After a rest at the creek, Chad, Andi and Jem quickly toured the rest of the ranch then rode back to the barn. After dismounting Chad turned to Andi. "I'll take care of Taffy. I think you had better get up to your room and get changed before lunch or mother will have a fit!"
Andi looked down at her wrinkled, filthy overalls and laughed. "I suppose you're right. See y’all in a little while." Quickly she handed the reins to Chad, and took off at a run toward the house.
Walking to the back of the house she opened the door to the servants entrance and tiptoed in the kitchen. Luisa looked up as I walked in.
"Andrea, you had better get changed before your mother sees you!" She exclaimed.
"That's what I'm on my way to do now." Andi said. Just then Rosa walked in.
"Andi, everyone but your brother Chad and his friend are sitting around the table and the bell has already rung. If I were you I would hurry!'
"Gracias Rosa!" Andi exclaimed hurrying up the servants staircase taking the stairs two at a time.
Hurrying into her room, she walked over to her closet and selected a white dress without much lace and frills and hurriedly put it on. Stepping in front of the mirror she took out her braids and ran the brush through her hair. Quickly she re-braided it and hurried downstairs. Just in time she remembered to walk slowly as she entered the dinning room.
All eyes turned to her as she walked in. Embarrassed, Andi looked down and walked quietly to her seat. Looking around the table she saw that Chad and Jem had both beat her to the table.
"Andrea you are late." mother said.
"Yes, Mother. I had to go upstairs and change."
“I didn't see you come in."
“No, I came in through the servants entrance." Andi answered.
"Next time make sure you come inside the house before the bell rings, Then you will have plenty of time to get ready." mother gently reproved.
“Yes, mother.” Andi replied.
Looking up, she caught Chad's eye across the table. His winked at her.
How did Jem and Chad manage to get to the table before me? Andi wondered silently.
Suddenly, she realized for the first time that a young lady sat at the table between Melinda and Jem. . That must be Ellie. she thought. As she glanced over at her, she caught Melinda's scowl. Andi sighed. Melinda would never be late for dinner. It seemed Melinda could do everything right. Unlike her. Andi glanced over at Ellie again. She had a slight frame but the set of her chin and the spark in her eyes showed her strength of character. She had bright blue eyes that matched her brothers eyes but, unlike Jem, she had light auburn hair that reflected the sun.She is really pretty! Andi thought. Just then Ellie turned and her twinkling blue eyes met Andi's. She smiled, and for a moment she looked like a girl herself.
I think I am going to like Ellie. Andi decided. After dinner they all returned to the parlor. As mother asked Jem what he thought of the ranch, Ellie walked over and sat in the chair next to Andi.
"So, what little adventure did you have today that made you late for dinner?" Ellie said. Her blue eyes twinkling merrily.
"Well, after I finished my chores this morning I decided to tease Chad just a little. The only problem was, I thought that Jem was Chad and I snatched his hat and locked him in the barn."
Ellie laughed. "That sounds just like something I would've done when I was younger!" She exclaimed.
Andi grinned, "That's what Chad and Jem said too. Well, anyway, after it all got straightened out, Chad invited me to go ride with Jem and him around the ranch. While we were riding, Chad and Jem told me about all the adventures you had together. We got back late and I had to change because I still had on my overalls. I changed as quickly as possible but Chad and Jem still managed to get to the table before me."
"Well, I can see how you could have mistaken Jem for Chad, they look a lot alike!" she glanced over to where Chad and Jem sat. Chad turned and caught her looking at him. She smiled mischievously and he smiled back.
"How long are you planning on staying?" Andi asked.
"Oh, about a week I think. You would have to ask Jem, He would know for sure. I just came along for the ride!" Ellie replied.
“Well I'm glad you did!" Andi exclaimed. " I can't wait to show you all around the ranch! Can you ride?"
"I'm glad I came also. "Yes, I can ride! We'll have to see how many adventures Chad and Jem have to rescue us from!" Ellie said mischievously.