Ivy placed the last of the pink-rose centerpieces on a crisp white tablecloth and paused to smell the fragrance of the soft petals. Vintage porcelain teapots held the arrangements, and on each table sat a three-tiered tray with chicken-salad finger sandwiches, pink and blue cupcakes, and chocolate-covered strawberries. The teapots looked so much happier now than when she had found them languishing in an old storage room of this Victorian home.
She smiled. What a beautiful setup for a party. Stacy, the mom-to-be, would be thrilled. A good recommendation from Stacy's family would help Ivy and Tegan get their fledgling party-planning business off the ground. She looked around the room and saw a few family members of the mom-to-be who had come to help Ivy with the preparations.
"Ivy?" Tegan pointed at the empty punch bowl. "Should I go ahead and fill the bowl with the punch?"
Ivy glanced at the clock. "I'd give it ten more minutes. We don't want our punch-flavored ice melting too quickly."
Tegan nodded and returned her attention to the table in front of her.
Sunlight filtered through a stained glass window, highlighting something on the rug. Ivy walked over to pick it up, and as she bent to retrieve the piece of decorative paper, she felt the envelope of money in the hidden pocket in her apron shift. She'd put most of her life savings from cleaning houses into that envelope and shoved it into her pocket a few hours ago. She couldn't wait to hand off the money as a down payment on an apartment. Everything she longed for was coming together—establishing a party-planning business, getting a place to live with her friend Tegan, and leaving the confines of her Old Order Amish life.
But her Mamm's sweet face flashed in her mind's eye, and she swallowed hard. The look in Mamm's eyes bored into her. The money wasn't freeing. It was heavy and dirty.
She straightened her shoulders. No. Today wasn't about guilt or fear. It was about chasing her dreams.
A giggle caught Ivy's attention, and she glanced at the six-year-old who'd arrived with her mom, grandma, and aunt and had been helping them set up tables. During the next twenty minutes, the rest of the guests would start trickling in.
Ivy smiled. "Thanks for your help, Lily. Are you excited about celebrating your new cousin?"
The girl nodded, her blue eyes sparkling and her long, curly brown hair bouncing with each movement. "Yes, yes, yes! I really want to eat that pink cupcake." She pointed at one of the nearby dessert trays. "And then Aunt Stacy said I could help her open all the gifts. Did you know that babies make big messes and go through lots of clothes?"
Tegan walked over from the table she'd just finished, dusted off her hands, and then smoothed her knee-length mauve lace dress. "Yeah, I have a little brother who was born when I was about your age, and I can confirm that."
Ivy nodded and grinned at the young girl. "You're pretty sharp."
Lily looked Ivy up and down. "Do the Amish have parties for babies?"
"Well, sort of. But not like this. Usually women take homemade gifts and clothes to the mom after the baby is born."
What Ivy didn't say was how quiet the Amish were about pregnancy, an odd practice in her book. She loved helping the Englisch create such beautiful celebrations. The Amish would consider today's event extravagant, with too much focus on an expectant mom. But no need to let Lily in on all that.
"Well, you should tell them it's fun. Or I can tell them for you." Lily gave a thumbs-up.
Tegan shrugged and pushed her long brown hair behind her shoulder. "Guess she's solved your problems."
Ivy forced a smile. If only it were that easy to change the minds of men and women who were convinced that following an old set of rules was the way to live. Most were reluctant to make a big deal about birthdays or any other special occasion except wedding days. Why weren't all kinds of milestones honored? Some special events should be celebrated in such a way that they become a lifetime memory. The common Amish practice of ignoring or, at most, having a low-key observance of important days grated on her nerves, to put it mildly.