In Hills of Wheat, (Click HERE to get your copy) readers will learn more about quiet Sylvia Lapp, the youngest of the Lapp daughters. She is quiet and reserved, eager to help her parents around the farm. Her love of God and dedication to the Amish faith is unquestioned, even when she has to work at the dreaded Farmers’ Market and deal with the pesky Englische tourists.
When he shows up at the Farmers’ Market and rescues her from dealing with an especially aggressive Englischer tourists, the wheels are in motion for more than just directions. In balancing her Amish roots with his English past, Sylvia learns more than she bargained for about the sins of worldliness.
Here’s the Prologue:
On top of the hill, surrounded by growing shoots of winter wheat that waved gently in the late March breeze, a young woman stood by herself. She wore a short-sleeved blue dress, covered with a plain black apron. Her brown hair was barely visible as it was tucked neatly beneath a white heart-shaped prayer cap. Her eyes were shut as she felt the wind against her face, already brown from working outside. But on this day, she did not have to work. It was Sunday, a day of rest. Instead of relaxing inside the house with her family, she had felt drawn to the outdoors. Again. It was where she always retreated when she had a few spare moments. It was where she felt the closest with God.
She lifted her arms into the air, letting the breeze touch her skin. It brushed against her like gentle feathers. She smiled and began to spin around, slowly at first. The sun warmed her face while the breeze cooled it down. A laugh escaped her throat, a laugh of pure joy and happiness. Spring had almost arrived, the time of year when life was reborn on the farm. New plants, new flowers, new crops.
In just a few weeks, the winter wheat would change to a creamy light brown in color. The low rolling hill would be covered with shimmering wheat. It would glow like gold in the sun. Then, later in the summer, in the early morning hours, she would help her father and brothers harvest the field, working to collect the sheaths behind the harvester, pulled by two mules, as it cut them down. The smell of the freshly cut wheat, the warmth of the sun, and the sweat of honest labor would greet her every day during that time. Her family would create neat rows of shocks to let the wheat dry before bringing them in for market. It was her favorite time of year.
But now, just now, as she stood among the growing wheat, she felt the birth of spring. The warmth, the sun, the upcoming harvest. She knew what it meant. For the Amish, it was a time of renewal. But for the girl, it meant much more. It was a rebirth, not just of her senses but also of her entire soul.
He was lost. That was the one thing he knew for certain. Beyond that, he did not know anything other than the fact that he was lost in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Once he had turned off the main road, everything began to look the same. The roads were long, weaving through miles of fields and farms. Each farm stood next to an even larger barn and windmill, looking like picturesque paintings against a backdrop of green fields. Silos completed the picture, hovering over the barns and casting long shadows onto the fields.
Cows dotted the fields, most of them black and white Holsteins. Occasionally, he would drive around a bend, hoping to find a street sign or some type of indicator as to where he was. But each bend brought him farther away from the main road and farther into the heart of farmland.
He glanced down at the paper in his hand with the handwritten address. But he couldn’t even read his own writing. Frowning, he looked up in time to see the two children walking along the road and up the hill. The boy wore a straw hat and the girl a black bonnet. They had lunch pails in their hands and one was on a scooter. Both were barefoot. His old pickup truck was headed right for them. Cursing silently, he swerved, more on instinct than by need. The children didn’t even notice and continued walking.
The truck wobbled and he felt a bump followed by a loud rattle noise. He could hear the too familiar thump-thump of a problem.
“Aw, come on,” he mumbled as he slowed down the truck.
He pulled off onto the side of the road, parked halfway on a grassy hill, and opened the door to his pickup. As expected, he had a flat. He knew that he should have changed the tires before he left on his journey.
“Just what I need,” he said to himself, as he ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and looked around, hoping to see another car or some inkling of civilization. But all he saw were the farms, pastures, and cows. Lots of cows. But no people and certainly no cars. He also didn’t even see telephone lines. His cell phone battery had died less than twenty minutes after he had crossed the state line earlier in the day. This was a bad idea, he thought to himself, not for the first time that day.
With a deep sigh of resignation, he set to work changing the tire. It had been a long day, a day filled with long highways and deep emotions. Leaving Connecticut behind would begin the healing, he knew that. But it didn’t hurt any less as he left the only home he had ever really known for new, uncharted territory. He knew that he needed the change, needed the fresh start. Still, he hadn’t counted on the forlorn sense of closure that increased with every mile of the journey. And now, with only a few minutes left, if he could ever find the house, the flat tire was like a slap in the face.
The sun was overhead but there was a cool breeze. He wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced at the sky. It was clear, the perfect spring day. The air was sweet, occasionally carrying a hint of the cows in nearby pastures. But he didn’t find the odor offensive. Indeed, he was looking forward to being around the farms, away from the city and rat race he had called life. If only he could be at the house, unpacking the truck and getting situated before nightfall. Instead, he was stuck on the side of the road, battling with a lug wrench and rusty lug nuts.
As he turned back to the tire, he noticed a motion out of the corner of his eye. Standing up, he leaned against the truck, shielding his eyes with his hand. Despite the blinding sun, he looked in the direction where he thought he had seen something move, and there he discovered the most unusual sight.
In the middle of the hill, a young woman stood with her arms stretched out and her face turned toward the sun, the warmth caressing her cheeks. She wore a blue dress with a black apron covering the front. The white covering on her head completed the picture. Amish, he thought. Yet, even from this distance, he could tell she was a pretty girl. She was lean, which made her look taller than she actually was. And she was smiling to herself, unaware that she was being observed.
The moment struck him as one of peace. He was drawn to it. He hadn’t had many moments of peace in the past few years. That was what he was seeking: peace and tranquility. He needed to find that type of peace again. Somewhere along the way, it had disappeared. He thought he knew the reason why it was gone, and he definitely knew the moment when it had vanished. The search for peace was the very reason he was here, on this road, lost with a flat tire. It was the reason he was watching the young woman spinning slowly on the hill that was covered with what he suspected was a growing crop of wheat.
Without being aware of his own actions, he stepped away from the truck and took a few steps toward the hill. In the distance, he saw the farmhouse and barn with surrounding pastures filled with cows. A dog barked in the distance but he couldn’t see from where. Perhaps behind the barn or by the farmhouse. He imagined that was where she lived. What he couldn’t understand was why she was here, all alone, in the field of the growing wheat on the hillside. While he admittedly knew very little about the Amish, he did know that Sundays were usually a day of worship and time spent with family.
He stood on the edge of the hill, watching her. The wind caught her prayer cap and it flew behind her. For the briefest of moments, she didn’t seem to care. It lay at her feet and she continued to spin, her face tilted toward the sun. But then, after a long moment, she dropped her arms to her sides and took a deep breath. That was when she turned to pick it up and saw him.
He could tell that she was startled by the way she quickly glanced over her shoulder at the farm behind her. It was as if she was contemplating a quick retreat. But she hesitated long enough for him to smile and wave.
“I’m sorry,” he called out. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. My truck,” he said, pointing toward the road where his truck was parked. “It has a flat.”
She quickly put the prayer cap back on her head and, once again, glanced over her shoulder toward the farm. She averted her eyes, trying not to look at him as she took a step backward. “You need help, ja?” she asked, her words thick with a Pennsylvania Dutch accent, and her voice carried in the breeze, despite the soft tone.
Cautiously, he took a step toward her. “I think I got it fixed. Just the tire.” He glanced around the field and back toward the road. “But, perhaps you could help me try to find my way?”
“You lost, then?” she asked, an inflection on the last word.
He ran his fingers through his hair and looked around. “I’m afraid so. I know I’m close but these roads don’t have street signs.” He met her gaze and grinned ruefully. “And they are so winding. My GPS system doesn’t seem capable of keeping up.”
“Where you looking to go?”
“Musser School Lane?”
She smiled. “Then you aren’t lost at all! Your truck is on it!” There was something genuine about her smile. It lit up her face and caused her eyes to crescent in happy half-moons.
“Really?” He laughed, looking over his shoulder at the truck again. “I wonder how that happened?”
An awkward silence fell between them. He took advantage of the silence to study her. Despite being Amish, she was, indeed, a very pretty girl with a natural beauty. Her skin was tan and clean, a healthy glow on her cheeks. As he watched her, a flush covered her face, the blush from his scrutiny too apparent. She took a step backward and glanced back at the farm again. Off in the distance, he could hear the gentle musical rhythm of a horse’s hooves clip-clopping against the macadam. There was nothing more to say.
“I should be going,” she finally said. She turned and walked down the hill, her pace quick and light. It wasn’t often that Amish women spent time alone in the company of men, especially non-Amish men. She wanted to be back in the safety of her world and away from his questioning eyes.
He watched her as she walked away, carefully crawling through the fencing into the cow pasture. When she finally disappeared into the barn, he turned and headed back to his truck. He wanted to finish that tire and get to his final destination in time to unpack the truck and settle in for the night. He knew he had some long days ahead of him and plenty of time to learn more about the Amish.
Sarah Price is the author of the Plain Fame series and the Amish of Ephrata series, among other books. She comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, and her writing reflects accurate and authentic stories based upon her own experiences with several Amish communities. Visit her at sarahpriceauthor.com and on Facebook.