Pulling up to Melissa’s parents’ modest farmhouse had Troy’s stomach dancing with butterflies. What were her parents going to think? They probably already thought he was nuts for his old-fashioned way of requesting an audience with her father.
The rain had let up as they’d driven east and now a light haze hung over the freshly planted fields all around the perimeter of the Dalton’s feedlot. Theirs was a decent sized livestock operation, commercial but not industrial.
Troy pulled his truck around the circle drive and parked close to the front door with the passenger side toward the house so that the women wouldn’t have to walk as far. He hurried around the front of the truck to hold open the door for Melissa as Craig helped unclip baby Jesse from his car seat harness before walking around to hold open the door for his wife.
Melissa’s mother stepped out the front door and smiled down to them from the porch. Her eyes met his and he returned her smile, lacing his fingers through Melissa’s and trying to calm his nerves.
Because he was watching Melissa’s mom so intently, Troy knew the minute her mom saw Jessica climb down from the truck because her smile faltered, and her lips pursed. That didn’t take long. She’d pieced the puzzle together even more quickly than Melissa. With a forced smile and hardened eyes, Mrs. Dalton stepped off the porch and approached her daughter.
“Mom, this is my friend Jessica, her husband Craig, and their adorable baby Jesse.” Then Melissa pulled him closer and said with pride in her voice. “And this is Troy.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Dalton.” Troy reached out and offered his hand. “Thank you for allowing us to come meet you and your husband.”
She hesitated a second or two longer than was socially acceptable and Troy wondered if she was going to leave him hanging. Finally, she clasped his hand with the firm, calloused grip of a farmer’s wife. She didn’t respond with words just looked at her daughter with raised eyebrows.
“Where’s Daddy?” Melissa asked, glancing toward the barn.
“I’m right here.” A gruff voice pulled Troy’s attention back to the front door where an intimidating man stepped onto the porch, his hardened expression an outward display of his disappointment at seeing the man holding his daughter’s hand.
Troy made a split-second decision to drop Melissa’s hand and approach her father with a confident stride and an outstretched hand. “Mr. Dalton, my name is Troy Weller. I’m honored to meet you, sir.”
“Melissa, you didn’t tell me your friend was Amish.” Mr. Dalton didn’t reach for Troy’s hand.
“Mennonite, actually, sir,” Troy said, clearing his throat and not lowering his hand.
Mr. Dalton looked Troy up and down with disdain and Troy wondered if this was how Melissa had felt when he’d brought her to his uncle’s restaurant. Perhaps they both should have been more upfront with their families and friends.
Perhaps their families and friends should be more accepting of their choice in life partners.
The teachings of his youth came pouring into his heart. You will be excommunicated if you marry outside the church.
Troy wondered if this was the case with Melissa’s faith as well. Would she be excommunicated from her church if she marries him? Was he taking away her fellowship with her friends and family if he takes her away and keeps her for himself? He dropped his hand and lowered his gaze. No wonder their families were upset if that is what they all believed.
Melissa rushed to his side and wrapped her arms around his waist. Troy forgot his promise to keep his body away from hers as he pulled her close. This was different. There was nothing sexual in nature with this embrace. This was his future wife clinging to him for comfort and support and he was man enough to provide that for her.
Craig stepped forward. “Perhaps we should return home. If we’re not welcome here…”
“No,” Troy insisted. “This good man and woman are Melissa’s parents, and I will not leave until I have shown them the proper respect due to them.”
“Of course, we don’t want you to leave.” Melissa’s mom stepped forward. “Your religious preferences just took us by surprise, that’s all.”
“Are you going to force our daughter to dress in homemade clothes and cover her head whenever she’s out in public?” Mr. Dalton asked Troy but pointed to Jessica as if she was dressed in rags, instead of a modest and quality piece of clothing she’d spent hours to craft.
“Mr. Dalton, I think you misunderstand our religion, sir. The devotional head covering is scriptural based right out of the Bible and should only be worn by a woman who is truly converted to the Lord’s will.”
“Are you saying my daughter is not following the teachings of Christ if she doesn’t put a little cap on her head?” Melissa’s father narrowed his eyes at Troy. This wasn’t going well.
“I’m saying that Jessica is wearing that cap on her head as an outward symbol of her devotion to Christ and to her husband.”
“You mean her submission to her husband.”
“We submit to the will of the Lord in all that we do, sir,” Troy said with confidence. “Just as Christ submitted to the Father, men are provided to women as their protector and women are provided to men as a helpmeet.”
“Men and women are created equal,” Dr. Dalton insisted.
“I beg to differ, sir. I may not be married, and I may not have seen a woman without clothing, but I know enough about men’s and women’s bodies to know that we are very different.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“God made us different on purpose,” Troy said. “He made us this way so that we can bring forth children and raise them unto him.”
“And you think women should stay home and raise up babies and do the housework and cook you dinner?” Mr. Dalton asked.
“Who else would you have nurse your grand babies? Would you prefer we hire someone to do that?” Troy lifted his chin.
“Did you get my daughter pregnant?” Her father took a step toward him but Troy didn’t back down.
“How could I get her pregnant when I have never even kissed her? I’ve never been alone with her. I will not take her to our marriage bed until we are married.”
“I’m never giving you permission to marry my daughter.” His words were definitive.
“Then I think our visit has concluded.” Troy’s heart fell at the realization. “At least now I know where you stand.”
“Wait, I made lunch,” Mrs. Dalton said. “You must be hungry. Can’t you stay for a little while? I want to see my daughter.”
“The spirit of contention is not becoming to those who follow Christ,” Troy said. “I know when I’m not wanted.”
“I want you,” Melissa said. “I don’t care what my parents say.”
Melissa’s mother gasped. Troy didn’t blame her.
“Well, I do care,” Troy said. “You belong to your mother and father until at which time they choose to give you to a man to be his wife. I will not go against their wishes.”
“I don’t belong to anyone,” Melissa said, pulling her arms from around his waist. “Nor will I ever.”
“I’m truly sorry to hear that,” Troy said, wishing he could pull her close again. “I would have loved to have you as my wife. But not if I cannot obtain your parents’ permission.”
“What are you saying Troy? That you’re breaking up with me?”
“I don’t know what I’m saying, Melissa. I don’t know what to think about this. I’m confused and I need a few minutes alone.” Troy took a step backward, then looked around the small circle of family. “If you all want to go inside and have a bite to eat, please do. I’m sure whatever Melissa’s mother cooked for you will be much better than a fast-food restaurant on the way home. I’ll go for a walk and ponder some things while you’re eating.”
“How about you and I take a walk together,” Mr. Dalton suggested. “I’ll show you my livestock barn.”
“I’d like that, sir. Thank you.” Troy lifted his chin with confidence and felt hope for the first time since they’d met.”
Book Club Discussion Questions: This is going to be a tough book to write. I need to make sure that I convey the message that both families wish their children will marry within the faith without portraying either religion as being less than or more than the other.
Melissa will not be excommunicated if she marries outside her church, but Troy will be (unfortunately). I will not show that within the pages of this book, but it will be made clear, and it will be a source of heartbreak. Just like Troy doesn’t want to take Melissa away from the fellowship of her church, Melissa will have similar feelings. This is one of the many challenges that will almost break them up.
One challenge I will face in writing this book is to make sure I’m staying true to the strong gospel principles of both faiths without allowing readers to see either religion as being backward or not keeping up with the times.
God’s laws do not change based on what is politically correct, but political correctness can change readers’ opinions about me as an author and both churches’ gospel principles. I will do my best to package all of this into something enjoyable to the correct readers. I can’t please everyone, but I will try to please my readers. I’d love your thoughts and opinions. -Julie L. Spencer