Footsteps on the porch reminded him that he was not alone. Ruby stepped to his side, her eyes searching his face.
“What did the doctor say? Lovinia is going to recover, isn’t she?”
Gideon shook his head, not trusting his voice. He swallowed. “He said her heart is weak.”
Ruby pressed her fingers to her lips. “It can’t be. He could be wrong.”
“I would like to believe that, but I know she is suffering–” His voice broke. She had been ill for years, and he hadn’t noticed. He had been too wrapped up in his own work, believing that her tiredness was a passing thing. “I don’t know how to tell the children.”
“You should go to her, first.” Ruby said. “I’ll care for the children, but you need to be with her.”
Ruby wiped away a tear that trickled down her cheek, pulling her bottom lip in between her teeth. The corners of her mouth quivered, but she gave him a smile.
“Lovinia needs you now. She needs you to be strong. Let her know that you and the children will be all right after she’s gone. She worries about you.”
Gideon glanced toward the upstairs window. The dark pane reflected the afternoon light. Even now, Lovinia’s heart could be taking its last beat. He couldn’t waste a minute of the time they had left together.
He laid his hand on Ruby’s. “Will you tell the children? About Lovinia? They love you and trust you. I don’t think I can do it.”
She paused, then drew her hand out from under his. “I could give them the news, but they need to hear it from you. You’re their father.”
Ruby was right. He needed to be with his children when they heard this. He squeezed his eyes closed. How could he tell them something so painful? How could he comfort them when he couldn’t find comfort for himself?
“Will you be there with me then, when I tell them?” His throat tightened, and he looked at the woman beside him. “If they ask questions, I won’t have the answers for them.”
She nodded, her freckles dark against her pale skin. “We will do it together with the Good Lord giving us strength.”
Gideon turned away and headed toward the house and Lovinia. Mein Herr. Where are you? I feel like you have abandoned me in my hour of need once again.
He took the stairs two at a time, then paused in the doorway of the bedroom. Lydia had come to sit with his wife while he had been outside, and now the older woman rose from the chair.
“I’ll be downstairs if you need me.” She drew him out of the room and onto the landing at the top of the stairs. “When she goes to sleep, will you come down and let Abraham and me know what the doctor said?”
“Ja, for sure.”
He slipped into the room and took Lydia’s place in the chair.
Lovinia opened her eyes and smiled when she saw him. “I’m glad you came back.”
“Shh. Don’t talk. Save your strength.”
She ignored him. “I know what the doctor told you. I’m going to die, aren’t I?”
Gideon’s throat squeezed at her words. “You’ve always been stronger than I am. The thought of losing you scares me like nothing else I’ve ever faced.”
“You’ll be fine without me.” She took his hand. “The Good Lord will give you the strength you need.”
Mein Herr, I don’t need your strength. I need my wife.
“I want you to promise me something.”
Gideon tightened his grip on her hand. “Anything. I’ll do anything you want.”
“I want my children to have a stepmother who loves them, and I want you to have a wife who can work alongside you in ways that I’ve never been able to do.”
“Don’t talk about that. We need to spend our energy on making you well.”
Lovinia laid back against her pillows, waiting until her breathing returned to normal. “I’m not going to get well, and I don’t want to spend the time I have left arguing with you and worrying about the children.” She rested again. “I want you to marry Ruby.”
The memory of his first sight of Ruby Weaver flashed through his mind, with her manly stride and curly red hair escaping from the confines of her kapp.
“I can’t marry Ruby.” He shook his head. “I can’t even consider marrying someone else. Lovinia, don’t ask this of me.”
“I didn’t ask you if you wanted to marry her, I asked you to promise me that you would.” Lovinia’s chest rose and fell as she struggled to catch her breath. “I love her like a sister, and I know you will grow to love her too.” She squeezed his hand in hers, but her grip was weak. “Promise me, Gideon. Promise. Please.”
“Promise me. Then I can rest assured that you and the children will be taken care of.”
Gideon watched Lovinia’s face, the dark circles around her eyes and the blue-tinged lips. Her life was so fragile . . .
“Ja, for sure.” At his words, her set mouth relaxed. “I promise. Whatever you want, I’ll do.”
(C) Jan Drexler, Revell, 2019
The Amish of Weaver’s Creek Book #2
Ruby Weaver’s curly red hair isn’t the only thing that sets her apart from her Amish community in 1863. Twenty-eight and single, Ruby doesn’t believe a woman needs to be married in order to be happy. Her ailing friend Lovinia Fischer, however, has other ideas and wants Ruby to promise to marry her husband after she dies. Never imagining she’d have to fulfill that vow, Ruby agrees. And she’s not the only one. Lovinia has extracted a similar promise from her husband, Gideon.
With both Ruby and Gideon reluctant to keep their promises, a compromise must be reached. Ruby will spend her days with Gideon’s family–helping to raise the children and keep the house–but her nights will be spent at her sister’s neighboring house. But this arrangement raises eyebrows in their conservative Amish community, and it soon becomes clear that Ruby must make a decision–marry Gideon or turn her back on her friend, the children she’s grown to love . . . and their father.
About Jan Drexler
Journey to Pleasant Prairie | The Amish of Weaver’s CreekJan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of thirty-five years, where she enjoys hiking in the Hills and spending time with their expanding family.