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By:Shelley Shepard Gray

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 gut mother and housewife, she wanted to be valued as Katie. 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.”

“What is?”

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. Say something! 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 did…very slowly. “Th-…though Katie seems…Is. Mighty nice…” He shifted. Pulled at his shirt. “I’m not in the market for a new wife, you see.”

Her mamm 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.”