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Letters to KatieA MIDDLEFIELD FAMILY Novel
By Kathleen Fuller
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Kathleen Fuller
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Oh, Katherine. This is so schee."
Katherine Yoder smiled at her best friend, Mary Beth Shetler. She 'd spent hours working on the baby quilt, making sure the tiny stitches were as perfect as possible for Mary Beth's new baby. "I'm glad you like it."
"Of course I do." Mary Beth touched the soft flannel quilt, running her fingers over the pale yellow, blue, and peach blocks. Each block had a ragged edge, a new pattern she hadn't attempted before. The simple style was well suited for a baby, and Mary Beth's was due in a few weeks.
"I love it." Mary Beth folded the quilt and placed it on her knees, her expanded belly barely allowing the space. "Danki for such a beautiful gift. Although I don't see how you have the time, working so many hours at the restaurant."
All I have is time. She pushed the self-pity aside and managed a smile. She didn't want to ruin the moment between them with jealousy. Unlike Mary Beth Shetler, Katherine didn't have a husband—and soon a child—to take care of. Outside of working at Mary Yoder's and helping her parents at home, her only other pursuits were her sewing and needlework. She was always busy yet longed for something different. Something more.
Apparently God had other plans.
Mary Beth managed to rise from the chair in her tiny kitchen. Her husband, Chris, had built the four-room home behind Mary Beth's parents' property. The dwelling resembled a dawdi haus, and likely would be used as such once the rest of Mary Beth's siblings—Johnny, Caleb, Micah, and Eli—married and left home. But for now, the tidy, cozy home was enough.
And more than Katherine had.
Mary Beth placed the quilt on the table. "I'm glad you came over. Since I've gotten so big, I haven't gotten out much." Her light blue dress draped over her bulging belly.
Katherine 's eyes widened. "Are you sure you're not having twins?"
"Nee." Her friend laughed. "But I look like I am." With a waddling gait she moved to the cabinet. "Do you want anything to drink?"
Katherine shook her head. "I can't stay too long. I wanted to make sure you got the quilt before the boppli arrived. I have to work later today."
"Maybe just a few minutes?" Mary Beth went back to the table and sat down. She reached for Katherine 's hand. "It's been so long since we talked."
"We 've both been busy." She squeezed her friend's hand. "And you'll be even busier in a few weeks."
"Ya." A radiant glow appeared on Mary Beth's cheeks. "But I don't want us to drift apart. You're mei best friend."
Katherine released her hand. "And I promise I'll be the best aenti to your boppli."
"The baby has plenty of onkels, that's for sure." Her smile dimmed a little.
Katherine frowned. "What's wrong? It's not the boppli, is it?"
"Chris is fine too. We 're happier than we 've ever been."
"Then what is it?"
Mary Beth sighed, but she didn't reply.
"You know you can tell me anything. If something's troubling you, I want to help."
Her friend looked at Katherine. "It's Johnny."
Katherine 's heart twisted itself into a knot. She glanced away before steeling her emotions. "What about Johnny?"
"Are you sure you want to talk about him?"
"I've accepted that there 's no future for us. What I felt for Johnny was a childhood crush."
A crush. The truth was, Katherine had loved Mary Beth's twin brother, Johnny, for as long as she could remember. For years she held out hope for a chance, however small, however remote. She had clung to that dream as if she were drowning and it was her only lifeline.
But not anymore.
She sat straight in the chair, brightened her smile, and said, "What's going on with him?"
"He's been acting ... different."
"What do you mean?"
"Distant. Partly because he 's been working so many hours at the buggy shop. Mamm said she barely sees him except for church service. He leaves early in the morning and comes home late. But when he is around, he 's quiet."
"That doesn't sound like him," Katherine said. "Do you think he 's keeping something from your familye?"
Something ... or someone?
Despite Katherine 's vow not to care, her heart constricted again at the thought.
"I don't know." Mary Beth's brown eyes had lost the warmth they'd held moments ago. "He's becoming like a stranger to me. To all of us. We've drifted apart." Her smile faded. "Like you and I have."
Katherine shook her head in protest. "You know I'm always here for you."
Tears welled in Mary Beth's eyes.
Katherine drew back. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry."
"I'm always crying." Mary Beth wiped her eyes. "It makes Chris ab im kopp. Hormones, I'm sure." She sniffed, wiping her eyes. "I'm glad we 're still best friends."
Katherine hugged Mary Beth. "We always will be."
* * *
Johnny Mullet put his hands on his hips and surveyed his new property. Four acres, a small house, and an even smaller barn. All his.
The sad little farm didn't look like much. But by the time he finished fixing everything up, no one would recognize it. He glanced at the empty pasture on the left side of the house. Tall grass, green and dense, swayed against a southerly breeze. He planned to purchase that acreage too. Expand and make his horse farm something he could be proud of.
If only Daed could see ...
At the thought of his father, the grin faded from his face.
Hochmut, his father would say. Pride.
The worst character flaw any Amish could have.
But was there something wrong with feeling satisfied after hard work? After a job well done?
This wasn't about pride. It was about independence. Making a good living. He 'd seen his family struggle. He didn't want that for his future. A future that, God willing, wouldn't include only him.
With the hazy orange sun dipping below the horizon, Johnny hopped into his buggy and headed home. Ten minutes later he arrived at his parents' house. He was late for supper. Again. He quickly put up his horse and hurried into the house, sliding into his seat just as his father closed his eyes for grace.
After prayer, his mother passed his father a platter of ham. He speared a slice with his fork, peering at Johnny as he did. "Long day at work again?"
Johnny picked up a roll from the basket on the table. He drew in a deep breath. "Nee."
"Then why are you late?"
"I bought a farm."
Silence. Johnny glanced around the table. Caleb's mouth dropped open, and Micah's fork was poised in midair. Even six-year-old Eli gave him a funny look. "You what?" His mother's eyes went wide with shock.
"You know that house down the road a piece? The one with the barn in the back?"
"You mean that shack?" Caleb shook his head.
Micah scooped up a forkful of green beans. "Calling it a shack is a stretch."
Their father cleared his throat. The boys ducked their heads and kept eating. He turned to Johnny. "When did you do this?"
"Signed the paperwork yesterday."
"Where did you get the money?"
He was already tired of the third degree, but he had expected no less. "Savings. From my job at Gideon Bender's."
"You must have gotten it for a song," Caleb added. "Or less than a song. Maybe just a note." He chuckled.
"Caleb." His father shot him a silencing look before turning to Johnny again. "I wish you had consulted me first."
"I'm an adult, Daed. I didn't think I had to." Seeing the flash of hurt in his father's eyes, he added, "Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
"I hope so."
"Maybe you two could discuss this after supper?" Mamm's lips pinched into a thin line. "The food is getting cold."
Daed nodded and dug into his food. No one said anything for the rest of the meal. But all Johnny could think about was the disappointed look on his father's face.
* * *
Cora Easley gripped the smartphone in her hand. "The doctor wants me to do what?"
"He'd like to see you again," the nurse repeated in a crisp, emotionless tone. "As soon as possible."
"He'd like to run a few more tests."
"How many more tests does he need?" Cora looked down at the bruise on her arm from the blood draw she'd received a few days ago. For months she 'd been poked, prodded, scanned, and questioned. The dehumanizing madness had to stop. Her weary body couldn't take it anymore.
"You tell Dr. Clemens I'm through with his tests. If he doesn't have a treatment plan by now, clearly I need to see a more competent doctor."
Silence on the other line. The nurse cleared her throat. "Mrs. Easley, Dr. Clemens is just being thorough."
"Too thorough, if you ask me."
"Are you refusing more testing?"
"Yes. That's exactly what I'm doing."
A pause. "I'll mark that in your chart. You'll still need to meet with Dr. Clemens at your earliest convenience. He will want to talk to you."
"And I want to talk to him." This nonsense had gone on long enough. She already had a diagnosis—Parkinson's. What she didn't have was a cure.
After making her appointment, Cora clicked off her phone and laid it on the glass coffee table. She walked to the large window in her penthouse and looked at the landscape in front of her. New York. The city of her birth, the place she 'd lived all her life. But everything had changed in the past few months, changes she never expected.
Her hands trembled. The shaking had worsened over the past two weeks. Dr. Clemens had said to expect it. She hated that he was right.
Parkinson's. The diagnosis terrified her. She'd briefly glanced at the literature about the disease, only to promptly dispose of the pamphlets after reading about some of the symptoms. Loss of memory. Loss of motor function. Loss of control.
Cora Easley had never been out of control. She 'd dictated and orchestrated every aspect of her life except for one. And now she was facing the possibility that within the next couple of years, she wouldn't even be in control of her bodily functions. What kind of life was that? Not one she wanted to live.
Cora turned to look at her maid, a faithful servant for the past several years. If it hadn't been for Manuela, her grandson, Sawyer, wouldn't have found out the truth about his parents and the reason his mother ran off with his father. Or the story behind the estranged relationship she had with her daughter, Kerry, and how Kerry had tried to mend the rift between them. Cora's stubbornness had thwarted that. And now her grandson didn't seem to want to have anything to do with her.
When he left to find Laura Stutzman two months ago, he swore he 'd return. But he hadn't. She wasn't sure he ever would.
"Señora?" Manuela repeated. "Por favor. Did you hear me?"
"Sorry. Lost in my thoughts, I suppose."
"Is everything all right?"
"Everything is fine." But it couldn't be further from the truth. She walked away from the window. "I need a glass of sparkling water."
"Sí. Anything else?"
"No, just the water. Bring it to my bedroom."
Manuela nodded and disappeared from the room. Cora made her way to her spacious bedroom. She sat on the edge of her bed, the silk comforter rustling from the movement. She picked up the landline phone on the mahogany end table. Dialed a familiar number. Tensed when she heard the voice mail.
"This is Sawyer. Leave a message."
She opened her mouth to speak, but words failed. She couldn't tell her grandson about her diagnosis. Not like this. She'd have to find another way. But she had no idea how.
Chapter TwoThe next morning was a busy one at Mary Yoder's. Katherine had served four tables nonstop. It was nearly lunchtime before she got a moment to catch her breath, and then another customer showed up in her section—an Amish man. He looked to be about her age, but she didn't recognize him. She ran a hand across her brow, took her pad out of her apron pocket, and went to the table.
"Wie gehts," she said. "What can I get you to drink?"
He looked up from the menu. When he met Katherine 's gaze, he grinned. A small dimple dented his lower right cheek. "What do you recommend?"
"We have iced tea, lemonade, water, soda pop."
"Hmm." He kept looking at Katherine. "Iced tea sounds gut."
"I'll have it right out for you."
"Thank you." He lifted an eyebrow and looked at her name tag. "Katherine."
She nodded and headed for the beverage station. Chrystal, a Yankee waitress, came up beside her. "Do you know that guy?"
Katherine glanced over her shoulder. Instead of looking at his menu, he seemed to be focused on her. Or maybe he was noticing Chrystal, with her tall, slender figure and long black hair. "No. I've never seen him before."
"Me either. But he sure seems interested in you."
Katherine shrugged, her cheeks heating at the thought. "I doubt that."
"I don't." Chrystal started to walk away. "He hasn't taken his eyes off you since he walked in."
Katherine shook her head. "You're imagining things."
She picked up the tea and took it to him. "What else can I get you?"
"I don't rightly know." He pointed to the menu but continued to look at her. "I've never been here before. I'm new in town."
"That's nice." She kept her pencil poised above her pad.
"Name's Isaac. From Walnut Creek. I'm staying with a cousin of mine, helping him with his logging business. This is my first day in Middlefield."
Katherine nodded. "Your order?"
Still he didn't answer. Instead he kept staring at her, smiling. He had kind blue eyes and sandy-blond hair. She had to admit he was handsome.
"Why don't you surprise me?" he said.
"Surprise me," he repeated. "You decide what I'm going to have." He leaned back in the chair.
"That would be hard, considering we don't know each other."
His grin widened. "Maybe someday we can change that."
Katherine froze and stared at him, then mechanically wrote down an entrée. "Our fried chicken is gut."
"Fried chicken it is."
She made her way back to the kitchen. Chrystal leaned against the door frame and winked. "Told ya. Never seen someone flirt so hard in my life."
"I don't understand."
Chrystal chuckled and patted Katherine on the arm. "Sweetie, if that guy has his way, you will."
* * *
"Are you sure about this?" Laura asked.
Sawyer Thompson reached for her hand as they sat in well-worn rockers on Adam and Emma Otto's front porch. "Like I said before, I'm more sure of this than anything."
"Anything?" Laura smiled.
Sawyer stared at her in the dimming evening light. He could see the outlines of the thin scars on her face, damage Mark King had caused. But they didn't detract from her beauty. Now that Mark was in jail and Laura had let go of her revenge, peace enhanced her loveliness, making her more attractive to him than ever before.
But she wasn't referring to their relationship. They were discussing something far more important. "Laura, I want to join the church. And I want to marry you. But like I told everyone else, my faith is the most important thing. Becoming Amish is what I want above all."
Laura smiled wider. "As it should be." She rubbed her soft fingers against his rough ones, his skin callused from working for so many years in his adoptive father's carpentry shop. They remained silent for a few moments, enjoying the quiet of the evening and the loving security of that simple touch.
She broke the silence first. "Have you spoken to your grandmother lately?"
"Have you talked to your parents?" He wanted to bite back the words, but he 'd already put them out there.
As he expected, Laura's smile dimmed. She tried to pull away, but Sawyer wouldn't let go. "Laura, I know why I'm avoiding Cora. We both do. What I don't understand is why you're avoiding your parents."
"I'm not. I've written to them."
"It's been three months since they've seen you. I'm sure they miss you."
"I'm not ready to go back yet." She looked out into the yard. "Tennessee doesn't feel like home anymore. I don't know how to explain that to them."
"You'll figure out a way."
"I hope so. I've let them down so much."
Sawyer knelt down in front of her. "No more regrets, remember? No more punishing yourself."
"I know, but I've made so many mistakes. And I still need to pay Cora back—"
He put his finger on her lips. What he wouldn't do to sneak a kiss, even a small one ...
But he stopped himself. For one thing, he respected Emma and Adam too much. Laura had become like a member of their family. Adam had admitted as much to him the other day. "Emma likes having her around," he'd said. "So does Leona. Laura is like the schweschder I never had."
More importantly, he respected the Amish way. He might not be Amish yet, but Sawyer had grown up in an Amish home during his teen years, and he understood their courting customs. The chaste attitude toward each other. No public displays of affection.
He not only respected it, he appreciated it. Outward expressions of emotion in front of others had never been his thing, even when he attended a Yankee high school, where it seemed there were couples holding hands—and trying to do more—everywhere he looked.
Excerpted from Letters to Katie by Kathleen Fuller Copyright © 2013 by Kathleen Fuller. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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