Authors: Linda Byler
Lizzie fairly snorted as she buttoned her nightgown and turned down the covers of her bed. Climbing in, she pulled them up to her chin and stared wide-eyed at the ceiling.
Dear God, she tried to pray. Please make Stephen see his big mistake.
That didn’t work.
Her prayer seemed to bounce against the ceiling and come back down, landing like a great crushing weight on her chest, making her feel worse. She was so miserable that she didn’t feel like getting married at all, especially if he was going to be so stubborn about bricks.
She rolled over, punched her pillows, and squeezed her eyes shut. Then, like cold, hard little hailstones, she was accosted by doubts and fears. Her thoughts ran completely rampant, as she lay all alone in the dark with only her own will and anger to keep her company. It was not a peaceful or restful kind of company.
How much were you expected to give up after you were married? Bow before your husband, the king, and say in a quiet, hushed, humble tone, “Oh, of course, Your Majesty, white bricks are beautiful.” Stuff all your own wants and desires in a deep recess of your brain, like a garbage bag full of forbidden fruit, stuck away into the darkest corners of the attic?
And so her rebellion raged, fighting off any hope of ever falling asleep. What was best? Living in a house that didn’t even come close to what she had imagined and submitting to the will of her husband. Or, like a fiercely determined warrior, sword and shield drawn, hack her way through until he finally relented? Oh, she so wanted to have her little brown house encased in brown bricks with pretty shrubs growing around it, exactly as she had always pictured it.
Maybe her whole life would be easier if she never married but remained single and taught school until she was 70 years old. She could hold Emma’s and Mandy’s babies and eat all she wanted, because she would not have to worry one tiny bit about her figure if she had no boyfriend or husband. For one thing, she could do exactly as she pleased. If she ever saved enough money from teaching school, which was highly unlikely considering teachers’ wages, she would build her own house and use brown bricks. Just like the last little pig in the “Three Little Pigs” nursery rhyme, she thought grimly. The wolf could not get in.
Maybe I’ll just break up with Stephen, she thought. Immediately his dark face and long brown hair with blond streaks in it, his blue, blue eyes, and just him, the image of Stephen, appeared in her mind. She knew without a doubt she could never be happy without him. A quiet sob tore at her throat as she buried her face in her pillow and cried great tears, soaking the pillowcase in the process.
Suddenly there was a soft knock on her bedroom door. No, it couldn’t be. Nobody knocked on bedroom doors in the Glick household, especially in the middle of the night.
Her heart leaped to her throat and cold shivers chased each other up and down her spine. Grabbing her woolly housecoat, she wrapped it tightly around her body, her arms crossed over the front protectively.
“Who is it?” she called weakly, her mouth as dry as if it were full of cotton.
There was no answer, then in the space of a few seconds, a quiet, “Me.”
Lizzie drew a sharp breath, and in one rush, she was at the door.
“Stephen!” she gasped, “you’re not supposed to be up here.”
“I know. Can we talk?”
Placing her hand firmly in his, she crept down the stairs, carrying the kerosene lamp from the bathroom. She set it carefully on the kitchen table and turned to face him with red, swollen, questioning eyes.
“What is it?”
In a gesture of helplessness, Stephen raised his hands beseechingly, then let them fall to his sides.
“I … I’m not real good at expressing my feelings,” he said in a quiet tone of voice, “but … well, I got home and just couldn’t unhitch my horse. I had no right to be so bullheaded. You know how much I love you, and I want to be able to do anything for you. But I’m self-willed, too, and if I want something, I think that’s how it has to be. I’m sorry. That wasn’t right.”
Lizzie tried to laugh softly, to float lightly over the top of his unaccustomed deep emotion. But her tears were still too close to the surface, and her laugh, when it did emerge, was more like a sob, followed by more dreaded tears.
“It’s all right,” was all she could manage before she walked across the kitchen to the box of tissues.
Stephen sank into a kitchen chair, then looked at her across the lamplight. “No, it isn’t all right. I was being mean to you.”
Lizzie wiped her eyes, and this time her low laugh was genuine. “No, Stephen, I was the one being mean. I should have tried to picture the house the way you did. It really is not so significant, either, whether we live in a house made of white or brown bricks.”
“Why did we have that senseless disagreement?” Stephen asked.
“Because we’re us. You and I are so much alike.” Lizzie shook her head, feeling very wise at that moment.
Stephen leaned forward.
“Lizzie, you pick the color for the bricks,” he said. “I don’t mind either way. Honestly, I don’t. I don’t know why I acted so sure of myself in the first place.”
Lizzie watched his face, his eyes soft with emotion, and thought that if he ever did seem like a king, it was at this moment. She loved him with her whole heart and knew without a trace of doubt that white bricks were going to look absolutely fantastic. Oh, she wanted to be a sweet, submissive wife when he was so unbelievably kind and good.
“So,” he finished, “it’s up to you.”
Clasping her hands in her lap, taking a deep breath of pure happiness, she said, “I think white bricks would look very nice.”
Stephen laughed. “You don’t.”
“Yes, I do. Stephen, when you are so kind, it’s easy to want what you want. Don’t you think that’s very important after we get married? We just have to remember to consider each other’s feelings instead of saying outright anything we want.”
After a while, Lizzie asked him how he even got up the stairs without waking Mam and Dat.
“You have the creakiest stairs in Cameron County,” he grinned. “It took me a long time to get to the top step, believe me.”
She laughed. “I’m sure Mam and Dat never heard you.”
How different she felt as she hung up her housecoat and climbed into bed. Her prayers were now of thanksgiving and praise. It felt as if God beamed down on the old farmhouse, straight through the ceiling to her heart and soul. How light her heart felt!
Finally, she understood this submission thing, this giving and taking, and it seemed very possible that she would be able to be happy and submissive at the same time. Oh, they would have their flare-ups, their disagreements and sad times, same as all couples who were married, but wasn’t it just something? Wasn’t it just unbelievable?
She bounced onto her back, patting the covers into place. Imagine! He said he couldn’t unhitch his horse until he drove all the way back, he felt so bad because he was mean. He wasn’t really being mean, just … well … And here she was, thoroughly miserable, unable to sleep because they had parted coldly, without wishing each other well. She felt as if she had been rescued out of a pit of quicksand full of despair, her feet planted now on firm ground while birds and butterflies twittered and darted around her.
A house made of white bricks, filled with love and understanding, with peace and submission, was so much better than one with brown bricks, filled only with her own determination and her lack of love. Maybe she would be as old as the hills before she understood everything or learned to be submissive in all things, but this much she understood. It was easy as pie to submit to a kind, loving husband.
The following morning she hid her smile when Mam said she declared there were some strange creaks in the night. Dat told her when the nights became cool, the aluminum siding on the new part of the house expanded and contracted, causing creaking sounds.
“No,” Mam said wisely. “It was the stairs.”
When Dat left to go to work, Mam’s eyes bored into Lizzie’s, and she said, “All right. Out with it. What was going on?”
Lizzie burst into happy laughter, telling Mam everything. Mam’s eyes became soft and watery, and her nose turned red as it always did when she became emotional. “Ach my, Lizzie, I would say you’re off on the right foot.” It was like a large pat on the back, hearing Mam say that.
IZZIE UNHOOKED THE BUGGY
window from the ceiling and lowered it into place with a decided click. Rubbing her hands across her sweater sleeves, she shivered and said, “Brrr.”
Stephen smiled at her.
“I wondered how long you’d keep that window open. This is real hunting-season weather.”
Lizzie slapped his arm playfully. “That’s all you ever think about.”
“Oh, no. Not this fall. I’m thinking about you, then the house, then hunting. See? Hunting is way down on the bottom of the list.”
“Don’t you ever think about getting married? About the wedding?” Lizzie asked, smiling happily.
Stephen’s face became quite sober, and he watched the horse’s ears intently. “Yeah, I do.”
“You don’t sound very thrilled about it.”
“Oh, I am, Lizzie. You know I am. It’s just that I’ll be glad when the actual wedding day is over. I don’t like crowds of people all packed together in one house, even if it’s our wedding. I mean, I don’t want to make it sound as if I don’t want to marry you. I just wish there wouldn’t have to be quite so many people there.”
Lizzie patted his arm reassuringly. “I know, Stephen. I know very well how you dislike crowds of people. I’m just the opposite, aren’t I?”
Stephen nodded quietly.
“I’ll just love all the attention, the relatives, the gifts, the food! Actually, I can hardly wait for our wedding day.”
The horse picked up speed without being urged when it spotted another buggy on the road ahead of them. Horses did that, Lizzie thought. They could be clopping along, a bit bored, and suddenly, their ears would prick up when they spied another team ahead of them. Instantly, their ears turned forward, and they surged ahead, no longer content to amble along by themselves. Stephen pulled back slightly as his horse lunged into his collar, racing toward the other team.
They were on their way to Ben King’s house to a supper for the youth. It was one of the farthest places they had to travel in their district. Stephen had let his horse walk up a few of the steepest hills to save his strength for the miles ahead. At the rate the horse was traveling now, it certainly looked as if he had conserved more than enough energy.
The gap between the two teams narrowed until Lizzie could see someone waving and a face in the mirror peering back at her. “Rebecca,” Lizzie laughed. “The only person who waves like that!”
Rebecca was Stephen’s sister, as well as Lizzie’s closest friend now that Mandy and Emma were both married. She had a great sense of humor with an endearing manner that made her easy to talk to and so much fun to be with, Lizzie thought.
Rebecca had been dating Reuben after they had gone on a camping trip together with Lizzie, Stephen, and other friends. Now they were making their own plans for their wedding. Lizzie’s Uncle Marvin and Sara Ruth, as well as her friends, Amos and Sally, were also planning their weddings in November or December. This would be one of the last youth gatherings that Stephen and Lizzie would attend since most of the group was getting married.
They reached a steep hill that wound through a wooded ridge, so both horses slowed to a walk. Lizzie gasped as Rebecca hopped lightly out of Reuben’s buggy while it was still moving and stood in the middle of the road, grinning at Lizzie.
Lizzie slid back the door of Stephen’s buggy.
“What are you doing, jumping out of the buggy like that?” she asked.
“I’m tired of sitting. Jump down. Let’s walk the rest of the way.”
Glancing questioningly at Stephen, who was busy keeping his horse from balking on the hill, she hopped out of the buggy, almost stumbling before she stood beside Rebecca.
They both burst out laughing for no reason at all.
“Rebecca, you know what? We shouldn’t be quite so silly anymore. We’re both getting married soon. Can you imagine? We’ll be old married ladies, sitting at our quilts, sighing about our arthritis way too soon!” Lizzie laughed.
“Just because we’re getting married doesn’t mean we can’t laugh,” Rebecca cried.
Lizzie caught her breath, grabbing her side. “Don’t walk so fast. I have side stitches.”
“What are they?”
“Not so fast!”
Quite suddenly, Rebecca headed straight for the leafy bank and sat down so fast that little puffs of dust rolled from under her skirt and leaves whirled away with the dust. “Okay then, we’ll sit.”
Lizzie plopped down beside Rebecca, gasping. “I don’t know how you can walk up a hill that fast and keep talking at the same time,” Lizzie said wryly.
“That’s because I’m skinny,” Rebecca announced.
“Do you think I’m fat, Rebecca? Seriously, tell me honestly, am I too fat to be getting married? Would you go on a diet if you were me? Huh? Tell me.”