Just as the sun was beginning to set, Chad returned from his search with no trace of his sister.
Worry plastered all over his mother’s face when he told her of his failed mission. “Where on earth could she be?”
“She has run off like this before. She’ll be fine, Mother,” Chad reassured her. “I’ll take another look around the ranch tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks, Chad,” Justin said from the corner where he was working. “I’m sorry to leave, but I have to be on the 6:00 train to San Francisco tomorrow morning.”
“You’re fine, Justin. You had better go and pack,” Elizabeth addressed her oldest son.
“I’d better turn in for the night. See you later Justin,” Chad said, heading upstairs.
“Good night, Chad” Justin replied, and then in a barely audible voice added, And God help you find our little sister.
The next morning Chad guided his horse toward a clump of bushes and trees at the Carter borderline. His mood was fairly dark. He pressed his lips together and scanned the premises. Andi was going to be in big trouble when he found her.
A flash of color and a small whimper captured his attention. He pushed his way into the bushes and found a small patch of ground. There, huddled next to the tree, sat Andi.
Anger like a volcano suddenly burst out of him. “Andrea Rose Carter! Just what do you think you are doing?”
Andi looked up in surprise. “Chad, what…”
Chad bore his piercing gaze into his sister’s eyes. ”Well?” he asked.
Andi suddenly ducked and turned to flee. But Chad was too quick for her. “Oh, no, you don’t,” he barked. He snatched his sister by her braid, dragged her out of the clearing, and flung her on his horse. He then hoisted himself up in front of her and dug his heels into the horse’s flank.
“Do you care to tell me what’s going on?” Chad asked curtly once they were half way into their ride.
Andi clenched her teeth and sucked in a long breath before starting her explanation.
After Andi finished, Chad gave a shake of his head. “You are sure in one heap of trouble. Mother is pretty upset.”
Andi tightened her grip around Chad’s waist. “What do you think she’ll do?” she whispered.
“What do you think?” was Chad’s short reply.
Andi uttered a groan. “Oh, Chad, why does everything I do always seem to land me in trouble?” she asked, slumping against her brother’s back.
“I don’t know, little sister. I don’t know.”
It was almost ten by the time the duo trotted into the Carter barnyard. ”You’d better run and tell Mother you’re safe,” Chad instructed, nodding in the direction of the house.
After a nudge from Chad, Andi slid down from the horse and trudged up to the porch. As she slipped into the house, she was met by her mother.
Tears flooded Elizabeth Carter’s eyes when she saw her youngest daughter. “Andrea!” she cried as she rushed over to envelope her with hugs.
“Hello, Mother,” Andi said weakly through embraces.
Elizabeth pushed her daughter back and held her at arm’s length, a hard look set in her eye. “Andrea, I am very, very, disappointed in you. You are ten years old and know better than to display such childish behavior. There has got to be a punishment for this.”
Andi dropped her gaze to the floor, shame washing over her.
Suddenly, Chad popped his head in through the door and interrupted Elizabeth’s lecture. “Mother, a lady in a buggy has just pulled up. She’s asking for you.”
“I’ll be right there,” she replied, making her way towards the door. She paused as she gave some last minute instructions. “Andrea, go to your room and change. Chad will deal with you later.”
For once Andi was glad to obey and escape to her room.
Andi deliberately took the longest time picking out a “suitable” dress to wear. By the time she made her way downstairs, it was almost lunch time.
“Andrea,” Elizabeth called from the parlor, “I would like to introduce Mrs. Delaney Ricker. As I remember, you met her last time she came through.”
Andi groaned inwardly. Yes, she remembered. Last time Mrs. Ricker had come, she stayed a whole week. The entire week had been filled with dresses, frills, shopping, ribbons, and more frills.
Andi plastered a smile on her face as she walked into the room. “Yes, I remember.” She turned and dropped a curtsy towards Mrs. Ricker. “Good day, Mrs. Ricker.”
“Well, hello, Andrea,” Mrs. Ricker replied in her shrill voice, giving Andi a sickly-sweet smile. Turning to Mother, she said, “Oh Elizabeth, what a sweet little young lady you have.”
“Yes,” Mother agreed, “Andrea is ten years old now.”
“My word, how time flies,” Mrs. Ricker remarked.
Andi bristled in annoyance, Oh. how she hated being talked about as if she wasn’t even there!
The two ladies conversed for about ten more minutes until the cook came in and announced that lunch was to be served. The conversation at lunch was overly dominated by Mrs. Ricker and her occasional statements telling Andi what a cute little girl she was.
Through the constant jabbering, Andi was able to learn that Mrs. Ricker would only be staying until Sunday this time. Well, Andi thought hopefully, maybe by then Chad might forget about me.
The next day trickled by like molasses, but it did look like Chad had forgotten. That was one bonus. On Sunday morning, a telegram arrived from Justin saying that he would be home on the 4:00 train.
Oh goody, Andi thought, At least then Chad won’t get to deal with me. Ohhh… but then Justin will. This new realization put a damper on Andi’s spirits.
After breakfast, Andi followed her mother out to say goodbye to Mrs. Ricker. “Oh how I wish you had more time, Delaney,” Elizabeth was saying, “we hardly had time to catch up.”
“I would like to,” Mrs. Ricker replied, “but I am expected at my son’s home in Tulare for supper. I truly had a wonderful time, Elizabeth. I thank you for your hospitality. Goodbye, my friend.” With these parting words Mrs. Ricker stepped into the buggy.
When the buggy pulled out, Mother walked back into the house quietly. “It was so good to see Delaney again,” Mother commented, “I hadn’t realized how much I missed our conversations.”
Sour thoughts swam through Andi’s mind. “I don’t miss her,” She grumbled, “She isn’t much fun. All she does is talk and—”
Her Mother’s stern voice cut Andi off. “Andrea! That was extremely disrespectful and rude. I thought you had gotten over that impertinent attitude from last week, but I guess I was wrong. You are going to stay in your room until Justin gets home.”
A fresh wave of anger washed over Andi. She opened her mouth for a reply but then snapped it shut again, biting down hard on her tongue. As Andi stomped to her room, her mood which was already as dark as a thundercloud, turned into a tornado.
It’s not fair! She slammed shut her door and flung herself on her bed, I was just “voicing my opinion.” After a few more dark thoughts, Andi focused her attention on counting the spots on the wall until she drifted into a troubled sleep.
The crunching sound of buggy wheels coming up the driveway pulled Andi away from her sleep. She propelled herself to the window and peeked out.
Justin was getting out of a buggy.
Andi drifted away from the window as he walked up onto their porch and into the house. She checked herself in the mirror and then flounced on her bed. Andi cupped her chin in her palm and sat on the edge of the bed thinking. Finally, a knock sounded on the door.
Justin peeked his head in, “May I come in?”
Andi gave a nod of approval and scooted over on her bed making a place for him to sit.
His face was grave. “Is there something you need to tell me?” he asked as he took his seat on the bed.
Andi dropped her gaze to the floor.
“Well?” He prompted.
Andi sighed, “Oh, Justin. I don’t know what has been wrong with me this week. I wish this week would just start over.”
Justin wrapped his arms around her, “Oh, Andi.” he murmured.
Andi stared up into his blue eyes. ”Justin, I’ve been thinking. I was wrong. I am really sorry and I am ready to take whatever you have for me.”
Justin gave her a soft smile. “I’m proud of you, Andi. It really does take guts to confess like you did, but you’re right, there must be a punishment.” He paused before continuing/ “For the rest of the week, you must be in sight of an adult at all times. Also, for the next month no riding Taffy unless someone from the ranch is with you.”
“Alright, Justin,” Andi replied, giving him a weak smile.
Justin stood up and extended his hand. “Come on, Andi, let’s go downstairs.”
Andi slipped her hand into his. “Justin? I just remembered a Bible verse that I think goes with this.”
“What is it, hon?”
Andi closed her eyes as she recited, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity.”
Justin met her gaze with a warm smile. “ Yes honey, that does fit in.”