Buck's birthday party was today and Ezra was feeling a bit sore. Nathan came upstairs to give Ezra his meds and asked how he was feeling.
"I'm a bit on the sore side,” Ezra answered.
"This will help you."
Ezra sighed and looked down at the pill in his hand. “Do I have to take this?"
"Only if you want the pain to go away. Why don't you want to take it?"
Ezra looked up at Nathan. “It makes me drowsy and want to fall asleep."
"That's good, Ez. You need your rest."
"I want to attend Buck's birthday party. I cannot do that if I am doped up on pain pills."
Nathan sighed, then looked over at the clock on Ezra's bed side table. “The party ain't for another four hours. Rest till then and we'll see what we can do."
Ezra nodded his agreement.
Nathan helped Ezra to lie down and tucked him in. He watched as Ezra closed his eyes before he left.
"How is he doing, Nate?" Chris asked, when Nathan came down stairs.
Nathan ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. “He said he's sore. I gave him his pain med, but he didn't want to take it because he doesn't want to sleep through Buck's party. I told him to take a nap and we'll see what we can do when it's time for the party."
Chris nodded. “We'll get him down here for it."
+ + + + + + +
Four and a half hours later, Chris and Nathan went upstairs to get Ezra. He was still in his pajamas, waiting for them.
"I have my cloths sitting out that I wish to wear for the party. I'm having a little bit of a problem getting my pj's off to put them on,” Ezra sighed.
Chris sighed. “Ezra, your pajamas are fine. No one's going to care."
"And if they do, they can leave,” Nathan added as he started to help Ezra to stand.
"But..,” Ezra started.
"No buts, Ezra," the three heard Josiah say from the bedroom doorway. "Buck wants you down there. He said if he had to, he'd come up here and make you come down."
Ezra smiled at the thought of Buck hobbling up the narrow stairway on his crutches. “We cannot have that, now can we?"
"No we cannot." Josiah smiled. "Nathan, go and get the recliner ready please. I'll help Chris."
Nathan did as Josiah asked.
Chris was in front of Ezra, going down the steps slowly and backwards so if Ezra started to get dizzy, and felt like he was going to fall, Chris would be there to catch him. Josiah was behind Ezra with Ezra's pillow and his afghan that was made and given to him for his birthday. It was made with different shades of green, (his favorite color). When Ezra got settled into the recliner, a TV tray was set up in front of him. In the dining room, there was a buffet of toppings for tacos as well as both hard and soft shell tacos. There was also a large birthday cake for Buck.
The party went well. Ezra felt like he was a part of the family. No one said a thing about him being in his pajamas.
Buck was so happy all his brothers and friends were there to help him celebrate his birthday. What was surprising to everyone was Donald Kingston. He showed up hoping Buck didn't mind. Buck didn't. He just wanted to drop off his gift to Buck that Buck's mom had saved the money to get. Don handed Buck a set of keys to a 1970 red Plymouth Barracuda. Nash recognized the car right away as being one he restored a while back. Inside the car, resting in the front seat was a birthday card addressed to Buck. Buck shed some tears as he picked up the card and recognized his mother's handwriting in side of it.
Josiah smiled at Don and nodded. Don thanked him for keeping the secret and letting Buck keep it. A little later, Josiah took Don to the airport to catch his flight back to Reno.
+ + + + + + +
"You knew about this?" Buck cornered Josiah when he pulled up into the driveway, indicating the barracuda.
Josiah smiled. “Don asked me if it was okay for you to have. He said your mother bought it from a friend who had it stored in his barn, and when you saw it, you fell in love with it. From what Nash said, it was a mess and in an awful shitty brown color."
Buck laughed. “It sure was. When I seen it, all I could picture was me and a girl going for a ride in my fire engine red barracuda with black leather interior."
Josiah smiled at the faraway look in Buck's eyes at the long forgotten image. "How could I not let you have it? It's from your Mother, Buck. Don didn't have to keep it let alone bring it all the way from Reno."
"Yeah, I know. I feel bad for almost killing him."
"Just so you know, Don said, if he were in your shoes, he would have done the same thing." Josiah patted Buck on the shoulder and then went inside.
Chris met Josiah at the top of the stairs before he entered the house. “I think you might have to carry Ez to his room," Chris smiled. “he's asleep. Like dead to the world sleep."
Josiah smiled and nodded. "I figured he'd be worn out."
"Nate's got his bed turned down already,” Chris said as he entered the house in front of Josiah.
Vin and JD were waiting for Josiah in the living room. Everyone had gone home, so it was just Josiah and his boys. Josiah had no problem lifting Ezra up out of the recliner and carrying him up the stairs to his room and gently laid Ezra in his bed being careful of Ezra's injuries the whole time. Josiah shook his head when he looked down at the sleeping teen, 'You didn't have to jump from that moving vehicle. Chris and Buck would have stopped Maude from taking you.' Josiah thought to himself.
Josiah left the room and checked on the other boys. He heard the shower running in the bathroom when he left Ezra's room. Across the hall, Vin's door was open a crack so he looked in. Vin was sitting at the small desk doing homework. Coming from JD's room, down the hall on the same side as Vin's, Josiah could hear the sounds of a game boy. That meant, Nathan was in the bathroom taking a shower. Since there wasn't any school tomorrow, the three youngest were allowed to stay up till ten.
Josiah knocked on Vin's door. “Almost done?"
Vin turned toward Josiah. “Yeah. Abby gave me some tips that's making English easier to do,” Vin answered.
"Good. I know that's your hardest subject. How do you like your Tutor?"
"Stuart is okay, I guess." Vin shrugged.
Josiah entered the room. “You guess?"
"Yeah. Sometimes I feel like I'm stupid when I can't do it the way he tells me to. It ain't his fault. I'm just not that smart."
Josiah sat on the bed and looked at Vin. “You are not stupid, Vin. You just see the world differently." Josiah stood and patted Vin on the shoulder. “We'll get you another Tutor who understands that."
Vin smiled up at Josiah. “Thanks. Did you know Abby has dyslexia? She said she has problems with numbers and when she gets real tired, her brain puts words in sentences that ain't supposed to be there or take them out. I thought she was just being nice, but her dad said that actually happens to her."
Josiah nodded that he knew of Abby's dyslexia and that she sees number backward and or in the wrong order. “Yeah I knew. It was so bad when she was younger, they had to pin her bus number to her coat so she wouldn't get on the wrong bus."
"She said she had a hard time when she was little."
"Yes she did. There was one school district that said she was mildly retarded." Josiah chuckled a little. “Her mother and step-father told them she was not retarded."
"Why is that funny?"
"It's not, but you had to know her mother. The woman could be a real bear when it came to her children. No one dared to say one bad thing about them to her face." Josiah smiled at the memory of the woman. "Especially Abby."
"Don't know really. I'll let you get back to your school work."
Josiah left the room and headed for the stairs. He stopped long enough to look in on JD.
By the time he left Vin's room, Nathan had finished his shower and was dressed in his pajamas. When Josiah was done checking on JD, Nathan was headed down stairs. Josiah was right behind him.
Nathan went to the refrigerator and got out some of the food Chris and Buck had put away.
"Hey, we just put all that stuff away,” Buck said.
"So. I'm a little hungry and thought a taco salad sounded good."
Chris just finished loading the dishwasher when Nathan and Josiah came down stairs. "When you're done, Nate, clean up after yourself. Buck and I are going downstairs to watch a movie then go to bed."
"Okay, enjoy,” Nathan told Chris.
Josiah turned the TV on to watch his favorite programs. When ten o’clock came, he told Nathan it was time for bed. Josiah followed Nathan upstairs. He wanted to check on Ezra and wake him for his night time meds. Vin was coming out of the bathroom, freshly showered. Josiah told him good night and then looked in on JD who looked to have taken a shower and was going to bed. Josiah wished him a good night then went to Ezra's room. Ezra was still asleep. Josiah sighed, he didn't want to wake him, but Ezra needed his meds.
"What time is it?" Ezra asked, with a very thick southern accent when Josiah woke him.
"It's time for your night time meds." Josiah smiled at him. Ezra took them without a fight. "Go back to sleep,” Josiah told him and brought the covers up to Ezra's chin. Josiah turned out the light and quietly closed the door. He then turned out Vin's, JD's and Nathan's lights as well as the hallways. The only light that was left on was the night light in the bathroom at the end of the hallway.
Josiah sat down on the sofa to watch the ten o-clock news and weather. He came into the living room just as the weather segment came on. There was to be a cold snap on Monday and possibly snow by Wednesday.
Josiah looked around the living room, 'I know what I'm doing this week while Ezra's home. Weatherizing this old house.' Josiah thought to himself. He then turned off the TV and went to bed.
+ + + + + + +
The next day, Josiah bought the stuff he needed to weatherize the house. So he, Chris, Buck and Nathan spent the afternoon putting up plastic on the windows. Josiah arranged for a chimney sweep to be done Monday afternoon, he wanted to make sure the fireplace was safe to use before the snow fell. The cold snap started to set in at about eight o-clock Sunday night.
"The weatherman was a bit off on his prediction." Ezra shivered.
Josiah rubbed Ezra's back. “I know."
"It was a good thing we got the plastic up when we did,” Buck commented.
Chris was stirring the pot of chili that Josiah had started on the stove. “No argument here."
Nathan got down the bowls and the glasses for whatever everyone was drinking. Chris got the silverware, while Vin and JD got down the corn chips, crackers and shredded cheese.
Ezra took out the hot pad for the pot of chili and sat it in the center of the table. “Ezra? You're not to move around a whole lot with those busted ribs,” Nathan admonished.
"I felt like I should help out somehow,” Ezra shot back.
Buck patted Ezra on the shoulder. “It's okay. You just got out of the hospital a few days ago. We don't want you to go back."
Ezra sighed. “I do not wish to go back, but there has got to be something I can do that will not irritate my injuries."
Chris brought the pot of chili into the dining room and sat it in the center of the table. “Well, there isn't. Just sit there and do as you're told." Chris smiled down at Ezra. "Don't ever do that again, either. Buck and I thought you were thrown from that damn car.
"The driver had slowed down to turn into the airport, I thought it to be the perfect time to execute my escape,” Ezra said.
"You almost got yourself killed,” Buck said. “Not to mention giving Chris and me the scare of our lives."
"I do apologize. I didn't want to go back to that hell hole of a school,” Ezra said angrily.
Josiah leaned on the table as he looked Ezra in the eyes. “Was it so terrible, that you would hurl yourself out of a moving vehicle and die than to go back there?"
Ezra sighed. “Yes. I still have the nightmares of the place."
Josiah shook his head. “Does Maude know this?" Ezra only nodded his head indicating Maude had known. "And she was still taking you back there?" Again, Ezra nodded.
The other five boys looked to Josiah. Josiah had his face in his hands and sighed before he looked up to see the five sets of eyes looking to him for answers that he didn't have. He sat his gaze an Ezra, who had his head bowed, like he had done something wrong.
"Ezra?" Josiah said and waited for the boy to look at him. “You have done nothing to feel ashamed of. If anyone should be, it's Maude."
"Mother said she only wanted the best education for me."
"What happened to you there?" Chris asked.
Ezra didn't know if he should tell them. He didn't want his new family to think less of him. He looked in each of the faces and sighed.
"We won't not like ya anymore, Ez,” Vin said to sooth him.
Ezra smiled at Vin's use at the double negative. “Okay. The classes and school were not my problems. It was the other students and living in the dormitory. I was bullied to no end."
"Why?" Buck asked.
"According to them, I didn't belong. The only reason I was able to attend the prestigious all boys school was my step-father. He was and still is a major benefactor, therefore, because of this, I was allowed to attend in spite of my grade point average and less than stellar upbringing. It had gotten so bad, I was afraid to go to sleep at night. I had suffered numerous beatings. And at one point, I was pushed down a flight of stairs and ended up with a busted arm and sprained ankle and concussion. A Janitor found me in the stairwell and called the Dean." Ezra looked up at Josiah. “I don't want to go back."
"You're here to stay. Those boys won't hurt you again,” Josiah told him.
"Was anything done to the boys who pushed you?" Nathan asked.
Ezra shook his head. “No. No one believed me when I told them what happened. It was their word against mine."
Josiah understood the situation. He'd had to call in a favor later. In the meantime, he was just grateful to have all his boys home and safe. "You're home and safe. Let’s eat before dinner gets cold, but first, we'll say grace."
+ + + + + + +
Josiah made sure Ezra had his meds and was tucked in bed as well as Vin, JD and Nathan. Josiah made special allowances for Buck and Chris since they both work. Buck doesn't get paid all that much through Job Corps, but what he does make goes to help with expenses. Josiah knew how hard it was to go to school and hold down a job. Soon Nathan would be sixteen and would be allowed to stay up a little longer.
Chris and Buck were waiting downstairs, sitting at the dining room table when Josiah came down.
"What are you going to do about what Ezra told us?" Chris asked.
Josiah sighed as he joined them at the table. “Unfortunately, there isn't a thing I can do. Ezra was in his mother's custody at the time. However, I do intend to find out more about this school."
Buck shook his head. “Maude knew this and she was still willing to take him back there. What kind of mother would do that to their kid?"
"I wish I had an answer for you, Buck," Josiah sighed. “but I don't. I can promises you this, no matter what it takes, Ezra is here to stay."
"Would you let us know what you find out on this school?" Chris asked.
"Of course." Josiah smiled.
"I can't tell ya how I felt seeing him on the side of the freeway like that,” Buck said. "I thought he was dead for sure."
"The worst part for me came later when he told us he jumped out. He had to know we wouldn't let him go without a fight,” Chris said.
"I know how you feel, Chris. Now that we know why he did it, we can help him through what's happened to him at that school,” Josiah said.
Buck and Chris nodded their agreement. The three sat and talked about what had been said and what had happened that day and the days that came after. Shortly after ten, Chris and Buck went downstairs to bed. Josiah made a phone call and got the answering machine. He left his number and message to call him in the morning. Josiah then decided to go to bed.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah watched Nathan, Vin and JD get on the bus from the picture window in the living room. He then went and checked on Ezra. Ezra was asleep again after taking his pain pill. Josiah heard the phone ringing and rushed to answer it. He picked up the phone just as the answering machine clicked on.
"Hang on, Aaron,” Josiah said, then turned the answering machine off. "There, now we can talk."
"Hey there, Joe."
Josiah laughed. “No one has ever called me Joe in a long time."
Joe laughed. “You'll always be Joe to me. I was surprised when I heard your voice on my machine when I got home this morning. What's up?"
"I need a favor,” Josiah said.
"I need to find out about a school in your neck of the wood." Josiah sat at his desk and looked up the school in question.
"What school is that?"
Josiah told him the name of the school. "One of my boys attended the school and from what he's told me..."
"Stop right there, Joe. Whatever he said about the place is more than likely the truth."
"So you know of it?" Josiah asked as he leaned back in his chair.
"Oh, yeah. I know of it. I had one kid in here that was willing to tell me everything that went on in that place."
"What happened to him?"
"Don't know. After his accident, I never heard from him again."
Josiah sat straight up in his chair. “What was his name?"
"You would ask that. I know it's an Old Testament name. Shoot, what was it?" Aaron asked himself.
Josiah closed his eyes. “Ezra?"
"Yeah. How did you know?"
"I have him here with me. That accident was no accident, Aaron. Ezra was pushed down that flight of stairs."
"How is he doing?"
Josiah sighed and told him about the kidnapping. "He has nightmares of that place, Aaron."
"I don't doubt it, Joe. From what he had told me, I can assume the Dean thinks he runs the place, but in reality, there's a group of students that call themselves the Alpha's. There are always two each of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. They're the ones who actually run the place. Once you're an Alpha, you're always an Alpha. So, each year when the seniors graduate, they induct two eighth graders on the very day the seniors are to graduate. Ezra was in line to be inducted when they found out about Maude and her reputation. That's when the beatings started. I went to the step-father, but got nowhere. I found out the step-father was an Alpha."
"Could he have told someone about Ezra?"
"I believe so, because a couple of days later, I heard about Ezra's so called accident. I just wasn't able to confirm it."
"Is there anything you can do on you end?"
"I wish. I would love to shut the place down. There has been a lot of accidents at that school. A couple of years ago, a freshman was so depressed from all the bullying, he hung himself. So, yeah, I believe you when you told me about what Ezra said that death was preferable than to go back to that school."
"Thanks for the info, Aaron. I appreciate it."
"Spit it out."
"I was wondering if I could come and visit the kid sometime?" Aaron hedged. “I just want to let him know I believed in him and to see him for myself."
Josiah laughed. “Get to ya did he? Yes of course you can. I would like to see you as well as Natalie."
"I thought she was still in Four Corners?"
"She is. I have a farm house slash horse ranch just outside of Four Corners."
"No way, Joe. You? Since when did you decide to move back to Four Corners?"
"Since I became a father. You remember Obadiah and his wife?"
"Well, I was their son's Godfather. When Obie died, he named me as the boy’s guardian. That was back in June. Since then I have acquired five more boys, Ezra among them."
"Sounds like a house full. Well, I have got to let you go and get some sleep. I go on shift in about seven hours. Were on twelve hour shifts, four days a week."
"I'm sure the streets are safer when you're on duty, McKenzie."
"Thanks and tell Ezra I wish him well. He would make a damn good cop when he gets older."
"I will,” Josiah said and then hung up.
Josiah left his office and went to the kitchen. He looked out the window and saw it was snowing. It wasn't coming down very hard, so he didn't pay it no mind.
Josiah cleaned up the kitchen and dining area. The bathroom and living room didn't need much cleaning. He decided to wait on the vacuuming because he didn't want to wake Ezra. The boy is finally getting some sleep after a few nights of waking with pain whenever he rolled over or moved in his sleep. Ezra woke up at around twelve thirty, quarter to one. Josiah watched him slowly come down the stairs from where he was sitting at the dining table.
"You hungry?" Josiah asked when Ezra reached the bottom step.
"I am famished,” Ezra answered.
"In that case, I don't think a mere sandwich would do." Josiah smiled and got up to get Ezra some lunch.
"Only if it is a Shaggy and Scooby special,” Ezra said as he sat down at the table.
Josiah laughed. "Oh, by the way. Guess who I had a chat with this morning?"
Ezra looked over at Josiah. “I couldn't even try to guess without a small hint of some kind."
Josiah smiled. “You use to be his informant."
Ezra thought for a moment, 'His informant?'
Josiah knew the moment Ezra guessed because his eyes got as big as saucers and his frown turned into a smile that reached his eyes.
"Yep. He and I went to school together here at Four Corners,” Josiah said as he made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and heated up the left over chili. "He said to tell you he wishes you well and that you would make a good cop when you're older."
Ezra laughed. “Mother would love that. Me, her darling little boy as a public servant." Ezra shook his head then a thought occurred to him. “You know, now that I think about it, why not."
Josiah smiled. “Why not,” Josiah agreed and placed a bowl of the chili and small plate with the grilled sandwich on it in front of Ezra.
The more Ezra thought about it, the more he liked the idea. It was an honest living and if the Lieutenant thought he would make a good cop, maybe, just maybe he should consider it.
They were halfway through lunch when Hobo got up from his bed in the living room and started to bark. Josiah looked down at his watch. “The people that are supposed to sweep the chimney are here."
Josiah got up and met them at the back door. The man said it shouldn't take too long. An hour and a half later, the two men were finishing up when Josiah got a phone call. Nettie needed him to come into the office. Josiah looked over at Ezra who was curled up on the couch and watching his favorite cartoon.
"Ezra, Nettie needs me to come into town and meet with her. Do you think you could handle things till Buck and the others get home?"
"I have lived on my own for months before I came to live with you, so yes, I am sure I can last til they come home." Ezra grinned up at Josiah.
"I shouldn't be too long. Just let Buck know,” Josiah told Ezra. Ezra just nodded as he went back to watching his cartoon. "I'm on my way Nettie."
+ + + + + + +
About thirty minutes later, Buck came home. Hobo was at the door to greet him. Ezra got up from the couch when he heard Buck come in through the back door. Ezra laughed at the sight of Buck covered in snow.
"Man is it coming down out there,” Buck said and threw some snow at Ezra.
"Hey. That was not nice,” Ezra said as he brushed off the snow.
"That was for laughing at me."
"Chris just drop you off and leave?" Ezra asked as he saw Chris's tail lights disappear into the falling snow.
"Yeah, he wanted to get to work before it got to bad out there,” Buck answered as he was going upstairs to the main house.
"Josiah said for me to tell you he had to go into town to meet with Nettie Wells at her office."
"Okay, thanks. You need anything?" Buck asked and followed Ezra into the house.
"Not at the moment, thank you,” Ezra answered as he sat gingerly back down on the couch.
"You sure? You look like you could use one of your pain pills."
"They make me sleepy,” Ezra sighed.
"I know, Ez. But I don't want to see you in pain either."
"The pain is tolerable as long as I remain still."
"Then remain still."
Ezra looked over at Buck. “Don't throw snow at my person and I won't have to try and dodge, unsuccessfully I might add, said thrown snow."
"Do you enjoy hearing you own voice?" Buck shot back as he entered the kitchen.
Ezra got up from the couch and followed Buck. “Buck?"
"Yeah?" Buck said and opened the refrigerator.
"What do you think about me joining the police force?" Ezra asked.
Buck had the half gallon container of orange juice to his lips and was taking a drink when Ezra asked him about joining the police force. Buck choked on the juice and ended up spewing juice all over the fridge.
"I guess that answers my question,” Ezra said and turned back to the living room.
Buck coughed and smacked himself in the chest, 'Shit.' Buck thought to himself. He then looked to where Ezra was just standing and followed him into the living room. “Hey, Ez," Buck croaked the cleared his throat. “Hey, I think you would be a great cop. You just caught me off guard."
Ezra looked up at Buck. “You are not just saying that to make me feel good are you?"
Buck sat down next to Ezra. “No, I'm not. Hell, it would be nice to have a brother on the police force. Just think of all the stuff I could get away with."
Ezra raised an eyebrow at him. “You would risk my badge?"
Buck laughed. “See, you're already up holding the law."
"Make sure you remember that when I make the police force, and have to write you up a ticket for speeding in that red barracuda out there in the driveway." Ezra smiled.
"I will,” Buck laughed.
Ezra looked out through the bay window and saw the snow coming down even harder than before, and was happy he was inside where it was warm. He noticed the light of the bus's headlights and was relieved that Nathan, Vin and JD were home safely. Now he only hope and preyed Abby and her sisters get home just as safe.
Buck had put a pot of water on for some hat tea or cocoa for everyone when Nathan, Vin and JD came bounding in through the back door. Ezra asked the others about him becoming a police officer. They all thought it would be cool if he did. As they were all discussing what they wanted to be when they grew up, they heard the back door bang open. Buck told the others to stay put and he check it out.
Buck got to the top of the stairs to the back door. “Oh my God! Chris!"
Buck disappeared form the others sight. All four of them raced to the back door when they heard Buck call out Chris's name. Nathan ran down the steps to help Buck with Chris.
"Vin, go run some bath water,” Nathan shouted.
Vin ran and did what he was told as Buck and Nathan helped a frozen and injured Chris up the stairs.
"What happened?" Buck asked when they got Chris inside the house and sitting at the dining table.
"I hit a patch of ice and lost control of the ranger and ended up in the ditch a couple of miles down the road. I had to walk back." Chris shivered.
"The bath's ready Nate,” Vin said, coming out of the bathroom.
"Okay Chris, let’s get you into the tub and thawed out,” Nathan said.
Ezra went over to the bay window and looked out. The sky was quite dark for it being about five o-clock. Vin and JD joined him. Buck came out of the bathroom and saw the three boys standing in front of the bay window.
"Hey, get away from that window. There's a storm raging out there and something could come flying through that window at any time."
Ezra, Vin and JD left the window.
"I hope Josiah is okay,” JD said.
Buck took out his cell phone and dialed Josiah's cell. Josiah answered on the second ring. “Hey, um, Chris had an accident with the ranger."
"Is he okay?" Josiah asked.
Buck could hear the worry in his voice. “He had to walk back here to the house in the snow storm. Nathan and me got him into the bathroom and put him in a tub of hot water. Chris said he bumped his head but didn't lose consciousness. From what Nate and me could see, he's okay."
"Good. There's a snow storm advisory out. No one is to leave town, so I'm counting on you to handle things at home, Buck."
Nathan and Chris left the bathroom while Buck was talking to Josiah. Chris felt a lot better. "Is that Josiah?"
Buck turned toward Chris. “Yeah it is."
"Where are you, Josiah? I can hear Mr. Heckart in the back ground."
"I'm at the hotel. Jim and his wife are here. Jim's arguing with a police officer. The girls are home, alone."
"Shit,” Buck exclaimed. "What can we do?"
"Don't know. Jim is beside himself. If the electricity fails, they won't be able to cook anything or have any heat in the trailer."
"In this storm? You know it will. They've been flickering on and off here. We at least have gas stoves and a gas furnace here."
"What's wrong, Buck?" Chris asked.
Buck took a deep breath and told them all what Josiah told him.
"They're in a tin can,” Ezra stated.
Just then the lights flickered off and stayed off this time. Chris ran down stairs to his room and got dressed. Nathan followed him.
"Chris, you can't go get them. Your truck's in a ditch."
"He can take the ‘cuda,” Buck said and went to get the keys.
Nathan sighed. “I'm coming with you just in case you need someone to push you out in case you go off the road."
"Fine, but we have got to hurry. I don't want to be out in this any more than I have to."
Buck tossed Chris the keys. "Just take it easy. None of you are replaceable."
"Just bring them back here."
Chris and Nathan headed out to the ‘cuda. Buck walked back into the house. Ezra was on the phone with Josiah when Buck came in though the back door.
"Is Josiah still on the phone?" Ezra nodded. “Good." Buck took the phone from Ezra. “Josiah? Put Mr. Heckart on." Buck waited. “Mr. Heckart, Chris and Nathan went over to your place to get the girls. I'll call Josiah's cell when they get back. You're welcome,” Buck said and hung up. He then turned to the three boys in front of him. “We're going to the basement. Go and get your blankets and pillows and Nathan's and meet me in the basement. I'll have the lanterns and flashlights down there ready."
Ezra, Vin and JD did as Buck said. They gathered all the blankets and pillows they could. They hoped it was enough. They headed for the basement as Buck was coming up the stairs with a flashlight and told the boys to keep going. He was going to get some food so he could fix them something to eat when Chris and Nathan got back with the girls.
Forty-five minutes after Chris and Nathan left, they were pulling into the driveway. Hobo alerted Buck that they had returned and Buck went to greet them at the door. He held it open for them. Chris was carrying the youngest, Vickie. Violet was right behind them with her and Vickie's back packs. Buck could hear Nathan telling Abby to get inside, but she told him she could bring in their stuff.
"Buck, go help Nathan," Chris said as he passed Buck when he entered the doorway.
Buck ran out to help Nathan with the stuff the girls had brought with them. "Abby, go inside.
Abby turned toward Buck, I can help bring the stuff in."
"Just go inside with your backpack. Nathan and I can bring the rest. Now go."
"GO!" Both Buck and Nathan said yelled at the same time.
Abby did what she was told, reluctantly.
Chris held the door open for Abby, Buck and Nathan. He heard the slamming of the trunk and knew they had gotten everything. Chris told Abby to go downstairs when she came inside. Ezra greeted Abby when she came downstairs.
Buck and Nathan dropped the stuff onto the couch. Abby went to them and started sorting what belong to which sister. Buck phoned Josiah cell and handed it to Chris when Josiah answered.
"We made it back."
Chris glared at Abby. “Nothing I couldn't handle."
Abby kept on doing what she was doing. Violet and Vickie were sitting on the floor next to Abby. "Would it be okay if my sisters took a bath somewhere?" Abby asked without looking up at anyone.
"Sure, the bathroom is right through that door,” Buck said.
Abby looked to the door Buck pointed out. "Thank you. Come on Vi, Squirt." Abby lead the way to the bathroom with a small duffle bag. Vi and Vickie followed her without complaint or hesitation.
Buck shook his head and went to the kitchenette. He opened the fridge to see what they had in the line of food for everyone. There wasn't much. Abby came out of the bathroom and saw Buck looking in the fridge.
"What are ya looking for Buck?" Abby asked.
"I'm looking to see what I can whip up for everyone to eat,” Buck answered.
Chris hung up the phone with Josiah. "Josiah said we could use whatever we need to feed everyone from the pantry upstairs."
"Good, because we don't have shit in here except for some cold chicken,” Buck said and closed the refrigerator door. Abby walked over to where Buck was standing and started to look through the cupboards after she asked permission. She took out the biscuit mix and sat it on the counter. She then went to the fridge. Inside it, she took out the cold chicken, a half-gallon of milk that was going old. She then took out the eggs. She then looked in another cupboard and saw there was some roman noodles. “May I use the flavor packet in the roman noodles?"
Buck shrugged. “I guess."
"Thank you." She then went looking for a large pot. "Is this the biggest pot you have?"
"Yes, but I think Josiah has a couple that are bigger. Want me to go and look?" Buck asked.
Abby smiled up at him. “Please and thank you."
Buck came back with a large pot. “Will this work?"
"Yes. It's perfect." Abby took the pot and filled it three quarters full and sat it on the stove. She then tore open the flavor packets and poured their contents into the water then turned the stove on. She then start to tear the chicken into pieces.
Chris crossed his arms over his chest, and smiled. "You're making chicken and dumplings."
Abby smiled up at him. “Yes I am. Is that okay?"
"That's fine. It happens to be my favorite meal."
Vi and Vickie came out of the bathroom in their pajamas. "Did we hear you're making chicken and dumplings?" Vi asked.
"Yes, you did. Would you and Squirt take over breaking up the chicken so I can get the dumpling batter done?"
"Sure,” Vi said. She and Vickie started to shred the chicken. JD asked if he could help. Vi and Vickie let him and Vin help with the chicken.
It didn't take long and the chicken and dumplings were done. The pot was full to the rim. Nathan had gotten bowls from upstairs. Since there was only room for four at the card table, Buck went and got the TV trays from upstairs. Vi and Vickie shared one of the TV trays. That left three trays for three of the others to use. Abby took one of the trays as did Ezra. Vin took the remaining tray. Chris, Buck, Nathan and JD sat at the table.
"Mmm, this is good, Abby,” Nathan said.
"Thank you, but anyone can make it."
"Yeah, but that don't mean it ain't good,” Buck said.
"You should try one of her deserts,” Vi said, then took a bite of her chicken dumplings.
Vickie just nodded her head because she had her mouth full.
"Oh really?" Chris asked.
"Yeah. She can make really good brownies,” Violet answered.
"We have a brownie mix upstairs in the pantry. It's a generic brand,” Nathan hinted at.
"Okay. I'll have to go and check what other ingredients there are."
Abby took one of the flashlights and went upstairs. She came back down with a plastic grocery bag and sat it on the counter.
"Vi, you would fit right in here," Abby said, then sat back on the couch. "They have a lot of chocolate stuff in that pantry."
After everyone was done eating and the food was put away, Abby started to make a batch of brownies.
Buck sat at the table, watching Abby. "Why aren't you using vegetable oil like the box says to use?"
"Because real butter gives the batter a moist, richer flavor than the oil."
Buck then watched as Abby stirred in some chocolate chips and poured the batter into a butter greased pan and put it into the preheated oven. "What’s the chocolate syrup for?"
"When the brownies are almost ready to come out of the oven, I'll heat it up and pour it over the brownies while they're still warm. Then I'll sprinkle chocolate chips over that."
"You'll love ‘em when she's done. She calls them her death by chocolate brownies,” Violet said, grinning.
"I like ‘em with ice cream on top,” Vickie added.
"Now what do we do to pass the time?" Abby asked.
Vickie jumped up. “I know, I know!" She said excitedly and ran to her back pack and pulled out a yellow folder.
"Vickie? You were in my room,” Abby said and ran to Vickie. “It's not finished."
"So finish it,” Violet said.
"What is it?" Chris asked.
Ezra smiled. “A story."
"Abby likes making up stories,” Violet told everyone in the room.
"Is it like the one ya told on the bus?" Vin asked.
"No. This one's a murder mystery. That was a Halloween story."
"Do you have the one you handed in for the creative writing assignment that you were excused from writing and wrote one anyway?" Ezra asked.
Abby smiled. “Yes, I have it."
"You did school work that you didn't have to? Why?" Buck asked.
Abby sighed. “I like telling stories. I like writing my stories. It's that simple."
"She achieved the impossible, an A+. Mr. Moore said, and I quote, 'The bar has been lifted, ladies and Gentlemen.' She blew some of our class mates out of the water, so to speak."
"When I started to write it, I couldn't stop. It was only supposed to be two or three pages. I turned in fifteen."
"And her fifteen pages was the condensed version." Ezra smiled up at Abby.
The other five stared at her which made her nervous.
"Let's hear it. I like a good story,” Chris said.
Abby went and got her back pack and the story she wrote for class. "Now, this is my first attempt at writing."
"Abigail, they will like it. Maybe even love it,” Ezra encouraged.
Abby sighed and read the story. To her surprise, not Ezra's, the others did like it. Nathan took the brownies out when the egg timer went off. Abby quickly warmed the chocolate syrup and finished the brownies. Abby then sat down and started to make up more stories to entertain them. The guys, Violet and Vickie ate brownies while Abby told stories. Soon, it was way past everyone’s bed time. The girls slept in Chris's room. Buck gave up his room to Ezra because they didn't want him sleeping on the floor or on the couch even though Ezra said he could sleep on the couch.
A few short hours later, Chris, Buck and Nathan were getting ready to go and take care of the horses. Vin and JD woke up and wanted to help but Chris said the snow was at least three feet deep, and the only reason he, Buck and Nathan were going out was because they needed to see to the horses. During this time, the girls woke up. Violet and Vickie wanted to see the horses. Little Vickie smiled up at Buck and said please. Chris hung his head because he knew without even looking over at Buck, Buck caved. Everyone, except for Ezra and Abby, left to go take care of the horses.
"Vickie has Buck wrapped around her little finger." Abby smiled.
"That she does,” Ezra laughed. Then he got serious. “Abigail? Why do you not believe in yourself? You have a great talent for writing and storytelling."
Abby sighed. She didn't want Ezra or any of the others to see her differently than they do now. But she knew they would find out someday. "I'm stupid."
"No you are not." Ezra glared. It angered him to think the Abby thought herself to be stupid.
"Okay then. The technical term that was given is mildly retarded. At least that's what one of the many schools I attended told my mom and step-dad."
Ezra didn't know what to say. Abby was not retarded, mildly or otherwise. "They're idiots."
Abby laughed at Ezra's dumbfounded expression. "That's what my step-dad said, but he added a few more words that I am not allowed to say. The head of the school board took offence and put me in special classes anyway."
Ezra couldn't believe what he was hearing. "If you are retarded, then how is it you can tell a story with such detail that you draw people into it and make us feel like were a part of the story."
Abby sat down beside him on the couch. “It's like this, Ez. When I'm telling a story, I say what I see in my head. It's like watching a movie and I describe it," Abby shrugged. "I have a lot of movies in my head."
"You have visions?"
Abby thought about what Ezra said for a moment. “Yeah, I guess I do."
"What's so funny?"
"A thought just occurred to me, if I became a police officer, you a writer, we could be like Castle and Beckett"
Abby laughed at the thought.
The others came in to the house, hearing the laughter from the basement. Buck was carrying Vickie. Buck sat Vickie on her feet, she and Violet ran down the steps into the basement.
"What are the two of you laughing about?" Chris asked.
"Castle,” Abby answered.
"How is that funny?" Nathan asked not understanding the humor.
"If, by chance, Abby and I obtain the careers we have chosen for ourselves, I would become a male Beckett and she a female Castle."
Buck was the first to burst out laughing, then Violet and Vickie.
Chris's cell phone rang. He answered it on the second ring. “Make it fast."
"It's me Josiah. How are things there?"
Chris looked over at everyone. “Does this answer your question?" Chris said then held the phone away from his ear so Josiah could hear the laughter.
"Yes it does,” Josiah said when Chris came back on. "Jim was worried about his girls. I'll tell him they're fine."
"Do you know when you would be able to come home?"
"Hopefully sometime today. It depends on the snowplows. Just be prepared for another night without me there."
Chris nodded. “Okay. Buck and I have everything under control here. I got to go, my battery is about to go dead."
"Okay. I'll try to get home today."
"Don't rush it. The roads are pretty slick out there."
Chris hung up after saying good bye. A thought occurred to Chris as he thought about what Ezra said about him becoming a male Beckett. "Beckett's a Detective,” Chris stated, glaring at Ezra.
"Yes she is,” Ezra said.
"That's right, you don't know,” Buck said.
"Don't know what?" Chris demanded.
Ezra stood up to face Chris. “That I have decided to become a Police Officer."
"You all knew this?" They all indicated they did. “And Josiah?"
Ezra smiled. “He feels I would make a great Police Officer."
"Yeah you would, that's not the problem. A cop's life expectancy is not a long one."
"I know this, Chris. If I choose to join the police force, then that's my decision. I would hope you would stand behind me in whatever career decision I make."
"Of course I'd stand behind you. I just don't want you to do something without thinking about the consequences."
"You have nothing to worry about. I'll weight all the facts and what I feel is right for me before I make my final decision."
Chris nodded. “See that you do."
"Who wants French toast?" Nathan asked as he got the makings for it out.
"Oh, we do,” Vickie said and went to a duffle bag and pulled out two loaves of cinnamon raisin bread and handed them to Abby.
Abby walked over to the counter. “May I?"
Nathan backed out of the kitchenette with a bow and a smile.
Abby had the French toast made and sat it on the counter for everyone to have some.
"Where did you learn to cook like this?" Buck asked around a bite of toast.
"My mother and grandmother."
"This is good,” JD said. He and Vin were enjoying the food.
"It beats Chris's,” Vin said.
"Hey, at least you’re not starving."
The morning went by quickly. The lights came back on around three o-clock. Josiah came home about four-thirty. Jim and his wife followed him and pulled up behind Buck's ‘cuda. They could hear laughter and screaming coming from the back yard. They entered the yard to witness a snowball fight in action.
"Hey! That ain't part of the story!" Vi shouted.
"I improvised!" Ezra shouted back.
Jim leaned over to Josiah. “To think we were worried how they were going to get on being snowed in."
Abby threw a snowball at Chris. Chris ducked and the ball hit Jim square in the chest.
Jim looked down at his chest, then back at his daughter and smiled. He then bent down and formed a ball and gave it a throw, then ran into the back yard as did Josiah. Connie, Jim's wife stood back and laughed at the sight.
Chapter Nine: Giving Thanks
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