Early the next morning, Andi awoke and stretched after sleeping in an awkward position all night. Troy still slept on, his mouth open and snoring slightly. Johnny had shifted position during the night and his bandage was off part of the way. Andi gently returned it to its proper place and got up. She cleaned up the campfire a little and divided the remaining rabbit meat into three piles on two plates and a bowl. She brought one plate over to Troy, one plate to Johnny, and the bowl for herself. She ate her breakfast in silence, listening to the birds and crickets.
In a few minutes, Johnny awoke with a groan and sat himself up. He ate his breakfast in silence as well, and grimaced every once in a while as his wound hurt him off and on. Troy hoisted himself up, furious to find himself a captive instead of Andi, but his fuming he kept to himself except for an occasional grumble. Andi kept an eye on him all the same.
Once breakfast was finished, Andi cleared away the plates and bowl, and put them into a travel bag. Just as she was doing so, a horse whinnied, and Andi gave a shout of joy. Her yell brought Taffy, her horse, followed by Chad, Justin, Cory, Mitch, and Jack. Andi threw herself into each of her brothers’ arms, one at a time, and she practically shook the arms off her two friends.
Chad’s eyes swept the camp, and his eyes narrowed when they landed on Troy and Johnny. Andi quickly explained her story to her family and friends before they did them any harm. Chad was ready to pound Troy to pulp, but Justin, cool-headed and calm, kept him from doing so. It was difficult to convince her brothers and her friends that Johnny was truly changed, especially Cory and Jack, but they believed Andi and did him no harm.
After her brothers had gotten the smoldering Troy onto a horse and Andi on Taffy, they gently assisted the still-hurt Johnny Wilson onto another horse.
On the way home, Andi filled Cory and Jack in on her adventure. They were quite envious as well as surprised at Johnny’s new character. Andi also informed Justin of Troy’s attempt at blackmail, and he assured her that he would take care of all the details. She then had questions to ask of her friends, and they had loads of fun talking about all the things that were happening in the town.
“When are we going to have that race, Andi?” Cory asked as soon as he could get a word in edgewise.
Andi grinned. “You’ll never give up, will you?” she asked.
Cory pushed his hair out of his eyes and returned her grin. “Nope, not unless you lose in this next one.”
Andi tossed her braids over her shoulders in disdain. “And that’s not likely, is it, Cory?” she said.
He shrugged, and Jack exchanged a smile with Andi behind his back.
* * * * *
“Mother,” Andi complained as her mother kept putting the stinging salve on her wrists. “Mother, they don’t hurt that bad, honest!”
Her mother looked at her disbelievingly and continued.
Andi looked over her mother’s shoulder at Johnny, who had already gone through the same process. He pinched his nose and stuck out his tongue, making Andi have to work at keeping her face straight. Grinning back at her, he shrugged his shoulders hopelessly. A slight squeak escaped her sealed lips, and she earned herself a reproving look from her mother.
Chad came in then, and Johnny, with his head still in a bandage nicely cleaned by Melinda, followed him out to the wagon in which he was to be taken home. Andi gave a sigh of regret, for believe it or not, she and Johnny had become fast friends over the past few days as his head gradually healed enough for him to travel all the way into town where his family lived. She would actually miss him, and that in itself was a surprise to her, but over the past few days she had felt toward Johnny Wilson something she had never felt before, even to her brothers.
* * * * *
The courtship started when a surprise letter was delivered to Chad one day as he was working out in the barn. He came running in, breathless and excited, Andi and her family were sitting around the table, and when Chad entered, everyone jumped from their seats in surprise. Chad, without a word, dropped the letter in front of Justin, who scanned it quickly, and then with raised eyebrows towards Andi, he gave the letter to their mother. There was a long silence.
“Well!” Andi’s mother said with emphasis. She gave it to Andi, who read through it then promptly turned red to the ears. She gave the letter back to her brother without making eye contact.
Chad sat down absentmindedly and cupped his chin with his hand thoughtfully. After a silence, he looked over at Andi, who still sat with downcast eyes and blushing cheeks.
“Do you want him?” he asked.
Andi swallowed. “I would marry him if he asked,” she said quietly. “He truly is changed, Chad. He’s a godly young man now.” She paused, stammering some in her embarrassment. “I-I do like him, Chad.”
Chad answered with a grunt, and there was another silence.
“Alright, if you truly like him, Andi, you two have my permission.” He stopped and grinned, “And my blessing.”
Andi gave him a grateful look.
Justin got up and gave Andi a hug. “You shouldn’t grow up so fast,” he said, smiling. “It seems like yesterday you were only knee high to a grasshopper.”
Andi gave him a look of disbelief. “I wasn’t ever that short, was I?” she asked.
Justin laughed. “No, you weren’t. May God bless you in your new life.” He hugged her again.
During the rest of the meal, Melinda dedicated herself to explaining to Andi all she should do to her hair and her appearances before the day he asked for her hand, but Andi paid little mind to that. She figured that either Johnny could take her the way she was or forget all about it.
* * * * *
The wedding was on a beautiful day in August, warm, but not hot, and Andi had Jenny be her maid of honor, since she was visiting for the summer, and Justin was the best man. The wedding ended with a race, as Andi willed it, and of course she won, with Johnny not far behind on a horse he had borrowed just for the occasion.