The next morning, Andi met Cory in front of the livery.
“Where are we going to race?” she asked. “ I thought we could go around the outskirts of the town and meet back here.”
“Whoever gets here first wins,” Cory replied.
“I thought you said we weren't racing in town.” Andi frowned.
“Well, we're not. At least not much. Just a small stretch from the edge of town to the livery.”
“And just perhaps I will run down the new schoolmaster on that 'small stretch?'
Cory grinned. “Well, then you can deal with him on your own, ’cause I'll be off to college.”
“Great help you are,” Andi teased back. “So, who judges?”
“Jack is judging, as usual.”
“Well, where is he?”
Cory looked around. “Here he is. He was just a little late that's all.”
Andi mounted Shasta while Cory mounted Breeze, Flash's gelding.
As always, Jack started the race with an impressive speech.
“Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, this race is the best one yet. This, the last race before Cory leaves for college, will determine whose horse is faster once and for all. On your mark, get set, GO!”
Breeze and Shasta galloped away and left Jack standing in the dust.
“Come on, boy. You can do it.” Andi breathed in Shasta's ear. As though on cue, Shasta bounded ahead. But not for long. Glancing behind her, Andi saw Breeze closing the gap fast. Quickly they circled the town nearly neck to neck then, as they turned into town, Breeze pulled ahead.
”Come on boy, you can do it!” And yelled. There was no way she could let Cory win this last race. Not when he had lost all the others. But Breeze seemed to be running exceptionally well today. Neck to neck they ran and swept past the finish line. Reining in Shasta, Andi wheeled around to Jack.
“So, who won?”
Jack grinned. “It was a perfect tie. That's the closest Cory has ever come to winning.”
Cory rode up to them and grinned. “See? I told you I would get lucky one day!”
“Since we ended in a tie, should we do a re-match?” Jack asked.
Andi looked at the horses. Both were breathing hard. “I don't think we should race again. The horses are tired.”
Cory agreed. “Besides, I need to finish packing and getting ready. I leave on the 11:30 am train tomorrow.” Turning to Andi he said, “You'll be here, won't you?”
Andi smiled. “If I rode one hour into town to race, you can be certain I 'll be here to tell you goodbye!”
Cory laughed. “That's what I thought. See you tomorrow!”
Andi nudged Shasta into a trot then turned around and waved before she disappeared down the road.
“I sure will miss teasing her when I leave,” Cory said to Jack. “Well I gotta get home and finish packing. See you tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Jack replied as Cory dismounted and led the horse into the stable.
The next day the entire Carter family showed up at the station to send Cory off. Jack and some of Cory's other friends from school also came to see him off. After Mother, Melinda, Mitch, Justin, Chad and Cory's other friends had told him goodbye. Cory came to Andi .
“Well Andi, I'm going off into the unknown. How about you?”
“M-me?” Andi stuttered. “What do you mean?”
“Well, this is your last year at school. What do you plan to do after that?”
Andi looked thoughtful. “I'm not sure. I never have been the kind who just wants to get married. I've always enjoyed working with horses so I'll probably help out at the ranch for a while.”
Andi grinned. “How about I think about it and tell you when you get back?”
Cory grinned. “Sure thing. I'll miss you Andi. Oh, just one more thing.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small brown box and handed it to Andi . Taking it, she took off the lid then laughed and pulled out a small brown snake.
“It's because I won't be here at the start of school,” Cory said. “Have fun!” He reached out and yanked her braid, then he was gone.
Andi stared after the rain as it pulled out of the station. “Good-bye, Cory,” she whispered. Then she looked down at the snake in her hand. “What am I going to do with you?” The snake hissed back at her.
Andi sighed. Christmas couldn't come soon enough!