"Hey, Andi," Chad Carter called to his youngest sister. "Remember the time Taffy threw you?"
"Uh... what time?" Fifteen-year-old Andi gulped. "Taffy threw me several times."
"I think our brother means the time you hit your head on that rock and it damaged your motor skills. Isn't that right Chad?" Mitch, the youngest of Andi's three older brothers, interjected.
"Yep, that's the time I was thinking about," Chad replied.
"Yeah, I remember. Why?" Andi asked suspiciously, narrowing her eyes.
"Well... uh..." That was as far as Chad got.
"Cut that out!" Andi shouted. She sighed "You have no problem shouting out whatever you want in front of all the hands when you're mad about something," she added calmly.
Chad chuckled. "Well," he drew out the word, "it's been about a year since the incident, and it just came to my mind." Just then the door opened, and a young man, who was about thirty-one years old, strode in.
"Hey guys, and girl, what are you talking about?" he asked.
"Oh hi, Justin." Andi greeted the man. "We, uh, I mean Chad-"
"It was BOTH of us," Chad corrected.
"Alright, alright. WE were talking about the time Taffy threw me. AND, for your information, the time it disabled my motor skills," Andi finished, glaring at Chad.
Justin was the oldest of Andi's three brothers. Most of the time he took Andi's side in an argument against their mother, but never went against their mother's wishes, thus making him Andi's favorite brother.
Andi had been afraid that when he married his wife, Lucy, he would no longer be there to help her out of arguments. But she soon learned she had been wrong.
Chad, on the other hand, was more like Andi. Chad teased his little sister, and Andi aggravated him. The two siblings were constantly clashing.
Then there was Mitch. Mitch was easy-going and took Andi's side in clashes with Chad. But despite their differences, Andi loved her brothers, and knew they would always love and care for her.
"Well anyway, back to the story," Andi said. "Wasn't it a Saturday afternoon?"
* * *[a few years before]
"Hey, hey Andi!" Chad called, "did you do all your chores?"
"You bet I did!" Andi replied.
"You mucked out the stalls?" Chad asked doubtfully.
"What! Chad Carter, you gave me a list of chores, and I did them! Mucking out the stalls was NOT one of them!"
Chad chuckled. "Who said that was the whole list?" He pushed back his straw hat and looked at Andi, whose mouth was agape. "I'll do it later," he said.
"You mean I can, I mean may, ride Taffy?" Andi stamered.
"Yep, unless you want to go and sew circles with Melinda. After all this is the Circle C Ranch."
"Um, I'd rather not," Andi laughed. About one hour later, as Andi was riding to her favorite spot near the creek, something seemed to spook Taffy, making the palomino rear up, throwing Andi from the saddle.
Chad and Mitch, who were nearby and had witnessed the accident, galloped over on their horses.
* * * [back to the present]
"Man, it sure was frightening to see my," Chad paused and chuckled, "favorite little sister flyin' threw the air like that."
"'Favorite little sister?' Seriously?" Andi giggled. She knew her brother was teasing her. She could see it in his twinkling eyes.
"Yep, favorite little sister." Chad confirmed. Suddenly, Andi plunged forward, but Chad was too fast. The fifteen-year-old chased her brother around the dining room table.
Chad caught her arm and threatened to playfully swat her. "Don't make me," he warned.
Andi frowned. "I can't MAKE you. It's a CHOICE YOU make, NOT ME." she stated simply. "Back to the story... again."
* * * [back to the past]
"Mitch, we need to get Andi to the house fast!" Chad ordered anxiously.
"You got it!" Mitch replied. The brothers carried Andi back to the spanish-style hacienda. Once they had settled Andi in her room and were back outside, Mitch mounted Chase, his horse, and rode off on the hour long ride to the tiny town of Fresno to fetch the doctor.
Several hours later, Dr. Weaver came downstairs. "Well," he sighed, "it's hard to tell what might be the problem, if there is any problem, because of Andrea's unconsciousness. Just ask her, when she wakes up, to do simple things."
"Alright, Doc. But do you have any idea at all what might be the problem?" Chad inquired.
"Actually, yes. I do have an idea. I think, by how hard you tell me she hit her head on that rock, it may have damaged her motor skills. Well, goodbye, and God bless. I'll be back tomorrow. Oh, and make sure someone stays with Andrea until she wakes up."
"Goodbye and thank you for coming, Doctor." Chad replied, opening the front door."
* * *[back to the present]
"Wait a second! Wait a second!" Andi interrupted, "from what you told me you made it sound like you already knew what was wrong."
"I NEVER said that Andi!" Chad exclaimed.
"Hey, I'll just break up the argument," Mitch broke in. "I'll be branding the cows, if you need me.
"'K see you later Mitch." Andi and Chad replied simultaneously. The two siblings laughed.
"Hey, did I ever tell you about my cow-branding-catastrophe?" Chad brought up the story that everyone had heard about five million times, or something like that.
"Um, yes Chad, but we're in the middle of a different story. Go on Andi." Justin saved them from having to listen to another of Chad's wild childhood stories.
* * * [back to the past]
"Well, I was right," Dr. Weaver said two days later. "It does appear to be her motor skills."
"What should we do Doctor?" Justin asked.
"Retrain her," The doctor stated. "Andrea must relearn everything. She may catch on, and have everything worked out within a couple of weeks, but she may not, thus causing many years of retraining.
"The cut on her head is healing up quickly, which may have an effect on everything, but then again, maybe not. This battle is in the Lord's hand. He will do everything His way and in His timing. He will win this battle the way He wants."
Then the front door opened. Elizabeth Carter; Andi's mother, Katherine Swanson; the oldest Carter girl, along with her three children Levi, Elizabeth (Betsy), Hannah, and Rebecca Carter; Andi's aunt, all walked in.
"Justin," Elizabeth asked, "what's the doctor doing here?"
"Welcome home Mother," Justin greeted her. "Andi," he paused, "had a little... accident. I'll tell you later. Hello Kate, Aunt Rebecca. Come on in."
"I'd better be going. I'll let myself out," Dr. Weaver said.
"Oh, Justin, it's good to see you!" Kate greeted her oldest brother.
"Justin, why do you insist on calling her 'Andy'? It is a boy's name. Not suited for a young lady. And you said Andrea had an accident? Of what kind? Did she fall off a horse? What have I told her? Oh never mind, it's good to see you again Justin. How is that beautiful wife of yours?" Aunt Rebecca asked.
Justin smiled. "Just a minor accident. Lucy, she's doing fine. She decided to stay home this time to rest."
"Oh Justin, is Lucy sick?" Elizabeth asked concerned.
"Oh no, she's not sick. We just found out that we're expecting a little one," Justin announced.
"Justin, that's wonderful!" Kate exclaimed.
"What's that mean, Uncle Justin?" Hannah asked.
"It means you're going to have a cousin." Justin replied.
"A... cousin? What's that?" Hannah asked.
"It's when a girl has a kid, and the girl has a brother and the brother has a kid. The two kids are called cousins sweetie." Kate explained.
"Ohhhh. Is Uncle Justin's baby your cousin?" The five-year-old obviously didn't understand.
"No sweetie, Uncle Justin's baby is YOUR cousin." Kate corrected.
Hannah's eyes lit up. "I get a cousin Betsy! Levi, I get a cousin!"
Her brother and sister did not have the same delight as their youngest sister.
"We heard you. We also heard Mama tell you. And we understood it when Uncle Justin said he was having a baby. Either you---"
"Levi, you don't have to talk so mean," eight-year-old Betsy defended her sister. Hannah stuck her tongue out at her brother.
"So help me Hannah, if you weren't a girl I'd---"
"Levi. That's enough," the twelve-year-old's mother cut him off. "If I hear you speak like that again you're going to wish you hadn't."
"Yes, Mama." Levi gulped.
"I think I would like to rest a bit before supper." Aunt Rebecca interrupted.
"Of course," Elizabeth replied. "Melinda!" Like magic Melinda; Andi's older sister, appeared.
"Yes Mother?" Melinda asked.
"Melinda please take Rebecca to the room I wrote you to ready for her." Elizabeth told her daughter. A hand flew to Melinda's cheek.
"Oh Mother, I'm so sorry. I was so busy I," she sighed, "I forgot to ready the rooms, what with Andi and all."
"What is wrong with Andrea? Justin mentioned it, but didn't tell me what happened. Is she ill?" Mother fretted.
"No, she's not ill. Uh," Melinda glanced at Aunt Rebecca. "I'll tell you later." she replied. "Shall I ask Lusia and Nila to prepare rooms?"
"Yes, please do." her mother sighed wearily. A few minutes later, Melinda came back to bring Aunt Rebecca to a fresh room.
"Now," Elizabeth said, "what's wrong with Andrea?"
"Andi was riding Taffy, and something seemed to spook her." In minutes Justin had told the whole story. He ended with, "The doctor says it has damaged her motor skills. And the only thing to do is retrain her."
"How horrid!" Kate exclaimed. "Has Chad or Mitch found out what might have spooked Taffy?"
"No, they've been too busy with the everyday chores and checking-up on Andi, I'm afraid they just haven't had time."
"Is it possible that someone may have purposely tried to frighten Taffy?" Kate asked.
"Well, I don't know why anybody would do that, why?" Justin frowned. Kate sighed.
"Troy came to San Francisco looking for me and the kids," she said. "Thankfully, we were out. When we got back Serenity, one of Rebecca's servants, told us he had left a note. It said 'You think you're so smart, running to your family for protection, I'll get you back for leaving me, I may not go after you, but someone in your family.'
"I've been careful to keep the children with me, but he knows you live here, he could've come for revenge, saw Andi ridding Taffy, and scared Taffy."
"I'll tell Chad and Mitch to keep a look out for any signs of unknown life, and have them look into the cause of Andi's accident. This information is very helpful Kate, thank you for telling us," Justin replied.
"But," Elizabeth broke in, "we must not jump to conclusions. We are guessing that this must be the answer, but what proof do we have? None."
"You're absolutely right, Mother," Justin agreed.
"Of course," Katherine replied
Three months later...
"C'mon Andi, time to get up," Melinda called.
"Go 'way," Andi murmured.
"Mother sent me to get you up. Breakfast is in ten minutes, better hurry," Andi's sister hurried out of the room.
I'd better get up, if I want breakfast, Andi thought. Getting out of bed, she said aloud, "Where is that split skirt? Oh whatever. It's good to be better, and NOT laying in bed all day like I've been doing for the past, three months?" She hurriedly dressed in a light pink frock, and went downstairs for breakfast.
"Well well, look who's up," came Chad's teasing voice.
Maybe it would have been a good idea to stay in bed. Nila or Rosa would bring me breakfast, and I wouldn't have to listen to Chad's teasing. But then I wouldn't be able to have breakfast with my family.
Once again Andi found herself on her mental seesaw. The one she was constantly on during epidemics and before catastrophes. Not before breakfast. Why does it seem like I'm on my mental seesaw every moment of every day? Andi wondered.
"Did you sleep well, Sweetheart?" Elizabeth's voice brought Andi out of her musing.
"Huh, oh yes," Andi answered.
After a delightful breakfast, Justin stood up from beside Andi and looked at her to let her know he was talking to her.
"Hey," he said, "I have a surprise for you." He leaned close to her ear and whispered, "You're going to be an aunt in a few months." Andi gasped and looked up.
"Really, Justin? Oh that's great," Andi exclaimed.
"Hey, by the way, I'm glad you're feeling better."
"'By the way' Seriously. Are you actually glad?"
"If I weren't, I'd've stayed home with Lucy, but I heard today was the day you were allowed to get up, so I came to see you," Justin acted offended. Andi laughed.
"I love you, Justin," she said.
"Are you trying to get out of offending me?" Justin accused.
"I'm sorry. No. I wasn't trying to get out of anything. And I wasn't trying to offend you. I'm sorry you took it that way. And actually, I do love you. I was not just saying that." Andi stated.
"I know, I was just playing with you," Justin laughed.
"Hey, have you or the boys found out what spooked Taffy?"
"No. Along those lines I have a few questions for you. When you were riding Taffy, did you see anyone ahead of you?"
"No, not that I know of... wait yes! I remember seeing a man, but just for a second, he was holding something," Andi closed her eyes, "I think it was a stick, a small one, and a box of matches."
"Did this man look familiar?"
"Now that you mention it, yes he did, I don't know where from," Andi snapped her fingers, opened her eyes, and looked Justin in his eyes, "You know who he looked like, Troy Swanson, I know it sounds crazy, but I saw a man, just for a second, but I saw him, I remember thinking he looked like Troy, but then realized that was impossible, and guessed it was just a ranch hand, I never stopped to think about it. Why are you asking me the crazy questions?"
"Because Kate said Troy had come to San Francisco. He threatened to 'get her back'. He said he might not hurt her or the kids, but maybe someone else in the family, he might have tried to frighten Taffy, thus causing exactly what happened." Andi gasped.
"You mean he was trying to get revenge? I was the perfect target. And, he had something against me. The first time Kate and the kids came to visit, I foiled his plan to take the kids to Denver. He didn't like that at all. But do you really think he would try to do that, especially after he saved me from the creek?" she questioned. Justin sighed.
"I don't know. I don't know Troy well enough. You know him better than I do, and so does Kate, but he sounds mean enough to do that. We are definitely going to have to do a lot of praying." he replied. Just then a knock at the door. Lusia, the old housekeeper, opened the door.
"Buenas dias, Señor, " she said, her voice shaking, "please, come in." A moment later Lusia entered the dining room.
"Es Señor... Troy Swanson," she announced. "He wants to see Señorita Andrea." The family had not yet scattered to do their daily chores. There were gasps from around the table.
"Do you know what he wants?" Melinda asked.
"No, he just said he wanted to see Señorita Andrea," the old woman replied.
Oh God, help me. Help me control my anger as I go to see Troy. You know what he's done to our family. And you know how bad I am at controlling my temper. Just then a Bible verse popped into her head. "Be ye angry, and sin not." Is that the answer? "Be ye angry, and sin not"? Yes, it must be. God puts verses in my mind at just the right time.
"Come on, Andi, I'll go with you," Justin's voice brought her back to the present. Andi took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and replied,
"No, I'll go, alone." She stood up and headed to the parlor.
"I hope she doesn't do something stupid," Andi heard Chad remark after she'd left the room.
"Chad, hush," her mother scolded.
"I heard that!" Andi called. There was a quick, sharp intake of breath from the room, obviously from Chad. Andi soon came face to face, or face to door, with the parlor door.
Please help me, God. Well, here goes. Andi opened the door, and steped into the parlor. Troy, who was standing by a window, took of his hat, and greeted Andi,
"Good morning, Miss Carter." At the sound of his voice pictures of their meetings flooded Andi, the way water had flooded Fresno two years ago, in 1880. Andi shoved these thoughts away into a little used corner of her mind and returned the man's greeting,
"Good morning, Mr. Swanson. Please have a seat." Both sat down across from each other. Andi heard faint scuffling of feet near the door. Thankfully, Troy didn't notice, and if he had, he didn't show it.
"Miss Carter, I have some confessions to make to you. I purposely frightened your horse to get 'er to do exactly what happened, then I disappeared, I knew your brothers would kill me if they found out I did it."
"We already suspected you did it," Andi replied.
"What! How?" Troy was astonished.
"Your visit to San Francisco."
"Katie told you, didn't she?"
"You bet she did. Because of your threat, we speculated that you did it. Not to mention, I thought I saw you in the woods by the creek. I told Justin this morning when he asked." Andi confirmed.
"Well, I can't blame her. She knew I meant what I said. I've come to apologize. I'm sorry for scaring your horse. And I'm also sorry for taking Katie away from your family and causing so much hurt. I've heard you were the most hurt when you found out about Katie. It was my fault. I tricked her into thinking I loved her, when really, at the time, I didn't. I took her away from you and your family, and that caused a lot of hurt, I want to say 'sorry'," Troy sounded sincere.
"Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." Colossians 3:13 poped into Andi's mind.
"I forgive you," Andi replied.
"What! How..." Troy's voice trailed off
"Christ forgave me, so I can forgive you," Andi replied. She sighed, chuckling, "Come on in boys.”
Justin, Chad, and Mitch walked into the room. Turning to Mitch, Andi instructed, "Mitch, you have the fastest horse, go get the sheriff!"
Then Kate came into the room. "Troy, what are you doing here?" she asked.
"I came to apologize, and admit I was the one who scared Andi's horse," came the reply, "purposly," Troy added.
A couple hours later Troy was in handcuffs.
"Here, Andi," he said. "The night you gave this to Hannah, before you came to get the kids, I took it. I knew I could sell it for a fortune, but my conscience got a hold of me. So now I'm returning it back to you."
The outlaw handed Andi a necklace. Andi gasped. It was the locket Justin had given her for her twelfth birthday. 'May you grow in grace and wisdom in Christ, little sister. Love Justin.'
"Thank you," Andi said.
* * *
"It's amazing! When Troy listened to his conscience, it turned his whole life around!" Andi marveled.
"Oh, and about Troy, I heard he's getting a release in a couple years," Justin said. Andi and Chad were surprised.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28.