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Ezra soon got bored with staring at clouds out of the airplane window and even more bored with Buck´s retelling of his encounters in Fort Lauderdale. The southerner didn´t want to guess at how many times he had heard the same story, nor the extra detail he seemed to receive at each retelling. Restlessly, he got out of his seat and walked up one aisle and down the next. He sighed with despair when Buck followed so he made his way to where their mothers sat. Maude smiled and stopped conversing with Beatrice as he approached.
Everything alright, Ezra? she asked with concern.
Yes, Mother, Ezra replied, scowling up at Buck, as the junior bumped into him.
He gets airsick, Maude told Beatrice who looked over at him sympathetically.
I got airsick once when I was ten. I don´t anymore, Ezra stressed clearly.
One of Maude´s elegant eyebrows rose slightly as she gave him a warning look. Quickly Ezra used a distraction.
Have you finally decided on a title for your book? he asked.
Yeah, Buck added with a grin. Did you both get all your work´ done this week?
At least we didn´t get into trouble, Bea replied with a chiding look.
Buck gave his best puppy dog look and Bea shook her head.
Yes, Ezra, Maude intervened. We have a title.
Which is? Ezra prompted with an amused look as he watched his mother squirm slightly in her seat.
Maude drew in a dramatic breath and announced, Belle of the Boardroom.
By Erin Scarlett, Bea added with a flourish of her hand.
Ezra´s smiled broadened until his mother could see his dimples. He had always likened his mother to a modern day southern belle especially the infamous Scarlett O´Hara. However, whereas he saw the comparisons to her scheming and manipulating men, Maude admired her for her ability to claw her way back to the top despite all obstacles.
Ezra´s smile faded as Buck snorted with amusement beside him. He was then surprised to observe Maude flash him an anxious look. He was astonished. It actually mattered to her what he thought and he responded instinctively.
I think the title and author name suits you admirably, Mother, he told her sincerely, while he kicked Buck´s foot threateningly with his own.
Wha..? Buck started then saw the looks pass between mother and son.
It sounds like a winner, Mrs. Carlisle, Buck told her effusively, basking in the warm approving smile he got from his own mother.
I hope so, Buck, Maude replied softly as she gave Ezra an enigmatic look.
Excuse me gentlemen, a pretty air steward interrupted as she approached them. You have to resume your seats. We begin the descent in a few minutes.
Ezra rolled his eyes towards his mother as Buck puffed up and tried to entertain the steward with his adolescent charms. Turning on his heel, he made his way back to his seat and fastened his seat belt. He was actually looking forward to returning to Regents and catching up with the others. A week with Buck was enough to have him missing Vin, Josiah, Nathan, J.D. and even Chris. All he had to do now was think up a way to get out of the punishment Maude and Beatrice had decided upon for him and Buck.
I´ve made up my mind, Clint, Beatrice announced as she stood up from his kitchen table and began to clear her dishes from the dinner they had just shared. After the week she had just endured, Beatrice could not think of a better way to spend a Sunday night than having take out at Clint´s. The boys had already been returned to school so she and he had decided to have what Clint dubbed the Celebrating the Fact that We Survived Spring Break with Our Kids and Their Friends dinner.
What´s that? he asked. You made up your mind that you´re going to wash the dishes for me tonight?
She rolled her eyes as she leaned against the sink and looked back over her shoulder at him. Clint, I would sooner throw away these dishes and buy you some new ones than give you the satisfaction of watching me wash dishes. Her eyes suddenly widened as she realized that she might have just spoken about throwing away dishes that once belonged to Sarah.
Clint watched her and knew what she was thinking. He shook his head as he responded to her unvoiced fear. Don´t worry. I packed up Sarah´s good dishes long ago. Didn´t want to break any of them. He gave a very small laugh. Well I didn´t want to break any of the ones that were left. Sarah used to claim that I broke her plates and glasses just to get out of having to wash them.
Wanting to keep the mood light, Beatrice smiled back at him. That sounds like something you´d do.
A man´s innocent until proven guilty. His grin was enigmatic. After a moment, he stood up and took his own plate to the sink. I like your tossing them in the trash and buying new ones idea, but just leave em. I´ll wash em in the morning. Now what was it that you´ve made your mind up on?
Before answering, Beatrice started the coffee machine and then sat back at the kitchen table. I am not taking those boys anywhere else! she declared firmly and so seriously that Clint could not help but laugh.
You just had two of them, he pointed out when he could stop his own laughter. Granted you had the worst one of the bunch, but the other one was your own son, so I don´t see how you can complain too much. Try taking them all fishing.
No, thank you! Although I will gladly fund any little camping or male bonding trip you´d like to take them on, she smiled her most beguiling smile over at him as he sat down at the table across from her. You know, one last trip before summer. Something for Chris and Josiah´s graduation?
Clint eyed Beatrice for a while as he could see the neat little trap she was trying to lay down for him to walk right into. He wondered if it was an inherent trait that women had. Half the time Sarah had him doing exactly what she wanted him to do before he even realized that she was the one who had maneuvered him into doing it. Deciding that the best offense was a good defense, he changed the subject. What did you really mean, Bea? You weren´t talking about the boys when you said you made your mind up. So what is it really?
I don´t know what you´re talking about, Beatrice stalled nervously as she stood and moved back to the coffee pot. She busied herself by taking a couple of mugs out of the cabinets and getting sugar and cream ready.
Clint put an elbow on the table and leaned his chin into his open hand and tapped his fingers on his cheek as he gave her a look that told her that he was not falling for that. Beatrice did not say anything as she brought the sugar and cream to the table. She remained silent until she had served both of them a cup of coffee and brought them over to the table.
She made her coffee to her taste and watched as Clint simply drank his. Taking a long sip of her own she finally spoke. I´ve made up my mind about Gage. I´m going to break up with him.
Clint nodded contemplatively before taking another long drink of coffee. After he swallowed it down he looked at Beatrice and said, I´m not sure what you want me to say here, Bea.
She actually laughed as she realized she had no idea why she was telling him this or how she wanted him to respond. I don´t know. I just got the feeling that you never really liked Gage so I just wanted to tell you that I was going to end it.
He didn´t impress me very much, no, Clint agreed. But I thought you were going to try to make it work.
That´s the thing, Clint. She sighed with frustration. I know you and Sarah had your differences and that there were plenty of things that you had to work out, but did you ever feel that you were having to try and make it work?
He shook his head but did not speak for a minute as he allowed himself that time to contemplate his relationship with Sarah. He was again reminded of how highly his wife had thought of Beatrice Wilmington and he knew that Sarah would have wanted him to give the younger woman some of the advice that she would have if she had lived to do it. Sarah and I had to work hard to agree sometimes but we never felt like we had to work hard to stay together. But we were lucky, Beatrice. I don´t know if we should be the model you use for what´s right in your life.
I just want something that feels that right. Gage and I are fine just dating and being together whenever our schedules allow. But I don´t think that the two of have what it takes to be together, to get married and live our lives out together. And I think I´m finally somewhere where that´s what I want.
Well then, it sounds to me that you really have made up your mind and that you do know what you want. Gage is a good man, but he just wasn´t right for you, Clint stated.
She rolled her eyes at him playfully. Well if you felt that way, why didn´t you tell me that before?
Would you have listened to me? he responded with a knowing grin.
You have a point. And at least this way I don´t have to listen to you saying, I told you so.
Oh but I have so many opportunities to tell you that. He grinned again. Like telling you I told you that those boys would end up getting into trouble and that Standish would be the instigator. Dinner had been filled with each parent discussing what trouble their children and their friends had managed to get into.
Beatrice shot Clint a warning look. Well Chris and Vin managed to find some on their own as well. She was still a little upset to learn that the boys had taken Buck´s Mustang without permission from either her or Clint. The boys had been repentant and had apologized with sincerity, but Beatrice could not help but feel a little disappointed.
Which is exactly why they are joining the other two in doing that lawn work, he responded a little defensively.
You know this reminds me, Beatrice said, taking her cue to change the subject, Ezra actually apologized to me and tried to take full responsibility.
Clint had a hard time swallowing the sip of coffee he had just taken. When he finally managed it he looked at her in disbelief. Say that again. I thought you said that Ezra apologized.
I did say that. And he took full responsibility. She laughed at his reaction.
He shook his head as if still unable to believe what she was saying. Well then why didn´t you record it?
Believe me, Clint, if I had any kind of idea that he was going to do that, I sure would have. But I don´t think he even had a clue that he was going to do it. Oh you should have seen his face when he finished talking. See that´s another reason why you should take the boys on some kind of bonding trip. You might get an opportunity to have Ezra apologize to you.
That´s quite alright. I´d rather not have to live through whatever it is that he´d be apologizing to me for. Chicken, Beatrice teased.
Yeah, well I don´t see you lining up to take them all somewhere, he pointed out.
Oops, look at the time. I should be going, she laughed.
Now who´s the chicken? he laughed with her as he stood with her to walk her to her car.
As she gathered her purse from the living room she pointed out, Oh but I´m sure the boys would prefer your company to mine.
They´re growing up, he retorted, time for them to get used to disappointment.
She laughed again at that, shaking her head at him. But seriously, Clint, thanks for everything. She held his eyes with her own, letting him know that she appreciated his listening to her.
Anytime, Bea, anytime. And don´t worry. Gage might not be the one, but the right man is out there, and a lucky man he´ll be too.
Beatrice smiled while going uncharacteristically a little coy. I don´t know about lucky, but I do hope Mr. Right is out there and that he´ll be able to put up with me when I find him.
Trust me, Beatrice, no man is going to have to put up´ with you. You are perfect just the way you are. And someday you´re going to find the man who will appreciate that.
She looked up at him, her eyes filled with surprise at his words. Part of her thought that he was setting her up, that he somehow knew about the conversation she had with Maude with the older woman told her that it was only the good men who would tell a woman she was perfect. But she knew that the only way that was possible would be if Clint has spoken to Maude himself and she knew there was no way that he would have done that. She decided she would have to do some serious thinking about what Clint´s words meant.
Chris sat leaning his chair against the wall of the basement under the cafeteria at Regents, that had become the seven´s private gathering place away from prying eyes and listening ears. The blond was quite content as the seven of them all met together for the first time since they had returned to school the previous day. An amused smile tugged at his lips as they all listened to J.D. and Buck try and outdo one another with stories of their respective Spring Breaks. Chris could readily ascertain that J.D. was happy with the reemergence of his aunt´s boyfriend into her life by the many sentences that began with the man´s name.
However, despite J.D.´s enthusiasm and chatter nothing could stop Buck from relating his exploits with the fairer sex in the state of Florida. That was until Ezra got a mischievous look in his eye and in one of the rare pauses in Buck´s narration, spoke up.
Did you tell any of these girls that your name is Starbuck? Ezra enquired with a cheeky smile.
Buck´s head snapped around as his eyes narrowed at Ezra. My name is not Starbuck, he growled back. And we had a deal! he whined.
What deal? Ezra asked with an innocent air. I remember a bet, which you lost by the way, but you never said I couldn´t tell anyone you were named after a TV character named Starbuck.
Starbuck? J.D. spluttered with mirth.
Ezra sat back looking very smug as the next few minutes were spent explaining who Starbuck was and teasing Buck about how he got named. After much laughter, Chris decided to direct the focus back on the southerner´s misdeeds.
You planning on doing any more cavorting in public half-naked, Ezra? Chris asked sarcastically.
Chris grinned in self-satisfaction when Ezra shot him a dark glare and scowled.
No, Ezra replied with a surly tone.
Whatever made you think you could handle beer? Chris added derisively.
Hey we don´t need a lecture from you, Buck spoke up defensively. We already got one from our mothers alright?
Chris turned and faced Buck´s unusual angered outburst. Gone was the junior´s jovial mood from the moment before. Instead he was surprised to see protectiveness for Ezra and a warning look to him to drop the subject. There was an awkward silence while he felt all the others´ eyes on them. Chris shrugged and broke into a slight smile.
Fair enough, Chris agreed.
Vin watched the interaction play out between Chris and Buck and raised his hand to his mouth to hide a true smile. The Texan should have known that it would only be a matter of time before Buck showed the same protectiveness and loyalty to Ezra that he showed to all the others, especially J.D. At some point during their adventures together, Buck had seen the vulnerability in Ezra that Vin, as his roommate, had been the first to notice. Chris, on the other hand, still saw Ezra mostly as a troublemaker and smart ass. Of course, Vin also knew that the southerner preferred it that way, as irritating Chris was one of his all time favorite pastimes.
Buck relaxed immediately at Chris´ submission and ran his hand through his hair before he turned back to Chris, this time with a mocking smile. Besides you should worry about yourself. Mom´s pretty upset with you, Buck told him. And you, Buck added, turning a pointed look to Vin. To his credit, the Texan looked guilty.
She´s just over reacting, Chris replied quickly and defensively. He was still feeling remorse for the look of disappointment in Beatrice´s eyes when she confronted him on the issue. He had taken full blame for he and Vin´s actions, however, Clint decided that both of them would join in the work details Beatrice was organizing for Ezra and Buck.
You stole my car! Buck stated with renewed hurt feelings.
We borrowed it, Chris replied vehemently.
Without permission, Buck argued and Chris said nothing when he had no reply to that.
Looks like you´re all paying for your sins this weekend, Josiah commented sagely, trying to diffuse the tension.
The large senior grinned when his response was collective groans.
Can´t you convince your mother to find us chores of a less menial nature? Ezra asked.
Buck rolled his eyes. Trust me, when Mom has made up her mind about punishment she doesn´t budge!
Ezra sighed at Buck´s inadequacies.
So Nathan, we haven´t heard about your exploits yet? Josiah called out across the room to the junior. It had not escaped his notice that Nathan had been particularly vague about his week in New Orleans so far. And the observant senior hadn´t missed the slight squirm in Nathan´s tall frame when Ezra´s drinking had been raised.
Nathan smiled self-consciously as all eyes turned with interest to him. However, with encouragement from his friends, the impulse to tell all became too great.
I went to some wild all night parties with my cousin Andre and I met a couple of girls, he admitted with a pleased grin.
Nathan! Nathan! Buck boomed as he moved himself and sat comfortably next to his roommate.
Wild parties? All night? Girls? Buck asked boisterously as he gave Nathan a playful shove.
The other laughed as the lanky junior´s eyes lit up with avarice.
Tell us everything! Buck demanded.
Chris leaned back in his chair again, lifting the two front legs from the floor as he rocked it back against the wall. He had enjoyed his week with his father and Vin, but he had to admit that the best times seemed to be with all seven of them together. His thoughts again drifted back to graduation and how it was only a couple of months away. He was not sure if he could manage it, but he decided right then that if he had a say in things that the seven of them would not split up again until then. The time would pass too quickly before they had to go their separate ways anyway.
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Continues in Bets and Brawling
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