A Mother’s Worst Fear

by Monica M. and Debra M.

Regents Universe

Buck stood as soon as his mother’s car pulled up. As Clint got out of the vehicle and his mother followed suit, he began striding towards them. His breath caught as he saw Beatrice search fervently for him and then bring her hand up to her mouth in enormous relief and happiness as she saw him. He drew level with Clint as the cop made for his own son and the other boys. They both paused briefly and locked eyes. No words were spoken at first, however Buck relayed his thanks and gratitude with an intense look as Clint reached out and gave him a reassuring shoulder squeeze.

"You alright?" Clint asked with deep concern.

"I am now," Buck replied resolutely and Clint nodded with relief.

Buck turned back towards his mother and resumed walking, knowing Clint understood and that they would talk again later.

Tears of joy streamed down her face as she waited for him to reach her. She clung to the open door of her car for support, doubting her ability to stand upright as her legs threatened to crumple beneath her. He stopped before her and she all but fell into his arms, clinging to him desperately.

"I’m alright, Mom," he told her gently as he held her tightly and waited patiently until her sobs died away and her trembling lessened.

"I’m so sorry, Buck," she cried as she drew back a little to look up into his face.

"It’s not your fault," he assured her immediately.

"Yes it is," she replied fervently. "I should have protected you more. I should have told you."

"Well I agree you should have told me but we can talk about that later, ok?" he replied sensitively holding her gaze.

"I couldn’t bear to lose you," she anguished.

"I’m not going to let that happen," he replied resolutely. She nodded and needing more assurance she rested her head against his chest again, closing her eyes and breathing in a relieved sigh as her son rubbed her back comfortingly.

Buck didn’t dare to try and reflect on what his mother had been through that day or even for the last few weeks. To lose her was unimaginable to him and he knew she felt the same way, even more deeply as he was her only son. So he was determined to be loving and supportive of her now. And he relaxed a little himself as he felt her tension diminish as he held her.

Beatrice cherished the fact that her son was safe and that she held him in her arms now as she had wanted to do desperately after hours of agony and torment. The back of her neck tingled uneasily and she frowned and ignored it but it was persistent. She knew the feeling well. The feeling that you were being watched. She had felt it often over the past weeks even though sometimes she was able to dismiss it as nerves. Now she raised her head cautiously and looked past Buck. A man sat in the back of one of the cruisers watching her intently.

An icy shiver trembled through her as she realized who he was. Slowly she withdrew from Buck’s embrace and stared.

Buck followed her gaze and stiffened. "Mom, don’t," he said quietly.

"I have to," she replied and slowly walked towards the cruiser. Buck inhaled deeply and followed.

She stopped ten feet from him. He stared back at her with a pitiful mixture of hope and adoration and repulsion curled in her stomach pushing bile up her throat. She swallowed heavily to try and curb the nausea as she tried to recognize him. Tried to remember any occasion where she may have unwittingly encouraged or gave him any wrong impressions. His sandy hair was neatly cropped around his average-looking face. She couldn’t remember him at all and immediately a sense of bewilderment overwhelmed her. Why? Why would he do this?

She shuddered and Buck spoke behind her. "Mom?" he asked worriedly.

Beatrice looked up at him proudly as she linked her arm through his. She turned back to the man and leveled a look of pure loathing and malevolence. The man wilted under the look, frowning in confusion before he drew back into the seat, averting his eyes.

Clint looked up as he noticed Buck and Beatrice near the cruiser holding the man they caught. Even though he was on his cell he managed to catch Dayton’s eye and nod pointedly over towards the cruiser that held the would be killer. Dayton returned the nod and immediately walked over and arranged for two of the officers to return to the station taking their prisoner with them.

Beatrice never took her eyes off the cruiser until it had disappeared completely down the dark road. Then she looked up and flashed her son a brilliant smile. He grinned back at her and bent and kissed her cheek.

"The police need to talk to us now," he told as he led them towards the remaining officers. She nodded understandingly and taking a deep breath she moved in step with her son.

+ + + + + + +

Clint was surprised at the sight of his son sitting at the table with the others. There was no hint of the teenager that Chris technically was, instead it was as if Clint was seeing a glimpse of the very near future and the man that his son would become. And it simply was not the addition of facial hair that made Clint see his adult son, but the self-assurance and control that the young man exuded. Clint was also very much aware of the fact that his son had been made to grow up far too quickly. But the fact that Chris was more adult than child now, did not stop the cop from striding over to his son and glaring down at him.

"What the hell were you thinking?" he demanded angrily. The couple of cops that had been approaching the boys to get their statements froze and decided to wait a minute.

Chris looked up at his father calmly as the other three boys exchanged looks of concern. With a toss of his head, Vin indicated that they should perhaps go elsewhere to talk with the police. So as quietly as they possibly could, the three boys stood up as one and joined the cops who gratefully led them to another table where they could conduct their interviews.

"Well maybe I asked myself what my dad would do in this situation and then did it," Chris answered finally.

Clint sat across from his son and shook his head at his ploy. "Don’t give me that."

"It’s the truth isn’t it?" Chris pressed with a smirk and a touch of teasing. He actually was not in the mood to be arguing with his dad. Beatrice had almost lost Buck because the two had not communicated in the normally open way that they had. Chris hoped that they were able to mend that mistake. Looking at his father, the senior knew all too well how painful it was when it was allowed to drag on for far too long.

A very soft chuckle escaped Clint. He did not want to argue any more than Chris did. His anger stemmed from his fear that he might have lost his only son as well. Still though, he could not let Chris off the hook so easily. "Difference is that I am at least trained for this kind of thing."

Chris nodded. "I know it wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Especially bringing Vin, Ezra, and J.D. with me. But it was the right thing to do. I mean, I think we got here just in time, Dad."

The cop had no argument for that. Chris had followed his instincts and like he had pointed out earlier that was exactly what Clint would have done. "Just don’t make a habit of it, alright? Let us cops do our job. We’re the ones who get paid for it. Not much, but we do get paid for it." The older Larabee joked and then paused as his thoughts turned back to how he wanted Chris to follow in his career path. He caught his son’s eyes and knew that Chris was thinking the same thing. But neither said anything, again not wanting to fight or argue. And in the back of his mind, Clint also thought about the new information that he had received. Buck wanted to be a cop. Looking at his son, Clint wondered how Chris felt about that if he knew what Buck was planning. He still was not sure how he felt about it, especially if Richard Simon was correct and Buck was following in his footsteps. He thought of Buck as part of his family, but had never realized just how much the boy looked up to him as a father figure.

Father and son sat in silence for a moment then Clint asked, "Did you get a look at the guy?"

"No, he was masked, even as they led him away." Another chuckle escaped Chris. "You know he might have gotten away if Ezra and J.D. hadn’t of tripped him and then sat on him."

Clint’s laugh cut through the chilly night drawing the attention of a few of his fellow officers. "That’s our Ezra, isn’t it? Always underfoot and getting in the way."

As one, both Larabees looked over to where Ezra, Vin, and J.D. were talking to a couple of the officers. The southerner was standing behind the other two and for once letting them do most of the talking. "He doesn’t look that comfortable over there, does he?" Then as he continued to look at the trench coat wearing sophomore, Clint asked, "Just who is he supposed to be anyway?"

"A mutant," Chris answered anticipating his father’s response.

"He’s that 365 days a year, you’d think he’d want to be something different on Halloween."

As Chris snickered at that, Clint called out to the southerner who was hugging the coat close to him in the cool breeze, "Couldn’t you have thought of anything better to be for Halloween than a flasher in the park, Standish?"

Ezra’s gaze snapped over to Clint as his eyes narrowed. Then a cheeky smile covered his face and he pulled open the trench coat to reveal the rest of his costume to Chris’ father. One of the policemen who was questioning Ezra and the others laughed and called over to Clint, "You want to file a complaint for that, Larabee?"

Clint made a show of considering his options as Ezra rolled his eyes at both policemen, before shaking his head. "No, Mike. That kid’s record is probably already so thick that we should save it for the real crimes."

Much to Ezra’s annoyance, Mike looked back over him and studied him as if to remember his face for future reference. Then the cop turned back to Clint, "We’re gonna need to ask Chris some questions. Then you can probably take these boys on home."

As Chris stood to go join his friends and the police, Clint quickly considered a couple of options. Grabbing Chris’ arm he stopped his son. "I think it would be best if Buck stayed with Beatrice tonight. Actually I was thinking that I’d talk it over with the headmaster and get all of you to stay over. It’ll help her keep her mind off of things."

Chris nodded, "Yeah, that would be good, Dad." He glanced over at the three youngest of his friends. "I’m sure they’ll keep Beatrice very preoccupied."

"Yeah, that’s why I’m going home to some peace and quiet."

"Chicken," Chris teased. He started to turn and then faced his father again. "On second thought, wouldn’t you want some company?"

Clint laughed as he got to his feet as well. "Nope. Beatrice once told me that the seven of you were a set, so I don’t want to break that up." With that he pulled out his cell phone and began to make his phone calls.

It took a bit of negotiating on his part, some that even Ezra would have been proud of, but Clint managed to get the okay for all of the boys to stay over at Beatrice’s. By the time he had finished, Chris, Vin, J.D., and Ezra were again sitting at the table waiting for him. Knowing that it might take a little longer for Beatrice and Buck to talk to the police, Clint decided to drive the boys over to Beatrice’s in her car. He knew that mother and son might also like the time driving alone. So, he gathered up the boys and informed them that they would be staying over at Beatrice’s and that he had called Josiah and Nathan and the two boys would be joining them there after they took Libby home. Vin and J.D. immediately took to the idea. Ezra of course had to protest and ask what they were going to do for changes of clothing. Clint told him that he would bring them the clothes they had brought to his house in the morning. The southerner had still seemed prepared to argue, but Vin grabbed his arm and dragged him along with them over to the car.

+ + + + + + +

Clint and the boys had not been at Beatrice’s very long when Nathan and Josiah arrived. The cop opened the door to the very incongruous sight of a Bigfoot with Josiah’s head and a bald looking Nathan in robes. He could not help but laugh as he stepped aside to let the boys enter. Josiah tossed the mask over at the cop who caught it.

"How’s Buck and his mom?" Nathan asked as he walked inside.

Clint quickly sobered as he ushered the boys over to the living room to join the others. "They’re doing good. They should be coming along pretty soon. Meanwhile, you boys make yourself comfortable."

Both boys nodded, glad to hear that mother and son were fine but still wanting to see them for themselves. The other four boys had already made themselves comfortable and were watching TV and having snacks. Ezra and Vin had removed their coats, J.D. had removed his robe and Chris had taken off his sash. All four greeted their friends warmly, glad to almost all be back together.

Josiah started to excuse himself, to get out of his costume, but Nathan grabbed his arm, stopping his friend. "I think we should all get back into costume," he announced earning five pairs of disbelieving looks.

"Whatever for?" Ezra asked.

"So we can let Buck’s mom get the picture she wanted."

"With all that she’s been through today, do you really think she is going to remember that she wanted a picture?"

"Come on, Ezra, it won’t kill you to take one picture. And no, she probably won’t remember, but that’s the point. It’ll help to take her mind off of everything. And she’ll love it."

"Nathan’s got a point," both Larabees said in unison to the amusement of the others. Clint and Chris shared a look to decide which one of them would continue. Finally Clint motioned for Chris to go ahead, they were his friends after all.

"Buck’s mom’s been through a lot today. The least we can do is give her something that she asked for earlier." The senior turned to Ezra, two sets of stubborn green eyes meeting and holding. "I don’t want a picture any more than you do, Ez. But I know that Beatrice will love it. And she and Buck are the ones who really count tonight."

Ezra considered Chris’ words and while further arguments played in his mind, he decided that it would be more advantageous to give in to this one. His only real concern was that his mother might see it one day. And he shuddered to think about what Maude would have to say about the activities her son was getting into with his new friends. So very reluctantly he nodded.

Chris looked around at the others to see if any of them objected as well. Vin looked a little uncomfortable. But the Texan would do it, Chris could see that in his eyes. Josiah would be covered by his costume anyway, so his roommate could probably care less, though it would delay his getting out of that costume. And J.D., well it was obvious that J.D. was excited about the whole thing. "Alright then, when Beatrice and Buck get home we’ll pose for a picture and then we can all get out of these costumes. I’m sure Beatrice will have plenty of Buck’s old clothes for us to wear."

Ezra cringed at that thought, but it was J.D.’s sudden cry of, "I’ve got a better idea for the picture!" that truly had the southerner horrified. No one else seemed very eager to hear what the freshman had to say either.

But Clint, seeing everyone’s reaction, smirked and said, "Go ahead, J.D. tell us all what you’ve got in mind."

Beatrice and Buck showed up shortly after that. She was extremely relieved to be home. When Clint first approached her about bringing all the boys over to her house she had been a bit hesitant. But then she had realized that she did not want to spend a sleepless night mulling over the events of the last few weeks. She was sure she would have plenty of time to do that in the near future. That was when she decided it would be better to have the seven boys over. And so she handed the keys to her house over to Clint and told him and the boys to make themselves comfortable until she and Buck could get home.

When she walked in the door, she was a little surprised to see that none of them had changed out of their costumes, not even Josiah, though he had his mask off. But her curiosity was quickly forgotten as they surrounded her and offered her support and affection. She could tell that Buck was equally proud of his friends and grateful for the way they rallied around him and her. Beatrice herself was happy to know that her son had the support of six such remarkable boys.

Telling them that she would be back shortly and would find them all something to wear and something to eat, she headed to her bedroom to change. It had been such a long day and she was eager to get changed and comfortable. In fact, she was so tired, that when she noticed J.D. and Nathan quickly grab Buck to stop him from going to his own room to change, she just continued on her way. She doubted that the boys would be up to any mischief and if they were, she would leave it to Clint to take care of the problem.

After changing into a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, Beatrice was walking back toward the living room when the doorbell rang. She froze in fear, but only for an instant as she remembered that Clint had told her that one of his cop friends might stop by to drop off something that one of the boys left behind. So she did not even think twice about opening the door. Therefore her surprise was absolutely complete.

Standing on her doorstep were all seven of the boys. As she stood there looking at them in shock, they all chimed out, "Trick or treat!" Beatrice could not help it, she burst out laughing even as tears of joy sprung from her eyes and her heart exploded with warmth at the sight. J.D., Nathan, and Buck all had huge grins on their faces. There was no telling what expression was on Josiah’s face, but the blue-grey eyes that peered from beneath the mask where alight with pure joy. Vin had a smile on his face, a bit unsure and embarrassed but no less gorgeous. And Ezra and Chris had the forced smiles of someone sitting unwillingly for a photograph. But, bless their hearts, they were all there for her.

Clint stepped up behind her, a conspiring smirk on his face and she knew that there had never been anything left behind that had to be dropped off. But she did not mind being set up. The reward was just too great. He held out her camera to her and Beatrice fairly squealed with delight as she realized that she was actually going to get the picture she wanted. Quickly she ushered the boys back inside and began to line them up. Amazingly the boys, well the majority of them that is, were extremely patient as she shuffled them around until she got the pose she wanted. But then they only allowed her one picture and one backup. She did manage to sneak in one more before they all started to disperse and take off the outer garments of their costumes. Seeing their eagerness to get out of those costumes, Beatrice hurried upstairs and truly hoped that she would be able to find something for all of them to wear.

A little while later, Clint watched as Beatrice brought a bundle of Buck’s clothing downstairs into the lounge room. He smiled as Vin, Ezra and J.D. looked a little worried as Nathan, Josiah and Chris picked out adult sized track pants and t-shirts to change into. Beatrice caught the look as well.

"Relax boys," she told the younger ones. "You’re in luck. I found some smaller sizes in the back of Buck’s wardrobe," she continued as she picked up pieces of clothing and matched them to the boys’ sizes.

Ensuring they all had something suitable, she left them to change and went to the kitchen where she busied herself heating up frozen pizzas and a large pot of spaghetti.

Clint used the time to check in with Mike Dayton and Dean Parker, reassuring the headmaster once again that all the boys were safe and well and that he would return them all to school the following day after they had all made full statements down at the police station in the morning. Officer Dayton had more information on the perpetrator they had held in custody after an initial interrogation with the man. Clint decided to wait until tomorrow before he shared the new information with Beatrice or the boys. Dayton also informed him that a Richard Simon had called, concerned about the welfare of his son. Clint ducked into Beatrice’s work room and made a quick call to the hotel he visited earlier that afternoon with Beatrice. He briefly told Rick what had happened, that everyone was now safe and he would ask Buck to call him the next day as requested.

When he returned to the lounge room, the smell of cooking wafted into the room and soon after Clint’s stomach growled. He realized he hadn’t eaten anything since lunch and checking his watch and reading that it was past midnight he understood why his stomach was being demanding. He made an instant decision to stay long enough to have something to eat before he left. His stomach wasn’t the only one affected by the alluring aromas. Soon there were numerous comments about being hungry and starved and Clint hoped Beatrice was catering big. Clearly the long night had stimulated all their appetites.

All the boys had changed by the time Buck appeared at the top of the stairs in track pants and t-shirt. Gone were the sideburns and the gelled up hair.

"Hey," Nathan called out as Buck reached the bottom of the stairs. "Elvis has left the building."

Clint laughed along with the others as Buck grinned and hammed it up as he crossed the room before shaking his head in amazement at seeing all of them dressed in his clothing.

"Gees Ezra, I don’t think I’ve worn those pants since I was ten," Buck teased as his eyes rested on the southerner.

Ezra shuddered ever so slightly. "Please, I’m having a hard enough time dealing with the fact that I am having to wear clothing that you once wore. I don’t need the added image of a disproportionately sized ten year old to go along with that."

J.D. rolled his eyes as Buck, looking for an easier target, turned his teasing look to him. "Oh and I s’pose you haven’t seen these since you were eight?"

"Nope. I haven’t worn those at all. They look like my mom’s," Buck replied and laughed aloud as J.D’s face fell in embarrassment.

"Don’t listen to him, J.D," Clint stated rescuing the young boy. "Beatrice would never wear something like that. The color is too boring."

J.D. smiled with relief before narrowing his eyes at Buck. He opened his mouth to speak just as Beatrice re-entered the room and ushered them to the dining table.

Ten minutes later Clint watched Beatrice as she happily fussed over all the boys ensuring they all had enough to eat and drink. He was pleased with his decision to talk Dean Parker into keeping all the boys together at Beatrice’s house for the night. They were indeed keeping her busy and therefore distracting her from what had taken place earlier in the evening.

Clint announced his attention to leave after he had eaten a plate of spaghetti and drunk a strong cup of coffee. He felt slightly awkward as they all walked him to the front door.

"I’ll see you all in the morning," he told them all.

"You will ensure that you bring our own clothing when you return, Officer Larabee," Ezra reminded him.

"I’ll try," Clint responded with a twisted smile.

They all exchanged goodbyes and the others fell back to the lounge room leaving Beatrice and Chris. Beatrice stepped up and embraced the older Larabee warmly.

"Thank you, Clint," she told him sincerely as she stepped back and looked up into his face intently. "I could not have made it through this day without you."

"Anytime, Bea," Clint replied warmly. "You know I’ll always be here for you and Buck," he added earnestly.

Tears sprung into Beatrice’s eyes and she blinked them away. She couldn’t form the right words so she briefly cupped her friend’s cheek and let her eyes express her deepest thanks. Then she turned swiftly and left.

Father and son then faced each other.

"Night, Dad."

"Night, Chris," Clint replied and turned and reached for the door handle.



"I’ll always be here for you, too," he said softly.

"I know, Dad. I know."

Pulling out blankets, quilts and sleeping bags, Beatrice set about settling the boys down for the night after Clint’ departure. J.D. wanted to bunk down on the floor in Buck’s room and Beatrice asked Buck to retrieve the camping mattress from the garage and to give him one of the sleeping bags. Josiah she decided would have the spare bedroom and she left the senior to settle in after a quick hug and a sincere thank you. The others she moved downstairs to the couches in the lounge room.

"The sofa in my work room is large and very comfortable. Do you want to take that, Chris?" she asked.

"No thanks, Beatrice. I’ll stay here and keep an eye of these two," he smiled as Ezra heaved a petulant sigh.


"Thank you. That sounds great," the junior replied as he followed Buck’s mom into her work room politely accepting the pillows and quilt.

"Goodnight, Nathan," Beatrice told him.

"Goodnight, Ms. Wilmington."

"Please. Beatrice. Call me Beatrice," she insisted, swooping and giving him a swift peck on the cheek. She smiled warmly as the good-looking young man ducked his head bashfully.

When she returned to the lounge room, Chris, Ezra and Vin had taken a couch each and were setting up their pillows and blankets. Impulsively she gathered Ezra and Vin into a group hug, squeezing them tightly.

"Thank you, both," she whispered as she released them and they both looked at her a little dazed.

"You’re welcome, ma’am," Vin replied shyly.

"It was our pleasure, Ms Wilmington," Ezra added.

Beatrice looked from one to the other. "You two are just adorable," she told them honestly. "You’re both going to be quite the heartbreakers when you grow up," she continued not surprised when both boys’ eyes dropped to the floor coyly.

"And you," she added as she turned to face Chris. "Are already a heartbreaker," she told him as she ruffled his blond hair fondly.

Used to her open and affectionate personality Chris smiled as she hugged him fiercely. "I’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you did tonight," she whispered into his ear.

"We’re family, Beatrice," he replied softly as he returned the embrace.

She nodded slightly and sighed contentedly before she slowly drew away. "Goodnight," she said to all of them and after they had all responded she made her way back upstairs.

She knocked on Buck’s door and hearing his immediate reply to come in she entered. She paused and let out a charming sigh as her eyes fell on J.D. all bundled up in the sleeping bag on the floor. Unable to resist she fell to her knees and began tucking the spare blanket around him snugly. The boy giggled and Beatrice planted a loud kiss on his cheek.

"Goodnight, J.D." she said affectionately.

"Goodnight, Ms Wilmington," he replied smiling happily at her.

"You’re such a sweetie. And it’s Beatrice," she reminded.

"Yes, Beatrice," he answered.

She stood up and laughed as Buck looked at her worriedly.

"What?" she smiled.

"It’s time you got into bed, Mom," he replied as he led her from the room.

She obeyed meekly, feeling all at once very tired. They stopped outside her room and she hugged her son for a long minute.

"You want me to go and check that everything is locked?" he asked her wanting her to feel as protected as possible.

"I already did that," she replied. "Besides with the seven of you here I feel completely safe."

He smiled at her tenderly. "Goodnight, Mom."

"Goodnight, Buck," she replied lovingly.

Saturday, November 2nd

Josiah exhaled slowly as a tumult of emotions swept over him as he sat quietly by the grave of Elizabeth Sanchez. It was the second day of Los Dias de los Muertos, and so he had come to his mother’s grave to honor her, to remember her, and to spend some time with her again. He had wanted Hannah to come with him, but when he called she told him to go without her, that she was too busy. He expected that from her, but still it had hurt. That had been the first thing he had "explained" when he arrived at the cemetery; how Hannah was not coming and all the changes that the young girl had been going through.

Then he had spent some time cleaning and decorating her grave sight. He looked now at the marigolds that he had placed around the simple headstone. He would have loved to have been able to get the traditional flower, the Mexican cempasuchil. He remembered the incredible fragrance of the bright orange flower when his great grandmother had first introduced him to the tradition of Los Dias de los Muertos back in California. The fragrance was said to help guide the departed soul back to the living so that they could be with them on this one day. But the marigolds would have to do, and Josiah was sure that his mother would understand.

She had actually been more understanding of Josiah’s interest in his mixed heritage than his father had been. She had always encouraged him to spend time with his grandfather and his great grandparents. Elizabeth had always wanted Josiah to find his own personal balance of who he was, who he chose to be. Closing his eyes for a moment, Josiah basked in the feel of her presence here, felt his connection and love for her become renewed. "I miss you so much," he whispered.

"There is just so much that I would love to talk to you about. And I would love for you to be able to meet my friends. I think you would really like them all." Sitting down in the canvas, folding chair that he had brought with him. Josiah picked up the bag that contained his lunch and prepared to have his picnic lunch with his mother. He would have loved to have cooked her favorite meal and have that, but he had not wanted to stop by his father’s house first to cook. This day was to be just between him and his mother. So instead he had stopped at her favorite fast food restaurant and ordered a cheeseburger, French fries and chocolate shake, all just the way Elizabeth would have liked. He did not care how odd he might appear to anyone else visiting the cemetery in the area around her grave, it was tradition to "share" a meal with the dead on this day.

As he ate, Josiah told Elizabeth about his friends, about how they had met and their first exploits in dealing with Luis Cali at the school. He told her about their fishing trip with Chris’ father and how much he had enjoyed that simple weekend. And he told her about Halloween night, about having to dress up as Bigfoot and having a good time only to have it shattered by Buck’s abduction.

He told her what they had come to learn about Darryl Dolt, the man who wanted to be Jake Ballinger and had stalked Beatrice and nearly killed her son and Gage Morrissey. He had been a sales clerk at a bookstore. A lonely man with no family he had become fixated on Montana Fontaine, created his own fantasy of the perfect life with her. Somewhere the line between fantasy and reality had become blurred for Darryl and he had become Jake Ballinger in his own mind. He was undergoing psychological evaluation to determine if he was sane or not. Josiah had little doubt that the man would be found insane. He simply hoped that he would be locked up in an asylum somewhere and that he would never bother the Wilmington’s again.

"There is some good that came out of this Halloween, Mom," Josiah continued his monologue. "Buck finally met his father. He hasn’t talked too much about it with the rest of us yet. I have the feeling that his dad did not quite meet up to the expectation that Buck had for him. And I understand that. That’s why I hope that Buck will talk to the rest of us about it. It does seem though, that he is willing to give his father a chance, that Buck is not giving up on him. And I suppose that Buck is setting an example for me. I know you wouldn’t want me to give up on Dad, either. And I’m trying. I just feel that Hannah and I can never be quite good enough for him. I don’t know what he expects out of us and even if I did, I don’t know if Hannah or I could give it to him or if even that would satisfy him."

Josiah paused and stared blankly at his mother’s headstone for several long moments. His thoughts drifted off on several tangents as there was so much that he wanted to share with his mother. He wished desperately that he could actually speak with her, that he could get her opinion on what he should do with his life. "I just feel so lost sometimes," he spoke out loud. "I don’t know what I should trust, who I should put my faith in."

The silence of the graveyard was the only response. He stayed a little longer, tidied up again and then began to pack away everything. Once he had everything ready to go, he stepped over to the headstone and lightly placed his hand on top of it. "With your guidance, Mom, I will find my faith. That’s all I ask. That you guide me somehow." Closing his eyes and bowing his head, Josiah said silent prayers asking that his mother was at peace now and joyful.

When he opened his eyes again, the first thing Josiah saw were the marigolds that he had placed at the foot of the headstone. His brow furrowed in confusion as he counted them. There were seven now, but he was certain that he had only purchased half a dozen and that there were only six when he laid them down. And as he stood there, Josiah thought he smelled the heavy fragrance of cempasuchils. A ghost of a smile touched his lips and he again felt that strong connection to his mother and a sense of peace touched Josiah as well. Perhaps he had miscounted and maybe it was only the memory of the scent of the flowers that he smelled. But in Josiah’s heart, he believed that his mother was telling him to place his faith in the friendship of seven forged between him and his friends. Their bond was powerful as they had already shown in the short time that they had known each other. Josiah had no idea what any of their futures held, but destiny would play out as it should. Of that, he was absolutely certain.


Continues in What I'm Thankful For

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