Katie opened one eye to see a blurry face hovering over her. She closed it again and rolled over, hoping the face would go away.
“Katie!” Little hands were tugging on her shoulder. “Come on, Katie. Time to get up! You promised.”
Still in a sleepy haze, Katie recognized the voice of her little brother Matthew. “Oh, go away, Matt. It’s Saturday–the only day I can sleep in.”
“But you promised!”
Katie sighed in resignation. Being the oldest of four children, she had learned that it would be useless to ignore him. She stretched her arms over her head, then pulled her weary body to an upright position. Yawning, she said, “Promised? What are you talking about Matt?”
Apparently pleased that she was now awake, Matt smiled. “Look!”
He pointed out the window. “The sun is out. You promised next time the sun came out we would walk to the park.” He tugged on her arm, nearly pulling her off the bed.
Katie looked out the window in surprise at the clear, blue sky. The sun was shining. It had been raining for almost two weeks. Her spirits soared.
Sunshine! How she had missed it.
“See, Katie? Can we go now?” Matt persisted.
Before Katie could answer, the phone rang. A moment later, her mother called from downstairs, “Katie! Telephone!” Katie leaped out of bed, threw on her robe and ran to the phone in the upstairs hallway.
“Hi, Katie! Isn’t it a gorgeous day?” Katie’s best friend, Nikki, was on the other end of the line.
“Boy, I’ll say. I’m really sick of the rain.”
“Got any plans today? My folks said they’d take us to the beach and boardwalk. Can you come?”
“Really? That sounds great! I’ll have to ask my mom. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
Katie hung up the phone and spun around. Matt was watching from the doorway of her room.
“Come on, Katie. You promised. Let’s go!”
Katie’s heart sank. She had promised…but how could she have known that she would be invited to the boardwalk? She sighed. Matt would just have to understand. She could take him to the park another time. Katie pushed aside her guilty conscience and ran downstairs to ask her mom’s permission.
Her mother wanted the usual reassurances. “Now you did say that Nikki’s parents were taking you?”
“And you don’t have any jobs today?”
“No, not until next weekend. Can I go, Mom?”
“I suppose so.” She smiled. “It does sound fun. I wish I could join you.”
Katie laughed and kissed her mother’s cheek. “Thanks, Mom! I’ll call Nikki.”
She bounded up the stairs and stopped suddenly. Matt still stood in the hall, his eyes brimming with tears. He had obviously overheard the conversation.
“But you promised, Katie. You said when the sun came out again, you’d…”
Katie interrupted. “Matt, I can’t take you today. You’ll have to wait. But I will real soon. I promise.”
A tear spilled over and trickled down his cheek. He brushed it away quickly. Disappointment and anger flashed in his eyes. “I don’t believe you. Your promises are no good.” He stomped past her and down the stairs without looking back.
Katie felt a surge of guilt. As she started to head after him, the phone rang. She picked it up. It was Nikki.
“Well, can you come?”
Katie hesitated a moment before answering. She glanced down the stairs after her brother.
“Yes, I’m here. Sorry. My mom says it’s okay.”
“Great! We’ll pick you up in an hour.”
Katie wrestled with her feelings. “It’s just that…”
“What? Is there something wrong?”
Katie suddenly felt angry. Why should she feel guilty? She watched her little brother and sisters all the time! Didn’t she deserve to go out with her friends once in awhile? She hadn’t been to the boardwalk in ages. She’d work it out with Matt later.
“No, nothing. I’ll be ready.”
The boardwalk was crowded with people of all ages. Everyone else must be sick of the rain, too, thought Katie. Nikki’s parents arranged a time and place to meet the girls, then went their separate way.
Katie and Nikki walked the boardwalk, taking in the sites. Vendors seemed to sell every type of junk food ever invented. The girls watched the game booths as people shot water guns, threw hoops and swung mallets, attempting to take home a prize.
Katie talked Nikki into riding the Dive Bomber. After the third time, even Katie had had enough of the triple loop roller coaster.
“Let’s go sit by the ocean for awhile,” she said.
Nikki agreed. The two friends found a bench overlooking the beach and sat down.
Katie took a deep breath of the crisp, salt air and watched the wispy clouds drift lazily across the blue-gray sky. Sea gulls glided overhead. A large one swooped down, flapping its wings, and scattered a group of sandpipers which were gathered along the wet sand.
“This is great,” said Nikki.
Katie nodded. “Yeah, it was really nice of your folks to bring us here.”
“I think they wanted to get out of the house, too.” She grinned. “The boardwalk was my idea.”
Katie chuckled. “Well, it was still nice of them.”
Katie loved the soothing roar of the ocean. Shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun on the water, she spotted the head of a sea lion in the distance, bobbing up and down like a large black cork.
“So, do you have any jobs coming up?” asked Nikki.
Katie nodded. “Next weekend the Parkers will be out of town. I’ll be feeding their pets and watering their plants.”
“The Parkers, eh? You’re moving up in the world,” Nikki smiled. “With their kind of money, they must pay you really well.”
Katie laughed. “I charge them the same as I do everyone else.”
“How’d they know to call you?”
“They’re good friends of the Robertsons and they recommended me.”
“It must be cool having your own business. You ought to give it a name. Let’s see, how about…Katie Enterprises?” She giggled.
Katie smiled. “I never really thought of it as having my own business, just doing jobs for people. I didn’t really plan it either. It just sort of happened.”
“How?” asked Nikki.
“Well, I was baby-sitting one time for Mrs. Peters and she asked if I would watch their house while they were on vacation. She told Mrs. Jansen, who called me to mow her lawn. Mrs. Jansen told Mrs. Robertson, who called to see if I would feed their pets while they went out of town and so on. Like I said, it just kind of happened.”
“My mom says that she’s going to call you to take care of our place, too, when we go on vacation. She says you’re reliable.” Nikki smiled. “If you say you’ll be there, you’ll be there. My folks really like that trait in a kid.”
Katie laughed, slightly embarrassed. Then she thought of Matt and recalled his words from that morning. “Your promises are no good,” he had said. Katie shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“Come on, Nikki, we’d better go.” Katie stood up. “It’s almost time to meet your folks.”
“See? Mom’s right. You are reliable!” Nikki teased.
Katie felt a lump in the pit of her stomach. “We’d better hurry.”
She was silent during the ride home. She couldn’t get Matt’s face out of her mind…the tear running down his cheek, the disappointed, angry look. Katie knew she had been wrong. She owed Matt an apology.
As Katie climbed out of the car in front of her house, Nikki called to her. “Hey, Katie. Maybe we could go to the mall tomorrow afternoon. I’ll give you a call.”
“I’m not sure if I can,” said Katie. “It depends.”
“On what?” asked Nikki.
Katie spotted Matt’s sad face pressed against the living room window.
She smiled. “On the weather. If the sun is out…I have a promise to keep.”