Random Inspirations

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Rum-spring-a Break Finale

My apologies for leaving you suspended in time at Jakob’s awkward entrance for two whole weeks! But finally, here it is: the conclusion of Rum-spring-a Break. I hope Ethan’s advice to Rebekah will inspire you. Enjoy!

“Th-there you are,” Jakob stutters, flushing with embarrassment. His clear blue eyes cloud over to rainy-day gray as he studies Ethan and me. “Mercy’s not feeling well, so we should leave soon. But since you’re busy I’ll just…wait outside.”

Jakob nearly tramples Furball as he hurries from the room, and I laugh as Ethan’s eager lips take mine again.

“Are you on Facebook?” Ethan asks as our lips part. I shake my head no. “Do you have email?” I shake no again. “What about a phone? You must have a phone.”

“No, Ethan,” I say. “I’m Old Order Amish. We’re very traditional.”

“Will I see you again?” Ethan asks.

“I hope so.”

Ethan grabs a pen and scribbles his phone number on the back of the pre-vet curriculum in bold, strong strokes. He hands it to me, and his kiss is full of passion and promise. “So do I,” he says, his lips still on mine.

“Keep this, Rebekah,” Ethan says, reluctantly dragging himself, and me, off the bed. “And promise me you’ll remember something.”

“Anything,” I say.

“Don’t just hold on tight to your dreams,” Ethan says. “Actualize them.”

***

Ten Months Later:

I’m on the edge of my uncomfortable plastic seat as I wait for the SAT tests to be passed out. I’m glad I took Ethan’s advice. I still haven’t been baptized Amish, since I plan to earn my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree first. My hope is that, because my career will be useful to our community, the elders will overlook my worldly pursuit of education. In the meantime, though, I’ll just focus on enjoying rumspringa and the many benefits of the outside world.

I survey the other students in the room, a diverse group that, judging from the fidgeting, brow furrowing, and chair squeaking, is as nervous as I. A handsome young man in Amish suspenders and a straw hat sits across the room. I catch his eye and we exchange shy smiles as the tests are distributed. I’m dressed English today, but perhaps he recognizes a kindred spirit.

I close my eyes and visualize myself acing this test. I don’t know whether I’ll call Ethan and we will reunite, or whether the Amish boy will talk to me during break, or whether I will succeed as a veterinarian, or whether my family and community will accept me if I do. But I do know one thing: right here, and right now, I feel as though I’m exactly where I belong. Clutching my Number 2 pencil, I take a deep breath, open my eyes, and flip open my SAT booklet, ready for whatever comes next.

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Video Preview of New Book

Hi everyone,

I’m excited about this short interview I did in San Diego, where I previewed my new book, and talked about its unique elements:

Hope you enjoyed watching it. Have a great day!

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Rum-spring-a Break Part 4

In the next section of my short story, Rebekah and friends have their first interactions with “English” college students, and she finds inspiration in unexpected places.

The college party is in full swing. An entire apartment has been usurped by screaming people, and the stench of cigarettes and alcohol hangs in the air. Flashing strobes cast their dancing lights around the kitchen and living room. Tall, beefy boys fill their red cups with beer from a massive keg. Scantily clad girls sway on a makeshift dance floor or gossip in little groups, gesturing with their wine coolers. Amorous couples make out in dark corners or grind on the dance floor.

“This. Is. Sooooo. Amazing!” Mercy exclaims. Abram pops the top off a beer and hands it to her. She takes a hearty swig and frowns. “Eeew. That tastes disgusting.”

A brawny English guy appears with a pair of Mike’s Hard Lemonades. “Here, try these,” he says, handing one to Mercy and one to me. He leers at us, and I smell the pungent odor of beer…too much beer…on his breath. “Are you twins?”

“Yeah,” I say, moving away. Mercy flutters her plumped-up eyelashes at him. She seems to like all English guys, no matter how repulsive. I sip my hard lemonade, almost choking as the bubbles tickle my tongue and the back of my throat. It’s the first carbonated beverage I’ve ever tasted, and I realize I like it. I take a long gulp and close my eyes. Heaven.

“Slow down, Rebekah,” Jakob says, draping a big-brotherly arm around my shoulder. “That stuff is stronger than you think.”

“It doesn’t taste strong,” I say, pulling away from him, downing the lemonade like water.

Jakob grabs the bottle as I finish it, and studies the label. “5.2% alcohol,” he reads, grinning. “You’ll be feeling it soon, but it’s all in the name of rumspringa.”

He’s right. I grab another hard lemonade from a cooler nearby, and as I’m drinking it, I start feeling goofy. I suddenly want to giggle. I lose track of time, and I have no idea where Mercy and Abram are; Jakob never strays far from my side. My body heats up from the inside out, and I have this uncontrollable desire to dance.
The problem is, I have no idea how to dance English. I glance around the room and realize these girls have no idea either. There is no uniform dance, just hip wiggling and sinuous movements of the torso. I join in, and, soon enough, an English college boy is dancing right behind me.

“Hey,” he says, spinning me around. He runs his hands down my body. “I’m Connor. I live here.” I introduce myself and he says, “I’ve never seen you around, Rebekah. What’s your major?”

I pause. Should I tell him the truth, or create an alternate persona? My sober self would opt for the former, but naturally, my tipsy self doesn’t agree. “Pre-veterinary medicine,” I say.

“Fancy,” Connor says, wiggling his eyebrows. “My roomie Ethan is pre-vet.” He gestures broadly with his red cup toward an incredibly handsome guy with longish, straight black hair and brilliant blue eyes. “Hey, Ethan! This chick is pre-vet too!”

Uh-oh. I can’t meet a real pre-vet student, no matter how gorgeous he is. I don’t want to admit I’ve been lying to Connor. I smile at Connor and Ethan, wave my empty hard lemonade bottle, and duck out of the room, pretending I’m searching for a new drink. I head outside onto a roomy wooden deck; it’s filled with people, but I desperately need some air.

“Rebekah! We have tequila shots!” Mercy calls. She’s sprawled across an English guy’s lap, holding a bottle marked Jose Cuervo. She grabs a miniature plastic cup from the outdoor table, sloshes some tequila into it, and stumbles toward me.

I take a whiff of the poisonous liquid; it smells like pure sin. “No thanks,” I say, handing it back.

“Leaves more for us!” Mercy’s English boyfriend says.

“Good choice, Rebekah,” says a voice behind me.

“Jakob!” I exclaim, whirling around. “How long have you been standing here?”

“Long enough to remember why I’ve always thought you were the girl for me,” Jakob replies. He draws his face toward mine, so close that I can feel the tickle of his downy blonde beard, and smell the beer on his breath.

“Always?”

“Yes, always.” Jakob draws me in for a kiss…my first ever.

I close my eyes and try to lose myself in the moment, savoring the mild haze of alcohol that heightens my impulses and the cool spring breeze that invigorates my senses. This kind of moment is every Amish girl’s dream; after all, rumspringa exists to help us find ideal mates, and being kissed on the first night of rumspringa is an incredible stroke of luck.

Despite my efforts, however, I can’t lose myself in Jakob’s kiss as his inexperienced lips fumble across mine. I just don’t feel passionate about him. His kiss is like his personality: calm, settled, and ordinary. I want something breathless and out of control. Jakob seems ready to settle down, but I’m not. I don’t know where I belong or who I belong with, but I know it’s not Jakob.

“Wooooowooooo!” Mercy exclaims, flopping toward us. I am eternally grateful to her for breaking the moment. “Someone’s having a good rumspringa make-out!”

“It’s probably nothing compared to what you’ve had!” Jakob says jovially, draping an arm around Mercy’s shoulder. “Come inside for awhile. We need to get you away from that Cuervo.” Mercy follows Jakob, surprisingly docile. I stay outside to clear my head. I close my eyes and lean on the railing of the deck, ignoring the group of English college students playing a game with red cups, beer, and little white balls.

My reverie is interrupted when I feel a light tap on my shoulder. I spin around and find myself gazing into eyes as blue as a September sky. My breath hitches, and I feel my pulse galloping like a runaway horse.

“Are you avoiding me?” Ethan asks, laughing. “You ran away before we could be formally introduced. I was so excited to meet another pre-vet student. We’re hard to find, you know, since we live in the library.”

“I’m Rebekah,” I say. I reach out to shake his hand, but realize he’s holding a red cup. Our reaction times are impaired from the alcohol; we’re both too clumsy and intoxicated to avoid the ensuing collision. I bump his cup, and we laugh and shriek as beer spills all over the front of his pants.

“I’m sooooo sorry!” I exclaim. I snatch a roll of paper towels, tear some off, and jump right in there to help him, before I realize what part of his anatomy I’m nearly touching. My face heats up as I say, “Sorry again…”

“No worries,” Ethan says, mopping off his pants. He rakes his fingers through his raven-black hair, and it immediately flops back into his eyes. “I can always change my pants. Besides, you’re cute. You’re allowed a party foul or two.”

I smile and reply, “Thanks, so are you.” So this is flirting. I’m actually not bad at it.

“I can’t believe I’ve never noticed you around campus before,” Ethan says. “But to be honest, I don’t party much. The main reason I’m here is because Connor talked me into it, and besides, I live here.”

“No escape,” I say, laughing. “But about the pre-vet thing…Ethan, there’s something I need to tell you.” Ethan just stands there, waiting. I clear my throat. “I’m not really pre-vet. I’m Amish. I was just…trying out another identity. I want to be pre-vet,” I continue as Ethan’s eyebrows shoot up, “but I’m not right now.”

Ethan bursts into laughter. “You know, Rebekah, I’ve done the same thing. My alternate identity was a little more interesting, though. Last time I went on vacation, I told everyone my name was Jet, and I was a racecar driver.”

I crack up. “You’d make a great Jet.”

Ethan smiles, but then his brilliant eyes search my face intensely. “Rebekah, if you seriously want to be pre-vet, I can show you some of the stuff I’m doing in school. I know it’s kind of nerdy to do right now, but…”

“I’d love that,” I say, as Ethan takes my hand and leads me past the chaos of the drunken party and into his bedroom.

I’m in a boy’s bedroom! With the exception of my brothers’ rooms, I’ve never seen a boy’s bedroom before. Ethan’s is crammed with books and sports equipment, but his desk is neat and organized, and his bed is made. He grabs a sheet of paper, plops down on his bed, and motions for me to do the same.
“This is Pitt’s pre-vet curriculum,” Ethan says, gesturing to the paper. “It’s really heavy on the science, obviously. There’s chem and bio freshman year…moving into organic chemistry…” I try to focus on what Ethan is saying, but all I can do is stare at his lips, entranced. They’re full and luscious, and they probably taste delicious.

I mentally scold myself. I shouldn’t be dreaming about kissing English boys. I don’t belong here. It’s fun and Ethan is sweet, but there’s no future in it, right?

“…but maybe you’ve already taken some of these courses, and you could catch up on the rest. Are you in college now?” Ethan asks, jolting me from my inner moral dilemma.

“No,” I say. “I’m only sixteen. But even if I were college-age, it would be hard for me to go. Few Amish attend college.”

Saying the words aloud reminds me of the hopelessness of my situation. I realize that my white lie about being pre-vet is probably the closest I’ll ever come to actualizing my dream.

“I’m sorry for wasting your time,” I tell Ethan. I push myself up from the bed. The giddy intoxication is wearing off, and now I only feel tired, depressed, and confused.

“Rebekah, I like spending time with you!” Ethan protests. “And never give up on your dreams. There must be a way for you to be educated, but still be Amish. You should take your SATs this year. That’s your first step. It’s possible, too.” His eyes light up as he adds, “An Amish girl in traditional clothes took the SAT at the same time I did.”

Looking into Ethan’s eyes and feeling his enthusiastic energy makes me believe everything will work out for me. I smile at him, just as a fluffy white cat streaks out from his entertainment center.

“Whoa!” I exclaim. “I didn’t know you had a cat!”

“That’s Furball. Her favorite hiding place is behind the TV,” Ethan says, bending down and rubbing Furball absentmindedly as she slinks past.

Furball approaches me, rubbing her lithe, silky body on my leg. I crash back down on Ethan’s bed, scoop her up onto my lap, and stroke her thick, soft fur. She gazes up at me with fluorescent green eyes, and it’s love at first sight.

I realize that another pair of nearly fluorescent eyes is focused on me as well. “You owe it to yourself to study pre-vet,” Ethan says softly, sitting next to me, draping his strong arm around me. “Furball’s usually shy with everyone. You really have a way with animals.”

Jakob’s words seem so much more poetic coming from Ethan’s mouth. Ethan gently pushes back my hair and leans in, his warm lips overtaking mine. Ethan’s kiss is electrically charged, passionate, and fairly sinful. I feel my body melting like a puddle of butter on the stove as I revel in his unique flavor: part mint gum, part residual beer, all Ethan.

I’m so enveloped in sensual pleasure that I barely hear Ethan’s door swinging open. But as a throat clears hesitantly, Ethan and I snap apart to see Jakob towering awkwardly over the bed.

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Rum-spring-a Break Part 3

Happy Thursday, all! And just in time for the (almost) weekend, here is the next segment of Rum-spring-a Break. You’ve had two sneak peeks to set the stage–in Part 3, a little wildness just might be in store!

I grin broadly. “Should we do something crazy?”

“It’s Thursday,” Jakob reminds me. “I have to work early tomorrow, and so do you.” Like the rest of our community, Jakob and I finished school when we were fourteen, and now we have jobs. He works in a garage, repairing cars, which he adores. I work with Mercy in a bakery, which I don’t adore.

“Let’s plan something for tomorrow, though,” Jakob says, draping his arm around my shoulder. “We’ll go cruising. I’ll swing by and pick you and Mercy up.” Jakob and his friends go cruising every weekend in his old Ford pickup. He saved up for years to buy it, but his parents won’t let him park it at home; he has to leave it at work when he’s not driving it.

“I can’t wait,” I say, smiling as I extricate myself from his arm. I’ve known Jakob since birth, and he’s like a brother to me. It feels weird to have him in my personal space. “Well, good night.”

“Good night, simmie,” Jakob says, referring to the Amish nickname for newcomers to rumspringa. His teasing tone belies the flash of hurt in his crystalline blue eyes. I ignore it and dash toward home. I really need to sleep a bit; something tells me tomorrow will be an exciting day.

***

“Woooohoo!” Mercy screams, sticking her head out Jakob’s truck window like a dog. Jakob’s friend Abram gives Mercy a playful slap on the back and cranks up some hip-hop music on Jakob’s souped-up radio.

I sit back in my seat, the bass from the speakers shaking my insides. I am in a state of sensory overload. My birthday celebration has been a marathon, starting with my father painting our picket fence blue, essentially proclaiming to the Amish boys, “Come and get ‘em! Girls of marriageable age live here!” At our birthday party, Mercy and I acquired English clothes from our good friend Hannah, and now we’re wearing them. I’m a little self-conscious about the way my new skimpy, brightly colored sundress clings to my body and shows my arms and legs. On the upside, the night breeze feels deliciously decadent as it caresses my skin.

I close my eyes and let my loose hair blow free in the wind. My wavy, chestnut-brown hair is as straight and shiny as an English model’s, thanks to the borrowed flat iron. My eyelashes look about twice their usual length and thickness, and my glossy lips shimmer, thanks to the borrowed make-up. I feel like everything in my life is borrowed right now, even my time; I’m not used to having free time at night. Normally, I’d be asleep, since, even on Saturdays, my chores start early. During rumspringa, however, my parents are a little more lax with their demands. Thank goodness my younger siblings will pick up the slack.

Jakob, Abram, Mercy, and I arrive in Pittsburgh after an hour drive. I’ve never seen the city before, and the twinkling lights dazzle me as they glint off the three rivers. We pass over a bridge, and enter a more crowded section of town. English kids seem to frolic in the streets, calling loudly back and forth to each other. Jakob somehow maneuvers his big, clumsy truck into a tiny spot near a ramshackle-looking apartment building. The people inside are blasting music so loudly that Jakob’s stereo sounds like a whispering wind in comparison.

“Where are we going?” I ask the boys. Mercy hops out of the truck, smoothing her short skirt and eyeing some particularly cute English guys heading into the apartment.

“To a college party,” Jakob replies. He actually looks somewhat English in his tee shirt and jeans, although his Amish-style bowl cut and light beard give him away. Even without his hat, his hair is totally flattened, in contrast to the spiky, slick, or just plain voluminous locks of the English boys.

“The Pitt students have great parties,” Abram says, ogling three girls sporting tiny shorts and pink and purple streaks in their glowingly unnatural blonde hair. “They don’t mind if we crash their parties, as long as we bring something.” Abram grabs two six-packs of beer from the back of the truck–he’s the only one of us over twenty-one–and we head in the direction of the noise.

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