A Thanksgiving Story
by Jesseca Dawn and Rishona
Andi hurried out of the buggy and headed into the house. School was out next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, and she was already planning ways to spend the time.
As she entered the house, she saw Chad and Mitch sitting in the parlor. Curious as to why they would be in the house in the late afternoon, she walked over to where they were sitting.
Chad stood up and turned toward her. “Andi, how was school? looking forward to the time off?”
Andi grinned. “Defiantly! But what's going on? Why are you in the house?”
“We live here too, little sis!” Mitch joked as he also stood up.
“I know, but what I mean is--”
“We know what you mean. “ Chad interrupted. “Mother got a letter from Aunt Rebecca. It seems we have been invited there for Thanksgiving.”
Andi's jaw dropped open. It couldn't be. Aunt Rebecca's house? But, but, Chad, Aunt Rebecca's house do I have. . .”
Chad interrupted. “Yes, Andi, Aunt Rebecca's house and yes, Aunt Rebecca would be highly offended if you didn't attend. So you will be going.”
Andi sighed, “Okay, when are we leaving?”
This time Mitch replied. ”In two days.”
Andi sighed, “I guess I better go get packed.” Andi looked down at her school dress I better get used to it. she thought as she walked up the stairs. It was going to be hard for Andi to stay patient with Aunt Rebecca for that long when she would have to be wearing a dress every single day.
The stagecoach rattled over the uneven ground. Every moment getting further from home. . .and closer to Aunt Rebecca’s house.
Andi sighed as she leaned her head out the window. Justin, who was sitting next to her, slipped an arm around her waist. “It’s okay, honey. A couple days isn’t so bad.”
“Oh Justin! Aunt Rebecca expects me to be just like Melinda, a perfect lady!”
Justin grinned. “Well, it shouldn’t be too hard to act for a few days, right?”
Before Andi could answer, the stagecoach driver yelled out “San Francisco ahead!”
Aunt Rebecca came out to greet them when they arrived at her house. Andi subconsciously smoothed out her dress, which was wrinkled and dusty from sitting in a stagecoach all day.
Aunt Rebecca didn’t seem to notice. “Come in everyone!” She said as she greeted mother with a hug. “I have some extra guests here I want you to meet. I didn’t tell you in my letter because I wanted it to be a surprise!”
She ushered them inside and led the way to the parlor. Because her brothers were in front of her, she couldn’t see in at first. But she did hear the introductions.
“This is Johnny Wilson, he’s been boarding at my house while he’s in Military school. And this is Ms. Felicity Livingston and her father. They happened to be in town so I invited them over.”
Andi couldn’t believe her ears. Justin, Chad and Mitch all glanced back at her. Finally they walked into the room and Andi had a clear view of their “guests”.
Her eyes widened, and for once in her life, she didn’t know what to say.
Johnny stood right next to Aunt Rebecca with an expressionless look on his face and didn't say a word. Andi shrank back behind Mother who put an arm around Andi.
“Well, come on in,” said Aunt Rebecca, ”you all know where you normally stay.”
Andi walked up the stairs to the room that she was to share with Melinda. On her way up the stairs Johnny stopped her from behind. “Well, aren’t you going to even say hi?”
Andi looked at him. He didn't look even the slightest bit mean or goofy. “Hi, Johnny, funny to run into you here.”
Johnny replied, ”You too.”
Then Melinda called for Andi to hurry up.
When Andi walked into the room Melinda had all her stuff thrown on the side of the bed by the window. That was the side Andi loved, right where she could imagine. But Andi didn't say anything. Might as well let one thing go. Not much can get worse than seeing Johnny.
“Hey Andi, you know that boy, right? Wasn’t he the one that used to torment you?”
Andi sighed and turned toward Melinda who was glancing at her with an inquisitive look on her face.
“Yes, he was the one who ‘kidnapped’ me when that whole court case was going on with the Wilsons. After that his parents sent him off to military school. I didn’t know exactly where it was, but it obviously must have been here in San Francisco.”
Melinda nodded. “It’ll be interesting to see how everything works out with him staying here. And wasn’t Felicity the girl you had trouble with that time you ran away?”
Andi grimaced as She quickly grabbed a dress out of her bag and changed. Melinda, who had finished dressing, picked up the dress Andi had thrown down and smoothed it out.
“Yes, this is going to be one of the very worst thanksgivings! Not only do we have to be here at Aunt Rebecca's, but Felicity and Johnny are here!”
Melinda gave her a sympathetic look as she walked toward the door. She paused with her hand on the door handle. “Here’s something to think about. It’s thanksgiving, let’s both try hard to be thankful for what we do have and not complain about what we don’t like. We have many things to be thankful for.”
She stepped out into the hall and closed the door quietly behind her. Andi heard her footsteps retreating down the hall as she stood up and walked over to the window. Melinda was right. Besides, she wouldn’t help or fix anything by complaining.
She took a deep breath and walked toward the door. It was going to be a long holiday.
As she walked down the stairs, Andi nearly ran into Chad who was coming out of his room.
“How you doin’, Andi?”
Andi mustered a smile. “I’m alright. Just a little flustered is all.”
“I can understand that. If Johnny tries anything, you be sure to come and tell me.”
“I will, Chad. I promise.”
“And if Felicity messes with you you’ll talk to me as well?”
Andi smiled. It was rare to have Chad this concerned about her. “I will.”
Just as Andi walked into the parlor, the dinner bell rang. Chad turned and offered her his arm to escort her to the table--everything in Aunt Rebecca’s home was done old-fashioned and proper.
Before she could take it, someone tapped her shoulder. Turning, she saw Johnny.
“May I escort you to the table, Miss Carter?”
She felt Chad stiffen. She turned to him, and he gave her a knowing look. She nodded before turning back to Johnny. “Uh. . .sure” She took his arm and walked into the dining room.
In the dining room, Johnny pulled out a chair for Andi. Andi sat down and remembering to be polite, thanked him. How odd. She thought. Andi looked to her right. There was Felicity. Andi hadn't said a word to her at all yet and decided she should say hello.
Felicity was about to respond when Aunt Rebecca asked Justin to bless the meal. After the prayer everyone started to talk. Felicity looked at Andi and said, “Hi Andi, how are you? I haven't seen you in a long time. The last time I saw you I was being ever so snotty. I am so sorry. Would you please forgive me?”
Andi's breath stopped. What! Is this really Felicity. Felicity, the one who locked me in a shed and beat both Taffy and myself? Both Johnny and Felicity seemed to have changed. But they must just be acting they can't really have changed. Last time they were so mean to me.
Felicity looked at Andi expectantly.
“Sure, I forgive you,” Andi said, “And, I am doing well.” Then she quickly changed the subject. “This sure is good chicken.”
Aunt Rebecca smiled. “Why, thank you, Andrea.”
The meal went on pleasantly , and everyone was soon excused and once again sitting in the parlor. While everyone was talking, Andi stood up and walked over to the window. How she wished she could go on a walk! There were still a couple hours of daylight left. She sighed. It wasn't considered proper for a young lady to go walking out alone. She heard a voice behind her.
“Want to go on a walk?”
She turned, startled to see Johnny beside her.
What? He wants to go on a walk with me! What if he tries to hurt me or something. But maybe he has changed. No, no he couldn't have not much anyways. Andi looked over at him Johnny was smiling at her and was waiting for an answer. I should give him a try, he looks so sincere.
“Sure I will go on a walk with you. But can it be a short walk? I don't want to stay out that long.” I might as well try to make it a very short walk so nothing too bad could happen.
Johnny replied. “Sure, whenever you would like to turn around, just give the word.”
“Okay,” Andi said back. Then Andi went and told her Mother that she was going on a walk and would be back shortly she also told Chad. Because she knew he would come looking if they were gone too long.
But when she told Chad, he pulled Andi aside. “What are you thinking? Going on a walk with your old school bully?”
Andi shook her head and said. “He asked me, just make sure to come get me if we are gone too long.”
Chad shook his head and let Andi go. Then Andi went outside to join Johnny, who was waiting for her.
It was a pleasantly cool evening. Once outside, Johnny suggested they walk to the Military school and back.
Not knowing how far it was, Andi hesitated.
“It's only about 5 minutes’ walk from here.” He said as though reading her mind.
“Okay” Andi agreed.
Johnny did most of the talking, explaining to Andi about his school, what it he was learning , what classes he enjoyed and when he hoped to graduate.
They arrived at the school and Johnny gave her a short tour around the grounds. As they started back toward the house, Johnny turned to her.
“So how are you doing these days?”
How am I supposed to answer that! I was hoping he would be doing all the talking! thought Andi. Then she said. “I am doing well. School is going okay, but I'm glad to be on a break for Thanksgiving!”
“Yeah.” agreed Johnny. They were both mostly silent for the rest of the walk.
Andi had her thoughts entertaining her and she was hoping he wasn’t planning to play any pranks. But he seems so...so...polite! I hate to even admit that to myself. But he could be trying to make me trust him and then pull something really mean. Andi decided. Well, I won't be fooled.
When they arrived at the house Andi felt like she should thank him, just so she could make sure she was being diplomatic. She didn't have to be friendly but she could be polite. “Thanks,” she said.
“You’re welcome, I enjoyed it. Maybe we could go another night.” Johnny replied.
“Maybe,” said Andi, “If I'm not too busy, I have a project I should work on.” I need to write all this down in my diary and sort out my thoughts. Now that's a project.
“What project?” asked Johnny.
“Oh, it's nothing interesting.” Andi said in return.
They walked in the house and Andi went up to her room.
The next 2 days passed by uneventful. Both Felicity and Johnny were polite and--even to a certain degree--seemingly kind and caring. Felicity had apologized and Andi was beginning to believe she really had changed.
On Thanksgiving day, a meal had been planned for the evening, and Aunt Rebecca had arranged for Andi, Johnny, Melinda and Felicity to go on a trail ride in the morning.
“I'm sure you young people want to have time together without all us older folks around.” she had said when she presented the idea the night before.
Andi had frozen in her seat. She could feel both Chad and Melinda's gaze on her and knew what they were thinking: How in the world would it work?
The next morning dawned bright and clear. It is a perfect day for a ride. Andi thought as she dressed and headed downstairs.
Chad stopped her before she went into the dining room. “How would you like it if I came along on the ride?” he asked with a grin on his face.
“Oh, would you really? I think that would work out just fine!”
Chad winked at her. “It’s already been arranged. We’ll leave after breakfast.”
Breakfast was a hurried affair. Aunt Rebecca and mother had left early that morning to go “have a look around the shops” as Aunt Rebecca said. They planned to be home before noon to help with the preparations for the Thanksgiving dinner.
The trail Aunt Rebecca had had in mind started in the outskirts of the city before winding its way down to the San Francisco bay.
They had only gone about a mile down the trail, when Melinda suddenly remembered that Mother had asked her the night before if she could stay behind to help with the preparation. Chad was forced to accompany her back, promising to return soon. That left Andi alone with Felicity and Johnny.
Well, this will at least be interesting if nothing else. Thought Andi as Chad and Melinda disappeared around a bend.
The three rode their horses side by side until a gunshot startled the horse that Andi was riding. Apparently she had the restless horse. Her horse, Gunter, starting running. Andi could hear Johnny and Felicity in the background hollering, but Gunter was going too fast to stop. Andi finally got Gunter under control and she began to turn back suddenly realizing she was far away from Johnny and Felicity.
Suddenly, a man’s hand grabbed Gunter’s bridle and forced them into the woods. Gunter reared, causing the man to lose his balance, but also causing Andi to fall off the horse. Gunter’s hoof beats faded in the distance. This is what happens when you ride sidesaddle, was Andi’s fleeting thought before the man roughly grabbed her, tied her wrists together, and placed a blindfold over her eyes.
Then he took hold of her arm and dragged her through the woods.
“Good job,” Andi heard a voice say.
The man who had grabbed Andi and grunted. “It was nothing, but it will be something once we get the ransom for this rich girl.” Then the two men laughed. Shivers ran up Andi's arm, she was very scared.
The man shoved Andi to the ground and as he did, the blindfold, which had been tied loosely, came undone.
She quickly turned to get a look at his face but a hand slapped her face and threw her to the ground. She gasped and lay motionless. But she had seen enough. There were three men in the clearing. Suddenly, she saw a flash of blue in the bushes.
Johnny! He wore his uniform today! Andi thought. But what is Johnny against three men?
Suddenly, a gunshot sounded to the right of the clearing. All three of the men jumped up.
“What was that?”
Another man's rough voice answered. “You two go and see who it is. Now! I'll stay with the girl.” Their footsteps faded as they left the clearing and moved into the woods .
“Yes, I’ll protect our fortune.” The man said.
She felt footsteps as he moved closer, and then his breath on her face as he bent over her. “We wouldn't want her getting away, would we?” He laughed a sickening laugh.
Oh God, please help me! was all Andi could think to pray.
Another gunshot sounded right above Andi. The man standing above her teetered, then fell on top of her. Blood flowing from a wound in his shoulder.
As Andi struggled to get out from under him, someone grabbed his arm and threw him to the side. Then the same hand grabbed Andi.
“Are you okay?”
She looked up into Johnny's pale face. “Yes, I'm okay.”
He helped her to her feet. “Then let's get out of here now before the men return!”
Andi stood up fast and a haunting thought came to her. What if Johnny is going to lead me into a different trap? It is only Felicity, he, and I out here. But after glancing down at the man who had been shot, she quickly hurried away with Johnny. He led her through the trees into another small clearing where his horse was tied.
He hurriedly helped Andi onto the horse and then jumped up behind her.
“Felicity went for help. We need to get out of here fast.”
He dug his heels into the horses side as they surged forward.
“Did you get a look at any of the men?”
“No, but I did hear their voices. If I ever hear them again I’ll recognize them!” she shuddered remembering.
They were almost out of the woods when the met Felicity, Chad, Mitch and two policemen riding toward them.
Chad and Mitch both quickly dismounted and rushed toward Andi. “Are you okay?” Mitch asked while Chad helped her off the horse.
“Yes, I think so.”
“You’re bleeding.” Chad’s voice had an edge to it she hadn’t heard before. Could he be afraid?
“It’s not her blood.” Johnny spoke up. “I shot the man who was keeping guard. The other two had gone off to investigate a shot they had heard . . . which was me, so they’re probably pretty angry by now.”
“There were three men?” One of the police interrupted.
“Mitch, you take Andi, Johnny and Felicity back to the ranch. I’ll go with the police to search for the men.” Chad said vaulting up onto his horse. Then, in a cloud of dust, the policemen and Chad were gone.
God, please keep him safe. Andi prayed as she mounted her horse and followed Mitch back to the house.
The table was decorated beautifully, the chandeliers sparkling, and the china clinking. Andi looked around at the table. I truly have much to be thankful for. She thought. Family that loves me, and, she caught Felicity’s eye across the table, Friends I know I can trust. Her thoughts were interrupted by Chad lightly tapping his spoon against his cup.
“I have an announcement to make.” he said when everyone had quieted. “The three men who were captured yesterday were the leaders of the notorious Oliver gang who, as you may remember, have robbed several stagecoaches but have been able to elude the police. . . until now. But, thanks to Andi and Johnny, they are now behind bars and awaiting their trial.”
Johnny grinned. “Well it wasn’t exactly by choice, but I’m just glad Andi is safe and those men are where they belong.”
“I agree.” Melinda chimed in. “I never thought a uncomplicated ride would turn out so--so complicated! But I guess with Andi, anything could happen!”
At that, everyone chuckled.
“I’m just thankful it all turned out alright and you’re safe.” Mother said with a smile. Aunt Rebecca nodded in agreement. “We truly have a lot to be thankful for today!”
Johnny softly closed the door behind him and joined Andi on the veranda.
“It’s a beautiful night tonight, isn’t it?”
Andi nodded. “It’s been a perfect day. I thought I’d hate thanksgiving this year because we were spending it with Aunt Rebecca. But Melinda helped me understand that there is always something to be thankful for, no matter what the circumstances around us may be. It reminds me of a verse I learned a long time ago. I think it Colossians . . . Colossians 3:15. It says ‘And let the peace of God rule in your hearts...and be ye thankful.’ “
“That’s for sure. Andi, I wanted to apologize to you for everything that happened when I lived at home. How I teased you, bullied you, and…well...that little incident behind the mercantile. It wasn’t right and I’d like to ask your forgiveness.”
Andi’s face flushed and she was glad it was dark out so that Johnny couldn’t see it. She’d never told anyone about what had happened that day, well, other than Justin, and she had almost forgotten about it.
“I forgive you, Johnny. To tell you the truth, as soon as I saw your blue uniform through the bushes yesterday , I could have forgiven you for anything! Well, at least until the thought came to me that you might be with them.”
Johnny feigned surprise. “Me? With those men? What in my past would ever have made you think such a thing?” Then he became serious. “I do hope you don’t think that anymore.”
Andi shook her head. “I think you proved yesterday that I can trust you. “
“Thank you, Andi. It means a lot to hear you say that. I’m headed back inside, you coming?”
“You go on ahead. I’ll be out in a minute.”
Johnny nodded. “You take your time.” was all he said and then he was gone.
Andi looked up at the starry sky. “Thank you, Jesus for protecting us yesterday. And thank you for all the wonderful blessings you have given me!” she prayed. Then she turned back to the house. Back to her family, back to Felicity, her enemy-turned friend,. . .and back to Johnny.