Andi Carter raced outside.
“Andrea? You cannot expect to go tromping off out the door. Come here.”
Andi groaned and trudged back into the house.
“Andrea Rose, I….. You weren’t actually going to wear those filthy overalls to America’s 100th birthday party, were you?”
Andi was about to reply a stout “yes” when she saw Aunt Rebecca’s face. “No ma’am. I was getting ready to change.”
Aunt Rebecca gave a curt nod. “You may be excused to your room to change, then. And Andrea?”
Andi turned around, halfway up the stairs. “Yes, Ma’am?”
“Do not dilly-dally. We don’t have time for it.”
“Yes ma’am.” Andi ran up to her room.
“And do not run!” She heard her Aunt’s shrill voice and rolled her eyes. How else am I supposed to hurry?
Andi changed into the new dress her aunt bought for her in San Francisco. She looked at it in disgust. The itchy dress was the last thing Andi wanted to put on. She reluctantly slipped on her best shoes and went out into the hall. Longingly she looked at the railing.
“Don’t even think about it!” Aunt Rebecca chirped. Andi sighed and continued down the stairs. “Lord have mercy, child! Can you not tie that bow a little tighter?”
Andi almost giggled. “Yes, Aunt Rebecca.” Then she caught sight of Mitch, trying to sneak behind his Aunt’s back and out the door. She let out a loud guffaw.
“Andrea! What is so hilariously funny?” Aunt Rebecca turned and ran smack into Mitch. “Mitchell James Carter! You just about gave me a heart attack! And what are you doing standing around, listening in on people’s conversations? That’s extremely rude!”
“But Aunt Rebecca I-”
“Don’t backtalk me, Mitchell! Didn’t your father ever teach you a lesson on manners?” Mitch’s blue eyes flashed but he didn’t make a sound.
Just then, Mother walked into the room. “Rebecca, would you like some coffee or tea?”
“No thank you. I was just about to fix Andrea’s hair.”
“I understand. Braids will be fine for Andrea.” Mother gave Rebecca a meaningful look. Aunt Rebecca huffed and asked for hair ties.
Uncle Benjamin and Aunt Lydia walked down the steps with their nine year old son Daniel right on their heels. He smirked at Andi. “It’s a good thing I’m not a girl,” he said, “’Cause I don’t have to wear those silly ol’ dresses.”
“Daniel Paul!” Aunt Lydia gasped. “Excuse my son for his rude behavior,” she apologized, “he has had a late night.”
It was true. The family had had a long night playing Blind Man’s Bluff. Andi loved the game, but Daniel had ruined it by telling the “blind man” where Andi was.
“Son,” Uncle Benjamin said, “return to your room until you can get a handle on yourself.”
“No buts. Go to your room.”
“Yes, sir.” As Daniel walked by Andi, he gave her a sour look. She stuck her tongue out.
“Andrea!” Mother looked appalled. “When someone is punished, we do not make fun of them! I’m ashamed of you.”
Daniel snickered and ran up to his room, muttering that he would never do such a thing.
Andi glared up at the now empty stairs. He deserved it! She thought with satisfaction.
I’m squished! Andi thought. Being jostled around in the carriage was bad enough, but being squished between Aunt Rebecca and Daniel was even worse. She had tried to convince Mother to let her ride Taffy to no avail. Even if Mother had considered it, she knew Aunt Rebecca would not allow her.
Andi sat back and thought about the birthday party. “Andi, you’re living in history!” Justin had said. “One-Hundred years ago, America was founded.”
“What does that mean?” she had asked.
“That means that some important men signed a paper that said, ‘We are a free country. England no longer has a right to control us.’”
There was going to be a celebration in Fresno. There was going to be games for the children and the fair was even coming to town! Mother had given Andi $1.00.
What am I going to spend with one whole dollar?
She remembered two years ago when she had won a little black lamb at the same fair. She had named him Inky. The baby lamb had made quite a mess and Chad had not let her keep it. She had given the lamb to her friend, Carrie. Carrie had been overjoyed when she had learned Andi was giving her the lamb.
Maybe she would win something that Chad would let her keep! It cost one penny to get a piece of taffy. Taffy was her favorite candy.
Another jolt from the carriage brought her back to the present.
“We’re almost there,” Justin was saying, “just ten minutes left.”
Andi said a silent Hallelujah.
“What are we having for dinner, Mother?”
“Ham, potato salad, rolls, corn on the cob, and watermelon. We will have dinner right after the parade.”
The parade! Andi had forgotten. There would be horses and carriages riding along Main Street. The people would wave and toss candy towards the crowd. Andi’s mouth watered just thinking about it.
The carriage screeched to a halt. Justin stepped down and started helping Mother, Aunt Lydia, and Aunt Rebecca out of the carriage.
“I do declare,” complained Aunt Rebecca as she stepped down, “that we hit every bump in the road. My old bones have had quite enough of the roads in Fresno.” Justin started to help Andi down, but she jumped out. Aunt Rebecca glanced disapprovingly at her niece but did not say anything.
Melinda climbed down next, then Daniel, Uncle Benjamin, Chad, and Mitch. Andi took a look around. There were exhibits of all kinds from quilt exhibits to pig exhibits. Mother, Aunt Lydia, Aunt Rebecca, and Melinda went towards the quilt exhibit. Chad, Daniel, and Uncle Benjamin went towards the animal exhibits. Mitch’s suitor, Laura, had told him she would be waiting for him at the canned tomatoes exhibit.
“What do you want to do, little sis?”
Andi turned towards Justin. “I-”
“Andi! Andi Carter!” Andi turned and waved at her friend, Cory Blake.
“Hi!” she yelled.
“Andi….” Justin warned.
“Oops. Sorry.” She lowered her voice. “Which exhibit are you going to?” she asked.
“The horse exhibit.”
“Me too!” Andi and Cory ran off ahead of Justin and Mr. and Mrs. Blake.
“What are ya’ll doing for lunch?” Andi asked. Cory shrugged. “You should eat with us. We’re having ham, potato salad, rolls, corn on the cob, and watermelon.”
“Sounds delicious! Your mother’s a good cook.”
“She is, but I bet you Louisa made the meal. Speaking of Louisa, it was too bad Rosa couldn’t come.” The feisty Mexican girl was having her own celebration with her Mamá, Papá, and brother, Joselito. They were having tamales for lunch.
“Wow, look at that horse! It’s definitely going to win if it’s entered.” Cory’s voice brought Andi back to the present.
A huge Arabian horse stood not ten feet away, prancing in place. The chestnut color gleamed in the hot July sun. Andi whistled softly.
“Look at that beauty!” she breathed.
“You like him?”
Both Cory and Andi whirled. A tall man stood behind them, smiling.
“Yes!” both kids said at once.
The man chuckled. “His name’s Aristo. I’m his owner, Mr. Roy Farmer.” Mr. Roy held out his hand. Cory took his hand and shook it.
“My name’s Cory, and this is Andi.”
“Andy?” The man raised an eyebrow.
“My real name’s Andrea, but everyone calls me Andi.”
“I see. Nice to meet you, Andi, Cory. Is this your father?” he asked as Justin walked up.
“No, he’s my brother, Justin.”
“You have a mighty fine young lady, sir. Very polite.” Mr. Roy smiled. “By the way, my name’s Roy Farmer and that’s my horse, Aristo.”
Justin shook the man’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“I’ve got to get going. The judges will be looking at the Arabian’s at 10:30.” The man stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out two peppermints. He handed them to Andi and Cory, then tipped his hat and walked away.
“He was nice!” Andi exclaimed.
Justin laughed. “Any man who gives you candy is nice to you Andi!”
“Can we go see the judging on the Arabian horses?” asked Andi.
Justin looked at Mr. and Mrs. Blake. “I believe that would be fine.” said Mr. Blake.
Andi squealed and took off running. Cory was right on her heels. When they got into the arena, the judging had just started. The judges introduced the horses and owner’s names. Andi spotted Mr. Roy and nudged Cory. They both waved.
Mr. Roy saw them waving and waved back.
The judges walked around the horses, examining their posture and muscles. The judges went back to their seats and scribbled something on a piece of paper. Then they stood up and made the announcement.
“Third place goes to Aphrodite and her owner, Mr. James Peterson. Second place goes to Gypsy and her owner Mr. John Oscars. First place goes to Aristo and his owner Mr. Roy Farmer.”
Andi and Cory jumped with joy. Aristo had won! On their way out, Andi and Cory congratulated Mr. Roy and Aristo.
“For celebration,” Mr. Roy said, “I’ll pay for any kind of candy you would like.” Andi gasped. Getting a peppermint was one thing, however getting any kind of candy she wanted for free was unheard of!
“Thank you, Mr. Roy!” Cory said, finding his manners before Andi.
“Yes, thank you!”
“It’s my pleasure.” Mr. Roy smiled. “What kind would you like?”
“Taffy!” exclaimed Andi.
“Lemon drops!” said Cory.
The Carter family, plus the Blake family, were walking around looking at the different exhibits. “Mother, look at the pattern of this quilt. Isn’t it beautiful?” Melinda was saying for the hundredth time.
“You said that about the last quilt you saw, Melinda!” Andi teased.
“They’re all beautiful,” Melinda shot back. Andi giggled. She turned and about ran into a man hurrying by.
“Excuse me!” she started to apologize, but the man was already gone. Then she noticed a $5 bill drop out of the man’s pocket. She was about to tell the man when Daniel, not seeing Andi, walked up, looked both ways, then grabbed the money and stuck it in his pocket. He then walked away, whistling.
Andi gasped. Her cousin had just stolen a $5 bill!
“Will you pass me the ham?” Mitch asked.
“Will you pass me the ham please, Mitchell.” replied Aunt Rebecca sternly.
“I’m sorry.” Mitch’s blue eyes danced.
“Andrea, don’t play with your food! Are you feeling sick?” Aunt Rebecca asked worriedly.
“No, Ma’am, I’m fine.”
“Andi, you haven’t touched your potato salad. What’s wrong, sweetie?” Mother wrapped an arm around her daughter.
“Nothing. Really, I’m fine.” She wasn’t fine. She hadn’t been, ever since she had seen Daniel steal the $5 bill. The parade hadn’t cheered her up at all, which was unusual. Andi looked up. “Really.” she said.
Her family and friends were staring at her with concern. Chad shrugged and continued talking about ranch life to Uncle Benjamin.
“Andi, you want to play tag?” Daniel asked.
“No! I mean, no thank you. I have to finish my food.”
Daniel gave Andi a strange look. “You love tag.”
Not with a thief!
“I’m hungry.” Andi choked down some ham and potato salad.
“Girls,” Daniel scoffed, “I’m not hungry. I’m hungry. I’m not hungry! Can’t make up their ever loving minds.”
Andi glared at him. “Maybe I just don’t want to play with a thief!” she shot back. Then she covered her mouth with her hand. Will Mother think I’m a tattler?
“A thief?” exclaimed Uncle Benjamin. “Whatever are you talking about, Andrea?” Before Andi could reply, Daniel spoke up.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I would never do such a thing!”
“Liar!” Andi shouted before she could bite back the words.
“Andrea! I would expect better out of you. My son is not a liar. If I were your father, I would tan your hide.” Uncle Benjamin shouted.
“Uncle Benjamin, if you are wise, you will not lay a hand on her.” Chad glared at him.
“I was simply saying-”
“You were simply saying nothing. Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes indeed! I should say so!”
“Benjamin….” Aunt Lydia laid a hand on her husband’s arm.
“Andrea,” Aunt Rebecca began, “what did Daniel steal?”
“A $5 bill.”
Aunt Lydia drew in a sharp intake of breath.
“Did you see him take it?” Aunt Rebecca looked sharply at Daniel. His face had gone pale.
“Aunt Rebecca I-”
“Do not ‘Aunt Rebecca’ me, Daniel.” She turned back to Andi. “Where did this take place?”
“You and Mother were looking at quilts. I turned around and nearly collided with a tall man who was in a hurry. As he rushed by, I saw a $5 bill fall out of his pocket. I started to pick it up and give it back when Daniel came out of nowhere, picked it up, and stuck it in his pocket. Then he ran off.”
Aunt Rebecca nodded. Then she turned to Daniel. “You said you didn’t do it-”
“Don’t interrupt me, Daniel. You said you didn’t do it. I’ll believe you….if you don’t have proof. Empty your pockets.”
Daniel’s face turned white as a ghost. “Father won’t make me do it. Will you?”
Uncle Benjamin started to answer, but Aunt Lydia cut in. “Just do it, Daniel. If you’re so sure you’re not guilty, then you won’t have any trouble doing it.”
Daniel gulped and nodded then pulled his pockets all the way out. A $5 bill fell to the ground. Daniel tried with no avail to grab it before it fell. Aunt Rebecca snatched it from the ground.
“I…I earned that fair and square.”
“Daniel, how would you earn that much money in a day? Moreover, how did you earn five dollars at a fair?”
Daniel’s shoulders sagged and he mumbled, “I stole it.”
Uncle Benjamin looked sick. “This is preposterous! My own son, a thief! And the fact that you lied about it over and over again, that is just unbelievable! I will be taking you home as soon as lunch is over. We will rent a horse and buggy.”
Daniel’s head snapped up. “Father, I promise, I will-”
“Obey you and do as you say.” Uncle Benjamin finished, giving Daniel a stern look.
Daniel nodded miserably. “Yes sir.” Aunt Lydia started to get up.
“Lydia, you stay here and have fun. Daniel and I need to have a talk.”
Aunt Lydia nodded and sat back down. She turned to Andi, who had been silent the whole time. “I’m sorry Benjamin distrusted you.”
Andi shrugged. “It’s fine.”
Aunt Rebecca held up the money. “We’ve got another problem.”
Andi groaned inwardly. It’s going to be harder to find this man then a needle in a bale of hay!
“Why didn’t you tell us?” asked Mother.
“Because I thought you would think of me as a squealer.”
“Sweetie, you should have told me. Telling on someone just for the spite of it is wrong. If you think it could hurt someone physically, mentally, or spiritually, it’s not wrong.”
Andi nodded. “I understand.”
Chad rubbed his hands together. “Let’s clean up so we can watch the fireworks!” Everyone cheered. As they walked around the fair, Andi spotted the man whom Daniel had stolen from. She grabbed Justin’s arm. “That’s him!” she hissed, pointing.
She ran over to the man. “Sir, I believe this is yours.” She handed him the money. The man looked startled, then a grin split across his face. “Thank you very much!” he shook her hand vigorously.
“You’re welcome.” Andi skipped off, feeling light as air. Justin smiled and took her hand.
“I know what I want to spend my $1 on.”
“What’s that, honey?”
“Lemonade! I sure am thirsty!”
Justin laughed and led her over to the lemonade stand. It had been a good day, after all.