Sarah’s mind came back to the basket of wet clothes waiting to be hung on the line. She hung the dishtowels together, then the underclothes and socks. She remembered the conversation with Aunt Martha several days after that first date. Sarah was peeling potatoes and Aunt Martha was frying chicken. Martha asked, “How was your date on Sunday night?”
Sarah asked, “Why do you want to know?”
“I was only curious after what I learned today.”
“What was that?”
“Jacob played a joke on his friend. He likes playing jokes on people.”
Sarah remembered what Jacob had said about Lester playing jokes on people. “What kind of a joke?” she asked.
“Someone asked him where you were staying, so he could ask you for a date. Jacob gave him directions to someone else’s place over in Troy, which is fifteen miles from here. While he drove over there, Jacob hitched up his own horse and came here to ask you for a date.”
“Who was it?”
“Was he sitting next to Jacob at church on Sunday?”
“Yes, he has dark hair and wears glasses.”
“Oh, I know who he is.”
“So if you would rather have a date with Harvey, you should say no if Jacob asks you and Harvey might try again. Pretty soon your parents won’t let you come to Geauga anymore. They might blame us for marrying you off too quickly. Your mother needs you at home, with all those children.”
“I’ve only had the first date with him. I haven’t even thought about marrying. I’m only eighteen.”
“I know, but sometimes things can happen quickly. Your mother has her hands full.”
No one knew better than Sarah. She hated when her father came home drunk in the night. She could hear his bumping through the living room, on his way through the dark house. She always lay there, waiting to see if things would quiet down, once he got to the bedroom.
The mornings after he came home drunk, Sarah had to watch her step. His eyes followed every move she made, until he could find fault with something she said or did. One morning she didn’t want to anger him, so she whispered to her sister Susie, “I need your help after school to wash the windows on the outside.” She heard her father get up from the table, where he was smoking his pipe. He lunged at Sarah and said, “I’ll teach you for talking behind my back!” He hit her across her face. She turned her face away from him, then he hit her back and her shoulders. Her mother tried to stop him.
Sarah had gone to her room and lain on her bed, crying, after he finally stopped. She heard her younger brothers and sisters leaving for school, then her mother crying, and trying to talk to her father. He shouted, “You teach your daughter to hate me! I know what you are doing!” Then came the crashes that sounded like the house was falling in.
Sarah rushed downstairs in time to see him swing a chair to the ceiling and bring it to the floor with a mighty crash. Then he grabbed a glass from the table and threw it at her mother. It hit her in the cheek and crashed to the floor, where it broke at her feet. Her cheek swelled quickly. Her father stomped out to the barn. Sarah put warm water into the wash basin with a washcloth. She wrung it out and put it gently on her mother’s face.
“You must never tell anyone what happened,” her mother said.
“But, Mem, how can anyone help us if we don’t tell?”
“Nobody will believe us if we say he goes out drinking. The other Amish think only young boys drink while they are still sowing their wild oats.”
“But, how can they not know. Don’t they see him in town when he is drinking?”
“I think he is careful who sees him by staying with the English, and hopes they won’t tell.”
“Isn’t there something we can do?”
“I’m afraid they would say it’s our fault, for not doing as he tells us to. I think we better get on with our work.” Sarah’s mother had gotten wearily to her feet and said, “You need to sweep up the glass.”
I’m so glad Jacob isn’t like Dad, Sarah thought as she hung the bath towels on the line. She remembered how Lester saw her in the washhouse one day, one his way into the kitchen with a pail of water. He said, “Jacob wants me to ask you something.”
“What?” Sarah asked.
“He wants to know whether you would like to go steady.”
Sarah had enjoyed all eight dates she’d had with Jacob. She heard her heartbeat pounding in her ears as Lester stood there, waiting for her answer. She said, “Yes.”
They had been exchanging letters and visits since then. When she went to Geauga they met at Aunt Martha’s and they often attended the young folks’ gatherings together.
After the midday meal, Sarah did the dishes and swept the floor. She was thinking about Jacob as she carried the broom downstairs instead of putting it outside the kitchen door. She sheepishly put the broom back upstairs, hoping her mother hadn’t noticed. Her mother said, “You are being absent-minded again. You have been bitten by the love-bug.” She smiled when Sarah blushed.
“At least he doesn’t drink,” Sarah said, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Her mother’s smile had vanished. The hurt in her eyes made Sarah feel guilty. It wasn’t her mother’s fault. She looked out towards the barn and saw her father hitching the team to the wagon. Sarah wondered if he planned on going into town again.
“Just let him hit me one more time, and I will run so far away he will never reach again!” Sarah said.
“Oh, Sarah, you have no idea, sighed her mother with tears in her eyes. Then she picked up baby Mary from the floor to change her and put her down for a nap. Sarah gave the dish towel a good shake before hanging it on the rack behind the woodstove. Then she went out to the clothesline and took down fresh wash from the line. Her good mood had vanished. I hate Dad and I wish he was dead, Sarah thought.
To be continued…