7B Ranch Alternate Universe
This was originally an M7 challenge drabble that got out of hand.
Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009
So far, so good, thought Ezra as he carefully lifted the tape without damaging the wrapping paper. He was an expert at this, never leaving any evidence that he’d tampered with his presents. Of course, he knew it wasn’t nice to look before Christmas, but he just couldn’t stand the anticipation. It wasn’t his fault that he had no resistance to temptation. He’d been born that way.
Smiling, he eased back the paper -- and was stunned by what he found. Beneath the cheery red and green holiday print was another layer of paper, this one secured with an outrageous amount of packaging tape.
“No peeking ‘til Christmas, Ezra.” The voice startled him, making him drop the present like a hot potato. His senses must be failing; he hadn’t heard anyone come inside.
“Moi? Peek?” He looked behind him to find both Chris and Josiah in the doorway with their arms folded across their chests; both wearing smirks on their faces.
“I was simply strolling through the room . . . “
“Strolling through my bedroom?” Josiah asked, lifting his eyebrows.
“Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I was . . . looking for . . . something.”
“Looking for something? Like what?”
“Um, well, if you must know, I was looking for a . . . book.”
“A book?” Chris questioned, not bothering to hide his doubt.
“Yes, and as I was searching for the book, I happened upon this disheveled appearing . . . item, and was simply trying to ascertain its . . ..”
Before he could complete the sentence, a familiar curly head poked out from between Chris and Josiah’s tall frames. “Hey Ez, whatchya doin’ in here?” Ezra smiled at Vin; he was never more thankful to have nosey little brothers, than he was at that moment.
“He’s trying to peek at his Christmas presents,” Chris said, mostly for Ezra’s benefit.
Ezra folded his arms across his chest and lifted his chin. ”I take umbrage at that accusation.”
Josiah snorted. “You know what they say . . . if the accusation fits.”
“Ezra?” Chris waited for the boy to meet his eyes, “Put it back where you found it and get downstairs for lunch,” he instructed firmly. As soon as he nodded, the two older boys left the room and headed for the kitchen.
Vin watched until the coast was clear, then he hurried over to kneel beside his brother and friend. “They’re goin’ out to the north pasture after lunch,” he whispered conspiratorially. “Only Nate and JD will be here, and Nate’s studying for midterms. If ya want, I can help ya get into ‘em then.”
Ezra narrowed his eyes at his normally honest and trustworthy younger brother. “You are offering to help me peek?”
Vin nodded solemnly. “Believe me, I know how hard the waitin’ and wonderin’ can be. It’s down right impossible to last all the way ‘til Christmas,” he admitted, then his face brightened. “Besides, I reckon I ain’t hurtin’ no one but myself, right?”
“Right.” That’s exactly the way Ezra saw it, although he was more than a little surprised to find Vin felt the same way. “The problem is that my presents are double wrapped, and whomever did the wrapping used practically an entire roll of packaging tape.”
“Yep, that’s the way mine were, last year.”
Ezra shook his head in amazement. Apparently he hadn’t been paying attention when Vin opened his presents last year. Sometimes he wondered if he really knew his brothers at all. “How ever did you get them open? More importantly, how did you manage to get them resealed properly?”
Vin smiled, his eyes sparkling with mischief. “Well, now, bro . . . that information’s gonna cost ya.”
Ezra nearly choked. “Cost me? You can’t be serious!”
The curly haired imp nodded, yes, he was serious.
“How much?” Not that he planned on paying one, single dime.
”Hmm . . ..” Vin’s mouth twisted, and he looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling for a moment before saying, “Ten bucks.”
“Ten bucks? That’s . . . that’s highway robbery! How am I supposed to afford to buy Christmas presents?”
Vin shrugged, looking bored. “I got things to buy, too. I want to get Chris somethin’ real good this year.”
Ezra was stunned. When had his sweet little brother become an extortionist? He smiled proudly and patted the boy’s shoulder. “Five bucks and not a penny more.”
“Seven dollars and fifty cents,” Vin countered. “Take it or leave it.”
“You are an evil child,” he said, with admiration.
Vin simply grinned. “Deal?”
Ezra let out a long sigh, before nodding. “Only if you’re able to succeed without leaving a single trace of evidence behind.”
“Trust me, Ez,” Vin said assuredly. “I’m an expert at this.”
“All right then,” he offered his hand and the two boys shook on it. “Deal.”
* ~ *
Down in the kitchen Josiah poured himself a cup of coffee, as Chris started lunch. “What do you think they’re doing up there?”
Josiah chuckled. ”Yeah, that’s what I figured.”
“They’re gonna wait until we go out to fix the fence and then try again.”
“Wish I could be here to see their faces.”
“Yeah, me too.” Chris smiled. At times like this, living on a ranch had its own unique advantages, although he was pretty sure that when his little brothers finally got into those packages, they wouldn’t quite see it that way.