verse for quite awhile."

The aunts had not made a sound as Jimmy spoke.  They looked back and forth between them.  Aunt Ellie wiped away a tear and finally said, "Jimmy, dear, you are the best and bravest.  Thank you for rescuing my great-niece."

Aunt Eleanor looked a little madder, enough to make Anna cringe in that it reminded Anna of her stepdat, Eleanor's brother when he got angry.

"I know I deserve any discipline you could give me, but I just beg you not to send me home.  Anything, anything but that."

Aunt Ellie narrowed her eyes and looked her up and down saying, "Uh-huh.  Those are kinda skimpy shorts, young lady.  What kind of message were you trying to send to those young men?  I know, I know, it doesn't account for their actions.  They were dead wrong no matter how you looked.  But you'll be serving some community service beginning in the morning making and baking meals and such for Deputy Jimmy here.  Then we'll go from there after Eleanor and I get our heads together.  You might owe your life to this gentleman here."

"I know.  I know.  I prayed, but didn't know how God could answer in time.  But He did by having Jimmy near by before I ever called.  Thank you again, Jimmy.  It was wonderful what you did for me tonight, and I'll never forget it."

Something shifted inside, and Jimmy wasn't quite sure what it was as sore and bruised as he felt.

"Do you need to go the E.R. to be checked out Jimmy, for cracked ribs or bruised kidneys or something?"  Aunt Eleanor asked.

Anna stared at him fearfully as if he was about to break.  "No, but I think I'll get off from work early tonight and go home and get in a hot tub and pop a couple of painkillers.  Well, I guess that wraps it about up tonight." The look in Anna's eyes grabbed at his heart.  It made him hope she'd learned a lesson.  She'd been one foolish girl.  Thank goodness she'd grabbed Jimmy's phone and called when she did.  He shuddered to think what could have happened.  Anna walked him out to his car.

"I'm really sorry for all the trouble and pain I caused you tonight, Jimmy.  Truly I am.  I think I learned something the hard way.  Maybe I'll get smarter now."

"I hope so.  I must admit, I hated seeing that big beast attacking you like that.  It made me feel crazy in my head.  I'm glad you're okay." He stroked her cheek then jerked his hand back as if it were in hot coals of fire.  "Well, goodnight."

On his way to his apartment he just realized what Aunt Ellie had said.  She had told Anna she was going to begin by making him dinners.  Jimmy laughed.  If he knew Aunt Ellie, soon his freezer would be filled.  Food was the answer to nearly all problems in her book.  He took a deep breath then let out a long sigh.  It also meant she wasn't going to send Anna back home.  He scratched his head on that one not knowing if he was glad or sad.

In the morning, no one was very talkative.  Anna couldn't stop thinking about Jimmy, if he was hurt, how much he hurt, and how much trouble Tim was in.  But they baked and cooked non-stop and only spoke of menial things.  Aunt Ellie sat at the kitchen table and supervised.  Aunt Eleanor stood over her making sure she measured correctly, whipped the eggs enough, added the right pinch of salt here and one of sugar there.  Then while Aunt Ellie had a well-deserved nap, Aunt Eleanor drove her to the market to get more ingredients.
"I almost drove Tim's car out of there by myself last night, but didn't know how.  Do you think you could teach me enough so I could drive in case of another emergency?
Aunt Eleanor's lips were still in the pinched line, but she nodded and sighed.  "That would be for the best.  Maybe it would have saved you a heap of trouble last night if you could have gotten away sooner."
"Maybe if I'd made better choices it would have saved me a heap of trouble.  I deserved all I got, but Jimmy didn't."
"It's in his line of work."
Just then Anna sucked her breath in causing Aunt Eleanor to look over at her.   "But Mennonites are Pacifists.  He's a deputy.  That means he can't be a Mennonite."
"Probably not.  After his daddy ran off, his mamma couldn't handle going back to the same church.  So she switched and went to the Church of God here in town.  I imagine if Jimmy started going back to church, that's where he'd go, with his mother."
Anna chewed on her lip.  "I guess I never thought about it before."
She was relieved not to see anyone she knew in town, though it would be only a short time before the news of the party and the arrests would spread like wild fire.  Anna didn't know how she could face the kids in the youth group.
As they continued with their cooking in the afternoon, Aunt Ellie seemed a little quieter than normal.  Finally Anna said, "Aunt Ellie, I know I've disappointed you greatly.  I'm truly sorry, to both of you for the trouble I've caused."
The old woman reached over and squeezed Anna's hand.  "What's done is done.  Hopefully lessons are learned."
Anna nodded unable to swallow past the lump in her throat.  "I put the cut-off shorts and tank top in the burn barrel this morning.  I do have a question though." She paused collecting her thoughts. "I've realized  since Jimmy is a member of the law enforcement, he kept me safe.  He keeps the community safe like that drug bust he did earlier this month and all that.  So what do the Mennonites think about that?  Aunt Eleanor said that someone probably couldn't be a Mennonite and be in law enforcement, yet we rely on them, well on God too, but..."
Aunt Ellie thought awhile before she answered.  "Some communities might allow their members to be a part of that, the law that is, but probably not in the armed services.  They seemed to all draw the line there as far as I know, not taking up arms.  But it would be unusual for a church which has historically been pacifists to accept either law enforcement or armed service members.  Yet, if we want to be truthful, we are all blessed and protected not just by law enforcement, but also our armies.  So it is a very difficult question.  I knew when Jimmy went to the sheriff academy that he would not ever be a Mennonite.  But after what he went through with his mother, I knew he wouldn't be anyway."
She went on, "Indeed, I've never been so profoundly and personally thankful for what he did in the name of the law protecting you dearest. It has made me think, me who has been a Mennonite my whole long life.  Yes, we have martyrs who died instead of taking up arms to protect themselves.  And we honor them.  But to think that one would not fight back or aid a young girl being attacked, I can't imagine it.  It's going round and around in my head.  Pretty soon maybe the sharp edges will wear off and it will be smooth and plain to me."
"Did you know I took up a hammer and hit the man in the head and knocked him out.  He was about to overpower Jimmy, and if he went for his gun..."
The aunts gasped in astonishment.  "Jimmy didn't say anything about that last night."  
"Anyway, I don't know if I'll even be welcome in your church once it's known what I did.  In a way, I took up arms against another.  I just thought you should know."
Aunt Ellie was making some funny sounds making Anna worried, that is until her cackling began, Finally, she caught her breath after her laughter subsided and said, "Good for you, Anna!  Jimmy helped to save you, and you helped to save him!"
"Well, I'd do it again, but I still don't know about what the church will think."
"People are people and will probably line up on both sides and kick their toes in the dust.  Pretty soon it will die back down.  I'll bet you were surprised to learn about Tim's dad being our Sheriff.  He's not a Mennonite, of course being Sheriff and all, but Tim's mom is."
"Oh.  It's complicated, isn't it." Anna sighed.
"Life usually is, dear."
"I think you'll just have to take this a day at a time, Anna," Aunt Eleanor added.  "The story will come out in so many versions that only you and Jimmy will know the truth."
"Not even Tim since he slept through most of it," Anna mused.
"I almost have a harder time forgiving him than big bad Dan. It's terrifying to think what was in that young man's mind plotting and planning to take advantage of you.  Maybe he thought his dad would keep him out of trouble." Aunt Ellie wrung her hands.
"I heard that his dad is letting him sit in jail until they get the residual test results back on whatever he put in your drink, and I am glad," Aunt Eleanor added.
When someone knocked at the door that evening, no one was more surprised than Anna to find Jimmy standing there with a shiner.  His eye was completely swollen shut, but he still grinned. "Had to come see how the wildcat is doing," he said. 
"Let the man in, for goodness sakes, Anna!  Let me see your beautiful face, Jimmy."  When he bent to kiss Aunt Ellie's wrinkled cheek, she gently held his face and kissed him back on both sides of his bruised cheeks.  "Thank you, young man!  Anna's only been here a short while, but she's become very precious to me, to us.  And you rescued her."
"I'd have to say, I'm a little more appreciative now.  Did she tell you how she saved my hide and hers by hitting that hard head with a hammer using one right out of the back of his own truck?"
Aunt Ellie got the giggles again though Anna blushed and looked down.  Eleanor just smiled and said, "Now Anna's afraid they'll kick her out of the Mennonite Church for taking up arms, and the poor thing hasn't even joined yet."
Jimmy looked up and caught her eye this time.  "Really?  Are you worried what they might say?"
"I don't know how these things work here.  I doubt I'll be one of Tim's mother's best friends after this and you already know how these things get around."  She grinned and said, "Some people are just big gossips."
Aunt Eleanor brought out some of the berry pie she'd made this afternoon.  "Here's something Anna made you, Jimmy, a peace offering of sorts I think."
Anna couldn't help but watch his face as he took his first bite and closed his eyes, well closed one eye.  "Hmm.  That's good.  Did you put a little extra cinnamon and sugar in the crust?"
Anna bit her lip to keep from looking too proud and nodded.  "I'm glad you like it.  But how are you feeling.  Did you go get checked out at the doctor's today?"
"Nah, I know what cracked ribs feel like and even bruised kidneys thanks to my rodeo days.  I'll be okay.  I guess the other guy got a few loose teeth and a whale of a concussion..."
Anna sucked in her breath.  "Will I get in trouble for it?"
Jimmy laughed but held his sore sides.  "No, darlin' you won't.  But I'm getting teased something fierce about it though how you came to my rescue.  Yep, it will be all over soon how you are a hammer wielding wild cat alright."
Aunt Ellie laughed until she wheezed.  "I know a good Mennonite woman like me shouldn't get such a kick out of this, but I guess I'm just tickled my girl's okay thanks to your fists and her hammer. I'll have you know that she's been cooking and baking up a storm making a peace offering for you, young Jimmy."
He looked up and winked at Anna.  It was sure as certain a lot better than the way he'd done nothing but glare at her since she'd arrived.  She gave him a huge smile in return.  They sat there grinning and smiling until he said, "Why don't you help me load up some of these peace offerings in my car so I can take them home."
It took three trips with both of them carrying the casseroles and cake and pies and cookies out to the car.  Jimmy turned his straw hat in his hands round and round. 



"I was just wondering if you might, you know be uncomfortable maybe going back to Tim's church right away.  So, well, I wondered if  you'd like to go with me and my mother Sunday to her church?"
Anna was shocked.  She'd never expected such an invitation, especially from Jimmy.  "Y...yyes," she stuttered, "as long as it's alright with Aunt Ellie."
"She'll just be so tickled pink that I'm going to church with my mama that she'll do a jig with her walker.  That woman has never given up praying for me, probably almost as much as my own mother.  I thought maybe it was time for them to get a little dividend of my gratitude for all the times those prayers kept me out of hot water.  I hate to admit it, Anna, but there was a time way back when I was one of those kind of guys that went to parties like that.  It didn't take long before I realized that I had no one I cared to impress there.  Suddenly it all began to disgust me--most of all, I disgusted myself.  The last time I drank was when I drove away  from  Elvis Lane."   He went on, "And as far as I know, they're not pacifists at my mother's church, so they won't protest a young woman with a trigger finger on a hammer in their midst."
She was about to punch him in the arm for teasing him when she stopped herself.  "I suppose I shouldn't even do that, now should I?"
"Nope."  But Jimmy was no longer teasing but looked down at her with his one good eye and said, "I'm awfully glad God got me there when I did last night.  I could hardly sleep thinking about him mauling you like he did."  Once again Jimmy trailed his finger down her cheek, but this time he softly placed a kiss on her lips.  Finally, it was the kind of kiss she'd always dreamed of, gentle and tender.
She found herself leaning into him and almost fell over when he pulled back.  "Careful, sweetheart.  I think I've about got it figured out how precious you are and don't want you hurt.  I might have to bubble wrap you if it gets any worse."
"This is a lot better than those awful scowls and scorching looks you gave me when I first arrived.  What was that about?"
Jimmy rubbed the back of his neck.  "To tell the truth, I didn't want to get hornswoggled like I did with your sister.  I was just getting used to the idea of her being around when that Jed fella took her back away.  I didn't know she already had a boyfriend.  But mostly I was worried about Aunt Ellie.  It was as if the air went out of her balloon when Adelle left.  She started going down fast.  The lady could hardly get herself out of her chair.  That's when I went to your Aunt Eleanor and asked what she thought we should do.  The good woman just up and moved right in with her friend and decided she'd be the one to care for her.  Those are a pair to draw to."
"What's that mean, a pair...?"
"Oh, it's just card playing terms, sorry about that.  I just meant those are two good women.  I guess I was afraid that if you came here and left Aunt Ellie high and dry like your sister did, she might take another downturn.  I can see now that she's pretty attached to you, at least she's not sending you home, is she?"
"No, she's never threatened me with that, though I did beg pitifully that first night.  I think after visiting with my stepdat when they came to Adelle's wedding that they know how it is.  By the way, I want to thank you for not yelling at me last night when you had every reason in the world to do it.
That's what I was expecting, you know."
"Anna, I don't want..." he looked down at her locking glazes, "I want...I mean, I only want the best for you.  If that includes me, I'll be the happiest man alive, but if not, just so you're happy like your sister."
"Oh, Jimmy," she put her hand on his chest.  "I'm not much like my sister, you know.  I may not be a good Amish girl, or even a good Mennonite girl like her, but I want to be a good Christian.  This has made me realize that. I'm ready to put foolishness aside and live as Gott would have me live."
Jimmy cleared his throat.  "You know I can't be a Mennonite?"
"Yes, I asked my aunts about that today."
"And I may not have been living on the wild side as much as I let people think or not, but neither have I been walking with God.  This made me realize that it was time to change that.  When I was fighting Dan and feeling him getting the upper hand, I prayed.  God may have used a hammer in your hand, but still He answered my prayer.  I haven't found a Mennonite girl to steal away from her church or a worldly woman out there in some bar, but I was hoping that I might have found somebody who could come along side me on the new path that I'm taking."
"Someone willing to leave the Mennonites, you mean, even though she actually never joined?"
"Someone like that.  Do you know of anyone like that?"  He grinned enough to make his swollen-shut eye pain him some, but not even that could wipe a silly grin off his face.
 "I think Aunt Ellie has been praying kind of specifically for someone like that to come along, don't you?  And what do you know, here I am."  Anna grinned back, that is until he wiped the grin off her face with a kiss that was not rough, but not quite as soft and tender, more like hungry.
When he braced her that time so she wouldn't fall over, all Anna could say was, "I think somebody has taken a hammer to my heart the way it is pounding."
He put her hand over his heart and she felt it there too.  "I'd say a wildcat has sunk her claws in me, and I'm not wanting it any other way.  Come on and let's go back in so I can ask Aunt Ellie for permission to court you. After all, I think this was all in answer to her prayers."
"She has always loved you, Jimmy and has just been waiting to find someone who could love you as much or more than she has always done.  I'll gladly be the one."
And sure enough, Aunt Ellie danced a jig with her walker before collapsing back into her chair cackling with laughter.

Short stories tend to make for quick courtships.  This was an especially hurried up story since I accidently published it when it was only half-done.  So I might have set the record on a couple falling in love in this one and not developed the relationship to a great extent!  If not love at first sight, it was love at a second look.



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