Atlantan Legacy X – Father's Day

by Squeakypeep

Disclaimer: Not Mine.. no profit.

Acknowledgements: Mog’s Universe - Thank you.

The Japanese Cherry Tree idea is not mine. I was given one and told exactly the tradition that Chris relates in this story, I have no idea whether it is actually true, but I like the idea. The nativity incident was taken from something I once heard, I can’t remember when or where, possibly on the radio. It made me laugh.

The Shania Twain Song belongs to the singer and songwriter and I lay no claim to them. I just borrowed the words for the characters to sing (and they don’t belong to me either, mores the pity!) I did think of trying to write some lyrics (the music being unnecessary in this medium) but lack the talent! Where’s Vin when you need him?

Love to hear what you think –

Sunday 10th June

‘Rorie, do ya know what Father’s Day is?’

It was mid afternoon and Vin and Rorie were cuddled up on the hammock stretched between two gnarled old trees near Chris Larabee’s barn. Vin had one denim clad leg hanging over the side, idly pushing against the ground with his bare foot, making the hammock rock gently. Scattered around them was the debris of an afternoon’s play, the remains of numerous non-Ezra approved snacks and the bodies of Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne spread out on the grass. The four had been working the horses and playing in the sunshine while Chris and Ezra worked inside the house on the Revised Budget Plans.

‘It’s like Mother’s day, right?’

‘Yep. ‘Cept fer fathers.’

‘Yahuh.’ Vin felt her gentle huff of air against his shoulder. She was fast falling asleep, tired out by the boisterous games initiated by the ATF Agents.

‘Well, it’s happening next Sunday.’ The little red-blonde head came up and sleepy green eyes became serious as they studied Vin intently.

‘It is? I have to do something for Daddy! What should I do Uncle Vin?’

‘I don’t know.’ He looked over to Buck and JD who were now sitting up and taking notice. ‘Boys? Any ideas?’

‘Spect they got some nice cards down at the mall, although I think Ez would like one you made yourself better, Short Stuff.’ Buck smiled at the little girl who nodded.

‘I can do that. What else?’ She sat up, throwing one bare leg over Vin’s stomach so she could straddle his body. It was hot and they had stripped the sweaty child down to her shorts in an attempt to cool her off. ‘This’ll be our first one. We have to do something special.’ She plucked at his grubby once white t-shirt with small fingers.

It wasn’t an occasion the three men present had much experience with. Not one of them had actually known their own father. After an extended silence, JD replied to the question.

‘I think we need to get together with everyone and see what ideas we can come up with. That Okay with you munchkin?’

‘Sure, Uncle JD. Do you think everyone will want to help?’

‘I think you can count on it Darlin’. It’ll be fun.’ Buck hoped he spoke the truth. He had no real idea of how Chris would react. Father’s Day was one of those occasions when he was mired in his grief and best avoided. Perhaps Ezra’s child could help him cope with it. Either that or it could get ugly. Buck Wilmington hated ugly.

Sunday 17th June
Father’s Day

Ezra rolled over onto his back and yawned. He stretched his hands above his head and sighed in pleasure at the audible crack from his spine. Peeling open his eyes he realized that the day had progressed much further than he expected. He had become accustomed to being awoken early since Rorie had arrived. He still didn’t much care for mornings generally but seeing her happy face usually improved his humor. He looked over at the clock.


He fumbled for his wristwatch. That couldn’t be right surely.

The Rolex confirmed it.

With a sense of panic he started to throw off the covers to check that everything was as it should be. Even knowing Vin was in the house did nothing to allay his apprehension. The two together could be worse than the mischievous four year old alone. They seemed to get into even more trouble as partners.

His movement was arrested by the sight of the curly mop of bright hair and glowing green eyes peeking at him through the crack in the partially open door adjoining their bedrooms.

He raised his brows at her and she vanished. Oh Lord. That probably meant trouble.

He could hear whispering and then the door was pushed open and Rorie and Vin appeared.

Vin was carrying a tray laden with a continental breakfast, he could smell the rich aroma of the imported coffee mixing with that of the warm croissants and pain au chocolat. His stomach rumbled noisily.

Rorie clambered up onto the bed as Vin set the tray on the bedside table. The silent Texan then winked and vanished back the way he came.

Ezra grinned at his daughter. ‘Hello Honeybee. This is a nice surprise. A lie-in and breakfast in bed. What brought this on?’

‘It’s your special day Daddy!’ She leant over and kissed his cheek, wrinkling her nose as the stubble made her lips tingle. ‘Happy Father’s Day!’

‘Fath…? Oh.’ Ezra’s dimpled grin got bigger as he twinkled at her. He felt a rush of pure pleasure at the thought of the first Father’s Day he’d had the opportunity to share with his child. He hoped that this would be the first of many.

‘Father’s Day is it? Well, I cannot think of a better reason to celebrate than being gifted with fatherhood to you Baby Girl.’ He swept her up into a big hug, pressing his face to her tummy and lifting her t-shirt to blow a prickly raspberry on her bare skin.

‘Agh! Daddy! Stop! You’ve still got your furry face on! It tickles.’ Rorie took a firm hold of her father’s chestnut hair in both small fists and attempted to pull his head away, squirming all the while with the mixed pleasure and torment of the sensation.

Ezra chuckled, enjoying being playful with his child. His was a dangerous job. The practical jokes and teasing amongst the team provided a much needed counter-balance to the stress and playing childish games with little girl was an extension of that. He suspected Vin found the same relief in the outlet for his tension.

Either that or he really did like playing with Barbie.

He considered that. There could be an opportunity for some payback there. Barbie in the Office? He would have to give that further thought.

‘Furry face? Are you not supposed to be especially nice to me today?’ He winked, taking the sting out of the rebuke.

‘I like your face. Even when it’s furry. Miss Robinson likes it too. She says you’re a handsome devil.’

‘Your teacher thinks I’m handsome? And she told YOU that?’ He looked horrified.

‘No, she told Mrs Klineman, the Piano Teacher. I don’t think I’m supposed to know the difference yet.’ She winked at him, or tried to. She still hadn’t quite mastered that particular skill. Somehow she made it look as if she was sucking a lemon.

Ezra chuckled at the unconscious comedy. ‘I should hope not.’

‘Look I made you a card.’ She tugged at the card, set on the edge of the tray. But for Ezra’s quick reflexes, the whole lot would have ended up on the floor. ‘Look.’ She handed it to him.

Ezra opened the envelope, addressed to ‘DADDY’ and looked at the construction paper card. The hand-depicted drawing on the front showed a man in a suit, his head far too large for his body, holding the hand of a little girl in a blue dress with a mass of curly hair.

‘Hey that’s us!’


‘At least I think it’s me but who is the little girl?’ He raised his brows at her. ‘I have a daughter to whom this picture bears a striking resemblance but mine doesn’t wear dresses.’ He laughed when she poked out her tongue at him. Her dress sense, or as he termed it, lack-of-dresses sense, was a constant bone of contention between them.

‘Daddy! Just ‘cause I’m a girl doesn’t mean I have to wear frilly stuff all the time.’ She shook her head at him, a stern expression on the little face, presenting a comical contrast to her mussed hair and youth.

‘Every once in a while wouldn’t kill you.’

‘Be nice to me or I won’t give you your present.’

‘I have a gift too? That’s very thoughtful of you Dahling. First let me read my card.’ He opened it to reveal the note scrawled inside. He studied the inscription with a serious face as Rorie watched him anxiously.

‘To My Daddy,
Happy Faters Day.
I love you.
Love from your


Ezra felt the tears gathering and quickly blinked them back, afraid the child might misconstrue the cause. He swallowed the lump in his throat.

‘Thank you dahling. I love it. I shall treasure this.’ He smiled at her grin of satisfaction and kissed her nose. ‘Would you care to share my breakfast with me?’

‘Yahuh. I had some cereal but that was ages ago. Can I give you your present first?’

He nodded and she climbed down and disappeared into her room, reappearing moments later with a small flat package wrapped in hand decorated paper.

‘This is very attractive wrapping. Perhaps we should just admire it as it is for a while until we’ve eaten.’ He cast a look of longing towards the beckoning caffeine shot. The smell was all very well but he needed it in his bloodstream.

Rorie, who had all the patience you would normally associate with a four-year old, shook her head. ‘No. Now.’

He laughed. ‘Very well.’

The present was opened to reveal a pewter picture frame.

The photograph itself was one he had not yet seen, a moment captured by Vin on the day they had collected Rorie from the children’s home in Atlanta. Tanner was a keen amateur photographer and his skill was evident.

It was a portrait shot, the background blurred and muted but obviously the lush vegetation of the Georgia garden where he had first laid eyes on his only child. Against the greenery Father and daughter were clearly depicted, faces turned slightly towards the camera, nose-to-nose and scant inches apart, staring into each other’s matching green eyes and wearing identical dimpled grins. A delighted looking Rorie had her far hand on his hidden cheek and her near arm around his neck. His own expression was unguarded, a mixture of awe, pride and love. What Ezra had never noticed, until this moment, was that her nose tilted up slightly at the tip, a miniature replica of her mother’s.

‘Rorie, dahling, I love it. Thank you.’ His voice cracked as he tightly hugged this precious child. What had he done so right as to deserve her?

There was a discrete cough.

Surreptitiously wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he looked up to see Vin leaning hipshot in the doorway, Tanner style, one thumb hooked into the top of his jeans and the other hand holding a cup of coffee. He wore a huge smile.

‘Kin I come in?’

‘Certainly Mr Tanner, Vin, please, join us.’

Vin ambled over and took a seat on the mattress, leaning against the footboard.

‘I do not recall seeing this particular snapshot…?’

‘We were savin’ it fer a special occasion weren’t we pumpkin?’

‘Yahuh. Today is a special day, specially for Daddies.’ Rorie grinned at Ezra. ‘Are you going to drink your coffee Daddy or can I have it?’

‘No, you may not. It’s mine.’ And so saying he picked up his mug. ‘You may have some of the juice and a pastry. Try not to get crumbs in the bed.’

The three sat around making quick work of Ezra’s breakfast, most of which seemed to go into the Texan, and discussing how they would spend their day.

‘Chris called, wants ya ta call him back soon as ya can.’

‘Any idea why Mr Larabee is desirous of conversing with me?’


‘Very well. If you both remove yourselves, I will carry out my ablutions and return his call forthwith.’

Vin and Rorie exchanged looks.

‘That means ‘scram’ Uncle Vin.’

‘Yep. I reckon. C’mon pumpkin, ya kin help me tidy the kitchen.’ Vin picked up the decimated tray and left, Rorie following at his heels.

Ezra sat for a few more minutes, re-examining his treasures before climbing from the crumby bed and disappearing into the bathroom.

The card and photograph stood in pride of place on the dresser.

A Little Later

The undercover agent appeared, surprisingly, in a suit. Surprisingly, because they had planned to spend the day at home and he was usually far more casual when it was just the three of them. He even wore jeans on occasion, although they also sported designer labels.

‘Daddy you aren’t going to work are you?’ Rorie looked crestfallen. He crouched before her where she sat on the chair, rapidly swinging her legs like little pistons. He grabbed her feet defensively as she came perilously close to ensuring she would remain an only child.

‘I’m sorry, Rorie. I have to go into the office for a couple of hours. There is a problem with some of the financial arrangements I made last weekend with Uncle Chris. However, if you and Uncle Vin would like, you may go up to the Ranch and take the horses out,’ he glanced up at Vin who nodded, ‘Mr Larabee has invited us for a barbeque this afternoon and I will meet you there later.’ He lifted the pouting chin. ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart. I will be as fast as I can I promise. Be good for Uncle Vin Okay?’

‘Okay Daddy.’ She accepted the kiss and walked to the door to wave goodbye as the Jag roared away.

There was a moment of silence.

The sharpshooter tugged gently on the braid he had so recently tied. ‘Let’s go kid, time’s a wastin’.’

The pout miraculously vanished. ‘Yeah. We got things to do and people to see! You don’t think he ‘suspe’ts’ do you Uncle Vin?’

‘No Pumpkin. Your poker face is nearly as good as his!’ Vin laughed as he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. The child giggled as she was borne over to the battered old jeep and dump unceremoniously into her spare safety seat, a permanent fixture in the Jeep since she went out with Vin so often. They had a busy time ahead.

Larabee Ranch

When the Jag pulled up in the driveway, right behind Chris in his black Ram, Ezra was surprised to see the cars of his remaining team members already crowding the area.

He climbed out of the car as Chris approached.

‘We are having a team barbeque Mr Larabee?’ It was a question rather than a statement.

‘Yeah. Seems everyone was at a loose end today so I just invited the whole crew. Or to be more precise, Buck’s date cancelled at the last minute and he invited himself and everyone else.’ Chris chuckled.

The whole team treated the Larabee Ranch in much the same way as College Students do their parent’s houses and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He just hoped they didn’t start bringing their laundry home. They already called him ‘Dad’ which was irritating enough.

The front door opened and JD appeared with Rorie on his hip.

‘Daddy!’ She wriggled and JD set her on her feet so she could run to say hello.

Ezra accepted his hug and then released her so she could give Chris an equally enthusiastic greeting. ‘Hey Uncle Chris.’

‘Hello Shorty. Have you been riding this afternoon?’

‘Yahuh. Uncle Josiah and Saviour took me and Cleo up to the top of the hill and back and then we brushed all the horses and gave them lunch. Peso has decided my hair is food and keeps trying to eat me.’

‘I don’t blame him. You look edible to me!’ Chris leered at the child who giggled and ducked behind Ezra, gripping his thighs just above his knees and nearly bringing him to the ground.

Together the laughing group approached JD who had taken up a position at the top of the porch steps. ‘We set up the barbeque in the back yard. Buck is just heating up the grill so we should be good in about 20 minutes if you wanna change.’

‘Thanks JD.’

Rorie followed her father into the house and into ‘his’ room off the kitchen, chattering all the while. Ezra murmured in reply whenever she seemed to expect a response and within a few minutes they emerged, with the Undercover Agent turned out in clothing more appropriate to a barbeque. He had learned the hard way to be prepared for greasy fingers and ketchup mishaps when dining al fresco with his daughter.

‘Surprise!’ There was a noisy chorus as they stepped out onto the back deck.

Ezra stood transfixed.

The whole area was festooned with streamers and a homemade sign wishing him Happy Father’s Day. This time she’d even spelt it right.

The table was laid out with all the paraphernalia associated with grilled food as well as a large box with a wide red ribbon tied into a bow on the top. At one end, right in front of the beribboned box, was a ‘throne’. One of Chris’s teak outdoor chairs had been covered with red cushions and had numerous red and silver helium balloons tied to the backrest.

It was incredibly gaudy.

He loved it.

‘Wow, thank you Dahling! You’ve gone to so much effort to make our first father’s day special. Thank you.’

‘I had help.’

‘Indeed. Gentlemen, thank you.’ They all nodded and grinned at his stunned expression. It was worth all the work just to see their verbose Undercover Brother at such a loss for his usual five-dollar words. It didn’t last.

‘Would I be correct in assuming our sojourn to the Office this morning was merely a distraction in order to prevent me from discovering the planned secret celebration, Mr Larabee?’ Chris just raised his brows and smiled enigmatically. Ezra snorted. He’d had a suspicion that Chris was wasting his time this morning. This confirmed it.

‘Come and sit down an open your present Ez.’ Buck ushered him forward into his seat, fixing a home made glittery crown labelled ‘Daddy’ on the neat chestnut hair. Ezra sent him a wry look but did not protest his unusual headgear. This was exactly the kind of primitive event he usually despised, loudly and at great length, but being on the receiving end of his little daughter’s good intentions reversed his opinion. He wouldn’t change it for all the poker chips in Vegas. He could tell by the expressions of amusement on his colleague’s faces that they knew exactly what he was thinking. Vin had the audacity to wink at him.

He gazed at the huge box on the table but didn’t touch it, instead accepting the ice cold beer handed to him by Nathan.

‘Aren’t you going to open it?’ Rorie climbed onto an adjacent seat.

‘Knowing your propensity for practical jokes I will admit to experiencing some trepidation at the prospect.’ Ezra grimaced at his captive audience who laughed.

‘Daddy! I have to be nice to you today, remember?’

‘Are you admitting that your jokes are not always pleasant for the victims?’ He arched his eyebrow.

‘Can I plead the number that says ‘if you open your mouth you’re going to get into more trouble’?’

They all laughed.

‘Atta girl pumpkin. Ya have every right ta remain silent.’ Vin grinned, unwilling to own up to his part in the recent practical joke bonanza. He got a grin from Rorie and a scowl from Ezra in response.

‘Mr Tanner, do not think I am unaware of your culpability in said pranks.’ Ezra shook his head at the sharpshooter. ‘I am biding my time. My retribution is at hand.’

‘C’mon Daddy. Open it. I promise it won’t bite. Or jump out at you. Or explode.’ She looked thoughtful. ‘You know Uncle Vin, we haven’t done exploding yet.’

‘Oh lord. You would be wise not to even consider it, Aurora, or I shall be forced to ground you for the rest of your life.’

‘And if I’m your victim, that won’t be very long.’ Chris glared in warning at the sharpshooter who held his hands out in mute surrender.

‘Just kidding. I don’t think Uncle Vin would let me do exploding anyway. Would you?’ She gave him a speculative look.

‘Not on yer life pumpkin pie. Yer dangerous enough as it is.’ He winked at her.

Ezra released the ribbon on the box and gingerly lifted the lid, waiting a breath before peering inside. He reached in and pulled out a videocassette. Flipping it over he read the label, instantly recognising Celestine de Bretagne’s handwriting.

‘Aurora’s First Birthday.’ He reached in and pulled out another. ‘Aurora, 6-8 months.’ Each of the cassettes was similarly marked, with events from Rorie’s first four years. He turned to her.

‘Dahling, where did you get these?’ He was in awe. He would be able to see her growing, filling in the gaps for the years he had missed, following her progress until the moment she came into his life.

‘Aunt ‘Mealie sent them.’ She picked up a tape. ‘This one is when I was Mary in the school ‘tivity play last Christmas. I got into trouble for changing my words.’ She grinned in pure devilment.

There was a collective shudder from the seven men as they recognised the look.

‘What did you do Darlin’?’ Buck was tossing hamburgers and steaks at the grill.

‘I was supposed to say, ‘Please Sir, I need to rest, my baby is going to be born’ but when the innkeeper told Joseph there was no room at the inn I thought it would be funnier to act like it was a real hotel and we were real guests.’ She shrugged and chuckled.

‘I plan to watch all of these at the first available opportunity, Honeybee, but humor me and appease my curiosity. What exactly did you say?’

Rorie grinned and stood up on her chair, placing one hand on her flat belly and the back of the other on her forehead and assuming a put upon expression.

‘What do you mean ‘NO ROOM’? We Booked!’

There was a stunned silence, followed by snorts of amusement.

‘You didn’t!’

‘Yahuh.’ She nodded. ‘Mummy got it all on tape. She thought it was funny but the innkeeper cried. That was Quentin Dunwoody. He was a wuss anyway.’

‘I do not care for the term ‘Wuss’ Aurora.’ Ezra’s words were stern but he was laughing.

‘Daddy, he was wearing a DRESS!’

‘You were too were you not?’

‘Yeah but girls are supposed to wear…Oh no! Not fair! You tricked me!’ Rorie looked horrified to realize she’d admitted it was Okay for her to wear a dress, making all the men laugh.

‘Gotcha!’ Ezra chuckled and tugged her braid.

Chris sniffed. ‘Buck, were you ‘intending’ to cremate that meat?’

‘Shi… I mean, Oh dear.’ Buck glanced quickly at the child, sending an apologetic look at Ezra, before dashing back to rescue dinner.

After they’d sawed their way through the charcoaled meat, washing it down with large amounts of beer, Josiah brought out a cake, which, he informed the guest of honor, Rorie had helped to bake and decorate.

JD produced a disc, which he handed to Rorie to give to her Father.

‘What’s this?’

‘It’s all the photos Mummy took. Uncle JD put them on a disc so they’re easier to see and he says you can choose one as a screensaver if you want.’

‘I already chose one.’ JD grinned at Ezra.

‘Thank you Mr Dunne.’ The computer whiz nodded.

They were drinking coffee when Nathan pulled out his guitar. ‘Rorie, Buck and I also got together to fix something for you Ezra. You ready Sugar Plum? Buck?’

The trio gathered on the porch step, slightly elevated from the table, Rorie sitting on Buck’s knee. Nathan strummed the strings and they broke into song.

From this moment
Life has begun
From this moment
You are the one
Right beside you
Is where I belong
From this moment on

Three voices sang out the words to Shania Twain’s ‘From this moment’. Ezra smiled softly at the picture they presented.

From this moment
I have been blessed
I live only
For your happiness
And for your love
I’d give my last breath
From this moment on
I give my hand to you with all my heart…

Rorie hopped off Buck’s knee and approached Ezra. She gave a clumsy curtsey and held out her hand. Grinning Ezra took her hand and lifted her into his arms, giving her the dance she’d silently asked for. The little soprano continued to sing along with the deeper voices of the duet on the porch as her father twirled her round in the yard.

I give my hand to you with all my heart
I can’t wait to live my life with you
I can’t wait to start
You and I will never be apart
My dreams came true
Because of you
From this moment
As long as I live
I will love you
I promise you this
There is nothing
I wouldn’t give
From this moment on

Ezra found himself joining in, his rich baritone in harmony with the husky soprano coming from the child. The others fell silent, but for Nathan’s guitar, watching as they danced around together on the grass.

You’re the reason I believe in love
And you’re the answer to my prayers from up above
All we need is just the two of us
My dreams
Came true
Because of you
From this moment
As long as I live
I will love you
I promise you this
There is nothing
I wouldn’t give
I will love you
As long as I live
From this moment

There was a loud round of applause as they faded out. Rorie gave Ezra a big hug.

‘That was wonderful Dahling, Gentlemen thank you.’ He saluted Buck and Nathan with his trademark two fingers.

Ezra touched his forehead to Rorie’s and whispered, ‘It was I who was blessed Baby Girl, I love you.’ He stroked her back as she cuddled against his chest. A chest constricted with emotion.

Vin and Chris exchanged glances. This was a side of the tightly controlled Southerner they had always suspected existed but had all but given up hope of ever seeing.

‘There’s one more thing.’ She smiled up at him and kissed his chin.


‘Yahuh. Uncle Vin and Uncle Josiah helped and Uncle Chris says you can keep it here.’

Ezra looked confused and a bit apprehensive. He had visions of becoming a dog owner. ‘What?’

Josiah and Vin appeared round the side of the house pushing a wheelbarrow containing a small tree.

‘Uncle Vin says the tree is about four years old, like me. We can plant it here and visit it whenever we want. It will be our special tree. Uncle Josiah says it sindarises… simbadises…’ She shot Josiah a pained look.


‘Yeah ‘singalizes’ the love we have and we need to make sure it grows straight and strong.’

Ezra smiled, fingering the pine needles on the little evergreen. ‘Thank you dahlin’, Mr Sanchez.’

Josiah nodded, pleased to see that the Southerner understood the message behind the gift.

Vin gestured to Rorie and the two vanished again behind the house.

‘Now what?’

Chris responded. ‘As far as I know that’s it Ez. How about we move inside and watch the little she-devil dress down the innkeeper?’ He chuckled.

There were murmurs of approval for this plan.

‘Hold on Cowboy, Rorie has one more thing she needs ta do.’ Vin arrived pushing another small tree, the child skipping along beside him, getting in the way.

‘Pumpkin? Ya wanna tell Uncle Chris about this one?’

‘Uncle Chris, this one’s for you. It’s Adam’s tree.’

Chris’s face dropped into a blank mask.

Father’s day hurt enough as it was, he didn’t think he could take a further reminder of his loss.

‘Rorie…’ Ezra’s tone was softly warning.

‘Let her finish Ez. Cowboy, hear her out.’ Vin gave Chris a look of appeal and he nodded abruptly in response, kneeling before Rorie.

‘What do you mean Rorie?’

‘It’s what he wanted you to have. I don’t really understand it but it was something about having a tree to shout at.’

Chris gaped, speechless. All the color drained from his face.

‘How did you know about that?’ He gripped the little shoulders, easing off slightly when she winced.

‘I dreamed it. Uncle Vin didn’t want to get one but I talked him into it. I think he was worried you might be upset. You’re not upset are you?’

‘No, I’m not upset, Shorty.’ He took a deep breath. ‘Rorie can you tell me about your dream?’

‘Mummy was there. I dream about her a lot. This time there was a little boy with her. He said his name was Adam and that you needed your yelling tree.’ She shrugged and looked at him uncertainly. ‘He said you’d know what if was for.’

‘Thank you Rorie. He was right. I know exactly what it’s for. Why don’t you go see if there are any ice pops in the freezer? You may help yourself.’

‘Okay, Thanks Uncle Chris.’ They all watched as the child disappeared into the house. Chris, still on his knees, turned to his team who were regarding him with expressions of sympathy.

‘Mr Larabee, I’m sorry if...’ Ezra broke off as Chris shook his head.

‘It’s fine.’ His voice was choked. He hung his head and took a couple of deep breaths. Vin placed his hand on the black clad shoulder.

‘Cowboy?’ Chris turned to Vin. ‘I didn’t wanna let her do it but she was determined. Had me checkin’ all over the state fer the right tree. It had ta be a Japanese Cherry. I didn’t even know there was a difference.’

‘S’Okay Vin, really. It was just a shock, that’s all. And kind of creepy.’ This caught the interest of all of them. Chris rose to his feet.

‘In what way ‘creepy’, Mr Larabee?’

‘Not long before Sarah and Adam died we went on vacation to San Francisco. There’s an ornamental Japanese garden there and Sarah was determined to see it. When we were there, while I was supposed to be minding him, Adam climbed a tree and got caught by the park keeper. He was an old Japanese man, filled with stories of the traditions and culture of his homeland. He told us in broken English that the tree Adam had climbed was a Cherry, a Japanese Cherry, and that it held special significance to families in Japan. Apparently, when one person in the household got mad with another, instead of taking their fury out on their loved one, they would go outside and yell at the tree until their anger was under control and they could be reasonable. It was supposed to maintain the harmony of the family unit. Adam decided that I could do with a whole forest of those just to myself and told me he’d get me one next father’s day. He died before he could. I’d forgotten about it.’

‘How did Rorie know?’ JD shivered. Chris was right. It was creepy.

Their leader shrugged. ‘I have no idea. I never told anyone before and only the two of us were there. Even Sarah didn’t know.’

There was a silence as they all digested this. Finally Josiah spoke.

‘Some things are not meant to be explained, brother. Just be grateful for the gift you have been given.’

‘Yeah.’ He paused. ‘I guess to Adam, I’m still a father.’ Chris smiled at the sense of peace that settled over him.

‘Uncle Chris, Phone!’ The shrill cry from the house broke the atmosphere and they all rose to go inside.


It was late evening when everyone left the ranch. Chris stood on the porch and watched them go.

When it was quiet again he headed round the house to the side yard where he settled on the step and regarded the little Cherry tree. He sat for long minutes in silence. Just looking.

Adam had kept his promise.

A long while later he ran a hand through his hair and sighed as he climbed to his feet and headed inside, switching off the outside light as he passed.

As the screen door started to close behind him he stopped, halting its progress mid swing.

He turned his head and nodded to the tree.

‘Thanks Adam. I love you too. Say ‘Hi’ to your mom for me.’ His voice echoed loudly in the stillness.

He smiled broadly at his sentimentality and vanished into the house.

The End

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