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I think we know how to wash a car, Buck, Vin spoke for himself, J.D., and Ezra interrupting Buck´s fussy diatribe on the care and maintenance of his Mustang.
Buck stared at Vin as if the Texan had just grown another head as the three younger boys prepared to wash his beloved car in the Larabee driveway.
Firstly, it´s not any car. It´s MY car! And you´re not JUST washing my car, you´re detailing it, Buck stated with an air of superior authority. I want it cleaned inside and out and polished until she gleams!
Ezra and J.D. looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
Hey I saw that, Buck replied. The sooner you start the sooner you finish, he continued with a smug smile. He was thoroughly enjoying the fact that the boys had to wash and detail his car as part of their punishment for their last public prank on him.
J.D. mumbled something under his breath before he bent down and retrieved a soap sponge and sploshed it on the hood.
Remember I need it looking good for Spring Break, Buck reminded them.
I always knew it was the car and not you that got the girl, J.D. teased.
Now kid, you know that ain´t true, Buck gloated.
After several more supervisory tips to which he received little or muttered comments, Buck smiled at them all and went inside the house.
Once Buck was out of sight, Ezra looked down at his roommate with displeasure. This is all your fault, he stated.
Ever notice how it´s never yours? Vin bit back.
So you deny it was your idea to play those pranks on Chris and Buck? Ezra replied.
My idea, maybe, Vin replied. But as I remember it you and J.D. were only too eager to get involved!
Come on, Ezra, J.D. broke in, keen to avoid an altercation. You gotta admit. It was damn funny! J.D. laughed.
Ezra´s displeasure disappeared as he remembered with fondness the look on Buck´s face when he saw the Wilmington Cup´ on display in the school´s trophy case along with the other legitimate football trophies. Using a small boy´s protector cup they had fashioned a crude trophy and wrote Wilmington Cup at its base. Eager to inflict further insult, they had etched on the cup itself the words: Non Equipped Player Encouragement Award. Then utilizing one of Ezra´s talents´ they had picked the cabinet lock in the main hall and placed it in prominence ready for the full school assembly the following morning.
I must admit, it did provide a certain satisfaction, Ezra acknowledged. Making sure they had good vantage spots, the trio had waited for Buck to arrive that morning. Amidst all the sniggering and teasing comments from the growing throng of students for assembly, Buck had at first been puzzled then followed the source of interest by pushing his way through. His amicable grin faded into astonishment before anger erupted and he began furtively searching the room for them. Fortunately his quest to find them was interrupted by Dean Parker, who despite every effort could not conceal his amusement at Buck´s dilemma.
Good, Vin answered. Now pick up a sponge and start on the other wheel.
Ezra frowned and with a sigh picked up the said sponge and half- heartedly dabbed at the wheel. They had been presumed guilty even though Dean Parker had no actual proof except for the fact that J.D. found it difficult to hold the dean´s intense gaze when asked relevant questions. Despite Ezra´s best argument that they should be presumed innocent until found guilty the dean allowed Buck to offer the means of punishment.
From the house, Clint Larabee watched with a certain amount of objective fascination as Vin, Ezra, and J.D. attempted to work together as they washed Buck´s Mustang. Even though he could not hear what was being said, he could clearly ascertain that Vin was challenging Ezra on the fact that he was doing more supervising than actual cleaning. Ezra responded to the Texan, which in turn had the fair-headed boy rolling his eyes in exasperation.
Clint shook his head with a smirk as he moved back into his lounge room where Buck and Chris sat watching the final 15 laps of the NASCAR race from Texas. He eased himself into his La-Z-boy and noted the driver rankings before he glanced over at Buck.
You sure you want those boys cleaning your car? he asked, still amazed Buck had managed to coerce the younger boys into cleaning and then polishing his car as a penance for the unproven prank.
Buck grinned lazily. It´s the fact that they don´t want to be doing it that makes me happy, he replied. I don´t even care what kind of job they do. In fact I hope they do a lousy job so I can keep getting them to redo it, Buck continued with a wicked smile. Clint shook his head slowly and dropped into the commentating on the race.
Outside Nathan and Josiah pulled up in Josiah´s car. The two friends ambled over to where Buck´s car was being washed in the driveway. After some friendly teasing, Josiah went indoors but Nathan walked around the Mustang offering advice.
You missed a spot, he said to Ezra pointing. And one higher up, he added.
Oh please, by all means show us how it´s done, Nathan, Ezra drawled insolently.
Ok, the junior responded with a smile. Circular movements, Ezra, he replied demonstrating with his hands in front of him in mock seriousness. Vin and J.D. laughed aloud and Ezra shook his head with distaste before he turned and with a hidden mischievous smile, scooped up the soapy sponge from the bucket.
Josiah let himself into the Larabee residence and hearing the familiar revving of racing cars blaring loudly from the TV, made his way to the lounge. He was greeted warmly. Taking up Clint´s offer, he helped himself to a drink and then made himself comfortable on a spare chair.
Did you know Ezra had a can of spray paint, Buck? Josiah asked innocently.
What? the tall junior yelled as he sprung up out of the chair and ran for the door.
Chris watched Josiah break into a full grin. That wasn´t nice, Josiah, he chided mockingly and laughed when his roommate grinned broadly at him. I wish I had thought of that, Chris added ruefully.
Ezra DID look like he was holding a spray can! Josiah replied with a wicked smirk.
By this time they could all hear yells and laughter and they both stood and stepped over to the window for a look.
I don´t want my driveway demolished! Clint warned as the two seniors moved away.
There was no answer and the cop sighed dramatically before reaching out and grabbing another handful of chips. Ignoring the escalating commotion emanating from outside he glued his eyes to the TV.
Nathan´s face registered shock as a wet and soapy sponge hit him in the chest. His eyes narrowed at Ezra as the younger boy grinned mischievously.
Nice shot, Ez, Vin complimented him.
Dreadful, the southerner drawled. I was aiming for his head.
Oh you think it´s funny? Nathan laughed as he dunked the sponge in the nearest bucket and prepared to aim.
Ezra got ready to dodge, smirking brazenly. However, before Nathan could get his sponge missile away, Ezra was completely surprised when Buck attacked him from behind. Securing the southerner in a neck hold, Buck demanded the can of spray paint. With Ezra held in position, even though the younger boy struggled and was winning his freedom, Nathan threw the sponge. He missed Ezra but landed a perfect shot on Buck.
Hey! Buck spluttered in surprise.
Ezra used the advantage and escaped.
Sorry, Buck, Nathan laughed Line of fire!
Buck threw him an unimpressed look but his attention was soon back on Ezra.
Where´s the spray paint?
I have no idea what you´re talking about, Ezra replied ensuring Vin and J.D. were now between himself and Buck.
It´s not spray paint, Buck, J.D. protested.
Shut up, J.D., Vin said quickly.
Huh? Oh. Sorry! J.D. replied sheepishly.
Oh you guys are getting it, Buck threatened with a short laugh as he advanced on them.
Laughing Vin and J.D. threw their wet sponges. Buck picked up a bucket and began chasing.
From the safety of the house, Josiah and Chris chuckled as they watched the free for all water fight escalate in earnest. Within a short space of time it was Nathan and Buck against Vin, Ezra, and J.D. and the juniors weren´t doing too well.
I think Buck and Nathan need our help, Josiah said.
I don´t want to get wet, Chris replied.
I thought you had some payback of your own? Josiah teased as he moved toward the door.
Chris snorted. Like Buck, he had been the subject of a well thought out and choreographed prank. Weeks ago, after his usual morning shower in the school dormitory shower room, he had discovered he was suddenly alone with no towel or clothes. Knowing immediately only his friends would dare do this to him he had resigned himself to the fact that he would have to make a naked run for his room. Only the door to the shower room was locked. After a few minutes of yelling and the occasional pounding on the door followed by resounding silence, the senior came to the conclusion everyone had left for class. Very carefully he had wiggled out the window and made a mad dash up the stairs to his room.
In the safety of his room, he had quickly closed the door and muttered various curses. Now air-dried, the senior had made for his underwear drawer. He didn´t know whether to laugh or swear when he found his own underwear had been replaced by little boys´ Woody the Cowboy and Buzz Lightyear underwear. Holding up one pair with Woody and Howdy Pardner emblazoned across them, he narrowed the field of suspects. Only two of his friends were capable of such devious plotting. Closing the drawer with angry force he had made for his wardrobe. His mouth dropped opened when he further discovered that his clothing too had disappeared to be replaced by one pair of Hawaiian shorts and a purple t-shirt that read Don´t mess with Texas.
Josiah paused at the door. You coming? he asked interrupting Chris´ reverie.
Chris smiled wickedly. Josiah was right he was owed some payback and he had been waiting for a suitable opportunity. This was a good place to start.
Yeah I´m coming, he replied.
Beatrice Wilmington brought her car to a complete stop before pulling into the Larabee driveway. Seeing seven soaking wet teenagers running around Buck´s partially washed Mustang, she decided it would be prudent to park her car in the street and walk carefully up the drive. Not daring to get too close, she stood unnoticed at the end of the driveway and watched them for a moment. Josiah had hold of a water hose that he was using alternately to spray down the three youngest boys and to refill the buckets held by Nathan and Buck. Chris acted as guard for Josiah, ensuring that the underclassmen could not get hold of the water hose. This meant that Chris was under a constant barrage of soapy sponges thrown with remarkable accuracy by Vin, J.D. and Ezra. But those three also had to deal with Buck and Nathan who chased after them with their buckets of water.
Remaining at a distance, she called out for her son. It took several yells before he finally heard her and dropped his bucket, but not before splashing the contents over J.D. With a grin for his mother, he trotted over toward her, which drew everyone´s attention over at her. Slowly each boy ended the conflict, though Beatrice noticed Ezra managed to throw one last, very soapy sponge at Chris who had his attention diverted. The sponge smacked him full in the face drawing a scowl from the teenager and a loud giggle from her. She did not want to even think about how Chris would get back at the southerner.
Hey, Mom! Buck called as he reached her side. Fortunately he was smart enough to stand well away from her so as not to get her wet as well.
Buck, what are you boys doing? When he started to answer she shook her head. Never mind, I don´t even want to know.
A truce somehow settling over them, the other six boys walked over and Beatrice returned their greetings warmly. Her attention returned to her son as he asked, So why´d you come by?
I wanted to let you know that I´ve made plans for your Spring Break. We´re going to Miami for the week. We´ll leave next Sunday. She smiled at him, expecting him to leap at the opportunity.
Her smile quickly faded at his response. Miami? I don´t want to go to Miami. Why do I have to go?
You´re going because I want you to go and because I thought you would like to come with me as well. She let confusion and hurt cross her beautiful features. She was a mother and she knew exactly what kind of guilt would work on her son.
The other teenagers found themselves looking from Buck to Beatrice and back again. Their water fight was completely forgotten as they watched the unfolding battle of wills between mother and son. None of them had any doubt as to the outcome they just wondered how long it would take for Buck to give in.
The lanky junior sighed. But you´ve never mentioned this trip. And I´ve already made my plans for Spring Break.
Buck, your plans for Spring Break involve driving around in your car picking up girls. You can do that anytime. Mine include flights and hotels that have already been arranged. So you are going! Beatrice´s tone and matching look in her eyes let her son know that there was going to be no way for him to talk his way out of it. And he knew it as well. He was trying to find the words that would help him retain some dignity as he gave in, when Ezra´s laughter had them all turning in amazement at the southerner.
Ezra had no idea what started the outburst of laughter. Maybe his association with the other six boys was truly beginning to drive him insane. Whatever the reason, the absurdity of the situation, that he and the other boys had been forced to detail Buck´s car for his Spring Break escapades only to end up in a free for all water fight and learn that Buck would not even be home to drive his car, had him laughing uncontrollably. He did not care that he had actually participated in menial labor that was all for naught. Well, he cared enough to know that he would have to find an appropriate means of payback. But that would come later, right now he was just enjoying Buck´s discomfort.
Beatrice knew Ezra´s laughter came at Buck´s expense and her maternal instincts kicked in. So it was with no small amount of pleasure that had her eyes twinkling mischievously as she purposefully asked, Oh did I forget to mention that Maude Carlisle will be joining us as will her son?
The transition from the loud outburst of laughter to complete silence was instantaneous. Green eyes blinked as Ezra cocked his head to the side in confusion. He kept drawing breath as if he were about to speak, but nothing made it past his lips until he finally managed to utter, What?
Even Buck, who was not at all sure how he felt about this new development, had to join the others in laughing at Ezra. There was just something about seeing someone get the better of the southerner. And it was obvious that Beatrice was enjoying herself as she responded, Your mother and I are almost finished with our novel, all we need really is a title. So we thought that we´d have an early celebratory treat and soak up some sun for a little while.
Ezra finally found his voice and his argumentative nature. Well if that is the case, surely you do not want your sons tagging along and spoiling your fun. The two of you should go, relax and celebrate. Isn´t that right, Buck? He turned hopefully toward the older boy.
Buck looked from the near pleading pale green eyes of his friend to the expectant blue eyes of his mother. He was definitely in a lose/lose situation. He was going to have to disappoint one of them with his response. And he was no fool. He knew exactly whose side he needed to be on in this situation. Grinning amicably he answered Ezra, I don´t know, Ez, now that I´ve had some time to think about it, I think I´d prefer heading out to Miami where all the college girls will be laying out on the beach in their itty bitty Beatrice coughed to regain Buck´s attention. Her son had the good grace to look momentarily embarrassed before finally summing up, Sorry, Ez, I´m all for going to Miami now.
Traitor! the southerner hissed under his breath at the upperclassman. But he was not about to give up so easily. Unfortunately their discussion was interrupted as Clint emerged from the house. He tossed Beatrice a wave before walking towards Buck´s car and shaking his head at the mess on his driveway.
Buck! You got dried soap all over your car! he yelled as he walked around the Mustang, assessing the damage. You better get it washed and dried before it gets dark!
The junior groaned, My car. He looked over to all his friends, Come on, guys, we can all finish it up quick. I mean we´re already all wet!
That reminds me, Clint said as he now joined them. Since you boys are going to use up every good towel I have in the house, you have all volunteered to do the laundry. Their groans and protests only made his grin wider. Smugly he added, What was it Buck said earlier? The sooner you start the sooner you finish´.
Chris shot a mock glare at his father who tossed one right back at his son. Already plotting on how to convince his mother that he should not accompany her on this trip, Ezra moved to follow the other boys, but he was halted as Buck´s mother called out to him. Catching a look from Beatrice, Clint gave them a bit of privacy and stepped over to the porch to watch the other six boys wash the car all over again. He laughed as Vin playfully punched Buck on the shoulder and said in a reassuring twang, Don´t worry, Buck. Since I´m fixing to get my driver´s license I can take the Stang out for a drive or two. Just to keep her in shape for you.
Ezra, Beatrice started once she knew that they had some privacy, I didn´t want to say anything in front of the others, but I do think it would be really good for you and your mother to get away for a little while.
The sophomore turned to face her fully, curiosity lighting his green eyes. And why is that? He did not let is show, but he was growing very suspicious about the entire trip. Not towards Beatrice and her motives, but more about how big a hand his mother had in engineering the entire thing.
I don´t know how much your mother tells you about her relationship with Robert
Believe me, Miss Wilmington, the less I have to hear about that the better, Ezra interrupted.
And I can understand that, Ezra, to an extent. But Maude and Robert have been having difficulties and well I think it´s a good idea for her to get away for a little while. And I know that would be so much easier for her to do, if you were there with her. She does need you, Ezra. You do know that, don´t you?
The southerner blinked at Buck´s mother and could only marvel at the naiveté of the woman. He decided to ignore her last couple of statements for the moment and asked, Did my mother suggest this trip or did you?
Beatrice shook her head in confusion at the question. Buck was certainly right about Ezra being hard to predict. No, I did. She had been telling me so much lately about the problems they were having and I just thought it would be a great opportunity. And I was obviously right because she agreed more readily that I thought she would.
Ezra nodded his head in contemplation. It certainly sounded like a classic Maude scam. Beatrice simply did not have an awareness of how easily his mother could manipulate people into thinking that they were the ones who came up with the ideas Maude wanted in the first place. But he had to wonder what his mother was gaining out of this. Maybe he just could not immediately see it. After all it had been a while since he had spent time with his mother. Maybe she really just wanted to get away from Robert Carlisle III. Ezra could certainly understand that. He had not been able to stand the man from day one. Maybe his mother was finally seeing the truth about the man and would leave him.
The elation that Ezra initially felt at that thought quickly died as another realization came with it. If Maude left Robert then there were no guarantees that they would stay in Indiana, which meant he would have to leave Regents before the end of the year. And suddenly the sophomore could not even begin to fathom how that would make him feel.
He sighed inwardly, not wanting Beatrice to see just how conflicted he was about the entire prospect. But the truth was that he was going to have to concede, that he was going to have to go on a trip not only with his mother but with Buck and his mother as well. There was no other way around it. He had to know what exactly was going on with Maude and Robert. He hoped that things were not as bad as she seemed to be telling Beatrice, because then he would have to choose between helping his mother and staying with his friends. And that was one choice Ezra knew he was not able to make.
Not wanting to let Beatrice see him give in so easily, Ezra reached for one last argument. What does Mr. Morrissey have to say about this trip? I would think that he would want to accompany you on a private vacation?
Oh don´t you worry about Mr. Morrissey, Beatrice laughed at the teenager´s attempt to use her boyfriend against her. He´s used to not having a say in what I do.
Really? "Then he is a most remarkable man, the sophomore grinned at her, flashing his adorable dimples. because if I were so fortunate to have his place in your heart, I would certainly not want you to go anywhere without me.
Beatrice laughed again, though this time in utter amazement. Oh you are a smooth talker, aren´t you? The girls are really going to have a hard time resisting you! But as you will come to learn, it isn´t always about what the guy wants.
The young man frowned at her as if in disbelief of her statements. Beatrice found herself wondering what the future held for this wily southerner with the sugary, sarcasm-laced tongue. Despite all his antics and troublemaking ways, she knew he was a loyal friend not only to her own Buck but to the other five of their circle as well. Beatrice knew that she could not even begin to understand how the complicated, mercurial teenager fit in with the others, she was only too happy to accept that he did. Having gotten to know his mother during their months of collaboration for their novel, Beatrice recognized that he was a great deal like Maude. She also had the good sense not to mention that.
So, come on, Ezra, it won´t be so bad going to nice, warm Miami during Spring Break with us, now will it? she asked.
I would have no hesitation whatsoever if it were merely yourself, my mother and I. Perhaps you could leave Buck here? he asked teasingly but with a hopeful look in his eyes.
Beatrice shook her head overdramatically. Oh, no!" What kind of mother would I be if I left my son behind?
Her grin dropped from her face as she saw a sudden flash of pain in the liquid depths of his sage green eyes. She instantly regretted her words as she remembered Maude once mentioning that she and Ezra had been separated not long after his father´s death when he had to stay with relatives while Maude tried to regain her feet. Once again Beatrice found herself thankful for the strong support she had received from the large group of friends she had while raising Buck. They had helped her ensure that while she had to leave Buck with them while she worked she was never separated from him longer than her shifts, and certainly never longer than a day. Buck had grown up in that type of environment and so had no problem adjusting to changes from day to day. But Ezra had gone from having both parents, to only one, and then to his young mind, none as Maude left him out of necessity.
Beatrice´s instinct was to reach out to the young man but she stopped short as he flinched ever so slightly away from the gesture. She felt as if a high security vault had just been slammed shut effectively shutting her off from his thoughts and feelings. The eyes that had been so expressive only moments before were now impassive. Beatrice dropped her hand to her side and offered him a weak smile.
His return smile was polite and did not touch his eyes. Even his accent was less pronounced with his tone becoming distant yet still respectful. I am sure that I will have a pleasant time in Miami, Miss Wilmington. Thank you for your invitation. My mother is most fortunate to have a friend such as yourself. Now if you will excuse me, I suppose that I should join the others. With that he turned and walked slowly back to his friends.
Beatrice had managed to call out, Okay, Ezra, as he walked away but he did not acknowledge it. She noticed though that as he approached the other boys his bearing and manner changed. She could not hear what was said but she could see that his easy smile was back as he joked and teased with the others. She hoped that it was a testament to the healing power of their friendship and not to his acting abilities.
Her thoughts were interrupted as Clint stepped over to her. You sure you want to take him and his mother with you for a whole week?
Beatrice´s blue eyes registered shock as they swept up to meet Clint´s. You were eavesdropping! she accused.
He tossed her a sloppy grin. I´m a cop, Bea. I always pay attention.
She rolled her eyes, which only drew laughter from him. He sobered quickly. He´s a hard kid to figure out, isn´t he?
Now there´s an understatement, she sighed. Then turning to Clint with a teasing glint in her blue eyes, Beatrice said, You´ve spent a lot of quality time with him, so give me your insights.
It wasn´t quality time, it was involuntary time. And I´ve made it a point to do as little thinking about that kid as I possibly can.
You´re not fooling me, Clint. There´s something about those seven boys that has us all caring about them, each and every one of them. And you know it.
The cop grunted but said nothing. As Beatrice continued to look pleased with herself, Clint shook his head at her. You know, it´s funny, but I was just thinking about how I still owe you some payback for that fishing trip I ended up taking with all the boys. I´m almost convinced that this trip with a double dose of Standish just might be the payback you deserve.
She rolled her eyes again at him. Oh I´m sure it won´t be that bad. Especially since I plan to spend a lot of the time just lying out by the pool soaking up some sun.
Clint nodded and Beatrice missed the dangerous glint in his eyes. Yeah, you´re probably right. So I guess I´ll have to settle for this And with that he grabbed her and tossed a wet, soapy sponge down the back of her blouse, but not before being sure to squeeze a bit of it out over her head. Beatrice´s squeal of outrage had all of the boys turning toward them in alarm. But as they sprinted over to see what was wrong and saw her ineffectually trying to remove the sponge from her blouse they had to join in Clint´s laughter. But Buck, feeling that he did owe his mother some allegiance, grabbed the water hose that Josiah still held and with a roar turned it on Clint and thoroughly drenched the man. They would all have to live with the repercussions of this action for some time to come, but the sight of a completely dumbfounded Clint was well worth it.
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