This is the second 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 details the courtship of Chad Carter and Ellianna Coulter. Enjoy!
It was nearing half past five when she finally trotted into the yard of the Circle C Ranch. Ranch hands smiled in recognition and one came to take her horse.
“Thank you.” Ellie said politely.
The hand grinned. “The boss is out in the south pasture…if that’s who you’ve come to see.” He finished slyly.
Ellie blushed, but calmly raised an eyebrow. “Is he? Well, I might ride out on Magic in a moment, but I’d like to speak to Elizabeth first.”
She glided up to the house leaving the ranch hand chuckling.
She said hello to Elizabeth for the sake of her word, and received an invitation to dinner, then hurried to the barn and saddled Magic. The black mare nickered affectionately, then shot off to the south pasture as Ellie touched her heels to the mare’s sides.
In less than five minutes, Ellie rode up to several men moving cattle to another field. They seemed to be having a hard time with one heifer in particular. Every time they tried to herd her forward, she would dash out to the side, taking several others with her.
Ellie spotted Chad on the edge, yelling. “Andi, get out to the right and rope her.” The heifer spun the other direction. “Not the right, Andi, the left!”
A slim figure on horseback streaked out to the side as the heifer tried to dodge again, a lasso whirling above her head. Andi. The loop of rope snaked out and fell neatly around the neck of the cow. The horse followed alongside the heifer for a little ways, then slowed and the tension on the rope increased. The heifer seemed to acknowledge that she was beaten, and clattered into a walk. The cattle were easily led, once the troublemaking heifer was out of the way, and they ambled through a gap in the fence.
Chad noticed Ellie and rode to her side, a grin creasing his tan face. “How was the last day of the school, Miss Coulter?” He asked teasingly.
Ellie rolled her eyes, then laughed. “Fine, I guess. Anita Clay fell into a bucket of water, Tom Belstead had a snake in his desk, and I’m nervous about the exhibition.”
Chad’s bright blue eyes twinkled at her. “They’ll do fine, after all, you taught them.”
Ellie shook her head. “Thanks, but that doesn’t give me much confidence.”
“Why? Are you that bad of a teacher?” Chad asked, straight faced.
Ellie smacked him lightly on the arm. “Be quiet.”
Chad just laughed. “Yes, ma’am.” He said with a wink that made Ellie’s cheeks flush.
Andi joined them as they turned their horses toward the ranch house. “Howdy, Ellie!”
Ellie returned the greeting with a smile at the gutsy, dark-haired young woman. She liked Andi a lot, and sometimes she wished Chad wasn’t so antagonistic toward her. Ellie hadn’t witnessed one of their famous quarrels yet, but she figured she would if she was going to be part of this family.
“Watch this, Ellie.” Andi coaxed Shasta into a canter and pulled her boots out of the stirrups. Carefully, she knelt in the saddle.
Ellie heard a slight gasp, and glanced over at Chad. His face was white and set. When he found his voice he chirruped to Sky and went after Andi as she sat down in the saddle and reined Shasta in. Her bright face glanced back for Ellie’s approval, just as Chad burst out. “Don’t you ever do that again!”
Dismay, hurt and anger mixed on Andi’s face. “Chad, you said Riley could teach me!”
“I didn’t agree to you doing these stunts all over the ranch, when Riley is nowhere in sight! You stay in that saddle. Do you hear?”
Ellie broke in. “Chad, don’t you think-“
“Stay out of this, Ellie.” Chad said sharply. He turned back to Andi, and went on with a raised voice.
Ellie felt the blood drain from her face. Stay out of this? Did he really just say that? She clenched her jaw in pain as the sharp barb of his words sliced her heart. I thought we were trying to do things together.
She spurred Magic forward until she was near the shouting pair. Andi looked close to tears.
“Chad!” Ellie raised her voice and he turned to face her. Ellie glared into his ice blue eyes. This was the first time she’d ever been angry at him. It hurt almost worse than the provocation. “Don’t ever tell me to stay out of this, like it’s not my business.”
Chad looked surprised and angry. “It isn’t your business, this is between me and Andi, so stay out of it.”
Ellie felt ready to explode. “When you asked to court me, you made it my business, unless you are ending our courtship.”
“Sounds to me like you just ended it.” Chad snapped.
Ellie gripped the saddle horn to keep from falling. She never thought that this would happen, not between her and Chad. She wanted to hit something, but instead she popped Magic with the end of her reins and galloped to the barn.
Quickly Ellie unsaddled and rubbed down the mare. She wanted to cry from anger and hurt, but didn’t. She tacked up the livery stable horse and went inside to say goodbye to Elizabeth.
She was in the kitchen, kneading bread. Her long, graying braid hung loosely down her back. Ellie felt like a traitor somehow when she considered the words she had just said to her son. She wanted to cry on the woman’s shoulder, but couldn’t. She couldn’t ask comfort from the motherly, selfless woman. Not after what happened.
Ellie cleared her throat.
Elizabeth looked up. “Ah, Ellie! Did you find…” Her voice trailed off. “What’s wrong?”
Ellie forced her lips to turn up. “Everything is…” a sob threatened…”Fine.” Ellie finished in a whisper. What a lie. Nothing was fine, and if she and Chad didn’t make up, nothing would ever be fine again.
Elizabeth wiped her hands on her apron and came to stand in front of Ellie. She looked deep into her eyes, then put her hands on her shoulders. “Did you and Chad quarrel?”
Ellie’s lips trembled and tears spilled down her face. She nodded.
Elizabeth pulled Ellie into a warm hug, then sat her down at the kitchen table. “Tell me about it.”
Ellie sobbed out the story to Elizabeth. At the conclusion, there was silence. Elizabeth’s deep blue eyes were bent on the floor as she pondered the problem. She finally broke the silence. “I think you should talk this over tonight. Many couples quarrel, merely because they misunderstood the other’s feelings. The best thing to do is talk about it.”
Ellie gave Elizabeth a watery smile. “I don’t want to talk to him; I just want him to know how I feel.”
“Might he feel the same way?” Elizabeth inquired gently.
Ellie shrugged sheepishly. “I guess so.”
Elizabeth patted Ellie’s hand. “Go upstairs and freshen up for supper, afterwards you and Chad can talk in the library.”
And that’s all! Come back for more next Wednesday!