Word count: 1,681
Scott Lancer sat out under a tree at Lancer. Even though it was late November, the California weather was perfect with blue skies, a scattering of white clouds and air perfumed with the wonderful smells of Teresa O’Brien’s cooking. Engrossed in his writing, the blond Lancer didn’t notice his brother’s approach until the younger man grabbed the journal and made off with it. Johnny didn’t go far, but remained just out of reach, backing up each time his older brother moved closer.
“Johnny, could I have my journal, please?” Scott asked impatiently.
“Aw, Scott, it’s Thanksgiving. What’re you doing writin’ in this musty book anyway?”
“Johnny, I’ve told you before that I write down memories and observations about people I’ve met or things I’ve done. When it’s filled, I’ll start another.”
“Well, what are you writin’ about this time? Anything special?”
“As a matter of fact, I was just writing about three special people in my life.”
Johnny moved somewhat closer, holding the book out in front of him. “Am I. . .am I in it?” he asked hopefully.
“No, you aren’t,” the blond replied.
Sapphire eyes shuttered over as Johnny tried to hide his disappointment.
His older brother walked up to the other man, taking back his journal. Grasping his sibling on his shoulder, Scott forced Johnny to look him in the eye. “You aren’t in it because these three people have already passed on. I just needed to remember them today.”
“Is your mother one of them?”
Scott smiled and nodded. “It doesn’t seem possible that I never knew her. Over the years Grandfather has told me so much about her that sometimes I imagine I can remember her. I wish I could have told my mother I loved her just once.”
Johnny stood there silently for a moment. He could see the emotions in Scott’s blue-gray eyes. “Who else did you write about?”
“She must have been quite a woman if she put up with you while you were growin’ up.” Johnny’s eyes twinkled as he teased the other Lancer son. He just couldn’t imagine his blond brother as a small boy.
“That’s an understatement, Brother. She was the one who wiped away my tears, listened to my troubles, and most important loved me. I owe her a debt I could never repay.”
“Boston, if she’s like you describe her then I’d say she was more than repaid, just bein’ with you.” Unspoken in his remark was the regret that Johnny had never had the opportunity to know Scott until recently.
“I’d like to think so, but I wasn’t there when she needed me.” Scott closed his journal and returned to the bench he had been sitting on with Johnny following him.
“So who’s the third person you were writing about?”
“A woman I never met, never talked to, but who gave me an important gift.”
Consternation filled the sapphire eyes. “A girlfriend?”
“No. Your mother.”
“My mother, but you. . . .”
“I know. Our mothers are irrevocably linked in my mind. Did you ever think about the probability that if my mother hadn’t died giving me life, you might never have been born?”
Johnny’s mouth opened but no sound came out.
“If my mother had lived, she and Murdoch might have had other children besides me, but they wouldn’t have been you. Of course, my parents might have. . .separated and then Murdoch might have married your mother, but somehow I just can’t imagine it. In fact, if that had happened, you and I still might not have been together since my mother would probably have returned to Boston–and might have taken me with her. In some strange way, my mother’s death gave you the chance at life.”
“I’ve never thought about it that way,” protested the gunfighter.
“Johnny, please don’t think I’m blaming you at all. Life does have its ironies. I prefer to think that my mother wanted me to have a hot-headed, stubborn brother so somehow she arranged for Murdoch and your mother to have you!”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed at Scott’s little jibe. “I’m not the only
stubborn one around here.”
“Well, maybe not, but we’ve lost too many years so I’m glad we’ll have a chance to make up for them in the future.”
“Me too, Boston. When I first saw that dandy who said he was my brother, I wondered how long it would be before I could take off with the $1000; but you know, now I’m kinda glad I didn’t.”
“That goes for me too, Johnny, however, I believe I’m done with my journal for today. What do you say we go in and see what goodies Teresa has made? She said she was going to make something special.”
“Something special? I’ll bet it’s one of them seven-layer chocolate cakes like she made for my birthday!”
“Well, I don’t know about that, but we can see.”
The two young men surreptitiously tiptoed in the back door, leading to the kitchen pantry. There cooling on one shelf was a flaky red pastry. “Umm, cherry pie!” crowed the blond.
“Hey, she made a cherry pie for you! What about me?”
“Now, Johnny she makes chocolate cake much more often than cherry pie!”
“Well, I don’t care. How can I be thankful for a cherry pie when I had my mouth all set for a big piece of chocolate cake?”
Scott just shook his head. “Sorry about that, Brother, but I’m going to go tell Teresa thank you. Don’t touch my pie!”
A disgruntled Johnny Madrid fidgeted around the sweet smelling pie, grumbling about contrary bakers and impossible brothers. Still, he had to admit that the pie did look rather good with its red juice peeking through the lattice crust. Never a big fruit fan, Johnny decided that maybe he should take one little taste so that he could get over the shock and then maybe he could force down one slice for Thanksgiving Dinner. After all, he didn’t want to hurt Teresa’s feelings.
Breaking off a small bit of crust with just enough filling to get the essence of the pie, Johnny popped it into his mouth. The tart sweet combination was delicious. Taking in another blob on one finger, he sucked at the finger until all the crimson fruit was gone. Looking down at the now lop-sided pie, Madrid decided to even out the dessert by taking a small piece from the other side. Just as he scooped it up, he heard a noise from the great room. It was Teresa humming and she was headed into the kitchen! Hastily, Johnny tried to stick the handful of filling into his mouth as flaky bits of crust cascaded to the floor. Then he dashed out the back door, just in time. Breathing a sigh of relief, Johnny headed around to enter through the French doors where he found Scott and Murdoch enjoying a glass of wine before the Thanksgiving feast.
The dark-haired Lancer had just stepped inside when he heard a loud crash from the direction of the kitchen. All three Lancers hurried in to find a distraught Teresa sitting on the floor, covered with chocolate icing and the remains of a chocolate cake in her skirt. The tall rancher immediately went over to help his ward get up, inquiring about what had happened.
In a tearful voice, the young woman admitted, “I. . .I just put the finishing touches on the cake and I walked into the pantry and I. . .I slipped on something. My beautiful cake is ru-ruined!”
“Well, at least you weren’t hurt.” remarked Murdoch.
“No,” she wailed, “but it took me hours to get that cake together and my new dress is a mess.” Fleeing the kitchen, she ran into her room and slammed the door.
Scott and Murdoch began to pick up the sticky debris as well as clean up the kitchen. Johnny just stood there, stunned, in the middle of the chaos. Finally, when the kitchen was once more in order, Scott proceeded to Teresa’s room where he knocked on the door. The oldest and the middle Lancers then persuaded Teresa to come out so that they could all enjoy the dinner together.
After a few wine toasts, all set to with a will, striving not to leave any leftovers. By the end of the meal, no one could even think of
dessert. It wasn’t until an hour later that Teresa carried a tray of coffee and the cherry pie into the great room to be shared.
Scott’s keen eyes immediately noticed the slightly damaged pie, but said nothing as he watched Teresa cut it into generous slices. Murdoch, Scott, and Teresa did full justice to their dessert, but Johnny didn’t even take a taste. “Not hungry, Brother? I can take that off your hands if you like?” Scott suggested.
Johnny passed over the slice without a comment.
“I’m sorry about your chocolate cake, Johnny. I’ll make you one tomorrow.”
“Uh, don’t worry about it, Teresa. It’s Thanksgiving. I guess it’s time I learn to be thankful for what I do have.”
“You’re right about that, Son, Lancer had another prosperous year and we’re all together so there is a great deal to be thankful for.”
“Well, I would be thankful for some help with the dishes. There are still quite a few left to wash and dry,” remarked Teresa.
“Johnny and I will do them for you, Teresa. You go take it easy.”
“Well, thank you, Scott, I’ll just take you up on that offer. Do a good job on those dishes!”
“Don’t worry, we will. Come on, Johnny. You wash, I’ll dry.”
“Did you say something, Brother?” inquired the blond with a wry smile.
“I just wondered why I had to wash. I don’t want Penelope to see me with red, rough hands on Saturday night.”
“All right, Johnny, I’ll wash, but before you start drying, why don’t you rub that cherry pie blob off your cheek first?” The blond took up the sponge and started to work.
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