“Andi! What are you doing here?” Mitch exclaimed. Miss Martin's face was flushed and she was looking down at her hands.
“Well . . . I-I wanted to t-talk to you, Mitch,” I stuttered.
“Well, you're going to talk to me alright. You sit in the back seat while I take Miss Martin home. Then you and I will have a nice, long talk.”
The tone of his voice was enough to make me dread the coming talk; the glare he gave me was even worse. “I'm sorry, Mitch. I'm sorry Miss Martin,” I managed to say. Then I sat down and gazed at the passing fields as though my life depended on it.
Mitch turned to Miss Martin. “I'm truly sorry about this. I had no idea Andrea was with us. We'll continue this talk later. How about tomorrow?”
Miss Martin smiled at Mitch. “That's alright. I know it isn't your fault. And, yes, tomorrow sounds fine.”
After Mitch dropped Miss Martin off at her house, he drove back to the ranch in silence. When we got to the barn he quickly unhitched the horses, put them out in the paddock, then turned to me. “Follow me, Andrea,” he said.
I swallowed hard Mitch rarely used my full name. When he did, I knew I was in big trouble.
He walked to the creek then motioned for me to sit down. “What in the world were you doing? You know better than to spy on me.” He looked at me straight in the eyes. “What punishment do you think you deserve?” he asked.
Before I could say that maybe Mother should think up the punishment, Mitch went on. ”You will stay in your room at all times other than school this next week. And you will stay there for one hour doing nothing. No, homework, no sewing, no, writing, no, reading. That should give you time to think about the seriousness of what you have done.”
I burst into tears.
“Andrea, you know better than to cry over a punishment.” Mitch's voice was hard.
“I-I'm not. I don't care about the punishment . . . much.” The “no sewing” part sure didn’t bother me, anyway. And Mitch’s idea of a punishment for my rude behavior was much better than what Mother would have thought up.
“Then what is it?”
“Oh, Mitch,” I sobbed. “I don't want you to get married. I want things to stay as they always have. I can't imagine living at the ranch without you here. Everything's changing, and I hate it!”
Just then, Mitch reached over and put a gentle arm around my shoulders. “Andi, why didn't you just talk to me about this? I love you and I don't want to hurt you. Remember the time you, Cory, and Jenny went with me on that trip into the mountains?”
“Well, remember how you and I talked about growing up? And you were saying how much you didn't want to grow up?”
I nodded again.
“Well, like it or not, everyone grows up. You are becoming a young lady, not a child anymore. Everyone's life goes on. You can't stop it just because you don't like. You need to accept change because, like it or not, it's here to stay. I am planning on asking Abigail—Miss Martin—to marry me. Now, it will be at least another year before the wedding. And when we do marry, we will be coming to live here. I will continue to help Chad with the ranch just like before. The only difference will be that you will have a new sister-in-law living here also.” Mitch chuckled “I think you will like her better as a sister than as a teacher.”
I smiled. “I'm really sorry, Mitch. I will tell Miss Martin I’m sorry at church tomorrow. It will take some getting used to—the thought of you being engaged—but I will try my hardest.”
Mitch grinned. “That's my girl. Now, what do you say we go back to the house and you get changed? You are filthy! But at least you had enough sense to wear a dress when you interrupted my courting . . . and not overalls!”
I looked down at my wrinkled, muddy dress and grinned. “Sure. Mitch.”
The next day was Sunday. After church I walked up to Miss Martin. “I'm really sorry for what I did and said yesterday. Mitch and I had a talk, and I hope you will say 'yes' when he asks to marry you.” Then I shyly added “I'd like calling you Abigail instead of Miss Martin.”
Miss Martin blushed. “I forgive you, Andi, and I am planning on saying 'yes'
when your brother asks me. As for calling me Abigail, how about we wait until we are actually married to call me that? Could you imagine what all my pupils at school would say if you suddenly started calling me that?”
We both laughed.
Miss Martin did say “yes” when Mitch asked her to marry him, and the wedding is set for a year from now. I am fine with it now. I mean, a year is a long ways off. But when that time does come, I'll be more than ready to call Miss Martin “Abigail.”
You know, this makes me start thinking about my wedding day. I wonder who I'll marry? But, plenty of time to think about that. It's a long, long way off!