This is the final part of an 11-part short story based on the characters of author Susan K. Marlow’s Circle C Adventures and is posted on her blog https://circlecadventures.blogspot.com/
I’ve never been so happy in my life!
“Look what I found, Ellie!” Andi rolled a wheelchair in. Ellie sat up on the settee and a big smile curled her lips. “Where in the world did you get that, Andi?”
An unusually serious expression filled Andi’s eyes and Ellie could tell a story was coming. “This is the one I used a few months ago.”
As Andi filled her in on the events relating to her horse Taffy’s death and her own near fatal injuries, Ellie was shocked.
She wiped away the tears that compassion had wrung from her, and gave Andi a quick hug. “I’m so sorry, Andi.”
Andi returned the embrace, and smiled in a way that showed not only her ability to move on from the accident, but think with pleasure about the times she had enjoyed, even if a slight pain lingered.
Ellie glanced dubiously at the contraption that Andi had brought in. “Do you think the doctor will let me use it?”
Andi shrugged. “Why wouldn’t he? You were supposed to stay off of it, but he never said anything about not using a wheelchair. And after two weeks, surely it would be okay.”
Ellie looked from her splinted foot to the wheelchair. “How am I going to get in it?”
Andi pushed the chair as close to the settee as she could. “If you scoot into the wheelchair, I’ll support your foot.”
Ellie hoped the doctor wouldn’t be angry, but she was so tired of being stuck inside, that she gave Andi a delighted grin and followed her instructions.
When she was settled comfortably in the chair, Andi lowered her foot gently onto the rest. “There!”
Ellie held on to the arms as Andi pushed her quickly through the house and out onto the porch. A waft of fresh air blew over Ellie’s face and caught her hair. Auburn curls streamed in the wind and Ellie pushed them back with a laugh.
Andi leaned over the back of the chair, and Ellie looked up. “Thank you so much, Andi. This is wonderful! I’ve missed being outside.”
Andi directed the chair toward a ramp off of the porch. “I got Riley to put this up again, it’s the same one I used.”
They rattled down the boards and out into the yard. Dark clouds bunched up in the distance, muttering low threats.
A rider on horseback rode up and stopped. Andi waved and Ellie recognized Chad. He’d been gone for a couple of weeks, chasing after some horses that had broken loose during the earthquake. He’d returned late last night, so Andi said, and had gone to work early the next day.
He swung off of Sky, threw the reins to a ranch hand and started toward them. Andi rolled the chair over.
“What are you up to, Andi?” He regarded her suspiciously.
Andi bristled, but Ellie put a slight pressure on her hand and answered for her. “She decided to let me out of jail and wheel me around in this contraption.”
Andi raised her eyebrows at that explanation, but said nothing.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” Chad asked with a knowing glance at her bright face.
He grinned as a puff of wind blew all of her hair into her face. Ellie wiped it impatiently away and her eyes laughed back.
“Let’s continue our little tour. Where do you want to go?” Andi asked.
“I want to see Magic!” Ellie answered immediately.
As Ellie entered the barn, Magic gave a low whicker. Andi was impressed. “She loves you, Ellie. I had no idea you two were so attached to each other.”
The chair stopped in front of the stall and Ellie reached up to stroke Magic’s nose. The mare nuzzled her face gently and blew out a satisfied breath.
Ellie smiled. “That’s better, isn’t it, girl. Together again, huh.”
A grumble of thunder warned them to go inside quickly, before they were caught in a storm, and Ellie reluctantly told Andi to roll her back to the house.
Soon after supper, the clouds kept their promise and poured down rain in torrents. The sun was obscured, and a relaxing gray light took its place.
Ellie rolled herself onto the porch and sat soaking up the soft wet air. Chad joined her. “Nice evening, isn’t it?”
Chad pulled a chair beside her and sat down. Neither said anything.
“Ellie,” Chad slipped his strong hand over hers. “I would like to write to your father and ask for his permission to court you with the intention of marriage. Are you in agreement? Will you consider spending the rest of your life with me?”
Ellie turned her head to look at Chad, her eyes shining with joy. “Yes! There’s no place I’d rather be than with you.”
Chad smiled, then sobered. “Just to be up front, Ellie, it’s not going to be easy. I’m a handful. But I love you, and I want you to be my wife.”
Ellie squeezed his hand. “I don’t expect it to be easy, I know neither of us are perfect, but I love you too.”
Chad put an arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder. The quiet moment was interrupted by the appearance of Elizabeth. Ellie drew back from Chad a bit sheepishly, and he stood up to greet his mother. “Mother – “
Elizabeth smiled through the tears that misted her eyes. “I know. I’m so happy for you both.” She bent to kiss Ellie gently on the cheek; her warm blue gaze went right to Ellie’s heart, and her soft voice whispered, “Welcome to the family.”