Josiah's Boys

Chapter Six: The New Girls

by Freespirit


Since Ezra's birthday last week, Ezra has been practicing his magic tricks. He's getting real good at them. Especially the card tricks. Still no word on his mother. Chris received the package his Aunt and Uncle told him to expect. The package was filled with mementos from his child hood when his mother was alive. Chris was glad to have them. Buck is doing really well and is looking forward to Halloween at the end of the month. He says the cast isn't going to stop him from dressing up for the holiday or trick or treating. Vin's struggling badly in his classes. I think he has dyslexia. Ms. Patten told me of some one that could help him with the problem. I have set up a meeting with the person on Tuesday. Each one of the boys excel at one of their classes. Chris; English Lit, Buck; US History, Nathan; Health, Ezra; Business, Vin; PE, JD; Computer. JD is doing so well in his computer class, his teacher has appointed him her student assistant in his class. JD was excited to tell his father about it. I had no idea Buck knew so much about American history. I asked him about how he learned so much about our history. He said his mom was into American history. Buck said she would quiz him on it. Then there's Ezra. I had no idea he had such a business sense. I'm thinking of letting him do my taxes this year. I knew Vin would do well in PE. The gymnastic coach came and asked if Vin could join the team. I told her I had no problem with it. She then said she would have to okay it with the parents and board. Apparently, there has never been a boy on the team before in Four Corner's history. Vin wants to be on the team.
I am so pleased with the progress the boys are making. I just hope they can keep on making it.

Josiah finished his weekly report and sent it off to Nettie. Josiah then picked up his coffee mug and left his home office.

"Lights out, Boys,"  Josiah called up the stairs to the four boys up in their rooms when he passed the stairwell on his way to the kitchen. Josiah smiled at the comments he knew he was receiving even though he couldn't hear them from the four teens upstairs.

Josiah heard Buck coming up the stairs from the basement as he rinsed out his coffee cup and sat it in the kitchen sink. He knew Buck and Chris were coming up to pay for their parts in the bills. They have done this every week since Josiah let them live in the basement. Josiah told them he could come down there since Buck has a hard time getting up and down the stairs, but Buck insists on hopping up the stairs to do it. He says he doesn't want special treatment because of his bad leg.

"I think it would be fun, Chris. They have all the decorations we need at the dollar tree,"  Buck said as he came in the back door.

"Yeah, but you still have to okay it with Josiah,"  Chris said.

"Okay what with me?" Josiah asked as he and the two teens entered the living room.

"Buck wants to have a Halloween party in the basement for the four kids upstairs,"  Chris answered.

"Well, Ezra never been to one. His mom never even let him go trick or treating. You saw the look on his face at his birthday party."

Chris and Josiah nodded. Josiah remembered the look of surprise when Ezra was presented his gifts from all of them. Ezra confessed he was happy to just have a special meal with birthday cake and ice cream for dessert. He didn't expect a party with gifts and party guests. Josiah agreed, a Halloween party would be good for the four teens upstairs.

Buck wanted to show the three youngest a good time considering what they had to endure in their young lives. Even Nathan, for that matter. Whenever he thought about Vin and JD growing up without their parents and Ezra being abandoned by his mother whenever she felt like he was in her way. It wasn't right. He thought it was high time the three of them got some fun in their life.

Nathan quietly came down stairs to sit in on the discussion. He wanted to give his input on the subject. He had a pretty good idea what the other three were going through before Ezra's birthday party, but since then, not a clue. He felt abandonment when his mother committed suicide, but he still had his father and later Josiah to lean on. Ezra had to go through abandonment time after time when ever his mother would leave him with a relative. Vin was sent to one foster home after another when his mom died before he came here to live with Josiah and JD was stuck with an Aunt that didn't love or want him. But that was all about to change if he, Buck and Chris had anything to do with it.

Josiah sat back on the couch and listened to the three boys and smiled. He knew something they didn't. Josiah held up his hand to stop the three from talking. "Boys, I know you want to let Vin and Ezra know how much they mean to our little family before their taken away, but the only one you have to fear of that happening is Ezra and Nettie, Oren and I have been working toward that not happening. The state of Texas has no hold over Vin. Nettie called in a few favors, so Vin is permanently here to stay."

"But what about Ezra?" Chris asked.

"Yeah, his ma could come in here and take him at any time she feels like it." Buck stated.

Josiah shook his head no. "She abandoned him with a relative that abused him bad enough that he felt safer on the street. And not for the first time. And then when she did have him with her, she used him for cons. Judge Travis and Nettie have papers already drawn up to have Maude's parental rights revoked as soon as they locate her."

"So, if she shows up here, we keep her here till they can serve her with the papers?" Nathan asked.

"Yep," Josiah answered. "So you see, there isn't anything to worry about. This family is here to stay."

The three teens were relieved to hear the news.

The four of them were up a little bit longer discussing what decorations they would need and who to invite and what kind of food and games there was going to be. Finally, Josiah said he was going to bed and that the three of them should do the same.

Nathan was at his bedroom door at the top of the stairs and about to enter his room when he heard Ezra's voice coming from his room next to Nathan's. Nathan listened to Ezra talking in his sleep. He was about to enter Ezra's room when Vin came out of his room across from Ezra's.

"He's fine Nate. Ezra gets nightmares sometimes. He don't say anything about them. JD and me try to get him to tell us about ‘em, but he gets real mad when ya push him about them."

"Yeah, so don't say anything to him about them, okay?" JD said.

Nathan didn't see or hear JD until he spoke. Nathan looked from Vin to JD and nodded then went to his room. He would tell Josiah about the nightmares in the morning.

Vin and JD nodded to one another then went into their own rooms.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah, Chris, Buck, Vin, Nathan and JD were eating French toast and bacon for breakfast when Ezra came down stairs, yawning.

"Nice of you to join us," Chris said and pushed a chair out for Ezra to sit down in.

"Thank you," Ezra said and sat down. Ezra looked over the platters of food and pitchers of juice and milk. He eyed the coffee pot on the kitchen counter, half full of coffee and decided a cup of coffee sounded good.

Josiah watched as Ezra got up and made his way toward the kitchen and got a coffee cup from the cupboard. "Ezra, what do you think you are doing?"

Ezra sighed. "I am in desperate need of some caffeine," Ezra said without turning around and facing Josiah.

Ezra didn't hear Josiah get up from the dining room table and walk across the floor to the kitchen until Josiah placed a hand on his shoulder. Ezra jumped and spun around to face Josiah when Josiah laid his hand on Ezra's shoulder, which caused Ezra to spill coffee on the counter and himself. Josiah grabbed a dish towel that was draped over the stove handle and proceeded to wipe the coffee from Ezra so the coffee wouldn't burn him to bad, but Ezra pulled his green flannel pajama top off over his head without unbuttoning it before Josiah could wipe it off. Ezra looked up into Josiah's blue eyes and then back at the table where everyone was looking at him. Ezra then took two steps back, turned and ran up the stairs to his room and slammed the door. Chris got up and helped Josiah clean up the spilled coffee.

"What was that all about?" Buck asked.

Nathan looked to Vin and JD for answers. Both boys sighed.

"I'll go and have a talk with him," Josiah said and headed for the stairs.

"You can talk all you want. It ain’t gonna do any good. He'll come down when he's ready," Vin said.

Josiah stopped. "Why do you say that, Vin?"

"’Cause he had a nightmare last night," JD said and then took a bite of his French toast.

Josiah sat down in his chair and stared at Vin and JD and waited for them to say anything more. They didn't.

Josiah sighed. "How long has he been having these nightmares?"

"Don't know," Vin said, shaking his head. "Just whenever he's had one, he wakes up more tired than when he went to sleep the night afore he had one."

"And when we try to get him to talk about it, he gets real mad. So we stop asking."

Josiah nodded his understanding of the situation. He'd make a note of the nightmares in his report to Nettie. Josiah sighed, 'Just when I thought everything was coming together. Now this.' Josiah thought to himself.

"Josiah, I know we ain't supposed ta have food in our rooms, but can I take Ezra some French toast and a glass of milk?"

Josiah smiled. "Sure, Vin. Just make sure you bring the plate and glass down when he's done."

"Thanks." Vin smiled. He grabbed a plate and laid three slices of French toast on the plate with two slices of bacon.

"I'll get the milk,” JD said and got up to get a glass and then filled it with milk.

Vin and JD disappeared up the stairs to Ezra's room.

Chris watched them leave. "I wonder what the nightmare was about?"

"I didn't go into his room, but I can tell you this much, he was pleading with someone," Nathan answered.

"Why didn't you go into his room?" Busk asked.

"Vin and JD told me not to. They said he gets them sometimes and whenever they tried to get Ez to talk about them, he would get real mad, so they stopped asking about them."

Josiah shook his head and got up to clear the table. His heart was sadden when he remembers the look of fear in Ezra's eyes when he spun around and faced him. Josiah vowed he would get to the bottom of these nightmares.

+ + + + + + +

Vin knocked on Ezra's door.

Ezra sighed. "Please go away, Vin"

Vin opened the door. "Can't do that. Got your breakfast."

Ezra sighed. "I thought Josiah did not allow food in our rooms?"

"He said Vin could bring you some, but when you were done, he had to take the dishes back down," JD said as he followed Vin into the room.

Ezra had to admit, the food did smell good, and he did like French toast. Ezra smiled when he saw there was strawberry preserves on his toast instead of maple syrup. "Thank you Vin, JD. I see you remembered I prefer strawberry preserves."

"Yep," Vin said then sat on the edge of the bed.

JD set the glass of milk on the table next to Ezra's bed then pulled up the chair that sat in a corner and sat next to Vin.

Ezra took a bite of his French toast then looked into the faces of Vin and JD. "What?" Ezra asked after he swallowed his bite of French toast.

"Nathan heard you last night," Vin answered.

Ezra looked from Vin to JD. "So?"

"Ya had a nightmare and was talking in your sleep again," Vin said.

"Damn," Ezra whispered. "Did he hear me..." Ezra swallowed the lump in his throat.

"Ya cry?" Ezra nodded. "Don't think so," Vin answered. Vin wasn't sure what Nathan heard or didn't hear, but he was fairly sure Nathan wouldn't say anything that would hurt Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Nothing really happened the rest of the weekend. On Sunday, Buck and Chris went shopping for the Halloween. Josiah wanted Ezra to talk about the Nightmare he had, but from what he could get from Vin and JD, that was not going to happen.

Monday morning, Ezra was up early. He wanted to catch the bus instead of going in with Josiah or Chris and Buck. He didn't want to sit through the awkwardness that he knew there would be just like it was over the weekend.

The bus was a few minutes late at arriving at their driveway. Josiah watched the four boys get on the bus and sighed. He knew why Ezra chose to ride the bus instead of with him. It'll take time he told himself, then got his things together and headed for the high school.

Ezra took his usual seat in his home room. He was soon joined by his friend Zackary Porter. Zack liked to talk. Ezra was glad they only had home room together. Ezra was looking over his notes for his freshman English assignment on creative writing. Starting today, he was going to stay after school and work on it in the library where there were the computers the students could use were at. He had the whole week to work on the short story. Mr. Moore told the class what he expected, since it was Halloween season, he wrote a sentence on the chalk board that they were to use. He said they could use another entry sentence but the story had to be a Halloween one. It was a somewhat difficult assignment because he didn't know a thing about Halloween other then what he's seen in the movies and on television. He knew there was going to be a Magician.

"Hey Ezra, you have Mr. Wheeler first hour, right?"

"Yes," Ezra answered without looking up from his notes.

"Good. I need a favor."

This got Ezra's attention. Ezra looked back at Zack. "What does my having Mr. Wheeler first hour have anything to do for a favor for you?"

Zack leaned to the side. "My cousin has him first hour and since you do, you could show her the way. She has Mr. Granger second hour too." Zack grinned.

Ezra looked past Zack to see a brown haired girl with blue/ green eyes looking at him with a smile. He thought she was quite pretty. "I guess I could. Like you said, I do have both of those teachers."

"Thank you, Buddy. I owe you one."

Ezra went back to his notes. The bell rang for them to go to their first class. Zack hurried out of the room. The brown haired girl stood next to Ezra.

"My cousin didn't introduce us, I'm Abigail Heckart. Just call me Abby."

"Ezra Standish," Ezra said and shook the girl's hand.

"Thank you for showing me the way."

"You are welcome."

Ezra took Abby to both first and second classes. Abby took out her schedule and showed it to Ezra when he asked to see it. Ezra noticed they had lunch and sixth hour together. He gave directions to her classes.

"Mr. Standish. You know there is no talking in class," Mr. Granger said.

"Yes, Sir, I know this, but, this is Miss Heckart's first day, I was giving her directions to her classes."

Mr. Granger nodded. "I'll let it go, this time," Mr. Granger smiled.

Ezra found he was looking forward to lunch. He always tried to get to the lunch room early and try to eat his food quickly because Zack would talk and talk about nothing. Zack didn't care if he had food in his mouth or not. Today, however, he would endure Zack's chatterboxes for sake of his cousin, who, surprisingly enough, was a quiet girl with a soft voice.

Third and fourth class went by quickly.

Josiah stopped Ezra on his way to the lunch room. "Hey, Ezra. How about we go out for lunch?"

Ezra smiled up at Josiah. "No thank you. I am meeting someone for lunch." Ezra then hurried off.

Josiah watched as Ezra met up with a girl he hadn't met, outside the lunch room. As far as Josiah could tell, Ezra seemed happy to see her. He even smiled and laughed at whatever the girl had to say. This looked promising.

After they ate, Zack went off and left Ezra and Abby by themselves. Ezra led Abby to the student lounge where they could talk somewhat in privacy. Ezra found he liked talking to Abby. There was something about her that made him feel good inside. He had met other girls before that were prettier than her, but at the moment, he couldn't remember any of them. Ezra also noticed other freshmen guys were eyeing her. When the bell rang for them to head for class, Ezra told Abby he looked forward to seeing her in sixth hour. Ezra decided he was going home on the bus when he heard Abby was ridding the same bus. She got on before him and that's why the bus was late picking him, Vin, JD and Nathan up this morning. Ezra wanted to invite Abby and her sisters to the Halloween party Buck and Chris were having. For some reason, Ezra finding he wanted to spend more time with Abby.

Meanwhile at the Jr. High, Vin was asked by his home room teacher to show a girl to her first class, which was his first class. Her name was Violet Heckart. She told him to call her Vi. He had two other classes with her as well as lunch. Vi had green eyes and dark auburn hair. It was so dark, it looked black until the sunlight hit it, then you could see red high lights. He liked her. It was even better when he found out she rode the same bus.

Mr. Moore introduced Abby to the English class, sixth hour. He told her she was excused from the writing assignment that was due on Friday.

After class, when everyone was rushing out the door to head for their lockers and then the waiting buses, Ezra ran to Josiah's office and told him he was riding the bus home. Before Josiah could say anything, Ezra was gone. Josiah then got a phone call from Vin. Vin said he was taking the bus home, but JD still wanted to be picked up. Nathan entered Josiah's office and sat down in one of the chairs.

Nathan shook his head. "Ezra almost ran me down getting out to the buses."

Josiah laughed. "I think it has something to do with a girl, Nathan."

"A girl?" Nathan said, skeptically.

Josiah smiled. "Yep. And if I'm not mistaken, Vin is taking the bus for the same reason."

"Really? And JD?"

"I’m still picking JD up. I thought we would stop and grab some Subway sandwiches for dinner," Josiah said as he logged out of his computer.

"Sounds good to me. Buck said he was picking up some extra hours tonight and you know Chris won't be home until nine or ten, depending on what time they get inventory done at the store. So it'll just be you, me, Ez, Vin and JD."

"Okay then. Let's go.

Josiah had told the boys he would give them a ride home this morning at breakfast. That was until Ezra said he was taking the bus and Vin called to say the same. Josiah was curious about these girls that could change his boys mind about riding the crowded, noisy, smelly bus home. They hated riding the bus home. Or to school for that matter.

Ezra sat next to Abby on the bus to the Jr. High School and exchange phone numbers.

"What writing assignment was Mr. Moore talking about?"

"We are to write a short story, two to three pages long. And since Halloween is less the two weeks away, it is to be a Halloween story. Why? You are not required to write one."

"What else have I got to do in class? The rest of you are doing it and I'm just sitting there, bored out of my skull. I know I can do it. I make up stories for my sister and brother all the time. It's fun."

"Really? You enjoy writing?"

"I have no idea if I like writing. I never wrote a story before. The stories I tell my brother and sisters are all in my head."

The elementary bus were already at the Jr. High when the High School busses arrived. Since the bus Abby and Ezra were on was the same one they rode home, they stayed on it while those who took another bus home got off.

The element kids got on the bus as soon as all the other kids got off. Abby's little sister headed straight for her. Ezra smiled at the little girl with dirty blond hair and glasses with lenses so thick they made her light blue eyes look bigger than her head. She looked to be about seven, maybe eight. The little girl squeezed between Abby and Ezra and leaned back against the bus bench, with arms crossed of her chest and pouted.

Abby looked at Ezra then back down at her sister. "What's wrong Squirt?"

"Nothin'," was her answer.

Abby sighed. "We'll talk about it later."

Soon Vin and Vi got on, laughing. Abby looked up at her sister and smiled. Vi pointed to a seat behind Abby and Ezra. She and Vin hurried to get to it before it was taken.

"I'm glad to see you so happy, Vi." Abby smiled. "Ezra, this is my sister Violet, Vi for short. And this sister between us is Victoria. We call her Vickie or Squirt."

Vi introduced Vin to Abby and Vickie.

Ezra watched as other kids got on the bus. No one else approached them. When the bus driver shut the door, he looked at Abby. "I thought you said you had a brother?"

"We do. He and Andi live with their dad," Vickie answered.

"Yeah, when mom died, they stayed with their dad and we came to live with our dad," Vi said as a matter of factly.

Abby smiled at Ezra. Ezra could see the hurt in her eyes.

"Our parents got a divorce when I was eight. Mom remarried shortly after that and had two more kids by our step-dad. I'm the oldest of five. When mom died, I was twelve, Vi was eleven, Vickie was nine, Andi was five and our brother, Jack was three." Abby watch Ezra's expression. "Doesn't compute does it"

"No, it does not," Ezra answered.

"Our parents split up soon after Vickie was born. I think she was like a year old at the time. When mom had Andi, she was still married to dad, but they hadn't been together for years," Abby explained.

"I am so sorry for your loss," Ezra said and meant it.

"We're going to go trick or treating with them this year. Our mom's sister is taking us," Vi said.

"Hey, guess what Vi, Squirt?"

"What?" Vickie asked.

"I get to write one of my stories for class and get graded on it," Abby said, smiling.

Vickie sat up, excited. "Which one?"

"I don't know. It has to be a Halloween one. What do you think? Should it be one I have already made up or a new one?"

"A new one!" Both girls said in unison.

Abby laughed as did Ezra and Vin. "Okay, a new one it is. What should it have in it?"

"Ghosts...Skeletons...a dead body...A haunted house."

The list went on. Even Vin started listing things for the story. "Okay, I think I got it. How's this," Abby started the ghost story. Ezra was amazed at how Abby could tell a story on the spur of the moment. While she told the story, the bus got quiet as she got every kid's attention one by one. When the bus stopped at each stop, the kid that was supposed to get off didn't want to. He and/or she wanted to listen to the story. When it came for him and Vin to get off the bus, they didn't want to either.

"You will have to call and tell me the rest of the story," Ezra told her.

Abby laughed. "Okay, I will. See ya tomorrow."

"I can't wait to hear the rest of it," Vin said as he entered the dining room.

"Can't wait for the rest of what, Vin?" Nathan asked.

"Abby's ghost story," Vin answered. "She even put an Indian burial site in it. It was so cool."

"Who is Abby?" Josiah asked.

"Ezra's girlfriend. He even got her phone number," Vin answered.

"Ezra's got a girlfriend?" JD asked as he set the table.

"Abby is not my girlfriend. She is a friend that happens to be a girl."

"Yep," Vin said.

Ezra glared at Vin, and thought two can play this game. "Vin has a girlfriend as well. Her name is Violet."

"She likes to be called Vi. She's Abby's sister."

"What's their last name" Josiah asked as he sat down at the dining table.

"Heckart," Ezra answered, then sat in his usual place as did Vin, JD and Nathan.

Josiah sat back in his chair. "Really? Is their father James Heckart?"

"I think so. Abby said his name was Jim or Jimmy," Ezra answered.

Josiah laughed. "Jimmy Dick Heckart. I haven't seen him in ages. I think the last time I saw him and his wife, Amber, was right after they had Victoria. Me and Becky went to see them in the hospital."

"That is a long time, since Vickie is eleven years of age," Ezra said.

"Yeah, it is. Let’s say grace and eat dinner."

"You did know they got a divorce, right?" Ezra asked.

"Yes I did. I also know Amber passed away from cancer. She was a good friend to my Becky and Nettie. There were four of them that hung out together in school." Josiah took a bite from his sub sandwich.

"Who was the fourth girl?" JD asked after he took a drink of his soda.

"My sister Hannah." Josiah smiled. "Amber was as wild as they came. And Jim? He was so taken with her."

"Do you know what happened between them?" Vin asked after he swallowed the bite of his sub sandwich.

"Not really, no. I thought they would make it. I think Amber was too much of a free spirit for Jim."

After dinner, Ezra did the dishes and then helped Vin and JD with their homework. About seven thirty, the phone rang. Josiah picked it up on the fourth ring. "Hello, this is Josiah Sanchez...yeah", Josiah laughed, "I know...how are you doing?...I hear you got remarried...no, I haven't found any one that could compare to my Becky...yeah, yeah, I know"...Josiah looked over at Ezra and laughed, "Okay, tell her he's right here." Josiah held the phone out, "It's for you, Ezra."

Ezra took the phone and went into the living room so he could talk in private. JD started to follow Ezra because he needed help with English. Josiah laid a hand on JD's shoulder and sat him back down. Nathan snickered at the look on JD's face when Josiah shook his head. Nathan knew what was happening with Ezra. He figured it was about time Ezra started to act like the teen that he was and not an adult and if this girl can help him, all the better.

Buck hobbled into the dining room on his crutches. "I was just thinking about keeping these things after my leg heals and maybe get me one of those fake casts, cause the girls at job corp..."

"Lower your voice, Bucklin," Nathan said, and shook his head.

"Why?"

Josiah smiled. "Ezra's on the phone."

Buck looked around the room. "Where?"

"The living room," JD answered.

"Why is he in there?" Buck asked as he pulled out a chair to sit down.

"He's talkin' to his girlfriend." Vin smiled up at Buck.

"Really?" Buck asked, as he looked to each person at the table.

"And you will keep your mouth shut and not tease him about it," Josiah warned.

Buck feigned a hurt expression. "You hurt me, Josiah. I would never do such a thing. I might give him a few pointers, but never tease him about it."

All the others at the table looked at Buck. "Right." "Not." Who are you kidding?" "We know you." And a snort of laughter were said and done at the same time.

Buck had a shocked look on his face when Chris came in. "What's up?"

"Ezra went and got himself a girlfriend," Buck answered. "And these yahoos think I would tease him about it."

Chris nodded his head. "In a heartbeat, Buck. Then you'd give him dating advice rather he wanted it or not."

Buck nodded. "And it would be good advice."

"I'll ask,” Ezra said as he enter the dining area. "Josiah? Abby does not have a computer or laptop at home. He father said it would be okay for her to stay after school and use the library's computers to do her story for Mr. Moore's class as long as she had a ride home. Since I was planning on staying after school to write mine and ride home with you..."

Josiah held up his hand to stop Ezra from going any further. "Tell her to tell her father I'd make sure she got home."

Ezra smiled. "Thanks, Josiah." Ezra turned back toward the living room.

"I want to meet this girl," Buck said.

"You could have Ezra invite her to the Halloween party," Chris said and sat down in a chair next to Buck.

"We could invite her sisters too," Vin said, hopefully.

Buck looked across the table to Vin and smiled. "How many sisters does she have?"

Josiah laughed. "She has three sisters and one brother, all younger than her. Her step sister are older than her. So is her step brother," Josiah answered.

"How do you know all this?" Chris asked.

"I knew Abby's mother when she hung out with my sister, Hannah," Josiah said. "Amber was quite the looker back then."

"I'll see you in the morning then. Good night." Ezra hung up the phone and placed it in its stand and sighed. There were six pairs of eyes looking at him when he turned around to face the dining table. "It's eight o-clock. She had to start getting ready for bed." Ezra smiled back at them.

"When ya see her tomorrow, ask her to the party. I want to meet her," Buck told Ezra.

"I will, thank you, Buck." Ezra headed for the stairs. "I'm going to take a shower and do a little reading then go to bed."

"Good night, Ezra," Josiah said to Ezra's retreating back.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan and JD didn't stop Ezra and Vin from getting on the bus before them. Nathan was the last to get on and smiled when Ezra sat next to a very pretty brunet and Vin sat next to a girl with dark auburn, almost black haired girl with light green eyes. They have good taste in girls, Nathan thought to himself.

JD paid them attention. He thought he's meet them at Buck's and Chris's party.

Ezra found his seat next to Abby as she sneezed. "Bless you."

"Thank you. I hate head colds. As long as it stays in my head, I'll be fine," Abby said and leaned her head back against the seat.

"Tell him why you got it," Vi said crossing her arms. Vin sat next to her. Vicky was sitting next to Abby by the window.

Abby sighed. "We have to think of dad, Vi. Not ourselves," Abby said, not looking at her sister.

"She'll do it again, Abby."

Ezra and Vin looked to one another. Something was wrong. Vi was angry about something and whatever it was, had Vickie shedding a few tears from her closed eyes.

Abby rubbed Vickie's back. "Drop it, Vi. You're making Squirt here cry."

"But, Abby..." Vi begged.

"Violet! This is not the time or place for this argument. Now drop it."

Violet sat back in a huff and fumed.

Ezra took this moment to introduce the girls to Nathan and JD.

Abby glared at Violet when she thought Violet was being rude.

Violet rolled her eyes. "Sorry."

Abby sighed. "It's nice to meet the two of you. Please excuse my sister's rudeness."

"Hey, I said I was sorry!"

Vickie laughed at her sisters bantering.

The rest of the way to school was done in pleasant conversation. Abby finished the story for Vin she had started the day before.

Ezra escorted Abby to her locker, which was across the hall and down a few lockers from his. Then they went to home room. Miss Jennings told Abby she was to go to Mr. Wheeler's room for home room tomorrow. Abby nodded her head.

Vin was worried about Vi and tried to get her to tell him what was wrong.

Vi sighed. "Abby's right. I shouldn't have said anything." Vi slammed her locker closed. "See you later."

Vin watched her storm off.

The day went by quickly. Ezra and Abby stood up after everyone else left in a rush when the bell rang. They walked together to Josiah's office. Ezra knocked on the open door. Josiah looked up and waved Ezra in, then went back to what he was doing.

"Hey, Josiah, Abby and I are headed for the library." Ezra then stepped aside to let Abby into the office. "This is Abby. Abby, this is my foster father, Josiah Sanchez."

Josiah looked up to see the young lady and dropped the papers he was filing as he went ghost white. "Amber?" He whispered.

Ezra looked confused. "No. This is Abbigail, Josiah."

Abby laid a hand on Ezra's shoulder and entered further. "It's okay, Ezra. I have been getting this reaction from people who knew my mom when she was my age." Abby then stuck her hand out for Josiah to shake. "Nice to meet you Mr. Sanchez."

Josiah shook himself. "You are the spitting image of your mother."

Abby smiled up at Josiah. "So I gathered from her many friends."

"Your father told me you look like her, but I had no idea of how much, until now." Josiah shook Abby's hand and sat down in his chair, not taking his eyes off of her. He still thought he was seeing a ghost. He had a hard time comprehending the similarity between the teen in front of him and her mother. It was as if they were the same person.

Ezra came forward to stand next to Abby. "We're going to the library now, Josiah."

Abby and Ezra left Josiah and went through the outer office to leave for the library. When they came to the reception desk, chatting about Mr. Moore's class, Stuart James was there arguing with Velma. And just like Josiah, Stuart James went ghostly white. Principal Stockman stepped out of his office. He had seen the young lady when her father had registered her for school last week. He, too, thought he had seen the ghost of Amber O'Shea.

"James?" Stockman called. Stuart James looked his way. "She is only fourteen years old. She is not Amber."

Josiah head Principal Stockman yell and went to investigate. He heard Stockman tell Stuart Abby's age and that she isn't Amber. "And if you thought Jimmy Heckart was protective of Amber back when they were dating, that's nothing compared to how protective he is with their three daughters."

Stuart squared his shoulders, turned and walked out.

"Do you think he'll be a problem?" Principal Stockman asked as he watched Stuart James leave the reception desk.

"Not if I can help it. I'm dropping Abby off at home. I'll let Jim know."

Stockman nodded. "Next thing is, what about his boys," he said and looked over at Josiah.

Josiah sighed. "Looks like history may repeat itself."

Principal Stockman sighed and shook his head before he went into his office.

What neither man noticed, was Stuart James following Ezra and Abby to the library. Abby looked to her left and saw the man as Ezra held the door open for her. Ezra saw Stuart James walking their way with determination. Ezra closed the door behind him then turned to glare out the long, narrow window at Stuart James. Stuart James looked down his nose at Ezra and smiled before he left in the same direction he came from. Ezra made a mental note to tell Josiah later about Stuart James.

Ezra joined Abby at the computer station in the center of the library. She had already booted up one of the computers for herself and was digging through her back pack for her note pad and pen. She then started to sneeze again and rub at her chest.

The sneeze reminded Ezra of this morning on the bus when Vi told Abby to tell him why she caught a cold. "It is just the two of us here. You can tell me how you got the cold you now have."

Abby sighed and looked over at Ezra. "Believe me, I want to."

"But?" Ezra asked, knowing there was a ‘but’ in there.

"I don't want to hurt my dad. He finally got remarried after so many years being alone and I don't want to ruin that. Even if the she is, and excuse my French, a bitch. My sisters and I hate her."

Ezra never had heard Abby swear before, but now, when speaking of her step-mother. "What did she do to for you to have gotten sick with a head cold?"

Abby took a deep breath, which caused her to cough, before she looked Ezra in the eyes. "It was raining by the time we got home." Ezra nodded that he knew this. "So when we went to go inside the trailer, the door was locked. We then went to the back door and found it was locked, too. We knew she was home inside because we heard the TV. So I tried one of the bedroom windows like before to push Vickie in through it to open the back door but the windows were locked as well. So we had to go to the well house to get out of the rain. I told my sisters to stay put and I did the chores."

"She locked you out of your home?" Ezra was appalled and angered by this. He was definitely telling Josiah of this.

Abby nodded. "When she finally let us in and we asked her why she locked us out…" Abby closed her eyes to hold back the tears, "…she said whatever she did wasn't our business. I told her I was going to tell daddy if she ever did it again." Abby looked to Ezra, not able to hold back the tears. "She said, daddy was hers and he wouldn't believe me if I did tell him."

This information made Ezra see red and all he could do about it was to tell Josiah. But for now he would be there for her.

"Vi's planning on calling my mom's sister to come and get her because of what Bonnie said yesterday. I don't want her to run away. That would hurt dad so badly."

Ezra didn't know what to say to her. He was so full of rage toward Abby's step-mother, if she were here right now, he would hit her so hard she'd be picking herself up off the floor next week. And he never ever wanted to hit a woman before this.

Abby looked up at Ezra when she was done crying. "Thank you for listening. We probably should get to work on our stories before your foster dad comes and gets us."

"Yes, you’re right. We should get back to our stories," Ezra agreed. He kept his feeling of rage inside not wanting to frighten Abby. He then pulled out two memory sticks. "Here," Ezra handed Abby one of them, "is the extra memory stick you asked for."

"Thank you." Abby smiled at Ezra as she took it.

Ezra had a hard time concentrating on his story. He wondered how Abby did it. He looked over at her and saw she was copying from her note book and every now and then she would wipe at the tears that would start to fall.

Not much longer, Josiah came into the library. "Times up you two. I'll be out in the van waiting."

"Okay Mr. Sanchez," Abby said then started to save the story as did Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra saw Abby to the door and said he see her in the morning. Ezra climbed into the passenger seat next to Josiah.

"You'll be glad to know, starting next week, Vin will have a tutor to help him with his reading and writing," Josiah said as he pulled out of the driveway. Josiah didn't hear a word out of Ezra. He took a glance at Ezra. "Okay, what's troubling you?" Still nothing. Josiah pulled over to the side of the road and put the van in park then faced Ezra. "Ezra. Ezra!"

Ezra jumped when Josiah shouted his name. "Did you say something?"

"Yeah I did. What's eating at you?"

Ezra sighed. "I don't know if I could say it without going into a rage."

Josiah could see the rage in Ezra's eyes and body language. "Take a deep breath and tell me."

Ezra turned in his seat so that he was facing Josiah. "Abby's step-mother is a...a...bitch!"

"You know I do not like that kind of language spoken," Josiah scorned.

"I know this, but excuse me, I didn't know what other word would fit."

"Tell me why you think this why we head home," Josiah said as he put the van into drive and headed home.

Josiah was just as furious when he and Ezra finally made it home. He entered his office, growling. "This is going to be taken care of, now." He slammed the door behind him.

Vin, Nathan, JD and Buck all jumped when Ezra and Josiah came in through the back door and then again with the slamming of Josiah's office door. The four teens looked to Ezra for an explanation but all they could see was how pissed off Ezra was. Ezra looked at the others and told them what Abby had told him and now she had a bad head cold because of it. Buck was shocked to say the least, as were the others. Fifteen minutes later, Josiah came out of his office.

Josiah looked over at Ezra. "You did the right thing by telling me, Ezra. I even told Jim about Stuart James."

Ezra nodded. "I just hope Abby can forgive me for telling you what she told me in confidence."

"Did she tell you not to tell anyone?" Buck asked.

Ezra shook his head no. "But it was understood." Ezra sat down on one of the bar stools at the counter, dejected.

Josiah walked over to Ezra and placed a hand on his shoulder, and with his other hand, he lifted Ezra's chin so he could talk to his face. "Jim needed to know what was going on in his home with his girls. I know for a fact, his girls come first. I was there when the youngest was born and at two months old, came down with spinal meningitis. They almost lost her to the disorder. It was hard on him and Amber. So you hear me, son, you did the right thing by telling me. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Jim even told me to tell you thank you for being there for Abby." Ezra smiled and nodded. "Good. Now let’s get dinner done. I'm in the mood for pizza," Josiah said and went to the fridge and took out the rolled pizza dough and the pizza toppings.

Chris came home just as the pizzas were going into the oven. He noticed Ezra's puffy eyes and was concerned. Josiah told him about Abby and her sisters. Chris was just as shocked and out raged as the others. "Josiah's right, Ez. You did the right thing by telling him what was going on." Chris smiled down at Ezra.

"I know this, Chris. But I cannot help how I feel. Like I betrayed her," Ezra sighed.

"We keep tellin' him that," JD said.

Chris wrapped an arm around Ezra's shoulders and shook him a little. "Everything will be okay. Trust me."

Ezra wasn't too sure about that, but if Chris said it would be fine, then maybe he could hope for the best.

+ + + + + + +

The next morning, Ezra entered the bus with a heavy heart. He sat down next to Abby and was about to say he was sorry for telling Josiah what she had told him, but the smiling face that greeted him had him confused and stopped him from saying anything.

"Thank you for telling Josiah."

"Yeah, thanks," Vi said. "Abby said she told ya what our step-mom did. Then when dad came home and laid into her? Oh my God, you should have been there."

Ezra looked from Vi back to Abby. "You are not angry with me?"

"I was at first, but when dad told her that if anyone was leaving, it would be her not his girls, I was so glad you did."

"And if she ever locked us out again," Vickie started, "she would find herself in divorce court so fast, it would make her head spin."

Knowing Abby wasn't angry with him made Ezra smile and a heavy weight was lifted from him.

"Yeah, I want her to lock us out again," Vi said.

Vin looked at his friend. "Why?"

"Duh, so dad'll divorce her ass."

"Violet! The language," Abby scolded.

"Oh please, like you haven't swore before." Vi rolled her eyes.

This got Vin, Ezra and Vickie laughing. Abby smiled and hung her head in defeat.

"Oh, I am to invite the three of you to Buck's and Chris's Halloween party this Saturday. I know it's short notice, but I would like it if you were to come," Ezra said.

"We'd be happy to come to it, wouldn't we girls." Abby smiled.

"Yeah," both Vi and Vickie agreed.

"What are you dressing up as?"Abby asked Ezra.

"A Magician, of course," Ezra answered.

"Hmm, you'll need an assistant won't you?" Abby smiled.

"In deed I will. You applying for the position?"

"I'm thinking about it."

Ezra couldn't help but grin.

+ + + + + + +

Saturday came, Ezra helped to ready the party. Buck and Chris both said Ezra could perform some of his tricks for the party guests. James Heckart dropped the girls off and was asked to stay by Josiah. Nettie, Evie and Orin were struck with shock when they were introduced to Abby.

Abby sighed and looked at Ezra. "Here we go again."

Ezra laughed. "I am told I look exactly like my father. It is a curse as well as an honor."

Abby nodded her head. "Yeah, same here with my mother."

Ezra introduced Abby and her sisters to Buck and Chris and the St. Clare’s.

Buck looked at Abby's costume. "Ezra's pretty assistant?"

"Yep," Abby answered. "I thought he needed one."

Buck laughed and said. "Yeah, every Magician needs a pretty assistant."

Ezra did quite well with his magic show. Josiah got caught up with Jim and the party was a huge success.

"You know Josiah, you and Rebecca may not have had the boys, but I know Rebecca would be real proud to call them hers," Jim said.

"Yeah. I know. I just wish she were here." Josiah sighed and took a drink of punch.

Continues in:
Chapter Seven: Home Is Where the Heart Is

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