Rachel Muller’s throat felt tight as her father loaded his family into their large van. They had just buried one of her older brothers---murdered by his own brother. She wasn’t supposed to know, but she did. Joseph thought he had done the family a favor. Different was not allowed in their world of Platzville, Tennessee. Her father, John, had been Amish until his early adulthood and then created his own faction. His church consisted almost entirely of family members. He and his wife had eleven children; so he felt he had a large enough congregation on his own. Everyone in the family was to contribute their whole lives to the working of their own community. No one ever left the family. No one worked outside the family. No one was schooled away from the family. Until Roy. He dared to get a college degree and work out in the world, while trying to maintain his relationship with the family. Rachel respected him and thought he was being wise to cultivate the mind that God had given him. He had been shunned by the family for his decisions. Roy was her friend and connection to the outside world. Now she was trying hard to swallow the sadness gripping her because Mullers do not show emotion. Joseph was already in police custody and would soon go to jail for shooting his brother. Her younger brother, David, had been beaten for telling Roy’s wife about the shooting. She glanced over at him and saw the bruises and marks from that beating. She was afraid. Her father liked for his children to be afraid. “You obey the best when you are afraid!” he would say. She thought about Anna’s chastising words at the funeral as she eulogized her dead husband: “I cannot understand how people can put such senseless rules upon themselves and have such a small view of the world. I know that someday I will heal and not be angry, but I hope with all my heart that his family learns to love.”
When she was alone in their barn following the funeral, she allowed herself to cry for awhile. She couldn’t let anyone see her cry and had to keep one ear open for footsteps, so it felt like a half-hearted cry. She didn’t feel her anguish diminish at all. However, she dried her face and headed back to the house. A woman’s place was to be in the home and always busy. Even though enormous pressure was put on the girls of her family to get married and have lots of babies, she knew that she would not get married because her father had cut ties to all the other families within thirty miles of their farm. This made her even more upset and she was choking on the tears that wanted to come again. A couple of years ago she had liked a boy from a family two miles away, but John had forbidden any contact between them because of doctrinal differences. She hated that they were so isolated. “Separate from the world!” her father always said. She wished she had someone to confide in who would not judge her for her show of emotion, but there was no one. Rachel was twenty-one and ready to get married. “I don’t know why I even bother to think about getting married, there will never be anyone Dad approves of close to here,” she thought as her mother directed her toward a batch of biscuit dough. She floured the large wooden countertop and rolled out the dough. She went to the cabinet and pulled out a glass with a two and a half inch rim and began cutting out the biscuits. As she placed them on the baking sheet, she thought again about Anna. “She seems so strong now. I’ve never known a woman like her.” She felt badly that she hadn’t been nicer to Anna when she visited them.
After supper, she went out to check on her rabbits. They were her only outdoor responsibility. The Muller children could have hobbies if they profited the family. Rachel’s rabbits benefited the table and the garden soil. The rabbits were her sole responsibility and subsequently the only place she could go to be alone. She opened the door to a large doe’s cage and clicked her tongue. The beautiful New Zealand White hopped up to the opening and she gave the rabbit a small carrot. She pet her velvety soft ears and spoke to her, “I just don’t know what to do. I miss Roy so much and the fresh air he brought around here. I think I’ll just suffocate without him. I have no idea how I could ever make a new friend, or maybe get out of here, but I have to think of something. I’m going to go crazy living on this farm for the rest of my life.” The bunny just wiggled her nose contentedly, but Rachel decided that she was a good listener. Rachel latched the cage door and headed back to the house to get ready for bed. Her father was very firm on “early to bed, early to rise.”