Dear Father Gott, please forgive me for vhat I am about to do, and please give me your wisdom, amen. Dorcas Stolzfus lifted her head, straightened her pray kapp one last time, and then took a deep breath before opening the heavy door. She tried to ignore the feeling of her heart pumping hard against her chest, like a small frightened child beating the wall with both hands.
Dorcas stepped into the darkened, smoke-filled room. The throbbing music, if one could call it music, assaulted her ears while her eyes adjusted to the dimness. Standing just inside of the door she looked around the large room. The sight of young women, practically naked and gyrating around poles, made Dorcas sick. Looking away from the stage she saw tables, filled with men gawking at the dancers.
Dorcas’ reason for being in that horrid place was to meet her childhood friend, Leah Miller. Seeing Leah walking between the tables she cried out and squeezed her eyes shut, but she could not erase the sight from her mind. Leah, her best friend since she was six years old and Leah was four, was dressed like the pole dancers with her wavy brown hair unbound and bouncing around her waist. Leah was walking between the tables, serving drinks to the men, laughing at their crude remarks and their hands touching her.
“Gut Gott in heaven,” Dorcas moaned, “Vhy did I not try harder to talk Leah out of doing her Rumspringa? I vas afraid something bad vould happen!” Not knowing what to do, she continued to stand where she was, eyes closed, and ears covered. The smoke drifting back from the crowded room made her cough. She heard the squeak of the door opening behind her and felt the warmth of the fading sunlight on her back before the door closed. Then she felt someone move closer but she stood still, feeling frozen in place.
“Hi beautiful,” the deep voice startled Dorcas causing her to look up and step back. “Whoa, I did not mean to scare you. Aren’t you the new dancer?” The tall, muscular man lifted his hand and ran a finger down her cheek. “This is some costume you have.”
Dorcas felt light-headed and faint. Suddenly Leah was there, stepping between her and the man. Looking up Leah commanded, “Henry, back off! This is not the new pole dancer. Dorcas is a genuine Amish person. Leave her alone.”
The man raised both of his hands as he stepped backwards, “Whatever you say, Miss Leah,” and tipping his hat he turned to walk into the room.
Leah grabbed Dorcas’s arm with one hand and reached for the door with her other one. “What are you doing in here?” she hissed as they walked outside. The setting sun shone directly on the two young women, hurting Dorcas’ eyes after the dimness of the smoke-filled room they had just left.
Dorcas shook her arm free from her friend’s grasp. “Vhat am I doing here? Vhat are you doing here – and dressed like that?” Crossing her arms she continued. “You said you vere in serious trouble, that it vas a matter of life and death. Look at you, standing out here in public vith almost no clothes on! Vhat is going on?”
“You don’t understand.” Leah rolled her eyes. “I am in Rumspringa, remember? The rules are different. Besides, I told you I would meet you out here, on the sidewalk, not inside of my workplace!”
“I see your Rumspringa rules are indeed different. You should be ashamed of yourself! However, you always did have a wild streak in you.” Dorcas sighed then put her hands on her hips. “Are you going to tell me vhat is going on or am I to leave you standing here vhile I return home?”
Leah looked down at the pavement. She stood on her tip-toes and counted to ten silently and then put her feet back down. She counted to ten and then repeated the process, a childhood habit developed when she felt stressed.
Dorcas realized what the young woman was doing and gave her friend a hug. “Leah, please tell me vhat is happening.”
“Ja, I vill tell you. Give me a minute.” Leah turned and walked back into the building. Five minutes later she returned, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail and she carried a blinding-pink duffle bag. Taking Dorcas’ hand Leah led her to a local coffee shop on a side street.
* * * * *
Once they had ordered their coffee and were settled at a table in the back corner Dorcas took a deep breath, “Leah, it is time for you to tell me everything, and I mean everything.”
“W-e-l-l-l,” Leah looked down, turning her coffee cup in circles. “It is a long story…”
“I don’t care if it takes all night. Either you tell me or I am leaving.” Dorcas leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms.
Leah looked up at her life-long friend. “Dorcas, it is complicated, but here goes,” She took a deep breath then blurted out, “I am with child.”
Dorcas bolted forward in her chair. “Vhat? How?”
“Sh-h-h,” Leah whispered. “Let me tell my story my way.”
Dorcas nodded and leaned back again as Leah continued. “As you know, when I started Rumspringa I moved in with my cousin, Naomi, here in Missoula. After I’d been here several weeks I went to my first Englisch, non-Amish, party with several friends who were also in Rumspringa.” Leah stopped and took a long, slow drink of her coffee. “I met the nicest Englisch guy. He was good looking and polite and instead of only talking about himself, like the Amish guys I know, he asked me questions. It was so nice to have a guy think I vas important." Leah sighed, "To shorten this ugly story, he drugged my drink, raped me, and stole my money.”
Leah paused and both women sat quietly. After a minute or two she continued. “I had to get a job but the only thing I am qualified for is restaurant work. I had no idea the pay was so little. That is the only reason I am working in that disgusting joint.” She nodded her head indicating the direction of the strip club. “The pay is better, and the tips are unbelievably good.”
Dorcas reached across the table and squeezed her best friend’s hands, “Leah, I am so, so sad for you and vill do vhatever I can. However, I don’t see how this is a life and death situation.”
Leah sighed and leaned back in her chair, shaking her head, “Dorcas, you always have been a purist, a true Amish voman – something I have never been able to do.” She shook her head slowly as if she were feeling a terrible sadness. “You don’t understand. I cannot keep the baby.”
“Vhat? Vhy? Vhat is vith you, Leah?” Dorcas felt like shaking some sense into her friend.
“Be realistic, Dorcas, who would marry me, either Englisch or Amish? And, I am not vocationally trained to make enough money to support myself, let alone the expense of a child.”
“Leah, as much as it pains me, I agree you are correct – to a point.” She held up her hand to stop her friend’s verbal interruption. “I know Mark Lapp loves you and vould marry you, even vith a child. Also, there is the option of giving the baby up for adoption.”
“No!” Leah almost screamed the word.
“I know how you feel, I think,” Dorcas’ tone was gentle. “Vhy don’t you come home vith me and talk to Anna McLean?”
“Vhy? So she can talk me into keeping the baby?”
“Leah, you know Anna better than that.” Dorcas leaned across the table to gently hold her friend’s arms. “Remember, she is ex-Amish and understands both the Amish and the Englisch ways.”
“You are correct, as always.” Leah sat thinking for a few minutes then sighed. “What the heck, I have nothing better to do for the next two days.”
Dorcas stood and stretched. “Let me use your cell phone to call my van driver.”
* * * * *
The next morning Leah walked into Anna McLean’s store, Healthy Alternatives. Taking a deep breath she inhaled the sweet earthiness of the store: cinnamon, and sweet orange along with eucalyptus and sage. The scents carried the good memories of happy times Leah had spent in the store.
At the sound of the bell Anna McLean stepped out of her office located behind the counter, “Leah, what a nice surprise.” She walked over and engulfed the younger woman with a large hug. “What brings you home?”
Leah returned the hug and then backed away. “Can we go somewhere and talk? Dorcas thinks you can fix my problem.”
“I can try,” Anna smiled. “Come, let’s go in my office and close the door. Everyone knows when the door is closed I am not to be disturbed.”
Leah and Anna settled themselves in the soft leather chairs placed across from each other, sipping one of Anna’s calming herbal teas. Leah barely noticed the sweet blend of roses and vanilla filling the air in the office. Taking a deep breath she rushed into her story, finding it easier to talk with Anna than she expected. How easily she had forgotten Anna would never judge. Anna listened without comment until Leah finished.
“Why do you not want to give the baby up for adoption?” Anna asked.
“I am adopted, remember?” Leah spat the words out. “I still do not know vhat is vrong vith me that my birth mutter did not vant me!”
“Leah, I did not know you were adopted, honest.” Anna replied. “Have you asked your mother, Grace, about your adoption? Have you tried to locate your birth mother?”
The younger woman shook her head while biting her lip, to fight away the tears that threatened to again pour down her cheeks.
Anna stood and walked over to Leah and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Leah, Grace, your adopted mother, is one of the kindest and gentlest people I know. Go home and ask her about your adoption. Also I would like your permission to talk with a few people, discretely of course, about your situation. Is that acceptable to you?” Leah swallowed hard then nodded yes.
“Thank you. Come back tomorrow and let’s see what we can work out.”
* * * * *
On the following day as Leah opened the door to Healthy Alternatives with one hand she used the other hand to cover a yawn. She had spent the night before tossing and turning.
Somehow, she had found the courage to ask her adoptive mother about her birth. Apparently, her birth mother, Emma, was a second cousin of Grace’s who had also become pregnant while in Rumspringa. Leah loved Emma and always felt a special bonding when they saw each other at large family gatherings. Other things had kept Leah tossing and turning in her bed; the fear that Anna could not help, and the excitement that maybe Anna could help.
Anna walked out of her office and hugged Leah. “Come in my office there is someone you need to talk with.” Leah's heart pounded as she walked around the counter and into Anna's office.
She stood there, staring at the young man sitting in the chair and her heart stopped beating. As he stood and started walking towards her she turned to Anna and hissed, “You promised you would be discreet.” She stepped forward to leave but Anna moved to stand in her way. “Move, let me out of here!” Leah almost screamed the words in her panic as she tried to push Anna away.
Anna nodded to the young man standing there and closed the office door, leaving the two younger adults in there to figure things out. Leah stood there with her arms crossed and stared at the floor.
“Leah, do not be angry with Anna,” he pleaded. “All she told me vas you are in trouble and needed my help – that vas after she interrogated me.” The handsome young man smiled down at Leah and she finally looked up into his warm brown eyes.
Leah smiled weakly, “Ja, I can imagine Anna interrogating you. For all of her goodness, she can be ruthless.”
"Leah, mein dear girl, I have always loved you. Please tell me how I can help.”
“Vhat? Vhy? Mark Lapp, you are the perfect Amish man, and I have always been the rebel."
"I know. I love your independent streak and your courage to question beliefs the rest of us take for granted."
"But-t-t, vhy are you telling me this now? Vhy didn’t you say something before I left for Missoula and my Rumspringa? Vhy now?” Leah sat down and started playing with the hem of her Amish apron, as tears forced their way down her cheeks.
“Leah, please calm down,” Mark walked over and handed her a tissue from Anna’s desk. Then he placed a hand on her shoulder. “All I know is Anna asked me if the rumors vere true that I loved you and vanted to marry you. Vhen I told her ja she said you were in trouble and if I did indeed love you I’d better come here today and offer to help. Leah, vhat is vrong? I’ve never seen you this upset before.”
Leah turned away from him and buried her face in her hands.
He continued pleading with her. "I know you despised the younger men in our community and I did not vant to bother you.” He stopped to take a deep breath, “Watching you prepare for Rumspringa vas one of the hardest things I have ever done. I desperately vanted to take you in my arms and ask you to marry me."
Leah looked up and stared at him, "But-t-t Mark, I have always liked you. You are the only Amish boy I know who is not full-of-himself. You vere kind and good to me, but you are older. I never dreamed you considered me anything more than one of the younger kinner, children.” Leah put her hands up to her face and wept. "Mark, if I had known you loved me, I vould not have gone on Rumpspringa and vould not be in this mess."
“Vhat mess? Vhat are you talking about? Vhat happened? Please let me help you.”
With much trembling and many sobs, Leah told him the story of the drugged date rape and her job at the strip club. “Mark, don’t you understand? I cannot marry you or – or anyone! I am vith child and am ashamed. If I stay here I vill be shunned.” She held her breath and counted to ten. “Mark, if you marry me you too vill be shunned. I cannot, I vill not, let that happen. You are too good of a person.”
"Vhy? It is not your fault."
“No, of course not, but vhat about your family and friends?"
"My family knows I have always vanted to marry you."
“Vhy did you not say anything? You know that your parents vill change their mind because of my sin. They vould be embarrassed and vould fear being shunned as well as you and me being shunned."
Mark placed his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. "Leah, hush, mein lieber, my beloved. It is not your sin. You were the victim of a horrid crime. Besides, my parents always accepted the fact that I loved you” He paused then chucked. “And...you know both of our mutters vant grandchildren.” He looked her in the eye. “I know your mutter vill be pleased to have you and the baby in a good safe home."
His words touched Leah and she cried harder which caused Mark to hug her more. “Leah, please marry me.”
She looked up and searched his eyes, unable to speak. Finally she nodded yes.
Unable to contain his joy Mark left her sitting there and sprinted to the office door. He jerked it open and shouted loud enough for the people outside to hear, “Leah said YES! She vill marry me!”
Copyright 2018 Crystal Linn - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED