“You know how Abel lives with us and stuff?”
“I want him to live with us forever and ever.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“So, if …”
He interrupted me but stayed focused on the mushrooms he was separating into piles. “Are you and Abel gonna have Grandfather Isaac or Brother Clayton say Bible words on you and get married?”
Carefully I answered him, “Uh … yeah. I want to.”
He nodded his head and started pulling the caps off of the mushroom stems in one of the piles. “I think you should. This way when you look at each other it won’t look stupid.”
That blew me away sine it was so un-Daniel-like. “Wait. You notice how we look at each other?”
“Yeah. Your face looks pretty stupid … like Dog when she wants a bone but can’t have one.”
Whether I looked stupid or not Daniel’s words made me feel stupid. “O … K …. So, you don’t have a problem with me and Abel getting married?”
“No.” After a moment he asked, “Will you give me a little brother or sister so I won’t be the baby anymore?”
Well that was just going way further than I had been thinking about and told me that Daniel’s thought process was a lot more mature and complicated than I’d been giving him credit for. “If Abel and I have any kids they’d be your niece or nephew.”
He persisted, “But I wouldn’t be the baby anymore, right?”
“OK, that’s good. Abel and I will teach it what they can eat and what they can’t and we’ll teach it how to hunt and track and stuff like that.”
Trying to go with the flow of the conversation I told him, “Sounds like a plan. But … babies are … uh … kinda a ways off.”
He asked, “So you don’t have a baby in your belly?”
Outraged I said, “No! What gave you that idea?!”
“I heard some people talking,” he replied like it was no big deal.
“Well, isn’t that just nice,” I snarled. Then I told him, “Next time you wonder about stuff like that you come ask me or Abel. I swear, people don’t know half what they’re talking about. Abel and I will tell you the truth so you don’t have to wonder about it.”
“Figured that. ‘Sides, you and Abel haven’t done the chicken dance, you know when the rooster and chicken …”
“Ack! I know what you call it and no we haven’t and you just watch your p’s and q’s buster. I swear the sooner we get you out of here the better, you’re picking up all kinds of talk that is just plain rude.”
I marched off to find Abel and when I did I let my feelings show. “I don’t know what you’re planning but I want it done so we can get out of here. I swear, Daniel asked if I had … I mean he’d heard people say … I mean … doggone it. There’s people that think we’re getting married because we have to. And wipe that look off your face, it isn’t funny.”
He was manfully trying not to smile but all he did was make me feel like I was ready for the top of my head to explode. “Querida, I tried to tell you people would talk.”
“I don’t care about people talking. I care that my innocent brother is picking that sort of nonsense up. At least he had the sense to know we hadn’t done the chicken dance yet.”
Abel was in the middle of taking a drink of water from his canteen and the water must have gone down the wrong way because he was spitting and wheezing and coughing all of a sudden. “He … he said that?”
Wiping some of the spit off the front of the dress I was wearing I gave him the evil eye. “Yes, he said that. In fact he’s already got it all planned out. We’re going to give him a baby brother or sister so he won’t be the youngest anymore and then you and him are going to teach it all sorts of stuff.”
“I swear Querida, I didn’t mention any such thing to him.”
I relaxed, “OK, just making sure. But seriously Abel, I want us to go home.”
He sighed. “You really do not want this wedding do you?”
“I’m doing it because it is the only way I can have you Abel but to be honest … no, I don’t want to turn this into some big production that gets all confusing.”
“You are a very different girl Querida. Even the two brides for in the morning are sad because they cannot have a special white dress and the party and gifts and a cake.”
“Well if they think that’s what a wedding is then they better rethink getting married. A wedding is just supposed to be an outward sign that you’ve made inward changes to your life. One of my aunts had two big, fancy weddings with all the trimmings and neither one stuck. My Dad and Momma had a small, simple ceremony and they stuck through thick and thin. It isn’t the showy stuff that tells the tale in the long run, or at least that is what Momma always said when we’d get invited to a wedding. I don’t even know how many wedding dresses and such she sewed over the years. She used to say it didn’t matter what kind of dress you were wearing because everyone had on skin underneath.”
It took Abel a moment to catch up but he finally smiled and said, “I will be very glad to go home with you and Daniel tomorrow. But I am also very glad to have words said over us. As you say, it is not the show that is importante … but my … my skin wants a man of God to bear witness … Si … that is the words. I want a man of God to bear witness to my promise to you. It makes me feel better about not having the other to give you.”
I understood what he was saying but I still didn’t agree. On the other hand it wasn’t gonna hurt anything to go along with it and I thought that maybe someday I might care. I already like that Abel wanted to marry me the old-fashioned way; I just saw wanting and need as two different things. If nothing else I was happy that Abel was happy and that had to count for something.
The rest of the day was spent in clean up and community service type projects. There was a lot of work to do before winter. I stayed in town to help people living there and Abel went with Grandfather Isaac to help him move some his things to be closer to Josef and Monica. Apparently Josef’s grandmother was getting frail and if winter was going to be as hard as some thought, his grandfather had unbent enough to recognize that having Josef there to take care of her could be the difference between her making it through the winter or not.
Josef nixed me doing much of anything that required lifting or getting dirty because of the stitches in my arms. I didn’t want to complain but I was grateful because my arms had been hurting. They really stung after he cleaned them again. I decided to help Daniel – and didn’t that tickle my funny bone – and let him lead what we did.
I’m glad I showed up when I did because he was getting bored and restless, losing interest in the task before him. He and I went to look for some forage in the area and though I was hampered by the dress I was wearing if felt good to get away from all the people for a bit.
“When are we going home Dacey?”
“Tomorrow, right after the wedding. We won’t stay for the dinner or celebration. We’ll have our own when we get home.”
“You miss your stuff?”
“Uh huh.” After a moment he added, “It’s hard not to talk about the grow rooms and our food. They don’t have that kind of stuff here.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “Good job Daniel. Abel and I knew we could trust you.”
That made him smile real big and Dog seemed to sense it and wagged her tail. “I didn’t tell no one nothing. But I’m hungry Dacey, can we eat when we get home?”
“Sure thing, it might just be a snack until we can get settled but I’ll find you something. Abel is probably hungry too.”
Daniel nodded, “He sure is, I heard his stomach growl.”
It was nice to be with my brother again. He was such a huge part of my life that the few days we’d been apart had seemed a lot longer than they really were. It also reassured me that Daniel really was OK after his ordeal. I wasn’t going to raise it if he’d decided to put it behind him or decided to treat it as a bad dream. I think in this instance, his strange way of looking at time was a blessing. In his mind it was over so it happened a long time ago and wasn’t something he needed to carry around in his short term memory.
“Daniel, what kind of stuff have you been eating? I really haven’t had anything but two cups of broth.”
“Yeah … that. Soup and greens, greens and soup. I’m hungry Dacey. Let’s go home real quick.”
I reminded him that we’d go tomorrow. We gathered a few things here and there trying to not take too much. Sustainable foraging is a lot of work, as we had already found out. I wasn’t sure how a whole community was going to be able to pull it off and chose not to think about the consequences if they couldn’t. I had enough taking care of my own responsibilities.
I did notice that evening that the small meal everyone had included a lot of herbs that I knew to have appetite suppression as one of their traits. Chickweed, Evening Primrose, and Cayenne certainly was in there. Mushrooms filled space without really adding too many calories. The protein came from a stew made of whatever wild meat could be found such as rabbit, squirrel, quail, and pork. And everyone ate from a communal cooking area to get rid of waste and to make sure everyone got something.
I didn’t get to see much of Abel, being unmarried we were pretty well segregated from one another. Add to that the men seemed to be picking his brain as much as he was picking theirs and there simply wasn’t time or opportunity for a talk to compare notes.
It was a weird feeling being thought of as “just as girl” again. Being on my own had been hard and sometimes scary but I realized it had also been empowering. In Amish Town people tried to put me in the box they last had me in but I’d outgrown that box a long time ago. It didn’t stop them from trying to put me back in it though and wanting me to stay there. When I acted different from what they expected it made them uncomfortable.
Bed time was early and I was ready to go. I was frustrated at the limitations people wanted to put on me and I was also just plain tired and sore. I slept well enough all things considered but morning still came early. I was trying to enjoy myself but the nerves of the girls all around me – I’d been given a bed in a communal girls’ dorm since I no longer needed the “hospital” – was driving me a little crazy.
“My family would absolutely never approve of me marrying someone like The Montoya.”
I wanted to say it wasn’t something she’d ever needed to worry about because she didn’t seem the kind of girl Abel would be interested in but I kept my mouth shut. For one I really didn’t know if it was true and two, last thing I needed to do was act like a donkey’s back end on my wedding day.
More comments like that one floated around and then they talked about who they were interested in and what their families would have or will think of it. Blah, blah, blah. Oh, they were nice enough but I was just ready to get the show on the road. I was honestly getting kind of anxious about it all. Turns out I was getting a case of the wedding jitters after all.
Monica came over and asked me to come over to her house until the ceremony. “Dacey, I heard the other two are going to have wedding dresses. I don’t have a lot but you’re welcome to …”
I smiled, gratified that someone at least seemed to really have my interests at heart. “No, really, it’s OK Monica. He’s seen me covered in muck from head to toe and in raggedy and mismatched clothes. Anything is bound to be better than that. Besides, this is a nice dress all though it isn’t exactly what you might expect to stand up in for a wedding.”
“Are you sure?”
“Totally. I wanted to ask but … I mean … are you and Josef doing OK?”
She thought for a minute. “Josef’s good to me and for me. He’s … he’s not my first love and he knows it but … he said he refuses to be jealous of a dead man.” She clapped her hand over her mouth. “Oh Dacey, I’m sorry … I didn’t mean …”
“Relax Monica. Jeff wasn’t the kind of guy that would have wanted you to pine after him your whole life. Just imagine how well off he is right now up in Heaven. He wouldn’t want you to put off finding some goodness here on earth.”
She did relax and then smiled. “Josef is … is calm. I need that. Sometimes I tend to spin and get upset over things that don’t make any sense in the scheme of things. He may not be some wild-eyed romantic like like Jeff was but I know where I stand in importance to him and I need to that.” Then she grinned subconsciously. “I never would have guessed how much I enjoy taking care of the kids and that was his idea. I never could understand Jeff’s devotion to Daniel, or yours either for that matter, but I think … I think I understand it now. Some of these kids, they’ll be with us for a long time. I’d give anything to save them. And it helps him to see me a part of what he’s trying to build here.”
A knock told us it was time to go to the commons – the green space in the center of Amish Town – and wait for the ceremony to begin. It was short and sweet. It was a combination of the words from “English” weddings and some were words from the traditional Amish wedding season. We were each asked if we did took such and so and if we promised to stay married “til death do us part.” We were asked if we would be loyal and care for each other during adversity, affliction, sickness, and weakness. Then Brother Clayton took our hands in his, gave us a blessing, and said, “Go forth in the Lord’s name. You are now man and wife.” There was no public kiss for which I was eternally grateful. I’d been getting enough stares to last me a lifetime, I didn’t want to give them one more reason to be a bunch of lookie-loos.
There was going to be a stone soup celebration afterwards but Abel and I gathered up Daniel and said some quiet good byes. Surprisingly Grandfather Isaac stopped us before we left and said, “You are welcome to come back. We will all need to work together, especially come spring.”
That was a good note to take our departure on. Abel had gathered our gear and hidden it some ways up the trail. As soon as we got to it I dashed into the bushes and took the dress off and got into some comfortable hiking clothes … but I folded the dress and tried to protect it from the other stuff in my pack thinking that maybe I was getting silly and sentimental.
It was Daniel that got me moving again when he said, “Are you ready yet Dacey? I’m starving. Let’s go home.”