Today we welcome Kathleen Fuller to the Inkwell!
Kathleen is the author of over twenty-five novels, and her latest book, Letters to Katie, released last week. Today, she's sharing an excerpt with us--and she's also graciously offered to give away a copy to one lucky commenter! Read on for details, and also to learn how to read more chapters for free.
Letters to Katie
“Oh, Katherine. This is so schee.”
Katherine Yoder smiled at her best friend, Mary Beth. 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 within 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, Katherine thought. 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 pulled up to 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. “Late 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 mid-air. 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.”
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Kathleen! I have to ask...your heroine's name is so similar to yours. Any story behind the choice?
To enter to win a copy of Letters to Katie, please leave a comment for Kathleen below, and be sure to include your email address so we can contact you. The drawing will close on 11:59 pm May 15, 2013!
To download the first three chapters of Letters to Katie, click here.
Kathleen Fuller is the author of over twenty-five novels. Her latest book, Letters to Katie, is the third book in the Middlefield Family series, and releases May 7, 2013. Kathleen lives in Geneva, OH with her husband and three children. For more information about her books, visit www.kathleenfuller.com