Hannah gripped the railing as the train squealed and moaned, coming to a halt. Her body ached from the absence of the life she’d carried inside her only days ago. When the conductor opened the door to the outside, a cold blast of night air stole her breath. He stepped off the train with her bag in hand and turned to help her onto the platform.
“It’s bad out here tonight.” The man glanced across the empty parking lot, then passed her the traveling bag. It weighed little in spite of carrying all she owned—all she’d begin this new life with. “You got somebody meeting you, young lady?”
Wishing she had a decent answer to that question, Hannah studied her surroundings. The old depot was dark and deserted. Not one sign of life anywhere, except on the train that was about to depart. She glanced the length of the train in both directions. There wasn’t another soul getting off.
The conductor’s face wrinkled with concern. “The building stays locked 24/7. It’s no longer an operating depot, but we drop people off here anyway. When somebody lands inAlliance, they better have made plans.”
A few hundred feet to her right stood a small blue sign with a white outline of a phone on it. “I’ve got plans,” she whispered, hoping he wouldn’t ask any other questions.
He nodded, grabbed the two-way radio off his hip, and said something into it. Of course he wouldn’t ask anything else. He had a job to do—a train to catch.
As he stepped back onto the train, it slowly pulled away, its whistle sounding long and loud. For hours as she’d traveled from Owl’s Perch,Pennsylvania, heading forAlliance,Ohio, the train whistle had stirred a sense of hope and well-being within her. But as her haven of shelter and food disappeared around a bend, a deep feeling of aloneness shrouded her.
She turned toward the sign with the emblem of the phone on it. Unsure whether she had enough information to get her aunt’s phone number by calling 411, she began to realize how foolhardy she’d been not to make calls during the layover at Union Station inPittsburgh. She’d been so afraid she would miss her next train that she had stayed on a seat, waiting.
Wrapping her woolen shawl even tighter around her, she made her way to the phone. But once she stood in front of the sign, she saw there wasn’t a phone after all. She walked around the pole, searching. She spanned out a bit farther, circling the empty lot. The sign was wrong.
God, what have I done?
She’d freeze before morning.
Walking around the building again, Hannah searched for a nook to shelter her from the wind. Finding nothing, she crossed the graveled parking lot to the edge of the paved road. To her left was a hill with a sharp curve and no hint of what lay beyond it. To her right, down about half a mile, groups of lights shone from high atop poles.
Shivering, she set out for the lights, hoping they would lead her to shelter of some sort. Each step made her abdomen contract in pain.
In her great efforts to keep Paul, she’d lost everything.
The word went round and round in her head, draining her will. In the distance to her left, she could make out the backsides of a few homes that looked dilapidated even under the cover of night. It appeared thatAlliance, or at least this part of it, was every bit as poor as she was.
She approached the lighted area. Sidewalks and old-fashioned stores lined each side of the street. Most of the shops had glass fronts, and each was dark inside except for some sort of night-light. Desperate for warmth and too weary to worry about laws, she wondered if one of the doors might be unlocked. The door to each store sat back a good six to eight feet between two walls of storefront glass, like a deep hallway. The moment she stepped into one of the passageways, the harsh wind couldn’t reach her. She knocked on the door before trying the knob. The place was locked.
She walked to the next store, and tried again. It, too, was locked. Moving from doorway to doorway, she grew uncomfortably sleepy.
Too tired to try anything else, Hannah leaned back against the cold plate-glass window of the dime store and slid to a sitting position. She pulled out the two dresses she’d packed in her traveling bag and put one dress over her and scooted the other one under her, trying to get some distance between herself and the icy concrete. She removed her prayer Kapp, loosened her hair from its bun for added warmth, and tied her Kapp back on tight.
Sleep came in sporadic measures as her body fought to stay warm. Every time she nodded off, thoughts of the life she’d left behind startled her. Her family’s gray stone farmhouse, set amid rolling acreage. The Amish heritage that had once meant roots and love. Memories of her mother teaching her how to sew, cook, and tend to infants. Mary, her dearest friend, standing by her even when it meant she’d lose her fiancé, Luke, Hannah’s own brother.
Images of Paul filled her mind, making the thoughts of her family vanish. She chided herself for longing for him. But her inner chastisement did nothing to stop the memories of him from pelting her. She could hear his laughter as they played board games, see the strength that radiated from his hands and arms as they worked the garden side by side, and feel his joy on the day she accepted his proposal.
Her body shook harder as cold from the concrete seeped through her clothes, and she wondered if she’d wake in the morning or freeze to death during the night.
From somewhere on the sidewalk came the sound of footsteps. Prying her eyes open, she glimpsed through the dark shadows of night and drowsiness to see the silhouette of a man at the end of the long, glass entryway. Her heart pounded, but waking to full consciousness seemed impossible. Maybe he wouldn’t see her.
The next time she forced her eyes open, the broad shoulders and lanky body of a man were directly in front of her. Still unable to get fully awake, she couldn’t see any more than his profile.
With no energy or place to run, Hannah waited—like an animal caught in a trap.
He removed something from around him and placed it over her. The miserable chills eased, and she could no longer control her eyelids as warmth spread over her.
Excerpted from When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall Copyright © 2007 by Cindy Woodsmall. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.