Actually, I was pretty surprised I placed this time around because I didn't feel that the plot was very good in the story. But...I'll let you draw your own conclusions after reading my story. Don't worry, next week you'll be getting the next chapter of "The Princess & I". No worries. ;)
A Story from Between the “Circle C Adventures” and the “Circle C Milestones”
In breathless anticipation, Andi Carter watched the stage coach slowly rattle to a stop in front of the post office. Two young men stepped out, closely followed by a girl her age. She ignored the hand offered her by the taller man and jumped out by herself. Her wild, red hair had calmed down into a slightly more mature auburn, but the twinkling eyes that met Andi’s across the street left her in no doubt as to who the girl was.
“Jenny!” Andi squealed, oblivious to the shocked stares from various people on the street. She picked up the skirt her mother had insisted she wear, and ran across to greet her friend.
Jenny met her halfway and the friends embraced.
“I’m mighty glad to see you!” Jenny whispered happily. “Mother finally gave me permission to visit again, but refused to let me go alone. Thankfully, Eli and Micah were willing to come along!”
“Eli and Micah?” Andi asked in confusion. “Who are they?”
“Two of my brothers,” Jenny hurriedly explained, then gasped and put her hand over her mouth, eyes dancing. “I forgot to introduce them! Mother would be fit to be tied!”
Andi joined her friend’s laughter as Jenny brought her over to the two young men standing by the luggage. “Andi, these are my brothers, Eli and Micah. Eli’s older, but Micah has him beat in height. Brothers, this is Andi Carter, my friend from the fancy ladies’ school.”
The two young men gave Andi awkward bows. She smiled at their attempted manners and quickly tried to make them more comfortable. “I reckon you don’t have to worry about fancy manners with me,” she announced. “I hate them myself.”
Both brothers glanced at Jenny with grins on their faces.
“I told ‘em you were like me,” Jenny explained, “but they didn’t believe me until now.”
“She’s right,” the younger brother, Micah, admitted with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes that reminded Andi of her friend, Cory Blake.
Andi smiled. “If you wait for a bit, I’ll corral Justin—he’s my oldest brother—and let him know we’re ready to get along home. It won’t take me long.”
“I’ll come too,” Jenny offered.
Andi nodded, glad for the company. They walked towards Justin’s office while telling each other what had happened to them during the last few years since Jenny’s last visit.
Justin met them at the door with a welcoming smile. “It’s good to see you again Miss Grant,” he said. “You’ve grown up quite a bit since the last time you were here on a visit!”
“I’m afraid so!” Jenny laughed.
“Thankfully you haven’t changed much on the inside,” Andi whispered, giving her friend’s hand a squeeze. Jenny returned the gesture with a grin.
“Well Andi, I’d better get you and our guests home soon to save Mother from having to keep supper warm.” Justin unhitched the wagon and helped the girls into it after locking up his office.
On their way to pick up Jenny’s brothers, sounds of a fight grew louder. Andi looked at her brother and saw his lips were drawn into a tight line. He hated brawls of any kind at all times.
A man ran towards Justin with a relived look on his face. “I was just coming to get you Mr. Carter. Sheriff needs your help separating some troublemakers.”
Justin gave the man a curt nod, and jumping from the wagon, handed the reins to Andi. “Stay in the wagon until I return,” he commanded. “A fight is no place for ladies.”
The minute her brother’s form disappeared around the corner, Jenny took the reins from Andi’s hands, a twinkle appearing in her eyes.
“What are you doing?” Andi asked in surprise.
“He told us to stay in the wagon,” Jenny explained. “He said nothin’ about us not driving it.”
Suddenly Andi understood what her friend was going to do. “He did tell us that a fight was no place for ladies,” she protested weakly.
“We both know we’re not ladies,” Jenny answered with a laugh. “However, to please your brother, we’ll stay a safe distance from the fight. Satisfied?”
Andi nodded. “I guess as long as we’re careful…”
Jenny grinned and drove the wagon around the corner. There she stopped abruptly. In front of the post office, the dust had settled enough for both girls to see the two struggling men held back by Justin and the sheriff.
“One of ‘em is Eli!” Jenny exclaimed, though not in surprise.
“It looks like the other man got the worst of it,” Andi said after studying both men critically.
Just then, Justin stormed over to the wagon. Behind him were Jenny’s two brothers, Eli with a black eye and a bloody lump on the side of his head.
“I thought I told you to stay where you were!” he said.
“We did,” Jenny replied innocently. “You asked us to stay in the wagon, and here we are.”
Justin was stumped for only a moment. “You knew what I meant by that Miss Jenny Grant, as did you Andi Carter. You two ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
“Andi tried to stop me.” Jenny hurriedly came to her friend’s defense. “But I insisted. I’m very sorry for disobeying you Mr. Carter. It won’t happen again, I promise.”
“Very well. I accept your apology Miss Grant.” Justin softened a little. He got into the wagon, followed by Jenny’s two brothers. “Let’s get you all home before anything else happens!”
* * *
Eli winced as Mrs. Carter gingerly felt the lump on the side of his head. “Well,” she announced, “it certainly could have been worse! I’m surprised you came away from that fight with no more than a black eye and a lump.”
Jenny’s brother grinned wryly. “Compared to some of them boys I work with, including my own brothers, the man I fought punched like a sissy.”
“What was the fight about?” Andi asked, finally able to satisfy her curiosity.
“He didn’t take a likin’ to my crude manners. That’s all.” Eli’s answer was bitter.
Jenny grinned. “Eli has the shortest temper in our family,” she said. “Pretty much anything can get him riled.”
Eli punched Jenny playfully in the shoulder. “You quit spreadin’ falsehoods about your brothers,” he ordered, but with a wide grin that belied his stern words.
Jenny laughed and turned her sparkling eyes to Andi. “And now you tell me what’s been goin’ on with you since the last time I came. How’s your horse? Has Cory found a gold strike yet? Any more crazy trips into the mountains on a wild goose chase?”
“Come with me and I’ll show you how my horse is doing while answering your other questions!” Andi replied.
After getting permission from her mother and leaving Jenny’s two brothers to talk to Justin, Chad, and Mitch, Andi dragged her friend to the barn. She stopped a moment at the door and breathed in the familiar, wonderful smells around her beloved horse. Taffy’s ears were pricked forward and she nickered a welcome to the two girls. Andi had managed to slip a few carrots from the kitchen and handed one of them to Jenny now, who fed it to Taffy. Over Taffy’s crunching, Andi answered Jenny’s other questions.
“Cory hasn’t found a gold strike yet, though he’s tried plenty! He keeps coming up with loco ideas, and tries roping me into them, but so far I’ve kept out of trouble.” She grinned. “There haven’t been any more trips into the mountains yet either, mother was scared so stiff last time that it’ll take a while before she’s ready to let us go again.”
“I only wish I could convince my mother to let me come here more often,” Jenny said mournfully. “I sure miss having you to talk too when I go back home.”
“I miss you too,” Andi agreed. “I am glad you’re here now!”
Jenny brightened. “For two whole weeks!”
“We’ll have to stuff as many things into those two weeks as we can,” Andi said, suddenly overwhelmed. “What should we do first?”
“I was just about to ask you that!” Jenny answered. Both girls thought in silence for a moment. Then Andi’s eyes drifted to her horse, an idea suddenly coming.
“Let’s go see Cory!” she exclaimed. “He’s always in town, helping his father with the livery stable, at this time.”
Jenny nodded eagerly. “And see if he has any more crazy ideas!” she added.
Just then Jenny’s brother, Micah, walked into the barn. He noticed them over by Taffy and wandered over, his hands in his pockets. “That your horse?” he asked Andi curiously. She nodded. “Shore is a perty thing,” he added.
“Andi and I are goin’ into town Micah,” Jenny announced. “Want to come?”
Micah shifted his weight from one leg to the other, contemplating the offer. “Shore will.” He grinned. “Sounds fun.”
Andi convinced Mitch and Chad that they needed to go to town with her and her friends for some ranch supplies and soon the five of them were well on their way. Eli decided to stay; he had a headache.
Andi and Jenny, both astride Taffy, were soon far ahead of the much slower wagon that carried the brothers. They arrived in town first and dismounted in front of the livery stable.
Jenny saw Cory first and wordlessly pointed towards him, her eyes dancing with fun. The friends shared a silent conversation, both agreeing to scare the living daylights out of him. On tiptoes, Andi’s hand over Taffy’s muzzle to keep her from alerting Cory to their presence, the girls snuck closer to the blond-haired boy.
Jenny mouthed, one, two, three! Then both girls shouted, “Cory!”
The boy spun around, his fist swinging towards them blindly. It stopped inches from Andi’s stomach and he dropped it with a sheepish grin of recognition. “Sorry Andi, I didn’t realize it was you.” His eyes wandered over to Jenny and widened in surprise. “Jenny Grant?”
She held out a hand for him to shake. “Mighty good to see you again Cory,” she said with a grin. “It’s been a while.”
“Sure has!” he agreed, taking the offered hand and shaking it enthusiastically. “How long have you been in these parts?”
“I just came today. We would’ve stopped by earlier, but my brother got himself into a fight with someone so we had to high-tail it out to Andi’s family so he could get taken care of.”
“You have brothers here too?”
“Yes, two of my brothers came with me this time. Otherwise I don’t think Mother would have let me come. She hates letting me travel by myself.”
“Is he one of your brothers?” Cory asked, pointing behind the girls.
They both looked the direction he pointed and saw Andi’s brothers come into the stable, followed by Micah.
“Mitch and I are going to be in Goodwin’s store if you have any problems,” Chad informed Andi and Jenny. “Let us know when you’re ready to go home. Micah wanted to be with you two.”
Andi smiled. “Sure!” Her brothers left and there was a short, awkward silence. Andi quickly filled the pause with introductions. “Micah, this is my friend Cory Blake. He works here in this livery stable.”
“Pleased to meet you Mr. Blake,” Micah said stiffly.
Cory waved away the formality with a grin. “Just call me Cory. My father is Mr. Blake.”
Micah’s stiffness melted away and he returned the friendly grin. “It shore is nice knowin’ other folks that don’t take to all them manners.”
During the following hours, Jenny pestered Cory and Andi with questions about their town and all that had gone on. It wasn’t long before Cory and Micah were fast friends and vowed to see each other as often as possible for the duration of their short stay.
Sadly, Mitch and Chad finished their business in town fairly quickly and came to find them. Cory helped them load the wagon and soon the friends parted and drove back to the ranch for a hot dinner and warm bed.
* * *
“Wake up!” A pillow landed on Andi’s face and then her blankets were unceremoniously yanked off of her.
Andi sat up suddenly, ready to glower at whoever dared awaken her. Her fierce frown only caused the tormentor to burst into a merry peal of laughter.
“Oh Andi! You look a sight!” Her friend squealed gleefully.
Andi tried to keep from joining the contagious laughter. “Jenny Grant!” she began to scold. It was to no avail. Her mouth twitched, a grin spread across her face, and soon she joined her friend. “You’re the one who looks a sight!” Andi exclaimed, her outbursts of mirth dying down into the occasional hiccup. “Look at yourself!”
The door opened and Melinda came in looking very stern and disapproving. The girls got to their feet guiltily, trying earnestly to suppress their hiccups.
“You are both late for breakfast, and it’s getting cold now,” the older sister said. “Stop you’re ridiculous behavior and get dressed quickly.”
“Yes ma’am,” both girls responded in unison.
Melinda stalked from the room, and they heard her firm footsteps going downstairs. Andi looked at her friend and rolled her eyes, a giggle slipping out.
Jenny grinned. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning!”
Andi shrugged and began dressing. “Oh, Melinda just doesn’t like getting up early, that’s all. She’s really a nice sister usually.”
Soon the friends were dressed and ready for the day. Jenny had managed to get her wild hair into some semblance of order and they made their way downstairs. Today would be another day of excitement, despite Chad reminding Andi that she had chores to do, and the two friends could hardly hold back their excitement.
Justin interrupted their conversation by saying, “Andi, I thought you and Jenny might want to know this, Cory came here early this morning and he and Micah said they were going to spend the morning together. Eli is helping Chad and Mitch with some horses.”
“We don’t mind!” Andi exclaimed.
Her oldest brother smiled. “I thought you might not, but I wanted to let you know anyways so you could better plan your day.”
Andi gave Justin an appreciative look. “Thank you.”
Andi and Jenny decided to get the detested chores finished first and then spend the rest of the day riding Taffy around the ranch. Both girls had to change into old clothes for chores, and so once the cold breakfast had been gulped down, they uttered a hasty “excuse us” before dashing up the stairs.
The minute Andi opened her bedroom’s door, she knew something was wrong. Frowning, she glanced around the room. Everything seemed to be in its place…then she saw it. The window was broken and a rock lay on the floor surrounded by pieces of glass. Andi gasped and picked up the rock, careful to avoid stepping on glass.
“Why would someone break your window?” Jenny wondered aloud, peering outside in search of the culprit.
Andi shook her head. “I don’t know. It seems like a mean trick.” Suddenly she noticed a piece of paper tied around the rock. “This might help explain some things,” she declared triumphantly. Careful to not rip the paper, she smoothed it out on her bed and began reading it. The note was badly written, with many misspelled words and terrible grammar, but after a few minutes of deciphering, this was what she made out:
If you and yer red-heded frend want to no war yer frends Cory Blake and Micah Grant ar go to the big rok by the creek and wait for ferther instrukshuns. You must com alon.
Jenny got up immediately and quickly switched from her dress into a pair of borrowed overalls. Andi looked up at her friend.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Following the instructions in the note,” Jenny stated matter-of-factly.
Andi gave her a look of dismay. “We can’t just obey this writer without knowing all the details! What if they’re lying?”
“That’s a risk I’m goin’ to take,” Jenny replied. “I ain’t—I’m not—goin’ to stand by and let someone kidnap my brother. Or Cory for that matter.”
“Shouldn’t we tell someone?”
“They said to come alone.” Jenny paused. “But they didn’t say we couldn’t be followed.” She frowned thoughtfully, then, seeming to come to a decision, nodded her head. “We’ll leave your folks a note explaining why we’re gone and where we’re goin’. That way, if we don’t come back, they’ll know where to look.”
Andi, relieved, agreed with her friend. “Good plan. My brothers will be able to find us. They’ve had a lot of practice,” she added ruefully. “It seems like I get myself kidnapped all the time.”
Jenny grinned, and stood impatiently while Andi changed into her overalls. The two girls slipped from the house after leaving a note on Andi’s pillow for her family to find if they didn’t come back with the two boys. Andi saddled Taffy with all possible speed and they rode towards the creek.
The big rock was about ten minutes further along the road than her special spot, and they soon arrived. The girls cautiously dismounted and stood nervously next to Taffy, their eyes wandering around the scenery, searching for the promised “instrukshuns”.
An arrow whistled past Andi’s head, missing her ear by an inch, and lodged itself into a tree behind her. A piece of white paper was attached. With trembling fingers, Andi undid the folded note and read it.
Yer frends ar ferther down. Follow creek south until you see a pile of roks. They will pint you in the rit direkshun.
The girls remounted Taffy and walked her alongside the creek until they saw a pile of rocks in the shape of an arrow. It pointed towards another large rock. A rock that someone could easily hide behind. Andi exchanged a nervous look with Jenny. Her friend motioned her to continue.
“Are you sure?” Andi whispered.
Jenny nodded, a touch of desperation entering her voice. “I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to my brother.”
Gulping down her worry, Andi forced herself to allow Taffy rein and felt the horse going forward. Andi had to force herself not to shut her eyes or high-tail it back to the ranch where she would be safe. God, please let everything be all right in the end. Keep Cory and Micah safe from whoever has them in their power. Please keep Jenny and me safe. After the prayer, Andi felt better. She gathered her shreds of courage and went around the rock.
A boy with wild blond hair jumped from his hiding spot and shouted “surprise!” He was joined by another boy who was tall and rugged looking.
After her first shriek, Andi recognized both boys and her surprise changed to anger. “Cory and Micah! You two ought to be ashamed of yourselves! Jenny and I were worried sick over you two! And you were safe the whole time!”
The boys, instead of shamefacedly apologizing, merely laughed harder.
“Oh Andi,” Cory gasped out, “you should have seen your face!”
Micah had tears streaming down his face. “It worked! We thought you would figure it out! But you walked right into our surprise! I thought that you might recognize my handwriting so I wrote the note in my left hand and purposely miss-spelled words.”
Cory added, “I shot the arrow before we both ran here.” He grinned at Andi and winked. “I’m a pretty good shot, huh? I’ve been practicing.”
Jenny, forgetting how hard she worked to become a lady, walked up to her brother and slapped him. “How could you Micah!” she scolded.
Finally the boys seemed to realize the terror they had put the girls through and apologized.
They all rode back to the ranch together, but the friendship between them had cooled a bit. For a while Andi didn’t talk to either Micah or Cory, much less acknowledge their existence with more than a stiff “how-do-you-do”.
* * *
The two weeks passed uneventfully after this, though Cory and Micah both got dumped in a watering trough by Jenny a few days after the unfortunate trick. That soothed the ruffled pride of both her and Andi enough to make everyone good friends again.
The time came when Jenny packed her bags, slowly rode to town on Taffy one last time, and said her tearful goodbye to Andi. As she climbed up the steps of the stage coach behind her two brothers she remarked, “Life will seem awful dull after living with you and your family for two weeks.”
Andi had to agree. “I do always find ways to make things happen around here. Though,” she added with a glance in Cory’s direction, “sometimes I get help from friends.”