It's a very, very old story, written probably twenty years ago, before the Circle C Adventures were even published. Those were the good ol' days, when writing stories was super fun. Mrs. M probably had about a dozen of them going at the same time. Okay, she mustn't dwell . . .
This will be like a serial, one chapter a week for as long as it lasts. Think about how it should end. This is one of those writing by the seat of her pants works. I'm pretty sure you'll like it, but it does have some rough edges.
ANDREA CARTER AND THE TERRIBLE SECRET
“There he goes again.” Cory Blake shook his head and took another bite of his licorice stick. He pulled it between his teeth and watched the drama being played out on the dusty streets of Fresno.
“There goes who?” Andrea Carter asked. She turned from her conversation with her friends Rachel and Jack to see what Cory was talking about. To her, the streets looked as uninteresting as ever on this late afternoon while she waited for her older brother Justin to finish his business and drive her home.
School had been out for over an hour, and Andi and her friends had passed the time standing around on the boardwalk in front of Goodwin’s Mercantile. Jack’s father had graciously given them each a stick of licorice, and all in all, it hadn’t been too tedious a wait.
“Old Zeke Blazer,” Cory replied, his mouth full of candy. He shrugged. “Ol’ Zeke’s been after that lawyer fellow, Mr. Barnes, nearly every day this week. He’s naggin’ him about something.” He pointed. “Watch. Mr. Barnes’ll shoo him away soon enough.”
Andi climbed the railing for a better view of the drama being played out across the street. She stood up, bracing herself against a post. She tried to see across the street as Philip Barnes and Zeke Blazer made their way down the boardwalk toward the saloon.
Cory was right. Zeke seemed to be entreating the lawyer about something. Mr. Barnes seemed thoroughly disgusted by it. He kept turning around and waving the man away, but ol’ Zeke wasn’t budging.
A gasp and an interfering voice broke through Andi’s concentration. She whirled to see the formidable Mrs. Evans, a notable busybody and minder of other people’s affairs, especially the young folks of the town.
Andi sighed inwardly.
“Andrea Carter!” Mrs. Evans admonished. “You come right down from there.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Andi quickly dropped to the ground. She glanced sideways at her companions, who were trying to muffle their laughter at their friend’s predicament.
The woman’s face turned red with consternation. “Does your mother know you’re wasting time on the streets of Fresno, climbing railings and conducting yourself in a most unseemly manner?”
“I have known your dear mother for twenty-five years,” Mrs. Evans broke in without letting Andi answer. “I would never forgive myself if I passed by this way and ignored your conduct.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Andi said weakly.
She was at a loss. Mrs. Evans was one of Mother’s oldest and dearest friends. The woman made it her life goal to make sure all of the young Carters behaved themselves when in town. The first time Andi had complained at being called to task by the woman, her sister and brothers had grinned and looked at each other in remembrance. “Better get used to it,” Chad had said.
I’ll never get used to it, Andi thought, reddening at Mrs. Evan’s puckered face.
“Is your mother in town today, young lady? She hasn’t come by to see me.” Mrs. Evans looked offended.
“No, ma’am,” Andi said. “I’m just waiting for Justin. He had to work late and—”
“You hurry on down to your brother’s office rather and wait there,” Mrs. Evans ordered. “You shouldn’t be allowed to run wild through the streets of this uncivilized cow town.”
Andi seethed. So far, the woman had not allowed her to complete one sentence. She glanced behind her shoulder. Her friends had quietly slipped into the mercantile. They most likely knew they would be next.
When Andi made no reply, Mrs. Evans tapped her foot impatiently. “Well? What have you to say for yourself?”
“I’ll be heading to Justin’s in just a minute, Mrs. Evans,” Andi said, managing a curtsy. “I’ll tell Mother you asked after her.”
Mrs. Evans patted her gently on the arm. “That’s better, my dear. I’ve told mother time and time again how dreadfully difficult it is to raise young ladies on a ranch with all the rough ways of all those cowhands. It’s a wonder—”
Here we go again. Andi sighed. If it wasn’t Aunt Rebecca, the other biddies in town were glad to take her place scolding Andi. “Mrs. Evans—”
“Let me finish, dear. I believe it’s time you and your dear sister accompanied me to a wonderful school for young ladies back in Chicago, where my daughter Emily is the headmistress. Emily has done so well for herself, and I would dearly love to set your feet upon the right path.”
“Melinda’s and my feet are fine right here in Fresno, ma’am. We don’t want to go to Chicago.”
Mrs. Evans frowned. “Sometimes we must do things we don’t want to for the greater good in the end.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Andi agreed quickly, if only to shut the old woman up.
Mrs. Evans smiled. “I’ll be speaking to your mother about this in the near future, Andrea.” She patted Andi’s arm again and hurried off down the street, skirts swishing in obvious contentment.
No sooner had Mrs. Evans left the boardwalk, then her arm went up in a wave to Mrs. King. They were soon chattering about the ills of this present generation. They stepped into Reid’s Dry Goods and out of sight.
Andi let out a breath of relief.
“How do you stand it, Andi?” Cory and the rest of her friends made their way back onto the boardwalk.
“Some friends you are,” Andi snapped. “You abandoned me.”
“Only in self-defense.” Rachel laughed. “She would have been after me for my mother allowing me out of the house dressed like this when she’s a seamstress.”
“And I would have gotten it for wasting time out here instead of helping out Pa in the store because my poor mother’s passed on.” Jack rolled his eyes and looked at Cory. “I never see her getting after you, Cory.”
Cory bit into another piece of licorice. “She thinks I’m a hopeless case. Destined to be a low-caste livery stable owner like my pa.” He scowled. “The ol’ biddy can think what she likes. And . . . if she ever does decide to come after me with her wagging tongue, well, I’ve got a few choice things to say to her that’ll shut her up mighty quick.”
He shook his head. “Why do you let her talk to you like that, Andrea?”
“Oh, hush, Cory. Sometimes I think you haven’t any manners at all.” Andi nodded in the direction Mrs. Evans had headed. “She’s one of my mother’s oldest friends. One of the town’s early settlers. She’s harmless.”
She leaned against a lamp post. “She’s been trying to talk Mother into letting me go to some lady’s school for five years now. Before that she was after Melinda, and before that it was Chad, Mitch, and Justin.”
Rachel giggled. “For a lady’s school?”
“Of course not.” Andi wrinkled her forehead. “For some fancy school back east to make gentlemen out of the boys.”
“Well, I’d say you’ve all done just fine out here. There’s no nicer fellow than your brother Justin,” Cory said. “Mitch too. And Chad’s all right, so long as you don’t make him mad.”
“And Melinda . . .” Rachel sighed, leaning against the railing, “She’s simply my ideal of a beautiful, gracious young lady. Every time she comes into the shop to have my mother make her a new dress, I wish I could be just like her.”
“I’ll tell her you said so,” Andi replied, all-too used to comments about her beautiful, slender, blond sister. Not for the first time Andi wished her hair was golden like Melinda’s instead of dark like Chad’s and Justin’s.
It was a sore trial having a beautiful older sister.
Jack smirked. “So, where does that leave you, Andi?”
“Yeah.” Cory jumped in to tease his friend. “Maybe Mrs. Evans isn’t too far wrong about that school back east. It could be just the ticket to turn Andi into a proper young lady. Of course, it’s doubtful if it—”
A loud crash erupted from the saloon across the street, and the four young people turned toward the sound. “C’mon!” Cory motioned. “I’ll bet this has something to do with old Zeke Blazer!”
READ CHAPTER 2
READ CHAPTER 2