Hey everyone! Here's a short Easter story for you all! :) By the time y'all are reading this it's probably not even Easter anymore, but that's okay. I ran across this just now and remberred that this is what I was going to post for Easter on this blog! :P So yeah. Anyway. This was my entry for the 2015-2016 Circle C short-story contest. :) I hope you enjoy!
~ April, 1878 ~
Ten year-old Andi Carter scampered into the dining room. "Good morning, everyone!" She greeted cheerfully. She hugged and kissed her mother and then continued around the table with a kiss for each of her brothers.
"My goodness, you're in a good mood this morning," Chad teased, sending a wink her way.
"Don't you know what today is?" Andi plopped into her chair between Justin and Melinda's empty seat.
"Monday?" Chad guessed.
Andi sighed. "Of course, it's Monday, but that's not what I meant."
Before Andi could explain, Melinda swished into the room. "I'm sorry, I'm late, Mother."
"Perfect Melinda, late for meal time?" Andi taunted with an innocent smile.
Mitch nearly choked on his eggs. Chad snickered. Justin hid a grin behind his cup of coffee.
Unlike the boys, Mother did not find it comical. "Andrea, please apologize to your sister."
Her smile quickly erasing, Andi nodded. "Yes, ma'am. Sorry, Linda, I didn't mean anything by it."
"Don't worry about it," Melinda smiled. "I'm too excited to be mad at you today," she added quietly.
“Well?” Chad prodded. “You were about to tell us what's so special about today.”
“Today is six days until Easter,” Andi answered matter-of-factly.
Chad scratched his head. “So? Is today a holiday or something?”
Glaring across the table at her older brother, Andi nearly dropped her fork of scrambled eggs. “Didn't you hear me? Next Sunday is Easter!”
“Don't raise your voice, Andrea,” Mother reprimanded.
“Yes, ma'am,” she quickly apologized. “It's just that I'm so excited!”
“And you still haven't told us why.” Chad's elbows rested on the table, waiting impatiently.
“Well…” Andi glanced from her brothers to her sister and back to her mother. “Melinda and I have an idea to present to you, Mother.”
Elizabeth smiled. “And what is that?”
Andi folded her hands politely in her lap and prepared herself to bring up every good point she could think of to convince her mother that her idea was grand. “We would like to do something special for Easter this year.”
“We always do something special for Easter, honey,” Justin spoke up from the opposite end of the table.
“I know,” Andi bit her lip. “But we haven't had the same celebrations we had when Father was alive.”
Her last words caught everyone's attention and a somber mood passed over the breakfast table.
Finally, Mother nodded. “You're right, dear.” She glanced down the table to each of her children to be sure everyone was of the same mind. “We would love to hear your idea.”
“I want to have a party. We could have lots of good food and music. Melinda and I can decorate the house, the barn and all the other buildings. I'll invite friends from town and… Oh, Mother, it would be so wonderful! Please, say yes.”
“Please?” Melinda chimed in. “A party would be such fun.”
“It sounds like a lovely idea, girls,” Mother praised them. “What do you say we start making plans when you two return from school this evening?”
“You mean we can do it?” Andi exclaimed.
“May do it,” Mother corrected. “And yes, you may.”
“Yippee!” Andi bounced up and down in her chair, but instantly stilled when she noticed her mother’s disapproving look. “I’m sorry, Mother.”
Justin stood from his seat and strode down the length of the table. “If you two are riding into town with me, you’d better be ready in five minutes.”
Andi nodded. “Melinda, will you please get my books when you fetch yours?”
“I guess so. But why?” Melinda quickly resumed eating her breakfast.
“Because I need to go tell Diego my plan. He can help us with decorating everything outside!” Andi sprang from her chair and was clear to the foyer before anyone could think of stopping her.
“Andrea!” Mother called. “You didn't finish your breakfast.”
“I'm too excited!” Andi tossed over her shoulder on her way out the door. This was going to be the best Easter celebration the Carter family ever had.
Andi bounded off the porch and scampered across the barnyard, enjoying the bright sunshine of a spring morning. She was nearly giddy with excitement. The Easter party was going to be so fun!
She swung open the barn door and hurried into the dark, damp interior. “Diego! Are you in here?”
“I am back here, señorita!” The long-time ranch hand replied.
She skipped through the barn, breathing in the rich smells of hay and horses.
Diego appeared from the tack room, broken bridle in hand. “Can I help you, Señorita Andrea?”
Andi nodded eagerly. “Mother has agreed to my idea for an Easter party! Isn't it wonderful? She says we can start making plans after school!”
Diego chuckled under his breath and set aside the bridle. The young girl’s sparkling eyes, exuberant personality, and high level of energy amused him. “I'll do whatever I can.”
“Thank you,” she smiled and followed him towards one of the occupied stalls. “Are you hitching up the buggy for us?”
“Si,” he nodded.
“Can I help you?”
Diego shook his head. “Probably shouldn't do that, señorita. Señora Carter would not like to see your school clothes dirtied.”
Andi's shoulders slumped. “I guess you're right.” She leaned back against the barn wall, but quickly straightened hoping the rough boards hadn't pricked the fabric of her school dress.
A door was heard creaking open at the opposite end of the barn. Expecting Justin, both Andi and Diego turned in that direction.
Two men, dressed in the attire of down-on-their-luck cowboys, entered the barn. Andi's forehead wrinkled. What did these men want? And what nerve they had waltzing in like they owned the place!
As they hurried towards Andi and Diego, the two men were speaking among themselves. When they reached them and she could clearly see their faces, Andi froze. These two weren't here to ask about ranch work.
“Can I help you?” Diego stepped out of the stall to stand next to Andi.
“You sure can.” The man closest to them drew a pistol from the holster hanging about his waist. The other man, slightly shorter than his partner, grabbed Andi by the arm.
“Let go of me!” she screamed and kicked his shins. The man swore under his breath and snagged her around the waist, swinging her up under one arm.
Andi was too consumed in her own battle for freedom to pay much attention to the other man shoving Diego into the tack room.
The man soon returned and stopped in front of Andi. “What's your name, girl?”
“I won't tell you,” she replied defiantly.
“Fine. I don't care what your name is,” he scoffed. “Do you live here?”
Why does that matter? Andi wondered, but refused to voice the question.
“Of course, she lives here,” the man holding her grumbled. “Duke said this here family had two purty daughters.”
Andi looked away from the other man and bit down on the hand that held her. Hard.
“Yeow!” he yelped, but didn't let her go.
“Be careful with her, Finian!” The other man growled.
“Be careful?!” The one called Finian exclaimed. “Dexter, did you see what this little filly did to me?”
Dexter rolled his eyes at the teeth marks on his partner’s hand and arm. “Quit your whining and bring her along.”
Bring her along? A shiver raced down Andi's spine as she realized the evil intent of these two. “Where are you taking me?” she demanded, thought neither of the men answered her.
“And make her shut up!” Dexter hissed.
Walking across the yard a few minutes later, Justin was surprised to not find the buggy hitched up and Andi waiting nearby.
Entering the barn, he was further alarmed to find neither Andi or Diego. That's strange. He hastened his pace, through the barn towards the tack room in the back. “Andi! Diego?”
Justin was about to turn and go back outside, thinking maybe he'd somehow missed them, when a scuffling noise caused him to pause and listen. What was that?
The faint racket continued, accompanied by what seemed to be a muffled scream. Unlatching the tack room door and hurrying inside, Justin found Diego – bound, gagged and wrapped with a length of rope around the post which supported the high ceiling.
“Diego!” Justin ran to loosen him and remove the gag. “What happened?”
“They took her, Señor!” he exclaimed. “They took Miss Andrea!”
Justin's heart stopped. “Who, Diego? What are you talking about?”
The older man’s wide eyes, jerking hand motions, and flustered Spanish revealed he was frantic.
Justin tried to convince him to calm down without success. Slowly, bit by bit, he put the pieces of the story together and came up with the following. Two men had snuck into the barn, kidnapped Andi, and tied up Diego.
“Did they say anything to you as to why they were taking her?” Justin asked. “Anything at all?”
Diego shook his head. “No, señor. They say nothing to me.”
“Come on,” Justin called as he ran out of the room. They'd just reached the house when Elizabeth came out the front door waving a slip of paper.
He quickly met her. “Mother, what's wrong?”
“Luisa found this stuck in the kitchen door.” She handed him the paper. “It's a ransom note. Where's Andrea?”
Justin and Diego exchanged a worried glance.
“Oh, no…” Elizabeth's hand flew up to cover her mouth and she sank into a nearby wicker chair.
“Don't worry, Mother,” Justin said. “We’ll find her.”
An hour later found the Carter brothers rushing into the sheriff’s office. After relaying all that had transpired that morning, Justin, Chad, Mitch, the sheriff, and a few deputies that could be spared from their duties in town, left in search of Andi.
They rode back to the ranch and, after searching for only a short amount of time, discovered the kidnappers’ trail. They’d left a rather obvious trail and it was soon concluded that these two outlaws were either stupid or were planning an ambush of some sort.
After following the trail for several hours, they came across a dilapidated, old shack. Two horses were tethered to a tree out behind.
The group left their own horses down the trail a short ways and crept up through the brush.
“You in the shack!” Sheriff Tate called.
No response came. He tried again. This time a gun barrel appeared through a window opening. “What do ya what?”
“We want the girl!”
“I left ya a note about that! Can't ya read?”
They went back and forth for half an hour without getting anywhere. Sheriff Tate returned to the brush to talk it out with the Carter brothers.
“If we could just get Andi out of there,” Justin thought aloud.
Chad looked up. “I could go.”
“I could slip in behind them and get Andi out of there. I'm certain I saw a back door.”
Sheriff Tate shook his head. “I can't let you do that.”
Chad glanced around their woody seclusion. “I've got a plan.”
“Well, let's hear it.”
After Chad's plan had been explained, thought over, and worked through by the group, they put it into action.
Sitting in the corner of the dark, battered shack, Andi prayed for all she was worth. She could hear Dexter and Finian arguing with Sheriff Tate and Justin, and she prayed that God would keep them all safe and get her out of there soon.
Over an hour later, she was startled by a familiar voice coming from the opposite side of the shack wall.
“Chad?” Her voice quavered.
“Yeah. Are you alright? Have they hurt you?”
“No, I'm fine.”
“Good. Now listen. I'm going to come in the back door. When I tell you to, you get out of there and run down the hill to where Justin, Mitch and the sheriff are waiting, alright?”
“O–okay.” Andi consented, terrified of the unknown that lay ahead of them.
“No matter what you hear, you don't stop.”
“I won’t,” she assured him, her voice stronger this time. “And Chad?”
"Please be careful,” she whispered.
"Don't worry about me. Just be ready and watching for my move.”
Andi agreed and Chad slipped away. Turning back around, she gasped to find Dexter standing over her.
He grinned and, grabbing her by the arm, roughly drug her across the dirt floor to his partner. “There's somebody outside. Hold the girl.”
Finian held Andi in his right arm and kept his vigil, watching out the window.
Dexter slipped over to stand in the corner next to the door, pistol in hand.
Andi's heart beat faster and faster. Chad would be coming in that door any minute! She struggled against Finian. “Chad, look out!”
But her warning came too late. And the events of the next few seconds would be forever etched in Andi's memory.
Chad shoved open the door, rifle trained on Finian. “Hold it right there!”
Hearing the voice of an intruder, Finian whirled around with the shotgun; throwing Andi aside in the process. Without noticing Dexter lurking in the shadows, Finian fired both barrels of the shotgun in Chad's direction.
Both Chad and Dexter crumpled to the ground.
As was the plan, Mitch snuck along the woodline opposite the shack from Chad. Once in place, he waited and prayed.
Seconds after watching Chad enter the run-down building, a deafening roar pierced the nervous silence. He thought it was two, separate gunshots, but they were so close together one could hardly tell. Mitch was certain that neither of them had came from Chad's rifle. Sounded like a shotgun…
Mitch tried to stay optimistic as he kept a close eye on the front door. Andi running out would be his signal to go in. But she never appeared.
Something is wrong. Their plan having, most likely, gone wrong, Mitch made a decision on his own. Without relaying his intentions to Justin and the sheriff, he slid down the muddy embankment and approached the open doorway. Bursting through the back door, he blinked as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
“Hold it!” Mitch pointed his revolver at Finian, who was in an apparent state of shock over what he’d done, and glanced around. He spotted Andi and started towards her until he took notice of the two bodies lying in the floor in a pool of blood. Dread coursed through him. “Dear, God…” he swallowed hard and looked back to his sister, huddled in the dark corner and refusing to meet his gaze. “Justin! Get in here!”
With the gun held on Finian, Mitch was at a disadvantage. That being, he couldn't take his eyes off the man long enough to check his brother for a pulse.
He studied the girl in the corner. “Andi?”
She wouldn't answer.
Justin, Sheriff Tate, and a handful of deputies kicked the front door down and barged into the shack.
Quickly realizing what had taken place, the deputies took Finian into custody. Mitch holstered his gun and dropped next to Chad. Sheriff Tate and Justin joined him.
From where Andi was, she couldn't see what Mitch, Justin and Sheriff Tate were doing. They were kneeling next to Chad and Dexter with their backs to her and blocking her view of the two limp bodies.
Andi wanted to stand and walk over to them, but she couldn't. She was frozen there, almost as if in a trance.
Mitch walked over and knelt next to her. “Andi? Are you alright?”
She slowly turned towards his caring gaze. “Oh, Mitch!” she sobbed. “It was just awful!”
He pulled her into his arms and held her as she cried. “Shh, it's going to be alright.”
The events of the next couple hours went by in a blur for Andi. Chad was loaded into a wagon to return to the ranch, one of the deputies riding on ahead to summon the doctor. The two kidnappers, one dead and one alive, were taken back to Fresno by the remaining deputies, while Sheriff Tate remained to insure that all four Carters made it home safely.
Once back at the house, Andi saw her mother briefly before she left to be with Chad and the doctor. Melinda insisted that Andi needed a bath after her escapade, and then continued to insure she did a thorough job.
The doctor was still there when Andi was sent to bed, much against her will and to her great dismay.
She had been trying for hours to fall asleep, when a shaft of light fell across the bedroom floor. She rolled over and looked across the room to determine the reasoning. Someone stood silhouetted in the doorway.
“Are you awake, honey?” Her eldest brother whispered.
“Yes.” She sat up, and he came in and sank to the bed next to her.
“What’s wrong, Justin?”
“It's Chad,” he answered quietly.
“What about him?” Andi whispered. She crawled out from under the covers and sat on the side of the bed next to Justin.
“The Doctor doesn't know if, uh…if he'll make it.”
“No,” Andi shook her head defiantly. “No, that’s not true!” She fell into Justin’s arms and sobbed.
Justin carried his youngest sister through the house and set her down at the door to Chad's room.
“Come on, honey. Chad asked to see you.”
“Yes, you can. I know it's hard.”
Andi sighed, tried to pull herself together, and reluctantly followed Justin into the room.
Doctor Weaver had left, but the room was still crowded. Across the room stood Melinda, sobbing relentlessly, and Mitch, trying to comfort her.
Andi glanced over at Chad, so still and pale, then to her mother and Justin.
Justin motioned for her to go ahead. She took a deep breath and slowly stepped up next to Chad.
He smiled and reached out his hand. She quickly took it.
“Hey, what are those tears all about?”
Andi just sniffed and shook her head.
“I know I'm hard on ya sometimes…but I do love you, little sister.”
"I love you, Chad,” Andi sobbed. “I know you only want what's best for me." She swiped at the tears running down her cheeks. Please, God… Heal my brother. Give us an Easter miracle.
Day after melancholy day passed with no change in the condition of the middle Carter brother. Neither of the girls attended school and Justin all but closed his office. Andi spent most of her days roaming the quiet ranch, opposed to Melinda who did any housework she could get her hands on simply to stay busy. Mitch, with the help of Sid, kept up with the necessary ranch work.
Saturday night, five days after all these troubles began, Elizabeth was with Chad when Justin returned home from town. He stepped up behind his mother and placed his hands on her shoulders. She sat in a straight-back chair next to Chad. The Bible, which Justin recognized as his late father’s, lying open in her lap.
"Mother, you've ate nearly nothing since it happened and you haven't slept at all. Why don't you go rest for awhile?”
Elizabeth forced a smile and squeezed his hand. "Thank you, son. But I'm fine."
Justin sighed and shook his head as he squatted next to her chair. “You're not alright. Truth is, none of us are." He took both of her hands in his. "Please, go get some sleep, Mother. I'll stay here with Chad and then Mitch can relieve me later.”
She finally gave in. “Alright, son. If you insist.”
“I do,” he removed the Bible from her lap and placed it on the nightstand.
She stood with a weary sigh. “Good night, Justin.”
He kissed her cheek. “Good night, Mother.”
Andi sat perched on the end of the bed with Melinda behind her, brushing her younger sister’s long dark hair.
Andi spoke up, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “Linda, tomorrow is Easter Sunday.”
"I know…” Melinda whispered as the comb caught on a tangle.
"No one even remembers the celebration,” Andi mourned. “Some Easter. What if–” She trailed off, leaving the rest unsaid.
Knowing what she was thinking, Melinda smiled sadly and turned Andi to face her. The two sisters hugged.
The door softly creaked open and Elizabeth entered. “I just came to say good night, dears.” She kissed each of her daughters and they returned the affection.
“Good night, Mother.”
All three were soon crawling into bed, each of them sorrowfully wondering what the next day or week would comprise.
Andi awoke the next morning with a start. She'd tossed and turned for hours the night before, until she finally fell into a fitful sleep.
She slipped out of bed, carefully so as not to disturb Melinda. Grabbing her housecoat from the bedpost, she tiptoed out of the room and down the hall. When she reached Chad's room she considered knocking, but soon decided against it. Whoever else was there had probably fallen asleep and she didn't want to wake them.
She turned the knob and the door slowly swung open. She stepped inside and immediately noticed Mitch, snoring away in the armchair. Looking to the other side of the room, she suddenly gasped.
Chad was awake and gazing out the window at the breathtaking Easter sunrise.
Andi stood stock-still. "Chad?"
He slowly turned his head and smiled at her. “Morning, little sister.”
Running back to the doorway, Andi leaned out and yelled to the slumbering household. "Everybody, wake up! It's Easter morn and we are so very blessed!"
Click Here for an Easter poem written by me. ;)
Happy Easter everyone! Celebrate His Ressurection!!!