New Friends, Old Enemies
I went digging for a fan story from the 2013 short-story contest entries. This one was Entry #5 from the age 14-17 group. It's quite good.
A Prank . . . and a Visitor
A Prank . . . and a Visitor
Sixteen-year-old Andi opened the door of the barn and looked at the row of stalls ahead of her. Sighing, she picked up the shovel and pitchfork, set them in the wheelbarrow and opened the door to the first stall. It was a beautiful Saturday yet Andi was stuck in the barn doing chores.
This week can’t get much worse. Andi thought. Mother had insisted she start spending another hour each day working on her sewing. Plus, Justin’s wife, Lucy had been sick for the last couple days, and Melinda’s wedding to David was fast approaching. The only bright spot in the week had been the letter she had received from Cory.
Cory had been away at medical school and the letter said he would be returning home for summer break sometime within the next week. Andi was so excited! She couldn't wait to see Cory again. And, the letter had also said that he was bringing his friend, Micah, back with him to visit.
Just then, one of the horses snorted and Andi was brought back to the present. Looking at the stall in front of her she sighed. It's a pity the horses can't clean up after themselves!
She was finishing the last stall when the door to the barn swung open. Looking up, Andi saw Chad walking toward the tack room. Andi quickly finished the stall and quietly walked to the tack room. Chad was busy selecting a saddle and had his back to her. She tiptoed up behind him, snatched his hat off his head and ran laughing out of the barn. Just then someone came around the corner of the barn. Andi tried to stop but it was too late and they both fell onto the ground.
"What in the world are you doing running like that?"
Andi looked up, "Chad? But you can't be here! You were just in the tack room!"
"What are you talking about, Andi? I just came from the house. Have you gotten Jem a horse yet?"
Suddenly the awful reality hit Andi. "Oh no!" she groaned.
"What’s the matter? Are you hurt?" asked Chad.
"No, this is the matter." She said, holding up the hat.
"Where did you get that?" Chad asked.
"I thought you were the one in the tack room. It must have been the Jem you were talking about. I grabbed his hat and locked him in the barn!" Andi explained
"You did what!' Exclaimed Chad, nearly running to the barn and throwing open the door. "Jem are you alright?"
Jem walked out and Andi gasped. Jem looked almost identical to Chad.
"Yeah, I'm fine." he chuckled. "I think I must have been the target of a joke, although I'm not sure I understand why."
Chad looked grim. "Well, My sister, Andi, thought that you were me. So, She decided to play a little prank." Turning to Andi he asked, "What got into you, Andi? You were supposed to be cleaning the stalls."
"I finished the stalls, and when I saw you, or, when I thought I saw you, I thought it would be funny. I'm real sorry, Mr. Jem I really didn't know it was you."
Looking up, she saw the twinkle in Jem's eye. He began to chuckle then he looked at Chad and they both began to laugh. Andi looked at them bewildered.
"You remember how Ellie was when you and your father came to visit all those years ago?" Jem asked Chad. "This is just something she would have done!"
Andi looked wonderingly at Chad. "You're not angry with me?"
"Well, all's well that ends well! Although, I have to say had I been the object of that joke, as I was supposed to be, I would have been upset! Since you are finished with you chores, would you like to come with us? I’m showing Jem around the ranch.”
"Would I ever!" Andi exclaimed. "I can saddle up Taffy, Sky and another horse for Jem in no time!
Chad chuckled. "You just go and saddle up Taffy. I can saddle Sky and I am sure that if you show, Jem, Patches stall, he can saddle him up. I think he is already well acquainted with the tack room!”
An Interesting Story
As they rode down the lane, Chad turned to Andi. "So, I suppose you are wondering who Jem is?" It was more a statement then a question.
"Well remember that picture you found in the attic of me when I was 12?"
Andi nodded again.
"Well, that was right about the time when Jem and I met. Father was a part owner in a mine and there had been a disturbance about the mine playing out, meaning there was no more gold. There had been talk about there being another strain of gold found but to get to it there needed to be another air shaft added.”
“But, why did father and you have to go down and help make the decision? Couldn't he just tell them what he wanted?” Andi asked.
Wait, I am getting there!" Chad exclaimed. “The problem was to build the new air shaft we would have had to tunnel up through a small mine that was being used by some of the Chinese citizen's of the town. Jem's father was the sheriff of Goldtown. There was some legal problem about them having a claim on the mine but I was to young to really care about the legal stuff. Now, had Justin been there he would have remembered every detail! Jem and I met...,. or should I say I startled him. He had been down at the creek panning for gold but he had stopped for the moment and was...“
Chad turned to Jem "What were you doing? I can't remember."
Jem grinned "I was getting my prospector friend, Strike, a cup his so-called coffee. I tell you that stuff was nasty! I don't understand how anyone could drink it!"
"So then what happened?" Andi asked impatiently. "Did you find any gold, Chad?"
"After Jem and I got acquainted, he took me down by the creek and showed me how to pan for gold. And, boy was I excited when I had what I thought was gold in my pan just a few minutes later."
"You thought it was gold? But it wasn't? What was it?" asked Andi.
Chad turned toward her, "If you don't quit your interrupting I'll never be able to finish the story!"
"It was fool's gold" Jem explained. "It looks like gold, but it isn't. When I saw the disappointed look on your brothers face I slipped one of the tiny gold nuggets I had found out of my small sack and close to where your brother was panning."
Chad turned to Jem astonished. "That was your gold? I never knew that!"
Jem laughed. "You weren't supposed to!"
"What else did you do together?" Andi asked
"Let's see, " said Chad. "We got into plenty of trouble that's for sure! I thought I was old enough to show them how to brand some of their calves. I hadn't remembered how angry the mother cow gets when separated from her calf. I had Ellie doing the branding while Jem, Jem's cousin Nathan and I held down the calf. Ellie saw the mother cow charging and got so scared she dropped the branding iron square on Jem's arm. Then there was the time we got ourselves shut up in a cave in with Ellie, Nathan and Will, one of Jem's friends."
"What happened?" Andi asked, wide eyed. “
“I'll have to tell you some other time." Chad replied. "because here we are at the creek now."
A New Friend
After a rest at the creek, Chad, Andi and Jem quickly toured the rest of the ranch then rode back to the barn.
After dismounting Chad turned to Andi. "I'll take care of Taffy. You’d better get up to your room and get changed before dinner or mother will have a fit!"
Andi looked down at her wrinkled, filthy overalls and laughed. "I suppose you're right." She handed the reins to Chad, and took off at a run toward the house.
Walking to the back of the house, she opened the door to the servants entrance and tiptoed in the kitchen. Luisa looked up as she walked in.
" Miss Andi, you had better get changed before your mother sees you!" She exclaimed.
"That's what I'm on my way to do now." Andi said.
Just then, Rosa walked in. "Andi, everyone but your brother Chad and his friend are sitting around the table. Well, everyone except them and Ms. Lucy. She isn’t feeling well again. But, If I were you, I would hurry!'
"Gracias, Rosa!" Andi exclaimed, hurrying up the servants staircase taking the stairs two at a time.
Andi hurried up the stairs being careful not to make noise as she passed the room where Lucy was resting. She entered her room, walked over to her closet, selected a white dress, and hurriedly put it on. Stepping in front of the mirror, she took out her braids and ran the brush through her hair. Quickly, she re-braided it and hurried downstairs. Just in time she remembered to walk slowly as she entered the dining room.
All eyes turned to her as she walked in. Embarrassed, Andi looked down and walked quietly to her seat. Looking around, she saw that Chad and Jem had both beat her to the table.
"Andrea, you are late." mother said.
"Yes, Mother. I had to go upstairs and change."
“I didn't see you come in."
“No, I came in through the servants entrance." Andi answered.
“Next time, make sure you are finished with your ride in plenty of time before dinner.”
Looking up, she caught Chad's eye across the table. His winked at her.
How did Jem and Chad manage to get to the table before me? Andi wondered silently.
Suddenly, she realized for the first time that a young lady sat at the table between Melinda and Jem. . That must be Ellie. she thought. As she glanced over at her, she caught Melinda's scowl. Andi sighed. Melinda would have never be late for dinner. Andi glanced over at Ellie again. She had a slight frame but the set of her chin and the spark in her eyes showed her strength of character. She had bright blue eyes that matched her brothers but, unlike Jem, she had light auburn hair that reflected the sun. Just then Ellie turned and her twinkling blue eyes met Andi's. She smiled, and for a moment looked like a girl herself.
I think I am going to like Ellie. Andi decided. After dinner they all retired to the parlor. As mother asked Jem what he thought of the ranch, Ellie walked over and sat in the chair next to Andi.
"So, what made you late for lunch?" Ellie said. Her blue eyes twinkling merrily.
"Well, after I finished my chores this morning I decided to tease Chad just a little. The only problem was, I thought that Jem was Chad and I snatched his hat and locked him in the barn.
Ellie laughed. “That sounds like something I might have done!”
Andi grinned “After it all got straightened out, Chad invited me to go ride with Jem and him around the ranch. While we were riding, Chad and Jem told me about all the adventures you had together. We got back late and I had to change because I still had on my overalls. I changed as quickly as possible but Chad and Jem still managed to get to the table before me."
"Well, I can see how you could have mistaken Jem for Chad, they look a lot alike!"
"How long are you planning on staying?" Andi asked.
"Oh, about a week I think. You would have to ask Jem, He would know for sure. I just came along for the ride!" Ellie replied.
" I can't wait to show you all around the ranch! Andi exclaimed .
“And I can’t wait to see it!” laughed Ellie
An unwanted surprise
Andi hurriedly threw back her covers and bounded out of bed. It was Sunday and after church she had promised to show Ellie around the ranch. She walked over to the closet and choose a dark purple dress with only a pure white ribbon around the waist, and a short ruffle on the hem.
Dressing quickly, she tied the ribbon into a small bow and selected a string of pearls for around her neck. She sighed as she looked at her reflection in the mirror. The day she had turned 14, Mother had insisted she dress every bit a young lady, at least for church on Sunday. Still, Andi knew she was fortunate that mother hadn’t made her start wearing her hair up yet. Now that she had recently turned 16, she knew mother would make her start wearing it up all too soon. She brushed through her hair, braided it into a single braid, and secured it with a small, purple ribbon. Satisfied that mother would be pleased, she opened the door and started down the stairs.
Just as she reached the bottom, she heard the call to breakfast. Smiling, she entered the parlor. “Breakfast time!” She said.
“Andi, finally!” Chad exclaimed standing up. “We were all wondering when you’d get up.”
“Well, if Mother didn’t insist on me getting all dressed up for church, I would have been down here at least twenty minutes sooner!”
Melinda laughed as they all walked to the table. “Just get up twenty minutes earlier, Andi. Besides, If you were my daughter, I’d make sure you dressed like a lady every day.”
Jem chuckled. “That’s why she’s thankful you're her sister and not her mother!”
After Justin prayed and blessed the food, they all began to eat. Small talk went on around the table and Andi was content to listen while she ate.
Near the end of the meal, Ellie turned to her. “Are we still going on the ride after church?”
Andi grinned. “You bet!”
Ellie smiled. “ I’m so anxious to see all around your ranch! From what Jem tells me it must be quite beautiful!”
Just then, Andi heard the buggy pull up in front of the house. A second later, Mitch walked in.
“Anyone ready to go?” he asked. ‘We’d better get a move on or we’ll be late for church.”
“Lucy and I will be staying here. She isn’t feeling well and I’d rather not leave her here alone.” Justin announced.
“Is she still not feeling well? I hope there’s nothing seriously wrong with her.” Andi said looking concerned.
Mother smiled. “No, nothing serious. In fact I think that 9 months from now I will be a grandmother.”
“She’s going to have a baby?” Andi exclaimed.
“Yes!” Mother replied. “But we need to get going or, like Mitch said, We’ll be late for church.”
As soon as church was over, Andi followed Chad outside and waited with him in the buggy for the others.
When they got home, Andi jumped out of the buggy and was about to hurry into the house when Mother’s voice stopped her. “Andrea, We’ll have lunch first then you can go on the ride with Ellie.
Andi’s shoulders slumped. “Alright, Mother.”
In Andi’s opinion, lunch took way too long! Lucy was feeling better and was able to come to the table. Between Melinda asking Lucy how she was feeling and talking to her about the wedding plans, Chad and Jem discussing ranch business and Mother asking Ellie how she liked church, Andi felt as though she would burst from impatience!
Presently, Mother, noting her impatience turned to her. “Are you all finished eating, Andi dear?”
“You may be excused and go and get ready for your ride.”
Andi left the table and hurried up the stairs.
Ellie also excused herself and went upstairs to change.
Presently, they both met in the barn. Andi dressed in overalls, and Ellie in a riding outfit. Andi had already saddled Taffy and she was working on saddling Panda, whom, Melinda had said Ellie could ride. Ellie helped her finish and soon they were galloping down the lane.
After completing the tour of the ranch, Andi took Ellie down by the creek where they rested the horses.
Ellie walked down to the edge of the creek and dipped her hand in. “Oh, it’s cold!” she exclaimed. Then, turning to Andi, she asked. “Is this your ‘secret place’ where you come to get away?”
“Yes.” Andi replied. “I come here often. In the summer I fish a lot and sometimes Cory or Rosa join me. Other times I just sit here and think.”
Ellie nodded. “That’s what I thought. I used to have a place like it also when I was younger. I had a lot of adventures there!”
Andi laughed “I’ve had a few here as well! But, I think the most memorable one was when I met my brother-in-law for the first time down here at the creek.”
“Wow, that would be an adventure! What happened?”
Andi explained how She, Rosa and Cory had been riding when they came down to the creek, found Troy, and helped him. Not knowing until later that he was after Kate.
Just as she was finishing the story, Taffy let out a sharp whinny and Andi heard a gun cock behind them. Whirling around, she saw a man standing there with a gun pointed at her. His face was one Andi knew all too well.
“Well, little sister, we meet again.”
Andi shuddered. Not him, not here . . . anyone but him.
“Just fancy meeting you here again.” Troy said with an evil glint in his eye.
“What do you want, Troy?” Andi said, praying her voice didn’t shake.
“Well, I just thought that since we are related you might want to help out your brother-in-law. You see, I need around $5,000 to start over. You’ll will help me, won’t you my dear Andi?”
Troy had been walking as he talked and now stood directly in front of Andi.
Andi glanced at Ellie who was standing motionless beside her. “You’re crazy if you think I have that much money. And, even if I did, I wouldn’t give it to you. Besides, what do you want to start over? Stagecoach robbing, bank robbing an--”
“That’s enough!” Troy brought the butt of his pistol down on her head with a sickening crack.
Andi crumpled to the ground, blood streaming from her head.
Before Ellie could move, he shoved her to the ground.
“Don’t move, Troy. Or it will be the last move you make.’
Cory and Micah stood on the bluff above the creek.
“Micah, go see if she’s alright.” Cory nodded toward Andi. “Troy, drop your gun.
Troy’s gun was still pointed at Ellie. Slowly, he let it fall to the ground.
Micah walked over to Andi, picked up her head, and brushed back the hair from the wound that was still gushing blood. Quickly, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it to the wound.
Cory tied Troy with a length of rope from Andi’s saddle then hurried over to where Micah and Ellie were cleaning Andi’s wound with water from the creek.
“Will she be alright?” he asked.
Andi opened her eyes and slowly the face above her took shape. It was no one she knew. It was a handsome young man with curly red hair and dark, sea green eyes.
“Cory, Ellie she’s conscious!” He exclaimed.
Andi struggled to sit up, and his strong arm helped her.
“Cory? You're not supposed to be back till next week.” Andi said. Slowly she put a hand to her head.
“We’ve stopped the bleeding. But you’ll have a nasty bruise and headache for a while” Micah said.
Andi turned toward his voice. “Who are you?” she asked.
He smiled at her. “I’m Micah. I came home with Cory for the summer. We were able to finish exams and get home sooner than we expected.”
“Are you alright , Andi? Can you stand?” Ellie asked.
Andi looked around and saw Cory walking toward her. He reached down a hand and helped her to her feet. “It sure is good to see you, Andi.” he smiled. “Even though it’s not perhaps under the best of circumstances.”
Andi grinned “It sure is good to see you too!” She eyed him critically. Both he and Micah were wearing a suit like the kind Justin wore and Cory’s hair was neatly parted and slicked back. “You look different. More...professional.” Andi said.
Cory grinned. “Well, I’d hope so since I am studying to be a doctor!”
“And you’ll be a good one if you don’t give you patients snakes.” Andi said, grinning.
“That would be a problem.” Cory laughed.
Micah laughed. ‘No, it wouldn’t. It would just mean more patients for me!”
Troy was taken back to the ranch where Justin escorted him into town and to the sheriff's office. Just before they took their leave, Cory turned to Andi. “Do you have any plans for the summer?” he asked.
“No, nothing except Melinda’s wedding.”
“Well, you Micah and I will have to make some plans. After all, we’ve studied hard and deserve a break!”
Andi laughed. “How about a couple of races?” she turned to Micah. “Can you ride?”
“Since I was 5. Andi, I’ve won every race I’ve ever participated in.”
“Oh, looks like we’ll have some serious competition, Cory.”
Cory grinned. “I can hardly wait. Monday then? In our usual place?”
“Your on! I can’t wait to beat both you and Micah.”
Micah’s eyes twinkled at her. “We’ll see about that!