Authors: Shelley Shepard Gray
Sisters of the Heart
This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
We did not inherit this land from our fathers. We are borrowing it from our children.
Katie Brenneman noticed that Jonathan Lundy was crushing the brimâ¦
Some days, Jonathan missed Sarah so much he thought hisâ¦
âI know my brother Jonathan's intentions are true. They areâ¦
Winnie was in good spirits. âMalcolm's letter was a fullâ¦
âHenry, I just don't know if I'll ever be asâ¦
Brandon was sitting up in bed half watching television whenâ¦
That evening after the girls had their supper and theyâ¦
âYou are truly my best friend, Anna,' Katie said asâ¦
All day Jonathan had looked forward to the moment heâ¦
I won't go away.
âI don't know if I'll ever be able to moveâ¦
âHello, Mr. McClusky,' Katie said when she and the girlsâ¦
âI saw Katie, Brandon,' Holly blurted the moment Brandon wokeâ¦
Katie almost cut her finger to the bone when theâ¦
Two days had passed since Jonathan almost proposed. During thoseâ¦
Contrary to what most thought, Jonathan found he did notâ¦
Feeling restless in the quiet of Jonathan's home, Katie hitchedâ¦
âSo, you'll forgive me?' Katie asked Jonathan later that evening.
âI canna eat another bite of this wonderful Christmas dinner,'â¦
Katie Brenneman noticed that Jonathan Lundy was crushing the brim of his hat. Round and round he turned it, fingering the black felt as he spoke. Every few moments, without warning, his fingers would clench and the rim would succumb to his grip.
If he continued the process much longer, Jonathan was going to be in dire need of a new hat.
“Katie, are you listening, Daughter?”
She started, daring to glance at her mother, who was sitting across from her on the love seat, her current sewing project forgotten in the basket next to her. “Yes,
. I'm listening.”
“You have hardly looked at our guest once since he's arrived. You haven't spoken more than a few words.” Her mother treated Katie to a look she knew well. It said she had better shape up and soon. “Is everything all right?”
Irene Brenneman was a lot of things, but a fool certainly wasn't one of them. Katie swallowed. “Of course.”
“Then you are interested in what Jonathan has to say?”
Katie had been fond of Jonathan Lundy for years. She'd always been mighty interested in what he had to say. Not that he seemed to notice. “Yes.”
The hat took another beating as Jonathan spoke. “I have something to ask of Katie. Something that I am hoping she would think was a mighty
Now Katie was all ears. Had Jonathan finally seen her as she wished? As a woman available for courting? Stilling herself, she inhaled.
Her mother's cheeks pinkened. “What was your idea, Jonathan?”
He swallowed uncomfortably. “I'mâ¦I'm hopin' Katieâthat Katieâ¦”
Her mother leaned forward. “Yes?”
“Well, I'm in need of Katie here to help with my daughters.”
coughed. “With your daughters?”
went the brim again. “
Just while my sister Winnie goes to Indiana for a bit.”
Katie exhaled swiftly. Well, she'd certainly been mistaken! Jonathan had been thinking of her, but not as a future bride. Oh no. As a nursemaid for his five-and seven-year-old daughters.
“For how long?” her father asked. Usually, he joked around, or whittled on one of the many canes he was famous for creating. Now, though, he only sat solemnly, his expression grave.
of living at Jonathan Lundy's home? Of caring for his daughters like their mother. Of seeing to his household, making his meals, cleaning his home. As a wife would do.
After a long moment of thoughtful silence, her father said, “Two months is a long time, I'm thinkin'.”
“I know it.”
Oh! Jonathan Lundy still hadn't looked her way! Katie bristled. She hated being talked over like she had nothing to say for herself.
Though she surely didn't like the sound of this conversation, either. She was about to speak her mind when her mother spoke.
“Mary and Hannah are nice girls, to be sure. And they are a pleasure to be around.”
Jonathan nodded. His expression relaxed. For the first time since he'd arrived, the hat hung limply in his hand. “Thank you. Ever since my Sarah died, I've had a time of it.”
. Those words told Katie everything she needed to know. Jonathan might never think of anyone other than Sarah. Ever.
Her mother winced. “Sarah's accident was a tragedy, we all know that. But you and your sister, Winnie, are raisin' the girls just fine. I know Mary has missed her mother something awful, and it wasn't easy when young Hannah was still little more than a babe.”
Jonathan's face became expressionless. “Neither Mary nor Hannah understood death at first. Hannah woke up
crying for her mother more often than not, and Maryâ¦” His voice lowered. “Well, Mary refused to ride in a buggy for months after the accident. But they're better now.”
“Yes, indeed. I know they are better.” Her mother paused, as if measuring her words. “But, you see, I don't think it would be right for our Katie to take on such a job.”
Her father slapped his hands on his thighs. “Not at all. This job you speak of is not the one for Katie.”
“If you're worried I would take advantage of her, I promise I will do no such thing. I'll move to the
and be always respectful.”
“We are sure you will.”
“And I will pay her, too. Please don't think I wanted Katie to work for nothing.”
This conversation was getting worse and worse. It was so uncomfortable that Katie no longer minded that they were speaking about her as if she wasn't there. She didn't want to be there.
“Money is not the problem, Jonathan,” her mother said sternly.
The decision had clearly been made. Katie didn't know whether to be thankful or disappointed. Here was her opportunity to show Jonathan just what kind of mother and wife she could be. Here was her chance! But it was also a risk that Jonathan would only see her as a caregiver for his girls.
And though she'd always wanted to be a wonderful
mother and housewife, she wanted to be valued as
. As someone special. Perhaps that would never happen in Jonathan's home.
Jonathan looked surprised. “Oh. I see. I was just thinking that you might have an extra hand, now that Anna Metzger is living here.”
Katie smiled at the mention of her best friend's name. Anna had been living at their inn for seven months now, and quite an adjustment it had been! Her dear friend was determined to learn the ways of the Amish, join the church, and eventually exchange vows with Henry, Katie's brother.
Katie's father spoke. “Anna is a great help, to be sure. But that isn't the problem.”
With a tender look her way, her mother spoke. “It would be improper for Katie to live with you, that way.”
“In what way? She'd only be caring for the girls.”
With a hint of censure in her tone, her mother said, “She is a young woman of marriageable age, Jonathan. Certainly you agree?”
For the first time since he'd arrived, Jonathan looked at her hard. From top to bottom. Katie did her best to sit still, chin up, as if she didn't mind being stared at like a horse at market.
Jonathan's hat fell, whether the brim gave out or he was startled, Katie didn't know. But, he did look mighty flustered. His brow was damp as he reached down to pick the hat up.
The tension in the room increased. Helplessly, Katie turned to her mother.
she ordered silently.
Say something to make things better!
But her mother remained silent. Her father shot her
a troubled glance but merely waited for Jonathan to respond.
He finally didâ¦very slowly. “Th-â¦though Katie seemsâ¦Is. Mighty niceâ¦” He shifted. Pulled at his shirt. “I'm not in the market for a new wife, you see.”
raised a brow. “Ever? All girls need a mother.” Gently, she added, “Perhaps one day you might even find yourself eager for a wife.”
Jonathan looked awkwardly at the floor.
Katie felt stung. Had Jonathan become so terribly entrenched in his world of loneliness that he didn't even see that chance of future happiness?
“I've heard enough. I'm sorry, but we canna allow Katie to live there, with you.” Her father stood up with a groan. “Now, I best get to work, there's a lot of things that need doing.”
“I wish you would reconsider,” Jonathan interrupted quickly. “There's really no one else to turn to.”
“That may be the case, but honestly, Jonathan, we have Katie to look after. Don'tcha see?”
Jonathan stood up, his expression grim. “I see. I see that I shouldn't have asked for so much.”
To Katie's surprise, neither parent refuted Jonathan's words. Instead, her father merely walked him to the door, then followed him outside.
A feeling of loss flowed through her. Well, there was her chance, and it had come and gone in mere minutes. As they heard Jonathan's buggy roll down their gravel drive, Katie turned to her mother. “I feel sorry for him. Jonathan is a proud man. It had to be difficult to ask for help.”
Her mother picked up her sewing again. “We both know pride is a sin, Katie. He will be fine. It is far better if you stay here at home. Where we can keep a close eye on you.”
Katie felt her insides come apart. All at once, the true reason for her parents' reluctance for her to be at the Lundys' began to dawn on her. Her parents were not concerned with Jonathan's behavior.
They were far more worried about her own. Perhaps her past mistakes were not as swept aside as she'd thought. “I'm twenty years old, you know.”
“Just twenty. Your birthday was only two weeks ago.”
“I'm just sayin' that twenty is much older than sixteen.”
Her mother jabbed her needle through the fabric. “That is true.”
“What do you think Jonathan will do now?”
“It is not our concern.”
“But Winnie really wants to go to Indiana. She told me she can't wait to go. And, well, she doesn't get to take time for herself very often. The only instance I recall her asking for a break was last spring, when Anna had first come to live with us.”
“Winnie's caring for her brother's children. She shouldn't need breaks from that. It's best that she concentrate on her duties, Katie. We both know what can happen when duty is forgotten.”
Katie glanced at her mother again. Her mother's shoulders were stiff, her posture rigid. With great effort, Katie tried to stop her hands from shaking. What could her mother know?
“I'm going to go check on Anna,” she said, abruptly scurrying from the room.
Miraculously, her mother let her go without a word.
But as Katie rounded the corner and faced the beautiful front staircase, she knew she couldn't visit her best friend just then. She didn't want to burden Anna with her troubles, or be surrounded by her joyful nature. Yes, lately, Anna had been very joyful.
She'd had every reason to be. Anna was unofficially courting Katie's brother, Henry. She was also in the process of learning everything she could about the Amish and practicing her Pennsylvania Dutch, all in preparation to join the church.
Bypassing the stairs, Katie threw open the door and strode outside, just as quickly as her feet could take her.
The mid-October sunshine brought welcome rays of warmth to the blustery air. As the multitude of crisp yellow, orange, and red leaves crunched underfoot, Katie took a moment to quiet down. To remind herself that she was safe.
Just as she closed her eyes to pray for guidance, a fierce yip of a small black-and-white pup caught her attention.
There, at front of the whitewashed two-story barn sat her brother, a wiggly puppy in his arms.
Katie hurried closer. “Henry, whatever are you doing with that dog?”
His smile was broad and transformed his usual solemn expression. “Caleb Miller's Daisy had a litter. He gave me a pup in exchange for the work I did in his shop last Friday and Saturday.”
Unable to help herself, Katie reached out for the pup, then carefully cradled him in her arms. After a bit of squirming, the puppy leaned closer and licked her face. “Oh, he's
âwonderful nice, that's for sure. What are you going to do with him? Is he for Anna?”
“No. She's got enough to do, with the inn and her lessons,” he said easily.
Her brother used to take everything seriously and saw little humor in even the silliest of things. His relationship with Anna changed all that. Now the two of them were entering into a bond that went beyond all their cultural differences. Each was becoming a stronger person because of it.
“This puppy is for you.”
Looking suddenly bashful, Henry shrugged. “I don't know. Maybe because you love puppies so?”
She was prevented from replying when the puppy wriggled some more and yipped out his own reply. “Oh, he's a dear. Look how he has three black paws and one white one.” The puppy yipped again and stretched two paws, just like he was showing them off. Katie couldn't keep the smile from her face.
Henry laughed. “I think the two of you will get along just fine.”
, they know.” Scratching the pup on its head, he said, “Don't worry so, Katie.” Motioning to the open windows of their house, he murmured, “I overheard some of Jonathan's visit.”
Katie avoided his eyes. “I don't know what I'm supposed to do with my life.”
Henry clicked his tongue. “You will. What's meant to be will happen. It always does.”
“I hope so.” Even though she knew she'd regret scrubbing the stains out later, Katie sat down on the dusty ground to let the pup scamper. He leaped from her lap, sniffed impatiently around the area, then eagerly ran to her again, his tail wagging like they hadn't seen each other in days.
He'd come back to her. He hadn't chased after Henry. Though she knew it was a silly thing to be happy about, Katie was pleased. Perhaps everything did work out the way it was supposed to. Perhaps everything with Jonathan Lundy would work out one way or another, as well.
Perhaps one day, her past would finally stay in the past.
Finding comfort in prayer, she whispered, “Dear Lord, my gracious God, please help me remember how far I've come from my past. Please help me remember to enjoy the present. And please help me see where my future lies. I do so want to follow your will.”
With all her heart, Katie did want to follow where the Lord intended to lead her. She knew she did.
So why was she always wishing and hoping for things that could never be?
“Anna, you must be careful filling the jars,” Katie cautioned four days later, as she carefully lifted the jar out of the boiling water then poured exactly one cup of preserves into the glass container. “If you are not careful, you're going to fill them too much and then they won't seal properly.”