<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> "Katy, if you don't stop pacing, you're going to wear a hole in the floor." <p> Katy paused in her trek between the back door and the kitchen window and sent her stepmother a sheepish look. "I suppose I'm a little eager for Shelby to get here." <p> Rosemary raised her fine eyebrows. The corners of her green eyes crinkled with a teasing grin. "I would never have guessed." She went back to wiping the kitchen table, washing away the smear of flour meant to keep the kneaded dough from sticking to the table. Before Rosemary married Dad, Katy always cleaned up the messes. It was nice to have someone else take over the sticky chore. <p> Katy leaned on the edge of the counter and nibbled her thumbnail. "I just have so many things planned for us, you know? Shelby loves horses, so we'll probably be out in the pasture a lot with Shadow and Saydee." Katy's mare had delivered a beautiful foal only two weeks earlier. Saydee was the prettiest filly Katy had ever seen. "And Annika is going to teach Shelby calligraphy, and Gramma Ruthie said she'd show her how to make a small quilted wall hanging, and of course we want to do lots of talking and laughing, like we always do." <p> Katy moved to the back door and searched the road. Where were they? "Reverend Nuss said they'd be here by nine. I wonder why they're so late." <p> Rosemary's laughter rang. "Honey, it's only ten minutes after nine!" She crossed to the door and gave Katy's shoulders a quick squeeze. "Haven't you ever heard that a watched pot never boils? Maybe it's also true that a watched road never produces a car." <p> Katy toyed with the ribbon dangling from her white mesh headcovering and giggled. She must look like a ninny, staring at the road and waiting for the Nuss's car to magically appear. But she couldn't help it. Her best friend from Salina High North would spend six weeks of the summer on Katy's dairy farm while Shelby's parents and brother were in Africa with a group from their church for a mission trip. <p> Shelby had planned to go to Africa too, but she fell playing softball a week ago and broke her ankle. It was a bad break, requiring surgery — she'd be in a cast and on crutches for a few months. Katy felt bad that her friend had to cancel her trip, but she wouldn't deny being excited. After spending her entire life as the only child in the house, having Shelby around would be almost like having a sister. The girls intended to make the most of the situation. <p> Katy peered out again. Only fields of unripe green wheat beneath a clear blue sky greeted her eyes. No puff of dust on the road indicated an approaching vehicle. She sighed. "Maybe the time would pass faster if I stayed busy ..." Any other weekday Katy would be working in her aunt's fabric store in Schellberg, but Aunt Rebecca had an early appointment in Salina today to get the results of some tests the doctor had run last week, so she'd closed the store for the morning. Katy was glad to be home to welcome Shelby, but it also meant she had nothing to occupy her at the moment. <p> "Good idea," Rosemary said. "I washed towels this morning, and they need to be hung. Why don't you take them out to the line?" <p> The clothesline stood behind a tall fence so people driving by wouldn't see their laundry blowing in the wind. The fence would keep Katy from seeing the road too. But even if she couldn't see the road, she'd hear a car pull into their yard. "All right." <p> She retrieved the basket from the little mudroom off the kitchen. When she bent over to lift the basket, the ribbon ties from her cap swung across her cheeks, tickling like a spider. She gave her chin a flick that sent the ribbons sailing over her shoulders, then she bumped the screen door open with her hip. <p> The midmorning sun beamed brightly, heating the top of Katy's head through her mesh cap. Her feet crunched on the gravel driveway, startling a cardinal from the thick lilac bushes beside the house. She watched it swoop over the barn and out of sight, smiling at the beauty of its bright red plumage against the blue backdrop of sky. <p> Katy made a mental note to check the bushes for the nest. A cardinal pair had chosen the lilac bushes for their home several years ago, and one of the best parts of summer was watching the birds return to build a new nest, lay their eggs, and nurture their young. And this year she'd get to share it with Shelby. <i>If she ever gets here ...</i> <p> Her feet gave a little skip as she rounded the corner to the clothesline. She plopped the basket onto the ground and pulled out a damp towel. The sun bounced off the bright white towel, forcing Katy to squint. Between clipping towels to the line, she tipped her head and listened for an approaching car. The breeze whispered, birds twittered from treetops, and cows — released from the milking machine to mingle in the pasture next to the barn — offered an occasional <i>moo</i> of contentment. But she didn't hear car tires on gravel. <p> Katy hung the last towel, and Shelby's family still hadn't arrived. She carried the empty basket to the house, scuffing the toes of her tennis shoes against the ground. What was keeping Shelby? If Katy's family had a telephone, she could call Shelby on her little cell phone and ask what had happened. But Katy's Mennonite sect wasn't allowed to have telephones in their houses. According to Dad, the church elders intended to discuss permitting members to put phones in their barns, the way some other Mennonite or Amish communities allowed. But even if they offered permission tomorrow, it wouldn't help her find out what had happened to Shelby today. <p> Just as she reached the back stoop, the sound of a car's engine captured Katy's attention. She spun to face the driveway, eagerness speeding her pulse, but disappointment washed away the rush of excitement. Instead of the Nuss's van, Caleb Penner's sedan pulled into the yard. Katy frowned. What was Caleb doing back? He'd left less than an hour ago after helping Dad with the morning milking. <p> <i>Maybe he forgot something — he can be so scatterbrained.</i> <p> Katy knew she should be more charitable toward Caleb, but the boy wore on her nerves worse than anyone else she knew. He teased too much, and when he wasn't teasing he was flirting. She disliked the flirting even more than the teasing. Her best friend in Schellberg, Annika, had a crush on Caleb, which made it even worse. Sometimes it seemed like Caleb meant to stir up trouble between Katy and Annika. <p> Katy grabbed the door handle and started to enter the house, but Caleb rolled down his window and called her name. She sighed. It would be rude to pretend she hadn't heard him. Besides, he'd follow her into the house if she didn't talk to him in the yard. Maybe if she talked to him outside, he wouldn't stay very long. She dropped the basket onto the stoop and trotted to the sedan. <p> "What do you need, Caleb?" She hoped she didn't sound as irritated as she felt. She'd been working at treating Caleb the way she wanted to be treated, the way the Bible taught. She just wished he didn't make it so hard. <p> Caleb stuck his head out the window and looked around, his freckled forehead all puckered. "Isn't your friend here yet?" <p> The whole town of Schellberg knew the Lambrights were keeping a worldly girl for part of the summer. Some people outright disapproved, some people thought it was a kind gesture, and others were worried Shelby might have a negative influence on the young people in town. But Dad had given permission, and that was all that mattered to Katy. <p> Katy said, "Not yet. Why?" <p> Caleb propped his elbow on the armrest and grinned. "I have an idea. Well" — he made a face — "my mom had an idea. I wanted to tell both of you, but ..." <p> Katy waited for him to finish so she could return to the house, but he just sat there grinning like she should be able to read his mind. She resisted a sigh. "And the idea is ...?" <p> He gave a little jerk, as if jarring loose his thoughts. "You know how you want to train Shadow's foal to pull a buggy?" <p> Katy gritted her teeth. Did Dad have to talk to Caleb about everything? The two spent too much time together in the dairy barn. She needed to ask Dad not to share her plans with Caleb — she didn't like him knowing everything about her. "I hope to eventually, but not for a while yet. Saydee's too young." <p> He wrinkled his nose, crunching his freckles together. "I know — gotta wait 'til she's two. But my horse, Rocky, is buggy broke, and I've got that little two-wheeled cart." He paused again. <p> Would he ever get to the point? Katy inwardly prayed for patience. "So ...?" <p> "Mom thought, since your friend can't walk around much, maybe you'd like to borrow Rocky and the cart while she's here. You could practice your driving skills on Rocky — might help you when it's time to start training Saydee. It'll also give you and your friend a way to get around. You know, to visit Annika or ... or me." His cheeks blazed red, hiding the copper-colored freckles. "After all, I'm hosting that party Friday night. Figured you'd bring your friend, so ..." His voice drifted off again. <p> Katy nibbled her lower lip. As much as she hated to admit it, she liked Caleb's idea. Or rather, his mother's idea. Having a buggy-broke horse and a cart for her use over the next weeks would be wonderful. She could even drive it into town to Aunt Rebecca's shop instead of having Dad take her. If only it weren't Caleb's horse and cart she'd be borrowing. He might see her as beholden to him. And he might want her to repay him by going to one of the community activities with him as his date. She nearly shuddered thinking about it. <p> She tipped her head, lowering her brows into a slight frown. "You're sure you wouldn't need to use the cart during the summer? I wouldn't want to inconvenience you." She hoped he'd read between her words and recognize she wasn't asking for the cart — he was offering it. Since it was his idea, she shouldn't have to pay him back in any way. <p> "Sure I'm sure." He patted the steering wheel. "I have my car, so I don't need the cart. I can bring it over tonight, if you'd like." He sounded eager. <p> "Let me ask Dad first," Katy said, "and make sure it's okay with him." She suspected Dad wouldn't mind. Although he always quit what he was doing to transport her to town or pick her up again, sometimes it wasn't convenient for him. He'd probably see the cart and horse as a real advantage. <i>And maybe</i>, her thoughts went on, <i>if he gets used to me having my own transportation, he'll consider getting me a car of my own.</i> "Hopefully he'll say yes." <p> "Okay. I gotta come back for milking this afternoon — he can let me know then. I'll bring 'em over tonight if he agrees." <p> "That sounds fine." <p> Caleb put his car in reverse and revved the engine. "See you later, Katy." He backed up in a U, pointing the front toward the road. Then he spun his tires to take off. Dirt billowed behind the car as he whizzed down the driveway. <p> Katy stumbled backward, waving her hands in front of her face to keep from breathing in the dust. Even so, her nose filled, and she coughed. Oh, that Caleb! He'd stirred up all that dust on purpose just to annoy her! <p> Dad stepped out of the barn, frowning after Caleb. "What's with that boy? He'll ruin his tires pulling stunts like that." <p> Katy coughed again then trotted to Dad's side. "Oh, you know Caleb ... he likes to show off." <p> "Well, I hope <i>you</i> never do things like that when you're driving." <p> Katy gawked at Dad. "Of course not!" To steer the conversation elsewhere, she told Dad about Caleb offering the use of his horse and cart. Dad listened, his lips pursed like they always were when he was thinking. When Katy finished explaining the benefits of having the cart for her and Shelby's use, he pushed his bill cap back and scratched his head. <p> "I don't know, Katy. It might be nice to have a buggy-broke horse and a cart around for you girls this summer, but what about feeding the horse? Are you supposed to take care of it while it's here?" <p> Katy hadn't thought about taking care of the horse — just using it. But she didn't see a problem. "I already feed and water Shadow and Saydee every day. It won't take much more time to take care of Rocky too." <p> "But it'll take more feed," Dad said. He slipped his hands in his trouser pockets. "Do you have money for extra oats and hay?" <p> Katy earned money by working in Aunt Rebecca's store, so she had more than enough to cover extra feed. But she preferred to use her money on other things, like fabric, books, or trips to the skating rink or bowling alley in Salina. And if the elders approved the use of telephones, she might see about buying a little cell phone similar to the one Shelby used. "Yes, I could cover it." She shrugged. "It'll only be for a few weeks — while Shelby's here. What do you think?" <p> Dad opened his mouth to answer, but the sound of a car engine interrupted him. They both looked toward the road. A white van — the Nuss's van — pulled into the drive. Katy waved her hand over her head in greeting and darted forward to meet the vehicle. Dad followed on her heels. <p> Reverend Nuss shut off the engine and opened his door. He held out his hand to Dad and bounced a grin in Katy's direction. "Hello, Samuel — Kathleen. I'm sorry we're so late." <p> Shelby's younger brother shot out of the backseat while Mrs. Nuss walked around the front of the van to join Katy and her dad. She gave Katy a quick hug and then left her arm around Katy's shoulders. "We took Jewel to her mother's place this morning, and our good-bye took longer than we'd expected. I think she was sad to see us go." <p> Katy marveled at the woman's explanation. Their foster daughter, Jewel, had spent so much time complaining about the rules at the Nuss house, Katy couldn't imagine her not celebrating being back with her mother again. "So Jewel isn't going to live with you anymore?" <p> Mrs. Nuss said, "It's a trial, so to speak, to see if her mother is able to care for Jewel again." She squeezed Katy's shoulders before moving to her husband's side. "We're praying it works out, for both of their sakes." <p> Katy nodded. "I'll pray for that too." Katy's mother had died when she was young, but if she was alive, Katy would want to spend time with her. Jewel was lucky to still have a mom. <p> "Katy!" Shelby called from inside the van. <p> "Excuse me," Katy said. She dashed to the side door and opened it. "Hey! You're here!" <p> Shelby stuck out her foot, which sported a thick white cast wrapped in royal-blue tape. "We're both here." She wriggled her toes, her pink polish glinting in the sunlight. "Are you ready for us?" <p> Katy laughed. "Sure am!" <p> Mr. Nuss pulled Shelby's suitcases — all three of them — from the back of the van, and he and Dad carried them to the house. Katy and Shelby followed slowly, with Shelby leaning on her crutches. Katy told her about the possibility of using Caleb's horse and cart, and Shelby's face lit with delight. Katy couldn't stop smiling. Shelby never made fun of the simpler way Katy lived or acted like she thought Katy was weird. Katy appreciated Shelby's acceptance. They were going to have so much fun over the next several weeks. <p> When they reached the stoop, Mrs. Nuss showed Katy how to help Shelby navigate stairs. Since the bedrooms were all upstairs in their farmhouse, Katy would be helping Shelby a lot. Katy held her breath while Shelby wobbled on the concrete step then let it out in a whoosh when Shelby stepped safely into the house. <p> Rosemary rushed forward and greeted Shelby with a gentle hug. "You're here! Katy was worried about you. Your dad and Mr. Lambright took your things upstairs, and as soon they're down we'll —" She broke off, looking out the back door. She turned to Katy. "It's been a busy morning with visitors. Ben and Ruthie are here." <p> Gramma Ruthie and Grampa Ben had promised to come out and let Dad know what the doctor said about Aunt Rebecca. Dad would be eager to talk to them. Katy said, "I'll get Dad." <p> But Dad clattered down the stairs and into the kitchen before Katy took a step toward the stairway. He brushed past Katy and headed outside. Rosemary hurried after him, letting the screen door slam behind her. Katy started to ask the Nusses if they'd like something to drink, but the sound of someone crying carried through the screen door. <p> Katy looked outside. Dad held Gramma Ruthie in his arms and Grampa Ben stood close, patting Gramma on the shoulder. Rosemary had both hands over her mouth. Katy's heart leaped into her throat. <i>It's something bad. Something really, really bad.</i> <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Katy's Decision </b> by <b>Kim Vogel Sawyer </b> Copyright © 2011 by Kim Vogel Sawyer . Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.