Franklin ran his fingers through his white hair and then pushed his glasses up and down his nose in an attempt to read the fine print on his computer monitor. Small town travel agents had not fared well with the onslaught of discount travel websites. He was keeping his head above water by selling discount vacation packages online. He spent most of the day staring at the screen and most of the evening resting his eyes. His excitement for the week had become the Amish lady who came to sell bread once a week. He lived alone and appreciated human contact. She was very friendly and her bread was delicious. He got a kick out of her opened mouth stares at all the exotic posters in his office. He figured she must have been really sheltered to be her age and still gawk at a beach like a child. There was something else in her eyes that made him worried. She looked afraid. Of whom or what she was afraid he did not know, but there was something in her life that made her look much older than she ought to.
Rachel hurried through her customers until she reached Franklin Cramer’s travel office. He was fascinating to her and the opportunity to look at the posters made her happy. “Hello Franklin!” she said as she brought him his weekly loaf. They usually chatted about general things, but Anna had decided that Franklin was going to be her new friend. He could be the one to replace Roy and give her insight into the world around her. Week by week she began to reveal to Franklin what life was like on the Muller farm. She did not share with him her longing to escape, but he could hear it in her voice and see it on her face. She told him that her father would only allow his children to go to school until they were fourteen. She felt like there was so much that she didn’t know. He always listened silently, only offering comfort with his smile. It felt so good to Rachel to be telling someone about her life. She wasn’t sure if she was overwhelming him, but he was always kind and eager to listen.
After Rachel had saved up several months worth of money, she emptied First National Bank of Rabbittown and took it to Franklin. “I need to ask you a favor. This money isn’t safe at my house. My family will take it and I want to use it to travel somewhere. Will you hide it for me?” she asked him. He said, “Of course, girlie. I’ve got a safe at home. I’ll just stick it away in there for when you need it.” She continued, “One more thing; can you help me get a passport?” He pulled out a form and began to read off a list of necessary documentation to send off for a passport. Her heart sank. The boys in her family had gone to the courthouse to get papers so they could qualify for a driver’s license, but girls didn’t drive. She would have to find a way to go to the courthouse without David knowing. She did not want to get him involved in her escape. The less he knew the better. She finished her sales and got into the truck with David. They had gone less than a block and David said, “Hey, I never noticed that hunting store! I’d sure like to go in there sometime.” Rachel’s wheels were turning, “Next week when I’m selling you ought to go in there and spend a while.” He nodded and smiled, and she knew that she had just found her window of opportunity.
The following week Rachel raced at break-neck speed through all of her customers and then ran several blocks down to the courthouse. Thankfully, the records office was used to people like her and the paperwork was started without problems. She raced back to Franklin’s office to visit with him a moment and then walked calmly and slowly back to the truck. She realized that she hadn’t needed to hurry so much; David was still at the hunting shop trading stories with the owner. Her heart was pounding, but she tried to act like she was completely calm when he was ready to go home. She had no idea how long this process of getting her papers would take, but at least it was started and she wouldn’t have to run all over Morristown again. She arranged to have all her papers sent to Franklin’s office; that way she wouldn’t have to go get them, and they wouldn’t come to her house where they would be destroyed. Within three weeks her papers were ready and Franklin helped her fill out the passport forms online. They put Franklin’s address on the forms to avoid the catastrophe of her means of escaping arriving at her house.
The waiting was excruciating and she was getting more and more anxious as the weeks passed. Not once had a single member of her family mentioned Roy since his funeral. Her father seemed to grab rules out of thin air and enforced them with a fist of iron. One of her sisters had spoken about a boy in a neighboring community in a joking manner. Although she was seventeen, she was spanked and sent to her room with no supper. Rachel wanted to scream, “Why? What do all these rules get us? Do they make us better people than everyone else? Do we somehow earn a better place in heaven than other people? Why do we squash our emotions when we were obviously born with them for a reason?” The questions rattled around in her brain until she could not sit at the supper table anymore. “I’m feeling a little sick. I think I’ll go to bed early.” She put a biscuit in her pocket when she got to the kitchen and then went upstairs. She quietly opened the door to her sister’s room and put the biscuit beside the wad of sobbing covers on her bed. “Here is something to eat,” she whispered. The sobbing stopped momentarily and the biscuit disappeared beneath the covers. She went to her room and lay on her own bed. Her mind was full. She knew that she had to learn more about the world outside of Platzville. She was craving learning, but had absolutely no way to feed her craving. The visits to Franklin’s office were like getting to lick a chocolate cake once, but not eat it. She had absolutely no clue where to go. “Maybe Franklin can help me decide,” she thought as she finally drifted off to sleep. She was startled awake later that night when she heard some of her brothers outside drinking beer. Her father had to know they were doing it, but didn’t say anything. She supposed it was because although they were indulging, at least they were doing it at home. It disgusted her to think of them bowing down to their father during the day and then getting drunk in the night. “But then, what am I doing? I’ve hidden money and am planning my escape,” she thought. She went back to sleep more worried than ever.
The next week Franklin had a huge smile on his face and told her, “I have something you’ve been waiting for!” She shrieked and dropped her basket, “My passport! Oh, I am so happy, you have no idea!” Suddenly, serious thoughts came to her, “Franklin, I have absolutely no idea where to go. I need your help.” He had already given this a great deal of thought. He had seen what happened to kids like her who just left home on their own. It was not pretty. He slowly pulled out a brochure from his desk and said, “Rachel, I’ve already been thinking about this. Take a couple of minutes to read this. It’s a humanitarian aid agency in Miami that goes to Latin American countries, mostly. It’s called Help the World. Anyway, if you like what you see, I’ll make all of the arrangements and get your tickets.” Rachel read over the brochure and with every second was smiling bigger. “This is perfect. I don’t know how to thank you enough,” she said. “Ok, then, I will get everything set up. Um, you will be leaving next week, is that ok?” he asked. She felt like an elephant sat on her stomach, but she replied with confidence, “Yes, that is fine. I will come here last on my route. I’ll only be able to bring a small bag with me, but I suppose I’ll be able to get things wherever I go. “ They ironed out a few more details and then she left. She felt like she was floating as she got into the truck with David. “You’re a little weird today,” he said. She just smiled.