Eager masculine hands pulled into the plastic envelope wrapping. Withdrawing the magazine carefully, he gazed reverently upon the image of Montana Fontaine on the front cover. He gasped slightly at the glossy print. They had captured everything he adored about her face and her hair perfectly. Her long locks were loose and almost tousled as they framed her beautiful face. She had cocked her head almost sideways into the camera and her beaming smile lit up her cerulean blue eyes as they flashed with her unmistakable spirit. Her flawless, smooth skin retained her youthful looks and as was her trademark, there was no heavy make-up. He knew she preferred a more natural look. One that encompassed her bohemian lifestyle.
Quickly he discarded his coat and loosened his tie before throwing his keys into the bowl on the table and retreating into his bedroom with the magazine. Sitting down at his desk, he flicked through the pages until he found the article on her. He frowned as the main photo attached to the article stared up at him. She was embracing her son. The one who had been on the TV and in the newspapers. One of those boy heroes he thought scornfully amd his lips curled into a grimace. He had hoped the boy would not survive the terrorist threat at his school. His initial joy now gave way to irritation as he read the article. Most of it he already knew. The same rehashed details of her past, however he continued to read until he got to the part where she gushed about her love for her only son. It was then that he caught his breath as deep stabbing emotional pain erupted in his chest, making his stomach churn. The words taunted him. Her son was the pride and joy of her life. "He will always be the most important man in my life," she was quoted.
Rage coursed through him and he roared in anguish, flinging the magazine across the room. He breathed heavily for several minutes before smoothing his hair and slowing his breathing. Calm restored, he retrieved the magazine and turning back to the desk. He picked up his scissors and began painstakingly cutting the photo, making sure the boy was removed. Finally he held up the cut out image of Montana Fontaine, smiling contentedly as her beauty shone back at him. Satisfied, he picked up the glue off the desk and moved to the opposite wall that was already wallpapered with hundreds of cut out images of the world renowned author. Spending several minutes finding the perfect place, he carefully applied the glue and smoothed the picture to the wall.
He allowed himself the time to bask in his homage of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The woman who was destined to be with him. Always. He then slowly turned and walking back to the desk picked up the remains of the picture. His face mirrored his repugnance as the good looking young man seemed to mock him as he grinned over-confidently into the camera. He crumpled the image into his fist. Delving into his pocket he brought out a lighter and set fire to the small crumpled ball. He waited until the flames threatened to burn his fingers before he dropped the lit paper into an unused glass.
As he watched the paper curl and blacken, his mind was clear with purpose. There could be only one man in Montana Fontaines life. Only one.
Friday October 18th
"You lost, Ezra." The words were not proclaimed as gleefully as one would expect from someone who had long awaited a moment of defeat for the sophomore. Instead the words, filled with disbelief and dismay, fell dejectedly from Bucks lips.
"I am very much aware of that, Buck," Ezra stated, the words terse, evidence that the southerners patience on the subject had worn thin.
"No, I dont think you do," Buck responded as he whirled to face Ezra. The other four boys sat around the table watching the conversation with rapt attention. Like Buck they were almost numb with disbelief at the events that had transpired the previous day. "You. Lost." Buck repeated, stating each word separately, filling them with the full weight of their import. "And now weve got to go through with this!"
Ezra rolled his eyes. "That is correct, Buck. We have to go through with this. That includes me, so you can rest assured that no one is more appalled at this turn of events."
"Oh you better believe that I know you gotta go through with this with us!" Buck growled as he suddenly became quite animated. "That might be the only bit of joy I get out of this! Im just hoping that I pick your name!"
The southerner swallowed a bit heavily as he looked around at his friends and saw similar sentiments in their eyes. He smiled weakly, "Well certainly my luck could not be that bad two days in a row."
"I dunno, Ez," Vin taunted, "you know how luck can be pretty streaky. You might be in for a run of bad luck." Four other heads nodded their agreement.
Much to Ezras relief, their conversation was interrupted as J.D. finally joined them in the basement hideaway they claimed as their own. Officially the basement had been resealed after the incident with Luis Cali and his attempt to take over the school. But Regents headmaster and dean had secretly told the boys that they had no problem allowing them to continue to use it, provided they followed a set of rules. Both mens eyes had fixed first on Ezra then on Buck as they said those words, obviously imagining the basement being used either as a gambling den or an illicit make out room. But the school officials had no need of concern, the other five were not about to lose the privilege and kept a sharp eye on the two boys. And for a while it had almost been unnecessary. Ezra was still antsy about the basement and it had taken a bit of cajoling from both Vin and Buck to get the claustrophobic southerner back in there. But eventually Ezras dislike for being left out of things helped override his fears. He still remained close to the exit and would on occasion duck out for some relief from the oppressive feeling, but he would always return. None of the other six ever said anything but they were extremely happy to see how much their friendship and companionship meant to the aloof sophomore.
"Alright! Are you guys ready?" J.D. asked, his own eyes alight with eagerness.
Six pairs of completely unimpressed eyes met his, but J.D. was enjoying himself far too much to allow himself to be dissuaded.
As he watched J.D. and the others, Nathan had to admit that it was nice to see the kid have his moment in the sun. Any other freshman would have a hard time holding his own against so many upperclassmen, but not J.D. He had jumped headlong into their midst, and defying any kind of explanation, had been readily accepted into their group. Well, Nathan corrected himself, there was an easy explanation. They had all accepted J.D. simply because Buck had willed it.
But whatever the reason, J.D. was one of them now and asserting his place among them very well. How else could anyone explain the rather odd chain of events that led them to all be gathered in the basement waiting anxiously to see what was in store for them next.
It had started off, as so many things do, all in good fun. J.D. had brought up the subject of Halloween and how he was looking forward to this year. His friends had all stared at him, waiting for him to explain why. Undaunted, J.D. had commented that they were all going to dress up, werent they? It had been several long moments to get enough control back over themselves to stop laughing. Actually it was the wounded look on J.D.s face that made most of them stop sooner than they would have.
The kid had implored, begged, and pleaded with them. But none of them had been moved. They simply saw themselves as too old to be dressing up for Halloween. But inspiration had struck the youngest of their group and he uttered the words that were guaranteed to get one other of their group interested in his idea. "How about if we make a bet?"
"And just what type of wager and stakes are you offering?" Ezra immediately responded.
J.D.s grin had slipped as he realized he had not thought this through all the way, but he quickly rebounded. "We can work that out. But if I win, then we have to all dress up for Halloween and do something like go to that party I heard about or even trick or treating."
They had almost blown him off there, but once Ezra got wind of a wager, there was usually no stopping him. "And if you lose this wager ?" he prompted, his pale green eyes glittering with interest.
"Ill take care of everyones housekeeping duties until the end of the year," J.D. exclaimed as inspiration struck. "This year, not the school year," he was quick to add.
"That is tempting," Ezra considered. "And as much as I do hate chores, they are far more appealing than parading myself around in some type of costume imploring people to give me a treat."
"Aw come on, Ez! Its not that bad! You cant tell me that youve never been trick or treating?"
Raised eyebrows met the freshmans outburst. "You have seen my mother, J.D. Does she strike you as the type that would dress me up in a Spiderman costume and take me door to door?"
J.D. sighed, seeing Ezras point but refusing to give up. "But then thats all the more reason why you ought to do it now! So you can finally see how much fun it is! Come on, guys! Now weve got to do it, not just for me, but for Ezra, too!"
"Please, do not put yourselves out for my sake," the southerner responded.
Nathan remembered thinking that it would be fun to see Ezra having to get into a costume, but decided that it was not worth it if he was going to have to wear one also. And he had seen similar sentiments written on the faces of his friends. Naturally, J.D. saw that as well and sweetened the pot.
"Okay, if I lose then Ill still do housekeeping duties for everyone until the end of this year. And I will owe each of you one special favor. Whatever you want and you have until the end of the school year to decide."
Seeing Ezra rub his thumb along his lower lip as he contemplated the wager, J.D. quickly added, "Within reason! And as long as I cant get into trouble for whatever I have to do."
The southerner frowned at those stipulations and started to comment but Buck drowned him out. "Whatever we want, huh?" he questioned. "This could be pretty good and worth the risk." He turned to the others to get their reactions. He kind of looked forward to being able to boss the kid around. And he already knew that his one thing for J.D. would be to have the kid go out on a date with the girl of his choosing.
Chris shook his head at Buck. To him nothing was worth the risk of having to dress up for Halloween.
Vin wavered in his decision. Like Ezra, he really had not had much of a chance to dress up so it could be a win/win situation for him. If he had to dress up he could do it as part of fulfilling the terms of the bet and none of the others had to know that secretly he had wanted to do it as well. His only problem would be finding a costume that he would not mind wearing.
Josiah shrugged. It made no difference to him. He used to take Hannah out trick or treating and sometimes she would insist that he dress up as well. But he doubted that she would want to do that this year, or if she did, she would probably do it with her new friends. He had no plans for Halloween, and did not see the harm in enjoying the night with his friends even if he had to dress up in some kind of costume. He was sure that he could find something interesting and unique to be.
No, Josiahs real interest was not All Hallows Eve but the days after, or as his grandfather and his great grandparents had taught him, Los Dias de Los Muertos (the Days of the Dead). Josiah knew that his Spanish surname surprised most people and he could not blame them; the Spanish blood that flowed in his veins was diluted, only his grandfather had been a full-blooded Mexican-American. But he was proud of the heritage that he had inherited from Alejandro Sanchez. And so he would go to the gravesite of his mother on November 2nd and clean the tombstone, take fresh flowers and even a picnic meal and share the day with her, honoring her memory. He knew it was a simplified version of what could be an elaborate and beautiful Mexican tradition. But as his grandfather had told him, "It is not we that keep alive the traditions, but the traditions that keep us alive." And the more that Josiah explored the multiple traditions of so many different cultures, the more that he found that statement was so very true.
Nathan also was undecided. It had been years since he had last dressed up. In fact he could not even remember what his costume had been. He felt he was a little too old to be dressing up and would be a little embarrassed. But if all the others were going to do it, then he would not mind so much.
Seeing that he was not going to get any real support from the guys, Buck pushed the issue. "Come on, lets vote on it."
"You dont even know what were bettin on!" Vin pointed out much to J.D.s dismay.
"Oh yeah, right. So what are we talking about here, kid?"
The freshman began furiously considering his options. "Itll have to be one person you guys select against me. Not all of you."
"Why? All of us would be taking the same risk," Ezra spoke up.
"But six against one isnt fair. Cmon, Ez, you should know that."
"But I like those odds when theyre in my favor," the southerner responded.
"No, hes right. It should be just one of us against him. So what are we talking about here so we can choose who to go against you?" Buck pressed.
"We havent decided that were going to do this," Chris stated.
"Details, schmetails! One thing at a time. So what is the game, J.D.?" Buck brushed off Chris.
"I was thinking a game of some kind. Actually I was thinking of a game of Uno," the freshman admitted.
"Uno?" they all asked in disbelief except for Chris, who just continued to watch the proceedings with a growing sense of dread.
J.D. nodded. "Yeah, Uno, its perfect. We all play it and not to brag or anything but Im pretty good at it, so I feel good about going up against any of you."
Buck let out short little barks of laughter. "Well that sounds good to me. And if you want it all to be decided by a card game, then I think well just have to let Ezra represent us."
The southerner accepted Bucks faith in his card playing ability with a nod of his head. The others shifted a little uneasily from where they sat or stood. Buck caught each of their eyes before saying, "What do you say guys? Ezra here against J.D. in an Uno game. Ez wins and we dont have to do any cleaning for the rest of the year."
"And what about the consequences if he loses?" Chris asked from his corner.
"Come on, now!" Buck grinned as he slapped his hands on Ezras shoulders and gave him a playful squeeze. "This is Ezra were talking about here. He never loses. So lets vote on it now. Whos in?"
Shrugging out of Bucks grip with a scowl, Ezra then managed to grin over at Chris. The senior shook his head at both boys. But he watched in dismay as Vin tossed him a cheeky smile as he raised his hand. His vote was quickly mirrored by Josiah and Nathan, and finally by Ezra.
"Well that makes it 5 to 1, Chris, looks like we win."
"When did we become a democracy?" the blond senior growled.
"I believe that was begun in 1776. You really should pay attention in history," Ezra drawled.
Chris rolled his eyes at the younger boy, but Vin spoke up first. "Yeah and anyway, you aint the boss of us, Larabee. You had your vote just like everyone else, so win or lose youre in this."
Green eyes narrowed as they were caught and held by Vins deep blue. Chris did not enjoy being put on the spot like this. He hated giving in to something that he did not want to do, but he knew it was the price of the friendship he had with the others. With the barest of nods he acknowledged that he would be part of the wager. "You better not lose, Standish," he warned in a very low and menacing voice.
"Okay, Ill get my deck and we can go ahead and play right now. Well use the standard deck rules, so thatll be fair. Oh and if I win, not only do we all have to dress up, but we get to draw names and whoever picks your name gets to chose what costume you wear! Itll be more fun that way." The freshman tossed off that information as he rushed back to his dorm room to get his cards, leaving six very bewildered boys behind him.
And that was when the inconceivable happened. Ezra actually lost a card game. And now the boys had gathered again to draw names. After all a bet was a bet, so they knew they had to go through with this. Each of them eagerly awaited November 1st when all this would be behind them.
"Okay, Ive written everyones name on a piece of paper and theyre all in my hat " J.D. started.
"Well lookie there, you finally found a good use for that ugly ol hat," Buck interrupted.
J.D. simply glared at him. "Since I won, Im going to go ahead and go first." With that he reached in and pulled out a slip of paper. He made a show of reading the name on the paper silently before sliding it into his pocket. He then proffered his cap out to Buck.
"Wait! Aint ya gonna tell us who you got?" Buck asked.
"Nah. I figure well all keep that secret until were ready to reveal what their costume will be. Itll be more fun that way!"
"Oh yes, the suspense will be oh so invigorating," Ezra drawled sarcastically.
"I know!" J.D. agreed with unabashed enthusiasm, ignoring the groans of all his friends.
Saturday October 19th
As was his custom, Vin woke up before his alarm actually sounded. He stretched slightly as he rolled over to deactivate the alarm. But before his hand touched the clock, Vin paused. Looking over to where Ezra lay curled slightly on his side facing the wall, Vin reconsidered and left the alarm activated. He had a few questions he wanted to ask his roommate and Ezra was never at his best first thing in the morning. While he waited for the alarm to go off, Vin stood and changed into his running clothes. He was in the process of making his bed when the alarm went off.
To the Texan the beeping was annoying and loud even though he was already awake. It took what seemed like an eternity before Ezra even showed a reaction. The southerner turned further toward the wall as if trying to escape the beeping, even as he pulled the covers up further around him and over his head. Vin smiled in satisfaction as he sat on the edge of his bed and waited.
The beeping became louder and more incessant. "Turn it off," came the mumbled order as Ezra flipped onto his stomach and appeared to place the pillow over his head while still under the sheets. Vin said nothing, but laughed to himself as Ezra began to mumble curses as he continued to try to escape the noise of the alarm.
Finally the southerner sat up in the bed, the covers falling down around his shoulders, and his hair even more sleep mussed than usual. In fact, his constant motion had created something of a static energy that had wisps of the brown locks standing up. Vin's grin widened at the sight. "Mornin', Ez."
"Turn it off!" Ezra nearly shouted as he covered his ears and tried to glare at Vin through blinking eyes.
Moving slowly and deliberately, Vin reached over and calmly turned off the alarm. No sooner had the alarm stopped beeping than Ezra dropped back down on his bed to continue sleeping. Standing up, Vin reached over and shook the southerner hard. "Oh no you don't. I got a couple of questions I want to ask you."
Pulling his shoulder from Vin's grasp, Ezra rolled closer to the wall and mumbled something incomprehensible to the Texan. "I can't believe you lost," Vin stated.
He had to strain a little to hear, but he thought that the southerner's response was a mumbled, "Not a question. Leave me lone."
"You never lose, Ez. How come you lost the other day?"
A dramatic sigh ended in a big yawn as Ezra turned to face Vin. "Everyone loses."
"But you hate to lose," the Texan pointed out.
"I hate to lose money or sleep," Ezra emphasized the last.
Laughing at that, Vin nodded. "I know that you really hate to lose that, but you hate to lose no matter what. Especially at cards. So what happened?"
Sitting up in his bed finally, Ezra ran his hands through his hair as he looked around, trying to get his bearings. Blinking, he eyed Vin. "You've already been running?" he questioned suddenly.
"No, I'm fixing to."
That earned more blinking from Ezra as he considered that response. "Too early." With that he attempted to fall back into his bed, but Vin caught and held him arm.
"Not until you answer the question." The Texan had begun to consider the events that had transpired over the last couple of days. And while the outcome truly did not bother him, he simply could not get over the feeling that he was not getting the entire picture, that there was more going on than he and the other boys were aware of. And he had learned that whenever he had that feeling, Ezra was generally at the bottom of things.
"Bad luck." The southerner had no time for expanded language or flowery words. He simply wanted to go back to bed.
"Not you. Not at cards," Vin insisted. "And not to J.D."
A sloppy grin crossed Ezra's face as he laughed softly as if at a private joke. "John Dunne is smarter than y'all think."
Vin did not understand what exactly Ezra meant by that. Not that he had a low opinion of J.D.'s intelligence; far from that. Nor did he think Ezra had one of the younger boy. In fact, there were many times when Vin or one of the others caught Ezra and J.D. discussing computer or electronic equipment. The two of them could get caught up in their own world of gizmos and gadgets, J.D. on how to make them and Ezra on how to utilize them. Realization then dawned on Vin. "You and he were in it together?" he asked incredulously.
Now the smile that touched the southerner's face held a touch of smugness through the sleepiness. Vin released his hold on Ezra and he simply melted back down into his bed, all too eager to return to sleep. The Texan looked down at his roommate and shook his head. "What are you getting out of this, Ezra?" Vin demanded. "Cause if the others find out, they'll kill you." Vin did not include himself in that because he thought it could be kind of fun to celebrate Halloween with everyone else. But he might reconsider that depending on who had drawn his name and what they had picked for him to wear. The others, though, would never be that forgiving if they knew that Ezra had thrown the bet for some type of gain. And knowing his roommate the way he did, Vin knew that there had to be something in it for Ezra for him to be willing to dress up in a Halloween costume. The Texan wondered if J.D.s throwing in that someone else got to pick his costume had been a curveball that Ezra did not see coming.
The southerner made no reply as he snuggled back down into his bed and curled onto his side turning toward the wall. But Vin heard him mumbling again and leaned in to hear a bit better. "Worth the risk," was all he heard in Ezra's lazy drawl.
Vin finished making his bed and then sat down on it to put on his track shoes. Speaking half to himself and half to his already sleeping roommate, Vin said, "I know you aint gonna remember that we had this little conversation this morning. And thats just fine. Cause I might just have to use this against you someday." The Texan eyed his roommate with a mixture of disbelief and a greater respect for his deviousness. " 'Course Im gonna have to find out what you're getting out of it, too." With that the sophomore slipped out the door and went to start his day with a good relaxing run, even as he contemplated the possible uses of this newfound information.
+ + + + + + +
Beatrice Wilmington rifled through the box of letters that sat on her desk. It was the third time she had done so in the last few moments. She knew it was a sign of her nervousness and she hated it. Frustrated at herself, she grabbed the box up in her hands and started to rise from the desk. She had a lunch date and if she kept stalling she would be late for it. But she stopped again as her eyes fell on the contents. Laying the box back down on the desk she withdrew from it the one envelope that had a handwritten address instead of typed labels. That particular handwriting was just as familiar to Beatrice as it had been sixteen years ago. She found that odd considering that it had been quite the rarity for Richard Simon to write her any kind of letter. But she supposed that first loves sometimes remained the clearest and truest in your heart.
Removing the letter from the envelope she reread it for what had to be about the thirtieth time or so. Every time she read it, she searched for a glimmer of warmth or a hint of the teenager with whom she had fallen in love. But hard as she tried, it simply was not there. Time and distance had taken their toll, as of course had all the years of silence. And sixteen years of complete and total silence was a lot to overcome.
But Richard had finally broken it and was actually requesting to see the son he had refused to have anything to do with. He had a conference at the end of the month that would put him nearby and he wanted an opportunity to meet Buck. Ordinarily Beatrice would have immediately passed the letter on to her son and let him make the choice for himself. As soon as he was old enough to ask about the father he did not have in his life, Beatrice had told him the truth. She was determined that there would be no secrets between the two of them. And in all his life Buck had never broken that rule. But here she was breaking it not just once but twice. And all because of the other letters in the box. Those were addressed to Montana Fontaine, the pseudonym that she had taken in her career as a romance novelist.
She had begun receiving them somewhere near the beginning of the year but had at first thought nothing about them. She often received letters from gushing fans, even the odd bit of hate mail now and again. But these letters had become different. They were written by a man, which was rare considering the genre that Beatrice wrote in. But he began to write more frequently and with an increasing amount of intimacy that she found disquieting. He began to talk as if he and she were a couple, as if they were meant to be together forever. It was obvious that he did not miss a single bit of publicity that she received as he commented on it all. He told her that he had met her once at a book signing and while only a few men dared risk their masculinity by showing up there, there had been enough that Beatrice could not put a face to the letters. But while she felt uneasy about the letters, she was not a woman who would allow her life to be ruled by fear. So she had never reported them to anyone. She had never responded to any of them either, and yet they still came.
But then last Saturday she had gotten a letter that crossed the line for her. Included in it was the picture of Buck and his friends that had been published in several newspapers after they had foiled Luis Calis attempt to take over Regents High School. Buck had been circled in red with the comment that she must be so very proud of him, that he was very proud of Buck and looked forward to meeting the boy that he would have no problem claiming as his own.
That had chilled her blood like no other threat against her could. And she had decided then to talk to Clint Larabee. As a police officer he could advise her on what she could do and she felt far more comfortable talking to a friend than anyone else.
Then she received the letter from Bucks father on Monday. Included in it was the same picture of Buck and his friends. Beatrice had at first refused to believe that Richards letter had any connection to the others in any way. But the coincidence kept gnawing away at her, creating fears and doubts. And that was the reason why she could not tell Buck, at least not yet, that his father was requesting to see him.
She could not tell him about the other letters either. She did not want to worry him. She would talk to Clint first and if he believed that they were anything serious then she would talk to Buck about them and the letter from his father. Until then she would have to carry the secrets around with her and hope that Buck would understand why when she did finally tell him everything.
Beatrice set aside Richard Simons letter, leaving it, the picture, and its envelope on her desk. She decided that she would get in touch with Richard after all these years and question as to why he wanted to see Buck after so long. She hoped that it would put her mind at ease and that she could then let Buck make up his own mind. She felt as if she were betraying Bucks trust in her, but she was a mother first, and her instinct was to protect her son at all costs. Grabbing the box of letters, Beatrice gathered her resolve and left first for her lunch date and then to see Clint Larabee and hoped that the cop could help put her mind at ease.
+ + + + + + +
Buck braked briefly before smoothly turning his Mustang into his mothers street. As large and well-appointed houses with their immaculately groomed lawns and gardens lined both sides of the tree lined street, Buck glanced sideways and grinned as J.D. gaped openly. Buck chuckled warmly as the younger boy looked from side to side, determined not to miss anything. Ever since he agreed to allowing J.D. to come along on his visit to his mother today the freshman had been overly excited. On the few occasions J.D. had been around his mother his behavior was akin to idol worship, despite Beatrices many attempts to get him to relax and be more informal with her. So todays visit meant a lot to J.D. not only because of the opportunity to spend time with Bucks mother but also because their visit involved arranging a Halloween costume for Josiah. Because of that Buck didnt mind his almost constant babbling as they drove across town to his mothers place.
As he pulled into her driveway, he got out his wallet and removed his keycard. Passing it over the laser beam, a small light lit up green, and the entrance gate rolled sideways. He parked right near the front door and they both got up and strode up the few front steps to the front door. Buck went to open it and frowned in surprise when it was locked. Digging in his pocket, he retrieved his car keys and flicking through the numerous keys, found the correct one and unlocked the door. As he walked through with J.D. on his heels, he called out.
Buck waited a few seconds and when there was no answer he called again walking through the colorful foyer and into the downstairs living areas. When there was still no answer, he led J.D. outside to the pool, which was surrounded by a long rectangular entertainment area.
"Wait here," he said to J.D. "Ill check upstairs."
"Ok," J.D. replied already making for the small rock waterfall that flowed into the pool.
Buck bounded up the stairs and checked the bedrooms calling his mothers name finally concluding she wasnt home. Realizing he should have double-checked with Beatrice before heading out here, Buck wasnt disappointed. They could still raid the kitchen and he could still show J.D. around their home and by then hopefully she could be back home.
J.Ds face fell as he reported back. "What do you mean shes not home?"
"Shes not here," Buck shrugged.
"Told you we should have phoned first," J.D. chided him.
"Oh relax will ya, well just eat and watch a movie. She cant be far away," he replied as he led the younger boy to the kitchen and opened the fridge. Within minutes Buck had an assortment of meats, chips, deserts and drinks all ready to consume.
Two hours passed quickly as the boys ate, played some pool, watched a little TV and ate some more. Buck checked the time.
"Well have to head back soon. Were meeting the others at five."
J.D. nodded reluctantly and Buck left a note for Beatrice telling her they missed her and asking her to source his costume idea for Josiah. As they were leaving a short time later J.D. asked about the closed off room near the lounge room.
"Thats my moms work room," Buck told him.
"Her office?" J.D. queried.
"Yeah. You know the place of secret womens business" Buck teased.
"Is that where she writes?" J.D. asked eagerly.
Buck rolled his eyes. "Yeah," he answered.
"Can I see it?"
"Its not that special!" Buck replied.
"Please!" the boy implored.
"Alright," Buck agreed knowing it was far easier just to let him look then argue and he knew his mother wouldnt mind. He had never been forbidden from any of her rooms.
Opening the door, Buck ushered J.D. through first and shook his head as the kid looked around the room enthusiastically. He watched placidly as J.D. made for his moms large and mostly cluttered desk and showed immediate appreciation for her state of the art computer and its many accessories. The rest of the room was strangely organized in contrast. From her well decorated floral couches, colorful walls and matching window furnishings to a whole wall of shelves, which housed her collection of books and ornaments. J.D. then made for some of the more unusual pieces of art his mother had hanging on the wall before playing with the electric blinds on her floor to ceiling windows.
Buck made himself comfortable in his moms comfortable leather chair knowing it would take a few minutes before he could coax J.D. from here. Twisting the swivel chair, he leant it back and lifted his long legs up onto her desk. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a small pile of correspondence and recognizing a copy of the newspaper article on the attack on Regents the previous month he picked it up. The article included the now famous picture of the seven of them heralding them as heroes for thwarting Luis Cali and his henchman. Curious as to why someone would be sending his mother the article he flipped to the letter attached to it. As his eyes skimmed the words, disbelief descended over him. Removing his legs from the desk he turned the chair away from J.D. and reread.
He checked the date on the letter. It was almost a week old. His surprise turned to hurt and that hurt deepened. Why would she keep this from him? Especially when she would have known that this was something he would have wanted to know about. They talked about everything. They shared everything. So why not now? Why not this? Hurriedly he folded up the letter and shoved it in his jacket.
"We have to go," Buck announced standing and walking toward the door. He now didnt want to catch his mother on this visit. He needed time to digest the implications of the letter before he could talk to her about it
"Huh?" J.D. responded, blinking uneasily at the change in Bucks tone.
"You know how Chris hates it when were late," Buck replied by way of explanation.
"Oh sure," J.D. replied as he accepted the mood shift in his friend.
However as they made their way back to Regents in increasing silence, J.D. could not help but wonder if he had said or done something wrong.
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