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By:Shelley Shepard Gray

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 wunderbaar schee—wonderful 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.”

“Truly? Why?”

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.”

“Do Mamm and Daed know?”

“Jah, 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.”

Anna pursed her lips. “I thought this was supposed to be an easy job.”