Authors: Kim Vogel Sawyer
“You also know what the fellowship teaches — dancing can lead to immorality, which is a sin.” Dad’s cheeks flushed pink, but he maintained his steady eye contact with Katy. “And I think you know I believe indulging in worldly practices can’t benefit your soul.” Again he fell silent.
Katy stifled a sigh. “Dad, I —”
“But,” Dad said as if Katy hadn’t spoken,“I am going to honor what I told you earlier. I trust you. Which means I trust you’ll make the right decision concerning what you do during your weekend with the Nusses.”
Katy stared at Dad in confusion. He would let her
decide whether to attend homecoming? But he never let her decide on important things like this! “W-what?”
A smile — a sad one, Katy thought—tipped up the corners of Dad’s lips. “You’re growing up, and you need to start making decisions for yourself. That’s not to say I don’t want you coming to me to ask for advice or ask permission when new opportunities arise. I’m your father. I will always be involved in what you’re doing, and while you live under my roof, you should respect my position of authority. But this time, I think you need to make your own choice. So you decide what to do, Katy-girl. Go to homecoming with Bryce, or not.” He nodded, as if agreeing with himself that he’d advised her wisely. “I trust you to do the right thing.”
Katy awakened early Saturday, even before her alarm clock rang. She’d hoped to go to the forensics tournament in Minneapolis, but Mr. Gorsky had turned in the list of contenders earlier in the week, and he couldn’t change it. He’d been as disappointed as she, but there was nothing he could do — Katy couldn’t compete. So instead she’d help Dad with the milking and then maybe work for Aunt Rebecca in her fabric shop in Schellberg since Mrs. Graber didn’t need her help.
But not even the cows were awake yet. So Katy crept out of bed, snapped on her desk lamp, and pulled out her journal. She hadn’t slept well the last two nights, thinking about whether to go to the dance. It would be simpler if her dad had just said yes or no. But he hadn’t. Even so, she knew what he preferred. She had to decide: Do what Dad would have her do, or do what she wanted to do?
She flipped through her journal, seeking a poem she’d written a few months ago. It took awhile — the notebook pages were cluttered with words. But finally she located it, settled back, and read slowly.
So many feelings inside of me.
I don’t know … who should I be:
A girl who pleases everyone else
Or one who only serves herself?
My conscience bids me do what’s right,
But frankness begs to be given flight.
Inside I long to rant and rage
Against the rules that form my cage.
But if I break from these restraints,
Will I find freedom … or merely pain?
Katy knew what she wanted — to go to the dance with Bryce. She wanted the girls in her class who had snubbed her to see that she wasn’t weird after all but just like them underneath her Mennonite cap and dress. She also knew what her dad wanted, and he didn’t care about the girls in her class. He cared about his daughter pleasing God instead of men — or, in this case, high school students. She sighed, toying with the corner of the page. If she did what she wanted, knowing it would displease God, could she really be pleased with herself? That was the deepest dilemma.
She heard Dad’s bedroom door creak open and his footsteps on the landing. He’d head down to the milking barn soon; she needed to dress and join him. She set aside her journal and put on one of her oldest dresses. While she and Dad saw to the cows, the sun made its appearance,
promising a pleasant mid-February day. As she and Dad walked back to the house, Katy’s thoughts drifted to Minneapolis, where the forensics team was probably unloading the bus.
“Rosemary, Gramma Ruthie, and a couple other ladies ought to be here soon,” Dad said as they stepped into the kitchen and removed their dirty shoes. “A simple breakfast is fine. That way you won’t have much cleaning up to do. Maybe just cereal and toast. Did you decide to —”
Katy sucked in a sharp breath. She wasn’t ready to talk about the dance.
“— go in and help your aunt Rebecca today?” Katy nearly collapsed with relief. She needed to make a decision about homecoming soon and let Dad know what she was doing, so she could quit worrying about it. “Yes, if you’ll drive me in, I’ll spend the day there. I’m sure she’ll appreciate the help. I haven’t been there much lately.”
Dad nodded then headed for the stairs. “All right then. Let’s get changed, eat, then I’ll drive you to Schellberg. Might be Rosemary will have a shopping list for me too, and I can see to that while I’m in town.”
Katy and Dad ate quickly, then Katy washed the dishes and Dad dried. Just as he placed the last clean bowl in the cupboard, they heard the crunch of tires in the yard. Dad reached the door in three wide strides and threw it open, letting in a rush of fresh-smelling air. Katy stood behind him and watched Mrs. Graber, Gramma, Mrs. Pankratz, and Mrs. Krehbiel cross the yard. Rosemary reached the house first, and Dad squeezed her hand as she stepped through the door.
“You ladies have a lot of work to do today?” The question was addressed to the group, but his eyes never left Mrs. Graber. Katy didn’t know whether to giggle or roll her eyes at her dad’s signs of infatuation.
Mrs. Graber sent Dad a crinkling smile. “We’ll be getting the meat from the pork roasts and chickens we cooked last week ready to barbecue. We’re using Mrs. Krehbiel’s recipe, which everyone tells me is the best barbecue in the Midwest.”
Dad nodded. “Everyone’s right. Make plenty, then hopefully we’ll have leftovers.”
The ladies all laughed. Katy shook her head, marveling at her dad. He’d not been one to engage in idle chitchat or teasing comments before Mrs. Graber came along. As much as she enjoyed his more-relaxed side, she wondered why he couldn’t have found it without Mrs. Graber’s help.
Katy moved to Gramma Ruthie, and Gramma reached for a hug. Katy said,“Dad said you wouldn’t need me, so I’m going to go work at Aunt Rebecca’s.” She released her grandmother but stayed close. “Are you going to drive me now, Dad?”
Dad said,“Sure. Rosemary, do you need anything from the stores in town?”
Rosemary shook her head, wrinkling her nose. “No, but we need you here. There are about two dozen roasts and just as many chickens in the trunk of my car. I hoped you might help us carry it in.”
“Well, I can do that before I take Katy.” Dad headed for the door. When he reached it, he paused and looked outside for a moment. He turned back and smiled. “Look here,
Katy — Caleb Penner’s here. He probably wants his paycheck. Invite him in while I get my checkbook. He’ll take his check to town to cash it like he always does, so see if he can take you to Rebecca’s.” He headed for the stairs.
Drive in with Caleb Penner? Katy scurried after her father. “Dad, I’m not in that big of a hurry. I can go later after you’ve carried in the meat.”
Dad trotted up the stairs and called from the landing. “It would be silly for me to drive to Schellberg if Caleb’s already going. Check to see if he’s taking his check to town. If he is, ask if you can ride with him.”
Katy couldn’t disobey when Dad gave her a direction. Her only hope now was that Caleb wasn’t planning to take his check to the bank right away.
Caleb grinned ear to ear. “Sure, I’ll be glad to give you a ride into town. I don’t got anything else to do right now.”
Oh, that boy’s grammar!
His improper speech always made Katy want to growl.
Caleb went on, unaware of Katy’s irritation. “In fact, if your dad’s gonna be busy, I can even pick you up after work and bring you on home again.”
Before Dad could agree to the plan, Katy said,“That’s all right. Just getting me there is fine. I’ll get home another way.”
Caleb stuck his hands in his jacket pockets and rocked on his boot heels. “You know, you should learn to drive. Then you could take yourself to town and back whenever you need to. You wouldn’t have to bother other people.”
Dad glanced up from the table where he was writing Caleb’s check. “Is it a bother to take Katy to town, Caleb? If so, I can —”
“Oh, no!” Caleb’s cheeks turned so red his freckles almost disappeared. “I didn’t mean
thought she was a
bother.” He shot a sheepish grin in Katy’s direction. “I was just saying …”
Dad nodded and looked back at the checkbook. He signed the check, tore it loose, and held it out to Caleb. “All right then. Thank you for your hard work, and thanks for giving Katy a ride this morning.”
Caleb folded the check and slipped it into his shirt pocket. “No problem. And if you want, I could give her a driving lesson on the way into town.”
Katy turned a horrified look on Dad.
Dad winked at Katy, letting her know he understood. “Well, thanks, but that’s not necessary. I’ve been teaching Katy to drive. She knows how — we just don’t have two vehicles. And I can’t let her take the truck in case I need it.”
Mrs. Graber turned from the cabinet, where she’d been removing the roasting pans. “Samuel, it’s all right with me if Katy takes my car into town.” She laughed softly. “After you’ve taken all the meat out of the trunk, of course.”
Katy stared at Mrs. Graber in surprise. She’d really let Katy borrow her car?
But Dad shook his head. “Thank you, but we’d better keep your car here. I can’t transport all of the ladies in my truck if they’d need to leave before Katy returns. Besides, I haven’t had time to take her to Salina to get her license yet. I don’t mind her driving my truck on the back roads, but I don’t think I should let her drive your car into town without a license.”
“I suppose that’s wise.” Mrs. Graber offered Katy an
look. Then she said,“Maybe when we get back from our trip, I can take Kathleen to the driver’s license bureau and let her take the driving test.”
Dad said,“Sounds like a good plan.” Mrs. Graber and Dad exchanged a tender look, and then she turned her attention back to the pans in the cupboard.
Caleb furrowed his forehead as if in deep thought. “If Katy’s gonna start driving, you might start askin’ around in town to see if anybody’s got a car they’re willing to sell. Or call the auto dealership in McPherson — the one on the highway. They’ve been real good about findin’ cars for Dad that meet the fellowship’s approval.”
Katy nearly rolled her eyes. Who was Caleb Penner to butt into their family business and give Dad advice? Didn’t he know how ridiculous he looked, trying to be all grown up?
Dad smoothed his fingers over his mouth, removing his grin. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. Now …” He nodded toward the back door. “Don’t you think you’d better get Katy to town? Her aunt’s store opens in less than fifteen minutes.”
“Oh! Yeah — sure.” Caleb whirled and thumped toward the door. “C’mon, Katy. You don’t wanna be late.” His tone held an admonishment.
And just who has been holding us up? Not me!
Katy wished she could glare at Dad for making her go with Caleb, but she just followed Caleb across the yard and climbed into the passenger seat of his sedan.
Only a five-minute ride into Schellberg. I can tolerate Caleb Penner for five minutes.
Caleb pulled onto the road, shooting her a grin. “Purty today, ain’t it?”
Katy ground her teeth together. She managed to squeeze out,“Mm-hmm.”
“S’posed to stay nice all next week too.”
Caleb drove with one hand on the steering wheel and one arm propped on the window frame. Dad had told Katy to keep both hands on the wheel in case they hit a pothole or an animal ran out of the ditch. She started to tell Caleb so, but he spoke again.
“Y’know, your dad’s getting married on the twenty-fifth —”
As if she wouldn’t know that!
“— an’ then him an’ your stepmom are going away for the weekend, right?”
She had no idea why he needed to confirm her dad’s plans, but she nodded.
“You stayin’ by yourself at the farm?”
Katy frowned at Caleb. What was he after? “No.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Oh yeah? Stayin’ with Annika then?”
“Oh …” A smug grin formed on his freckled face. “With your grandparents, right?”
For some reason, it gave Katy pleasure to reply,“No.”
He grunted. “Then your aunt and uncle?”
She swallowed an amused giggle. “Huh-uh.”
Caleb shot her a frustrated look. “Who’re you stayin’ with?”
Her plans were none of Caleb Penner’s concern. Katy shrugged. “No one you know.”
For the next mile, Caleb sat in silence, his lips twitching as if he’d captured a bumblebee in his mouth and it was trying to escape. Finally he said,“But you’ll be close by, won’t you?”
He is the most persistent person.
Katy sighed. “Why does it matter?”
Red climbed from Caleb’s jaw to his cheekbones. “Well, Julie and Jerome Pankratz are hosting a singing at their place the Saturday after your dad’s wedding. I thought maybe you’d want to, I dunno, go with me.”
Oh, I’m so glad I won’t be here.
“Sorry, Caleb, but that won’t work for me,” Katy said. She hoped she didn’t sound as relieved as she felt. “Why don’t you ask Annika? She loves to sing.”
And she likes you, although I can’t figure out why.