by Sivan Shemesh
Disclaimer: They are not mine, except one minor OC.
Thanks: Thanks to Helen for beta-reading and advice.
Author's Note: Josiah is 21, Chris and Buck are 19, Nathan is 18, Vin is 10, JD is 8, Ezra is 6. Vin & JD attend one school, Ezra another.
Back to: Price
Ezra woke with a growling stomach. Climbing out of bed, he headed for the bathroom and prepared himself to meet the new day.
"Good morning, Brother Ezra," Josiah greeted him.
"Morning..." the boy mumbled sleepily, making his way to the table and the closest chair.
But his chosen place had already been filled by JD, who snapped at him, "This is my seat!"
Confused, Ezra moved to the next empty chair. Hearing a determined cough behind him, he turning around and found his brother Vin giving him a warning look.
Shoulders slumping, he stepped aside and let Vin take the seat.
"Ezra, why aren't you eating breakfast?" Buck asked as he walked into the room, straightening his work clothes into place and taking his usual chair next to Nathan, who was still half-asleep and paying no attention to the world around him.
"I... I can't find any place to sit," the boy replied in a shaky voice, fighting tears.
Hearing this, Josiah turned from the stove and placed the boy at a second small table that the family often used when everyone was present for a meal, the main table not being large enough to accommodate seven people. "There you are. What would you like to eat?"
Ezra moved his hand to point towards the box of cereal that Vin and JD had helped themselves from. "I want that."
"Sorry, but I think Vin got the last of the cereal," Josiah said, shaking the box and finding it empty. "I need to buy some more."
Ezra stared at his two smug looking brothers, eating with gusto and ignoring him totally. Hopefully, he asked Josiah, "Can I have eggs?"
"Sure, and what would you like to drink?"
"Orange juice, please," Ezra replied.
Josiah placed the juice in front of the little boy sitting alone at his table, and then he walked back to the stove and prepared his food.
As he waited patiently for his eggs to cook, Ezra felt left out. Conversation flowed off and on at the main table but nobody seemed to remember that he was around. He began to feel uncomfortable, wondering if he should speak up but unable to think of anything to say.
Josiah suddenly plunked a plate of scrambled eggs in front of him and Ezra jumped in surprise. When his brother remained standing there waiting for him to begin, Ezra made nervous a grab for his juice and gasped in horror as he accidentally slopped it.
Staring at the wet orange stain coloring the front of his shirt, Ezra gulped down tears. Josiah heaved an exasperated sigh and Ezra could hear Vin, JD and one of the adults snickering behind him. "I... I'm sorry! I didn't mean to."
"Go to your room and change, Ezra," Josiah told him, steering him toward the swinging door that separated the rooms. "Bring your school bag back with you."
"Hurry up about it," Chris, who had just returned from doing the outdoor chores in time to see the spill, ordered him. "You need to finish your breakfast quickly or you'll be late."
Ezra ran from the room, dashing away his tears with a fist as he removed the soiled shirt and replaced it with a clean one. Grabbing up his school bag, he hurried back to the kitchen, ducking out of the way to avoid being run over by Vin and JD going the other way. As usual, they ignored him.
Hand on the door; Ezra paused as he heard the adults say his name.
"I just don't know if it was wise to take Ezra in," Chris was arguing. "The cost of an extra child is hard enough without all the rest."
Nathan's voice picked up the thread. "He doesn't fit in here. He's clumsy and awkward... gets upset by the littlest things! Look what happened just now."
"So what do you want me to do?" Josiah demanded, his tone filled with sarcasm. "Send him back to his uncaring mother? Let him be somebody else's burden?"
"Might solve our problem," Chris muttered.
"What problem would that be?" Josiah asked him in a challenging voice.
"You know what I mean," Chris said in an emotionless voice that sent a shiver down the listening Ezra's spine. "He's not like the other boys. We have to watch him every minute, constantly tell him what to do and how to do it."
"And he starts crying at the least little thing," Buck cut in. "Half the time, I'm afraid to say anything to him!"
"And don't forget that we're paying the debt that his mother left behind when she placed him in that expensive school," Nathan added. "That's not fair to any of us. Why did you ask for Judge Travis to let you adopt him?"
Josiah sounded furious. "Because I could see any one of us in his path, alone with no one to take care of him, that's why!"
"I still think that the boy is a problem," Chris repeated.
Josiah paused for a long time, and his voice was sad as he quietly asked, "Are you all agreed? You all believe that we should rethink adopting him?"
Ezra heard several murmurs of 'Yes' echo through the kitchen, and he could feel his heart breaking. Remembering what Buck had said about his crying, he forced back the tears swimming in his eyes and pushed into the kitchen, pretending that he had not heard a thing.
Sitting at the small table, he forced down his breakfast, mumbled, "Thank you," to Josiah when he offered to help settle Ezra's backpack on his shoulders, then stood to one side and waited to be taken to school.
Josiah studied the boy sitting silently next to him in the car. He had noticed the shadowed look in his baby brother's green eyes. He suspected that Ezra might have heard some of the conversation he'd had with Chris and the others but could not be sure without asking him.
If Ezra had not heard it, he didn't want to burden the little boy with his own concerns, so Josiah said nothing, maintaining the silence as he drove his brother to school.
Oblivious to his brother's scrutiny, Ezra was thinking up a plan. His mother had always told him, "The truth hurts," but he had never really understood until now. His new family did not want him, any more than Mother had. That was the truth and he had to face it.
It was time for him to do something on his own. No matter how they felt about him, Ezra loved his family. He did not want to be a burden to them any more.
TBC ... in "Missing"
|Family Index||On to: Missing|
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