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She ran down the stairs, the ribbons from her mesh headcovering fluttering against her neck and the backpack bouncing on her spine—one familiar feeling and one new feeling, all at once. The combination almost made her dizzy. She tossed the backpack onto the seat of her dad's blue pickup and climbed in beside it.

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As he pulled away from their dairy farm onto the dirt road that led to the highway, she rolled down the window. Dust billowed behind the tires, drifting into the cab. Katy coughed, but she hugged her backpack to her stomach and let the morning air hit her full in the face. She loved the smell of morning, before the day got so hot it melted away the fresh scent of dew.

The truck rumbled past the one-room schoolhouse where Katy had attended first through ninth grades. Given the early hour, no kids cluttered the schoolyard.

Katy's New World, Katy Lambright Series #1

But in her imagination she saw older kids pushing little kids on the swings, kids waiting for a turn on the warped teeter-totter, and Caleb Penner chasing the girls with a wiggly earthworm and making them scream. Caleb had chased her many times, waving an earthworm or a fat beetle. He'd never made her scream, though. Bugs didn't bother Katy. She only feared a few things. Like tornadoes.

Katy Lambright #03 by Kim Vogel Sawyer | Koorong

And people leaving and not coming back. A sigh drifted from Dad's side of the seat. She turned to face him, noting his somber expression. Dad always looked serious. And tired. Running the dairy farm as well as a household without the help of a wife had aged him. For a moment guilt pricked at Katy's conscience. She was supposed to stay home and help her family, like all the other Old Order girls when they finished ninth grade. But the familiar spiral of longing—to learn more, to see what existed outside the limited expanse of Schellberg —wound its way through her middle.

Her fingernails bit into the palms of her hands as she clenched her fists. She had to go. This opportunity, granted to no one else in her little community, was too precious to squander. You've been worrying all morning. Worrying ever since the deacons said I could go. She'd heard the speculative whispers when the Mennonite fellowship learned that Katy had been granted permission to attend the high school in Salina: "Will she be Kathleen's girl through and through? She could attend public school, could be with worldly people, and still maintain her faith.

Hadn't she been the only girl at the community school to face Caleb's taunting bugs without flinching? She was strong. He was lying, but Katy didn't argue. She never talked back to Dad. If she got upset with him, she wrote the words in her journal to get them out of her head, and then she tore the page into tiny bits and threw the pieces away. She'd started the practice shortly after she turned thirteen. Before then, he'd never done anything wrong. Sometimes she wondered if he'd changed or she had, but it didn't matter much.

She didn't like feeling upset with him—he was all she had—so she tried to get rid of her anger quickly. They reached the highway, and Dad parked the pickup on the shoulder. He turned the key, and the engine spluttered before falling silent.

Katy's New World: Katy Lambright Series, Book 1

Dad aimed his face out his side window, his elbow propped on the sill. Wind whistled through the open windows and birds trilled a morning song from one of the empty wheat fields that flanked the pickup. The sounds were familiar—a symphony of nature she'd heard since infancy—but today they carried a poignancy that put a lump in Katy's throat.

Why had she experienced such a strange reaction to wind and birds? She would explore it in her journal before she went to bed this evening. Words— secretive whispers, melodious trill —cluttered her mind.

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Maybe she'd write a poem about it too, if she wasn't too tired from her first day at school. Cars crested the gentle rise in the black-topped highway and zinged by—sports cars and big SUVs, so different from the plain black or blue Mennonite pickups and sedans that filled the church lot on Sunday mornings in Schellberg. When would the big yellow bus appear?

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Katy had been warned it wouldn't be able to wait for her. Might it have come and gone already? Her stomach fluttered as fear took hold. She patted the small zipper pocket on the front of the backpack. Embarrassment crept over Katy as she remembered the day they'd visited the school.

When the secretary told Dad about the school lunch program, he'd insisted on reading the lunch menu from beginning to end before agreeing to let his daughter eat "school-made food. Truthfully, the menu had looked more enticing than her customary peanut butter sandwich, but Dad had acted as though he thought someone might try to poison her. She'd filled three pages, front and back, in her journal over the incident before tearing the well-scribbled pages into miniscule bits of litter.

But—satisfaction welled—Dad had purchased a lunch ticket after all. The wind tossed the satin ribbons dangling from the mesh cap that covered her heavy coil of hair. They tickled her chin. She hooked the ribbons in the neck of her dress and then brushed dust from the skirt of her homemade dress. An errant thought formed. So when her stepfather is injured and can't work, she decides to leave home and accept a position as a clerk at the mercantile in Goldtree, Kansas.

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