The windshield wipers swayed to and fro, whisking away huge, downy-soft flakes of snow before they
melted. Cocooned in her snow-covered car, Yvette Miller forged a path through the trackless sea of
pristine white, scarcely hearing the muted purr of the engine as she focused on discerning where the
sides of the road ended and the ditches began. She loved the muffled stillness, the sense of being
insulated in a sheltering curtain of fluffy white flakes.
She turned onto Stringtown Road, where the snowplow had passed both ways. As she braked at
Stringtown Grocery, her car slid past three cars parked at odd angles. She parked between a car and
the lone horse and buggy.
Inside, she waited for her eyes to adjust. They should light the lanterns. I can barely see. She
turned toward the first aisle, but three people crowded in the baking supplies section, so she surveyed the
homemade pies, angel food cakes, cinnamon rolls, and cookies at the end of the row while she waited for
them to move on. She gazed at the pies. If I could buy one pie, just this once.
“Come on, Evelyn,” a man’s low impatient voice came from halfway down the second aisle. “It’s time
to go; we don’t need that stuff.”
Yvette looked up. The middle-aged man took a bag of something white from the woman and put it on
the shelf. She didn’t know them, and if the woman’s low cut shirt was anything to go by, they weren’t
“Yes, we do,” the woman grabbed the bag off the shelf. “What’s the rush? Our appointment isn’t until
nine-thirty. I don’t want to twiddle my thumbs for half an hour. Why don’t you go in the cooler and get
“No! We have to go now. You can shop for groceries tomorrow.”
“Stop it, Bob!” she hissed. “Sit in the car if you can’t be civil.”
“We’ll be late for…” his words faded as they moved down the aisle.
The man’s voice reminded Yvette of her husband’s. Guiltily, she turned her back on the pies and
considered the jars of homemade strawberry, blueberry, and peach jam in the next row.
“…not very nice to his wife.” It was the faintest of whispers from just around the corner, but she could
hear the words distinctly.
“If she’d respect his wishes,” a louder voice whispered back, “he wouldn’t talk to her that way. She
brought it on herself and embarrassed herself in front of…” the voice faded as Yvette escaped back to the
What if you honor your husband’s wishes and he gripes anyway? And what if he chews you out for
buying instead of baking the pie he wants?
She picked up a pie to check the price in the dim lighting, remembering the first—and last—time
she’d bought an apple pie fifteen years ago. Luke, her husband, had refused to eat it, saying she
obviously didn’t think he was worth her time and effort to bake his favorite foods with her own hands.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she had retorted. “I earned the money and then bought the pie for you. Doesn’t
that prove I think you’re worth it?”
He had raged at her then, storming about the house, kicking chairs, slamming doors, and knocking a
vase of red carnations onto the floor while he accused her of wasting his money and forcing him to eat
store-bought apple pie.
She’d been shocked at his display of temper. Her father hadn’t resorted to rages, and nothing in their
dating days had hinted Luke was prone to such behavior. Exhausted and eight months pregnant with
their firstborn, she’d told him she’d bake the next pie. When that hadn’t soothed him, she’d done her best
to evaporate into her chair. But that hadn’t calmed him, either.
“No,” she whispered, “I won’t give him an excuse to throw a temper tantrum. I’ll find another way to cut
corners. Oh, God, please help me.”
“May I help you?” a cultured voice from behind her inquired.
Startled, Yvette glanced over her shoulder. “Delores!” she spun around and shook her friend’s arm,
laughing, and making Delores’s large hoop earrings sway. “You had me confused for a second. At least
you didn’t fake a Dutch accent so you’d sound like a store clerk. I’d have been really bewildered.”
“Next time I’ll ask in Pennsylvania Dutch,” Delores grinned, her blue eyes dancing, “I used to speak it
with my grandma all the time.”
“Mom and I speak it, too, if we don’t want the children to understand and Luke isn’t around. He gets
offended if I talk Dutch in front of him. Says it’s rude to use a mangled dialect in front of people who don’t
“He has a way with words,” Delores turned toward the pie display. “I better get home so Steve can
take a break. Are you going to buy a pie?”
“No, I’ll bake several; we’re almost out. I can mix pie dough and prepare the apples and filling while
my Valentine cookie dough is chilling.”
“Luke still expects dessert with every meal but breakfast? I don’t know how you do it. Tell Luke you
have to stop burning the candle at both ends. You look tired. Let me buy you a pie so you can sleep.”
“Thanks, Delores,” embarrassed, Yvette looked away and watched a mother and her two girls, all in
veilings and long dresses, leave the store. “I wish I could, but Luke never has liked other women’s pies.”
On the spur of the moment she couldn’t think of a more understated, yet plausible reason.
Delores frowned and ran a hand through her short blonde hair. “When Steve took me out for our
anniversary, we saw Luke and his friend eating lobster. Luke had an apple turnover for dessert. Isn’t
apple pie the same thing?”
Yvette evaded the issue. “Alex must have taken Luke out. They go out several times a month except
when Alex’s tax season is in full swing.”
“Luke must have taken Alex out this time; Luke paid for it.”
“Yeah,” Yvette shrugged, trying to appear unconcerned so Delores wouldn’t guess Luke’s spending
bothered her, “they like to treat each other.”
“So give yourself a break; let me treat you.”
Yvette stepped forward to get a cart and avoid her friend’s gaze. If only she could accept without
provoking Luke. Could she transfer it to her own pie pans? No, her pans were too big; he’d see the pie
didn’t fit the pan. But refusing her friend’s offer seemed rude. “Could I take a rain check?”
“Of course. How about homemade chocolate chip cookies? Or does Luke object to buying cookies,
too? If you put them in the cookie jar, he won’t see anything unusual. I’ll put them in your car so you can
“Thanks, Delores,” Yvette wiped away a tear.
“You’re welcome. Could I—could I say something as a friend?”
"Sure,” Yvette watched her select three packages of cookies.
“Forgive me if I’m speaking out of turn,” Delores lowered her voice and put the packages in her
basket. “No Bible passages talk only of the wife’s part. What would Ephesians Five mean without those
three submission verses?”
Yvette thought for a minute. “It would sound like the husband is to love his wife so much he’ll sacrifice
his own desires for her sake.”
“Exactly. What if it meant the husband should get what he wants?”
“There wouldn’t be verses about husbands loving self-sacrificially.” Her eyes widened. “Wow! Luke
acts like those verses don’t exist! He’s way off, isn’t he? Oops,” she clapped a hand over her mouth, “I
shouldn’t malign my husband like that.”
“Why not?” Delores met her friend’s eyes. “You aren’t gossiping or slandering. We’re discussing
what is true and right. Keeping silent would only hide the truth and allow wrong—even evil—to have its
“Please, don’t tell anyone about this.” Yvette’s brow furrowed as she chewed a fingernail. “Luke would
be so embarrassed and blame me.”
“Of course I won’t. It’s up to you to decide when you’re ready to talk about it. But if I figured it out, it’s
possible others can, too.”
“I know. And thanks for the insight on submission. I’ll study that passage more. Maybe that’s exactly
what I need to motivate Luke to cherish me. It feels wrong when Luke demands his way, but he says
God decreed the husband is to be in charge and he’s obeying what God says.”
Delores shook her head. “You’ve been doing your part in submitting and his part in self-sacrificing.
No wonder you’re worn out; God never intended you to carry a double load. Your body is the temple of
the Holy Spirit, and you’re supposed to take care of your body, too.”
After Delores had gone, Yvette started down the first row. She selected clear plastic bags of whole
wheat flour and brown rice flour, placed them in her cart and read the labels on the shelves one more time
to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. Doughnut mix, cake mix, gluten. Gluten! What an inspired
idea for Valentine’s Day! If she baked bread maybe that would inspire Luke to cherish her. Hadn’t he
complained last week she never baked bread anymore? Maybe Valentine’s Day would be special if the
aroma of fresh-baked bread greeted him as he walked in the door. She’d serve sloppy Joes on
homemade bread for supper, and wouldn’t decorate with valentines, since he didn’t like them. “Oh, thank-
you God for answering my prayer for help!”
Excited about her plans, she strolled down the aisle with a light step and imagined what the day would
be like. When Luke came in with a bouquet of red roses he’d exclaim about the aroma of homemade
bread and apple pie, and he’d sit down to chat with her and the children. She’d slice warm bread and
serve it with thawed strawberry jam. Luke would ask about their day and they’d laugh and talk with him
because they sensed he had changed.
She stopped to put pint tubs of spaghetti sauce mix and sloppy Joe mix in her cart, and moved up the
next aisle. Surely, if she got it right this time, her dream would come true. If she created a fulfilling
Valentine’s Day with Luke and the children, she’d have clues how to develop a loving, close-knit family.
Then she remembered Delores’s point and stopped by the homemade noodles. Had she been too
submissive? If she yielded less would Luke cherish her more? She frowned. According to Luke, she
wasn’t submissive enough. He’d told her over and over if she’d just do what he said, life wouldn’t be so
Baffled, she shrugged and pushed her cart to the checkout.
Behind the Hedge, A Novel Chapter 1