Authors: Gayle Roper
Tags: #General, #Family secrets, #Amish, #Mystery Fiction, #Lancaster County (Pa.), #Pennsylvania, #Love Stories, #Christian, #Nurses, #Nurses - Pennsylvania - Lancaster County, #Religious, #Christian Fiction, #Fiction, #Romance, #Lancaster County
The two men hesitated. Then Elam said, “You’ll bring her in when she’s feeling better? Mom’ll be very upset if you don’t.”
Jake nodded and the flashlight suddenly went out completely. John and Elam walked toward the house where the soft, gentle light of Coleman lanterns and kerosene lamps glowed in the windows. No electric lights for the Zooks. No curtains to block the light either. They kept the
All except Jake. He’d rebelled, and the rebellion had led to his motorcycle and his accident. His mother thought his paralysis was his punishment from God, but she loved him fiercely anyway.
Jake rolled his chair—and me—back until there was room to shut the car door. The ceiling light went out and the darkness of the autumn night wrapped around us.
“Oh, Jake.” I sighed, my voice ragged.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispered, lifting a hand to wipe at my tears. His other hand continued to rest on my waist. Hawk sat beside us and stared at me.
“No.” I whispered. “Never.”
“Okay, Rosie.” His voice was gentle again. “What happened?”
“Lights,” I said, trying to explain. “Static. They died!” And I grabbed him about the neck and buried my face against his denim shirt. I couldn’t stop the tears. He wrapped his arms around me and held me, waiting for the storm to pass.
“It’s all right,” he whispered over and over again as he gently stroked my hair and patted my back. “You’re going to be fine. It’ll be all right.”
“No.” I drew a deep, quivering breath. “Even God can’t make it right.”
I felt his surprise. “Is this Rose the Evangelist making such a statement?”
Immediately I tried to cover my faithless tracks. “Not that God can’t get me through it. It’s just that what is done is done.”
“Ah,” he said.
We were silent for a little while. I rested against him, drawing strength from his strength, until I became so self-conscious that I had to sit up. In fact, I needed to get off his lap completely. I needed to remind myself that his lap wasn’t mine.
I straightened and stood. He let me.
“Why don’t you sit in the car?” he suggested. “Then we can be eye to eye.”
I nodded and opened the car door. I reached up and turned off the overhead light. I wanted the cocoon of darkness for a while longer.
Out of the side of my vision I saw Jake lift his body from his chair, holding himself suspended by his arms for several seconds. It was part of his routine to prevent pressure sores. Change position every fifteen minutes. Maintaining good health when confined to a wheelchair was no simple matter.
While he resumed his seat and wheeled to the car, I levered my seat as far back as it would go, then sat sideways, facing him, my feet resting on the ledge of the open door. Our knees met between us.
“Okay,” Jake said briskly. “Suppose we start with the first explosion.”
I nodded. “Did you ever have any Pockets when you were a kid?”
Jake looked at me strangely and said, “Yes. Mom always put them in all our pants from Father on down to Elam.”
Now it was my turn to look at Jake strangely. “Your father played with Pockets?”
“I doubt he played with them. He carried things in them just like I did.”
Realization dawned. “Not pockets.
“Maybe that bump on the head was worse than you thought,” Jake said.
“Capital P Pockets. The little cars.” I made a small rectangle with my hands. “Pockets Cars.”
Jake nodded. “Gotcha. And one of them exploded?”
I gave a little laugh. “I wish.” I was quiet a minute.
“Rose.” Jake tapped on my knee with an index finger. “You were saying?”
“Right. Well, one of my clients was Sophie Hostetter. Her late husband Tom was the one who invented Pockets, the little metal cars that get their name because they’re just big enough to fit in your pocket.”
“I had one Pocket when I was a kid. I found it at Kauffman’s Market when we went to get peaches for jam. Some English kid must have left it behind. I was fascinated with it. There I stood in my straw hat and Amish haircut, my little shirt and black broadfall pants, a horse and buggy waiting outside to take us home, and I had a car! My very own car!”
I was caught by the picture of Jake as a little boy, bangs dangling over his forehead, bare feet hanging out of too short pants, dazzled by the forbidden object. “What did your mother say?”
“I didn’t tell her. She was so busy lugging bushels of peaches around that she never noticed. I kept that little blue car hidden for years. I never even showed it to my brothers. When I was a teenager and went through my
, one of the first things I did was buy myself a blue car just like my Pockets one.”
“Well, I have the ultimate collection,” I said. “Sophie gave me the collector’s special case of sixty of the little things plus the plastic mat that’s a village complete with fire hall and police station. I also have the construction site mat with accompanying bulldozers and the racetrack mat with Formula One and NASCAR racers.”
Jake looked suitably impressed. “Do all the cars’ doors open, or was I just lucky to get a special one? I’ve always wondered.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never opened the set.”
“What?” Jake clutched his chest. “You have this complete set of Pockets, and you’ve never played with them? Have you no interest in the finer things of life?”
I actually grinned. “Thanks.”
He grinned back, the hard planes of his face softening. “You’re welcome.”
My smile slowly faded as I watched this man I was afraid I loved. “What happened to your Pockets?”
“I still have it.”
“I do. It’s on the end table in the living room. I kept it in my bedside table at the rehab center as a reminder that someday I was going to drive again. It took me a while to get my license, but I owe it all to my trusty blue Pockets.”
“Sophie would have loved that story. I wish I could tell it to her.”
“She died?” Jake’s voice was gentle.
I felt the tears again. “The explosion. She and her son Ammon.” I cleared my throat, pushing down the welling emotion. “It was her car that exploded. I was there.”
Jake, who had been leaning toward me while we talked, fell back in his chair as if someone had pushed him. “Rose! You saw this?”
“Well, I didn’t actually see either explosion. I had my back turned. That’s why I was knocked down on my face instead of my bottom. But I saw the fire.” I started to rub my aching forehead only to wince when I dragged my fingers over the lump. “Oh, yes, I saw the fire.”
“Rose, I don’t know what to say.”
I shrugged. “I’ve seen terrible things before. Scraping up people after accidents or shootings isn’t exactly pleasant. But I knew Sophie.” Again the welling of tears. “And there were all the lights and the static from the radios.” My voice faltered and fell silent. I gripped my hands and pressed them to my chest. I started to tremble again.
Jake reached out and took my hands in his. He pulled them down to his knees and began to rub his thumbs absently over the backs of them.
“You mentioned the lights and the static before.” He looked at me closely. “Why did the lights and static affect you so much? You’ve seen lots of revolving lights and heard lots of radio static in the course of your emergency runs.”
“Rhoda,” I said in a whisper.
“I thought her name was Sophie.”
“It was. But it reminded me too much of Rhoda.”
He shook his head in a flash of irritation. “Rose, you’re rambling again. Who’s Rhoda?”
“Was she with you? Was she hurt?”
“Rhoda’s dead. She’s been dead for fifteen years. This just brought it all back.” I started to sob. “I’m sorry. I feel like such a baby.” Normally I rarely cried, but tonight I couldn’t stop.
“It’s okay,” Jake said. “Memories can be very painful things.”
I glanced at him through my tears. His memories must be excruciating at times. I wondered which hurt him more, the memories of running freely through the fields, legs pistoning, effortlessly swallowing up distance, or of the agony and nightmare of rehab? And I cried harder.
Somehow I found myself on Jake’s lap again, his voice gentling me, his hand soothing me. I don’t know when I realized that I wasn’t crying for the past any more. I wasn’t even crying for Sophie and Ammon or for Jake. I was crying for myself and the fact that it had been fifteen years since anyone had rubbed my back and told me everything would be all right.
stood beside Jake’s chair and sniffed, I hoped discreetly. My nose was stuffed and runny at the same time, and I still wanted that box of tissues. But thankfully my weeping seemed over though my head ached and my eyes felt like mere slits.
“I’d better go,” I said, sounding all cloggy, like I had a major head cold. “I’ve given you enough trouble for one night.”
I reached for the car door, my movements slow and lethargic. I had run on an adrenaline high all through the aftermath of the explosions and the police interviews. This experience of intense energy and acute mental clarity was nothing new to me. It occurred each time I ran with my emergency crew, each time I dealt with the unexpected at some accident scene. The adrenaline was even responsible for my hysterical collapse. Too much juice. As a result, I couldn’t cope with my usual calm.
Equally familiar was the concomitant languor that struck with the draining away of the adrenaline. Now I had all the energy of melted ice.
“I need to get home,” I repeated.
Jake made a noise deep in his throat, one that said don’t be dumb. “Mom wants you to come in before you go.”
I thought of the way I must look, the way I felt. “I don’t think so.”
Jake continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “And you’re in no condition to drive anywhere anyway. You’re shaking like a leaf.”
Immediately I stuck my hands in my pockets. “I’ll be all right.”
Jake made that throaty sound again.
“Don’t threaten me,” I said, but with no heat. I hadn’t the energy to get angry. What I was was embarrassed. I’d made a blithering idiot of myself in front of Jake and to some degree John and Elam. The last thing I wanted to do was repeat the performance in front of the rest of the family. I wanted to get away so I could blush and squirm in private.
“Besides,” I said in a brief show of defiance, “what are you going to do if I leave? Beat me up? Send Hawk after me to corner me until you catch up? Tie me to the wheelchair and take me inside forcibly?”
“Get in the house, woman,” Jake said, ignoring my not-very-kind grousing. “Mom’ll be angry at both of us if you don’t.”
“Mary never gets angry,” I said. “She’s a lady and an Amish one at that.” She had been my patient as she recovered from her broken leg, so I knew whereof I spoke.
“Correction,” Jake said. “Mom never yells, but she does get angry. It shows in lumpy gravy and undercooked potatoes and shoofly pie without a wet bottom. Get in the house, or we’ll all suffer for your pride.”
My pride? I glared at Jake and he stared back, one eyebrow cocked in challenge.
“You’re a martinet, Jake Zook,” I muttered as I stalked up the walk to the house. “And you’re a fine one to talk about pride.”
“I bet you think I don’t know what martinet means, right, Rose? Well, I’m a college man now, you know, not a junior high dropout. And I recognize an insult when I hear one.”
“Good,” I snapped. “I’d hate for a good slur upon a person’s character to be misunderstood.”
I thought I heard a soft chuckle, but when I swung to look at him in the dim light by the front steps, he merely looked arrogantly back.
“Go on,” he ordered in true martinet fashion. “Get up those steps and knock at the door. Mom’s waiting. You’re keeping her and Father up.”
I narrowed my eyes at his gall. I wasn’t the one who wanted this visit. He narrowed his eyes back, as clear a dare as I’d received in a long, long time.
Then it hit me and I smiled slowly. “I know what you’re doing,” I said. “And you think you’re so clever. You’re trying to get me mad so I’ll stop being weepy.”
He snorted. “You think so, huh?”
“I know so.”
“Well, then, smart lady, get up those steps. I’m cold.”
Sudden, sharp guilt sank fierce talons into my raw conscience. He was cold, and it was my fault, keeping him out here in this weather all this time. He had been stationary long enough to make any able-bodied person chilled, but he dealt with a body temperature that didn’t regulate itself well due to his injury. “I’m sorry.”
He rolled his eyes. “Don’t you dare take on any more guilt! I’ve been out here because I wanted to be. Got that? But I don’t want to be out here anymore, so get inside. Now!”
I pulled myself up the stairs with all the enthusiasm of a kid going to the doctor’s office for a shot. I glanced over my shoulder, hoping against hope that Jake had wheeled himself off and I could escape. No such luck. He sat there, his hooded hawk’s eyes staring at me. With poor grace, I knocked on the front door.
When Mary answered, Jake said softly, “I’ll see you in the living room in a couple of minutes.”
He disappeared around the side of the house, heading for the
, an addition where his grandparents used to live before their deaths and where he now lived. He needed to use the ramp John and Elam had built for him there. He’d get himself inside, then wheel through his apartment to the connecting door to his parents’ house.
Mary was on me like a mama bear on her hurt cub. She tsk-tsked and patted my hand. She sat me in her favorite rocker. She examined my knotty forehead and felt for a temperature.
“Get a damp cloth, Esther,” she ordered. “And make Rose a cup of tea.”
“I’m okay, Mary,” I protested. “Really. I’m fine.” But unwilling as I’d felt about being with people, I had to admit that, like arid soil under a spring rain, my wounded spirit soaked up the love and concern she showered on me.
Jake came through the doorway into the great room that filled the first floor of the Zooks’ home just in time to hear me tell Mary I was fine. He made a noise of disagreement. I pointedly ignored him and let his mother pat my hand.