~ EXCERPT ~
“Jeremiah! The barn’s on fire!” she yelled to nowhere, taking the stairs two and three at a time.
Her brother’s footsteps fell in behind her. “Let’s go!”
The pair hit the door at the same time, flinging it wide open. It cracked against the strain of its hinges. Not bothering to turn around and close it, they raced for the barn. Rebekah hadn’t grabbed a covering and her wet hair streamed out behind her like yellow ribbons from a maypole. It slapped her in the face when the wind whipped from a different direction.
Grinding to a halt at the water pump, Rebekah grabbed Jeremiah by his shoulders.
“You help Pa! I’m going in for the animals!”
Jeremiah ferociously began pumping for Samuel who, before that moment hadn’t even noticed that his two eldest children had joined him.
“Blitzschlag!” Samuel yelled in German. “Lightning struck the barn!”
The inside of their cozy barn was ablaze. Piles of the sweet-smelling hay, where Rebekah had hidden from her brothers on lazy fall afternoons, were engulfed by the roaring, ravenous flames. The yoke her father had hewn by hand as a boy was charred, hanging on a blackened beam. A rafter collapsed, shocking her back to her senses.
Cream and Butter were tied up in their stalls, pulling and rearing at the ropes that had become their enemy. Tiny Buttermilk bleated and mooed helplessly from behind her mother.
Rebekah yanked free the knots that held Cream and Butter at bay. The eyes of her normally-docile cows were wild and terrifying, but Rebekah grasped the lead ropes in her hands anyway and turned to lead them out.
She looked back at the tiny calf, frozen in fear. Their eyes met. “I’ll be back for you,” Rebekah swore.
Turning, she sang the flapjack ingredients song loudly, so as to be heard over the roaring flame, in a futile attempt to keep both her and the frightened cattle calm.
Another flaming beam snapped and fell behind them, spooking Butter. The milk cow bellowed and reared, dancing on her hind legs before jerking free from Rebekah and tearing off into the heart of the storm.
Rebekah stumbled and fell with the force of Butter’s yank, sending her sprawling in the mud. Pushing herself up, she managed to miss being trampled by Cream’s frightened hooves that stomped around her.
“Cream!” she yelled, her voice deep and foreign in her own ears, “Come on!” Ever obedient, Cream, though skittish, walked on to the house with Rebekah.
Tying the nervous cow to the front door, a strong pair of hands fell upon Rebekah’s shoulders, turning her around.
“It’s over,” her Pa yelled, pulling her to his chest in a tight hug. “It’s over, girl. It’s over.” It sounded as though he were trying to convince himself of that fact more than convince her. Over his shoulder, she saw that the fierce fire had overtaken the barn. Angry flames licked skyward from the loft.
Stiffening, a scream tore from her lips. “Buttermilk!”
“The baby’s gone,” her father yelled.
“No!” Struggling against his iron grasp was futile, but after a moment she managed to wean her way from under his elbow.
“Rebekah, stop!” Samuel bellowed. “Stillgestanden!”
Ignoring him, Rebekah dodged Jeremiah’s clutches easily, her eyes and heart already set on the glowing barn.
“Buttermilk, I’m coming,” she screamed again. Her father rasped behind her. Thankfully, he was all tired out from fighting the fire. She sped ahead, leaving him wheezing in the mud outside the barn.
“Rebekah, don’t baby, please.” His weak words sounded as far away as Germany as she raced into the barn.