Un vergebb unser Schulde,

Wie mir die vergewwe wu uns schuldich sinn.

Un fiehr uns net in die Versuchung,

Awwer hald uns vum Ewile.

Fer dei is es Reich, die Graft,

Un die Hallichkeit in Ewichkeit.


As we finished, silence seemed to press down eerily upon our gathering. After the explosions, perhaps it was only my ears ringing. Or the soft shock of the death of the pilot.

I only knew that the weight of the sky had changed, that something was indelibly wrong. I could feel it on the walk back to my house. I couldn’t articulate it, not even to Elijah, but I think that he felt it too. He walked beside me, head bowed, shovel slung over his shoulder. Our shadows stretched long in the sunset.

I opened my mouth to speak several times, but no sound came out. This was too far out of my everyday experience to understand, but I wanted to get home. Home to my parents and the familiar rhythm of what I knew. A lump rose in my throat. My mother will know what to do, I told myself as I approached the house.

She was waiting for us on the back step. Though in her forties, my mother could easily have passed for my grandmother: she had the same gray eyes and straight, light brown hair streaked with wiry strands of silver. Years of sun and laughter had freckled her face and etched a spider web of lines around her eyes and mouth. Looking at her was sometimes like looking into my own future.

When she saw us, my mother rose to her feet and ran toward me. She thrust the hair that had come loose from my bonnet off my face, eyes wide at the dried blood on my cheek and clothing. “Are you all right, liewe?”

Plain folk were discouraged from using terms of endearment on the grounds that they were superficial. But the rules were loosened for mothers communicating with their children. My mother often called Sarah and me liewe—“dear.”

Ja, Mother,” I said.

Her gaze wasn’t fixed on me, but on my stained apron.

“It isn’t mine, Mother,” I whispered.

She nodded, wiping some dampness that had fallen on my cheek with the heel of her palm. “Are there any survivors? Your father went to find Frau Gerlach—”

I shook my head, unable to speak. I noticed that there were no red ambulances or paramedics even here. Frau Gerlach was our midwife, and the closest thing we had to a doctor, but saving the pilot in the helicopter probably would have been beyond the scope of her skills.

Mrs. Parsall paced down the driveway, staring at her cell phone, stabbing at the buttons.

“Did you reach the fire department?” Elijah asked.

“I called them. Ten times.” She sighed in frustration. “And the sheriff and the highway patrol.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “Why didn’t . . . Why didn’t they come? These are their people.” My fingers curled into fists. How could the English leave their people here to die, how they could not come to help their own?

Mrs. Parsall frowned at the device. “I don’t know. I got a dispatcher the first three times I called. They said that they would send someone. After that, I just got a busy signal. I’ve been waiting by the road to flag them down, but . . . nothing.” Her shoulders slumped.

My mother reached out, patted my sleeve. “Katie, go wash up. Mrs. Parsall, it’s almost time for Nachtesse. Will you stay for a meal?”

The Plain reaction to any crisis is always to feed everyone in sight. My mother was no exception. She knew what Mrs. Parsall’s answer would be on an ordinary day. She had spent many an evening at our table in the last months.

I often felt a bit sorry for Mrs. Parsall, returning to an empty house with her children and her husband gone. He was in the military, stationed somewhere in Europe. The Amish didn’t believe in military service, so the idea was utterly foreign to me. Though I wasn’t sure I wanted my mother’s life as an adult woman, I wasn’t certain that I wanted Mrs. Parsall’s, either.

Mrs. Parsall hesitated. “I—”

“Please stay,” I said, reaching for her hand with my filthy one.

Ja, Mrs. Parsall, you must stay,” my mother decided. “We’ll have a table full in minutes, as soon as everyone comes in from the field.” She gestured with her chin to the corn beyond. Some figures were already beginning to disperse to their own homes, but she knew that she had a duty to feed anyone who stopped by.

“Okay. Thanks. But let me help you set the table.”

My mother nodded in satisfaction, and the women disappeared into the house with the screen door swishing shut behind them. Elijah and I gathered around the backyard water pump. Elijah primed it, pushing against the squeaking lever until spring water rushed out into a bucket below.

I untied my bonnet and thrust my hands into the soft, summer-warm water. I splashed it up over my face, scrubbed my grimy hands and neck. I felt a sudden surge of nausea and braced my hands against my knees. I had never been squeamish about blood before, but the only blood I dealt with belonged to animals. I gripped the edge of the bucket with sweaty palms.

The pump stopped squeaking. “Katie? Are you all right?”

“Ja.” I nodded. “Just . . . more water, please.”

Elijah resumed pumping, and I thrust my head under the flow of water. It felt warm against the back of my neck, sluicing through my hair and dribbling underneath the collar of my dress. I let it wash over me until the water ran clear beneath my chin into the overflowing bucket and my dress was all wet.

“Thank you,” I said, breathlessly.

Elijah looked at me oddly. I was soaked, with my hair unbound. Plain girls did not make a display of themselves in front of men this way. A woman’s hair was considered to be her glory, and it was vain to display it uncovered outside of her home. I watched his Adam’s apple move up and down, and then he turned his back to me to wash himself.

I squeezed the water out of my hair, coiled it back. I pulled my apron off, shoved it in the rubbish heap. It was beyond the help of soap or bleach.

My mother had the laundry hung out to dry. I plucked a clean dress from the clothesline and headed inside to change. I knew that I would feel better now that I was clean, surrounded by the familiar scents and bustle of home.

The bottom floor of our house was a large room with a staircase in the middle. Our back door led directly into the kitchen area. Propane-powered appliances lined the wall: a refrigerator and stove, separated by counters and a sink, where my mother was chopping vegetables.

Mrs. Parsall set the long table in the center of the floor. She glanced up when I came in, her smile wan. My little sister trailed behind her, humming and folding the napkins, blissfully unaware of what had happened.

I would not be the one to tell her.

I headed up the stair, to the room I shared with Sarah. Our twin beds, swaddled in quilts, were set parallel to each other with a window between them. I changed quickly, hiding my dirty dress in the bottom of the laundry heap. I didn’t want to see it, wanted to pretend that all was normal. I tied on a clean apron, stuffed my wet hair up loosely under a fresh bonnet. My hands shook as I tied the strings, and I stabbed myself more than once with the

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