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Authors: Patricia Davids

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BOOK: A Home for Hannah
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It was the first thing that seemed to get through to the distraught wife. “No, don’t let them see this.” She turned her face away from the house.”

“Miriam, get back in the car, or so help me, I’ll arrest you, too.”

She ignored him. Concentrating on keeping the wife calm, Miriam spoke quietly to her. “The children have already seen this. They are going to need you to reassure them. You can’t do that if you end up in jail for assaulting a police officer. Do you have someone you can call? Do you have a family member or a pastor who can come over and help take care of the children?”

The woman shook her head and started sobbing again. “Danny and the kids are all the family I have. Please don’t arrest him.”

Miriam glanced toward the car, where her mother was watching with wide worried eyes. Looking at the young mother, she asked, “What is your name?”

“Caroline. Caroline Hicks.”

“Caroline, my mother is here. Is it all right if she goes inside and stays with the children for a little bit?”

Caroline nodded, but she couldn’t take her eyes off her husband. Miriam motioned to her mother. When Ada reached her carrying Hannah, Miriam said, “
Mamm,
would you please go into the house and stay with the children. Caroline, what are their names?”

“Danny Jr. and Mary Beth.”

Her mother nodded. “
Ja,
I will see to the
kinder.


Danki.
We won’t be long.”

Knowing that her mother would be able to soothe and calm the frightened children, Miriam focused her attention on Caroline. This woman wasn’t much different than the confused and frightened teenagers who showed up at Mariam’s door in the middle of the night.

Nick lifted Danny to his feet and led him to the steps, where he allowed him to sit and regain his breath. Danny looked up at his wife. “I’m sorry, Caroline. Please forgive me. I’ll never do it again, I promise.”

Caroline reached toward him. “I know you didn’t mean it, Danny.”

Miriam held back her opinion of men who hit women, and women who stayed with men who hit them. She knew the situation was never as black-and-white as it seemed. The best thing to do was to separate Caroline from Danny and get her to concentrate on what was best for her and for the children.

Taking her by the arm, Miriam led her down the block to a neighbor’s vacant front porch. She stayed with Caroline until Nick’s backup arrived. With a second and then a third officer on the scene, Miriam felt comfortable leaving Caroline in the hands of people who had been trained for exactly that type of situation. She walked toward the house and saw her mother putting Hannah’s carrier in the SUV. Looking around, she asked, “Where is Nick?”

“In the house. He said we were to go home, and he would have someone bring him by to pick up the truck later.”

Miriam glanced toward the house. She didn’t feel right abandoning him. “All right. I’ll let him know we are leaving now.”

She walked up the steps and entered the shabby, rundown building. She spotted Nick sitting on the stairs and talking to Danny Jr. The boy looked to be about five years old. Both he and Nick had their hands clasped between their knees. Neither one noticed her. The little girl sat with a female deputy on the sofa.

Nick said, “This sure was a scary day, wasn’t it?”

The little boy looked ready to burst into tears again. He nodded quickly.

Nick drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. “There is no way I can make it un-scary for you. Sometimes bad things happen and it’s nobody’s fault.”

“It might be my fault,” the boy whispered.

“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, but why don’t you tell me why you think it might be.”

It was a good response. Miriam waited to see how Nick was going to handle the child.

“I was making too much noise with my dump truck.”

“I used to have a dump truck when I was a kid. Is yours yellow?”

Little Danny shook his head. “It’s red.”

“But the back tips up, right? So you can dump your load of blocks or dirt?”

“Yup. I was dumping rocks on the stairs.”

“I’ve done that.”

Danny slanted a questioning gaze at Nick as if he wasn’t quite sure he couldn’t believe him. “You have?”

“More than once. And sand, too. My mom wasn’t very happy with me when I did. Can I see your truck?”

Danny nodded and tromped upstairs. He came down in a few moments with the red plastic truck in his arms. He sat on the floor near Nick’s feet and began rolling the truck back and forth, picking up the gravel scattered across the floor. Nick said, “I imagine you could carry a ton of rocks in that thing.”

“Yeah. I dumped my load on the stairs, but they rolled down and Dad stepped on one with his bare feet. He got real mad about it. Mom started yelling at him to leave me alone, and then...” His voice trailed away to nothing.

“And then something bad happened, didn’t it?” Nick waited patiently for the child to speak. He wasn’t rushing the boy or trying to put words in his mouth.

Danny Jr. rolled his truck back and forth for a while, then he rolled it into the stair step. He looked up at Nick. “Dad pushed Mom. She fell and hit her head on the step. There was blood everywhere.”

Nick laid a reassuring hand on the boy’s small shoulder. “Your mother is okay, Danny. It wasn’t a bad cut. Does your dad get mad often? Does he hit your mom?”

Danny Jr. shook his head. “No, so I know this is my
fault. I wish he could get a job again. He was happier then.”

“Has your dad hit you? Has he hit your sister?”

“No.”

Nick nodded. “Danny, I’m going to tell you something that I want you to remember. It is never okay to hit someone, especially a woman or girl, or a boy like you. It doesn’t fix things. It only makes things worse.”

“Yeah, I kind of knew that.”

“I could see you were a pretty smart kid as soon as I met you. Your dad is going to need some help. He needs help dealing with his anger. I’m going to see that he gets that help.”

Miriam was impressed with Nick’s compassionate handling of the situation. This was a new side to him, one she was glad she had a chance to see.

“Are you going to lock my dad up?” Danny Jr. asked.

“I’m afraid so. It’s the only way we can get him the help he needs. Your mom is going to need you to be strong for her.”

“She’s going to jail, too?” He was close to tears once more.

“No. I don’t want you to worry about that. A friend of mine who is a social worker will come and talk to your family about how to deal with being angry without hurting anyone. Now, your mom is pretty upset. She’s going to be crying, but I want you to be brave for her and show her that you aren’t scared. Can you do that?”

“Maybe.” Uncertainty filled his voice again.

“If you don’t feel brave, that’s okay, too. There are lots of times when I don’t feel brave.”

“But you are a cop.”

“Even cops get scared.” Nick rose to his feet and held out his hand. Danny Jr. took it. They crossed the room to where Mary Beth was sitting holding a doll clutched to her chest. Danny Jr. offered his hand. She took it and jumped off the sofa. Nick led them outside.

Miriam held open the screen door for him. “Are you sure you don’t want me to wait for you?”

He shook his head. “I’ll have a lot of paperwork to do after this. It’s best if you take your mother and the baby home.”

“All right. I’ll see you later.” She started down the steps toward his SUV.

He handed the children over to their mother, who was waiting by the squad car. As Nick had predicted, she burst into tears and hugged them both tightly. Inside the squad car, her subdued husband fought back tears as he said goodbye to his family.

Nick followed Miriam to his SUV. He stood beside the door as she got in. “The next time I tell you to stay in the car, Miriam, you’d better do it.”

His stern tone rankled. It wasn’t as if she had been a liability. Maybe she had overstepped the bounds, but she hadn’t been able to stand by and do nothing. She didn’t want to respect Nick’s authority or his abilities, but she couldn’t deny how well he’d handled himself and the child just now. There was a maturity to him that was both calming and attractive. His compassion for the young boy touched her deeply. Nick had become the kind of man she could admire.

Alarm bells started going off in her head. There was no way she was going to fall for him again. She couldn’t let that happen. It was easier to go back to being mad at him than it was to face the slew of new emotions churning in her brain. She scowled at him. “Fair enough, but the next time I see somebody about to swing a two-by-four at your head, I just might keep my mouth shut.”

He pressed his lips into a thin line. “Okay, I owe you a debt of thanks for that one.”

“Don’t mention it,” she snapped back.

Nick blew out a deep breath. “I’m sorry if I sound edgy. You may not want to believe this, but I still care about you. I don’t know how I could have lived with myself if something had happened to you because I brought you here.”

He was right—she didn’t want to hear that he still cared about her.

When she didn’t reply, he nodded in resignation. “Okay, thanks for your help and now get out of here so I can worry about my job without worrying about you and your mother’s safety.”

Miriam sketched a brief salute, started his truck and drove out of town. As he did, his words kept echoing in her mind. He still cared about her. What did that mean? Did it change anything? Oddly enough, it did. A small part of her smiled in satisfaction at the thought that Nick still had feelings for her.

They hadn’t driven very far when Ada spoke. “There is so much sorrow in the world. Will those children be okay?”

“It’s hard to say. If the family accepts and benefits from the counseling, then yes, I think they’ll be okay.”

“Do you think Hannah could have come from such a home?”

“I hope not, Mother.”

Chapter Eight

 

M
iriam didn’t know if she was disappointed or relieved when Nick didn’t come by the following day. Although he called several times to check on Hannah, Miriam was left to sort out her feelings about Nick without having to face him. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t see a clear path ahead of her.

That she was still attracted to him was becoming increasingly clear. That she told herself she didn’t want to revive those feelings didn’t help. It was as if her body was waking up after a long sleep. She had been moving through life, but the texture had been missing. When Nick was near, she noticed everything, from the brilliant color of the sky to the deep timbre of his voice. She was becoming aware that her life was lonely.

After having destroyed her brother and Natalie’s chance at happiness, she hadn’t believed she had a right to reach for that same kind of happiness. So why was she suddenly thinking about what it would be like to love and be loved in return?

Miriam’s emotions stayed in a state of turmoil over the following two days, but at least Hannah was doing better. Her episodes of fussiness and spitting up had passed. She began sleeping up to four hours at a stretch and woke up alert and eager to interact with anyone who would spend time talking to her. She was well and firmly on her way to embedding herself in Miriam’s heart.

When Thursday evening rolled around, Miriam wasn’t surprised when Nick’s SUV pulled into the yard. Tonight was the night the note said Hannah’s mother would return. Miriam knew Nick wanted to be here.

She was on her knees planting rows of black-eyed Susans along the front of the porch. Her mother was watering the rows she had finished on the other side of the steps. Miriam sat back on her heels.

Nick rolled down his window. “Can I park in the barn? I don’t want my presence to scare anyone away.”

“Go ahead. There should be room beside the buggy.”

“Thanks.” He strode to the wide barn doors, pulled them open and then drove his truck inside. After closing the door, he walked across the yard. He wasn’t wearing his uniform.

Miriam’s heart beat a quick pitter-patter when he smiled at her. She sternly reminded herself he was only being friendly and only here because of Hannah. She asked, “Do you think she will show?”

He stuffed his hands in the front pockets of his jeans. “Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve ferreted out the time and place of a local hoedown if she doesn’t. It will give us a chance to ask around among the teenagers and check more buggy tires.”

Hoedowns were gatherings of
rumspringa
-aged teenagers that involved loud modern music, dancing and sometimes drinking and even drug use. Amish parents often turned a blind eye to the goings-on, but their children were never far from their prayers. Until a child had a taste of the outside world, he or she could not understand what temptations they would have to give up to live orderly, devout Christian lives in their Plain community.

Ada said, “Supper is almost ready, Nicolas. I hope you like chicken with dumplings.”

He patted his stomach. “It’s one of my favorites, but you remembered that, didn’t you?”

She grinned. “
Ja,
I remember that you and Mark could put away a whole chicken between the two of you and leave the rest of us nothing but dumplings.”

Chuckling, she went into the house. Miriam rose to her feet and pulled off her gloves. Now that the time was finally here, she didn’t know if she could let Hannah go.

Nick tipped his head to the side. “Another killer night?”

She shook her head and smiled. “No, the new formula is working wonders. She actually slept for five hours last night. I’m just worried, I guess.”

“Worried her mother won’t come, or worried that she will?”

“Both.”

“I know what you mean.”

She nodded toward the door. “Come in. I’ll get washed up and we can eat. It may be a long night.”

During supper, Ada happily reminisced with Nick about the days when he had worked on their farm. Her mother’s chatter was unusual. Most Amish meals passed in silence. Nick cast several worried glances at Miriam when her mother brought up Mark, but Miriam kept silent. For some reason, listening to talk of her brother no longer brought her the sharp pain it once had. She missed Mark dearly, but listening to her mother’s and Nick’s stories about Mark’s life brought Miriam a measure of comfort. Mark was gone—he would never be forgotten. Not by Miriam and her mother and not by Nick.

When the meal was over and the table cleared, Ada went to bed leaving Nick and Miriam alone in the kitchen. He said, “It’s a nice night, shall we sit outside for a while?”

Miriam glanced at the baby. “Sure. Hannah will make herself heard if she needs anything.”

When they were both seated in the rockers on the front porch, silence descended between them. It was a comfortable silence broken only by the sounds of the night, the creaking of the windmill, insect chirpings and the distant lowing of cattle.

Nick said, “I’m sorry if Ada talking about Mark upset you.”

“She needs her good memories. It’s okay.”

From inside the house, Hannah began making noises. Bella came to the door and barked. Miriam rose from her chair and moved past Nick, but he reached out and grasped her hand. “We all need to hold on to good memories,” he said quietly.

Was he talking about Mark or about his memories of her? How would things have turned out between them if Mark had lived?

It was foolish to wonder such things, yet she did wonder.

His hand was warm and strong as he held her cold fingers. They quickly grew heated as a flush flooded her body. Bella barked again.

“Is there a chance we can be friends again?”

“I don’t know,” she answered quietly. She pulled her hand away and went inside, grateful that she had a few minutes to marshal her wild response to his touch. The simple contact of his hand had sent her reeling with a flood of memories. She remembered holding hands with him as they crossed the creek on the way to their favorite fishing hole. Once, he’d taken her in his arms to show her the way the
Englisch
teenagers slow danced together. Mark had been there, making fun of her awkward attempts to dance, laughing with them when Nick slipped and fell in the creek and his big fish got away.

They were good memories of a better time. Could she and Nick be friends again? She didn’t see how. Too much stood between them, but seeing Nick every day was helping her heal—something she’d never thought would happen.

After feeding Hannah, Miriam retreated to the cot in the kitchen. She slept in snatches, waking at every creak or groan from the old house. Nick, if he slept at all, lay sprawled on the sofa in the living room. Twice Ada came into the kitchen to check on Hannah and to scan the lane but no buggy appeared. When dawn finally lit the sky, Nick came into the kitchen and began to stoke the coals in the stove. After that, he fixed a pot of coffee.

When he had it brewing he took a seat at the table. Miriam pushed her hair out of her face and joined him. “Now what?”

“We are back where we started from.”

As much as Miriam wanted to help Hannah’s mother, she was secretly glad the woman hadn’t shown up. She didn’t want to give Hannah back. If only there was a way to keep her.

* * *

 

“Nick tells me you are coming to my wedding tomorrow. I’m so glad.” Amber had arrived for Hannah’s checkup on Friday afternoon. After she had weighed, measured and examined the baby, she turned her full attention to Miriam.

“I didn’t say yes. I said I’d think about it. Mother hasn’t been feeling well, and I don’t like to leave her alone with the baby.”

“Please come. I’ll stop by the Wadler Inn and ask Naomi Wadler to come and keep your mother company. She mentioned wanting to drop in for a visit. Tomorrow would be the perfect time. If someone can stay with your mother will you come?”

“I really don’t have anything to wear.” Miriam still felt strange about her last-minute inclusion. She didn’t know Amber that well, and she didn’t know Dr. Philip White at all.

“That is absolutely the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. You know that I have Plain relatives. My wedding is going to be far from fancy and as long as you don’t come in a bathing suit, I’m okay with what you wear.”

Miriam grinned. “I was just thinking how nice I would look in my teeny-weeny bikini.”

“Is it yellow with polka dots?” Amber’s eyes sparkled with mirth.

“How did you guess?”

“No, you can’t wear that. I don’t want Phillip’s eyes on anyone but me. Nick, on the other hand, will be sorely disappointed when I tell him what you had in mind.”

Miriam looked down at Hannah in her crib. “I’m sure that Sheriff Bradley couldn’t care less about what I wear.”

Amber tipped her head to the side. “I’m not so sure about that. Have the two of you overcome your differences? I had hoped that this situation would help. I pray that you can find it in your heart to forgive Nick for his part in your brother’s death. I know Nick as well as anyone can. I know he would never willingly hurt someone.”

Miriam wasn’t ready to discuss her feelings for Nick. “Can we talk about something else?”

“I’m sorry. I was out of line, wasn’t I? Phillip tells me I get carried away in my quests to right the wrongs of the world. Please don’t let my foolish mouth keep you from coming to the wedding. You have to come, if for no other reason than to meet the most wonderful man in the world. I won’t take no for an answer.” Amber gave Miriam one of her endearing smiles.

“If you can find someone to stay with Mother and the baby, I’ll come.”

Amber squealed with delight and hugged her. Later that night, Amber called to tell Miriam that Naomi was thrilled to come and visit with Ada.

The following morning, Miriam picked through the clothes in her closet with disdain. She hadn’t been lying yesterday. She didn’t have a thing to wear that was wedding appropriate. A stay in an Amish household didn’t lend itself to fancy attire.

Although she was sure the bride wouldn’t notice what she had on, Miriam was afraid Nick would notice. He had a way of looking at her that made her sure he could see all the way through her.

After choosing a simple green skirt with a white blouse, Miriam slipped on her favorite high-heeled sandals and went downstairs. Her mother was rocking the baby and humming an Amish lullaby.

“Are you sure you will be okay while I’m gone?” Miriam asked.

“I’ll be fine. Naomi Wadler will be here. She and I will have a nice visit. Do not worry your head about us.”

“I won’t be gone long.” Miriam gathered her purse and car keys from the small table by the front door. Should she leave? She didn’t want to disappoint Amber.

And Nick was going to be there.

The prospect didn’t fill her with alarm the way it once had. Nick was a good man, not the monster she had tried to make him out to be.

“Are you leaving, or are you going to stand there staring off into nothing?”

Her mother’s comment dispelled Miriam’s sober thoughts. “I’m going. My cell phone will be right here on the table. Nick’s number is in it. He will be at the wedding, too. If you need anything, he will get ahold of me.”

“You know that I don’t like that thing.”

Miriam crossed the room and dropped a kiss on her mother forehead. “I know you don’t like it, and I also know that you know how to use it. I’m not worried about you, I’m worried about Hannah.”

The frown left Ada’s face. “She hasn’t been fussy in days. We will be fine.

“Maybe I should stay home. I don’t know that Amber will miss me at her own wedding.”

“You told her you would come so you must go. Hurry now, or you will be late. There will be a lot of buggies on the road. Amber is very well liked among our people and many will want to celebrate with her on this blessed day.”

“Okay, I’ll go, if only to see what her future husband looks like.”

On her way out the lane, she met Naomi in her buggy coming in. That gave her one less worry. Her mother’s
prediction proved true. There were almost as many buggies lining the streets and in the church parking lot as there were automobiles. Inside the white clapboard structure of the Hope Springs Fellowship Church, she signed the guest book and took the arm the usher offered her. She allowed him to escort her to the bride’s side of the aisle.

The church was nearly full. Many of the guests were wearing Amish dress and children were everywhere. Soft organ music filled the air. To her dismay, the usher stopped and indicated a seat next to Nick Bradley.

She looked around quickly, but there wasn’t another empty spot close at hand. Unless she wanted to make a scene by cutting Nick directly, she would have to endure the ceremony seated beside him. Would he be able to tell the way her heart beat faster when he was close?

He scooted over slightly to make more room. There was no hope of finding a seat elsewhere. She graciously thanked the usher, sat down, gave Nick a friendly smile and proceeded to ignore him. What she couldn’t ignore was the rapid rush of blood to her skin. She opened her collar slightly and fanned herself.

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