"RNLI" Alternate Universe
That first training session together went well, but then it wasn't very taxing. Chris showed the new men over the boat. They were fitted out with their protective clothing and safety equipment. They were issued with pagers, although as Buck assured a rather worried looking JD they wouldn't be getting any calls for a while yet. The final training task was to clean the boat. Ezra's body language made it abundantly clear what he thought of this but he said nothing. When it was over Ezra made to leave immediately.
"Standish, where are you going?" Chris asked.
"Home, I thought we were finished Mister Larabee," the former banker explained.
"Wrong answer, we, all of us, are going to Buck's place," Chris explained.
If Ezra though about arguing he thought better of it and turned to follow Chris up the hill. Chris was still very unsure about Ezra. True it was their first session, true he had learnt fast, and had not complained once, but he retained an air of aloofness that worried the coxswain. A crew had to be a team, they had to trust each other implicitly, they had to trust the man at the helm and do as he commanded instantly without question. Chris wasn't at all sure Ezra had that kind of trust in him. Since it was not yet four o'clock on an out-of-season Monday, the pub was shut. Buck quickly produced mugs of tea, coffee and cocoa as well as biscuits and rounds of toast. They settled themselves around the largest table close to the log fire Inez had built up before closing up. Before their host returned with the toast Nathan turned to JD.
"JD, you're not really going to live here are you?" he asked, a look approaching pity on his face.
"Well yeah, why not? It's cheap and it's convenient; why wouldn't I?" the youth asked.
"Boy, you have no idea the things that go on in that flat," Chris explained.
"And what is more my son, you are too young to find out," Josiah warned solemnly.
Dunne scowled at the older men, then looked for support from Vin and Ezra.
Vin was slouching in his chair nursing a mug of very sweet cocoa. "Don't look at me I've got no idea what they're talking about," he said.
"It is true that even I have heard some wild stories about Mister Wilmington's abode," Ezra admitted.
"Quite how the charming Miss Recillos puts up with it is a mystery known only to God," Sanchez said with a shake of his head.
"Are you really a priest?" JD asked. Josiah didn't act or talk like any priest of any denomination JD had ever met.
"Most certainly," Sanchez assured.
"What goes on?" JD, like most seventeen-year-olds, dispensed with subtlety and went straight to the heart of the matter.
"Yeah what? Is our second coxswain a Satanist? A closet knitter? Oh, I've got it - he's a train spotter!" Vin inquired while trying not to laugh in case he spilt the hot drink resting on his chest.
"Who's a train spotter?" Buck asked coming back in.
"According to Vin you are," Chris explained.
Buck put down the plate of toast and glared at Vin, then the glare became a smile. He reached out a hand and ruffled Vin's hair before the smaller man could avoid it and duck out of the way.
"Well he is Welsh, bound to be a bit soft in the head I 'spose. Keep taking the tablets thats my advice boy-oh."
"Watch it!" Vin warned. "Or I'll "
"Do nothing," Buck moved away before Vin could kick his shins. "Or you won't be eating my biscuits or drinking my hot chocolate."
Much as JD was enjoying the interplay between the two men, he was still intent on finding out what when on in Buck's flat that was so bad.
"They think I shouldn't stay here 'cause what ever goes on in your flat is going to corrupt me," he explained. "So what does do on?"
Buck stood and regarded his so-called crewmates before he turned to JD.
"Well kid, I'm a single man, what do you think?"
JD smiled. "Is that all? I kinder figured that went on. Is that what all this is about?" he stood and turned to the others. "God guys - I'm not ten!"
The other five regarded Buck and JD standing beside each other. It was hard to believe the two of them had not been friends forever, certainly it seemed incomprehensible that they had been strangers less than five hours ago. Some of Chris' apprehensions about JD's youth had dissipated in the afternoon when it became clear the young man really did know his way around a boat, and would need only minimal time to familiarise himself with the various bits of electrical equipment she carried. More of his concerns were eased when he saw how Buck had taken the boy under his wing. Now it seemed in his own way JD was going to look after Buck. The two of them would make a formidable team he decided.
They sat around and talked about anything and everything, Mac came down and claimed the hearthrug as his own. Ezra remained quiet despite volunteering his snippet of information about Buck's nocturnal habits. But when the conversation came around to sport he became more engaged, even promising to join the cricket club in the summer. Time passed and the pub reopened. Eventually Buck had to give up his seat and go back behind the bar, Josiah had to go and get ready for the evening Mass, Chris had to return to the farm and Nathan felt compelled to return to his wife. That left the three youngest. Vin, while keen to spend some time checking the boat and especially the engines, was wisely putting this off until the morning when he would be fresh and have daylight on his side. In the meantime the pub was a whole lot warmer and more convivial than the boat. Since JD now lived in the pub there was no reason for him to give up his seat by the fire.
Ezra though about leaving. He had convinced himself that he was only there because Mister Larabee had insisted. He was playing a part, team player, it was a mask he could put on like any other, he had his dedicated employee mask, his dutiful son mask, his loyal school friend mask and his serious student mask, not to mention the unobtrusive step-son mask. They were all interchangeable and all hid the real Ezra. The trouble was he didn't want to leave. He disliked social gatherings because the masks were harder to maintain and you had to keep remembering which one was needed depending on the conversation and who you were talking to. But this gathering was different. He was wearing the mask but he had become less and less aware of it. Only one person had given him the confidence to drop his masks; Marcus Penhaligon. In the company of these five men and one over-active boy he had felt just the beginnings of the warmth and safety he had felt in Marcus' company. So he sat there looking into the fire and half-listening to Vin and JD's incomprehensible conversation about various computer games.
The three of them ordered food. Ezra, no fan of pub food, deciding that the old adage that 'if you want to eat well in England order breakfast three times a day' was the safest way to go, had the all-day breakfast. Eventually Buck was calling last orders and the three of them were still there. Ezra to his great surprise found he was truly sorry the evening was coming to an end; he couldn't ever remember spending the whole evening in a pub and not notice the time passing.
As Buck finally locked the doors he turned to face his new friend, JD looked totally exhausted but very contented.
"Why don't you let Mac out for a few minutes in the yard while I finish up. Then I don't know about you son, but I'm beat," he said softly.
JD nodded as he turned to try and persuade the lazy dog to get up from his spot in front of the fire. That morning he had been homeless, friendless and adrift in the world, now he had friends, and one in particular already felt like a best friend, a home and a job, even if it was unpaid. You're a lucky man John Dunne, don't fuck up and spoil it, he told himself as he practically dragged Mac to the door.
The next week was a busy one. JD searched for a job. Buck had told him that as soon as he turned eighteen there was a job waiting for him behind the bar at the Lifeboat Inn, but that was still six months away. He secured a weekend job at Aquarius working for Rain, and a part time job at the local dairy washing bottles. Vin and Josiah got to grips with the routine maintenance tasks to keep the boat in prime condition and always ready to launch. On Wednesday Chris drove Vin over to Helston to pick up a second-hand Kawasaki motorbike with off-road capabilities. They then went to Pendeen to check it out.
Vin climbed off the bike and pulled off his helmet, surveying the farm and its buildings.
"This all yours?" he asked.
"Yeah, all mine, it's been in the family for over a hundred years," he explained.
"Wow, so when did you get your hands on it?"
Chris had only known Vin a few days but he had noticed he was generally a man of few words, until now. As he watched, Vin abandoned the helmet and disregarding the light drizzle that was falling walked over to the stable yard gate. One of the hunters, a black with a white blaze called Pike, was tethered outside his loose box while Casey was laying his bed. Vin leaned on the gate eyeing him.
"You ride?" Chris asked coming up beside him.
"Used to, when I was young, haven't had the chance in years though, he looks good." He indicated the big black.
"Bloody menace is what he is, worst manners on the yard, I'd ditch him but Casey loves the big lug and she's in charge." As if to illustrate his point at that very moment the diminutive form of Casey came out and untied the horse. He instantly tried to bite her, but she was too quick and without even looking at him, swatted him across the nose as she led him in for the night.
"I saw the sign at the gate; you raise organic lamb?" Vin enquired, with just a hint of incredulity in his voice.
"Sure do, got into it about eleven years back, best thing I ever did for the farm."
"Does it pay well?" The two of them were now walking back toward the house.
"It does now, I can't produce enough of the stuff, first few years we nearly starved of course," he admitted.
Chris led them into the kitchen and while Vin made friends with Fly and strolled around the big room apparently absently, Chris made coffee. When it was ready they sat at the big table and drank in silence for a long time. Chris noted a slight grimace on the young man's face.
"Something wrong with my coffee?" he asked.
"Bit weak, thats all, don't worry it's okay." Most people though Chris' coffee was strong; he shuddered to think what Vin called strong coffee.
After another silence Vin finally looked up. He wanted to ask something, it was risky, but he needed to know. He had come to recognise there was some kind of connection between him and Larabee. What he was about to do was dangerous, however there were many things Vincent Tanner was, but a coward was not one of them.
"How long?" he asked out of the blue.
"How long since you lost her?"
Chris paled; he put his coffee down. "What did you say?"
Vin swallowed. "When did you lose your wife?
"What do you know about that, what has Buck been telling you? It had to be him 'cause Josiah wouldn't and I don't think Nathan knows."
"He didn't tell me, I worked it out. I like to know the men I work with, men I'm going trust with my life," he said very quietly, never losing eye contact with Larabee.
Chris watched Vin across the table, unsure what to do or say. He too had recognised the connection they had made, made that first evening when he had helped tie up The Lone Star.
"Three years," he said finally. Their eyes met fully. He was about to ask how Vin had determined this, but before he could Vin began to speak.
"Saw all those rosettes on the wall." He indicated the collection of dusty rosettes by the back door. "Some of them are for ladies only classes, you have tea towels with flowers on them and you're wearing a wedding ring. You've never mentioned a wife, if you were divorced or separated you wouldn't keep the rosettes and since they're all dusty they have been there a while with no-one touching them, and just now you said we nearly starved."
Vin watched Chris' reaction. For his part Chris was awed by Tanners deductive powers. He tried to remember the details in his file about his military service, but was unable to recall anything pertinent.
"You see a lot," he finally said.
"Live longer that way," Vin commented, looking down, then he looked up. "What happened?"
Chris didn't talk about Sarah and Adam. Not to anyone, not even Buck. Not in three years, not when he was sober anyway, until now.
"It was both of them, my wife Sarah and my son Adam, hit and run driver - they never found the driver." There was no hint of emotion in his voice; he spoke flatly, monotone, even staccato.
"Duw man, I'm sorry for your loss. How old was Adam?" Vin asked sensing if he didn't get the information now he might never get another chance.
"Six, he was six and he was perfect," Chris green eyes drifted up to Vin and then past him to the window. "This is all hers, she persuaded me to go organic, she started the stables, without her there would be no Pendeen now, without Buck there still might not be."
"He stood by me when any sane man would have left. We were very close then, met through the Rugby club, when I was the new team captain and he was the Young Turk I brought straight into the firsts. After after they died I took to drinking more than I should. Buck covered for me, practically ran the farm even though he knew nothing about it. Young Casey was still in school then but she was here more than she was there. The worst of it lasted about six months."
When he was finished he felt drained but curiously peaceful. It hadn't been easy to say but it felt right.
Chris and Vin eventually left the kitchen and checked over Vin's new bike just as they had planned. Chris then asked Vin if he had any plans for the rest of the day. And when he said he didn't, asked if he'd be prepared to go with him to help out a neighbour.
Nettie Wells, Casey's aunt, owned the next door farm, it was only a small farm and these days most of her income came from leasing out some of her fields (mostly to Chris) and renting out several flats and cottages, converted from disused farm buildings, to holiday makers. She still kept chickens, and pigs as well as geese. Chris had known Nettie all his life, and like his father before him had always lent a helping hand when needed ever since she had been widowed over twenty years ago.
Vin followed Chris into the immaculately kept yard on his new bike. Nettie came out to meet them. By now the drizzle had become rain.
"Who's this then?" she demanded to know.
"Nettie Wells, meet Vin Tanner, our new mechanic and a good friend," Chris announced, his declaration of friendship coming as something of a shock to Vin.
Nettie extended her hand. "Good to meet you Vin. When youre done come on in boys. I'll have tea brewing and Ive got cake, coffee." She turned to Vin. "Do you like coffee cake Mister Tanner?"
"Only if you call me Vin," he said smiling at the independent septuagenarian.
"I'd be happy to, son,"
They were there to un-block a section of guttering. Casey had offered but it was just too high for her. Since he was the tallest Chris went up the ladder while Vin held it. The rain was getting worse, and by the time the two of them were pulling off their coats and boots in the doorway they were both sopping wet. In particular Vins long hair was soaking his back as he stepped into the old lady's kitchen.
Once they were seated at the table both with a huge wedge of cake in front of them and a pot of tea, Nettie picked up a towel.
"Here Vin," she handed it to him. "Dry your hair son, before you take a chill." She stood back to regard him. "Good God boy! You don't have enough meat on you to keep a hamster alive, do you eat at all?"
Chris laughed instantly, just managing to stop himself from spraying the room with cake crumbs.
"Does he eat? Lord Nettie I have never seen anyone eat like he does," he explained, still smirking.
"Well you'd hardly know it, look at him skin and bones, that's all he is, just skin and bones."
"Well it's not for lack of food believe me!"
"Maybe he's just not eating the right food, I hate to see a working man skinny. What does your mum feed you? I'll do it for you next time youre here." she asked unaware what effect her question would have.
Vin had been enjoying the banter at his expense. Now all the amusement left his face; a look of lost sorrow came over him. She frowned at him, realising this was not the happy topic she had hoped for.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to "
"It's not your fault, don't apologise, Mam died a long time ago."
Chris said nothing as he watched the old lady get up and go around the table to the young man. She stood behind him and taking the towel proceeded to dry his hair for him. Vin made no move to stop her or protest. As Chris watched his new friend visibly relaxed.
"There, all done. Now eat your cake, I'll put the rest in a tin, you can take it with you." She walked away and hung the damp towel on the rail in front of the Aga.
Vin watched her moving about her kitchen, putting away the tins and equipment used to bake the cake. She reminded him of his mam. Not in looks, not in any physical way, but her tone and in her body language, no-nonsense but at the same time very caring. He had been five when his mam died, his memories were fragmented and fleeting at best, but he remembered that tone and he remembered, for the first time in years, having his hair dried in a big country kitchen. His mam had liked to keep his hair longish, not just because it was fashionable, but because she liked to brush it. As soon as he got out of the military he stopped cutting it regularly, but only now did he realise why.
"Do I have to do this?" Vin asked for the twentieth time.
"Yes!" Chorused the others.
"Mr Tanner I am none too ecstatic about this mornings commitments, but since we depend on the public for our financial survival some good publicity is advisable," Ezra explained.
As if to illustrate his own unhappiness, Ezra pulled at his uniform blue sweater with RNLI in red emblazoned across it.
"Could the RNLI not come up with something a little more more "
"Elegant, less itchy?" Nathan filled in for him.
"Exactly Mister Jackson."
It had been three weeks since they had first met and the whole crew were kitted out for the formal arrival of the new Lifeboat. It was to be a full-blown media event, the town was decked out in red, white and blue bunting, and a crowd was already gathering.
They had to stand on the dock as the new boat pulled in, Josiah would then lead a small dedication ceremony. Someone from the divisional office would formally accept the boat and then she would be named. The new name had yet to be announced. Then there would be photos for the media.
With the formal hand-over and the dedication and blessing over, Orin Travis stepped up to say a few words.
"I won't speak for long, I'm sure you will be relieved to know. I only wish to thank our anonymous benefactor for his or her incredible generosity in not only providing all the money to pay for this fine Severn class boat, but also to fully equip her new crew and for what I am told if a very generous donation. As a mark of respect and thanks our benefactor was given the honour of choosing the name of the new boat. And I now call upon my daughter-in-law Mary Travis to name her."
Mary approached the new boat with a bottle of champagne. It was not the bottle provided by the divisional office. If the bottle did not break it was considered bad luck, so this bottle had some help. The original bottle had been substituted for one from Buck's cellar. The label of this bottle had been steamed off and the glass below expertly filed down by Vin until it was approximately half the thickness it had been, then the label had been stuck back by JD. All this had taken place in the pub cellar the night before and only Buck, JD and Vin knew about it. When Mary was given the bottle Buck quietly told her to treat it very gently and make sure she struck the boat with the label.
Everyone watched, and three lifeboat men in particular kept their fingers crossed.
"I name this lifeboat the Saint Nicholas, may God bless her and all who sail in her."
With that she swung the bottle at the prow, hitting it with the label. The weakened glass shattered immediately and everyone cheered.
JD looked at Chris. "Saint Nicholas? Isn't he the same as Santa?" he asked.
"Oh great, our new boat is named after Father Christmas." JD could just imagine the jokes. "What made them choose that?"
"Well," Ezra said coming over. "Maybe he or she knows that Saint Nicholas, as well as looking after the children of the world, is also the patron saint of seamen."
JD looked to Josiah for conformation, and received it.
"Well I guess that does make sense," the youth admitted.
Now it was time for the media and press to have their turn, they posed in front of the boat, beside it and on it. Chris could feel how uncomfortable Vin was about all the attention, he saw him deliberately keeping his face out of pictures when he could; dropping his head so his hair covered his face, slipping behind Buck or Josiah or Nathan, moving of to the side where he was out of shot. By the look of things Ezra and Nathan weren't too keen on the attention either but they were co-operating.
It was going to be a very busy day, once the press and crowds had left Ezra and Buck had to leave because they had a vital match that afternoon against Bosliven, their closes rivals in the league. They had lost their last two games, both away, but were still top of the league. The others had promised to come and watch once they had got the boat ready.
It was a close match, with less than a minute to go the score stood at Four Corners 21 Bosliven 23. Buck had the ball, he was tearing down the wing, heading for the line but in a flash knew he couldn't make it, there were just too many opposition players ahead of him, even though it usually took two or even three to bring him down. Quickly he looked to his side, and passed the ball down the line, after two passes it came to Ezra in front of the posts. Kicking wasn't his speciality but nevertheless he dropped and kicked, the ball sailed high and straight and over the crossbar for a drop goal, making the score 24-23 to Four Corners as the whistle blew.
Buck raced over to Ezra and embraced him. "You did it! You did it!" he shouted.
"I believe it was a team effort Mister Wilmington," Ezra explained disentangling himself from the captain and the other players.
"Jesus wept man! Can't you call me Buck just once!" Buck pleaded.
Ezra avoided the question by accepting the plaudits of his fellow team-mates. He wasn't used to using first names. First names were for close friends. He had never had close friends. At school everyone used surnames, only the closest of close friends used first names. He was always Standish to masters and boys alike. It was the same at work he was just Standish. His numerous step fathers and 'uncles' (with one notable exception) usually called him 'boy' if they bothered to call him anything at all and his ever-loving mother usually called him 'dear' or 'dearest boy'.
Thinking on this he did not notice he was being swept along with the others into the clubhouse. Before he knew it he was in the changing rooms. Just for once he did actually have his clothes with him having come directly from the dedication service. He considered turning around and heading home. Nathan Jackson came in his role as team doctor, checking on any small injuries. His large presence blocked the doorway.
"Everyone all right?" he asked.
Various voices answered in the affirmative.
Then a voice from the back, a huge forward named Jason Moore called out. " Hey Doc, Standish is bleeding."
Ezra suddenly looked at his hands, no blood; he looked at his legs - no blood. Nathan was already moving toward him.
"Where, Ezra? You know you're not meant to play if you're bleeding," he pointed out.
"I assure you Doctor Jackson I am uninjured," Ezra pointed out with some irritation.
"Oh yeah?" Jackson's hand took hold of his head and turned it to the left. Ignoring Ezra's very vocal protests he pushed back Ezra's hair from his collar revealing a trail of blood, already drying, running down behind his ear. Since Standish's team kit was, as always, immaculate, the red collar had not been allowed to fade to pink. This had effectively hidden the blood soaking into it from the casual observer during the game. Jackson placed a finger in the blood and showed it to Ezra.
"Since I feel no pain and was unaware of the injury it must be very minor, and I will attend to it at home myself." Ezra was already backing away.
"Oh no you don't, you let Nate look at it." Buck's big hand landed on his shoulder preventing his further escape.
"Unhand me!" Ezra demanded.
"No," came the stern reply from Wilmington as Jackson began to search for the wound in his hair.
"Got ya!" the doctor announced triumphantly. "Mmm, not too bad, needs cleaning but I don't think it'll need stitching."
He let go of Ezra's head. "Wash your hair when you shower then I'll look at it again, don't worry if it starts to bleed some more."
"I am sure it will be fine, but if you insist I will come in and see you on Monday," Ezra said tiredly.
"No Ezra, you will wash now and I will check it after, no more than fifteen minutes, this is not a request but an order from your team doctor," Nathan warned sternly.
The two men regarded each other for some time, eventually Ezra nodded his acceptance. Behind him Buck silently thanked Nathan. After he had washed and changed Ezra presented himself in the small first aid room where Nathan was waiting. None to graciously he submitted to the good doctors ministrations.
"Well the good news is I think we can just leave it to heal itself, head wounds always bleed more than they should," he announced.
Nathan had been very relieved to find he didnt need to close the wound in any way, he didnt relish having to persuade Ezra to have some of his hair shaved off.
"The bad news is I dont want you to get it wet for a week. Since its Christmas next week and there is no match you should be fine to play in a fortnight."
"How am I to wash my hair if I cant get it wet?" Ezra asked pointedly.
"Not at all or very carefully, its only a week man, you can go a week without washing your hair, cant you?"
Ezra gave Nathan a withering look and a deep sigh but said nothing.
"Come on Ezra I have orders to take you to the bar for a celebration drink, and before you say you have to get home I have to tell you these were explicit orders from your captains, both of them! So you had better come."
As they entered the club bar a great cheer went up to welcome the hero of the hour. As he made his way over to Chris, Buck and the others he was slapped on the back and shoulders and congratulated all the way. On arrival Buck handed him a pint. By now he knew better than to attempt to refuse Wilmingtons hospitality and so accepted graciously. As more was drunk and the celebrations of the home side and the entertaining of the visitors got under way Ezra began to slip more and more to the sidelines. Since he was driving he nursed his one drink for the best part of an hour before it was gone, then hoping he was not being watched he slipped out of the door.
Ezra had intended to drive home and was surprised to find he had in fact driven himself into town. Parking in the wonderfully named North Frog Street, he buttoned his coat against the bitter winter chill, noting the fog that was forming. Before he joined the lifeboat he never took much interest in the weather, now he found he noted every change however small. With his head down he made his way into Saint Marys graveyard. The church windows glowed with inner light and he could clearly hear the choir practising for the coming festivities. He walked around to the yew tree that stood by the lychgate. The tree was old, its spreading branches propped up on posts and braced against the winter storms and the attention of small children who liked to swing on them. Just under the tree was a large marble tomb. To the side of it was a relatively new grave with a polished granite head stone.
"Hello father," he said quietly as he squatted in front of the grave.
He had never called his stepfather anything but Marcus while he was alive but in his heart he was his father, the only one he ever had or wanted. Peter Standish was just a name on a birth certificate; he didnt even have a picture of the man who had actually sired him. He proceeded to tell Marcus everything that had been happening to him, and about his new shipmates. He failed to notice how cold or dark it was getting, until he was startled by a polite cough behind him. Spinning around he saw Father Sanchez standing there watching him. Clearly he had not come directly from the club because he was in a clerical collar and black suit under a thick waterproof coat.
"I was worried about you son, youve been here nearly three hours now," he explained, a gentle compassion in his voice.
Ezra stood, his knees protesting the action after so long bent.
"I am fine, I assure you."
"Men who are fine dont generally talk to the dead for three hours."
Anger flashed in Ezras face. "Were you listening?" he asked.
"Yes, but only just now at the end. I followed you from the club, saw you come here before I went to hear confessions and take Mass, when I came back you were still here; as I say, I was concerned," the big priest explained quietly and patiently.
"Well I assure you there is no need for concern," Ezra stated firmly.
Josiah ignored this comment completely. "You were asking him if you could trust us as you trusted him. You can. I have known Chris for twenty years; you will not find a more honourable man. Buck? Well if you havent worked out that his heart is as wide as the Atlantic you never will, he doesn't have it in him to deceive anyone. Doctor Jackson is a fine medic, and a man of great principal and compassion, he would never betray a trust. I dont know Vin, but if Chris trusts him then that is good enough for me. And as for JD, well youd only have to be with him for a few minutes to see he is an innocent, a more openly honest soul I have rarely encountered."
Ezra looked at him in the gloom as the choir practised the descant from Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Oh Come rang out across the gravestones.
"And me?" he asked.
"You try to hide the real you, you think we cant see you, dont want us to see you. Because someone has taught you the real you is weak or bad or useless. The Ezra that wants to help not take, the Ezra that needs people to need him instead of using them, the Ezra that wants to be liked not feared, is not bad or weak or useless - he is a fine generous man who has a lot to give, including his trust."
Sanchez took a step closer to the smaller man. "You have a good heart and a good soul, and I think that man." He indicated the gravestone. " Had a lot to do with it, maybe he even saved it."
Ezra also looked down at the grave. Yes it was true Marcus had saved him, saved him from turning into his mother, a soulless acquirer of things, whos heart would be eroded little by little by avarice and vanity.
"Do you know how I met him?" he asked.
Sanchez shook his head.
"I was at Eton, it was the summer term I was an E blocker, still only fourteen. It was coming up to Whitsun; I assumed I would be going home to our flat in Chelsea. Then three days before the start of half term I received a letter from mother telling me she had remarried and we now lived in Cornwall. She had given up the flat and moved all our stuff down here, except she hadnt - she threw out all the books and toys she thought I didnt need any more, she didnt even bother to ask me what I wanted to keep. I was to get a train to Paddington and then get the Penzance train, Id never gone further than London on any train before let alone on my own. When I got there it was gone midnight, and she wasnt there. Instead there was this old man with my name on a bit of paper." He looked back down at the grave. "She decided it was too far for her to come so late so she sent him, even though he was twenty years older then her and had never met me. He introduced himself and asked if I was hungry because he said he sure was. You know what he did?"
Sanchez shook his head.
"He took me to a fish and chip shop. I know it doesn't sound much but it was the best thing in the world then. Id never been inside one before, he just treated me well like " he grasped for the words to explain it.
"Like an equal," Josiah ventured.
"Yes yes, like an equal, he never called me anything but Ezra, never 'son', or 'boy' or 'dear' just Ezra. He didn't try to impress me or make me like him or buy my affection, but he did trust me, even though I was a total brat for a long time after we first met."
Ezra stretched his head skywards, Josiah, even in the poor light could see his jaw working, as he attempted to control the emotional tide the memories had unleashed.
"Would he have trusted us?" the priest asked.
Ezra looked back. "Yes, yes I think he would, he judged people on their actions as he saw them, not on reputation or hearsay."
"Then maybe you should give us the same courtesy, trust us until you have reason not to."
The two men's eyes met, but before they could say anything both of their pagers went off.
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