1 Holly paused outside the old pharmacy storefront, brass key in hand. How could a building be so dear to her? Because inside the brick, glass, and wood exterior, the beautiful, timeworn store held the hope that medicine brought to her Amish community. She slid the key into the antique lock and jiggled it. The wooden door that Lyle had painted red last year had a hundred years' worth of paint on it. It creaked as she went inside, closed it, and turned the dead bolt. The customary smell that reminded her of an attic in summertime filled her senses. She unbuttoned her sweater and walked across the rough-hewn wooden floors. "Hey, kiddo," Lyle greeted her from his workstation--a counter that was two feet above the rest of the pharmacy. His black with silver hair was somewhat disheveled, and his reading glasses had slid down the bridge of his nose. His focus was on whatever prescription he was filling. "Good morning." She went up the three steps and waited for him to push a button under the counter of his workstation. The familiar buzz let her know the gate had unlocked, and she entered the area where all the prescription medicines were housed--the prescription workstation as they called it. There were a few odds and ends for her to do here, and then she could make her morning deliveries. She'd be back in a couple of hours, by the time the pharmacy opened at ten. "How are you today? Ready to start the week?" She stepped into the storage room and pulled out two large plastic bags, one with amber vials and one with white lids. Before leaving for the weekend, she'd noticed that the pharmacy bins were running low. She carried the bags to the counter next to Lyle. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. "It's a very Mondayish Monday." "What's going on?" She opened the bags of vials and lids and dumped each into its own bin. "Nothing too bad. I have a wicked headache, but I'll take some Motrin after I eat my breakfast. I'll be right as rain by the time we open." Lyle held up a white prescription bag from his perch. He waggled the bag and put it in the bin that held the morning's deliveries. "Don't worry about me. With the health fair this weekend, you've already got a ton of work to do after these deliveries are made." A smile tugged at her lips at the mention of the health fair. She'd worked for more than a year toward this goal--first getting unanimous permission from the Amish church leaders to hold the fair and then getting her people interested in attending. Based on recent feedback and people signing up for classes, the health fair was going to have a fantastic turnout. Hope for the fair and her future stirred anew. After years of proving her faithfulness to her bishop, deacon, and preacher, they had agreed to let her get her GED. She had accomplished that a year ago, and since then they'd approved her continuing her studies. If she could pass the entrance exam into nursing school, she could become an LPN. She personally had no grand desire to have a degree, but legally she had to be an LPN in order to verbally share the information written on the Patient Package Inserts. Until she had her LPN license, every patient question had to go through Lyle. She wasn't allowed even to read from or reword the information on the insert. Besides, with a license she could then offer some basic health care to Amish patients in their homes, especially the ones who often refused to venture out to the Englisch doctors and clinics. Until that time she had to content herself with routine tasks, like refilling the two printers with paper--a roll of prescription labels in one and letter-size paper in the other. She grabbed the needed supplies and went to the first printer. She turned to Lyle. "Are the morning deliveries ready?" "Almost." Lyle looked back and forth between his computer screen and the pill in his hand. He put the pill into its bottle, closed the lid, slid it into a prescription bag, and stapled it shut. He set the bag into the delivery bin. She pulled an index card out of the hidden pocket in her apron and took a moment to study it. Granulocytes respond quickly to infectious agents. Define granulocytes. She knew the answer to this one. It was a white blood cell with granules that secreted its cytoplasm. But how tough would it be to pass the test to get into nursing school? "Holly Noelle, before I forget, I have something for you." "Hmm?" She tucked the card back into her pocket. Lyle reached under the counter and behind a large paper bag. He pulled out a beautiful bouquet of pink carnations in a cut-glass vase and set them on the marred glass countertop. A familiar ache she'd never be free of caused memories to crash in on her. She touched the petals. They were just as soft as she remembered. She leaned in and drew a deep breath before opening the envelope of the small note card nestled in the bouquet. With Sympathy ~ She lifted a carnation from its glass container. "You remembered." Her Daed used to give her a pink carnation on special occasions, usually when she'd worked hard toward something and accomplished it. She'd been fourteen the last time he'd given her one, in celebration of her months of spending endless hours in his cramped office space, which was overrun with paperwork. She'd finally gotten his dairy farming business affairs in order, including years of receipts for tax purposes. A week later he died. "Thank you." Her hoarse voice was hardly more than a whisper. "Sure thing, kiddo," Lyle said. "I know it'll be an emotional day for you. Hard to believe he's been gone ten years. And even though I don't mark his passing each year, I never forget. You just let me know if you need to take a break or to shift some of your deliveries to another day." Holly swallowed the lump in her throat. "No, I want to work. Today of all days." She set the card inside the bouquet and moved the flowers to the far side of the cash register. She picked up the bag Lyle had just put in the delivery bin and read the insert--name, address, and medicine. "This is a new medication. He'll have questions." "I know." She returned the bag to its bin. " Ya , you know, but the question is whether you'll be where you can hear the phone when I call." He chuckled. "That is always the question, isn't it?" He tapped out something on the keyboard of his computer, verifying another aspect of the dispensing process. Lyle never rushed through the correct process to make very sure that every client got the right medication and that the new prescription wouldn't be dangerous in combination with other medications the patient already took. "Be done in a minute, and when I am, I'm going upstairs to shower and eat. And take something for this headache." "Okay." She knew the routine, but he always stated it anyway. She checked the list of meds and addresses. Each year they were making a greater difference in the lives of the Amish. They were pushing past indifference and lack of understanding. She hated those descriptions of her people. As a whole they were passionate and sharp but not when it came to medical issues and taking the medicines that had been prescribed. But Lyle, Doc Jules, and Holly had spent years trying to make inroads. Her people were responding--but slowly, because the Old Ways of ignoring health issues and discounting the importance of medicine was a way of life just as surely as traveling by horse and carriage. So the road ahead was long, but the Amish in this rural area weren't where they used to be. For that she was grateful. Indifference and ignorance had stolen her Daed's life, and there hadn't been a more passionate, intelligent man in Raysburg. What a horrendous waste. If he'd gone to the doctor sooner... If he'd then valued the doctor's advice and taken his medication... Now she had to miss out on a whole lifetime with him. Closing her eyes against the onslaught of the invading grief, she tried to refocus on her task. She opened her eyes and finished mentally mapping her way between the addresses on the delivery list. "That's quite a list of deliveries for today." "It is. I'm not sure you'll be back here by opening time, which is fine. So I'm telling you now, if that happens, relax and breathe." Not be back on time? She glanced through the addresses, thinking of the shortcuts she could take in the carriage on dirt roads. "I think I can do it." "Only if I finish checking these scripts off, right?" Lyle studied another pill in his hand and glanced at the computer screen. She chuckled. "Right." "While I finish here, could you flip through my morning to-do stack of papers? I think I needed to call someone first thing today, but I don't recall the specifics. This headache is really messing with my routine." "Sure." She laid down the list of addresses to deliver to and retrieved Lyle's always-growing stack of papers in the bin next to his workstation. "Was this it--'call to confirm tent rentals for Saturday'?" "No, I did that already. I believe it was for a patient that came in yesterday." "Oh, hmm." She flipped through a few papers and saw an offer from a security company for a remote-controlled surveillance camera. They had the mandatory ones inside the store that monitored everything that took place behind the pharmacy counter. But after someone broke into an independent pharmacy in a small town a few hours away, Doc Jules had suggested Lyle look into surveillance of the entryways and the store itself. She resumed digging through the stack until bright red writing on a document caught her eye: "Past Due. $45,640. Redbird Pharmaceutical Distribution." Her heart jolted. A past-due notice on a bill that large? She shouldn't ask about it. It wasn't her store, and he wasn't family, even though he often felt like it, but... "Lyle...what's this?" She handed him the paper. He took it from her and peered down at it through his reading glasses. "Oh, that's from our medicine supplier, and I have that already set up to pay online on a specific date. It'll only be a week late once paid, and there's no penalty." "But...that's so much money. Do we have that kind of money? I know things have been tight after a slow summer." "We will by later in the week. It's just part of the business, kiddo. It's why this place is open seven days a week." "I thought you stayed open on Sundays to help people." "Well, that's true. But I also need their business. We're doing fine. Trust me." She wanted to trust him, but he might hide the truth in an attempt to protect her. Finances were usually tight after the quieter summer months, and since the financial downturn a few years back and subsequent law changes, the pharmacy wasn't making nearly what it used to. Lyle set the paper down and moved back to filling the script. Could Greene's stay open in the long term? Lyle was nearing retirement age, and if he had to shoulder this much responsibility every month, even with Adrienne as a relief pharmacist, he might choose to retire before finding a replacement. But the Amish people needed this place, and that wasn't going to change. "There you go." He placed another bottle in a white paper bag and then put that bag in the plastic bin Holly used for deliveries. "After I eat and shower, I might be in and out between now and opening time. I have a few calls to make and some errands to run." She picked up the bin. The new thought of the pharmacy's uncertain future swirled together with her grief over missing her Daed, but she had deliveries to make. Chin up. Put a smile on. "Okay. See you around ten." Excerpted from The Christmas Remedy: An Amish Christmas Romance by Cindy Woodsmall, Erin Woodsmall All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.