A New Kind of Gingerbread – 3

Part 1 >>

Chapter Five

“And you’ve had this bite for four days now?”   

“Yes, Doctor.” Andi stared at the doctor’s face and tried her hardest to figure out his thoughts. She couldn’t. She had to ask. “Will I be all right?”   

Doc Weaver didn’t look at her. Instead, he released his hold on her arm and turned to Riley. “The dog? He was bitten as well?”   

“Yes, sir. I have him tied up in the barn.” Riley stood at the door, hat in one hand, Jared in his other arm. His face was pale.   

“There is nothing I can for Andrea at the moment.” Dr. Weaver said. He sighed. “It’s just one of those things we’ll have to wait out.” He faced Andi. “I do ask, young lady, that as soon as you get home, you climb into bed and stay there. The best thing for you right now is rest.”   

Numbly, Andi shook her head. “I can’t do that, Doctor. There’s Jared and the housework—”   

“You’ll do as Doc Weaver tells you,” Riley interrupted. His voice was firm. His hand clenched his hat, and his eyes sparked their anxiety and resolve. “We’ll stop by Melinda’s on the way home and see what your mother thinks. Either your mother or Ellie can stay and help out.”   

“Surely there’s a treatment,” Andi persisted. “Isn’t there, Doctor?”   

“Well…” Dr. Weaver sighed. “There is a vaccine out. Louis Pasteur invented it two years ago, and it appears to be working. However, I still haven’t accepted it into my office. I’m always wary about these things. And you’re a nursing mother, Andrea. I’m not sure…”His voice trailed off. “You could try it, if you and Riley wanted to, but it’d be completely experimental. It healed a boy only nine years of age, but people doubt its capability. Some say it can only worsen situations and the boy’s recovery was an example of extreme luck.”   

At the doctor’s words, Andi bit her lip. I wonder if they’ve ever experimented on a nursing mother? What if I were to take it and it hurt Jared?

“You may not have even been infected,” the doctor went on. “Who knows what this new vaccine might do to someone who doesn’t haver rabies?” 

Andi gulped. Worse and worse! What if, like the doctor says, it only makes things worse? But then…what if I do get sick and…and die? Where would Jared be then? Oh, God, give me wisdom, please. She looked at Riley. “What do you think?”

“I’m not sure.” Riley was clearly at a loss. “It’s up to you. However, the doctor seems to be against it, and he knows more about these kinds of thing than we do. Doctor?”

“Like I said, the choice is yours,” Dr. Weaver answered. “I have never used the vaccine series before. I also hear it’s quite painful—21 days of shots.”

Andi didn’t care about the pain. Uh-uh! Not if it meant she could be spared certain death.

“I’ve gone along with those skeptics who say they’re unsure of its effectiveness.” He frowned. “I’m just an old country doctor, not ready to jump into all these new-fangled ideas.” When neither Andi nor Riley said anything, he went on. “On the other hand, I don’t know if your situation could be much worse. You have a husband, and a baby who needs you. Tell you what. Why don’t I at least send for the vaccine? While I wait for it, I’ll conduct some more research. I’ll bring out to your ranch when it comes. Hopefully,” he added in an undertone, “it’ll arrive in time.”

“Fine.” Andi let out a resigned breath. “Until then, I’ll—”

“You’ll rest, eat plenty, and keep up your strength like a good girl.” Dr. Weaver clapped her shoulder. “You’re a strong young lady, and I’m sure you’ll beat this thing. You’ll soon be right as rain.”

But, despite the strong tone of Dr. Weaver’s voice, even Andi could read between the lines. He’s scared. She swallowed. He doesn’t know what to tell me. Andi slid down from the exam table and joined Riley at the door. He’d plopped his hat on his head and his hand gripped hers as he asked the doctor, “How long…’til we know?”

Dr. Weaver let out a breath. “It’s too early to tell quite yet. That’s why I asked about the dog. Watch him. For a dog, it takes about ten days. Within that time, if he doesn’t act mad, there’s a good chance he hasn’t caught it, and there’s an even better chance that Andrea hasn’t.”

He released another whoosh of air and rubbed a hand against his forehead. “However, we won’t know for certain for a while yet. It takes three to eight weeks for a human to start showing symptoms.” He paused. “But if the dog shows signs, we don’t wait for any symptoms in you. For sure we’ll have to forge ahead with the vaccine.”

“But I can’t stay in bed that—”

“Rabies is fatal in humans once the symptoms appear.”

Andi closed her mouth. Riley gave her hand a tight, almost painful, squeeze. He nodded at Dr. Weaver. “Thanks.”

“There. Now, you rest up, and don’t worry about a thing.” Mother tucked the covers around her youngest daughter and smiled sorrowfully. “I’ll take care of the house and Riley, sweetheart. All you have to do is promise me you’ll follow Doc Weaver’s orders and stay in bed. That shouldn’t be so hard, should it? Just stay in bed and get waited on—”   

“Mother,” Andi broke in. “Am I going to get sick?”   

“I don’t know.” Mother rested her cool hand against Andi’s cheek. “Only God knows. And we’re going to pray hard that He keeps you safe.”   

Andi’s lip trembled. “What if He doesn’t? Oh, Mother, I don’t want to leave Riley and Jared and—”   

“Hush, Andrea.” Mother laid her finger across Andi’s lips. “Don’t go borrowing trouble. ‘With God, all things are possible.’ If it His will, you can be spared, Andrea. You can.” Mother’s voice shook, and it sounded as if she needed the reassurances as much as Andi did, if not more. Placing a hand over her mouth and blinking back tears, Mother turned and left the room.   

Andi rolled over in bed. Oh, God, please…

Chapter 6

Riley came in later that day. He held a covered tray in his hands. “Your mother made you a dandy supper,” he said, forcing cheerfulness into his voice. “She told me to keep you company and make sure you eat at least a little.”

Andi shook her head. “I’m not hungry.” Her stomach was tied in knots. Her fingers played with the coverlet. “Don’t make me eat anything, Riley, please.”

“Oh, c’mon, now.” Riley sat down in the overstuffed bedside chair. “Do as the doctor says—rest, eat, and stay strong.”   

Yes, so if I do get sick, I can fight it off? Andi thought. Dr. Weaver doesn’t believe I’ll be spared. She cringed and looked up. “What’d Mother make?”   

“A nice, stick-to-the-ribs kind of meal,” Riley returned. He grinned and pulled back the cloth. “Potato soup and fresh bread with butter. How about being a good girl for this husband of yours and taking a bite or two? You wouldn’t want me to go back to your mother and say I failed in my mission, would you?”   

Andi gave a small smile. “I reckon not.” She sat up and took the tray onto her lap. “Thanks.”  

 “No problem.” Riley snitched a slice of bread and sat back in his seat. For a few minutes, the two ate in silence. Then Riley popped the question: “How you feelin’?”   

Andi shrugged. “Fine.” Almost too scared to ask, she murmured, “Any change in Tucker?”    

Riley fiddled with his slice of bread. “None. I checked. All he wants is to be released from the barn—and his rope.”   

“I bet.” Andi dropped her spoon into her bowl. “I wish I could get out of this bed.”   

Riley laughed, but it sounded forced. “You’ve only been in bed for a few hours, Andi.”   

“What I don’t understand is why I have to stay in bed. If I’m gonna get sick, I’m gonna get sick. Might as well enjoy a healthy life while I can. I want to bake some more, and decorate the fireplace, and—”   

“You’ll do no such thing,” Riley admonished. “You’ll stay in bed.”   

“But Christmas is this Sunday, Riley!” she cried out. “Surely I can get out of bed for that?”   

“Absolutely not,” a new voice joined in. Mother came into the room, a fussy Jared in her arms. “You’ll stay in bed until the doctor says you can get up. Not one day less.” Turning to Riley and ignoring Andi’s sigh of complaint, she asked, “Did you convince her to eat?”   

“Yes, ma’am.”   

“Good.” Mother took the tray and laid Jared on Andi’s lap. “He’s hungry. C’mon, Riley,” she said, gesturing, “help me with these dishes. We’ll let Andrea feed her baby in peace.”   

“Yes, ma’am,” Riley said again. He stood and kissed Andi’s forehead. “Call me if you need anything.”

Andi nodded, and Riley and Mother left. Tears unexpectedly came to her eyes. What if I really get sick? And…die? I’ve never realized just how much I take Jared, and Riley, and the house…all for granted. God, I’m sorry. Please, keep us all safe. Andi laid back against the pillows and cuddled the baby close. “I love you, Jared.”

Thursday and Friday crawled by at a snail’s pace, even though Andi’s family did their best to help keep her mind off of the current predicament. Mitch rode up and dropped off a stack of brand-new dime novels. Chad came and filled Andi’s ears with news on the Circle C Ranch’s happenings. Lucy left Gracie and Sammy with Justin for an evening, so she could spend time chatting with Andi. Riley left for only a few hours each day to get some work done. Most of the time, however, he was at Andi’s bedside, sharing stories and keeping her spirits up. Finally, there was Mother, who never once stepped foot from the ranch. She did all of the housework and cared for Jared whenever need be.

Saturday came. It was Christmas Eve. “Please, Riley,” Andi begged. “I feel fine. Absolutely fine. Let me go into town for the Christmas Eve service at the church.”

Riley shook his head and grabbed her hand. “We’ll have a service right here at home, all right? Your mother is all for it. She’s already prepared the candles and opened up the Bible to Luke chapter one.”

They knew I was going to ask. And heaved a sigh. “All right.”

Riley squeezed her hand. “I think I’ll go see if your mother plans to make some hot chocolate for tonight’s service.” He then rose and winked. “Love you.”

“Love you too.”

As darkness fell and the moon went up, the house at Memory Creek Ranch was a beautiful sight. In Andi and Riley’s bedroom, there was not much light. Three candles burned, but otherwise it was pitch black. The door was shut and the window shutters closed. But the candles were light enough to read by, and that’s what Riley did. Strongly and clearly, he read aloud Luke 1 and afterwards lifted a heartfelt prayer.   

Just as he said, “Amen,” frantic barking from outside erupted. Panic settled over Riley’s face. Mother’s hand tightened its grip on Andi’s shoulder. Riley set his candle down and opened the shutters. The occupants of the bedroom had a clear view of Tucker. The collie-type dog was growling. He yipped and jumped. His paws flailed.   

“Oh, no.” Mother lowered her head. Her knuckles were white from holding onto Andi’s shoulder. “Please, God, no.”  

“It’s been almost eight days,” Riley said. His voice was choked. He looked as if he was fighting back tears. “It’s been almost eight days.”   

Andi could hardly breathe. Her fingers closed tight around her baby. She held him close.   

“He can’t have rabies!” Riley cried out. He raked his fingers though his hair. “He can’t.”   

Yet, the dog continued his strange antics. “He never acts this way,” Riley murmured. “He’s been calm over the past few days.” He glanced at Mother, who nodded and squeezed her eyes shut. “It is,” she barely whispered. Riley left the room.   

“Mother!” Andi exclaimed, scared, “What’s he doing?”   

Mother shook her head, but her face said she knew. Andi had a funny feeling that she knew too. Tucker really has rabies. Riley is going out to shoot him.   

“No, Mother!” Andi grabbed her mother’s arm. “Don’t let him shoot Tucker! Don’t let him! He loves Tucker—”   

“He loves you, too,” Mother answered. She was crying. “There’s no cure for rabies in the animals. If Tucker lives, he’ll only spread the disease. There’s no cure for him…or for you.”   

“No, Mother, no!” Andi burst into tears. “This is all my fault! All my fault!”   

“No, sweetheart.” Mother pulled her daughter into a strong hug. “It was an accident. That’s all it was. An accident.”   

Andi buried her face into Mother’s shoulder and sobbed. Jared bawled, and no wonder. Andi was clutching him to her chest as if her life depended upon it. Is this my last Christmas with Riley and Jared? Am I rabies’ next victim? Andi’s stomach clenched. She felt sick. Oh, please! Let this all be a horrid nightmare that I’ll wake from at any moment. But even she knew—this was all too real.   

Suddenly, hurried footsteps sounded from outside the bedroom. Riley entered and flung himself down on the bed beside Andi and her mother. Tears were pouring from his eyes, and he threw his arms around both Andi and his mother-in-law. “It’s all right! It’s all right!” he cried. “It really is.”   

“What?” Mother demanded. “What—?”

“There was two raccoons,” Riley blurted. He held his wife close. “The rabid one was not Gingerbread. When I went out there, the familiar sight of a raccoon standing on his hind legs and covering his eyes made relief wash over me in huge waves. Tucker had caught the raccoon’s scent, and that is why he was barking. Neither one of them are rabid.”   

“You mean—?” Andi couldn’t go on.   

“Yes, yes.” Riley nodded. “I do mean. Gingerbread is back, and he’s fine. Tucker is fine. I’m fine. You’re fine.”

“Oh, Riley!”   

“Praise God!” Mother murmured. She clasped her hands and blinked back tears. “He is good. This is truly a miracle, Andrea.”   

“Truly, it is!” Andi agreed. She didn’t even try to hold back her own tears of joy. They coursed down her cheeks in steady rivers. “Thank you, God.”

Andi sat beside Riley in the front pew. Her heart was singing. Her face was aglow. Jared sat in her lap, looking about with wide hazel eyes. It was Christmas morning, and the Prescotts were attending the morning service. Andi couldn’t think of a better way to spend that Christmas Day. In the hymns that led up to the sermon, her voice rang the loudest. Is it any wonder, considering all God had done for her?          

When Reverend Harris opened his Bible and read aloud Luke 2, Andi listened attentively. She drank in every word. But it was only then that it finally hit her. Riley read the first chapter of Luke yesterday, right before Gingerbread showed up.   

Ten years before, Andi had recited Mary’s “Song of Praise” in a play. After a dreadful bout of scarlet fever, she had been able to put true feeling into her words as she repeated The Magnificat. Now, it again entered her mind…right along with a fresh rush of gratitude. “’My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble state of his servant…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’”(Luke 1:46-47, 49)

The End

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

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