Esther Zook is looking to start a new life in Byler, a southwest Colorado Amish community, but her plans are upended when her sister leaves a baby in her care. Levi Kiem is willing to help, but he certainly doesn’t want Esther getting the wrong idea about him. Read on for a little peek into the clumsy start to Esther and Levi’s relationship. They don’t seem to like each other very much.
Levi and Esther Have a Misunderstanding:
Levi glanced in her direction. “I just wanted to say that there’s no one here in Byler I’m interested in. Dat is sending me to Ohio in October to find a fraa. I just thought you’d want to know.”
Esther felt the heat travel up her neck. “Why would I want to know?” Or the better question was, why did he want her to know?
He seemed to chew on his answer before he let it out of his mouth. “I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt.”
“You…what?” she stuttered.
“I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt or your hopes up about us, or I mean, me. I’m going to Ohio to find someone closer to my own age.” He grimaced. She was sure the expression was meant to come out like a friendly smile.
She gritted her teeth. “Why would you think I’d get my feelings hurt?”
He shifted in the seat as if she’d asked him a really personal question like, is that mole on your neck melanoma, or are you feeling constipated? “Ach, well, we’ve been spending a lot of time together, and I’ve helped a lot with Winnie. I know you’re grateful, but good deeds can get misinterpreted. You’re too old for me, but it’s only natural that someone like you might be ferhoodled by someone like me.” He glanced at her and must have been alarmed by her steely glare because he stammered to a stop. Gute thing. He was about to put his entire leg in his mouth along with his foot.
Esther wasn’t one to temper her temper, and Levi was going to hear exactly what she thought of his little speech. “Of all the presumptuous, arrogant, idiotic things to say!”
He drew back as if terrified of the crazy elderly woman. “What…what does presumptuous mean?”
“You can just go home and look that up in a dictionary, kiddo,” she said, with emphasis on “kiddo” so he knew she didn’t appreciate the implication that she was an old lady. Sure, she was an old maid, but that was just an expression. She was only thirty. She still had a lot of life left to live. “If you weren’t so full of yourself, you’d know that I’m not interested in you in the least.”
He rolled his eyes. “Now, come on, Esther. Every time you look at me, you smile. And you can’t tell me it wasn’t you who put Rita up to asking me if I was dating anybody.”
This was getting ridiculous. “I smile because I’m grateful for your help with Winnie. If you take a simple smile as a sign of love, then you’re going to spend a lot of energy worrying about how many girls are in love with you. And I didn’t put Rita up to anything. She’s friendly. She’s interested in your life, and I’m not that desperate.” Esther wanted to yank the seam ripper from behind her ear, take off the lid, and score the black vinyl seat between them.
Okay, she didn’t really want to do it, but she wanted to imagine the look on Levi’s face if she did it.
Levi frowned. “I didn’t say you were desperate.”
“You didn’t have to.” Winnie must have been able to feel her agitation. She fussed and fidgeted in Esther’s arms. “I’m a thirty-year-old unmarried woman. Of course you think I’m desperate. You don’t have to worry. I don’t plan on ever letting myself get attached to a man. It’s not worth the trouble or the heartache. Believe me, I’m as far from interested in you as I can get. Men are inconstant, unfaithful creatures, and I’m much better off alone.”
“Now wait a minute. No matter what you think of me, I read the Bible every day, I’m very gute to my mamm and schwesteren, and I’ve changed Winnie’s diaper almost as many times as you have.”
She took a deep breath and willed herself to calm down. It wasn’t easy. She needed a rug and a brick wall. She closed her eyes, pressed her lips together, and thought of bread pudding with extra raisins. “You’re right. I’m making a generalization I shouldn’t make. Be that as it may, I don’t want to marry anyone. At this point, the only man who would be interested in me would be interested in my money, as meager as it is, and I can spot a money grubber from a mile away.”
“That’s not true.”
“Jah, it is. I know greed when I see it.”
“Nae. I mean, it’s not true that men could only be interested in you for your money. You’re very pretty, Esther.”
She snorted her displeasure. “Pretty for my age is what you meant to say.”
“I mean it. You are very pretty. I just…it wonders me why you’re not married yet.”
She snorted again. “There are plenty of wunderbarr, pretty girls who aren’t married. They’re not willing to settle for just anybody.”
“But why aren’t you married? Did you ever have a boyfriend? Did you ever have a crush on someone?”
She peered at him through hooded eyes. He certainly didn’t deserve any such information, and she wasn’t going to spill her guts to someone as arrogant as Levi Kiem. Let him make up any story he wanted to in his head. He’d get nothing from her. “Don’t try to justify yourself, Levi. I owe you nothing, especially not an explanation. I’m happy the way I am, and I really don’t care what you think of me.”
She had never been so happy to arrive at a destination as she was at that moment when he stopped the buggy in front of her house. “I’m sorry, Esther,” he said weakly, as if he wasn’t quite sure what had just hit him.
She wasn’t in the mood for an apology. “Denki for the ride,” she said, not really sure if she meant it but determined to be polite all the same. She jumped out of the buggy with Winnie securely in her arms. She marched resolutely toward the house, not looking back, even when she heard him drive away.
She was so mad, she could have spit, but she wasn’t going to do that because it was very rude to spit. What made her even angrier was that some of what Levi had said was just a teensy, tinsy bit true. His handsome face and exceptional kindness had piqued her interest in a way that hadn’t happened for a very long time. She did sort of like him. She had even fooled herself into thinking that maybe he was just a little bit interested in her. Oy, anyhow, she felt like the biggest fool in the world.
Before she walked in the house, she pulled the seam ripper from behind her ear, took off the lid with her teeth, and stabbed the pointy part of the seam ripper into the doorjamb just outside the door. The handle broke and clattered to the ground leaving the pointy metal part sticking out of the wood. Gute. Just how she wanted it.
You never knew when you were going to need a seam ripper.