Forgiven but Still Embarrased
Andi Carter rolled her shoulders back with sigh. This is the life! She grinned in satisfaction. Out under the stars on the back of her gorgeous Palamino mare, Taffy was the most calming, peaceful thing Andi could think of. She didn’t often go on night rides. Chad was against it, saying it wasn’t safe for her or the horses. And she wouldn’t be on this one...if she had asked. Chad was wrong. After all, she was seventeen now, and could take care of herself.
Andi froze in the midst of her reminiscing when suddenly, she heard the faint sound of hoof beats pounding somewhere behind her in the distance. She broke out in a cold sweat remembering the horror stories of ladies snatched on nights just like this, and never heard from again.
Stop scaring yourself! Andi commanded silently. She ducked low in the saddle and urged Taffy toward a small group of bushes. She knew the range by heart, and she also knew this one patch of small trees (bushes really) was the only cover the range could provide. She heard the hoof beats coming steadily closer, and she urged Taffy faster.
Reaching the grove of trees, she dismounted and led Taffy about half way through the small patch. Hating what she was about to do, but knowing she had to do it; she quickly looped Taffy’s bridle around a thick branch, then slipped away. Even if they found her horse, they wouldn’t find her. Andi glanced back at her horse, and stopped. The mare’s trusting eyes were watching her every move. She seemed to be saying she would do whatever Andi told her.
When Andi turned again the mare nickered softly. Andi spun around and went back to her horse. She simply couldn’t do it! Suddenly, a new sound reached Andi’s ears. A buggy. The creak and jangle of a large buggy was rather unmistakable. What would a buggy be doing out in the middle of the Carter range land. The wagon pulled into the clearing, and stopped.
“Go see if you can get some wood for a fire, Robert. We’ll camp here. Sammy, help your mama and sister down, boy.”
“They don’t need help,” A sulky voice protested.
“Samuel Allen, I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but you will not disrespect me! Do I make myself clear?”
“Good. Hop to it. Robert, I thought I told you to get wood!”
“Yes, sir. You did. I’ll get right on it.”
Andi gave a small sigh of relief. If it was a whole family, she was most likely safe. Then she froze. She was in the only place within a mile that they could get wood. A sudden crashing nearby told Andi he was doing just as his Pa asked. The crashing footsteps grew nearer and nearer until the boy stepped out in front of her. They both stared. The boy was probably around twelve. He was pretty tall for his age, and much too broad shouldered for a boy his age. The boy spoke first.
“What are you doing here?”
Andi frowned. “I could very well ask you the same thing seeing as you’re trespassing on Carter land.”
“Sure we are. Come out to the wagon and meet Pa.” He then noticed Taffy. “Pretty horse.”
“Thank you, and no thank you. I’m fine where I am.”
The boy shrugged then filled his lungs with air. “Pa! There’s a lost girl in here.”
“I am not lost, this is our rangeland. I’m a Carter!”
“And I was the first monkey off Noah’s ark.” The boy smirked.
“Well, I actually could believe that. I see the resemblance,” Andi shot back.
The boy grinned, but before he could reply, a rather tall, very broad shouldered man appeared. He studied Andi curiously. “Howdy, youngun.”
Andi met his gaze suspiciously. “Howdy.”
“Come on out and meet the family. Then maybe we can find your folks.” He offered.
“No thank you, I’m not lost. This is Carter range land.”
The huge man frowned and his voice deepened. “You had better come up with a better story than that, girl. There ain’t civilization within several miles.”
“I know. I was riding my horse.”
“Why would a wealthy family let a pretty girl like you go night riding?”
“What made you think my family was rich?”
“Are you serious? You can’t live in California and not know who the Carters are! Now answer my question.”
“I didn’t ask. Now will you please leave me and my horse be?”
“No. I’m sorry, but I can’t. I still don’t believe you’re a Carter, and even if you are, you deserved to be punished for not asking.”
“I will be punished plenty when I get home! Now please leave!”
“Come with me.” The former formalities disappeared, and the man’s face darkened like a thundercloud.
“Heyman. Todd Heyman.”
“Look Mr. Heyman. I am perfectly safe and fine where I am. I will be headed home in just a bit, and I’m sure Chad would like to hear about trespassers.” Andi left the sentence hanging. Mr. Heyman shook his head.
“For one, I don’t think he would care, and for two, I don’t care. You are coming with me tonight, even if I have to tie you to a tree. End of discussion.”
Andi held the man’s boring gaze, but he didn’t flinch. He crossed his arms and waited. Finally, Andi heaved a sigh and dropped her gaze. “Fine Mr. Heyman, we will save the charges of trespassing, as well as kidnapping until I get home.”
Mr. Heyman allowed a faint smile to tease his lips.
“Andrea. Andrea Carter.”
“Miss Andrea, please follow me.” Andi trudged behind Mr. Heyman until they exited the woods. Andi patted Taffy’s nose, and murmured in her ear.
“It’ll be okay, girl. Wait and see. I’ll get us out of this. Perhaps when they bed down. I love you so much, Taffy! Why did I even do this tonight? Oh yeah, cause I thought big brother Chad didn’t know what he was talking about, and I got mad. I’m so dumb Taffy!”
Andi buried her head in taffy’s neck and silent tears slipped down her cheeks. Suddenly, 1John 1:9 popped into her head. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Lord, I’m sorry. Please forgive me for not asking permission, and doing something my family wouldn’t approve of. Andi felt a small sense of peace, but she still didn’t know how they were going to get out of this.
That night, Andi waited until darkness had long since settled over the land before she tried her escape. She slipped up from the bedroll she always kept on Taffy’s saddle, and stole through the darkness in the general direction of her horse. Taffy nickered softly, sensing Andi’s unease.
“Shhhh. Easy, girl.” Andi reattached her bedroll, and mounted as silently as possible. She winced at every creak of the saddle, but nothing stirred. Andi suddenly had a thought. They could probably hear her riding out. Maybe, just maybe she could quiet Taffy’s hooves by not riding. Andi dismounted, wincing again at every creak of the saddle. Grabbing Taffy’s bridle Andi stepped quickly, but lightly away from the campsite. When Andi was a good 100 feet from the campsite, she mounted, and reached for the reins.
All of a sudden, something, or rather someone, leaped from behind and seized Taffy’s bridle. Andi screamed. Taffy whinnied, reared, and lashed out with her hind foot.
“Miss Andi?” The voice was all too familiar, she didn’t even have to see the face to know. It was him again, and he had caught her in another embarrassing moment, and he had made her scream like she was seven again. The man who seemed to have a knack for embarrassing her, or catching her in an embarrassing situation.
“Andi Carter! What do you think you’re doing? Do you realize how much you terrified your family? How could you even think of doing such a thing?” Riley’s outburst made Andi cringe. She’d been expecting an explosion, but nothing like this! Andi felt a righteous indignation rising in her.
“Mr. Prescott, may I remind you of your position in this family?” Her voice shook with anger.
“You may, but it won’t change a thing.” His voice was a tad calmer, but that riled Andi even more.
“You are not my brother, you are not my father, and you’re nowhere near being my mother! So I would like to ask you to hold your tongue.”
“Oh, you can ask; however I think I have a pretty good gander what Chad’ll think when he finds out one—where you were; two—what you were doing; and three—
how you talked to me. Ask all you want Andi Carter, but it doesn’t change the facts.”
“Mr. Prescott, I can take my own guess on what Chad will do, as well as Justin, Mitch, and Mother; however, I don’t have to guess what they’ll do to you when they hear how rude you were to me.”
“Rude, Andi? Rude? You ride off in the middle of the night to only God knows where. You terrify your family, your horse is not in the barn, and you’re not in bed. Oh that makes your family feel great doesn’t it? The reason Chad doesn’t let you go night riding is because it’s dangerous. You don’t realize how many young ladies are kidnapped in the night. You think you can blatantly disobey Chad, plus all your other family and not get caught? And you call me rude?”
“Riley Prescott, I’m gonna hear enough about it later, do you really have to tell me this?” Tears blurred Andi’s vision.
“You scared me, Andi. You scared me bad. I was so worried something had happened…” His voice trailed away.
“I’m sorry, Riley. I really am, but can we go home?”
As they turned to go, a voice spoke from behind. “Take her home, boy. She’s had a long night.” It was Mr. Heyman.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Heyman. Thanks for all you did. Come by at a decent hour, and the boss’ll probably give you a job.” Riley didn’t sound scared at all.
“Sure will, Riley. Now take the lady home and both of ya’ll get to bed.”
“Yes, sir! See ya, Mr. Heyman.” Riley spurred the horses, and he and Andi headed back.
“What was that all about?”
“How did you know Heyman?”
“Riley! How do you know Mr. Heyman?”
“Andi, your brother hired him to follow you. He thought you were acting strange, and he asked Heyman to make sure you were okay.”
“Oh, really? So worried, huh? You had someone following me and spying on me, and you can’t believe how I could even think of night riding? Sometimes your impudence shocks me, Riley.”
“Andi, Mr. Heyman lost you for a bit. We were terrified. We had a right to hire him, and we had a right to be scared. Also, I had a right to speak my mind when I first saw you.”
“Sure, Riley. But did you know there is a thing called ‘trust’? You might want to look it up sometime. Maybe it would teach you to think before you do anything. Oh, wait, I forgot. Your brain is a tad too small for that, as in nonexistent.” With that last horribly hateful remark, Andi spurred Taffy ahead of Riley.
“I’m sorry, Andi. Really and truly sorry. We all did what we thought was right at the time.” Riley’s voice was soft.
“Yeah? Well, how about I don’t forgi--” Andi trailed away as a forbidden verse popped into her head. Matthew 6:14-15, ‘ For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’
“I forgive you, Riley. You didn’t even need to ask. You did the right thing. I’m so sorry. I spoke horribly to you, and I left the house without telling you! Oh, Riley! Forgive me?” Tears dripped down Andi’s face.
“Of course I forgive you, Andi. I’m not your nursemaid, you don’t have to tell me every time you leave the house. Just when you leave at night.” Riley looked relieved. They rode in silence for a long while.
Andi suddenly noticed Riley was stopping and making Taffy stop as well. She looked around and noticed they were at her special spot by the creek. Riley dismounted, and helped a very befuddled Andi down as well.
Riley waved his hand for silence, then reached for her hand. “Andi, when we realized you were missing, I almost went crazy. I couldn’t go through it again. That little experience may have been orchestrated by God to make me realize before it’s too late how much I love you.”
Andi caught her breath when she realized what Riley had said.
“Andi, I love you more than you can imagine, and I don’t think I can make it through life without you.” Riley reached for both her hands and looked into her eyes. “Andi Rose Carter, will you consider a courtship?”
Andi was shocked. So many thoughts were running through her head she became dizzy. Do I even love him enough? Andi glanced into his eyes, and the emotion shining out from them was enough to make her realize she loved him. She loved him more than she realized.
“Yes, Riley! A million times yes!”
Riley’s smile was enough to melt her heart. They mounted back up and rode hand in hand back toward the ranch. She would still have to face the music, but she wouldn’t have to alone anymore. She had the man she loved by her side. The man who could embarrass her , and she wouldn’t care anymore. She was great with Riley Prescott by her side!