This is the first of a 5-part fan fiction short story based on the characters of author Susan K. Marlow’s Circle C Adventures and Circle C Milestones. This story is set between Mrs. Marlow’s ‘The Last Ride’ and ‘Courageous Love’ and details the courtship of Chad Carter and Ellianna Coulter. Enjoy!
San Joaquin Valley, California, Early May, 1885
Ellianna Coulter rapped her ruler on the desk. “Attention!” Her tone softened slightly as she continued. “I know you are all impatient. Finish your work, and then I have a surprise for you.” The students of the Fresno Grammar School hushed and bent over their desks. Miss Coulter was loved by all her pupils, although she kept order with a firm hand. Beth Morgan caught her teacher’s eye and smiled. Ellie smiled with her eyes, then directed them to the little girl’s slate. Beth took the hint and scratched away at her spelling lesson with a worn slate pencil.
Ellie stared out of the schoolroom window at the blue-gray sky. The last day of school was dragging by for her as well as the children. Right now all she wanted to do was ride out to the Circle C Ranch and take a swift gallop on her favorite black mare, Magic. Her cheeks darkened as she skirted the fact that she would love to see Chad again. Their courtship was progressing well, even though an unseasonable thunderstorm had kept her from riding out last Saturday, and the ranch work piling up for Chad squeezed the time they were able to spend together into Sunday afternoons.
Soft whispers signaled to Ellie that her daydreams had gone on long enough. Tom Belstead was pointing to his desk and whispering to the boy across the aisle. When he saw Ellie looking at him he subsided into a sheepish grin.
Ellie raised an eyebrow and stepped quietly down to stand beside his desk. Tom winced as she opened it and found the grass snake he had carefully smuggled in. Ellie shook her head. Oh, Tom! You just had to bring one the last day of school! The memory of the snake in her desk on the first day of school made a smile twitch her lips, and she turned away to hide it. She gently picked up the snake and carried it to a drawer in her desk.
“All right, class. Third grade spelling rise and pass to the front.”
Several students shuffled to stand in front of Ellie’s desk.
They recited well, and when they returned to their seats, Ellie cleared her throat importantly. “As I said before, I have a surprise for you. To demonstrate the progress you have made, my class will, for the first time, hold an exhibition for your parents, and the school board.”
An excited murmur swept through the school room. Ellie’s eyes crinkled into a smile. “The exhibition will be held next Friday, at six o’clock, and I expect you all to be there. Afterward, there will be a picnic, we will be having fried chicken and ice cream, so make sure you stay.” Ellie paused dramatically, then went on. “I’m proud of you, and thank you for being so willing to learn. Class dismissed!”
The children scattered and the classroom emptied of all except Ellie and Tom. He walked jauntily up to her desk and stood looking at her. “Can I have my thnake now?”
Ellie smothered a laugh. The nerve of that boy! She opened her drawer and held the twisting reptile out to Tom. “Don’t bring another one, or you won’t get it back.” She warned.
Tom cracked a gap toothed smile at her. “It’th the latht day of thchool. You won’t be able to catch me again for a whole thummer.”
Ellie did smile that time. “Not unless you bring one to church…again.”
Tom looked up, startled.
“Oh, yes, I saw you.” Ellie told him sternly. “Don’t do it again.”
Tom nodded, then ran to show the snake to his friend.
Ellie called after him, “Goodbye, Tom!”
A grass snake was waved back at her as Tom disappeared around a corner.
Quickly, Ellie gathered her things and locked the downstairs schoolroom one last time. Other than the school exhibition, the summer felt like an eternity of pleasure laid out in front of her. She hurried down K Street to the boarding house she was staying at, dumped her things on her bed and changed quickly. Just around the corner, Cory Blake waited at the livery stable with a saddled horse. Ellie pressed a coin into his hand and mounted in one swift move. The rides she took with Chad, and sometimes Andi, had improved her horsemanship dramatically.
And that’s it for now! Stay tuned for more soon!