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Wanted(6)

By´╝ÜShelley Shepard Gray



He could not. But what still remained was his needs. He needed someone to watch his girls while Winnie went to meet her beau.

“I still canna believe that the Brennemans refused you,” Winnie stated over her half-drunk tea. “Your idea was most reasonable.”

He’d thought so, too. Carefully, he flipped the eggs in the pan, grimacing as yet again one of the yolks broke and ran across the griddle’s surface, hardening in seconds. “Not everyone wants to care for another person’s children, I suppose.”

“No, that’s not it.” She drummed her fingers on the oak table he’d inherited from their parents. “What did they say again?”

Even though they’d discussed the conversation over and over during the past week, Jonathan dutifully recounted the encounter again. “John and Irene said they did not want their daughter living with me. Alone.”

“But you would be with the girls, and in the daadi haus, too.” Winnie frowned. “And what is with that nonsense, anyway? Don’t they realize that your heart has already been taken?”

It had been, indeed. He had loved. Once. And then, to his shame, he’d felt that love fade into something far different. Something that only in the privacy of his thoughts could he admit was disappointment.

Now he only felt guilt for how Sarah died. That guilt weighed heavy on him. Now that it was almost two years since the accident, Jonathan figured he’d be carrying that burden for the rest of his life.

Yes, his heart was locked up somewhere else and wasn’t going to escape any time in the near future. Most likely, ever. Katie Brenneman had nothing to be afraid of.

“Between work and the girls I am busy indeed, but I’ve a feeling that they don’t see it that way.”

Winnie joined him at the counter. With easy movements, she wiped off the crumbs of her toast as he pulled his own bread from the confines of the oven. “I should go talk to Katie. I’m sure she could talk her parents into changing their decision if she just put her mind to it.”

“Winnie, you mustn’t. John and Irene have already made their decision.” After shaking a healthy amount of pepper on his eggs and placing the toast on top, Jonathan carried his plate to the table. “Maybe, you could put off your trip for a while.”

Her hand tightened on the rag. “Don’t ask me to do that. I must go to Indiana. I need to go. Malcolm has been so wonderful gut in his letters, there might be something between us.” More quietly, she added, “I hope there might be.”

He said the obvious. “Indiana is far away.” And because he wasn’t as good a brother as he wished he were, he added quite peevishly, “They may be quite different there, too.”

“Like how?”

“I don’t know. But different is different.”

She shook her head slightly. “Oh, bruder. Sometimes different is good. Sometimes change is what the Lord wants.”

“Sometimes not.”

“Jonathan, once you followed your heart. Now it is time for me to do the same.”

He knew she was right. Winnie was a pretty girl, to be sure. Thin as a reed, she used to look somewhat like a beanpole. Now, though, she merely looked slender and feminine. Her light blue eyes emphasized her ivory skin and dark, almost black, hair.

Yes, it was time for Winnie to be thinking of courtship and love. “I hear you.”

Looking satisfied that she won, she plopped his hot pan in water. “I’ll figure something out for you, I promise. I will not go at the expense of Mary and Hannah. I’d never leave if I didn’t feel they were in good hands.”

“What are you talking about?” Mary asked, popping her head into the kitchen.

Winnie blushed. “Nothing, child.”

“It is something,” Mary said in that forthright way of hers. The way that had been Sarah’s. Sure, confident. At times too much so. “I heard my name.”

“You shouldn’t be eavesdropping, Daughter.”

Mary crossed her arms over her chest, yet another true imitation of her mother. “I didn’t listen on purpose. But I did hear my name.”

Slyly, Winnie raised an eyebrow Jonathan’s way. Yes, Mary was a handful.

“Your aunt and I were discussing the particulars about Katie coming to live with us,” Jonathan finally said.

“Why?”

“Because I am going to go to Indiana for a spell and Katie and I have been friends for a long time.” She touched Mary’s nose gently. “Since we were your age.”

“Why do you want to go away?”

“I’m not going for certain. I just might.” Winnie picked up Jonathan’s plate and rinsed it off. “Would you like an egg this morning, Mary?”

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