Adios, My Brother and My Friend
by Jesseca Dawn
I thought I might tell you what's been happening the last couple of weeks. It all started one day when Mitch came into town to pick me up from school. Justin usually brought Rosa and me home, but he was working late and he had a school board meeting to attend that night. Mr. Foster and his family had been unexpectedly called back east for some family emergency and we had a new substitute teacher who had only moved to town a few months ago.
School had let out, but Johnny, Cory, and I had been in a fight during recess and had to stay after to help clean up. You see, during recess Johnny had started teasing Rosa. Rosa, the peacemaker she is, tried to ignore him and asked me to do the same. I was trying my best but when he pulled her braids hard enough to bring quick tears to her eyes, I had had enough. I jumped up and punched him square in the face. Startled, Johnny stumbled backwards and fell on the ground, blood spurting from his nose.
But he certainly didn’t stay startled for long! He jumped right back up and pushed me down into the dirt. "If you weren't a girl, you would have a bloody nose yourself!" Johnny exclaimed.
Cory ran over from where he had been playing ball with the other boys. “Andi, are you alright? What did he do to you?" he asked, helping me stand.
"I'm fine. He just pushed me down after I punched him for being mean to Rosa." Cory turned to Johnny. "So, now you’re gonna start being mean to girls, Johnny?" He exclaimed as he punched Johnny in the eye.
I blushed. Cory didn't know about the time Johnny had kissed me.
At just that moment the substitute teacher came out. I was glad she had come because I knew that if she hadn’t, well . . . Cory and Johnny would have gotten into a real fight and one of them could have gotten hurt.
We, all three of us, were made to stay after school as a punishment. I looked out the window and saw Mitch pull up in the buggy.
I walked up to the teacher's desk. “Miss Martin, my brother is here to pick Rosa and me up from school,” I said. “May I go down and tell him why we will be a while?'
“No, you may not.” She turned to Rosa “You may go and tell Mr. Carter why Andi is going to be late.”
Rosa nodded and hurried down the stairs, and I went back to cleaning the blackboard and the erasers.
Just as I was finishing the blackboard, I heard Mitch's footsteps pounding up the stairs. I am going to be in big trouble. I thought.
Just then, Mitch walked into the room, with Rosa right behind him. Miss Martin looked up as Mitch walked in, but his eyes were on me. “Andi, come here,” he said.
I obeyed, dreading the scolding I knew was coming. As I began to walk towards Mitch, Miss Martin stood up.
“Mr. Carter, Andi is helping me tonight as punishment for a fight she got into at recess. I ask you to please not intervene.”
Mitch looked toward Miss Martin as though just now realizing she was in the room. He didn’t speak.
I looked at my brother and was startled to see the expression on his face. Uh-oh! A disturbing thought wormed its way into my head. Does Mitch like the substitute teacher, Miss Martin?
All the way home Mitch was unusually quiet. I was glad in a way, because he seemed to forget about me getting into a fight and having to stay after school. But I knew the only reason he was so quiet was because he was thinking about Miss Martin.
Why, oh why did I have to get into that fight? I thought to myself. If I hadn't, Mitch would most likely not have seen Miss Martin.
As we pulled into the lane leading to our ranch I turned to Mitch. “Can I help you unhitch the buggy?” I asked.
Mitch turned and grinned at me. “No, you had better go straight into the house and change out of your school dress. You know Chad always has a bunch of chores waiting for you when you get home.”
I felt relived. At least he's not mad at me. As we pulled up in front of the house, Rosa jumped out and ran inside. I was just about to follow her when Mitch said, “How long has Miss Martin been teaching at school?”
“Oh, about three weeks. Why?”
Mitch shrugged. “No particular reason. Does she come to church? I've never noticed her before.”
I sighed. “Yes, Mitch, she comes to church. Is there anything else you want to know about her?”
Mitch smiled. “No, Andi, you can go ahead and do your chores.”
I walked slowly into the house, changed my clothes, and walked slowly back out to the barn.
What would it be like if Mitch got married? I thought the entire time I was doing my chores. Next to Justin, Mitch was my favorite brother. He listened to me, took time for me, helped me with my chores, listened to my worries about growing up, and wasn't bossy like Chad. Mitch can't get married! I thought. He just can't!
All week I dreaded Sunday. I wondered why no one else seemed to notice Mitch’s absent-mindedness. Maybe I'm just imagining it, I told myself. But no, there was no way even I could imagine something like that.
After church on Sunday, I watched to see what Mitch would do. Sure enough, he walked up to Miss Martin and began talking to her. I groaned. This was not going well. When we were ready to head home from church, Mitch wasn't with us. When I asked where he was, Justin said he was seeing someone home. Then Justin looked at Chad, and a knowing look passed between them. I got the feeling they had known about Mitch but had never let on.
Over the next few weeks it seemed as though Mitch found an excuse to be in town almost every day. And he mysteriously disappeared every Saturday and after church on Sunday. Finally, I decided this had gone on long enough. Mitch was not going to get married. Not if I could help it.
One Saturday I decided I was going to go along with Mitch when he went to see Miss Martin. I had already chosen my hiding place: the luggage compartment at the back of the buggy. From there I could hear everything that was being said, but no one could see me. I had told Chad I had something planned for the day, and that I would be home before supper.
Chad looked at me suspiciously, but he said that as long as I had my chores done it would be fine.
As Mitch got in the buggy and started down the road I began to feel uneasy. I mean . . . this was Mitch I was spying on. Plus, it was very uncomfortable in the luggage compartment.
After about twenty minutes the buggy stopped and Mitch got out. I heard Miss Martin's voice and felt the buggy sway as Mitch helped her in. Then we began to drive again. For a while they talked about nothing in particular then I heard Mitch say very clearly.
“Who would I have to ask permission from to have your hand in marriage?”
Before I could hear another word, I threw the lid off the luggage compartment and showed my face. “You can't get married!” I exclaimed.
Mitch reined in the startled horses and both sets of eyes turned toward me.
“Andi! What are you doing here?” Mitch exclaimed. Miss Martin's face was flushed and she was looking down at her hands.
“Well . . . I-I wanted to t-talk to you, Mitch,” I stuttered.
“Well, you're going to talk to me alright. You sit in the back seat while I take Miss Martin home. Then you and I will have a nice, long talk.”
The tone of his voice was enough to make me dread the coming talk; the glare he gave me was even worse. “I'm sorry, Mitch. I'm sorry Miss Martin,” I managed to say. Then I sat down and gazed at the passing fields as though my life depended on it.
Mitch turned to Miss Martin. “I'm truly sorry about this. I had no idea Andrea was with us. We'll continue this talk later. How about tomorrow?”
Miss Martin smiled at Mitch. “That's alright. I know it isn't your fault. And, yes, tomorrow sounds fine.”
After Mitch dropped Miss Martin off at her house, he drove back to the ranch in silence. When we got to the barn he quickly unhitched the horses, put them out in the paddock, then turned to me. “Follow me, Andrea,” he said.
I swallowed hard Mitch rarely used my full name. When he did, I knew I was in big trouble.
He walked to the creek then motioned for me to sit down. “What in the world were you doing? You know better than to spy on me.” He looked at me straight in the eyes. “What punishment do you think you deserve?” he asked.
Before I could say that maybe Mother should think up the punishment, Mitch went on. ”You will stay in your room at all times other than school this next week. And you will stay there for one hour doing nothing. No, homework, no sewing, no, writing, no, reading. That should give you time to think about the seriousness of what you have done.”
I burst into tears.
“Andrea, you know better than to cry over a punishment.” Mitch's voice was hard.
“I-I'm not. I don't care about the punishment . . . much.” The “no sewing” part sure didn’t bother me, anyway. And Mitch’s idea of a punishment for my rude behavior was much better than what Mother would have thought up.
“Then what is it?”
“Oh, Mitch,” I sobbed. “I don't want you to get married. I want things to stay as they always have. I can't imagine living at the ranch without you here. Everything's changing, and I hate it!”
Just then, Mitch reached over and put a gentle arm around my shoulders. “Andi, why didn't you just talk to me about this? I love you and I don't want to hurt you. Remember the time you, Cory, and Jenny went with me on that trip into the mountains?”
“Well, remember how you and I talked about growing up? And you were saying how much you didn't want to grow up?”
I nodded again.
“Well, like it or not, everyone grows up. You are becoming a young lady, not a child anymore. Everyone's life goes on. You can't stop it just because you don't like. You need to accept change because, like it or not, it's here to stay. I am planning on asking Abigail—Miss Martin—to marry me. Now, it will be at least another year before the wedding. And when we do marry, we will be coming to live here. I will continue to help Chad with the ranch just like before. The only difference will be that you will have a new sister-in-law living here also.” Mitch chuckled “I think you will like her better as a sister than as a teacher.”
I smiled. “I'm really sorry, Mitch. I will tell Miss Martin I’m sorry at church tomorrow. It will take some getting used to—the thought of you being engaged—but I will try my hardest.”
Mitch grinned. “That's my girl. Now, what do you say we go back to the house and you get changed? You are filthy! But at least you had enough sense to wear a dress when you interrupted my courting . . . and not overalls!”
I looked down at my wrinkled, muddy dress and grinned. “Sure. Mitch.”
The next day was Sunday. After church I walked up to Miss Martin. “I'm really sorry for what I did and said yesterday. Mitch and I had a talk, and I hope you will say 'yes' when he asks to marry you.” Then I shyly added “I'd like calling you Abigail instead of Miss Martin.”
Miss Martin blushed. “I forgive you, Andi, and I am planning on saying 'yes'
when your brother asks me. As for calling me Abigail, how about we wait until we are actually married to call me that? Could you imagine what all my pupils at school would say if you suddenly started calling me that?”
We both laughed.
Miss Martin did say “yes” when Mitch asked her to marry him, and the wedding is set for a year from now. I am fine with it now. I mean, a year is a long ways off. But when that time does come, I'll be more than ready to call Miss Martin “Abigail.”
You know, this makes me start thinking about my wedding day. I wonder who I'll marry? But, plenty of time to think about that. It's a long, long way off!