Chapter One

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Buttercup, the cantankerous rooster that Rebekah's doting little bruder Thomas insisted on gifting her and Joseph as a wedding present, crowed his trademark, pitiable crow as the Indiana sun peeked over the horizon. Buttercup was ornery enough to guard his flock of hens against any perceived threat, be it two-legged or four, but his crowing skills were severely lacking.

Rebekah stretched her arms over her head. Her eyelids were like stone and refused to open. "Joseph?" she murmured.

Her mann didn't answer.

She patted his side of the bed and forced her eyes to open. The sheets beside her were cold. And empty.

"Someone's up and gone with the sun," she whispered. Rebekah dragged herself out of the small, handmade bed she shared with Joseph. The world pitched and rolled, and her head felt airy, as though a breeze could knock her over. She listed against the dresser that her dat, Samuel, had made for them.

"Oh my." Rebekah's hand went to her stomach and bile burned the back of her throat. "I must have picked up a stomach sickness."

The roiling in her stomach bubbled as she felt her way down the stairs into the empty living room.

Still no Joseph.

She peeked into the kitchen and shivered in the morning's coolness. Steam rose from the coffee pot and gray, morning light tinted the window behind the gauzy curtains that she and her mamm, Elnora, had made together. The curtain Elnora sewed hung straight and true, while Rebekah's crooked hem hung oddly. She sniffed the coffee-scented air.

Joseph has been here. He made coffee. The trail is getting warmer...

She thought momentarily about pouring herself a cup, but another surge of nausea gave her pause. She hiccupped and leaned against the doorway.

Perhaps he is outside.

Rebekah picked her way down the front stairs. The dew from the yard was icy on her bare feet as she tip-toed to the barn. Sure enough, Joseph was there. Beside him, holding the lantern, was his new little shadow, Thomas. Her favorite little bruder had his own room at their house in addition to the one at their parents' house. Since she and Joseph married, wherever Joseph went, Thomas went, too. If Joseph went to town, Thomas went to town. Thanks to their constant travels, or adventures as he and Joseph called them, Thomas was the only nine-year-old in Gasthof Village who knew every backroad and shortcut between Montgomery, Indiana and Gasthof Village.

"Gute morning, little bruder." A smile flickered across Rebekah's lips. "I might be wrong, but I thought you stayed the night with Mamm and Dat last night."

Thomas grinned his gap-toothed grin at his schwester's unexpected appearance. The lantern light illuminated his freckled, round face beneath his wide-brimmed straw hat.

"You are right, I did go home last night."

Joseph, busy sanding a piece of wood that would be a chair at some point, raised his eyebrows and smiled.

Thomas continued. "Dat is still not feeling well, so I went to help Jeremiah make the wagon wheel delivery in Montgomery this morning. When we were done at the livery, I just took my secret trail back here. To my other home."

Wait... Dat is sick?

The memory of the heart seizure that almost took Samuel's life last year burst to the forefront of Rebekah's mind. He had collapsed in front of Thomas and Rebekah as they helped him in the barn, only a short time before she and Joseph were to be married. The man who bought his wagon wheels worried when the delivery was tardy and came out to check on Samuel, and it was a good thing he did. He saved her father's life.

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⏰ Last updated: Aug 12, 2021 ⏰

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