Mother’s day weekend was this weekend, the one weekend of the year team seven doesn’t look forward to. The two youngest seemed to take it the hardest. This year, Ezra didn’t have to go undercover, so he would be at the ranch with the others. Since Maude will be overseas this year, Ezra said he had already sent her a mother’s day card and gift. Chris said he could take off a day or two early to be with her, but Ezra just raised an eyebrow at him and then went back to work. Josiah had plans to visit his moms grave, but said he would be back some time Saturday. Nathan contacted one of his cousins and asked her to buy his moms favorite flowers and put them on her grave, since he wouldn’t be there to do it. Vin had bought Nettie some flowers for mother’s day as did JD.
Chris looked out over his men, his eyes finally stopped on his communications officer, Buck Wilmington. Chris knew how hard Mother’s day was for him. Every year, Buck would come out to the ranch and spend the holiday with Chris, Sarah and Adam. He then would go home after the afternoon meal and get out the photo albums of his mom and tie one on and not show up for work until, at the very least, Tuesday or Wednesday. It pissed off their Lieutenant, when they were in homicide. Now that Chris was in charge, he knew to give Buck the week after Mother’s day off. As close as Chris and the others were to their moms, none of them could come close to Buck and his mom. Chris could already see the holiday was affecting his oldest friend. With a shake of his head, Chris left his office, “Let’s get the hell out of here, boys.”
Ezra looked up at Chris and then down at his watch, “It isn’t even lunch time yet.”
Chris shrugged his shoulders, “Okay, if you all want to work instead of having an early weekend, fine by me.” Chris said as he turned and started to go back into his office.
The next thing Ezra knew was things being thrown at him from the other five in the bull pen, “I was just merely pointing out the hour of which Mr. Larabee mentioned we could leave.” Ezra said as he picked up the wads of paper that now lettered his desk and person and threw them into the waste basket beside his desk.
Chris chuckled when he seen all the wads of paper land on Standish. He then waited for one of his men to come into his office.
Vin got up and went into Chris’s office, “Hey, Chris, pay no mind to what Ezra said. We all would like to go home early."
Chris had already shut down his computer and was pulling his coat on when Vin came in, “Figured as much when I seen Ezra was decorated with wads of paper.”
Vin was the last to shut his computer down. The others waited for him, then they all went down in the elevator together. They talked about what they were going to do. All except Buck. Chris watched him from the corner of his eye, and sighed, “Hey, Buck, why don’t you come out to the ranch tonight? We could have a few beers, maybe go riding.”
Buck watched the numbers light up as the elevator was going down to the parking garage, “I’ll think about it.”
Just then the elevator doors opened and they all stepped out.
Chris walked over to his truck and was unlocking the door when Josiah came to stand next to him, “Buck will be fine, Chris. You know him better then any of us, and the longest of any of us. You how he gets and he’ll pull out of it. He always does.”
Chris nodded his head and looked over as Buck got into his truck and drove out of the garage, “I know. But I also know something you all don’t.” With that said, Chris got into his truck and drove out of the garage behind Vin’s jeep.
+ + + + + + +
After cashing his check, Buck decided to have lunch at the small mom and pop deli style restaurant he had found one night when Chris first asked him to come to Denver and join his team. Buck loved the place. It was one of his little secrets that he kept for himself. He would come here when he wanted to be alone. When he entered the place, it was packed. So packed, there were people waiting to be seated. Buck sighed and started to turn around to leave when he heard his name called.
His face lit up when he saw the owner coming his way, “Loretta.”
The woman was not a small woman, she was about six to eight inches shorter than Buck and at least two hundred, fifty to three hundred pounds. And when she spoke, people listened. Even her husband, Harvey, who by the way was half her size and maybe an inch or two shorter than Buck, did not argue with the woman. You could tell the woman had native American in her.
“Bucklin Wilmington, where the hell have you been?” the woman said as she came to stand in front of him with her hands on her hips, “Let me take a look at you,” Loretta said as she looked over Buck from head to toe, “Look at you, you're wasting away. Come, I have a booth with your name on it,” Loretta said as she took Buck by the arm and started to lead him to the back. A few of the other customers started to protest, but one look from Loretta told them to shut up or leave.
In the back of the restaurant, next to the kitchen was a booth with one person sitting in it reading a book, “Annie?”
The woman looked up when her name was spoken, “Yes?”
“This here is Buck Wilmington, may he join you?” Loretta asked.
Annie shrugged her shoulders, “Sure why not. It beats eating alone.”
Buck shook his head and he took a seat across from Annie. He watched as Annie marked her place and set the book aside. “Sorry about this, I didn’t know Loretta was going…”
Annie held up her hand to stop Buck, “It’s okay, she does it all the time to me. She thinks I need a man in my life.”
Buck laughed, “She’s always the match maker. She does it to me too whenever I come in.”
Annie nodded, “So, do you know what you're going to order?”
Buck smiled, “Who orders?”
Annie laughed, “I’ll give you that one.”
A small petite blond came and placed a glass of water in front of Buck and asked him what he wanted to drink. He told her one of Loretta’s special cherry colas would be fine. The blond then turned toward Annie and told her, her meal would be out shortly when she brought Buck’s out.
“That’s fine, thank you, Brenda,” Annie said to Brenda’s retreating back.
“How much do you want to bet, that was Loretta’s doing?”
“Oh, no thank you, that’s a sucker bet.” The two of them laughed.
“So tell me, Annie, where is it that you work?” Buck asked as he sat back into the bench seat.
Annie smiled, “The same place you do. The Federal Building.”
This got Buck’s attention, “Really? I think I would have noticed you.”
Annie laughed at the look on Buck’s face, “I work the night shift.”
This had Buck thinking. The only people who worked the night shift were the janitorial and maintenance personal. No way she was either of those, “Darling, the only people that work the night shift are the janitorial and maintenance personal. You can’t possibly be one of them?”
Annie sat back in her seat, crossed her arms and stared at Buck, “And why not?”
Buck closed his eyes and hung his head. He knew he offended her, as soon as the words left his lips, “I’m sorry,” Buck said then looked up at the woman, “It’s just that I am having a hard time picturing you in either of those jobs. You don’t look the type.” Annie cocked her head to the side, “What I mean is, you’re way too pretty.”
Annie sighed as she leaned on the table, “Beauty has nothing to do with it. Ten years ago when I came her with my two sons on a vacation, my car broke down. I didn’t have the money to fix it and return home. Hell,” Annie said and then raised her hands in the air, “What money I did have didn’t even cover the full repair job. So here I am with two boys, no money, no place to live, and no job.”
Buck sucked in his breath and cringed, “Oh, sorry.”
Annie smiled, “Don’t be. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
It didn’t sound that way to Buck, “How’s that?”
Just then their food came. Both Buck and Annie thanked Brenda.
Annie looked up at Buck, “How’s that you asked?” Annie asked, Buck nodded, “Well, after I paid what I could, my sons and I came in here. I had enough money to get the boys a cola to split between them. There was a newspaper in the very booth, that we were seated at, so I took it and started to go through the want adds. I had to find some kind of work to make some money so we could get home. I was smart enough to rent a hotel on line before I came out here, but then after a week, we wouldn’t have that.”
Buck listened to Annie, mesmerized by her voice. He nodded every so often.
“My youngest, Neal, was hungry.” Annie closed her eyes at the thought, “He didn’t say a word, but his stomach did. Loretta heard it when she happened to be coming out of the kitchen at that time, and asked if we wanted any thing. Well I told her I couldn’t afford it. Do you know what she said?”
Buck had an idea, he smiled, “She said, I didn’t ask if you could afford it, I asked if you wanted anything?”
Annie smiled, “Exactly. So we had a nice meal and the boys were happy. That’s all that mattered to me. I had a week to find a place to live and a good job. Well, guess what, Loretta came through again. She told me to go and apply at a temp place that helps people find jobs, so I did. She watched the boys while I went on my job interviews. She let us stay in the apartment above the restaurant till I could get on my feet. I even helped in the kitchen from time to time. Then one day I landed a job with a janitorial company. I was at first working at the collage, then the professional building over at the hospital, and for the last five years, I have been working at the Federal Building.”
Buck swallowed the bite of food in his mouth, then took a sip of his cola, “Are you still living above the restaurant?”
Annie shook her head no as she chew the bite of food in her mouth. “No, I got my own place west of town. It’s not much, but it’s mine.”
Buck nodded his head, “That’s good.”
When they were almost done with their meals, Brenda came over and sat down next to Annie, “So, you still planning on making breakfast Sunday morning?”
Annie smiled at the girl, “Yes. I have done it every year since I moved here. I don’t see why I would stop now?”
“Well, I thought since Neal and Seth won’t be here,” The girl shrugged her shoulders.
Annie patted the girl’s shoulders and smiled, “Don’t worry Brenda, you will have you chocolate, chocolate chip pancakes.”
Brenda’s eyes lit up, “And scrambled eggs with cinnamon?” Annie nodded her head, “I can’t wait. Would you mind if I brought my boy friend?”
“That you’ll have to ask Loretta about.”
Brenda nodded her head and gave Annie a hug and then left.”
Buck watched Brenda leave then turned toward Annie, “I thought Loretta wasn’t open on Sunday’s?”
“Normally she isn’t, but on Mother’s day, from eight to ten in the morning she is. And then only to employees and a few of her regular customers. I’m sure she would love to have you.”
“Me and the rest of team seven spend Mother’s day breakfast at Chris’s ranch.” Buck said as he pushed his empty plate to the side.
Annie cocked her head to the side, “Bring them with you.”
Buck looked Annie in the eyes, “You really don’t want to feed the seven of us.”
“Oh yes she does. I have been wanting to meet that team of yours,” Loretta said when she came out of the kitchen, “So you bring them, and I won’t take no for an answer.” Loretta said when she saw Buck was about to say something. “Annie here makes the best chocolate, chocolate chip pancakes I ever ate. Be here.”
Buck held up his hands in surrender, “Okay, we’ll be here.”
Loretta nodded her head, then looked to Annie, “Do you have anything else to do today?” Annie shook her head, “Good. Buck you’re taking her home.”
Annie’s eyes got as big as saucers, “Loretta. I am very capable of taking myself home.”
“I didn’t say you wasn’t, but Buck’s here and you need a ride home. Enough said.” Loretta said as a matter of fact and walked off.
Annie looked to Buck, “You really don’t have to take me home. I can walk it. I do it every day and night.”
Buck stared at Annie. He knew how many miles it was to the west side of town, “I thought you said you had a car?”
Annie shrugged, “I did, but it died a couple of years ago.”
“So, you’ve been walking to work for a couple of years now?” Buck was shocked to hear any one did that let alone a pretty woman like Annie.”
Annie giggled, “Don’t look so surprised. People walk all the time. Besides, it’s only a few miles and I do take the public transit in the winter or when ever the weather is bad. I’m not that stupid.”
Buck reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet and dropped a couple of one dollar bills onto the table as did Annie, “I’m taking you home.”
Annie sighed, “Buck, please, you don’t have to. I know your reputation…”
Buck looked Annie in the face, “Stop. All I’m going to do is give you a ride home.”
Annie wanted the ride home, but she didn’t want Buck to think little of her. Her house, even though it was completely paid for, wasn’t that big. Most people commented on how claustrophobic it was. She didn’t care. It was hers and no one could take it away from her. Annie sighed, “Just keep in mind, my place isn’t much and it’s a bit on the small side.”
Buck smiled, “Lead the way, Darling.”
When they went to pay for their meals, they were told it was free. Annie said she would see them Sunday morning, then Buck led her to his truck.
Buck pulled his truck up beside the small white house with its dark blue trim and shutters. There was a white picket fence around the back yard. When Buck got out of the truck, a black and tan dachshund met him at the fence. The little dog followed him as he went around the front of the truck, barking all the way.
Annie had opened the door by the time Buck reached it, “That’s Lady.”
Buck looked over his shoulder at the still barking dog, “Cute. Do you leave her out at night?”
“No,” Annie answered as she got out of the truck and shut the door, “There’s a doggie door in the back door so she can go in and out when I’m not here. The fenced in yard lets her run around when she needs to.”
Buck nodded his head as he walked Annie to her door, “That’s good. Is she a pure bred?”
“Yes she is,” Annie answered, “Her full name is Annie’s Lady Liberty. She was born 9-11-01.”
Buck smiled at the name and thought how appropriate the name was, “Well, I’ll see you Sunday morning.”
Annie turned toward Buck, “Buck?”
“Yes?” Buck said as he took a step off the porch and turned toward her.
“Are you really busy tomorrow evening, say about six or seven?” Annie asked, hesitantly.
Buck smiled up at her, “No, not really, why?”
Annie took a step closer to him, “I was wondering if I could get you to take me on some errands?”
Buck nodded, “Sure thing.”
Annie kissed Buck’s left cheek, “Thank you.”
Buck left Annie’s a little bit happier than he was earlier that morning. He decided to go out to Chris’s ranch and stay there the weekend.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was out in the corral, exercising one of the horses when Buck drove up.
Buck walked up to the corral, whistling.
“Your in good spirits,” Chris commented as he exercised the horse, “Does it have anything to do with a woman?”
Buck laughed, “You know me too well, Chris.”
Chris shook his head. He didn’t care what the reason was, as long as his friend was his jolly self again, “There’s steaks in the freezer that need to be taken out and thawed. Think you can handle that?”
Buck nodded his head, “Yep, how many?”
Chris stopped exercising the horse and looked over at Buck, “Since everyone’s going to be here, you do the math.”
Buck smiled as he walked backwards toward the house, “Great, I have something I want to tell everyone any way.” Buck said then turned and jogged the rest of the way to the house.
+ + + + + + +
A couple of hours later, Team Seven was at the ranch. The steaks were thawed and ready for the grill. When everyone had their drinks and were settling in either on the lawn chairs or at the picnic table, Buck cleared his throat to get their attention, “I’m just going to come out and tell you, Sunday morning, you are all invited to join me at Loretta’s Eastside Café and Deli from 8 to 10 am.”
Ezra choked on his drink. Josiah slapped his back, “Come again?” Ezra asked after the coughing stopped.
“You heard me, Ez.” Buck grinned.
“Surely you jest?” Ezra said, “Why would we want to get up at such an ungodly hour?”
Buck sighed, “Because it’s Mother’s day and I would like you to join me for a Mother’s day breakfast at my favorite place to eat.”
“We would be happy to, Buck.” Chris said, glaring at Ezra.
Ezra sighed. For Buck, he would do this, since Buck has very seldom asked anything of either of them, “In that case, Mr. Wilmington, I would most assuredly be there.”
“Yeah, count me in too,” both Vin and JD said.
Nathan nodded, “Rain has a late shift Saturday at the hospital and won’t get home much before eight any way, so, yeah, I’m there.”
Josiah smiled, “I’ll be back sometime Saturday night, so, yeah, a good home cooked meal would taste pretty good in the morning.”
“Thanks guys. I’ll have more details tomorrow night.”
That night, when everyone was either heading home or bedding down at Chris’s, Buck lay back in his bed and smiled. He was actually looking forward to Mother’s day.
+ + + + + + +
At six pm exactly, Buck knocked on Annie’s door.
Annie answered the door, “Hi Buck, come on in. I’m almost ready. Just got to pack a few more bags and milk jugs.”
Buck entered the small house. Lady was at the door, barking with her tail wagging a mile a minute, “Are you sure?”
Annie laughed, “Lady’s bark is much worse than her bite.”
Buck squatted down to pet the dog, “All bark and no bite, huh?”
Lady licked at Buck’s face before she ran off toward the kitchen. Buck stood up and looked around the living room. On one wall was a group of photographs.
As he went over to get a better look, Annie came out of the kitchen, “Those are pictures of my family.”
Buck pointed to a picture of a man and a woman, “Your mom and dad?”
Annie smiled, “How did you guess?”
“You look just like your mom,” Buck stated. He then noticed the same woman with another man, “Who is that?”
“That’s my mom and step-dad.”
Buck looked the rest of the pictures over, “You have four brothers and sisters.”
“Well, I have one brother and three sisters, and I’m the oldest.”
Buck nodded, then he saw a couple of black and white photographs, “Those are my grandparents.” Annie said when she saw Buck look at them.
“You have a nice looking family,” Buck commented.
“I think so,” Annie said with pride. “I have dozens of cousins. My cousin Peanut owns a camp ground, so whenever we have our family reunions, we have them there and it lasts for a week.”
Buck then noticed other pictures and pointed them out to Annie, “Who are these two boys?”
“They are my sons, Seth and Neal.”
Buck had a confused look on his face when he turned to face Annie, “How old are they?”
Annie laughed at Buck’s confused face, “They’ll be 21 and 19 this year. Buck, I’m 40 years old.”
Buck looked Annie over from head to foot, “You don’t look it.”
“Thank you,” Annie said.
Buck turned back the photographs on the wall, “Do you ever miss them?”
Annie sighed, “Yes. But my home is here in Denver. This is where I fell in love.”
Buck looked over at Annie, “Fell in love?”
“Annie smiled, “Yes. I fell in love with the people, the mountains, and everything Colorado. When I told you I came here on vacation, well, as far as I am concerned, I am still on vacation. I have the best vacation ever, everyday of my life. When my car broke down ten years ago and I was stranded here, I had no idea how I was going to make it. But I have and I’m a better person for it. My dad use to tell me, I had the same free spiritedness as she had.”
Buck listened with envy for the family Annie had, “If I had a family like yours, I don’t think I could leave them like you did.”
Annie looked at her family, “It’s because of them, Buck, that I can live my life. I will always have a roof over my head, and their support in what ever I choose to do. My mother lives inside of me and it’s because of her, I am who I am. She gave me the love and support that I needed to believe in my self.”
“I take it, your mother died?” Buck asked, looking at the photographs.
“She died when I was twelve.” Annie said.
Buck sighed at the photographs, ‘She has the family I wish I had.’ Buck thought to him self.
Annie smiled and turned toward the door, “We had better get going.”
Buck turned and followed Annie out the door, “Where are we going”
“To the Becker farm,” Annie answered as she locked the door behind them.
“The Becker farm? What for?” Buck asked, as he waited for Annie.
“That’s where I get all my ingredients for my Mother’s day breakfast buffet,” Annie answered as she went around the front of Buck’s truck.
Buck opened the door for her, “You’ll have to tell me where to go.”
Annie climbed into the truck, “No problem.”
The Becker farm was huge. Annie bought enough gallons of milk, loafs of bread, dozens of eggs, bacon, ham and sausage to feed an army. When they were done there, they went to the farmers market where Annie bought strawberries, bananas, and melons. They then went to a small shop that Buck did not even know existed. There, Annie bought syrups, honey and spices, along with chocolate chips.
Once they were on their way back to Annie’s, Buck asked her, “How are you getting all this food to the café tomorrow morning?”
“Loretta’s husband, Harvey, said he would be here at five thirty in the morning to pick me up.”
“How about I pick you up?” Buck asked, hopefully.
Annie smiled over at Buck as she took out her cell phone and started to dial a number, “Hey, Harvey. You don’t have to get up in the morning to pick me up, I’ve got a ride.”
+ + + + + + +
On Mother’s day by five o-clock, Buck was up and had a shower and was dressed. When he entered the living room, Chris was waiting for him. “Up kind of early aren’t you?”
“I’m picking up Annie. She’s the one doing all the cooking. She told me last night the reason she does this every year, is so she can share her mother’s love of cooking with others. She uses her mother’s recipes. Some of them were handed down from her grandmother and great grandmother.”
Chris nodded his head, “Sounds like a good way to remember her mother by.”
“Yeah it is. I told her I would like to help out if I could,” Buck shrugged his shoulders.
Chris swallowed the last of his coffee, “Think she would like a little more help?”
“I’m sure of it,” Buck answered. He was pleased to have Chris come along.
“I’ll just leave a note for the others and then I’ll be right with you,” Chris said as he got up to put his coffee cup in the sink. Chris left the note and then followed Buck out to his truck.
+ + + + + + +
Buck and Chris picked Annie up at her place. Buck introduced them then they were off to the café.
Annie unlocked the café, and then turned off the alarm as she turned on the lights. She gave instructions to Buck and Chris on what she wanted them to do. At seven thirty, Loretta came in to set the tables for the guests and to help with any last minute details that needed done. Buck introduced Chris to her.
Chris watched as Buck and Loretta interacted together. He was happy Buck had the woman in his life. It was as if Loretta was his surrogate mother.
It was a little past eight when the others came in. Introductions were made. The buffet table was loaded with fresh fruit, and every breakfast food imaginable. Before anyone was allowed to eat, Loretta said prayer then told everyone if they go home hungry, it was their own fault. The next two hours seemed to fly by and before they knew it, it was time to close up the café. Loretta told the rest of Team Seven not to be strangers. The boys stayed to help with clean up. Even Ezra, who had to admit, it was well worth getting up at an ungodly hour to come and have breakfast with his friends.
+ + + + + + +
The next morning, Buck was at his desk working, even though Chris had said he could take it off.
Chris sat in his office and listened to his men talk about the day before and the wonderful breakfast they had.
Buck sat back in his chair with a happiness he hadn’t felt in a long time after Mother’s day. He thought about what Annie had said about her mother. Buck smiled and nodded to himself, his mother lived inside him as well, and like Annie, it is because of her, he was who he was.