A Crashed Party
by Ella E.
“Ahhh,” Andi breathed out the crispy morning air. Today was a beautiful day; blue skies, puffy cotton-white clouds, fresh green grass, and everyone was in their clean, pressed Sunday best. Today everyone in the Carter family, and everyone from town, were coming to the Circle C to celebrate Melinda and Peter’s new baby boy, William John Wilson. Andi had been with Lucy and Mother since the crack of dawn setting up banners, pressing the tablecloths, and making the lawn look perfect.
“Everything looks perfect,” Lucy said, clasping her hands to her chest.
“Sure does, I mean, it better be after all this work we put in!” Andi said, flopping into a nearby chair.
“Melinda will love it,” Mother said with a smile as she finished hanging a banner that said Welcome Baby William!
Chad came out of the side door all of a sudden and did a low whistle.
“Wow girls, this looks great! With the sun up above the mountains, and the crisp smell of apples in the air, it's perfect.”
It was apple season after all, and Mother, along with Lucy, had prepared everything apple. Apple pie, apple jam, apple cake, apple donuts, apple cider, and the list goes on.
After the party started, everyone was having a blast. Melinda had almost cried tears of joy as she clasp her baby boy and took in all the family's hard work. New and old friends gathered around the tables and the little kids ran around the spacious yard. The front yard was packed with buggies and horses. Melinda hugged each guest individually and thanked them for bringing gifts and well-wishes. Andi thought that everyone in town was at the ranch!
The party was still going in the late afternoon, though, plenty of guests had to huddle under the provided blankets from the house, it was October after all, and a cooling wind blew through the grass. Andi had just sat down with a sleeping Jared in her lap and Riley next to her. Riley and Andi were debating what time Jared would wake up when the dishes on the tables rattled just slightly.
“Wait, shh,” Andi hushed Riley’s guess of 23 more minutes.
“What?” Riley asked, looking surprised.
“Didn't you see that?” Andi asked.
The dishes rattled a bit more, and the ground started a rhythmic thump. Andi and Riley looked at each other with worry in their eyes. Many of the guests started raising their voices. Earthquake! It's an Earthquake!
Melinda came over and clasped Andi’s hand.
“What is that?”
“I dont know!” Andi replied.
The guests were getting louder, some cried the names of their children to come to them. The children hurried to their parents with worried faces. The noise seemed to come from the hills, and all of a sudden something started coming straight for them. A single, big, brown blur.
Everyone started to panic and started to run for the safety of the house. The blur was moving very swiftly, and down the hills toward the party. Everyone was huddled inside, many were wither hanging out over Andi’s old bedroom balcony to get a good look or were staring out the front windows. Chad, Mitch, and Justin each had a rifle in their hands and stood on the front porch with plenty of other men. Melinda was still clinging to Andi’s hand. Jared had woken up and was crying.
“Shh,” Andi cooed and quickly laid him in Mother's arms to get a good look at the blur. As it came into view, it took the shape of a large, very, very large horse. It was the biggest horse ever seen in those parts of the state. Many of the women screamed as it came toward the house. As it neared, it started turning over tables, smashing beautiful china, crushing chairs, and turning everything to smithereens.
“What the-” One of the men outside yelled, but the highest-pitched whinny ever pierced that air.
“Don't shoot!” Mitch called from outside.
The horse, after finally crushing everything, started to prance around and eat some of the buckets of apples.
“What a magnificent animal,” Cory breathed beside Andi and Melinda.
“What a horrible beast!” One of the women behind them said.
Slowly, the men started to make a man-corral around the oblivious horse. Each had a connected rope and was ready to lasso the huge horse inside.
All of a sudden Chad looped a lasso around the beautiful neck of the horse. It gave a huge fight, and plenty of men were beaten up, but after plenty of time trying to contain the horse, the men finally wrangled it and were leading towards a corral, but it was still bucking the whole way there. At let 50 men had to handle the animal.
“How on earth did that do so much damage?” Melinda gasped, looking at all the shattered glass and smashed tables outside. Andi glanced sideways at Mother, who had a tear rolling down her cheek, after all, that was her perfect china used for such a special occasion, smashed under all that mess.
Riley ran in and told everyone it was safe to come out now. Mothers with crying children came outside to survey the mess. Riley took Jared from Mother and wrapped his other arm around Andi. Everyone was in complete shock. Many glanced nervously towards the corral, where a brown Clydesdale shook its mane and pawed the ground. Chad came over and embraced Mother. He was drenched in sweat, and dirt caked his once-clean best pearl snap shirt.
“It's ok now, the damage is done, only a few were hurt, but everything else is fine.”
“All’s well that ends well,” Mother concluded, wiping her face with her sleeve. Many helped clean up, and the rest left to get their families to bed. Peter’s family promised to pay for the damage, for the Carters put so much work into the day, that they had to be repaid somehow.
“I don't get it,” Chad said walking up to Andi, Justin, Peter, Riley, Melinda, and Mitch, “This breed of horse is very rare around these parts, and not only that but they are known to be gentle. I don't know what, but something fishy here.”
“Exactly what I was thinking. All of a sudden, a rare horse gallops down the hills. Like, how often does that happen?” Peter said, running his hands through his dirt-covered hair. He had taken a bad spill on the ground to dodge the horse’s bucking earlier.
“Maybe we should go look for something, I don't know, but maybe it was purposeful?” Mitch said, holding a rag to his forehead, where he got nicked pretty good.
“Or what if we are just overthinking this whole thing, I mean, weird things happen,” Justin suggested.
“Yeah, but not like this, I can tell, something’s off. After running a ranch and all, I have only seen a horse that breed in an auction miles away with Father when I was 10, and also in the newspapers.” Chad pointed out.
“We’ll sort this out in the morning, honey,” Justin said, hugging Melinda, “Let's just finish cleaning up first and then decide what happens next.”
Peter took Melinda inside to get some rest while he took care of baby William while everyone else finished picking up the rubble.
The next day at Sunday lunch, everyone was huddled around the dining table discussing what happened the other day.
“What if it was intentional?” Peter said
“Or if it wasn’t, it could just be a coincidence,” Justin said.
“I don't think so,” Peter said with a hard look on his face.
“You’re jumping around, maybe it's nothing, just an accident!” Justin said in a stern voice.
“Easy for you to say! It wasn’t a party for your son. You would be scared if someone were trying to get revenge or something on this party on purpose.” Peter said banging his hand on the table.
“I was, and if it's anything to do with my family, then I want to know all the details and not jump to conclusions,” Justin said in his lawyer voice.
“Well, then you should take into account the intentional aspects not just coincidence!” Peter flashed.
“You need to think about it from all angles, and not jump to conclusions,” Justin said with his icy stare.
“Maybe you should think about—” Peter began, but Chad banged his fist against the table and shook the whole table
“Listen! Ahem, ok, if it makes anyone feel any better, I can send some men out in the direction and look around for anything.”
“I’ll go.” Mitch and Riley pipped up at the same time.
It was settled, and everyone went to their homes with the same thing on their mind. The next day Riley had left before Andi had woken up, and instead found Melinda and baby William in her foyer.
“Hey sis, just thought I’d come over and visit.” Melinda said with a big smile, though, she looked tired. The two cooked a wonderful breakfast and chatted about what the men might find.
They were just finished cleaning when a rider and horse came to a halt in front of Andi’s house. It was a handyman from the Circle C, named James.
“Ma’am, your mother would like you to come to the ranch immediately. It's quite urgent.”
Andi’s heart started to pound against her chest. She grabbed Jared, got on Shasta and galloped as fast as possible, and let James set up the buggy for Melinda. So many possibilities whirled in her head of what might await her at the ranch.
Finally, she pulled up by the front porch and hurled herself off and turned to grab Jared before running inside. Inside she saw the sheriff, Riley, who was on the couch with a bandage on his arm and leg, along with Mitch, who was holding his arm in a sling and who had a horrible black eye.
“What—” She breathed
“Andi!” Mother said, running towards her with tears in her eyes. Andi was led to the table where Peter, Chad, Justin, and the Sheriff were.
“Well, this explains everything,” Peter said running his hands through his hair.
“What explains everything?” Andi asked.
“We found the evidence. Your husband and brother went to find out what happened and discovered a man camping out on this ranch’s territory, and he was very suspicious. They found him using a tent and plenty of riffles around that spot. He gave them quite a fight, as you can see,” The sheriff chuckled, “but they were able to bring him here. I was called to the scene, and I and the boys questioned him.”
“His name was Jake,” Peter started with a sigh, “I had known him as a young man, he was---he was my friend. I got a job at my father's bank, and he was jealous. I always thought he was a good guy, but he told me to steal some money from my dad, and we could go live like kings in New York. I thought he was crazy, and after he gave me a good beat-up, he escaped and told me that he would do something to me in the future that would make me regret that. I forgot about it, thinking he was bluffing, but today, I witnessed his hate years after. He hated me, and I couldn’t do anything about that. He’s gone now.”
Andi soaked in his story. “I-I’m so sorry Peter.”
“It's ok. I tried to tell him about the right way to go, to Jesus, but he told me he needed nothing but money, and see where that landed him.”
Melinda appeared, and after she heard the whole story, she hugged Peter and he took hold of her and his son and sighed a grateful sigh.
“Everything’s ok now.”
Andi made sure Riley and Mitch were ok. They just laughed and told her they didn't plan on moving for a while. They were given a good fight, but they were ok.
“Well, family. I see us all here safe and sound. All’s well that ends well! Let's have some apple pie.” Mother said.
“Hey Chad, what about the horse?” Andi asked standing next to him
“I’ve been thinking. Jake confessed he paid a good sum for him at an auction in New Jersey, and now he is ours legally, thanks to Justin. I haven’t decided yet, but in the meantime, his breed is made for pulling sleighs, so all I know is that he’ll be good for Christmas sleigh rides.”
Andi laughed as she looked out on the magnificent animal. It was a gentle horse after all, it had just been in the hands of a bad captive, but he found his way into the hands of a loving owner, who would take good care of him. He got a second chance, just like we got a second chance, thanks to the Love of God, Andi thought with a smile.