Brinnnnngggg!!! 10-year -old Andi Carter flung from her seat as the final school bell rung. Ahh... At last... No more school 'till Monday!! Andi thought gleefully as she slipped into the line of her classmates heading towards the exit.
Andi cringed at the sharp edge in Miss Hall's voice. I guess she didn’t like that last report, Andi thought, a sick feeling washing over her.
Miss Hall waited until all of the other students had filed out the door before she began her speech. “What has possessed you this past week? You’ve scared Sierra Higgins three times this week with small creatures, and disrupted class more times then I care to count, and now a report about the importance of NOT having an education. Whatever is the matter?”
Andi felt her face turning the color of a tomato at the mention of her latest faults, “I don’t know! Everyone is treating me like a little kid and I’m not one!" She blurted out.
“Then maybe you should show them how grown up you are,” Miss Hall suggested gently. She then became grave. “You know I am going to have to inform your family about your behavior.”
“Yes ma’am,” Andi whispered, dreading the truth.
“I'm not going to make you copy any lines today, but I certainly hope your behavior will be improved by next week,” Miss Hall reproved her giving her a stern look.
As Andi slumped out of the schoolhouse, she could feel anger boiling up inside of her. She contemplated her feelings as she walked over to the livery where she was to meet one of the ranch hands.
Why was everything going wrong this week? It wasn’t just at school. At home everything went wrong too. Andi flinched as she remembered the way she had decorated Chad's saddle with mud and hay. She had thought it looked nice! But apparently Chad hadn't thought so. He had her mucking out the stalls for the next two days. A tiny smile played at Andi's lips as she recalled the look on Chad's face when he saw the "spruced up" saddle.
A sudden finger of worry tickled at the back of her mind as she thought of her episode today. Justin would be pretty upset when he heard the report from Miss Hall. And she knew Miss Hall would tell him before he came home tonight.
She pushed the fear back as she came into sight of the livery. Terry, the hand from the ranch, was already waiting for her, and in five minutes, she was settled in the wagon racking her brain for excuses to tell her mother when she got home.
“Hello Andrea,” her mother’s cool voice startled Andi as she came in through the door.
Andi lifted her head in surprise. One look into her mother's stern gaze and Andi knew that Miss Hall had already informed her. "Mother I can ex—"
Her mother cut her off before she had a chance to give her excuse. “Justin came home early. He would like to speak with you in the library.” Her mother looked at her pointedly. “I suggest you head there right away.”
Andi turned her eyes to the floor “Yes ma’am,” she said meekly. As she made her way upstairs to deposit her school books in her room, a feeling of dread washed over her. Andi felt awful about her behavior the past week, and didn’t feel like facing Justin at this moment.
An idea popped into her head. What if I just go away for a few days? Then when I get back it might be all blown over. I might just do that. After stuffing an extra pair of overalls and a few other necessities into a satchel, she climbed out her window, slipped down the post, and headed for the barn.
The pit-pattering sound of pacing had been consistent in the library for nearly a half an hour. The eldest Carter brother, Justin, was there waiting for Andi. His mind was blank as to what to do with his youngest sister. He was almost certain that she had gotten into more trouble this week than other girls her age do in a year.
Justin felt a flicker of irritation. He had absolutely no time for her childishness. He had just received a telegram from the Governor of California saying that he was to go San Francisco immediately. I wonder where that girl could be. He wondered to himself, I’ll give her ten more minutes.
After ten more minutes of pacing, Justin decided it was time to go and seek out his sister. He went up to Andi’s room and gently rapped on the door. No answer. He gave a smarter knock. No answer. “Andi?” he called to the shut door, “Andi? You better open this door right this minute, young lady, or things will not be pretty.”
After waiting a moment, Justin swung the door open. “Andrea Carter, you...” He stopped and gazed into the room before him. Andi wasn’t there. Pivoting on his heel, he made his way to the kitchen and caught Chad, who was just coming in through the back door. “Have you seen Andi?” he inquired of his brother.
“No, I was looking for her myself and noticed Taffy is gone,” Chad replied, “If that girl has run off without doing her chores again, I’m gonna....”
“Chad, Mother told her to meet me in the library forty minutes ago, and she’s not in her room.” Justin couldn’t help the worry from seeping through his voice.
Chad’s face clouded in concern. “Don’t worry, Justin. You check the house and I’ll ride around and see if I can find her.”