Heidi’s Spring Break
“That has got to be one of the lamest films I have had to watch in a long time,” Alice said as she removed the headphones, and looked at Natalie in the seat next to her.
“Oh I don’t know –it wasn’t as bad as all that,” her friend said as she stretched and then got out of her seat. “How much longer Fi?”
“About another hour,” the younger girl said as Natalie looked over the seat in front of her, “As much as I love visiting my grandparents, I forget just how long the flight can be.”
She looked over at Jannifer, who was sleeping, her head resting by the window on a pillow. “I think she’s got the right idea, but we’ll need to wake her up soon,” she said quietly.
Natalie nodded as she went to the washroom, her long gypsy skirt moving as her bare feet padded on the cabin floor. Fi brushed some crumbs off her denim bib shorts and went back to the game she was playing, as the stewards offered drinks for the last time.
They’d left early that morning for Boston Airport, the six of them looking forward to spending the Spring break on the ranch that Fi’s grandparents owned. There had been some negotiation, particularly around the fact that although they were not babies, they were not going to be chaperoned – but when the parents had been reminded Fi was actually the youngest, and that Heidi had flown to the UK alone when she was Fi’s age, they relented.
The group of six had dressed for warmer weather – Jannifer was in a short sleeved yellow dress, with moccasins on her feet, while Alice was wearing blue shorts and a black t-shirt with sandals.
Across the galley were Heidi and Cindy, watching a different program. Heidi was wearing a short sleeved white blouse and jeans, while Cindy was, like Nats, wearing a skirt – hers was knee length, and she had a round necked t-shirt on as well.
Sipping her water, Fi smiled – this was going to be an amazing week, she could just tell....
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now beginning our descent into San Antonio airport. We would ask you to return all trays to...”
“Hey Jan,” Fi said as she nudged her friend, “we’re coming in to land?”
“Are we,” Jannifer said as she stretched and yawned, “that was a good flight – what time is it?”
“About four local time,” Fi said as she looked at her watch, “Grandpa is sending Luke to pick us up in the SUV, so we should be at their place in time for dinner.”
“Luke,” Alice said from in front of her, “who’s Luke?”
“Head ranchman – you’ll like him. He’s old, but not too old.”
“How old are you grandparents anyway,” Heidi said as she looked over.
“No idea – I mean, they’re old, older than Mom, but how old? You’d have to ask them,” Fi said as their cups were taken away. “I always love this part of the journey...”
“I hate it,” Cindy said, gripping the seat as the plane started to descend...
“All right then,” Alice said as she collected her bag, and added it to the others on the trolley, “we all ready to move out?”
“Just as soon as Heidi gets back,” Cindy said as the young blonde came out of the washroom.
“Okay, I’m good,” she said quietly, “which way?”
“Through those doors there,” Fi said as they made their way along, Jannifer and Nats pushing the luggage trolley between them, before they walked through to the arrivals lounge. Fi smiled and waved as she saw a tall, grey haired man standing there, wearing a denim jacket and jeans.
“Well, you’ve grown again haven’t you,” he said as Fi went up and hugged him, “and I reckon these would be your friends.”
“That’s right,” Fi said as she turned round. “Girls, this is Luke. Luke, my friends from the gymnastics club at school.”
“Pleasure to meet y’all,” he said as he looked at them. “We can do names later – time’s getting on, and your grandma wants you there for supper Miss Fi.”
He took the luggage trolley, the girls noticing his sun browned and gnarled hands, and said “Follow me – the vehicle’s this away.”
He pushed the bags along, the girls following as they made their way into the warm Texas air, and then to a waiting SUV.
“Get in and make yourselves comfortable,” Luke said as he opened the back, “we’ll be on our way as soon as I have these safely stowed.”
“Nice guy,” Heidi said as the girls got on and put on the seat belts.
“Yeah – I’ve known him all my life, and he’s never swore or did anything bad to me. In fact, he taught me a lot.”
“Was it him who taught you how to swim with your hands tied?”
“Oh yes – living on a ranch, you have to know some rope work, and how to cope if an accident happens.”
“So will we have a chance to try some of these tricks this week?”
“Oh I guarantee it,” Fi said as Luke slammed the rear of the SUV closed, and then got behind the wheel.
“All right then,” he said as he looked back, “you little ladies sit back and enjoy the ride – I’ll get you safely back to the ranch.”
“This is amazing,” Cindy said as she looked out of the window at the grasslands, “how much longer is it until we get on the ranch, Fi.”
“We’ve been on it for the last fifteen minutes.”
The girls all turned and looked at Fi as she smiled back.
“Fi, just how big is your grandparent’s place?”
“Well, that’s the ranch house coming up now,” she said as they looked out of the front window, at the large single storey building they were approaching.
“Yeah,” Nats said as she looked out, “my thoughts exactly.”
“Welcome to the Longbow Ranch, ladies,” Luke said as he finally pulled up outside the front porch, Heidi looking at the rocking chairs on the wooden floor as the door opened and a woman walked out. She had greying blonde hair, and was wearing a light blue blouse over a blue roll neck sweater, jeans and slippers.
“Fiona, my little angel,” she said as she hugged Fi, “it is so good to see you again, and these must be your friends.”
“They sure are,” Fi said, Cindy noticing the southern drawl coming in, “this is Heidi, Cindy, Jannifer, Natalie and Alice. Girls, meet Grandma Fiona.”
“So you were named after her?”
“That she was,” Fiona said as she looked at them, “but we’ll have time to talk later. Y’all must be famished after that flight – come in and wash up, supper’s ready.”
“Is Grandpa Joe here?”
“He’ll be along presently young lady – you have guests to see to first. Luke, can you take their bags to the bedrooms please?”
“Sure thing, Mrs Fiona,” Luke said as Fi took the girls inside, and they saw the huge seating area.
“Come with me – we can wash up through here before we go and eat,” she said as she took them to a large bathroom, which smelt of pine as they went in.
“Fi, I’ll say it again,” Alice asked as she closed the door, “how big is this place?”
“Big,” Fi said as she started to run some water, “come on, I’m starving.”
“There you are,” Fiona said as the six girls came in, “Sit, eat.”
They looked at the table, which had a large pot in the middle and mounds of vegetables around it, and took their places, as they were served Chicken stew and helped themselves to the vegetables.
“Something smells good – hey, welcome to my place.”
They looked round as a tall, grey haired man with skin like tanned leather came in.
“Hey grandpa,” Fi said, “meet my friends.”
“Pleasure,” he said with a smile, “let me get washed up and I’ll join you.”
“Forgive Joe,” Fiona said as she put some stew on a plate and set it at the empty seat, “he likes to be clean.”
“I’ve been out with the boys all day branding the calves,” he said as he came back in, “of course I’m going to wash up. Good trip, little one?”
“Well, let’s say grace, and then we can eat.”
“That was amazing,” Natalie said as she pushed her plate back, “Thank you for that.”
“You’re welcome dears,” Fiona said, “and look – just for this week, call us Fiona and Joe. It’s easier that way.”
“Let’s go through and have a drink in the sitting room,” Joe said, noticing with a smile Natalie’s bare feet. “Fi told us you hate shoes, Natalie, but a word of advice – round here, unless we tell you it’s safe, best to wear some sort of shoe. We have scorpions and snakes ‘round here that might hurt you.”
“Understood,” Nats said with a smile.
“So,” Joe said as Fiona sat next to him, “what do you girls plan to do this week?”
“I thought I might take them to the watering hole sometime Grandpa – and into the city one day.”
“Why not – you need to visit the Alamo while you’re down here,” Joe said with a smile. “Any of you ever ridden before?”
The girls looked at each other as Fi smiled. “Well, I need to go back out with the boys tomorrow. Why don’t you try them on a couple of the horses tomorrow, Fi, and then come out and join us after lunch?”
“Sounds good Grandpa,” Fi said as she started to yawn.
“I reckon these girls need to get bed Joe,” Fiona said with a smile.
“Yeah, sure looks that way,” Joe said as Heidi felt her eyes droop, “why don’t you show them to their rooms grandma?”
“Come on girls,” Fiona said as she stood up, “I’ve given Heidi and Cindy one room and you three girls the other one...”
As Jannifer slowly opened her eyes, for a few minutes she wondered where she was – it was so quiet, the twins were making no noise, and the cockerel was crowing somewhere...
“The Cockerel?” Sitting up, she looked round the room to see Alice and Natalie still asleep on the camp beds that had been set up for them in the room. Their cases lay along the side of one wall, and she could see the toilet through the door that led to a shower as well.
Slipping out of the bed, she stretched and yawned before she went to relieve herself, and then put on a pair of slippers before she left the room. Hearing talking in the direction of the kitchen, she walked in to find Fi sitting with her grandparents. Fi was already dressed, in a checked blouse and jeans, while her grandfather was wearing a blue denim shirt and jeans, and her grandmother a grey dress.
“Hey,” Fi said as she saw Jannifer walk in, “sleep well?”
“I think so – did I hear a cockerel?”
“Old Jeb,” Joe said as he drank from a large mug, “shoulda warned you girls about that. Did he wake anyone else?”
“I don’t think so – I have younger twin sisters, so I’m used to getting up early.”
“Well, sit yourself down,” Fiona said as she pointed to the table, “have some fruit juice, and I’ll rustle up some eggs and bacon for you.”
“Thanks,” Jannifer said as she poured a glass of orange juice. “How did you sleep Fi?”
“Like a log – but I always get up early when I’m here anyway. Must be in my blood.”
“Buried not quite as deep as your momma, but it’s there,” Fiona said as she placed a plate with two eggs and bacon in front of her granddaughter. “Would you like the same Jannifer?”
“Thanks – morning Heidi, Cindy.”
“Hey,” Heidi said as she came in, rubbing her eyes, “we’re not the last up then?”
“Nope,” Fi said through a mouthful of egg, “sit down, help yourself.”
“Well, I need to go and meet the boys,” Joe said as he stood up. “If you’re coming out later, Fi, we’ll be up by Red Rock.”
“Gotcha, grandpa – we’ll see how the girls get on this morning,” Fi said as Joe put on the old denim jacket and a large hat, and headed out of the door.
“Do yourselves a big favour,” Fi said, “and when you dress, put on something that will cover your arms and legs. You’ll thank me for it later. These eggs are wonderful grandma.”
“Should be – fresh laid last night. Want some girls?”
“Please,” Cindy said as she looked round. “This place looks even bigger in the daylight Fi.”
“Oh you’ve seen nothing yet,” Fi said with a smile, “nothing yet...”
“Here,” Fi said as she looked through an old box in the stable, “if we’re going out on the horses, you need something to keep your head cool later.”
The other five were standing around, having heeded her advice to wear long sleeved blouses and jeans, as she passed them round various hats to try on. “Do I look like a real Annie Oakley now,” Alice said as she tilted her brown hat to one side, and put her foot up on the hay bale.
“Try Calamity Jane,” Natalie said with a laugh, earning herself a swift punch from Alice as Luke appeared at the bran doors.
“You managed to find what you need, Miss Fi?”
“I think so Luke,” Fi said with a smile, “do you think they’ll survive their first attempt?”
The ranch hand came in and looked at the five girls, before he said “Well, I reckon there’s only one way to find out. Follow me girls.”
The six girls followed Luke out of a paddock, Heidi looking up at the sky with the white clouds lazily crossing it, and walked towards a fenced off corral where three horses were munching on some feed.
“I’ve already saddled them up,” Luke said as they got closer, “and I know Mandy’s gonna be real pleased to see you again, Miss Fi.”
“I’m real pleased to see her,” Fi said as she climbed over the fence and stroked the neck of a chestnut mare. “How are you, old girl – pleased to see me?”
As the mare nodded its head, Luke smiled and looked at the other three girls. “The thing with horses, girls, is you have to let them know you’re not going to hurt them. So just come over here, and stroke the necks of the other two, while Miss Fi gets acquainted with Mandy again.”
“How does...” Alice was struck dumb as she watched Fi climb effortlessly onto the mare’s back, taking the reins and trotting Mandy around the corral.
“Now, this young one here is April, and her male friend here is Jonas,” Luke said as he stroked the neck of the other two horses. “Don’t be shy – come in close and let them know who you are.”
Natalie slowly walked over, the brim of her hat shading her eyes, and stroked the neck of the young mare as it stood there, nodding its head gently as it pulled on the feed.
“You are a magnificent creature, aren’t you,” she whispered as Cindy came over and put her hand on April from the other side, the other girls gathering around Jonas.
“They seem very tame,” Heidi said as she looked at the male horse.
“Tame‘s a relative term,” Fi said as she drew up on Mandy, “but they’re well trained, and strong enough that two of us can ride on each of them. Mind you, you have to get used to how you ride a horse, so – who wants to go first?”
“I’m game,” Alice said as she patted Jonas’ neck.
“Me too,” Cindy said as Luke took the reins of both horses and led them to the centre of the paddock.
“All right, girls,” he said as Heidi, Jannifer and Nats sat on the fence, “the trick is to let the horse know you’re there without scaring them. If we can get them to carry you and not feel spooked, that’s good enough for today.” He looked at Cindy, and said “put your foot in the stirrup there, Miss Cindy, and then when I say, push yourself up and sit on the saddle.”
Alice watched as Cindy put her foot up into the metal ring, and then pushed herself up, putting her leg over the back of April and then looking at the other girls as she steadied herself.
“Well done, little lady,” Luke said as he helped Alice into the other saddle, and then took the reins of both horses. “Now then, as we move along, just relax and trust Miss Fi and me.”
“Oh,” Cindy said as April was led on by Luke, grinning as she moved with the horse and allowed herself to move up and down with the horse’s movement. Alice grinned as well as the others watched them being walked round the paddock, Fi following them on Mandy.
“That doesn’t look too difficult,” Natalie said as she watched with Heidi and Jannifer.
“Yeah,” Heidi said as she looked at them, “I think we can manage that.”
“It’s a really weird feeling,” Cindy said as she bounced gently up and down.
“But nice,” Alice said.
“Yeah – the faster you go, the more you have to control it, but we’re not talking more than a gentle trot today,” Fi said as they came to a halt in front of the other three girls. She slipped off her horse, and helped the other two to come down, before looking at the other three.
Looking at each other, they jumped down and walked over, waiting as they were helped into the saddle.
“Have some water while we give them a walk,” Fi called over to Alice and Cindy, “bottles are in the coolbag.”
“I need this,” Cindy said as she took a bottle out, and handed a second one to Alice. “How do you feel after that?”
“I think I could manage a little faster,” Alice said, “but can I be honest?”
“Out here, on a ranch, with the horses – don’t you find yourself imagining you’re in an old Western movie?”
“What, with Clint Eastwood?”
“Nah – older than that, with Randolph Scott or Roy Rogers?”
Alice looked at Cindy and shook her head. “The old westerns, where the women were beautiful and the Indians would kidnap them...”
“Never really seen them,” Cindy said with a shrug.
“I’ll have to ask Fi if she’s got any on DVD or something,” Alice said quietly, “I can see me as the rancher’s daughter, taken captive and rescued by the ranch hand.”
“Or the mysterious black clad avenger.”
“Hmm,” Alice said as she watched Nats laughing on the back of Mandy.
“Who turns out to really be the young daughter of the woman who owns the saloon?”
“Even better,” Alice said, and then she turned her head slowly to look at Cindy.
“Right then,” Luke said as they came back over, “let’s see how you manage with two of you on their backs. Miss Fi, you want to climb back on Mandy?”
“Sure, Luke,” Fi said as she jumped behind Heidi while Cindy got on behind Jannifer and Alice behind Natalie.
“Listen, Luke,” Fi said, “how about we make this a bit more exciting for three of them?”
“Make sure they have to trust their partner?”
“Yup – got any thongs?”
Luke went back into the barn, returning with three lengths of soft leather.
“Begging your pardon, Miss Heidi,” he said as he touched his hat, “but would you please cross your wrists in front of yourself?”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ll fix your wrists to the front of the saddle, and then give Miss Fi the reins.”
“Interesting,” Heidi said as she let the ranch hand lash her wrists together, and then tie them down to the front of the saddle.
“Well, this is going to be fun,” Natalie said as she allowed Luke to bind her wrists, and then Jannifer was taken care of, before he patted the neck of all three horses.
“Follow my lead,” Fi said to Cindy and Alice, as she used the reins to make Mandy walk forward, the other two horses following as Luke watched from the side. The horses walked round the corral, the girls in front giggling as Fi looked at Luke.
“Don’t go too far,” he said as he opened a gate, and watched the three horses walk out, the girls bouncing up and down as they made their way up to the ranch.
“Okay, I see why the jeans and sleeves now,” Heidi said as her legs rubbed on the side of Mandy. “Protection.”
“That’s right,” she said as they made their way to the large house, “let me show you some of the other buildings before we take the horses back.”
As they rounded the main ranch house, they saw a number of smaller cabins behind.
“That’s where the ranch hands stay,” Fi said, “Luke has the one at the end, and the others share the remaining cabins. Over there’s the store for equipment and the like, and that big barn out there is where we keep the vehicles.”
“How many people work on the ranch,” Heidi asked as she looked over.
“A dozen or so – before you woke up this morning, Grandma was saying we’re going to throw a Texan style barbecue Friday, invite some of the neighbours over.”
“Relatively speaking,” Fi said as they rode round the other side of the ranch house, “anyway, how do you feel about riding out after lunch with the horses?”
“I’m fairly happy,” Natalie said as she sat with her arms round Alice.
“I’d never have guessed,” Cindy said as they took the horses back to where Luke was waiting.
“There now,” he said as he untied their wrists and helped them down, “I’ll have them ready for this afternoon, Miss Fi, but your grandma will have your lunch ready for you.”
“Come on,” Fi said, “we got time to wash up before we eat. You can leave the hats on the porch before we go in.”
“So do you think you’ll be all right leading the girls up to Red Rock,” Fiona said as she placed a bowl filled with salad in the middle of the table.
“We should be if we go slow, Grandma – it’s only an hour’s ride out anyway.”
“All right then – just make sure you take canteens of water with you when you go. It can get a mite dusty up there.”
As she sat at the table, she looked over at Heidi. “Your mother rang while you were out, Heidi. She said to tell you that someone called Alicia had rang to say she’d be coming out beginning of August?”
“Ali’s coming for a visit?”
“In a way – they’re actually staying with Sarah and Brian,” Heidi said as she cut into her ham, “but we’ll be visiting a bit as well. Apparently they did something really brave earlier in the year, and this is their way of saying thank you.”
“Angela’s coming out as well,” Cindy said.
“Well, we can look forward to that,” Jannifer said as Natalie and Alice whispered to
each other, Fiona watching closely.
“Well, eat up, and then rest for a little while,” she finally said, “never go riding on a full stomach.”
“Why not,” Alice asked.
“Because if you’re not used to it,” Fi said, “your stomach will very quickly not be empty.”
“Right then,” Fi said as she turned Mandy round, Alice sitting behind her, “ready?”
The other four girls nodded as Heidi and Natalie held the reins, urging the horses on as they left the ranch behind them, and started to ride towards a range of hills that were dimly visible on the horizon.
“I thought it would be hotter,” Heidi said as she rode alongside Fi.
“It’s hotter than you think – the breeze is keeping us cool, and I’m grateful for that. But see that dust on the horizon?”
Heidi looked over, the edge of her hat shading her eyes, and nodded.
“That’s the herd kicking that up – so given we can see it here, what does that tell you?”
Heidi nodded as they made their way closer and closer, until they could see cattle stretching out in front of them, and the ‘hills’ revealed themselves to be a set of redstone rocks, rising up from the grassland. Two pick-up trucks were parked by the side of the rocks, and as they got closer still they saw a corral has also been set up there, a group of men herding some of the smaller cattle into the area as Joe looked on.
“There you are, girls,” he said as they rode alongside. “Fi, you can tie the horses to that gate, and let them rest now. Make sure they get some water as well.”
“Sure thing Grandpa,” Fi said as the girls dismounted, and led the horses to a gate at one side, fastening the reins in place as they bent down to drink from a water trough there.
“I’ve never seen so many cattle in one place,” Jannifer said as she looked round.
“Well, you’ve never been here before have you? Boys, meet my granddaughter’s friends from the north west.”
The ranch hands nodded to the girls as they sat on the fence and watched them at work. Two would use their lassos to rope one of the young steers and bring him in, then two others would secure the head of the steer in a yoke, while another took a tag and attached it to the ear of the animal, before it was led out and released.
“You don’t use branding irons,” Natalie said quietly.
“Oh no, not anymore,” Joe said as he took his hat off and rubbed his head, “these days, they have to be tagged and then a chip inserted, but that doesn’t happen without the vet to hand, so today we just tag them.”
He watched the girls admiring the rope work of the hands, and shook his head, smiling as the men did their work – and then he saw the girls looking out to the edge of the corral.
“Something wrong girls?”
“What – what is that one doing,” Alice said as one of the steers suddenly climbed onto the back of another one.
“Just what comes naturally,” Joe said with a smile, “just what a male steer needs to do.”
As he looked at the girls, however, he noticed the way Alice was watching, while Natalie was turning her head away.
“Sorry, ladies,” he said quietly, “when you live out here, you get used to seeing anything and everything. It’s not something to be ashamed of or to hide – it’s nature, that’s all.”
The two girls nodded as they turned and watched the ranch hands at work, taking a long drink from their water bottles.
As the afternoon wore on, Fi explained a bit more of what was happening, before Natalie said “I wonder what it would be like to be...”
“to be what,” Joe said with a smile.
“Sorry, I love those old westerns, where the ranch owner’s daughter would be taken by the rustlers...”
Joe smiled at his granddaughter, before saying “Jeb, Hank, Curt – would you boys be up to taking the horses back for me?”
“Can do, boss,” one of the men said, “why?”
“Oh these little ladies may want to come back in the pickups – if you know what I mean.”
“Gotcha Boss,” he said with a smile.
“Natalie,” Heidi said as she looked at the other ranch hands playing out their ropes, “what have you managed to get us into now?”
“Nothing as far as I know YIPES!”
Natalie’s reaction was justified as she felt her arms pulled tightly into her side, the rope pulled by one of the ranch hands as he walked over and quickly wound it round her stomach and waist, forcing her arms into her sides. Jannifer and Cindy had the same surprised look on their faces, as they were walked over to one of the pickup trucks, and made to lie down, the ropes wound down their legs and then used to secure their ankles together.
“Relax,” Fi said with a laugh, “these guys know what you’re doing, don’t you Jeb?”
“We sure do Miss Fi,” Jeb said as he captured Fi, Alice and Heidi grabbed in the same way before they were put in the back of the second pickup truck.
“Well, you had to ask,” Cindy said as she looked at Natalie, her friend nodding and smiling as the trucks set off across the grassland.
“Give me a few minutes before you bring them in boys,” Joe said as they pulled up outside the ranch house, the six girls wriggling round in the flatbed. The ropes were wound tightly round them, and the knot was way out of reach of their fingers, so there was no way they could untie themselves – and they were having too much fun to unite each other.
After a few minutes, Joe came out and said “all right boys – bring them in and make them comfortable.”
“Hi grandma,” Heidi heard FI say as they were carried in, looking at Fiona as she sat at one end of the couch that went round three sides in front of the fire. She had also been captured with a lasso of rope, her arms pinned to her sides and her denim skirt wrapped round her legs, the rope tied off around her ankles. She also had a white cloth stuffed in her mouth – something that was soon added to each of the girls as they were placed on the chairs.
“All right boys – have a good night,” Joe said as he showed them out, before looking at the captives. “Now, you ladies just relax – I’ll wash up and then keep an eye on the evening meal.”
“Ubtrrr,” Fiona said, but Heidi could see the smile on her face as she started to wriggle round, the other girls joining in as they tried to free themselves.
Eventually, Fi managed to push the cloth out of her mouth, before she said “Sorry grandma – someone, without naming names, asked what it was like to be kidnapped by a cowboy.”
“hmmm,” Natalie said as she tried to look innocent.
“Ysssyyy,” Heidi said with a grin.
“All right,” Fiona said as she spat her gag out as well, “want to show them how you get out of this?”
The other girls watched as Fi wriggled her arms behind her, and then the rope seemed to fail away from her by magic.
“Trick knot,” Fi said with a smile as her grandmother managed to do the same. “Want some help?”
The others nodded as Fiona and Fi released them, while Joe came back in.
“Dagnabbit, I keep forgetting you know that knot,” he said with a smile. “Anyway, you ladies have been outside all day – you need to shower and put on some fresh clothes, or you will regret it.”
“Come on,” Fi said as she walked to her room, “I’ve really worked up an appetite.”
“Fi told us one time you introduced her to tie-up games,” Cindy said as they sat at the dinner table – the girls had washed themselves down, and changed into shorts and t-shirts. “How did that happen?”
“Oh that old story,” Fiona said as she passed round plates with chilli and rice, “well, how old would you have been dear?”
“Eight – no, nine. I was watching an old black and white serial on the television, one of those Roy Rogers things...”
“Knew it,” Natalie said as she winked at Alice.
“Well, Dale Arden was held hostage, and I asked Grandpa if he would do that to me. And that, as they say, is how it started.”
you mean Dale Evans, Fi? Dale Arden is from the Flash Gordon things."
"And you know this because?"
"Because I'm a geek," Jannifer said with a laugh.
“As simple as that?”
“As simple as that – but what about you girls,” Fiona said as she looked at them. As one, they looked at Heidi, who blushed and said “well, I guess it started when I was clearing the attic in our old house...”
“Well, that’s quite a story,” Joe said as he finished his meal, “but I’m real glad you girls have made Fi feel so special. I know it’s hard for her up there, but you’ve been real good to her.”
“We’ve just been friends, that’s all,” Cindy said with a blush as she looked round the table.
“Well now,” Fiona said with a smile, “I reckon you ladies have had enough now, but I wonder if I could ask for a couple of you to help me with something. Natalie and Alice, do you mind?”
“Of course not,” Nats said as she stood up, Alice joining her as they started to clear the table, while the other girls went into the front room with Joe.
“So how did you enjoy your first time on a horse,” Joe said as he sat down.
“Different – I’m not sure I could ever really learn to ride one,” Heidi said. “How long have you lived here?”
“In this place? We built it when the old farmhouse burnt down in ’65. But I’ve lived on the ranch all my life – my great grandpappy established it, and we’ve kept cattle ever since.”
“I don’t understand why your mother would ever want to leave here,” Jannifer said as she looked at Fi.
“Me neither – she met Dad at college, and that was it.”
“Don’t be too harsh on her,” Joe said as he looked at his granddaughter, “she does love you, kid. She just has a very funny way of showing it at times.”
“Do you think they need a hand in there?”
“No, you leave the ladies alone,” Joe said with a smile, “I’m sure Fiona’s keeping them busy.”
“There now – how does that feel, Alice?”
Alice nodded as Fiona tied the rope around her knee, firmly securing her left leg it the front leg of the chair. Her ankle was already tied in place, as was the case with her right leg. Ropes around her body were holding her arms tightly against her, helped by the fact her wrists and elbows had been secured together with rope behind her, and stretching her t-shirt over her chest.
Her upper body was not tied to the chair – a weight had been applied to make sure she stayed in place, the legs of that weight tied to the rear legs of the chair as she looked at Alice. Natalie also had her upper body bound in the same way, as she wriggled a little.
“Joe told me about what you saw out with the herd today,” Fiona said as she checked all the knots again, “and how you reacted. I’m not surprised – I remember the first time I saw that after arriving here, it scared the heck out of me as well.
“But it’s like you were told girls – out here, you soon discover that nature is what nature is, and you have to take it as it comes, no matter what others may think. Am I right?”
Both Nats and Alice nodded, unable to really speak their thoughts because of the two sponges in their mouths, and the strips of grey tape covering their lips.
“So, I’m going to let you two little ladies have some quality time in here,” Fiona said as she looked at them, “and I’ll come and let you join the others in a little while. Have fun.”
As Fiona went out and closed the door, Nats leaned over and pressed her tape covered mouth over Alice’s.
“They just wanted some time to themselves,” Fiona said in answer to her granddaughter’s question, “you just leave them alone now.”
The other girls looked at each other and nodded as Joe said “how about a game of cards?”
When Heidi woke the next morning, she rubbed her eyes and looked at Cindy, who was still sleeping peacefully in the bed. Taking off her nightdress, and putting on the shorts and t-shirt from the previous night for the moment, she made her way to the kitchen to get a drink of water.
“Good morning, Heidi – you’re up before anyone else today.”
“Except you,” she said as she saw Fiona at the sink. “What time is it?”
“Just after six – listen, I was going to feed the chickens and get the eggs for breakfast. Want to give me a hand?”
“Sure – let me get some trainers on,” Heidi said, finding and putting them on her feet before she followed Fiona out into the yard.
“If you take that basket,” Fiona said as she handed Heidi a wicker basket with grain, “and scatter it over the ground where the chickens are, I can get in and find what they have given us today.”
Smiling, Heidi took a handful of grain and scattered it around, watching as several hens and one large cockerel came over and started to peck at the food.
“This must be very different to you,” Fiona said as she came out of the hen house.
“A little bit – Natalie’s Aunt has a farm, but she uses it more as a workshop and to grow vegetables, rather than keep animals.”
“Well, some people do that, but round here a trip to the supermarket to pick up some eggs or milk is a little bit more difficult,” Fiona said with a smile, “so we keep a few things here.”
“Come with me,” Fiona said as they made their way over to one of the barns. As she went in, Heidi saw two cows side by side in little fenced off areas, chewing on hay.
“Meet Gert and Daisy,” Fiona said. “I was out milking them before you got up. Maybe one morning you girls can get up earlier and help me to with that?”
“I’d like to – can’t speak for the others though,” Heidi said as she patted the neck of Gert.
“Oh I think I can persuade at least two of them to,” Fiona said with a smile. “Come on – the others will be waking up by now.”
“Oh that’s where you went to,” Cindy said as Heidi helped to carry the eggs back in.
“It’s actually quite nice out there,” Heidi said as she sat down. “No sign of the others yet?”
“Not yet,” Fi said as she came in, “I’m sure they’ll come in when they smell the food.”
“Ten bucks say they don’t.”
“Done,” Fi said as she looked at her grandmother. “Grandma, any chance of Heuvos Rancheros today?”
“Are you planning to go swimming later?”
“I was going to suggest that, yeah.”
“Then you need a good breakfast,” Fiona said as she found some onions and peppers, finely chopping them and throwing them into a pan with some garlic, chillies and bay leafs.
“Can you sort out the rest of the breakfast, Fi,” Fiona said, the girls helping as they found fruit juice and muffins, while she found some tortilla wraps and cheese, grating the cheese into a bowl.
After a few minutes, Fiona added some tinned tomatoes to the pan, and let it cook for a few more minutes, before adding eggs to the pan and putting a lid on. Fi then laid the tortillas on the lid for a few minutes, before putting them on a plate and bringing to the table with the grated cheese, as her grandmother brought the pan over and laid it on a stand.
“That smells fantastic.”
Heidi looked over to see Alice, Natalie and Jannifer come in, before looking at Fi.
“I’ll pay you later,” she said as Fi put some cheese on a tortilla, spooned an egg on and then rolled it up before she started to eat it.
“This is the life,” Jannifer said as she sat in the back of the pickup truck, a red bandana tied round her neck as she sat in her blue swimsuit, a pair of denim shorts her only other clothing.
The other girls were also wearing swimsuits and shorts, Fi and Heidi wearing hats while the others had bandanas tied round their necks, the back protecting their skin as Luke drove them along the path. A large wicker basket was on the bed of the pickup as well.
“I wonder what everyone else I doing at the moment,” Cindy said as she looked out across the grasslands.
“I called mom – she and Dorothy are heading up to see Heather today.”
“Aunt Heather? Why?”
“No idea, Nats – they just are.”
“We’re nearly there,” Fi said as they saw a small group of trees appear on the horizon.
Ten minutes later, Luke stopped in what was effectively a small oasis – the trees surrounded a large watering hole, with a little jetty sticking out. There was a small rock outcrop to one side, and the girls could see the stream flowing in one end and out the other.
“I’ll be back to collect you girls at about four,” Luke said as they got out, Cindy and Heidi carrying the basket, “have fun.”
“We will – and thanks again Luke,” Fi said as the truck drove off.
“So this is the famous little watering hole? It’s a lot bigger than I thought it was when you described it, but...”
“But this is Texas – everything is bigger,” Fi said with a smile. Opening the basket, she took the rug from the top and laid it out, before stripping off her shorts and saying “last one is has to pay the price.”
“And what’s the price,” Alice called out as she removed her shorts.
“Snooze and you’ll find out,” Cindy said as the girls ran to the water...
“So how exactly did you learn to do the thing with your hands tied behind your back,” Heidi said as they came back to the shore.
“Oh that,” Fi said, “I was out here one day with Grandma, and she said it was important I knew how to act safely if we were going to play these games. Especially around here – so she crossed my wrists behind my back, and used a thin leather strip to bind them. Then she walked into the water with me, and helped to lie on my back, get used to how it felt. It just progressed from there.”
“Well, this sun is fantastic,” Cindy said as she lay out on the blanket, “it just feels so good to be lying out under it.”
Natalie and Alice looked at each other, as Fi and Jannifer watched Heidi close her eyes, her hat shading her eyes as they both lay in their swimsuits.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Fi nodded as she opened the basket, and took out several thin strips of leather. As the girls knelt either side of the sunbathing duo, Fi counted down from five with her fingers and then nodded as they grabbed their wrists.
“Hey – what are you doing,” Cindy said as alike held her wrists together, and Natalie bound them with one of the thongs.
“Seeing if you have learned your lesson,” Fi said as Heidi had her wrists tied together by Jannifer, and then both girls had their ankles lashed together.
“No – no you wouldn’t,” Cindy said as Jannifer and Alice carried her, while Natalie helped Fi to carry Heidi.
“Oh yes we would,” Fi said, “just remember, lie on your back, and let the water support you. On three...”
“Three,” Alice shouted as both girls were thrown off the jetty into the water, landing with a large splash as the others laughed. After a minute, both Cindy and Heidi lay on their backs, Heidi turning her head and saying “You know, of course, this means war?”
“Promises, promises – come on, swim back to shore and we’ll put the picnic out.”
“Well, I guess it was worth the extra dip for this,” Heidi said as she took a chicken drumstick and bit into it.
“Just make sure you put all the rubbish in the bag for us to take back,” Fi said as she put a chicken bone into the rubbish bag. “Last thing we need is to leave scraps out for the locals to try and find?”
“Coyotes and the like – they don’t normally come close, but leave them something to nibble on, and you never really know...”
The girls turned and looked at Fi, who smiled as she said “I’m not joking – ask Grandpa.”
“Well, we’d better make sure we eat as much as possible,” Jannifer said as she looked out over the horizon. “You know, this is so different from Maine, but it’s beautiful just the same.”
“Yeah – yeah it is,” Fi said with a smile. “I love Mom and Dad, but coming here every so often just gives me something they can’t.”
“I can understand that – it’s a bit like when we go and visit the girls in England,” Heidi said, “you just get a different perspective on things.”
“Amen to that,” Natalie said as she sipped from her bottle. “So do you think we’re going to head into the big city tomorrow?”
“Grandma said that was the plan,” Fi said. “She needs to pick up a few things, so we’ll get dropped near a certain historic building and left to look round for a couple of hours, before we meet up for lunch.”
“Now that’s a plan,” Cindy said quietly, “and what are we going to do tonight?”
Looking up at the sky, Fi said “well, I reckon it’s going to be a clear night – I think you girls need to experience a real Southern sunset over the prairie.”
“And how can we do that?”
“From the front porch of the house,” Fi said with a smile, “provided you can enjoy it in silence...”
“Well,” Joe said as they sat round the dinner table, “it can get a mite chilly out there at sunset, so I suggest you young ladies make sure you have long pants and a jumper on – but yeah, there’s nothing better than ending the day watching the sun go down.”
“I’ll get some blankets and lay them out on the ground,” Fiona said as she served up the food, “but why do I get the feeling you girls would prefer to be somewhat immobilised.”
“Is it that obvious,” Cindy said with a smile.
“More the fact I can tell by looking at you,” Fiona said as she sat down. “Well, eat up – you can get ready after that.”
“Right – draw straws.”
All six girls were in Fi’s bedroom, having changed into jumpers and jeans, as Cindy held six straws in her hand. One by one they drew one, leaving Cindy with a short straw alongside Jannifer and Alice.
“Okay then – you’d better get started,” Alice said as she turned and crossed her wrists behind her back looking over her shoulder as Heidi started to bind them together. As she wound the rope around and between them, Heidi took care of Jannifer and Fi of Cindy.
“We’re going to have our arms bound as well, right?”
“That’s right,” Heidi said as she tied the rope off out of reach of Alice’s fingers, and then doubled over a longer length, passing it around Alice’s upper body and forcing her arms into her sides just below her chest.
A few minutes later, their upper bodies were secured with two bands of rope, above and below their chests, while their binders rolled three brown bandanas into bands and tied a knot in the middle.
“Open wide,” Heidi said as all three had the knot pushed into their mouths, and then the cotton band tied around their heads, while Fiona knocked and came into the room.
“If you three fine young ladies will come with me,” she said, as Fi picked up two more lengths of rope.
“Your turn,” she said to Heidi and Nats, “hands behind your backs please...”
As the last three stepped out onto the patio, they saw Cindy, Jannifer and Alice lying on blankets on the wooden floor. Their ankles had been crossed and tied, and then their legs pulled back so that their ankles could be secured to their chest ropes. A final band of rope held their legs together below their knees.
“All right girls,” Joe said as he held several length of rope in his leathery hands, “sit down, get comfortable, and then cross your ankles.”
As they sat down, Nats crossed her ankles, her toes wriggling in the cool air as Joe swiftly bound her ankles together, and then her legs below her knees. As he moved over to Heidi, Fiona helped Natalie to lie on her stomach, and then hogtied her, before she went to the next girl.
Joe settled into his rocking chair, smiling as he watched his wife hogtie their granddaughter, and then come and join him.
“Now if you look over yonder,” he said to the girls, “you’ll see that red line. Watch it as it grows larger, brighter...”
“Fnksssgnppngrrnmm,” Fi said through her knotted cleave gag, while the other girls nodded while Fiona rocked to and fro.
“Is there anything you need me to do when I am in San Antonio, dear?”
“You’re going to the bank?”
“Hmm,” Fiona said as the red line expanded on the horizon.
“Tsbuutflll,” Heidi said, Cindy knotting in agreement as they watched.
“Well, so long as the bills get paid, you have fun with the girls. I take it they’re going to the Alamo?”
“Yeah – I thought we may do one of the river cruises after lunch.”
“Well, that sounds real fine,” Joe said as the sun continued to set, the girls watching as the red strip got larger and larger, and the blackness continued to appear on the horizon, as there was a final blaze of yellow, and the just red deepening into black.
Joe reached behind him and turned on a switch, illuminating the porch in yellow light as they stayed there, enjoying the cool evening air.
Eventually, Joe stretched and yawned as he said “Well, I reckon I need to turn in. What about you young uns?”
“Cnwssteltlllngr,” Fi said as she looked at him.
“On you go Joe,” Fiona said, “I’ll make sure they are untied and in bed soon enough.”
“See you in the morning girls,” Joe said as he walked back in, Fiona continuing to sit in her chair as she slowly dropped off to sleep.
“Nwww,” Fi said as they rolled back to back in pairs, and started to work on the knots of each other.
When Fiona opened her own eyes, she was surprised to find her wrists tied down to the arms of the rocking chair, and her ankles bound and secured to the foot rest. One of the knotted bandanas had also been tied between her lips, as her own personal cleave gag.
“Oh there you are Gran,” Fi said as she brought out a blanket and put it over her grandmother, before sitting in the other chair and putting a second blanket over herself. “The girls are just clearing away the supper things, so I thought we’d have a little time together out here before going to bed.”
Fiona nodded and looked at her granddaughter as they both sat in the cool night air, rocking slowly...
“So this is the famous Alamo?”
“It most surely is,” Fi said as she stood with the girls in the square, looking at the entrance to the former fort.
“Somehow, I thought it would look different,” Heidi said as she looked at the old buildings. All the girls were wearing polo shirts and shorts, Natalie wearing sandals while the other girls wore sneakers.
“Its history in real life,” Fi said as she looked round. “They had to keep this as it was, while all round the city was re-developed. Anyway, shall we go in?”
“Why not,” Cindy said as the girls made their way in, spending time exploring what remained of the old fort and the chapel. As they walked round, they imagined in their own minds what it must have been like to be one of the women inside, fearing for their lives as the men fought to stop the Mexican forces.
“Ever see the John Wayne film,” Jannifer said as they stood in front of the chapel.
“The one that’s about as historically accurate as the Green Berets? Yeah I’ve seen it – truth is stranger than fiction however,” Alice said as the girls walked along the corridors.
“Mom hates those films – she calls them the ‘America! Hell Yeah!’ ones,” Nats said as she stopped to look at a display of the soldiers behind the walls of the fort.
“I guess it is a defining moment in American history though?”
“Texas history, certainly,” Fi said. “Like I said, the true story of what happened here is even stranger. There was great courage and respect on both sides, but ultimately the result was Texas joining the United States.”
“Did Davy Crockett really wear that hat?”
“Nope – blame Uncle Walt Disney for that one,” Heidi said. “Aunt Veronica told me the story.”
“And she would know, child star and all that.”
The sun was shining down on the girls as they stood for a moment in front of the chapel door, reading the inscriptions before they turned and watched the volunteers enacting a guard change.
“Having fun so far?”
“I think they are,” Fi said to her grandmother, who had walked over to join them. She was wearing a pale yellow sundress with a hat, and smiled as she looked at the other five.
“Well, I think it’s getting close to lunchtime,” she finally said, “why don’t we head down to the riverside and get something there?”
“Sounds good to me,” Cindy said with a smile, “any idea where?”
“There are quite a few places down by the walkway – why don’t we take a stroll along and have a look?”
As they went out into the large square, Alice looked around and said “It’s amazing isn’t it – how the atmosphere can change with just a few steps.”
“Tell me about it,” Natalie said as they began to hear the sound of cars again, a sound which had been largely absent in the fort. “I can see why you like this place so much though Fi.”
The youngest girl nodded as they made their way to the convention centre, then across the road and down some stairs to where the riverside walk was. As they walked along the shaded waterside, they noticed a small group standing at what looked like an outdoor stage.
“I wonder what they are doing,” Heidi said as they stopped and watched for a few moments, sitting on the stone steps at the other side.
As they watched, Fiona suddenly smiled and said “I’ll tell you what it is, my dear – they’re getting married.”
As they watched, they realised Fi’s grandmother was right, as the man and woman placed rings on a bible, and they exchanged vows. The party then walked off as Fiona let out a deep sigh.
“You all right Gran?”
“Yes – I’m just remembering the day your grandfather and I married. Come on then – off to lunch.”
“I take it your wedding wasn’t a shotgun one,” Heidi said as they sat round a table in a cantina, watching as their food was brought over.
“Oh heavens no – it was a proper Southern wedding,” Fiona said. “Lots of guests and a big wedding breakfast. Maybe one day, when it’s Fi’s turn, she can have the big wedding as well.”
“I’d love a big wedding,” Jannifer said as she looked out, “white dress, lots of bridesmaids...”
“Including Britney and Margo?”
“Yes, including them,” Jannifer said with a smile. “I couldn’t ignore them, however much I want to...”
“What about you Heidi – you and Dave ever dream of a wedding?”
“No comment,” Heidi said with a smile, “but I can’t deny I like the idea of being whisked away as a total surprise...”
Fiona watched the girls as they kept talking, wondering if they would like a little surprise for the ride home...
“Well, I guess we’re back at the car,” she said as they went into the underground car park, looking round to see if anyone was around.
“All right girls,” she said with a smile as she grabbed Fi and put her hand over her mouth, “I want you to do what I tell you to do, or this little lady gets into real trouble, understand?”
The other five looked at Fi, who was giggling under her grandmother’s hand and nodding.
“All right lady – what do you want us to do,” Cindy eventually said.
“Look in the back of the vehicle girlie – there’s some wide rolls of black tape there, right?”
Cindy looked in the back and took out two rolls as Fi grunted.
“Very good – use them to cover your pretty little mouths, y’all hear?”
“Just don’t hurt our friend,” Alice giggled as they tore strips of tape off and sealed their own lips, looking at each other before Fiona said “now one of you do the same for this little girl here, before y’all turn and face the van, hands behind your back.”
“Llddhtt,” Jannifer said as Fiona removed her hand, Fi pressing her lips together before they were covered in black tape. She then handed the roll of tape to Fiona, who quickly crossed the wrists of each girl behind their backs and taped them.
“Right, inside and sit down,” she said as the girls climbed in, kneeling and taping their ankles together as well as their legs below their knees, before she fastened the seat belts around them. Smiling as she closed the door, she got behind the wheel, said “praise the lord for tinted windows,” and drove off, the girls mumbling to each other as she did so.
The radio station was playing some soft rock music as they went along, the girls recognising one particular song as they sang along...
Honest love, we feel, needs no conversation
As Fiona pulled up outside the ranch house, she opened the side door and unbuckled the girls, before she said “all right – jump into the house, and wait for me to come in.”
One by one, the girls shuffled over the seats and were helped out, jumping across the ground and then up the stairs before Fiona opened the door, and they all jumped in. They waited a few moments as she brought the bags in, and then looked at them.
“Sit down in the seated area, on the floor, back to back,” she then said as she went back out to the car, returning with the black tape as Fi sat with Jannifer, Nats with Alice and Heidi with Cindy. She used the tape to secure the pairs together around their waists, and their upper arms, before she said “now you little hostages relax while I start to prepare supper, all right?”
“Ysgrnrn,” Fi said as they sat there, trying to free each other’s wrists....
“You know something,” Heidi said as she sat in her bed, Cindy in the bed next to her, “I’ve really enjoyed this trip.”
“It’s certainly been different,” Cindy said as she looked up from her book, “I guess we need to find a way to thank Fi’s grandparents.”
“I don’t think they want any thanks,” Cindy said as she put her book down, and lay on her side, “I think they’re just glad we could come with Fi and keep her company. So what are we going to do before this barbecue tomorrow night.”
“I think we should at least give Fi a treat,” Heidi said with a smile, “Let me have a word with Luke tomorrow...”
“Good morning everyone,” Fi said as she came out, wearing a long sleeved top and jeans. “Grandpa, can we take some of the horses out again today?”
“If you want – any of you girls want to go with her?”
“We might,” Heidi said as she looked at Cindy, “you girls up for it?”
The others nodded as they ate their breakfast, and then headed to the stables, Fi looking round as she came in and said “Where are the horses?”
“Never mind the horses,” Natalie said as she and Alice looked round, “Where are the other girls?”
“All right little ladies – hands in the air where we can see them?”
Fi turned round to see Luke standing there, a bandana tied over his lower face and covering his nose and mouth, as he pointed a toy pistol at her. Behind him, she could see Jannifer, Heidi and Cindy, all with bandanas tied over their faces as well.
“Oh my god,” Fi said while trying not to laugh, “what are you going to do to us?”
“Take you to our hideout,” Jannifer said as she pointed a water pistol at them. “All three of you, hands on your heads and turn round.”
“Please, what are you doing,” Nats said with a giggle as they all put their hands on their heads, the other three girls producing black bandana which had been rolled into bands and a knot tied in the middle. As they gagged their friends, Luke said “my partners here are going to take you for a little ride, and then I’ll talk to your pappy about what it will take for you to come home.”
“Uffndndd,” Alice said, giggling as Jannifer tied the cotton band around her head. Luke then walked over and made the three girls sit on some hay bales, while the other three used leather thongs to tie their wrists together in front of themselves, and their ankles side by side.
“All right little ladies,” Luke said as he glanced at the three masked girls, “saddle up, I’ll be along in a minute.”
They walked outside as Luke squatted in front of Fi. “You al right, little one,” he said as she stroked the hair away from her face, Fi nodding as he picked her up and placed her over his shoulder.
As he carried her outside, she saw Jannifer sitting on Mandy, waiting as Luke put Fi across the horse’s withers in front of Jannifer, and then tied her ankles and wrists to the saddle.
Alice and Natalie were soon secured in front of Heidi and Cindy, as Luke said “Follow me closely,” and drove off in the flatback, the three girls following as their captives bounced up and down gently in front of them.
“Mgnnnkhrrfrths,” Natalie mumbled as they crossed the grasslands.
“Jnnthqu,” Alice said, Fi grinning as they made their way towards a group of trees.
As Luke pulled over, the three girls got off and tied the horses to the side of the vehicle, and then helped the other three girls to stand up, and walked them over to the trees while Luke brought some coils of rope from the back of the truck.
“Sit them down,” Luke said, Heidi making her cousin sit in front of a tree as Luke used the rope to tie her waist to it. As he secured the other two, the girls made sure their legs were secured at the ankles, as well as above and below the knees.
“Thsssntqhtthdpnd,” Fi mumbled, but then she brightened up as Luke brought out a picnic basket and set it on the ground, resting on a blanket. He then touched his cap as he unhitched the horses, letting them graze and walk round as Heidi looked at them.
“This,” she said quietly, “is a thank you picnic from us Fi, for allowing us to join you on this trip.”
“Swrrwlkths,” Alice said as she looked at Cindy.
“Because we knew you’d enjoy it,” Cindy said as she looked at them. Don’t say you didn’t...”
Nats and Alice looked at each other before shaking their heads, and relaxing in the sunshine as it filtered through the trees. As the girls turned and started to lay out the contents of the picnic basket, however, Alice winked at her friend as she started to wriggle her hands round.
“So what time is the flight back tomorrow, Heidi?”
“About midday I think – I’d need to check with Fi,” the young blonde said as she looked round – and saw Fi grinning at her from her position in front of the tree.
“All right, what am I missing,” she said as her eyes moved to the side – and the ropes that were on the ground in front of them.
“Oh boy,” she said as she looked to her other side, and saw both Cindy and Jannifer staring at her as the bandanas were pulled into their mouths by Natalie and Alice.
“Honestly – did you think that would hold us for long,” Nats said as she pulled Cindy’s arms behind her back.
“Not really,” Heidi said as she stood up, “so have fun with those two.”
“Whtthhh – hdeestnmgnnkluu...”
“Oh I am sure you will eventually,” Heidi said as she started to tickle Fi, making the younger girl laugh into her gag as she moved round, “but not just yet, not just yet...”
“Well, did you have a good time girls,” Fiona said as she watched them walk back to the farmhouse.
“Yeah we did,” Fi said, “even if some of us got a little more tickled than others...”
“Well, you need to clean yourselves up,” her grandmother said as she looked at her, “people will start arriving soon, and you need to wash that dust off yourselves.”
“Time to hit the showers,” Heidi said as she walked in, the other girls looking at her and then nodding as if they had come to a silent agreement. They walked in behind her, Fiona shaking her head as she watched them.
“Something smells good outside,” Heidi said as she came back in, wearing a green sun dress and sandals.
“Grandpa’s on the barbecue,” Fi said as she looked up from the seat. The young girl was wearing a white short sleeved blouse and knee length jeans, with deck shoes on – an outfit complemented by Cindy, who was wearing a denim skirt instead of jeans, her dark hair held back in a ponytail. “Grandma has been marinating things all day, and making all sorts of salads.”
“Which I’m going to ask you girls to take outside when the time comes,” Fiona called out from the kitchen.
“We’d be glad to,” Nats said as she walked out in her bare feet, her long Boho skirt flowing as she did so, while her blue top was pulled down her arms. Surprisingly, Alice was also wearing a long skirt and barefoot, although she had on a yellow polo shirt.
“Are you two wearing matching rope bracelets as well,” Cindy said as she looked at their ankles, both girls nodding as they sat down.
“This is going to be fun,” Heidi said as Jannifer came in, wearing a short sleeved green dress with a pair of deck shoes.
“Right you lot,” Fiona said as she came in, “simple choice. Stay in and help me sort out salads and bread, or outside and meet our guests.”
“OUTSIDE,” they answered as one, going out and walking round to where a number of groups of people were gathering round tables.
“Hey Fi,” one young boy, about the same age as the girls and dressed in a checked shirt and jeans, said as he came over. “Glad I got the chance to see y’all before you headed back. I’m Todd – I live with my folks on the next ranch over. You must be Heidi.”
“Did we put name tags on and I forgot,” Heidi said as she looked round.
“No – Fi is very descriptive in the letters she writes,” Todd said as Jannifer looked at him. “It’s a real pleasure to meet all of you.”
“Thanks,” Jannifer said as both Heidi and Cindy looked at her. “I’m Jannifer.”
“Nice name – different,” Todd said with a smile, “would you like a drink Jannifer – or can I call you Jan?”
“Jan would be nice,” she said as she walked off with Todd, Alice watching with her mouth wide open before she said “Jan? She hates it when we call her Jan!”
“I think,” Natalie said as she put her arm round Alice’s shoulders, “our little Jannifer is finally growing up.”
“You must be Fi’s friends from up north,” a red haired older girl said as she walked over, “I’m Laura, Todd’s big sister. Have you enjoyed your stay down here?”
“Very much so,” Cindy said, “I can see why she loves coming down here. Are you friends of her grandparents?”
“My folks are,” Laura said as he looked over to the couple talking to Joe at a huge barbecue, “but Fi’s been kind of like a little sister as well.”
“Kinda Laura – how’s the boyfriend?”
“Ditched – I told him I was heading north in the autumn, and he didn’t like the idea one bit.”
“Oh – where are you going?”
“Boston College – I got accepted on a course up there, so I’m not going to be too far away from you little ladies.”
“But Boston’s a good...”
“Relatively speaking, at least,” Heidi said as she looked at Alice, while Luke and the other ranch hands came round and joined the growing group.
“Girls, come and help me,” Fiona called out as they turned and made their way in.
“Laura – you get bigger every time I see you,” Fiona said as she hugged the young woman.
“So does Fi – want a hand with these?”
“I sure do – and then we can eat,” the older woman said as they picked up bowls and platters, and started to carry them out.
“All right folks,” Joe called out as the tables were laid, “meat’s good, the rest is out – come and get it!”
Jannifer and Todd walked up together as Laura stood with Cindy and Heidi.
“She seems a nice girl – what’s her name?”
“Long story – but yeah, she’s a nice girl. She has twin sisters who can be holy terrors at time, but they’re good kids at heart as well.”
“Well Todd certainly seems to be taken by her,” Laura said as they walked over to the barbecue.
“Right then little ladies – we got steak, chicken or burger. Take your pick.”
“So have you enjoyed your stay girls,” Fiona said as she sat with Natalie and Alice.
“We have thank you – and thank you for allowing us to be ourselves,” Nats said as she looked at Alice.
“Well, just remember what I said – people often look at things in the wrong way, but that’s their problem, not yours. Understand?”
Both girls nodded as Fiona looked at them. “Good – take your lead from their mothers,” she said as she looked over at Cindy and Heidi talking to Laura. “From all Fi tells me, they have it right.”
“So when do you fly back,” Todd said as he sat with Jannifer.
“Tomorrow morning I’m afraid – time difference and everything to take into account.”
“Pity – look, this is going to sound a bit forward, but...”
“Yes I’d like to keep in touch – I’d like to get to know you better.”
Todd smiled shyly before he said “good – my big sister is moving up to Boston in the autumn. Maybe I can come up and see her – and you if that can be arranged.”
“That would be nice,” Jannifer said as he took her hand.
“Well, that’s most of the packing done,” Heidi said as she looked at her case. The barbecue was over, and she had changed into a pair of shorts and a vest top for bed.
“Good, good – gives us time to properly thank you for earlier today.”
“Hmmm what was that,” she said without looking round, as Cindy opened the door to allow Fi, Alice, Natalie and Jannifer to come in.
“Hello, best friend,” Natalie said quietly, “we want to make sure you have a really nice, comfortable, undisturbed night’s sleep.”
“Oh – and how are... Oh,” Heidi said as she turned round and looked at them.
“By unanimous agreement,” Fi said as she held up two sponges, “we have decided that you, Heidi Strong, are getting the full on treatment for this last night.”
“Hands out Heidi,” Natalie said as she held out a roll of duct tape, “you know you can’t beat all of us.”
“Why would I want to,” the young blonde said as she held her hands out, gripping the sponges in her fists as Natalie taped them over, then Alice pulled a pair of white socks up over her arms before Natalie taped them in place as well.
Cindy pulled her wrists behind her back, crossing them and lashing them together with rope before she tied it round her waist, while Jannifer held a folded cloth in front of her mouth.
“Well, I’ll talk to you girls in the morning,” Heidi said before she opened her mouth and allowed the cloth to go in, Natalie following with a green chiffon scarf that was rolled into a thin band and knotted, while Cindy tied her friend’s arms to her sides with rope around her stomach and forearms.
Heidi could feel the cotton and chiffon on her tongue as she was helped to sit on her bed, Cindy binding her upper arms to her body with rope above and below her chest, while Fi crossed and bound her ankles, and Alice wrapped white tape tightly around her head, the shape of her lips showing underneath as her hair was kept out of the way.
She watched, squirming as Fi tied her legs below her knees, while Cindy tied a pink scarf folded into a wide band over her mouth, and then her world went black.
It went quiet as well, as she felt the earplugs slide into place, before she was laid on her side.
The other girls looked at her as she squirmed round, the second scarf tied tightly over her eyes and ears, before they tip-toed out of the room, and left her alone.
“You sure you don’t mind me sharing your room tonight Fi?”
“Not at all Cindy – let’s just leave her to her own devices, shall we?”
She was aware of someone else in the room rather than hearing them – the earplugs were too well placed and held in for that – but as the first scarf was removed, and they were eased out, she heard Fi’s grandfather say “oh my – they really did a number on you, didn’t they?”
“Sllrrttelkttt,” she mumbled as the sleep mask came off, and she saw Joe looking at her.
“Still – I suggest a bath this morning, and wearing something long sleeved and jeans for the journey back. The other girls aren’t up yet, so you’ve got time to do that – once I have you out of these. Where did they learn these knots anyway?”
“Frmefrnd,” Heidi said as she sat herself up, waiting patiently until she was released and then removing her gag. She then ran to the toilet, taking her washbag with her as Joe shook his head.
“Those girls could teach Luke and the boys a thing or two about rope work,” he said eventually as he came into the kitchen.
“I know – but they’re good kids, and I’m glad they are friends with Fi,” Fiona said as she worked on the range. “She’s going to need them if what her mama says is true.”
“Yeah – ever wish you could warn them when a storm’s a coming?”
“All the time, but – good morning Fi. Sleep well?”
“Yeah – is that Heidi in the bathroom?”
“I thought she might need some time to sort herself out – you girls did a real number on her last night.”
“I know Grandpa – but she enjoys it from time to time. So what’s for breakfast?”
“A big Texas one – save you having to seat that slop on the flight today,” Fiona said as she looked round.
One by one the girls came in, stretching and yawning before Heidi finally appeared, wearing a black t-shirt over a white long sleeved top, jeans and sneakers.
“Dressed already,” Cindy said with a smile.
“Well, I got an early wake up call,” Heidi said as she sat down. “Let’s eat.”
“Now Heidi’s aunt is going to meet you at the airport,” Fiona said as she looked at the girls, “so enjoy the flight back and stay safe.”
“We will do Grandma – and thanks for everything,” Fi said as the girls walked through to the security check, Fiona watching until they went through. Taking out her cell phone, she dialled a number and waited.
“Miss Cabot? They just went through to catch the plane – thanks for meeting them at the other end.
“No – I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. Let’s see what her parents say, and then work round that.
“And thanks – for everything.”
“Mom? We’re back!”
“There you are,” Dorothy said as she came through from the kitchen, hugging Cindy and Heidi as they put their bags down. “How was the flight?”
“Bad film – again – but we were too full from breakfast to eat anything. Where’s Amy?”
“She’ll be back soon – leave the bags there for the moment, come through and tell me everything that happened.”
“Okay – but what have you been doing while we were away?”
“Oh, this and that – this and that...”