Cherish couldn’t believe it. All she could do was stay rooted to her spot on the porch with her mouth hanging open.

Krystal was back! And, she’d arrived in the same taxi with Bliss’s cousin, Debbie.

“I guess that’s Debbie,” Mamm said, quite unaware Krystal was there. “She could’ve let us know she would be a day early. Just as well we already have the room prepared for her.”

“Who else do you see?” Cherish asked.

“Who is it?” Joy asked, from where she was sitting in one of the porch chairs with her sleeping baby in her arms.

Mamm squinted at the girl who’d just gotten out of the car to stand beside Debbie. “No… Tell me that’s not Krystal!”

Cherish could hardly speak through the lump of disappointment in her throat. “It is Krystal unless she has an identical twin, which I very much doubt. All the same, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Are you sure it’s Krystal?” Joy craned her neck, trying to look over the porch railing without waking her daughter.

“I’m sad to say it is.”

“Why’s she back, Cherish?” Mamm asked.

Cherish shook her head. “I have no idea. Perhaps she’s also a pen pal of Debbie’s. Maybe she fooled Debbie’s family like she fooled ours. Who knows?”

“She might be here to apologize,” Joy suggested.

“Nee. She already said sorry before she left. She was supposed to go to her mother’s and stay there.” Cherish didn’t know what to do. They had to greet Debbie, but Cherish didn’t want to go anywhere near Krystal.

“You’d never get the truth out of a girl like that,” Mamm said. “She’s not staying in this house under my roof if that’s what she thinks. Is that why she’s here?”

Cherish shuddered. “I hope not.”

“Maybe she deserves a second chance,” Joy suggested. “You should hear what she’s got to say before you decide how you feel about her.”

Cherish ignored Joy’s comment. Mamm was too easily influenced by others and could easily change her mind about Krystal not staying with them. Joy wasn’t helping. “What if Levi says she can stay? Will you tell him you don’t agree?”

Mamm shook her head. “He wouldn’t say that after the way Krystal deceived us and lied about the reason she was here.”

“And pretending to be Caroline,” Cherish added.

“That’s what I meant. Let’s say hello to Debbie.”

“I’ll come too, in a minute. I’ll just go inside and gather all of Faith’s things and then I’ll have to go,” Joy said.

Wilma turned toward Joy. “Jah, do that. Denke for bringing Faith to see us.”

As they walked toward Debbie, Mamm whispered to Cherish, “At least we know Debbie is a real person.”

“Yeah, that’s a good start.” Cherish still couldn’t help being annoyed with her mother for being the reason Debbie had come. Mamm had been whining to Debbie’s mother about having too much work.

Cherish and Mamm stood back while the girls greeted Debbie. She looked like a pleasant sort of a person. Maybe she’d have a similar personality to Bliss, since they were cousins, but then there had been that clear warning sign. Bliss had not been thrilled about her cousin coming to stay, and Bliss was normally excited about everything. After Favor said hello to Debbie and went to hug Krystal, Cherish walked forward while Wilma disappeared into the house.

Bliss was now introducing Adam and Debbie.

The dark green dress Debbie wore complimented her hazel eyes and olive-toned skin. Although, Cherish mused, in their community dark green was a shade favored by the older ladies. Had Debbie known that, she maybe would’ve chosen a different color for her ‘first-impressions’ dress.

“Hello, Debbie. I’m Cherish.” She reached out and hugged Debbie. “The youngest in the family and the smartest.”

Debbie laughed. “That’s good to know. Hello, Cherish. I hope I remember everybody’s names.”

Cherish smiled at her. “There are quite a few of us. It might take a while.” Debbie seemed okay. Cherish couldn’t bring herself to say hello to Krystal, but it would be too rude to ignore her completely so Cherish gave her a sidelong glance. “You’ve met Krystal, I see.”

“Yes. We met at the bus station. We both went to get into the same taxi and then we discovered we were both going in the same direction so we decided to share.”

“How lovely and coincidental.”

“It was meant to be,” Debbie said.

Cherish saw Krystal wasn’t acting bothered by her not saying hello. Favor looped arms with Krystal and they walked toward the rabbit enclosure while Bliss and Adam stayed close to Debbie.

Wilma walked up behind Debbie and cleared her throat.

“This is Wilma, our mother,” Bliss said.

Cherish frowned. Wilma was Bliss’s stepmother. It probably didn’t matter because Debbie must’ve known Bliss’s late mother—unless Debbie would be upset that Bliss seemed to disregard her own mother, who would also be Debbie’s aunt.

Wilma moved forward and gave Debbie a hug. “Welcome. We hope you’ll be happy here for however long your stay will be. And you’re welcome to stay as long as need be.”

“Or as long as you want,” Bliss added, unnecessarily.

Joy walked over with her baby still asleep, and with the handles of two bags slung over her arms. “Nice to meet you, Debbie. I’m Joy.”

“Hello, Joy. What a cute baby.” Debbie leaned forward to have a better look while Joy obligingly leaned down a bit for her to see the baby’s face.

“Thank you. Her name’s Faith.”

“Do you live here too, Joy?” Debbie asked.

Joy straightened up. “No. I live a few miles away with my husband, Isaac. You’ll meet him too, soon enough. I must go now. I’ve got a few things to do before Isaac gets home. I’ll see you later, Debbie. I look forward to chatting with you.”

“Me too. Bye.”

After Joy said goodbye to everyone else, Cherish helped Joy take her things to her buggy.

“Can you believe Krystal is back here?” Cherish asked.

“It’s a bit of a shock.”

“I know.”

“You go back, Cherish. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Thanks for your help.”

“Okay.” Cherish popped the bag with the baby’s diapers and a change of clothes in the front seat while Joy strapped Faith into her special seat in the back.

“Thanks for that.” Joy stepped up into the driver’s seat.

“You’re welcome. Wait. I’ll just say goodbye to Faith.” Cherish ran to the other side of the buggy and kissed Faith on her forehead. “She’s still asleep. She’s so adorable.”

“I know. She’s a deep sleeper. It’ll be interesting to see why Krystal came back. You don’t think Favor has something to do with it, do you?”

“I don’t think so. No. she would’ve said something to me if she’d asked her back here.”

“Bye, Cherish. Let me know as soon as you can.”

“I will. Bye.”

Wilma hurried over just as Joy drove away. “Cherish, while I take Debbie inside, see what Krystal’s plans are, will you?”

Cherish nearly choked. “Me?”

“Yes.”

Bliss and Adam had followed Mamm over. It wasn’t surprising. The two of them were always together. “We’ll come too,” Bliss said.

“Don’t take too long, Cherish. I need help preparing refreshments.” Wilma gave a nod, and walked back to Debbie, who was waiting at the porch steps.

“We won’t be long,” Bliss called after her.

As they walked, Cherish whispered, “I can’t believe she’d show her face around here. No one wants to see her.”

“Hear what she’s got to say,” Adam said.

“Don’t be harsh, Cherish. Don’t say things like that,” Bliss told her.

Cherish huffed. “Since when is telling the truth a bad thing?”

“You should know the answer to that by now. When it hurts someone’s feelings,” Bliss said.

Cherish stopped walking and so did Adam and Bliss. “Do you know why she’s here?”

Adam said, “As soon as she got out of the car, I heard her telling Favor she’s come to join our community. She said she’s already talked to the bishop.”

Cherish was sick to the stomach. She’d thought Krystal was gone for good. If she joined their community, she’d be hanging around forever.

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If you haven’t started the series yet, it’s best to start from book #1 Amish Mercy.