In a Books-A-Million in Lakeland, Florida I happened down an entire row, yards and yards long, of Amish Romances, a genre I had heard of but scarcely believed existed. Each book featured a bonneted woman staring pensively into the middle distance, her face hovering over a farm on which a horse and buggy are seen driving away.
But to get to that row, I had to pass through an aisle of Teen Fiction—hundreds more titles, each evidently staring a vampire-as-superhero-slash-seducer, Twilight style.
As I thought about the popularity of all these books, it hit me: a new genre, which must be a publishing sensation.
And so I preview for you today, the opening scene of my forthcoming novel: Lancaster County’s Dark Secret.
Jacob Burkholder glanced at his schedule and double-checked the room number for his first period Chemistry class. The teacher was Mister Harding, who, rumor had it, was Harrisburg High’s easiest ‘A’.
Jacob needed a soft class because this was his first semester in an actual, public school. One that was more than just a single room and shared by children of all ages, that is.
This was because young Jacob was Amish. He was sixteen, out living among the English on his rumspringa, the time of youthful rebellion where Amish young men and women decide if they want to remain part of the fold or forever leave it behind. Whether they would accept the Baptism or renounce the Order and be forever sworn to secrecy.
Jacob knew he would soon have to make the choice. He was thinking about this intently, so distracted that he walked right past his room and into an open locker door.
“Hey, look out, freak” said a burly jock named John Prangle, pushing Jacob against the wall. Prangle’s three friends laughed. “Learn to watch where you’re going. You trip on these clothes of yours?” He grabbed Jacob’s shirt. “What’d you do, make this yourself? Stylish.” He laughed and the four went into the room.
Steady, Jacob thought to himself. Let it go. He knew even though he had not yet had the Baptism that a flick of his wrist would have sent Prangle sprawling to the floor. But then they would know. The Order would know. They would somehow find out. They always did.
He let the moment pass, but in his anger he had unknowingly ground the pencil he was holding to dust. He held up his hand and let the yellow sand slowly pour from his fist. He allowed himself a slight smile.
It was then he heard what no other ear could have. A small gasp, filled with longing.
It came from Isabella Springer, who stood in the doorway of the biology class. She had watched the entire incident without fully comprehending what had happened. She saw Jacob sprinkle the pencil dust, but that was not, as Jacob mistakenly thought, what caused her strangled cry.
It was seeing Jacob for the first time that forced her sharp breath. She had never seen anybody who had looked like him before. He is beautiful, were her first thoughts. It was true she had known other boys who were handsome, but never before had she beheld such raw, unadorned physical perfection. His features glowed. It caused her physical pain to look at him; yet she couldn’t remove her eyes. He is too beautiful.
Jacob returned her stare when the attendance bell rang. Several late-coming students pushed past them into the room. Jacob followed, avoiding Isabella’s gaze as he did, not trusting himself to talk. Isabella’s throaty, soft moan was still echoing in his head.
What Jacob didn’t know was that Isabella was also new to Harrisburg High. This was her first semester since she had moved from a suburb of Philadelphia. It was just six months ago that her parents died in a car accident in upstate Pennsylvania. The police said her dad had been drinking, but she didn’t believe it. She never saw her father have more than one beer a night. Isabella lived with her maternal grandmother now.
In the classroom, while sneaking a look at Jacob, Isabella accidentally pushed her folder into a glass beaker, which crashed to the floor and shattered. Mr Harding hushed some boys who started laughing, and then went to the closet to fetch a broom.
Isabella leaned down and began pushing the broken glass into a pile with the edge of her folder. As she did so, a shard caught her on the finger, cutting it. “Oh!” she said.
Jacob’s attention immediately riveted on Isabella. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, barely suppressing a moan. He was starting to feel his face turn hot and red. He couldn’t take much more before…
He stood up and bolted from the room, crashing into Mr Harding who was returning with the broom.
“Ha! Look at the pansy run,” said John, “Scared of the sight of blood!” He and his crew laughed.
Isabella’s eyes followed Jacob out. After he was gone, she held up her finger, which was still bleeding slightly. “He’s not frightened.”
Somehow she knew.
If you want more, have a publisher contact me. This story simple cannot lose.