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Andi’s Journal, July 3, 1889, Memory Creek Ranch
Special thanks to Ellen S., who wrote parts one and two of this story two or three years ago. ~ Mrs. M.
The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s been an extra special day for two years now, ever since Jared came into our lives. But this year, July 1889, Riley has made it even extra, extra special. My dream has come true!
Startled by the unexpected shout from outside, Andi lost her grip on the pie pan she was holding. Clunk. Splat! Gooey peaches and golden crust went everywhere, splaying across the wood floors and onto the hem of her split skirt.
She stared down at the mess, a frustrated groan working its way up her throat. As the door flew open and Riley stepped in, Andi allowed her disgust to bubble over. “Riley Prescott, look what you made me do!” She reached for a rag and scrubbed angrily at the warm, sticky mixture. “That was supposed to be for our lunch tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry.” Riley’s expression was truly contrite as he bent to help her. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
His subdued apology soothed Andi’s ruffled nerves, and she straightened, exhaling slowly. “What has you so excited?” Her eyes narrowed, and she gasped. “Better yet, why is Jared not with you? Didn’t you—”
Her trail of questions grounded to a halt when Riley broke into a wide grin. He stood, his hands full of slippery peaches. “Jared is fine, my princess. In fact, I just left him with Matt so I could come get you.”
“Get me?” Andi’s brow furrowed. “Why?”
Riley dumped the discarded pie filling in a bowl and rinsed off his fingers. Then he reached for Andi’s hand. “C’mon, I’ll show you.”
Now fully bewildered, Andi stepped over what remained of the pie mess and allowed Riley to lead her outside. A blast of warm air greeted her almost immediately, the bright sunshine blinding her vision for a moment. She blinked and sucked in a shallow breath. The early afternoon heat pinched her throat.
And I thought the kitchen was warm . . .
Riley hustled her through the yard and into the barn. The sweet smell of alfalfa swirled with the even stronger odors of horse manure and old leather, causing Andi’s nose to tickle.
No sooner did they enter the barn than Riley whirled to face her, his hazel eyes twinkling beneath his wide hat brim. “You know tomorrow is a very special day.”
Andi’s heart fluttered. “Of course, I do. It’s the Fourth of July, and we’ll be celebrating Jared’s second birthday in town. That’s why I was making the pie that you—oh, never mind.” She shook her head and gave into the smile that tugged at her lips, no longer able to resist joining in on Riley’s contagious enthusiasm. “What are you up to?”
He grinned. “I wanted to do something extra fun to help celebrate the Fourth. As in, something fun for both Jared and you.”
He paused in his narrative—no doubt to test Andi’s patience—and she nearly burst. “Well, are you going to tell me or not?”
Riley chuckled and pulled her farther into the barn. “I was talking to Chad the other day, and he told me there’s been something you’ve always wanted to do on the Fourth. He never had the time to help you with it, however. So”—he shrugged—“I figured I could step in.”
By now, they were standing in the wide, open area just inside the small barn. One glance, and Andi could see the floor had been swept clean. However, judging from the way her husband was acting, she had a feeling this wasn’t his big surprise. At least, it had better not be. Not after he’d left Jared alone and startled her into dropping her pie and—
“Close your eyes for a minute,” Riley instructed.
Tingling with suspense and impatience, Andi obeyed. Riley gently tugged her forward, and she shuffled her feet, trying to figure out where he was taking her. In no need of further urging, Andi’s eyelids unfolded. The picture before her made the breath leave her lungs in a whoosh.
Andi barely recognized their two-seated buggy. It was covered inside and out with streamers of bright red, white, and blue. Inside, Matt held Jared, who piped up, “S’prise, Mama! A fwoat.” The wheels were completely covered in festive fabric made to look like a Fourth of July costume. Even Buster, the horse, was decked out in ribbons, his harness wrapped in red, white, and blue. The horse and rig looked perfectly marvelous.
Andi clapped her hands to her cheeks, squashing an unladylike squeal before it could surface from her lips. “Oh, Riley. A float.”
Childhood memories of eating fried chicken and biscuits after watching the Fourth of July parades in town flooded her mind. As much as she’d pestered Chad to let her make a float for the Circle C ranch, he’d always said no.
“It takes a lot of time and effort, little sister,” he’d told her. “Be thankful you get to stand under the awnings in the shade instead of sweltering with the rest of the ranchers, farmers, and businesses while they drag their floats around in one-hundred-degree weather.”
He had a point. But Andi had always clung to the hope that maybe someday he might change his mind. Just for one Fourth. He hadn’t.
But Riley was obviously fine with doing a float for their own Memory Creek ranch. Why else would her husband have poured so much work into gussying up this rig? His grin stretched wider as he leaned against the wheel. “That look on your face is priceless, darling. Do you like it?”
“Do I like it?” Andi threw her arms around his neck and squeezed. “Oh, yes! Thank you so much.”
Riley returned her hug, then gently pulled her away. “Well, the day’s a-wastin’. I need to unharness Buster, and Jared needs to be cleaned up before lunch.” He took his son from Matt’s arms and plopped him into Andi’s arms. “And I think you have another pie to make.” He winked.
“Yes, sir, husband, sir. I’ll get right on it.” She kissed him, hiked Jared higher on her hip, and scurried from the barn. Her heart pattered in a happy rhythm against the inside of her chest. Prickles of delight continued to skitter up and down her spine, even as she set Jared down and crouched to scoop up the remains of peaches and pie crust on her kitchen floor.
We’re going to be in the Fourth of July parade!
To Be Continued . . .