Never for Nothing

 by Ella Grace

Kaboom!

Thunder rumbled and shook the Circle C Ranch. Lightning streaked, thin branches outlined in its light. Rain poured down in sheets. Thunder rolled again. Then  the rain slowed, coming to a trickle. Lightning and thunder paused.  

The whinny of a frightened horse broke through the stillness like a pistol shot. Lightning tore from the sky in response, thunder seconds behind it. Rain fell hard upon the ground. Out of the rain, a horse appeared. Bedraggled, scared, and running for its life.

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“Hang it all!” Chad barged into the dining room covered in mud.

Mitch jumped, nearly spilling his milk. “What is it?” he asked his brother. I bet anything it’s the rain. 

“Three weeks!” Chad slammed his wet hat onto the table. “Three weeks and we still have no idea whose horse that is!” 

Mitch chuckled. “Are you sure it’s the horse that’s bothering you and not the month of rain?”

Chad glowered at his brother. “Of course not.” He thumped down at his place and speared a pancake with his fork. “I've searched everywhere I can think of, but no one knows anything about it!”

Mitch shook his head. “If it’s the rain that is bothering you, I understand. We haven’t had rain this long since Father was a boy.” He stuck a bite of pancake into his mouth. “If it’s the horse, then I can’t help you, brother.” 

Chad shot another glare across the table. “Where’s Justin?”

. “Don’t ask me. I haven’t seen anyone but Melinda this morning. She already ate.”

Chad settled down in exasperated silence and set to finishing his breakfast.

Mitch quietly shoved back his chair, leaving his napkin next to his plate.

Chad scowled. “If you are leaving to go muck out a stall, don’t bother,” he grumbled through a mouthful of ham.

Mitch raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”

“Andi is doing it.” Chad stood up. “We are trying one more time to find the owner of that mysterious horse.”

Mitch let out a groan. “That is all I’ve done for days. At this point I’d welcome dirty stalls.” 

Chad flashed a weary smile. “What do you think I’ve been doing?” 

“Remind me why we’re doing this again?”

Chad stifled a groan. “What else would we do when a horse charges onto our ranch, running for its life?” 

“I don’t know. Maybe keep it, nurse it back to health. The horse had whip marks on its back. Its owner obviously isn’t very kind. And Andi has really taken to it. She’s even named it.” 

Chad shot his brother a confounded look. “Why on earth would we keep it? It has to go back to its owner. Now stop suggesting and start listening.” 

Mitch threw up his hands. “Just asking.”

Rifling through his pockets, Chad pulled out a rumpled piece of paper. “I put this advertisement in the papers a few days ago. No answer yet. And I asked Mr. Blake to keep an eye out for anyone missing a horse. You were supposed to ride around asking. Did you?” 

Mitch nodded. 

“Did you set the horse out to pasture?”

Mitch nodded. Then shook his head. 

“You didn’t?” 

“You didn’t tell me to!” His voice was a mix of consternation and exasperation. 

Chad appeared thoughtful. “Good point.” He paused. “Well, go do it. I’m gonna go into town to see if there’s any news.” 

Mitch nodded and trotted off towards the barn. Maybe we’ll find something out about that horse today. No one else sees it, but the poor horse is listless. It is getting worse, not better. I pray someone answers that newspaper ad soon… 

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Mitch whistled as he strode into the barn. He was in a good mood today. The rain had trickled to a stop the night before after a month of pelting Fresno. The day was bright and cheery. Birds sang, and the air was crisp and clear.  On top of that, Peter had told him the  circus was coming to town. 

Mitch turned his whistle into the circus theme song and hiked his pitchfork into the wheelbarrow. His gaze turned to the empty stalls. 

“Hang it all, ” he muttered. Why, in all the days in the last three weeks, did Andi have to choose TODAY to foist her chores on me? 

Grumbling, Mitch made his way to the hayloft ladder. In a swift motion he swung himself up and planted his feet in the soft straw at the top. A quiet gasp made him jerk his head up. 

A young woman sat in front of him, a homemade journal clutched to her chest. She was of average height and slight build. Her creamy blonde hair hung in bedraggled ringlets around her soft, cherub face. Her eyes, one hazel, the other amber, gazed back at him in confusion and fear. One hand fingered the edge of her green plaid shirt while the other clutched the journal.

 She’s certainly good-looking despite being a bit muddy, he thought. Then with a start at what he had just thought, he scowled and cleared his mind. 

The girl lowered her gaze and spoke. Her voice, clear and soprano, twisted the words with a slight accent, but from where, Mitch couldn’t tell. “Please don’t be annoyed. I’m not doing any harm, am I?” Her gaze turned pleading. “I can do the chores for you, if you’ll forget I was here.” 

Mitch nodded. “Don’t worry about that. We can go back to the house and get you cleaned up. My family and I would love to hear why a beautiful young girl like yourself would be hiding in our hayloft.” He winced and mentally kicked himself. Smooth move, Mitch. Maybe next time just fall at her feet. 

He held out a hand and she waved it away, scrambling to her feet. Her bare feet crunched in the straw as she came toward him. 

Mitch gasped. Instead of the homespun skirt he had supposed she wore, the girl’s slight body was clad in a pair of jeans which showed off her slim figure perfectly. He’d never seen jeans on a girl, even Andi. 

Oblivious to his stares, the girl placed a hand on the edge of the hayloft and vaulted to the floor with the grace of a cat. Mitch followed, scrambling down the ladder and tripping over the last rung, much to his embarrassment. The girl laughed, the sound like wind chimes in a light summer breeze.

Mitch picked himself up, red-faced and flustered.

The girl spoke through her giggling. “Does it matter which stall I start on?” 

Mitch shook his head vigorously. “No!”

She giggled harder. 

Color flooded Mitch’s face. Why not just stand on my head while I’m at it? Get a hold of yourself, Mitch! “No, you aren’t cleaning stalls. We are taking you inside.”

The girl shook her head. “No, please.” She lowered her big, wide eyes. “Vær så snill, jeg vil ikke plage familien din.”

Mitch shot the girl a bemused smile as he took her arm. “I believe that was a protest, wasn’t it?”

A twinge of pink rushed to her cheeks. “Pardon me,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to speak in my native tongue.”

Mitch’s eyes twinkled. “I liked the sound of it. Where are you from?”

The girl looked up, her eyes lighting up. “Oh! You liked it?”

“I did.”

“It’s Norwegian; I’m from Norway. My parents came here when I was a young child.” A wistful look came into her deep eyes. “I miss it there.”

“What’s it like?” Mitch questioned, intrigued. Her eyes are beautiful when she talks about— What am I thinking? He mentally slapped himself again. 

The girl chattered about the glaciers and mountains as Mitch led her to the house. She touched on volcanoes and hot springs, her words spilling over with her love of her home country. 

Mitch listened, his gaze fixed on her face the entire time. He nearly tripped as he led her into the entryway. Her eyes flashed with concern, but she kept talking. Then she saw the inside of the house. Her words trailed off.

Mitch stood beside her and pointed out different things of interest. Her gentle, red lips formed a round O as her gaze followed his finger. Before he could finish his quick tour, Mitch heard his mother calling. 

“Mitch!” Elizabeth’s voice wafted into the room. “Who do you have there? Please introduce me.” 

Mitch led the girl into the living room, where his mother sat embroidering. Elizabeth looked up at her son and let out a small gasp. She gathered herself up and gave the girl a curtsy. The girl looked startled but returned Elizabeth’s gesture with an awkward mimic. 

“Mother, I found this little beauty covered in straw and hiding in our hayloft. I was wondering if you’d be willing to clean her up a bit before we hear why she was there.” Mitch smiled down at the girl. 

Elizabeth took the girl gently by the hand. “What is your name, child?” 

“Everlee Kait, ma’am.” 

“Please call me Elizabeth. You certainly have a beautiful name.” 

Everlee lowered her gaze. “Thank you.” 

Elizabeth smiled and guided Everlee from the room. Calling over her shoulder, she addressed her son. “Please ask Luisa to make Everlee a cup of cocoa. I think she’d like that.” 

Mitch nodded and left the room. I wonder if she’s ever had hot chocolate before…

When Everlee reappeared, Mitch sat in the kitchen, leaning against the table with a cup of cocoa. She was arrayed in a simple slate blue gown of cotton, but she stroked it like it was made of gold. Her hair lay in shining curls all around her cherub face, her cheeks a soft rose, her eyes glowing.

To Mitch, she looked like an angel. He smiled . “Would you like some cocoa?”

Everlee nodded. “Yes, please.”

Mitch pulled out a chair for her and handed her a mug.

She hesitated before taking it. “I don’t want to hurt the dress,” she breathed. “It’s so beautiful. I’ve never worn anything like it.” 

Mitch grinned. “Don’t worry, Everlee. If you spill on the dress, there are dozens more upstairs you can change into.” 

Her eyes widened as she took the mug from him. “I can’t even imagine that, Mitch.”

“Don’t try.” He thumped down in the chair next to her. 

“Your mother was quite kind to me. You will thank her for me, won’t you?” Everlee’s deep eyes held a touch of concern. 

“Of course, but you are planning on staying the night? Aren’t you?” 

Pink rose in Everlee’s face, and she dropped her gaze. “I was not planning to.” She lifted her eyes. “Do you often have guests stay the night?”

Mitch shook his head and took a sip from his mug. “No. But Mother will insist you stay.”

Everlee’s brow wrinkled. “Would it be quite alright?”

“Quite. My siblings would love to meet you.”

She gave an uncertain nod and tried the cocoa. 

“May I ask why you were hiding in our hayloft?”

“I explained it to your mother, but I was looking for Compass, my horse. She’s a black and white… something. I’m not sure of her breed.”

Mitch raised his eyebrows. “White with black spots and two black legs?”

Everlee nodded. 

You can’t be serious. She owns the horse. “She’s in our barn.” 

Everlee nearly dropped her cocoa. “She is?” 

“Yep. We’ve been searching for her owner for quite some time.” 

Everlee’s eyes glowed. “I’m so glad I found her! I have to see her!”

Mitch leaned back in his chair, arms behind his head. “If only you’d come a couple weeks earlier. You would have saved Chad from almost going insane.” His brow darkened. “You weren’t the one who whipped that poor horse, were you?”

Everlee  gave a sharp shake of her head. “Oh, no! I would never do a thing like that.” 

“May I ask how Compass got them?”

Everlee looked down at her lap.  When she raised her eyes, Mitch was startled to see tears brimming. 

“You see,” she began softly, “we got separated in the storm. I’ve been searching for her ever since.” 

“And?”

One tear spilled over. “She was running from her keeper’s  abuse. I wasn’t.” Her eyes dropped and she whispered in Norwegian.  

Mitch leaned forward. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, Ev.” 

Everlee raised her eyes. They were filled with pain. “Compass was not an essential in our life, no matter how I begged. She was born different– black and white instead of pure white. When she was old enough, we sent her to her keeper.” Her voice lowered. “But he changed. We did not know he abused her.” 

She took a shuddering breath. “About five months ago, I was sent to fetch Compass, as her dam had passed away and we needed her now. When I got there, her keeper treated me as a slave. It was not just physical abuse he gave me. It was spiritual and mental as well. He ridiculed me for believing in God. For almost everything I did. By the time I got away, I was— running for my— life.” 

Everlee’s breath came in short gasps, her words halting.

Every bit of Mitch’s being screamed that Ev was not telling him everything. What is she not telling me? Do I even want to know? He reached over and laid his hand over her cold, small one.

She shuddered.  “Many nights I was not sure if I’d come out alive .I tried everything to get away, and it was only a few weeks ago that I managed while he was asleep.” Her body quivered.

Mitch longed to comfort her. 

“I’m going back to my parents now.” Another tear slid down her cheek. “With Compass. They haven’t heard from me since November.” She looked up with a stricken face. “You do not think he will come looking for me, do you?”

Mitch shook his head. “No. He knows what he’s done and wouldn’t dare. I’d like to hunt him down and teach him a lesson.”

Another tear slipped from her cheek. “Thank you.”

Mitch looked confused. “For what?”

“Everything,” she answered. “Not being mad at me when you first saw me, showing me kindness, just everything.” 

Mitch pulled her into a tight hug. “You are very welcome, Ev.” 

 The next morning when the family arose, the only trace of the girl with the cherub face was a note in the living room. 

 

Dear Carters, 

 I thank you for your hospitality and apologize for leaving as I did. I couldn’t bear saying goodbye to another set of friends. My whole life I’ve made and lost friends and leaving your family was the hardest of all. I’ve never had anyone other than my parents treat me with such kindness. I pray we will meet again someday; that this is not goodbye forever. May God bless your family. 

Everlee Kait

 

Later, when reading the note again, Mitch ran his hand over the spot where it had been left. His fingers touched something sharp. He pulled out another folded piece of paper. His name was scribbled on the front. 

 

Mitch, 

 I can’t guarantee you will find this, but I wanted to personally thank you for everything you did. I don’t know if you can understand what your kindness meant to me. I guess my suffering was not for nothing, I met you and your family. I pray we'll meet again. Please consider this a gift for everything you have done and a hope that we can speak again. 

Your friend, 

Ev

 

With the note were seven circus tickets. Mitch gazed at the note then clasped it to his heart, the meaning of the tickets falling into place. 

He would see her again. She had made sure of that. Mitch smiled and thanked God for the gift of the girl and the horse. It was not goodbye forever. And nothing was ever for nothing. 

Comments

  1. I'm so sorry! I accidentally deleted the comments in this and about 14 other fan fiction stories. My bad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aww it's okay Mrs. M!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh my goodness, I love this story! Keep writing awesome stories.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You should write a sequel Ella!! I can clearly see Mitch has fallen in love with Everlee! So sweet!

    ReplyDelete

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