Andi stood stock-still for a moment, but then remembered her manners and curtsied. She was rewarded with a smile from her aunt, who turned to Mother.
“I see Andrea has improved since I last saw her,” she said.
Andi saw her Mother swallow a smile, and Mitch, standing behind Justin and Mother, snorted, but changed it hastily into a cough.
“Yes, she has grown up some,” was Mother’s carefully guarded reply.
Andi’s gaze shifted from her aunt to make a quick survey of the house to see if her other sister was here. Thankfully, her aunt saved her the trouble by her next statement to Mother.
“I’m so sorry Katherine could not afford the time to come out to visit you as well,” she said. “But she assured me to go, and to tell you that she would miss you all.”
Mother gave a sigh. “That’s too bad; I was hoping to be able to see her. How is she doing?”
Aunt Rebecca smiled. “She’s doing fine, and her children are growing so nicely! Why, just recently little Levi began school. In fact, today was going to be his first day.”
Andi raised an eyebrow; this was news: Levi, going to school? His poor teacher.
Small talk continued, and the group moved into the parlor. Andi sat down carefully on the slippery chairs and kept her posture perfect, although it was miserable. The boys, at least Chad and Micah, looked very uncomfortable. By the end of an hour, even prim Melinda and always-properly mannered Justin looked like they wished Aunt Rebecca would stop talking.
Suddenly, right behind Aunt Rebecca and Mother, Andi thought she saw a face peek through the window and then disappear. Her curiosity was instantly aroused. She frowned, forgetting she was in the presence of her aunt.
The talking finally stopped for a moment, and Andi asked if she could go outside for some fresh air, making sure she said nothing about horses or mysterious faces. Her mother granted her permission, and so Chad asked if he could check on some things outside, and Mitch volunteered to help. Melinda eased herself into a more comfortable position, and Justin took out a law book to read.
They dispersed, leaving Aunt Rebecca and Mrs. Carter talking, and made their escape. Andi looked under the window she had seen the face in briefly, and followed the tracks up to the barn. They led into Taffy’s stall. Worriedly, Andi glanced over her shoulder. She had a prickly sensation go down her spine, and she knew she was being watched. Quietly, she murmured a few nonsense words to Taffy and looked into her stall.
A board squeaked as someone stepped on it. Andi spun around in time to see someone try to grab her. She punched blindly, and felt her fist meet a chin. She swung her other fist a little lower and it sank into a stomach. There was a groan, and then silence.
Andi was breathing heavily, but she calmed herself and made herself look down at the form lying in front of her. The person was lying on their stomach, and she couldn’t see the face.
Andi rolled the cringing figure over, and gasped when she saw who it was.