Happily Ever After
by Kathy Dillenbeck

“Rebecca, you’re late again. I almost sent Daniel to the corner to use the telephone.” Mamm turned from the sink. “And you’ve lost your prayer kapp. How many is that now?” I touched the top of my head. She was right. Maybe, the bishop was right. Maybe, I was too simple-minded to care for a baby.

“Sorry. Miss Thelma wanted to finish one last cupboard. It took longer than she expected.” I hesitated to bring up a sore subject, but did anyway. “If we had a phone here, like the English, I could have called.”

“Rebecca, we’ve discussed this before.”

“I know, but…”

Mamm held up her hand. “Let’s not rehash that. I know what’s really bothering you.”

I didn’t want to talk about that. Instead, I tried to change the subject. “I must have lost my prayer kapp when I was playing Bear with Miss Thelma’s girls.”

“We have to get this out in the open.”

“It’s too humiliating. Samuel will never speak to me again. Besides, you and Daddy have the final say, not the bishop.”

“If we had only known about Samuel, we could have…” She stopped abruptly.

I waited. When she didn’t continue, I asked, “Could have what? Stopped it before it started? Kept your simple-minded daughter from getting involved with a boy?”

“Rebecca Stolzfus, I am still your mother. Do not take that tone with me.”

“Sorry, Mamm.” I sank into a chair and rested my head on my hands. The whole situation seemed hopeless. Like most Amish teenagers, Samuel and I had kept our courtship secret. When we made the appointment with the bishop to tell him we wanted to marry, we never dreamed there would be a problem. We figured he would contact my parents to gain permission and, as is the custom, publish the marriage announcement a couple of weeks before the wedding. And, now, November, the traditional month for Amish weddings, was approaching and it looked as if there would be no announcement, no marriage, no happily every after. I hadn’t even had a chance to talk with Samuel since that awful day. His parents had hustled him out to Ohio.

“Mamm, do you think I’m capable of caring for a baby?” I looked directly at her. “Does Daddy?”

My normally direct mother seemed at a loss, but finally said, “Rebecca, the bishop said…” I interrupted her. “I don’t care what the bishop thinks, Mamm. I want to know whether you and Daddy think I’m too simple-minded to care for a baby.”

Mamm fidgeted with a dishtowel, walked to the stove and opened the lid on the cast iron pot. I understood her dilemma. Even if she didn’t agree with the bishop, she would not want to speak against him or disagree with him.

I decided to be merciless. “Obviously, you agree with him, but if that’s the case, why did you leave Daniel and Sarah and Amos in my care so often?”

The cover clanged on the kettle. Mamm turned to me. Tears ran down her cheeks. I felt sick to my stomach at my behavior.

I stood and put my arms around her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have attacked you. I was totally surprised by what the bishop said. I never considered I might not be smart enough to be a wife and mother.”

Mamm returned my hug. “Rebecca, I’m sorry if your father and I gave you the impression we agreed with the bishop. If you recall, we didn’t agree or disagree when he said that. We were so astonished he would make such a remark. And, then, you wouldn’t let us talk with you about it.”

My heart soared. Hope returned, immediately left. “But Samuel heard what the bishop said. He won’t want a simple-minded wife.”

Mom clasped my hand. “Oh, Rebecca, it’s obvious from the way he looks at you that Samuel loves you. It wouldn’t matter to him, even if it were true. He knows you well enough not to believe that.”

“But what are we going to do? You and Daddy won’t want to publicly disagree with the bishop.”

“Your father has been working all day to find out what’s behind this. Neither of us thinks the bishop really believes what he said.”

“But why would he say that?”

“I have no idea. The bishop is usually an honest, fair man.”

At that moment, Daddy came in the kitchen, slipped out of his boots, and left them near the door. His expression was hard to read, but that wasn’t unusual.

“I was just telling Rebecca we don’t agree with the bishop.” Mamm’s statement was almost defiant.

Daddy said, without preamble, “There’s not going to be a wedding. And, Rebecca.” He held up his hand. “It has nothing to do with your intelligence. You’re as smart as anyone I know.”

“But, why can’t we get married, if that’s the case?”

“The bishop has his reasons, which I promised not to divulge. Believe me, they are good ones. He tried to stop the ceremony and, for some reason, casting doubt on your maternal abilities seemed the least hurtful.”

“But, Daddy, that’s not fair.”

“I know, Rebecca, and I’m sorry.” Daddy grasped my shoulder and squeezed.

“Samuel and I should know the reasons, whatever they are.”

“Sorry, I just can’t tell you or Samuel.”

I couldn’t help it. I ran to my bedroom, weeping as I left.

Weeks passed. Months passed. Life went on. My parents were adamant. Not one word was spoken about why Samuel and I were not allowed to marry. As usual, I worked every other day for Miss Thelma. I never heard a word from Samuel and had no idea how to contact him. His family would not talk to me about him.

I was just ringing the bell as we played Sorry one night, when we were interrupted by a knock on the door. Daddy answered. It was Samuel. I wanted to run and hug him, but Daddy told him to leave, that he wasn’t welcome.

“Mr. Stolzfus, please hear me out. There’s been a terrible misunderstanding.”

“Okay, come in.” Daddy stepped aside and Samuel walked into the kitchen.

He couldn’t take his eyes off me. I couldn’t stop looking at him.

“Samuel?” Daddy provoked Samuel’s next words.

“Mr. Stolzfus, you heard that when my mother got married, she was pregnant by your brother, Nathan, making Rebecca and me first cousins. It’s not true. My dad and I had DNA tests and he is truly my father.”

The next November, Samuel and I married. Our babies are doing just fine.