From the book
Sara Esch smiled as her young scholars burst out into the autumn sunshine at the end of another school day. Even the best of Amish students couldn't help showing a bit of enthusiasm when freedom arrived at three o'clock each weekday afternoon, especially on Friday.
All except one, it seemed. Seven-year-old Rachel King hung back, her small face solemn, as if reluctant to leave her desk.
Sara tried not to let concern show in her expression as she approached the motherless child. Rachel had been in Sara's one-room school for less than a month, since she and her father arrived in Beaver Creek, coming to Pennsylvania from Indiana. That meant Sara didn't know Rachel as well as she did most of the kinner in her school.
Sara knelt next to the child and spoke softly, knowing her words would be masked by the chatter of the two eighth-grade girls whose turn it was to wash the chalkboards.
"Was ist letz, Rachel?" She asked the question in dialect. She always spoke Englisch in school, but the familiar tongue of home and family might put the child at ease. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Rachel's round blue eyes grew rounder still, as if she was surprised that her teacher had noticed. "Nothing is wrong, Teacher Sara."
Sara sat back on her heels, studying the small face. Rachel might have been any young Amish girl, with her blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and blond hair. Her plain blue dress and black apron were like those of every other little girl, too. But something was different about Rachel King, of that Sara was certain sure.
She took the child's hands in hers. "You can tell me if anything is troubling you, Rachel. I want you to be happy here in Beaver Creek."
Rachel's lips trembled, as if she were on the verge of speech. Then she looked over Sara's shoulder, and her expression lightened.
"Daed!" She ran to the man who filled the schoolhouse doorway.
So. Sara got slowly to her feet, mindful of Caleb King's gaze on her. His arrival meant she wouldn't hear anything more from Rachel today. But at least she could see that Rachel's problem, whatever it was, wasn't with her father. She would hate to have to deal with such an issue.
She took a step toward Caleb, smiling, and stopped when she encountered an icy glare. His face was set in severe lines above the warm chestnut of his beard, and Caleb's gaze seemed an accusation. Her heart gave an uncomfortable thump.
Caleb patted his daughter's head. "Go out and play on the swings. I need to talk to Teacher Sara."
Sara caught a swift flare of panic in the child's face at the prospect of going outside. She moved toward them.
"Perhaps Rachel could help with washing the boards," she suggested. "We might step out onto the porch to talk."
Caleb's gray-blue eyes grew steely with annoyance, probably at her interference, but he nodded. He stepped back and held the door open like a command.
Sara pushed Rachel gently toward the chalkboard. "Lily and Lovina, you'll like to have Rachel help you for a bit, ain't so?"
Lily looked a tad mulish at the prospect, but gentle Lovina seemed to take the situation in and smiled, holding out her hand to the child.
"Ya, komm, Rachel."
The little girl ran toward her happily enough. Satisfied, Sara stepped through the door, very aware of Caleb's looming presence behind her. He had a complaint, it seemed.
The door clicked shut.
"What has happened at school to bring my child home so upset she could not even eat her supper?" Caleb didn't give Sara time to turn...