This is the first of a four-part fan fiction story based on the characters of author Susan K. Marlow’s Circle C Adventures. This story also won first place in the 14-17 age category of Mrs. Marlow’s annual short story contest. ‘Proper Andi’ is meant to fill the gap between Mrs. Marlow’s ‘Andrea Carter and the San Francisco Smugglers’, and ‘Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure’, dealing specifically with Andi’s struggle with growing up, and still doing the things she loves…which don’t happen to be considered ‘proper’.
San Joaquin Valley, California, late spring 1881
Andi crashed into her room at Miss Whitaker’s school for young ladies and jumped onto her bed.
Jenny slammed the door behind them and gave a wild-cat yell that made Andi shiver. “No more school!”
Andi flung her pillow at her, and Jenny reached for her own. She whacked at Andi until the seam in one of the pillows came open and a few feathers floated out. They stopped and looked at each other sheepishly.
Then Andi sprang into action. She yanked a drawer out of the dresser and dumped it into her suitcase. “We’re going home, Jenny! I can’t wait to show you Taffy. You and I can race up by my special spot—” She stopped as she saw Jenny’s face. “What?”
Jenny’s freckled face split into a huge grin. “Two terms here didn’t do much, did they?”
Andi tried to close the lid on her suitcase. The clasps didn’t meet. Jenny sat on it, and Andi locked it quickly. “Nope!”
A worrying thought popped into her head and she frowned. Mother will be disappointed that I haven’t become more ladylike. The little worry began to grow. Melinda will expect me to act like a fashionable young lady. What will the boys think? Do they all expect me to come home different?
Suddenly, going home wasn’t as exciting as it was a couple minutes ago.
Jenny noticed Andi’s glum expression. “What’s the matter?”
Andi abandoned the suitcase and sat down on the floor. “Do you think our families will be very . . . ” Her voice trailed off into an unspoken question.
Jenny grew sober. “Disappointed?”
“I don’t know, Andi. Mama had pretty high hopes of my turning out a lady under Miss Whitaker.” She tossed thick red hair over her shoulder. “My brothers knew it would never work, though.” She brightened. “And Papa was doubtful. So maybe it won’t be so bad.”
“It’s different for me,” Andi said. “Everybody in my family thinks it’s time I started acting like a young lady. Especially Mother and Melinda.” She pulled a brush through her thick hair and then dropped it into a small carpet bag. “I just can’t be fashionable. It’s not natural, and I don’t think they understand how hard it is for me. It’s not who I am.”
Jenny’s hand shot out and pointed at Andi. “That’s it!” She jumped on her bed. “Andi, I’ve got an idea.”
“What’s your idea?” Andi asked warily.
The last idea had landed them in Chinatown. Andi shivered. She did not want a repeat of that adventure.
Jenny frowned. “I know what you’re thinking. This is not that kind of idea.”
Andi raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“My plan is this. You and I will act like perfect ladies all the way out to the ranch. Only, we overdo the manners and delicate nerves and whatever else ladies act like. Then, when your family sees how proper you are, they’ll wish you were the old Andi quicker than scat.” She smiled with satisfaction and waited for Andi to give her approval.
Instead, Andi shook her head. “I don’t know, Jenny. I can’t even pretend to have delicate nerves or proper manners. Besides, they won’t be convinced.”
Jenny huffed and buried her head in her arms.
Suddenly, she jerked her head up and stared at Andi. “They don’t have to be convinced. They just have to see how you would be if you were like all the other girls in this place. Pretend you’re Florence or Lydia and be as snooty and annoying as you can be for a while. It’ll probably only take a couple of days.”
Andi considered. All she wanted was to have this lady debate settled once and for all. She wanted to be like Mother, but it seemed so hard, and everyone was impatient with her when she didn’t get it right.
“I’ll do it,” she told Jenny before she could change her mind.
Jenny screeched again. “Whoopee!”