Authors: Lisa Harris
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Romance
“Please come,” Koby begged.
“Would you mind, Lidia?” Adam shifted uncomfortably beside her.
Her breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t determine if she was more nervous or excited with the opportunity to prolong their time together. “Of course not.”
“I’m not much on socials, and I don’t promise to try any beets …”
Koby laughed. “Then, if we’re all going, we’d better hurry.”
Lidia followed them into the house and tried to untangle the web of confusion she felt tugging at her. Part of her longed for Adam to acknowledge that he cared for her. Another part wanted to run away and forget that she’d ever met him.
I don’t know what to do anymore, Lord. Please, show me Your will for my life
Stopping at the threshold of the living area, Lidia reached into her pocket and fingered the one-page letter she’d written to Mr. Smith. The thin paper crinkled between her fingers. All she had to do was send it in the mail, and if Mr. Smith agreed, she and Koby could be on the next train to New Mexico. Surely she and Mr. Smith would be able to find a way to make a marriage work.
If that was true, though, then why was her heart begging her to stay?
Lidia watched Koby mingle with a group of friends on the other side of the newly constructed barn. He was eating a plate of noodles and cabbage and laughing as if the world were free from any cares.
Adam, on the other hand, stood beside Lidia looking uncomfortable in his starched white shirt and black pants. He seemed to have enjoyed working with the other men during the barn raising, but now that the celebration had begun, he’d grown quiet and reserved. Standing rigid, he pulled at his collar, then shoved his hands into his pockets. He didn’t have to say anything for her to recognize that he felt like a frog in a bees’ nest.
The structure bustled with activity around them. A dozen couples stomped their feet on the rough wooden floor in the center of the barn as they danced to a Polish folk song played by a group of fiddlers. The vivid colors of the women’s skirts swished before her, while smells of sawdust mingling with savory meats filled the air.
Lidia looked up at Adam, her hands behind her back. “Are you sorry you came?”
“Of course not.” He tugged on his collar again and chuckled. “Though to be perfectly truthful, I could have done without the beet soup.”
Lidia laughed. He’d finished off two bowls of Hunter’s stew with relish but had sampled the cucumber beet soup under protest. “I don’t suppose it’s a crime to dislike beets.”
“I hope not. I’ve always tried to avoid that and squash.”
She smiled, reminded of what she liked about him. He might not be one for social gatherings, but he was handsome, honest, and he made her laugh.
“I hate liver and cooked spinach,” she confessed, enjoying the festive spirit around her and the growing camaraderie between them. Only a few short hours ago, she’d been ready to take the next train out West in reply to Mr. Smith’s advertisement. But with Adam standing beside her, she felt the now familiar tugging of her heart begging her to stay and at least see what might happen, if anything, between them.
The fiddlers stomped their feet and picked up the tempo a notch. Lidia loved celebrations like today. The music lifted her spirits and set her heart soaring. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine her father’s wide hand on the bow of the violin and her mother’s smile as she swayed to the music from Poland.
Jarek’s image flashed before her.
Jarek murdering Samuel … His face on the wanted poster … Jarek running from the law … Jarek killed at the hands of a bounty hunter …
Guilt overwhelmed her.
I shouldn’t be here, Lord. I shouldn’t be smiling. There’s too much pain to laugh again
The music closed in around her, but this time the beauty had vanished. The room moved in slow motion. Someone laughed. Voices buzzed in the background.
It’s time to turn your mourning into dancing
Lidia gripped the edge of the wooden table beside her and attempted to keep her balance. How many times had she prayed that God would turn her sorrow into joy? That she would hear laughter once again in Koby’s voice? That she would be able to dance with joy?
Dance, Lidia. Dance for joy, for I will make you whole again
“Lidia. Are you all right?” Adam’s fingers brushed her elbow.
She stared up at him. “I don’t know.”
Another song started, and her foot tapped automatically to the familiar rhythm.
“Let’s dance.” Lidia blurted out the words before realizing how forward she sounded, but for once she didn’t care. “It’s a traditional
from Poland. You’ll be able to catch on—”
“No, I’m sorry. …” He took a step backward. “I can’t. I’m sorry. … I’m not much for dancing.”
Lidia swallowed her disappointment.
I came to set you free, Lidia. Dance for joy!
She glanced up at Adam, who gave her a weak smile. Lidia stepped out onto the floor with the other dancers and quickly chose a partner. She let the music fill her senses, her heart racing as she kept up with the quick tempo of the fiddler. She slid her foot sideways, then clicked her heels together, following the basic steps her mother had taught her as a young girl.
The music grew louder. How long had it been since she’d felt this free? Free to forget all the pain and loss she’d experienced the past two years and to simply live. This was a day for celebration. A day for new beginnings. Wasn’t that what God was trying to tell her? Of course she’d never be able to forget Jarek. He’d always be a part of who she was—just like she’d never forget her parents. She couldn’t change the past, but it was time to move on.
Give me a clean start, Lord
She glanced at Adam, who still stood on the sidelines.
Is it too much to ask for a new start with Adam, as well?
Her feet kept time to the beat. She held her head high and let her arms move gracefully until the final note. The song ended too quickly. Trying to catch her breath, she moved away from the center of the floor.
Adam held up two glasses of punch in his hands. “I thought you might like something to drink.”
“Thank you.” Lidia took a sip, then placed her free hand on her heart, not sure if its rapid beat was from the exertion or Adam’s nearness. “What did you think?”
“That I’m glad I didn’t let you twist my arm into joining, though the dance was beautiful.” His voice was barely above a whisper. “And so are you.”
Lidia felt the heat in her cheeks rise. “It’s a traditional dance that my people have done for centuries. It’s a celebration of who we are.”
He took a swallow of his drink. “You … you seem happier tonight.”
“Being here today has confirmed who I am. It’s reminded me that God can still give me happiness despite what’s happened.”
“Adam.” Eric Johnson’s voice broke into their conversation. “We could use your help over here for a moment.”
Adam turned toward a group of men talking in the corner of the barn. “I’m sorry, Lidia. If you’ll excuse me.”
Lidia finished her punch and watched Adam join his father and several other men. The entire Johnson family had worked hard to finish the new barn for their neighbors. Sarah, Ruby, and Anna danced in circles along the side. Michaela, with little Daria clinging to her skirts, visited with several of the married women. It amazed Lidia that God had used this family to teach her so much about love, family, and true forgiveness.
“I didn’t know you were such a talented dancer, Lidia.”
“Silvia?” Lidia turned to her old acquaintance. She’d seen the young woman only a handful of times since her parents’ death.
Silvia swayed to the music, letting the bottom of her dark green dress swish beneath her. “You looked as if you were enjoying yourself.”
“I did. It’s been quite a while since I had so much fun.”
“That is a shame. I heard that you’re working out at the Johnson farm now. A bit better, I suspect, though, than working at the mills.”
Lidia stood up straight, determined to ignore the obvious jibe in Silvia’s remarks. “I’ve always considered it a privilege to be able to provide for my brother and me.”
“You are fortunate in that sense, I suppose.” Silvia twirled the long sash that hung at her waist. “Adam Johnson is quite a good-looking man, isn’t he? I know I certainly wouldn’t mind working around him.”
Lidia nearly choked. “Yes, I suppose he is. Good-looking, I mean.”
“You suppose? Don’t tell me you’ve never noticed.”
Lidia sighed, wondering if there was a way to escape without being rude. She’d forgotten how annoying the woman could be. Still, she couldn’t deny the obvious. “He’s very good-looking.”
“So you have noticed.” Silvia smiled, and Lidia wondered what her motivation was with the personal questions. “I understand he even owns his own farm. A decent, hardworking man. You can’t ask for much more than that, can you?”
“I suppose not.”
“I saw him talking to you. Don’t tell me you actually think he’s interested you.”
“I don’t know. I …” The question caught her off guard.
“You are interested, though, aren’t you? I saw the look you gave him right before he was called away.” Silvia leaned forward. “Don’t fool yourself, Lidia. If it weren’t enough that you’re an immigrant working out in his father’s home, your brother murdered his brother—”
“That’s none of your business.”
“Maybe not, but no matter how hard you try, nothing can change the fact that you’re not a native-born Yankee girl. Or that the people of this town will never completely accept you. You know how they think about girls who work outside the house. That’s why my mother would never allow her girls to participate in such an undignified occupation.”
“I’m an American. I’m Polish, and proud of both.” A lantern dangled above her, casting eerie shadows across the barn wall. Lidia’s stomach felt queasy despite her bold stance.
“Being an American is easy to talk about, especially when you stand here surrounded by music from the motherland and more Polish food than an army could eat in a week. But you can’t deny the fact that people look down on girls like you who work out on the farms. Manual labor is something no proper lady would ever be caught doing.”
Lidia refused to back down. “There’s nothing wrong with what I do, and besides, Adam’s different.”
“He’s not different, Lidia. You just want him to be different. The reality is he’ll settle with someone like me who comes from a well-to-do family and who would never lower her standards to be a servant.”
Lidia held her breath as Silvia spun on her heels and walked away. The woman was incorrigible. Silvia held her head high as if she’d just done some noble deed by putting Lidia in her place.
Lidia pressed the fabric of her dress between her fingers. She couldn’t argue with what Silvia had said. No Yankee or prosperous immigrant family would ever hire out their daughters to do housework at the local farms or in town. The jobs were given to impoverished girls like Lidia, most of whom were more than willing to help out their families by working outside the home. Still, Lidia knew what the women in town thought. All girls wanted to be ladies, and it was degrading to be hired help.
Needing some fresh air and a chance to gather her thoughts, Lidia escaped through the large doors of the barn into the moonlight. Silvia had only confirmed something she’d known all along. The Johnson family had taken her in and treated her like family, but that wasn’t enough. She would never be like Adam. She would always be the hired help. She’d wanted Adam’s confession to change things between them, but was that even realistic? He’d tolerated the food and passed on the dancing, things that were so much a part of who she was. Would being born a Yankee have made him see her differently?
You were chosen to be who you are from the beginning, Lidia. You’re Mine and I love you
Lidia slowed her steps as she continued along the path toward the house. Words from her Savior filled her mind once again. They were words she wanted to believe, yet—
Lidia, I chose the exact time you would come into existence, and the exact place where you would live
She stopped beside a fallen tree, stepping over it so she could sit on its trunk and overlook the valley below. She clung to the words, knowing that they were true. Her heavenly Father loved her. What had the Psalmist written about her existence? God had created her, knit her together in her mother’s womb, and every day ordained for her had been written down before she breathed her first breath.
The thought was too incredible for her to comprehend.
Music filtered into the night air … a million stars hung above her … a gentle breeze tugged at the base of her neck. … For too long, she’d lost her joy in the beauty of God’s world and in His creation that surrounded her. Yet slowly, God was working to restore her joy.
No matter what happened around her—death, prejudice, injustice—she had to hold to one truth. Her existence wasn’t a mistake. Men might live their lives full of hatred, but that would never change the fact that she’d been created in God’s image. And He loved her.
She ran her fingers against the smooth bark of the fallen log. Silvia’s words played in the back of her mind. She glanced up the hill and into the lighted barn. There was no denying that she’d seen the haughty expressions on people’s faces when she’d gone into town. They might never consider her to be as good as they were, but she wasn’t going to believe the lies anymore. What she’d told Silvia was true. She was an American and she was Polish. And she was proud to be both.
There was one other thing that was true, as well. If anything were to ever happen between she and Adam, he was going to have to accept her for who she was.