Jason turned and leaned back against the railing, crossing his arms over his chest as the cool wind seeped in through his black jacket. He moved his gaze upward. Puffy gray clouds strangled the sky, and the mist that had threatened all day finally transformed into steady raindrops. The weather was a fitting complement to the hundreds of community members who had journeyed to the Lapp home to say good-bye to Seth.
The back door creaked open, and a choked sob followed. Two women stepped out onto the porch as they supported a third woman, who seemed to be holding on to them with all her strength. They all shared similar facial features and looked to be in their twenties. The woman crying was dressed in black with wisps of blonde hair escaping her prayer covering. Her beautiful face crumpled with anguish and her ice-blue eyes, rimmed with dark circles, were clouded with tears.
The sobs grew louder as her legs seemed to buckled, causing the other two women to grasp her more tightly. Jason started to move across the porch to help them, but they successfully steered her toward a nearby bench and ordered her to sit down. The woman obeyed and the other two young ladies sat on either side of her, cooing softly while holding her hands.
The door banged open, and a middle-aged couple rushed out and hovered over the three women.
“Veronica?” The older woman addressed the crying woman.
Jason’s eyes widened as he whispered, “Veronica.” Seth’s fiancée! Seth had spoken of her so often that Jason felt as if he knew her.
Veronica shook her head and dabbed her wet eyes with a tissue. “No, I promised Margaret I would stay.”
“She would understand if you left,” the young woman with light brown hair said. “You’ve been here all day.”
“Rachel is right,” the one with blonde hair chimed in. “You’ve been here since the crack of dawn, and I heard you pacing last night. You haven’t slept since . . .” Her voice trailed off and she cleared her throat. “Mamm’s right. You’re going to pass out again if you don’t calm down. And you need to sleep.”
“I can’t sleep.” Veronica’s voice was gravelly. “I need to be here. I have to be here for him. I can’t leave him.” Her voice broke and sobs racked her body anew.
The agony in her eyes fueled his guilt. Why hadn’t he saved Seth? Why wasn’t he there when Seth fell? He could’ve broken his fall or warned him if he’d heard the board start to give way.
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Amy Clipston has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her fiction writing “career” began in elementary school when she and a close friend wrote and shared silly stories. She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She is the author of the bestselling Kauffman Amish Bakery series and the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series with Zondervan, which is part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, mother, and four spoiled rotten cats. Her latest release is The Forgotten Recipe.
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