This is the third 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’.
The surrey rolled into the yard and stopped at the barn. Chad jumped out and grudgingly held up his hand for Andi.
Andi took it and hopped down. “Why are we stopped here?”
“I thought you’d like to see Taffy first.”
Andi laughed. “I’ll see Taffy after dinner. I’m exhausted and dirty from my journey. I want to clean up and eat. Taffy can wait.”
Chad stared, speechless. Then an angry flush spread over his face, and he glared. “I want to know what’s going on, Miss Frills-and-manners. Do we mean nothing to you? What about Taffy? She’s missed you for two whole months, and now that you’re home, you don’t care?”
Andi bit her lip angrily. They all wanted her to be a lady, and now that she was acting like one, Chad was yelling at her.
“That’s touching, but I really must clean up. Tell Taffy I missed her too.” Andi blew a kiss toward the barn and glided to the house.
Jenny jumped out of the rig and ran after her. They disappeared into the house, tore up the stairs to Andi’s room, and slammed the door behind them. Andi sat down on her bed and buried her face in her hands.
“You’re doing great, Andi. See? Already Chad hates you like this.” Jenny jumped onto the bed and whacked Andi with a pillow. “Don’t give up yet. It’s working.”
Andi couldn’t help laughing. She grabbed a pillow and swung it hard. Jenny lost her balance and crashed to the floor, giggling hysterically.
Footsteps came up the hall, and both girls froze. Jenny clapped a hand over her mouth and wheezed, her eyes twinkling. There was a knock at the door. “Are you girls all right?” Mother’s voice came through the door.
“Yes, Mother.” Andi tried to sound nonchalant.
“Uh, Jenny—I mean Jennifer—fell. We’re fine.”
“I see.” Mother’s tread slowly moved back down the hallway.
Jenny took her hand away from her mouth. “That was close,” she whispered.
Andi nodded. “I guess we’d better get ready for supper, but first I want to see Taffy.”
“That’s not a good idea—” Jenny began.
Andi cut her off. “Taffy and I have been separated for two months. I’m not waiting a minute longer.”
Jenny pursed her lips. “Well, all right.”
The girls peeked out of the door, then tiptoed along the hall and down the back stairs.
Steps thumped angrily in the back door. “She completely ruined my day,” Chad grumbled to someone as he threw his hat onto a hook and made his way to the kitchen. “I was so happy to see her, and she slapped me away like a mosquito.”
“I don’t understand it,” Justin’s voice said quietly. “And I don’t like it.”
Andi and Jenny slipped out the door and ran to the barn.
“Taffy!” Andi called.
A nicker answered her, followed by the sound of pawing at the stall door.
In another moment, Andi had her face buried against her beloved mare. “Oh, Taffy, I’ve missed you so much!”
Jenny smiled. “Andi, I’m getting nervous. Don’t you think we’d better go in?”
Andi rubbed Taffy’s face for a second longer. Then she kissed her mare good-bye. “I’ll see you soon.” She turned to Jenny with a miserable look. “I don’t think this is a good idea. Chad’s mad at me, and I’m pretty sure Mother isn’t happy about this, either.”
“Don’t back out on me now, Andi. It’s working. Promise me you’ll at least wait until tomorrow before you drop the act.”
“Come on, Andi. Just a few more hours.”
Andi gulped. “All right.”
Jenny squealed then looked around stealthily. “Great. Can we go now?”
Andi let herself be pulled back toward the house. They changed into frilly dresses and hair ribbons and went down to the dining room.
The family was already seated.
“Well, you haven’t changed in one way, Andi,” Chad commented. “You’re still late.”
Andi did her best to ignore the remark. “My name is Andrea, Chad.” She tilted her chin up as she quoted Aunt Rebecca. “I was named for my two grandmothers. And anyway, Andi is so boyish.”
She sat down with a flounce.
Silence greeted her remark.
Andi saw Justin watching her from the corner of his eye. She could see his mind turning. It wouldn’t be long before he figured out what was going on.
He said nothing, however, and bowed his head to say the blessing. His final words cut Andi to the heart. “Thank you for bringing Andi home safe and sound. Amen.”
Andi cleared her throat and started chatting with Melinda and Jenny about the latest fashions. “The riding habits,” she gushed, “are absolutely beautiful. I’ll wear mine tomorrow when I ride Taffy.”
“Can you ride astride in that thing?” Jenny asked innocently.
Andi stopped short. Then she got an idea. “No, of course not. But riding astride is so unladylike. I’ll never ride that way again.” She turned to her brother. “Chad, where is the sidesaddle that Aunt Rebecca gave Mother?”
Chad’s fork was halfway to his mouth, but Andi’s question stopped him cold. “We sold it.”
“Father thought riding sidesaddle was dangerous and wouldn’t let any of you girls ride that way.” Chad frowned warningly at Andi.
“I don’t understand why,” Andi pouted. “I was counting on showing you all how a proper lady rides.”
Melinda shifted. She rode astride, and so did Mother. They were both perfect ladies.
Andi went right on. “I had to take a special class because all the other young ladies knew how to ride sidesaddle, and I didn’t. I felt like such a country bumpkin.” She sighed. “But dear Miss Whitaker was so kind. She made me feel as if I could become a lady despite my rough upbringing.”
Jenny choked on a sip of water. Miss Whitaker had never been very kind or encouraging. The memory of the look on her face when Andi told her she rode astride, coupled with the words ‘dear Miss Whitaker,’ were too much for her composure.
Mitch patted Jenny’s back as she coughed and sputtered into her napkin. When she recovered, her eyes sparkled at Andi with unspoken mischief.
The family watched intently, clearly wondering what was going on.
Andi did her best to keep a straight face, but a grin tugged at the corners of her mouth. She dabbed at her lips with her napkin to hide the smile.
She slowly looked up and flushed when she saw everyone looking at her. Jenny was the only one who looked like she was enjoying herself.
Justin gave her his you-better-straighten-up look.
Andi turned her nose up at him. He had lectured her on ladylike behavior once too often. This was revenge on her entire family for pushing her to be something she would never be.
Even her mother was a small part of it. Andi wanted to be like her mother, but she shouldn’t have to stop doing what she loved to do to be like her. Unfortunately, the current standards for ladylike behavior forbade ranching and roping cattle.
The rest of the meal was awkwardly silent. Nobody wanted Andi to start talking again, and Andi wished with all her might she could go back on her promise to Jenny to wait until tomorrow before she quit her charade.