Pummeled by debris in the wind, Joshua hustled the woman and her child down the old stone steps in the hope of finding safety below. He had discovered the cellar that afternoon while investigating the derelict property for his father. He hadn’t explored the basement because the crumbling house with its sagging roof and tilted walls didn’t look safe. He couldn’t believe anyone had lived in it until a few months ago. Now its shelter was their only hope.
The wind tore at his clothes and tried to suck him backward. His hat flew off and out of the steep stairwell to disappear in the roiling darkness overhead. The roar of the funnel was deafening. The cellar door banged shut, narrowly missing his head and then flew open again. A sheet of newspaper settled on the step in front of him and opened gently as if waiting to be read. A second later, the cellar door dropped closed with a heavy thud, plunging him into total darkness.
He stumbled slightly when his feet hit the floor instead of another step. The little girl kept screaming but he barely heard her over the howling storm. It sounded as if he were lying under a train. A loud crash overhead followed by choking dust raining down on them changed the girl’s screaming into a coughing fit. Joshua knew the house had taken a direct hit. It could cave in on them and become their tomb instead of their haven.
He pressed the woman and her child against the rough stone wall and forced them to crouch near the floor as he huddled over the pair, offering what protection he could with his body. It wouldn’t be much if the floors above them gave way. He heard the woman praying, and he joined in asking for God’s protection and mercy. Another crash overhead sent more dust down on them. Choked by the dirt, he couldn’t see, but he felt her hand on his face and realized she was offering the edge of her apron for him to cover his nose and mouth. He clutched it gratefully, amazed that she could think of his comfort when they were all in peril. She wasn’t screaming or crying as many women would. She was bravely facing the worst and praying.
He kept one arm around her and the child. They both trembled with fear. His actions had helped them escaped the funnel itself, but the danger was far from over. She had no idea how perilous their cover was, but he did.
He’d put his horse and buggy in the barn after he arrived late yesterday evening. One look at the ramshackle house made him decide to sleep in the backseat of his buggy while his horse, Oscar, occupied a nearby stall.
The barn, although old and dirty, was still sound with a good roof and plenty of hay in the loft. His great-uncle had taken better care of his animals than he had of himself.
Joshua hoped Oscar was okay, but he had no way of knowing if the barn had been spared. Right now, he was more worried that the old house over their heads wouldn’t be. Had he brought this woman and her child into a death trap
Terrified, Mary held Hannah close and prayed. She couldn’t get the sight of her buggy being lifted into the sky out of her mind. What if they had still been inside? What if her rescuer hadn’t appeared when he did? Was today the day she was to meet God face-to-face? Was she ready?
Please, Father, I beg You to spare us. If this is my time to come home to You, I pray You spare my baby’s life. But if You must take Hannah, take me, too, for I couldn’t bear to be parted from her again.
The roar was so loud and the pressure so intense that Mary wanted to cover her aching ears, but she couldn’t let go of Hannah or the apron she was using to cover their faces. The horrible howling went on and on.
Make it stop, God! Please, make it stop.
In spite of having her face buried in the cloth, thick dust got in her eyes and her nose with every breath. Hannah’s small body trembled against her. Her screams had turned to whimpers as her arms tightened around Mary’s neck. The roar grew so loud that Mary thought she couldn’t take it another moment. Her body shook with the need to run, to escape, to get away.
As soon as the thought formed, the sound lessened and quickly moved on. Was it over? Were they safe?
Thanks be to God.
Mary tried to stand, but the man held her down. “Not yet.”
She could hear the wind shrieking and lashing the trees outside, but the horrible pressure in her ears was gone and the roar was fading. In its place, groaning, cracking and thumps reverberated overhead. A thunderous crash shook the ceiling over them and the old timbers moaned. Hannah clutched Mary’s neck again. Mary glanced up fearfully. She couldn’t see anything for the darkness and the man leaning over her.
He said, “Stay close to the wall. It’s the safest place.”
She knew what he meant. It was the safest place if the floor above them came down. She huddled against the cold stones, pressing herself and Hannah into as small a space as possible, and waited, praying for herself, her child and the stranger trying to protect them. After several long minutes, she knew God had heard her prayers. The old boards above them stayed intact.
“Is the bad thing gone, Mamm?” Hannah loosened her stranglehold on Mary’s neck. Her small voice shook with fear.
Mary stroked her hair and kissed her cheek to soothe her. Somewhere in their mad dash, Hannah had lost her bonnet and her braids hung loose. “Ja, the bad storm is gone, but keep your face covered. The dust is very thick.”
Hannah was only quiet for a moment. “Can we go outside? I don’t like it in here.”
Mary didn’t like it either. “In a minute, my heart. Now hush.”
“We must let the storm pass first,” the man said. His voice was deep and soothing. Who was he? In her brief glimpse of him, she had noticed his Amish dress and little else beyond the fact that he was a young man without a beard. That meant he was single, but she didn’t recognize him from the area. He was a stranger to her. A Good Samaritan sent by God to aid her in her moment of need. She wished she could see his face.
“Is Tilly okay, Mamm?”
“I don’t know, dear. I hope so.” Mary hadn’t spared a thought for her poor horse.
“Who is Tilly?” he asked.
“Our horse,” Hannah replied without hesitation, surprising Mary.
Hannah rarely spoke to someone she didn’t know. The current situation seemed to have erased her daughter’s fear of strange men, or at least this man. It was an anxiety Mary knew she compounded with her own distrust of strangers. She tried to accept people at face value, as good, the way her faith required her to do, but her dealings with men in the past had left scars on her ability to trust as well as on her wrists. Not everyone who gave aid did so without an ulterior motive.
“I think your horse is safe. I saw her running away across the field. Without the buggy to pull, she may have gotten out of the way.” There was less tension in his voice. Mary began to relax. The worst was over and they were still alive.
“But Tilly will be lost if she runs off.” Hannah’s voice quivered.
“Nee, a goot horse will go home to its own barn,” he assured her. “Is she a goot horse?”
Mary felt Hannah nod vigorously, although she doubted the stranger could see. “She’s a wunderbar horse,” Hannah declared.
“Then she’ll likely be home before you.”
Hannah tipped her head to peer at the man. “Did your horse run off, too?”
“Oscar is in the barn. He should be okay in there.”
Mary heard the worry underneath his words. In a storm like this, nowhere aboveground was safe.
Hannah rested her head on Mary’s shoulder. “Are Mammi Ada and Bella okay?”
“They are in God’s hands, Hannah. He will protect them.” The twister had come up behind them. Mary had no idea if it had touched down before or after it passed over the farm. She prayed for her dear grandmother.
“I want to go home. I want to see Mammi Ada and Bella.”
“Is Bella your sister?” the man asked.
“She’s my wunderbar dog.”
He chuckled. It was a warm, friendly sound. “Have you a wunderbar cat as well?”
“I don’t. Bella doesn’t like cats. She’s going to be worried about me. We should go home now, Mamm.” Mary hoped they had a house waiting for them.
“We’ll get you home as soon as the storm has moved on,” the young man said as he stepped back.
Mary’s eyes were adjusting to the gloom. She could see he was of medium height with dark hair, but little else. She knew that without his help things could have been much worse. He could have taken shelter without risking his life to help them. She had his bravery and quick action to thank for getting them out of her buggy before it’d become airborne. Just thinking about what that ride would have been like caused a shiver to rattle her teeth.
He gave her an awkward pat on her shoulder. “I think the worst is over.”
She tried not to flinch from his touch. Her common sense said he wasn’t a threat, but trusting didn’t come easily to her. “We are grateful for your assistance. God was merciful to send you when he did.”
He gave a dry bark of laughter. “This time I was in the right place at the right time.”
What could he find funny in this horrible situation?
Purchase Amish Redemption here.
©2015 Love Inspired. Used with permission
Pat Davids is a former NICU nurse who has always enjoyed creating stories of romance and adventure. Pat lives in central Kansas with her daughter, two grandchildren and three dogs. It’s a busy household.
Pat has served as president of the Wichita Area Romance Authors and has been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. A frequent speaker to writer’s groups and book clubs, she enjoys sharing all she has learned about the Amish while researching her stories. Her latest release, Amish Redemption, releases March 17th.
Purchase Patricia’s books here.