They arrived just in time. Mr. Blake was about to pray. Cory and Andi slid into their seats as silently as they could, and the meal began. Andi wracked her brain about what she was to bring Levi to eat. Her mind was far away from the conversation around her, but suddenly she felt a poke in her ribs from Cory. She looked at him.
“Your aunt just asked you how your schooling was going,” he hissed.
Andi gave a quick smile. Cory had saved her bacon again. “School has been going well, aunt,” she said hastily.
Her aunt smiled. “I am very glad to hear it. I was worried that you may have been expelled.”
Andi gave her a look of shock. “Me, expelled? Certainly not. I am a Carter.” She said this with confidence and pride that she didn’t really feel at the moment.
Chad met her eyes and gave her a dubious look. Andi waited until her aunt looked away before grinning at him widely. He rolled his eyes.
Andi’s thoughts drifted again, and as soon as was possible, she escaped to the barn where she could really think. Cory met her out there a while later and let out a huge breath as if some great burden rolled off his shoulder.
“I’m glad that’s over!” he exclaimed.
Andi grinned. “Can you meet me at the creek tomorrow with some food at 8 o’ clock?” she asked.
Cory frowned. “I think so. I’m usually up by then, but breakfast would have to be postponed a while.”
Andi shrugged. “Maybe 9 o’clock?”
Cory nodded. “That will be easier. What should I bring?”
“Anything that can last a few days without going bad.”
Cory nodded again. “Got it. I’ll meet you at the creek tomorrow at 9 o’ clock.”
Andi grinned. “See you then!” He waved, and then left.
Andi heaved a deep sigh. This was getting pulled off a lot easier then she had thought. She went back into the house and “chatted” with the others for as little as she dared. Her mother at last let her leave and she dashed up the stairs to bed. Undressing quickly, she hid the little bit of food she had managed to save under her bed and laid down, falling asleep almost immediately.
* * * * *
Bright and early, Andi slipped out to take care of Taffy, her saved food in one of her dress pockets. Chad made her clean Taffy’s stall, dress or no dress, and she barely had time to get down to the creek in time. She told Chad she was going on an early ride with Taffy to exercise her, just so they didn’t worry, and set off.
At the creek, Cory was waiting impatiently, and the two hurried to the secret shack, delivering the food to a very hungry Levi. Andi waited for him to eat, and then asked him whether he had thought of any ideas.
Levi grinned. “Sure I have. I’m the idea.”
Andi exchanged a puzzled look with Cory. “What do you mean?” she asked finally.
Levi laughed. “Don’t you see? I’m gone!”
Andi still didn’t get it.
“Look, Aunt Rebecca leaves, right?” Andi nodded, so Levi continued. “Mother sends me off to school about the same time. I hightail it after Aunt Rebecca’s coach and manage to catch it at its next stop, right?” Andi nodded again, Levi went on. “Mother waits for me to get home from school, but I never do. Frantically worried, she writes to the nearest relative, Aunt Rebecca and your mother, right?”
Andi began to see where he was going. “The letter arrives. Aunt Rebecca leaves to search for you, and you get on the return stagecoach. Then when she arrives you’re already there, but aunt decides to stay anyways!”
Levi nodded. “The only problem with it is that I’ll have to go home and back to my school.”
Andi chewed on her lip thoughtfully. “I see your point. Are you so upset at going to school?”
Andi sighed. “Well, there goes that idea. It’s still going to happen, you know, all the letters and stuff. You’ll still have to go home.”
“Maybe I could convince Mother to have just us come out and visit,” he said hopefully.
Andi smiled. “You should. I wouldn’t mind having any of you around, as long as you behave yourself.”
Levi laughed. “Alright, the plan stands. I’ll leave when Aunt Rebecca does, but you’ll write to Mother yourself and ask for just us to come and visit.”
Andi threw up her hands in mock helplessness. “Alright, alright. I will. So now all we have to do is wait.”
“It sounds so easy.” Cory stood up abruptly.
“We should go,” Andi agreed.
“Yes, we really should. Hopefully I can get some more food out to you soon.” She smiled. “Thank you so much Levi, you’re a wonderful nephew.” Levi grinned.
“You’re welcome, but don’t forget the food!” Andi laughed and waved. Cory waited for her and they left the clearing together.