“Hi, Andi!” Riley said as Andi suddenly careened into him around the corner of the barn. “Where are you going in such a hurry?”
Andi gulped some air back into her lungs and tried to calm her thoughts. “To find you, actually.” She replied, panting from the exertion. “I’ve thought about, you know, our conversation at lunch this morning, and…” she stopped, feeling her face go red.
Riley encouraged her with an understanding smile. “Yes?”
Andi swallowed. This was harder than she had thought it would be. “I do want to marry you Riley. And I do love you…” she trailed off. “I’m sorry, Riley. I can’t even begin to tell you my feelings right now…they’re so, well, I haven’t even figured out what they are yet. But this I know: I do want to marry you, and I do love you.” She shrugged, hiding her embarrassment with a quick smile. “I guess that’s all you need to know anyways.”
Riley had been patiently waiting for Andi to finish her somewhat muddled speech, and with a grin at her last remark, he spoke. “You don’t know how happy you’ve made me by accepting my proposal.” He stopped, gazing across the fields at the hills beyond. “How soon can you marry me?”
Andi shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know…probably not until after summer. You know how much we have to do right now, and then Mother and Melinda will want lots of time to fuss over my clothes for the wedding.” She groaned. “I bet they’ll have me make my own wedding dress…how I wish I could just get married in overalls!”
Riley laughed. “Poor Melinda would faint if you even mentioned that option to her!” he said.
Andi grinned. “I know…still, it would save me a lot of trouble.” She sighed.
The slow dong, dong, dong of the dinner bell sounded across the barnyard, and Andi turned towards the house, a mischievous smile dancing on her face. She turned her laughing eyes to meet Riley’s. “Race?” she asked.
Riley grinned back, nodding eagerly. The two of them took off across the field towards the house, laughing all the way.
* * *
A few weeks went by, and as Andi had predicted, their family was kept busy with chores, both inside and outside. Riley helped as much as he could, and Marcus Knight came by as well with Melinda. Andi never felt so grateful for all the things Melinda did around the house. Since her sister had been married, Andi had been given so much more to do around the house, and most of the sewing and mending was put on her shoulders. Andi hated the work, but nevertheless put her mind to do it.
As he had promised, Marcus helped Andi and Riley train their horses for better speed and stamina in races. Andi loved these times with her brother-in-law, and admired his common sense and judgment as he worked with her on Taffy.
During one of these special times, Andi brought up an idea that she had been thinking about for a few days. “Marcus?” she asked as he came over to the fence wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
He looked over at her with a cheerful grin. “Yes?”
Andi looked over at Taffy and Spy who were resting in the shade of a tree. “I was wondering…Taffy and Spy seem to get along together so well, and enjoy working as a team…so, well, I was hoping to have them be one of the teams at the wagon team race coming up this month. Do you think it would be possible?”
Marcus frowned thoughtfully, rubbing his newly grown beard. “Well, they do work together nicely…and they both have the speed.” He paused as Riley came over, standing next to Andi. “Do you think Spy would enjoy pulling a wagon with Taffy in the wagon team race?”
Riley arched a suspicious eyebrow. “Did Andi come up with this idea?” he asked. Andi grinned, proving his suspicion correct.
Marcus laughed. “Yes, she did. But I think it’s definitely worth a try. I just need permission from both horse owners before giving them the special training it will take.”
Riley shrugged helplessly. “I guess we can at least try.” He looked at Andi. “I suppose you’ll want me to drive the wagon?”
Andi smiled. “No, actually. I wanted to drive if the judge will let me. I’m lighter, so it will be easier for Taffy and Spy to pull me.”
Riley shrugged again, and Marcus grinned. “I’m sure he’ll let you Andi. After all, you know how to drive a wagon just as well as any of the other drivers. Better than some of the city slickers who are coming out to see it.” He paused, taking his wide-brim hat off and running a hand through his hair. “In fact, I’ll have a little meeting with the judge tonight and see if I can talk him into letting you drive.”
Andi’s eyes sparkled happily. “Would you?” she asked. She had been dreading the possibility of having to ask the judge’s permission.
Marcus smiled. “Sure. ‘Linda and I were planning on having him over for dinner tonight anyways. I’ll talk to him then, and tomorrow morning, when I come over to train again I’ll let you know how it went.”
Andi gave Marcus a quick hug. “You are such a wonderful brother-in-law!” she exclaimed.
Marcus smiled back, though a little surprised at the hug. “You’re…welcome.”
Andi took off towards the barn. “I’m going to tell Chad!”
* * *
“No!” Chad glowered at Andi. “I won’t have my sister driving a wagon in a race! Who knows what sort of things people will try to do to win!” His eyes softened. “I don’t want you to get hurt Andi.”
Andi shoved her hands in her pockets, returning her big brother’s glower. “What if the judge allows me to drive?” she asked, stubbornly refusing to allow Chad to have his way easily.
“No.” Chad said again, the decision in his voice making it clear to Andi that there would be no way he would change his mind. “Andi, people have been hurt seriously in races like this because some person has wanted to win so badly that they put winning above the possibility of hurting other wagons. Please trust me with this and ask someone else to drive for you. Isn’t Spy racing with Taffy?” Andi nodded, brushing tears of disappointment from her eyes. Chad smiled. “Can’t you just let Riley drive?”
Andi sighed heavily. “I know he could…but Chad, I wanted to drive in this race so much! Couldn’t I just try? I’ll know most of the other drivers anyways from our town.”
Chad crossed his arms. “No. It doesn’t matter how many of the drivers you know. I still won’t let you.”
Andi stomped back through the barn, angry thoughts swarming in her mind. Why does Chad always have to say no to everything I really want to do! Why can’t I drive in the race? I’d be perfectly safe. I know everyone who’s driving the other wagons anyways, and they wouldn’t hurt me. Why do older brothers always have to be so protective!
She walked over to the corral. Marcus and Riley had apparently decided to go back inside or into the barn. Andi was grateful for the time alone, time to cool her anger. She walked over to Taffy who was contentedly munching hay in the shade under the tree. Talking to horses always calmed Andi down, so she began now.
“Taffy, sometimes I really don’t understand Chad. A couple weeks ago he was giving permission to Riley for my hand in marriage. Now he’s not letting me drive a wagon for the race. Why?” She rubbed Taffy behind the neck, her favorite spot to be scratched. Taffy muzzled Andi affectionately as if to say “Whatever Chad does, I’m still you’re friend.” Andi smiled.
Suddenly, Andi felt a hand on her shoulder. She froze, and slowly turned around, expecting the worse.