Living Free - Chapter 1: Wildflowers

Living Free

By: loss4words

Chapter 1 - Wildflowers

Bella's POV ~

I'd always had ideas growing up -- big ideas.  Ideas that got a young Amish girl into trouble.  I was the youngest of three daughters, which had always pained my father, Charles.  He needed a son to help him in the fields.  Often times, the work load he had to bear was lessened by some other Amish boys; the ones that would most likely marry my sisters, Rosalie and Mary-Alice. 

When I was in the last year of my schooling --eighth grade-- I came across a book that I didn't think was intended for my eyes.  It talked about big college universities, where young people in the "English" world went to learn even more after their initial schooling.  This type of reading material was not meant for Amish children.  I found out too late that it was not appropriate to ask my father about college.

My mother was in the kitchen preparing a large lunch for the family, and for the two boys helping my father in the fields.  She had her back to me and was stirring something inside of a large pot over the wood stove.  There were tendrils of her long brown hair escaping her bonnet and sticking to her neck in the humidity of the farmhouse kitchen.

"Mama?  Can I ask you a question?" 

I moved to the table in the middle of the room and began to knead the dough that sat on it.  My mother didn't look at me, but kept her attention on whatever she was stirring in the pot.

"You may ask me a question, Isabella, as long as it is a question worth asking," she replied.

As I kneaded the dough, I thought about what she had said.  Was my question a question worth asking?  Would I do anything with the information once learned?  No, I wouldn't, because I was Amish, and Amish children -- especially girls -- did not go to school after the eighth grade.  It wasn't because we were not smart enough to go beyond that, quite the contrary, but our mothers and fathers needed our help at home -- in the kitchens and out in the fields.  We took care of our younger siblings when needed -- but most of all, we obeyed our parents -- and through them, God.  

I didn't ask her the question, but instead kneaded the dough until it was ready to bake.  After the dough was cut and separated into the baking pans, I cleaned myself up in the wash basin and went in search of my father.  I asked him many questions daily, and most often was given an answer.  He wasn't an analytical person and always gave me straight-forward answers. 

Later that day, I politely interrogated my father in an attempt to get the answers I wanted.  I asked him what college was; however, I really wished I hadn't.  My father began to rant about unnecessary education, value of children in the family, and the importance of serving God and family.  He preached at me for almost two hours until he was blue in the face.  He demanded I tell him where I had heard about college and then that I never speak about it again.

I should have known better than to ask my father about it. Too late, I remembered that his sister, my Aunt Esme, had left the Amish community to attend college.  We didn't speak of her much anymore since she was shunned, but I had always wondered about her after she had left.  There were always rumors going around about her, that she married an abusive man, that she was an alcoholic or addicted to drugs, that she was paid to have relations with men.  I could never find it in myself to believe any of them; that wasn't anything like my Aunt Esme.  It made sense that my father would feel so strongly about college; he lost his sister to it.


My work day started early in the morning; I rose at the same time as my mother, which tended to be before the sun was up.  My sisters were allowed to wake up a little after me, but their chores and responsibilities were different than mine.  First thing in the morning, before I ate breakfast, I went to the barn and fed the cattle, horses, goats, and chickens.  I never minded being up that early in the morning; I was much like my mother in that way.

There was something about the early morning, before the sun rose but after the crickets and frogs quit singing, that always made me feel at peace, content.  The air whispered its secrets in the breeze and truly felt as though God were alive in the grass underfoot. 

When I crept into the barn, the animals immediately heard me and welcomed me in their respective calls.  If I took too long in getting them their food, they would let me know by nudging me or grunting at me, but I was quite proficient and they didn’t need to nudge me often.  About the time that I finished up, the sun was rising and the birds started their chirping.  Their morning songs filled my ears as they, too, started their day.

Most of the others in the house were up by then, and before they started their day, we ate breakfast as a family.  The family included Emmett and Jasper, the two boys that helped my father in the fields every day and who my mother predicted would ask for my sisters' hands in marriage some day. 

My sisters had already gone through their Rumspringa, or "running-around," a couple of years ago; they were both preparing to go through their baptisms soon and were being courted by Emmett and Jasper.  Mary-Alice told me about their adventures outside of the farm and outside of the Amish lifestyle with wild animation, while Rosalie listened with what only seemed like bored amusement.  She rolled her eyes at most of the stories our sister told, but there were a couple of times her lip quivered as she fought off a smile.  I hadn’t ever thought about experiencing Rumspringa.  From what I understood, it was a time for the Amish kids that were preparing to be baptized to have an opportunity to be crazy for a while.  They could go out into the “English” world and have fun - do things they couldn’t do as Amish kids – before they committed their lives to God, the Ordnung, and their families.  The thought of going out into the world frightened me.

"The English world can be fun for a little while, Isabella, but it gets old.  Those people out there are emotionless, and they do not realize the importance of family and structure, and most importantly, of God," Rosalie advised me.  She had always spoken and acted like she was a fifty-year-old woman.  She also thought it was her job as my older sister to “protect” me.  What she thought she was protecting me from, I wasn’t sure.  Mary-Alice was older than me as well, but she had never found it necessary to protect me as Rosalie did.  Mary-Alice was more of a cheery person, not quite as morose as Rosalie.


"May I go pick some wildflowers today, Mother?  All my chores are completed and father and the boys have left to go help out over at the Stanely's."

"Where will you be picking them from, Isabella?  I do not want you wandering too close to the pavement.  Those automobiles drive by much too quickly; you could be killed in an instant."  My mother knotted her hands in the white linen towel she was using to dry a large pot.

"You do not need to worry about me, Mother.  I am going to go to the pond first and then walk toward the back of the property, only over by the dirt road," I reassured her. 

"That should be fine, but do not stay out all day.  The sun is hot and you are too pale to stay out for long.  I do not know how you stay so pale, Isabella.  Wear your wide-brimmed bonnet," she instructed me, then turned back to the wash basin to finish her cleaning.

"Yes, Mother," I replied as I made my way up to my room to fetch my other bonnet.

I secured my bonnet to my head and slid my shoes onto my feet.  Through the summer, my feet were mostly bare, but the walk to the far end of our land tended to be rocky at times.  My feet were strong, but there was always something out in the fields that could cause them damage. 

I stepped out of the house and walked out to the barn, retrieved my woven basket, and began my trek to the back of our property.  I had intended to stop at the little pond before I gathered my wild flowers, but the day was warm, and I figured I would need to cool off on my way home.  I instead curved my path around the pond area and its trees, and made my way toward the end of our property line. 

Most of the way there, I was able to walk on the perimeter of the field, to avoid the tall cornstalks that normally whipped at my face and arms.  Closer to the fence line, the grassy edge ran out, so I had to walk through the tall corn stalks to reach my destination.

I emerged after only a few short minutes of walking in the corn and dropped my basket on the other side of the fence.  The walk there took almost an hour, and by the time I arrived I was quite heated, where sweat beads pooled on my upper lip.

I left out the detail of my actual location to my mother because it would have worried her.  If she’d known that I was going to the back part of our property and over the fence near the road, she never would have let me go.  If it were a different road in the area, she wouldn’t have worried so much, but that road was different from all the others. Not that the road tended to be a busy one, quite the contrary, it was dirt and used mostly by Amish, but there were some automobiles that traveled it, and that was enough to make my mother fear it.

I walked and picked flowers for a little while and made some distance along the ditch.  My back began to ache from bending over for so long so I looked for a spot to sit down and rest a while.  I situated my hat so that the sun wouldn't shine directly on my face and closed my eyes.

I dreamt of nothing, but it was a peaceful sleep, until I was rudely awakened by someone practically falling on top of me.

"Ouch!" I yelled as I felt a shot of pain run up my ankle.  I quickly sat up with the intention of rubbing my foot and ankle, but met with resistance when I cracked heads with another person.  I moaned and fell backwards as I clutched at the pain in my forehead.  I forgot about my ankle.

"Oh, shit!" A velvety voice moaned from beside me.  A curse word.  I was sure I'd just heard a curse word.  The owner of that voice couldn't be Amish.  A respectable Amish man wouldn't swear, at least never in the presence of a woman. 

"I'm so sorry.  Are you alright, Miss?" he asked as he stood up.

I didn't say anything, couldn't say anything.  I was frozen in place with fear and I quickly looked down into my lap and clasped my hands together.  I closed my eyes for a few moments and hoped that the English man would get the hint and leave me alone.  He didn't.  I opened my eyes and looked around me before I finally rested my eyes on the man.  I could tell he was older than me, but by how much, I wasn't sure.  I had seen some English people in my life, some would come to the farm wanting to buy something or for some other matter, but I had never spoken to one.  We were taught not to speak to the English, and when it was necessary for us to be out in the general population with them, we spoke Amish Dutch instead of American English.

The man standing before me rubbed his head as he stared at me.  He looked worried, and slightly confused.  "I'm so sorry.  Please, tell me you’re okay," his voice pleaded with me. 

Some part of me felt like I should be frightened of the man.  I knew nothing about him; he was a stranger who had tripped, fallen over me, and then bumped heads with me.  Everything about him was foreign to me and I knew he held none of the beliefs I did.  My head told me that I needed to flee immediately, but the rest of my body told me something else.

I stayed where I was.

"I am okay, although, my head hurts, as does my ankle."  I reached down to rub at it and saw his hand reaching toward it as well.  I quickly pulled my legs away from him and closer to my body. 

He quickly retracted his hand and muttered, "Ah, I'm sorry.  I'm a fish out of water here."

I didn't understand the phrase and cocked my head at him, in question.  "I don't understand.  'A fish out of water?'"

"It means I'm not sure of the proper etiquette in this situation.  This is new to me, I've never spoken to the Amish...that's what you are, isn't it?"

I nodded my head at him.

"I'm just, trying to be respectful.  Truly, I'm so so sorry.  I'm working on the electrical box over there and my instructions got away from me in the wind.  I ran after them not looking where I was going and trampled right over you.  Please...please tell me you aren't hurt.  I feel absolutely horrible," he begged me as he kneeled down beside me.

His face was no longer in the sun and it was the first time I was able to get a good look at him.  He was something like I had never seen before.  I knew I lived a sheltered life, but I was sure that my eyes had never seen beauty like this in a man before.  I was used to manly men that grew thick beards and had sun wrinkles creviced into their skin.  I could think nothing of this man, but that he was pretty...and kind.

"I am okay.  Truly.  You needn't worry.  Are you okay?"  I asked, now worried after his well-being.

He tsked, "I'm fine, but I think I've lost my instructions.  I'll need to call dispatch and have someone bring me out a copy.  Excuse me for a moment," he excused himself and walked off a couple of feet.  He pulled out a small black square, flipped it open, and pushed a few buttons on it.  He then held it up to his ear.  My guess was that it was one of the small portable telephones that the English carried around, but I had only seen one once before.  I’d heard Mary-Alice and Rosalie speak of them from their running around time, too.

After a few moments Edward came back and sat down a few feet away from me in the grass.  He advised me that the "dispatch" had told him that they did not have the information he needed to continue his work for the day, so he was able to take the rest of the day off.  That was a foreign concept for me as my father and the boys that helped him always had work to do.  I understood that it had to do with the English ways, but I was still a little dumbfounded.

"I've been rude.  My name is Edward Masen.  It's a pleasure to meet you..."  He held out his hand and waited for me to respond.

I was tongue-tied for a moment, then let out a hysterical laugh.  Masen like a masen jar?  And did he actually want me to touch his hand?  I was nervous and unsure, but I also knew that I was being rude.  I looked around me one more time and saw no one.

"My name is Isabella Swan.  It is nice to meet you as well," I responded and slowly raised my hand to meet his. 

He slowly took my hand in his and as he did, I looked around me again, making sure I would not get caught.  I knew that if anyone saw me I would get into trouble for talking with a stranger, an English stranger.  As I turned back to look at him, I also saw that he was staring at me intently.  That was when I noticed the tingling in my palm.  I quickly took my hand back and Edward smiled at me a little.

"Bella.  I like that name," he told me as he nodded and settled more comfortably into the grass next to me.

"No, Isabella," I corrected him.

"Nah, I think Bella suits you better."  And from then on, I was Bella - at least to my secret English friend.

We talked for hours about all kinds of things.  Edward had several questions about my dress and bonnet as well as how many things on our farm were run.  He couldn’t believe we didn’t have “running water” and electricity.  I explained that our lives were simpler without them, and we lived our lives just fine without all of those things.  He told me about many things in the modern world, but mostly, I asked him about college.  Ever since I’d found that book in grade school, I had been intrigued.  I shamefully admitted to him that there were days I simply dreamed of doing nothing but reading.  He listened to everything I said, and answered my questions the best he could. 

After some time had passed, I took notice of the sun's placement in the sky.  I knew that I had better begin my walk back home.  Edward glanced at what he called his "cell phone" and made a little "humpf" noise.  I looked at him in question.

"Time has flown by, it's already almost two in the afternoon," he said as he put his arms behind him on the grass.  He was laid back, looking quite relaxed.

I suddenly had a bubble of nervousness in my stomach.  "Oh my!  I'm sure I must be late.  I must be getting home.  Mother is going to be a nervous wreck," I mumbled the words quickly as I rose from the ground and began to brush my clothes off.  I stood up and grabbed my basket, noticing that my flowers had wilted under the sun.  

As I lifted my foot to put on the fence and lift myself over, I felt a feather-light touch on my forearm.  I looked up at Edward.

"May I help you, Bella?"  He held his hand out to me.

Somehow, nothing seemed to come to my mind in the form of an answer.  I should have said 'oh no, I do this all the time, I'm fine' or 'no need to, I do well at this,' but instead, I let him grip my forearm and help me over the fence.  He then picked up my basket that I had set on the ground and handed it to me, but he didn't let go.

"I will be here tomorrow again, Bella.  Will you come and visit with me?" he inquired.  He stared directly into my eyes and I felt something stir in my stomach. 

I quickly looked away and gave my basket a little tug.  "I'm not sure I should.  This isn't allowed.  But...I will try, Edward," I told him and quickly disappeared into the corn.

Once I made it to the grassy area, I began to run.  My mother was going to be furious with me for being out so long.  She would be worried sick.  The odd thing however, was that I desperately wanted to do it again tomorrow, whether it brought me trouble or not.
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