Friends to the End
The first time I went to the Clarks’ house was with my older brother, Andy. He was twelve and I was ten. Back then, I was fairly certain my big brother could do no wrong.
A?ndy Warner almost hadn’t glanced at his phone. He was down in Naples, Florida, with his parents and two of his father’s golf buddies and was just about to walk into the grill at some crazy-expensive golf club when his cell phone vibrated.
Usually he would have ignored it, but his parents and the men had been talking about the stock market for the last hour—they wouldn’t miss him for a couple of minutes.
Just as he excused himself from the group, his phone vibrated again. Walking toward the front doors, he thumbed the screen. His little sister, Tricia, wouldn’t have called him for no reason.
“Hey, Trish,” he said as he slid his sunglasses back over his eyes. “How’s all the snow? Are you finally wishing you’d given in and come to Florida with Mom and Dad?” No matter how hard he’d tried to convince his sister that heading down to Florida
for the long Presidents’ Day weekend would be good for her, his twenty-year-old sister had steadfastly refused.
“Oh, Andy. You have no idea.”
He was about to tease her again when something in her voice made him stop. “What’s going on?”
“I’m in trouble.”
The connection was breaking up. Hoping to hear her better, Andy strode toward the edge of the half-filled parking lot. As he stood on the dark pavement, heat radiating from it even in the middle of February, there was no one around to overhear. “What happened?”
“The power is out in the cabin and it’s snowing like crazy. The weather reports are bad, too,” she said in a rush, one word tumbling over the other. “I don’t think my car can make the drive back. It’s freezing, it’s going to be dark in a couple of hours, and the only way I can charge my phone is to go sit in the car.”
Feeling the headache that he’d been fighting off and on for the last six months come rolling back, Andy rubbed between his eyes. “You went out to the cabin by yourself? Did Mom and Dad know you were heading out there? I sure didn’t.”
She paused. “I didn’t tell anyone I was coming out here.”
Their family’s cabin was nestled in the woods about ninety minutes from their home in Walnut Creek, Ohio. Their grandparents had built it when their dad was just a kid. Over the years his parents had fixed it up until it resembled something out of one of his mother’s Midwest Living magazines. It had two bedrooms, a huge stone fireplace, and granite countertops in the kitchen. All of them loved hanging out there, hiking, fishing, or simply doing nothing at all.
But even though the place had every modern convenience
and was gorgeous, it was still secluded—really secluded. In addition, the narrow, winding road leading up to it had tripped up more than one driver in the middle of the summer.
But in the dead of winter? It bordered on treacherous. Fear for her ratcheted up his tone. “Trish, what were you—”
She cut him off, her voice sounding pinched. “Andy, believe it or not, I didn’t call so you could yell at me from some beach in Florida. Chew me out all you want when you get home. But right now I need your help.” She took a deep breath. “What should I do? Do you think I should try to brave the roads and go back?”
Concern slammed into his chest. Tricia might be twenty years old and a grown woman to the rest of the world, but to him she was still the little girl who used to tag along behind him and his friends. “Give me a sec. Let me think.” He knew what he would do—he’d take the chance and start driving.
But this was Tricia.
After another second or two, Tricia made an impatient noise. “Can you think quicker? It’s snowing so much, I’m afraid I’m going to lose our connection. You know how spotty it is out here.”
She wanted him to spout off the right advice just like that? Andy mentally rolled his eyes. He was starting to have a whole new dose of respect for his parents. Was this what their lives had been like when he was a teenager and getting into trouble? Memories of him calling home in need of help taunted him like a bully.
“Look, no judgments, but why did you call me instead of Mom or Dad? How about I run inside and get—”
“Mom’s been threatening to make me move back home and finish college online or something. She said I’ve had too much drama and that something is always going wrong with me.”
Their mom was right. Tricia was a junior at Bowling Green
State University, but even he knew that his smart little sister was a walking disaster. She’d had difficult roommates, lost her keys and student ID, ran out of money, and never thought things through. How one girl could be so flighty and still make the dean’s list while majoring in applied mathematics was beyond him.
“So you don’t want them to know you’re stuck up in the cabin?”
He began to pace, working up a sweat. “Are you in trouble? Do you have wood and water?”
“The water’s fine. For some reason, the well hasn’t given out. I’ve got some granola bars, cereal, and milk, too. But I’m stuck, Andy.” Her voice quivered. “You know I wouldn’t have called if I wasn’t so stressed out. I can only find a couple of candles and two flashlights but no batteries. It’s really bad out here.”
Racking his brain, he tried to think of who would drop everything to help Tricia out. Exhaling, he realized he knew seven people. The other members of the Magnificent Eight. His best friends.
He was closer than close to these seven other men and women, thanks to the bond they’d formed back when they were toddlers. They’d vowed to be there for each other no matter what—and, amazingly, that loyalty had never wavered.
The best part about the group, for Tricia at least, was that some of the Eight were Amish. They didn’t need good roads to travel on; they could use a sleigh and horses. They didn’t need electricity, either. They made do without electricity all the time.
But what was most important was that both he and Tricia could trust any of them. Though she was never part of the Eight, she knew each of them really well.
And right then, he knew who to track down first. Logan lived north of Walnut Creek and knew all the back roads to the cabin. If anyone could make it there, it was him. “I’m going to call Logan Clark, Tricia. He’ll get you.”
“Logan?” Her voice softened with relief. “Do you really think he’d come out here for me?”
“Of course. He knows the cabin, too. So sit tight. He’ll drop everything to be there.”
“I hope he answers his house phone. He’s New Order, right?”
“Yep.” The Clarks were New Order Amish, which meant that they had a single house phone. One of the many people who lived there would answer it and tell Logan about Tricia. “Listen, if for some reason I can’t get ahold of him, I’ll call someone else in the Eight. No matter what, you won’t have to worry. Expect company to arrive in three or four hours.”
She sniffed. “Thanks, Andy. What would I ever do without you?”
He laughed. “Don’t worry about that. I’m not going anywhere. Now, let me call Logan and get back to Dad before he comes looking for me.”
“Okay. Thanks again, Andy.”
“Chin up, Trish,” he reassured her, ready to find her help as soon as possible. “Go light one of those candles you found and read a book or something. Try to relax. It will be all right.”
Still fighting his headache, he thumbed down his list of contacts and dialed Logan’s number, smiling when his buddy picked up.
“Hey, Logan, it’s Andy. I’m really glad you picked up and not one of your siblings.”
“Well, I’m really wonderin’ why you are on the phone. I thought you were in Florida.”
“I am, but I just got a call from Trish. Listen, I need a favor.”
“Name it,” he said.
He breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was going to be okay now. Tricia was going to be taken care of.
“Andy?” his dad called out.
Covering the mouthpiece, he turned to his father. “Sorry, Dad. There’s an emergency at work. I’ll be right there.”
Looking relieved, his dad walked back inside. As soon as he was gone, Andy filled Logan in on Tricia and asked him to drop everything to rescue her.
Just like he’d had to back when they were twelve years old.
“I’ll head out to get her within the hour. I’ll bring supplies, too, in case something happens.”
“If you want to bring someone else with you, that’s fine with me. Trish sounded like a wreck.”
“We’ll see. Try not to worry.”
“Danke, Logan,” Andy said, using the Pennsylvania Dutch word for thank you to emphasize his relief.
“Ack, it’s nothing. It’s what friends are for. Ain’t so?”
Andy smiled. “Absolutely,” he said as he hung up and walked back inside the club. Though his head was pounding and he didn’t feel good about keeping this secret from his parents, he believed in Logan and the strength of the Eight as much as he believed in God.
He really was blessed to have such an amazing group of friends.