Ellie Coulter Part 11

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/

Part 11.

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 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.

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Ellie Coulter Part 10

This is the tenth 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/

Part 10.

If Chad hadn’t been there… I don’t know what I would have done.

After church Sunday, Ellie rode out to the ranch with the Carters.  Lunch was superb, and afterwards Ellie looked forward to a brisk ride on Magic.

Chad slapped on his hat.  “Ready, Ellie?”

Ellie hurried down the stairs in the split skirt she had brought.  “Of course!”

They saddled their horses and started off.  The day was bright and crisp, big white clouds blew quickly across the sky, making shadows on the ground.

Chad led the way to a bubbling creek surrounded by a scattering of oak trees and dismounted.  Ellie did the same.

“Ellie-” Chad began.

Suddenly, Magic snorted fearfully and Sky pawed the ground.

Chad attempted to calm them both, but they began to go crazy.

Sky reared and pulled the reins out of Chad’s grip.  He bolted away and Magic fought to follow him.

“Let her go, Ellie!”  Chad yelled over the horse’s frightened whinnies.

Ellie let go of the reins and they whistled through her gloves as the mare spun, then galloped after Sky.

Their stranded riders looked after them in shocked surprise.

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Ellie Coulter Part 9

This is the ninth 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/

Part 9.

I’m so excited…and nervous.

Next Saturday evening, Ellie let Mrs. Stewart help her dress for the engagement party.  She had planned on not going, but Chad had convinced her otherwise.

“Take a break for one evening.”  He’d told her.  “I’ll teach you how to dance, and you’ll have fun.”

So, here she was as jittery as a wild horse over her first real ball.

Mrs. Stewart wasn’t helping her nerves, either.

“There’ll be lots of well-to-do folks there, so behave yourself.  And mind you don’t let anyone kiss you during a waltz.”

Ellie turned around from where she was trying to find the small buttons at the back of her dress.  “Mrs. Stewart, surely no one will be so improper.”

Mrs. Stewart fussed over her hair.  “You never can tell, dear.  Now tilt your head so that I can pin this curl where it’s supposed to be.”

Ellie obeyed and Mrs. Stewart finally announced that she was ready to go.  She gave Ellie’s hair a final pat.  “You look lovely, Ellie.  That pale pink is perfect.”

Ellie gave Mrs. Stewart a grateful hug.  “Thank you.”

A knock at the front door made Ellie jump.

“Calm down.  I’m sure it’s just some young man wanting to have the first dance.”

Ellie was short of breath, and it wasn’t just because of the corset she wore for the occasion.

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Ellie Coulter Part 8

This is the eighth 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/

Part 8.

I feel safe here.  I never want to leave.

“It started the first day I arrived in Searles Valley.”  Ellie began.  “A man named Mr. Stark picked me up from the train station.  I could tell at once that he was …too friendly.”  Ellie clenched her jaw in anger at the memory.

“He told me as soon as he could that he was a widower with two children in the school I would be teaching.  I was as cold as I could possibly be without being entirely rude.  When he left me at the boarding house, he expressed a wish to see me again soon.   I gave him a negative answer, and went inside.”

Ellie shivered.

“The boarding house was horrible.  I’ve stayed in many, but this one was the worst.  Cold drafts whistled through chinks in the walls at night, and it was infested with rats.  The couple that ran the boarding house were old drunks.  I told the school board, but they did nothing, even though several of them lived in fairly nice homes

“The children were unruly, and they played nasty tricks behind my back.  I got into the habit of brushing my chair off before I sat down after a couple of episodes with a tack.  I could have handled them, but the stubborn school board refused to listen to any of my ideas!” She pounded her fist on the table.

Ellie lost her far-away look and met Chad’s disgusted gaze. “And then one evening after supper, Mr. Stark came to call.  I crawled out of a window and hid in the pigpen until I thought he had left.  I went back inside, but when I went upstairs, I saw him prowling around the house.  I stayed awake for the rest of the night, watching and listening, ready to hide at the slightest noise.  I prayed more during that term of school than I had prayed in my entire life, and God protected me.

“As soon as the fall term ended, I quit.  I went home and Pa, Jem and cousin Nathan exploded when they heard about it.  They made me take a break, so I rested at home for the rest of the year, until it was time to find a new school to teach.  Jem insisted that I apply for the Fresno Grammar School; he claimed that it would be safer, and made me promise to write him when I had news about you. I think he wanted to know that I had someone I could go to if anything happened.”

Ellie smiled.  “Your family has been so welcoming.  I feel like I’m at home.  I can’t thank you enough for befriending me.”

Chad cleared his throat.  “Don’t mention it.  It was my pleasure.”

Ellie pushed her chair back.  “Well, I should go put Magic away.  I left her standing in the sun.”

Chad’s feet hit the floor with a thud as he stood up. “I’ll come with you and take care of Sky.”

As Ellie unsaddled and rubbed Magic down, Andi tore into the barn again.

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Ellie Coulter Part 7

This is the seventh 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/

Part 7.

I had a wonderful day.

Ellie took Mrs. Stewart’s advice, and Saturday after lunch she donned a sturdy shirt, vest and split skirt, slapped on a hat she had “borrowed” from Jem, rented a horse from Blake’s Livery Stable, and headed out to the ranch.

She rode up to the house and dismounted.  A ranch hand wandered over and took her horse.  Ellie thanked him, and then stood in the yard wondering what to do.

A door slammed and Ellie was nearly run over by a figure bolting from the house.  Andi stopped herself just in time.  “Ellie!”

Ellie smiled brightly.  “Howdy.  What’s the matter?”

Andi looked beside herself with joy.  “Chad said I could learn to trick ride!”

“Really?”  Ellie concealed her pleasure with difficulty.

Andi grinned broadly.  “Yes!”  She took off running again.  “I have to go tell Riley!”

Ellie watched her race to the barn in search of Riley, then turned to the house.  Chad leaned against a column of the porch smiling.

“I see you kept your promise.”  He called with a wave.

Ellie smiled back.  “I see you kept yours.”

He jumped off the porch and came to stand beside her. “I couldn’t help it.  You were right.”  He ran a hand through his hair, then plopped his hat back on.  “I’m glad you came.”

A little embarrassed, Ellie shrugged nonchalantly. “Thanks.  I was hoping Andi would show me around the ranch, but I suspect that she’s busy, now.”

Chad started walking toward the barn.  “Well, don’t just stand there!”  He teased.  “Come on!”

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Ellie Coulter Part 6

This is the sixth 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/

Part 6.

I’ve never been more surprised in my life.  I wonder what new secrets I’ll discover next.

A light was burning in the window of Mrs. Stewart’s boarding house as Chad helped Ellie down from the buggy.

Ellie opened the door cautiously, and made her way quietly to her room.  A squeaking floorboard made her jump.  This felt like the time she had snuck out of the house with Jem to see the full moon. Pa had caught them and sent them back to bed, smarting from his rebuke.  The memory made Ellie smile.  A sudden rush of tears caught Ellie unawares.  She wiped them away, and pushed open her door.

“Miss Coulter.”

Ellie jumped.

Mrs. Stewart stood in the hallway, a candle in her hand.

Ellie let her shoulders sag.  Not another lecture, not now!

“Miss Coulter, I apologize for my rude behavior last night.” Mrs. Stewart’s voice was cold and distant.

Surprised, Ellie couldn’t say a word for a minute.  Then she remembered herself.  “No, Mrs. Stewart, I apologize.  I had no right to speak to you in that manner, and I have regretted it ever since.”

A slight tremble in Mrs. Stewart’s lips betrayed her feeling. “Thank you, Miss Coulter.”

Ellie reached out to hug the older woman.  “Just call me Ellie.”

A sob shook Mrs. Stewart’s shoulders.  The usually stern woman suddenly dropped her mask and clung to Ellie.  Bewildered, Ellie held her in a hug and waited for an explanation.

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Ellie Coulter Part 5

This is the fifth 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/

Part 5.

Chad’s family is beautiful. They welcomed me without a second thought.

Supper was wonderful.  Ellie found Chad’s family friendly and refreshing, a welcome reprieve from Mrs. Stewart’s stony glare across the table.  She said as much to Andi.

They were sitting together in the parlor after supper. Andi’s formal manners had faded away as she became more comfortable with Ellie.  Andi laughed.  “I know Mrs. Stewart, and I know exactly what you mean.  I’ve gotten that look before, especially if I’m doing something she doesn’t see as proper.”

Ellie joined the laugh, a little ruefully.  “I got a lecture last night; it was awful.”

“Really?”  Andi looked curious.  “What did she think was improper?  You don’t seem at all like you would be caught riding astride in a split skirt, which was the offense I committed.”

Ellie shook her head.  “Mrs. Stewart thought I shouldn’t have let your brother walk me home from school.”

Andi looked surprised.  “He walked you home?”

Ellie flushed.  “Yes, we haven’t seen each other in a long time, and he wanted to hear how my brother, Jem, was doing.”

Andi didn’t look convinced.  “Oh.”

Ellie changed the subject.  “You love horses, I understand.”

“Oh, yes, I do!  I could talk for hours about horses.  I want to learn to trick ride, but Chad won’t let me.”  Andi’s voice grew sad.  “Riley said he would teach me, but only if Chad agrees.”

“Riley.  Isn’t that the young man you were with when Chad introduced us?”  Ellie asked.

Andi nodded, and Ellie wondered if there was more to this than met the eye, but Andi didn’t appear conscious of anything more, so she pushed the idea away to consider further.

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Ellie Coulter Part 4

This is the fourth 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/

Part 4.

The Circle C Ranch is huge! I knew it was big, but I had no idea it was this big.  Chad is very proud of it, and rightly so.

At the end of an hour, Chad drove the buggy through the entrance to the Circle C Ranch.  Ellie’s lips parted in astonishment as she surveyed the large yard, barns, and hacienda style, white house.

Chad stopped the buggy in front of the house.  He threw the reins to a ranch hand, stepped out of the rig, and held his hand up for Ellie.  As Ellie got down, the horses were led away and Ellie stood looking at the busy ranch.

Chad crossed his arms over his vest and thoroughly enjoyed her evident surprise.  “Welcome to the Circle C Ranch.”

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Ellie Coulter Part 3

This is the third 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/

Part 3.

Thank God for Chad’s invitation.  I’ve looked forward to it all day.

The next day was awful.  It seemed everything went wrong.  Ellie had stayed up late pondering her apology to Mrs. Stewart, and was almost late to school the next morning.  And then school was terrible.  The Belstead children deliberately caused trouble, this time, real trouble.  The commotion they caused kept even the most determined pupils from concentrating.

After school, Ellie sat at her desk and felt like crying. It will turn around.  She told herself.  I just need to take charge, not take any nonsense, and give it a new approach.

I’ll start tomorrow. 

 Thank you; Lord, for Chad asking me to supper.  I don’t want another meal with Mrs. Stewart ever again.

A sudden shout outside made her blood run cold.  “Fight!  Fight!”

Ellie sprang to her feet and tore out of the schoolhouse. The sight that met her eyes turned her stomach over in fear.

Tom Belstead and another older boy were ganging up on Jimmy Morgan.  Beth was sobbing close by.  Already Ellie could see blood streaming from Jimmy’s nose and one eye looked dangerously swollen.  He was fighting gamely, however.

Ellie waded into the mess as her anger rose.  She caught Tom’s accomplice by the shoulder and threw him away from Jimmy.  As she tried to separate Tom and Jimmy, a figure grabbed both by their collars and jerked them apart.

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Ellie Coulter Part 2

This is the second 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/

Part 2

I have to confess, I am excited to meet Chad Carter again.  I’m more excited than I should be.

The soft murmur of the children’s voices as they recited their lessons filled the schoolroom.  Ellie checked the small timepiece pinned to the bodice of her green sprigged gray dress.  Almost time to dismiss class.

Ellie folded her hands on her desk and studied her new pupils. There were fifteen to twenty students. Most of which behaved well.  The Morgan twins:  Jimmy and Beth would cause no trouble.  They were obedient, polite, and already Beth had won her teacher’s heart.

And then there were the Belstead clan:  the blacksmith’s three children with ages ranging from six to ten.  They were unpredictable, but not mean, and prone to harmless mischief as Ellie learned early in the day when she found a grass snake in her desk.

Ellie sighed regretfully at having to punish them the first day of school.  It had been a harmless prank, but such disrespect, on the first day of school, could not be tolerated.  The worst part about the prank was that Ellie had ended up punishing all three, even though she doubted the guilt of the younger two.  However, all had confessed since it seemed their motto was “all together, or not at all.”

The children’s voices stopped, recalling Ellie to the present.

She nodded.  “Return to your seats.”  When they were all seated, “You may put your books away, class is dismissed.”

Laughter and discussion erupted as the children rose and stampeded for the door.  Ellie sat watching them go.  At the door, the oldest Belstead, Tom, turned back and glared at Ellie.  She had lost her chance with them already, they disliked her now and it would take a long time to regain their trust.  Her face fell.

A flicker of surprise crossed Tom’s face as he saw his teacher’s mournful expression.  Then he clattered out the door and ran across the yard to join his siblings.

Ellie crossed the room to look out of the window.  As the crowd of children separated to their homes, one figure turned back and waved.  Ellie recognized Beth, and a smile crept across her face.  She waved as the little girl grabbed her brother’s hand and skipped toward their home.  Ellie was encouraged by the sweet gesture Beth had just offered her.  At least she had made a good impression on one child.

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