Speaking Of Chaucer
Chapter from Country Road AU
Ezra climbed out of his father's pickup truck, taking his over night bag with him as he walked towards the ranch house.
It was mid-summer, the sun was high and so was the heat index but Ezra welcomed it. Of the seasons, it was summer that he loved the most and he wasn't alone. Vin, his uncle who was only a few months older than himself, enjoyed the summer as well. Then again, Vin enjoyed all the seasons.
Ezra had finally been released of his ankle tracking device that the court had sentenced him with and as a celebration, he was spending the weekend with Vin and JD.
Vin and JD both had activities planned from time on the four wheeler, fishing, camping in the tree-house, over stuffing on sweets and of course horseback riding.
The two boys knew Ezra had some experience with driving since he had stolen a car that ended up with the GPS tracking device on his ankle in the first place.
They were confident that Ezra would be able to pick up the basic of four wheeling. Horseback riding though, he had never been on a horse before or they assumed. So there was that small little knowledge they were able to share with Ezra.
In their eyes, Ezra knew everything and he had done a lot of stuff, or seems knowledgeable out it compared to their sheltered life. So teaching him something new seemed like a special treat. To the adults- Ezra needed to learn a lot more of everything.
It had been assumed that Ezra had never been on a horse by everyone, even his own father. For his part, Ezra had allowed them to assume such a detail. The idea that he was shy around horses was also an assumption due to his lack of interest in visiting the horses that the Larabee ranch did have in their stables. Or how he quickly back away when one of the riders suggest they double up for a small ride around the corral like a child in a petting zoo.
Nathan had admitted to never been on a horse before and the other's have been teaching him how. He grew up a large populated spot in New York. But he didn't have a device about his leg and he was eager to learn.
It helped that his girlfriend, Rain was an excellent rider herself. Josiah and Nate both also assumed Ezra never had been on a horse, never since they known him and he never spoke about it.
Ezra, the truth was that he had been placed on the saddle of a pony before he even learn to crawl. He loved horses but he had no interested in getting attached to any horse.
He had done that once before only to end up losing his best friend. He rather not feel that again then take a chance.
Today though, was a little different. For a few months, the Larabee's had been stabling a horse that went by the name of Chaucer. A stubborn horse who's owner could not control the beast and needed a proper place to pen him until he could find another owner.
The current owner wasn't an abusive man and wanted to keep Chaucer away from such a person so time was needed to find that special owner. The Larabee Ranch gave him that time and Chris had promised to try to work with Chaucer in order to find a For-Ever Home for the horse.
Chris was determined to tame the wild beast but since Chaucer's arrival he had chased, flipped, rolled, bitten, and even witness his hat being stomped on by the chestnut beast. Last weekend was a stare down with the ending result of Chaucer charging at Chris and Buck telling him not to look the devil in the eyes.
Needless to say that when Chris told his family that he was going to have another go at Chaucer, the family would rush out, all lined up at the fence – Vin with a bag of popcorn- to watch the Short Fused Chris Larabee vs Stubborn Pure Bred Chaucer. JD wanted to start a YouTube Channel but his parents said no.
When Vin and JD would visit Ezra, who lived just a shadow out of the small town, they would end up telling him the stories. Ezra would laugh, visualizing Chris' outcome so clearly. He would hide the fact that he forgot to breath every time he heard the name Chaucer or the fact that his heart would race and his mind would wonder – was it him?
So today would be different because not only did Ezra get his tracking monitor off his ankle a few days ago, not only did he have a tin of finest sugar mint candy money could buy in his pocket but today he allowed himself that small hope that the infamous hores was indeed his Chaucer. Today he was going to put on his bravery shield and walk into the stable because he had to know. He couldn't bare it any longer.
"Hey Dad." Josiah greeted his father who was hauling stuff out of the small storage shed near the ranch.
"Josiah." John greeted his eldest son and gave a look over at Ezra. "So, kid. How does it feel to have that tracker off?"
"Wonderful." Ezra absently rubbed the ankle that once bounded him from freedom while he looked about the ranch. " Is Vin and JD not at home?" Normally the boys would come out running to greet Ezra like over sized pups to visitors. It felt a bit empty without them.
John set a box down on the ground and placed his hands on his lower back. "Natalie took them over to Nellie's farm to pick some strawberries for dessert. Strawberry Creme Pie. Your grandmother has been pouring over some old summer recipes. But they'll be back soon."
Josiah pointed towards the shed. "Does mom have you sorting through boxes?"
"Hmm." John nodded. "She does. Most of these boxes are yours, you know? When you moved and the family grew, I had placed your stuff out here." He gave a shrug of his shoulder. "Figure you being back and living in that big old house now, maybe you can take some of your stuff along with you?"
Ezra knelt down to the box on the ground and pulled out a football jersey with the school's old logo on it and his number. He wrinkled his nose at the dreadful colour of orange and green. "Did you wash this before you packed it? Smells like the gym room."
"Ha-ha-ha." Josiah pulled the jersey out of his hands and stuffed it back into the box but not before Ezra had fished out of the box.
"What's this?" Ezra moved away from his father's reach. "A penned letter to or is it from your lovely Miss Emma Dubonnet from your high school years? My, my. What would you had to say at my age to a young lady I wonder?"
"Keep wondering, son." Josiah, being a size of a giant compared to his fifteen year old son, was able to pick Ezra up and pull the letter out of his hands before he could read it. "Go find trouble else where, unless you want to help move boxes."
"I'd love to but," Ezra rolled his shoulder. "I'm feeling a little stiff."
"Uh-huh." Josiah stuffed the letter back into the box and heaved it off the ground and headed for his jeep. "Tends to act up on him the same time work shows up."
"Imagine that." John leaned against the post of the small porch of the shed. "Good cure for that is more work."
Ezra rolled his eyes and turned towards the barn. "Ah, Mr Larabee? Would you mind if I explore the barn?"
"How about grandpa? Pa? Pap? Hell, even grandfather would suit." John looked over at Josiah who just shook his time. "Or John. Never had a relation call me Mr Larabee and certainly don't want my grandson to do so. You dont go about calling your grandmother Mrs Larabee."
"Give him time to adjust." Josiah told his father, who only snorted in response.
John thought Ezra had plenty of time but not wanting to dramatize the situation, he kept his mouth shut. Instead he looked over at the barn and quickly back at Ezra on releasing what the boy had asked. "You know horses are in the barn? Thought you didn't like the horses?"
"I don't recall saying such a thing." Ezra stated with a blink of his eyes, the very color he shared with his grandfather.
"Guess you hadn't." John agreed but he couldn't help but be suspicious of Ezra. Maybe it was the sheriff in him but his sixth sense was telling him to stay alert.
Josiah nodded towards the barn. "Mind the horses though. You still aren't used to them yet."
"When the other two get back, I will have Vin saddle up Sadie." John told Ezra, scratching his stubble on his chin. Natalie was always partial to the rugged look but it did itch. "Vin is excited to go on some small trails with you."
Sadie was a gentle, creme colored, laid back mare that was great for a beginner. "I know you three wanted to ride off into the sunset and all but since you don't have the experience, I want you to stay in the corral."
Ezra nodded that he understood as he turned towards the barn. "No experience equals no meadow runs or trail rides, just the corral. But with experience, I can venture out into the wilderness? Correct?"
"You got it. Once you get pass the beginnings stage, you can move out to the open land." John agreed as he reached down, picking up the box and handing it to Josiah.
Ezra gave him a lopsided grin and a fake salute before turning towards the barn. If John had taken a moment to register that grin, he would had realized it was the same smile Buck had when he was going on about girls and the little trouble they got into.
On reaching the door, Ezra paused. Glancing around, he nervously touched the tin of mints in the pocket of his jeans.
"Papa can I have one!"
The older man laugh, picking up the three-year old child with bright green eyes and dimpled smile. He took the small tin box of mints from the boys little hands. "Your breath smells as you already had a few, Ezra."
Ezra held up two fingers, "Just two. They melt in my mouth see!" He opened his mouth to prove that there was no longer a mint. "And Papa, I slept in my own bed all night! Didn't get up even once!"
"That's because you are my brave boy! Well, I suppose one more won't hurt then. Seeing as your mouth has room for it."
Memories were so bitter sweet. Ezra tapped a long finger on the top of the tins and took a deep breath before pushing the door open enough to only allow himself to slip through and quickly closing it behind him.
As the door rolled back into place, old memories rolled forward.
"He's mine?" Young, bright eyes looked up at the stormy blue eyes of his Uncle Alexander. His papa's youngest brother.
"For as long as he lives. I promise." His uncle handed him the milk bottle and gave Ezra a smile that oddly had sadness about it but Ezra, barely eight was too young, too innocent to understand. He didn't understand that his Uncle never thought the colt, who's mother had passed birthing him, would last a week.
Ezra pushed back the memory, knowing what he knew now didn't change the betrayal. He managed to push himself away from the door and walk towards the chestnut in the furthest stable. He ignored all the other horses that poked their heads out over the door, flicking their ears in curiosity.
Ezra stopped in front of the chestnut's stable door. For the moment, time had stopped. Everything around him dissolved except for the horse that looked back at him.
"You promised me! You said he was mine forever!" He shouted with tears streaming down his face.
His Uncle knelt down to his level. "My business is to sell horses, son. I don't keep them. I have no use to keep them."
"But you said..."
"I didn't think he would live or I would never had made that promise." His uncle placed a hand on the back of Ezra's head and pressed a tissue against his cheeks to wipe the tears away. "You are too old for this kind of behavior, so stop. Just stop. Crying won't change anything at all. Just makes you look weak and pathetic."
"Y-you promised. I trained him and..." Ezra sniffled, trying to stop the tears as the horse hauler drove down the driveway with his only friend. He could only make out the dust the truck picked up. He never even got to say good-bye.
"Look here, boy. Here is a lesson for you. Promises are broken every day. Every hour of the day a promise is being broken. Your mother promised she be back in two months, didn't she? After a year and a half, you see her around?" Alex winced, the words were cold and the boy didn't deserve it. Damn it though, he never wanted kids of his own and certainly didn't want this one.
His uncle cupped Ezra's chin his in hand. "I don't have time for this baby stuff you pulling. You are too big for childish tantrums. Truth is, promises don't mean anything. They are empty words so see this as a lesson. You hear someone promise you something, they're just buying time. Soon enough, that promise will break. Better get use to it because in life, that is one thing that will never change."
"Get use to it..." Ezra mumbled and his mind flashed to another time. To another friend.
"You and me, forever! I promise." She kissed his cheek before quickly jumping to her feet. She laughed in a field of wild flowers. A crown of daisies rested upon her head as her long silk hair danced around as she spun.
"You promised we would always be together. You promised..." He cradled her, brushing the droplets of water away from her face as if it would help. "You promised."
Ezra shook the memories away quickly. He rubbed at the tightness in his chest, couldn't go there. It was too soon, too fresh. Instead he had to focus on now not yesterday's past.
With shaking hand, he held out a few mints for the chestnut horse. His feelings were overwhelming and he wasn't sure if he could even speak without bubbling u like a little toddler.
"Hello my old friend. I heard you were in the neighborhood." He leaned forward and Chaucer pressed his muzzle against Ezra's shoulder after taking the mints from the boy. For a moment, they just breathed in each other's scent, remembering their younger days together.
"I don't know how but I'm going to keep you." Ezra pulled his head away from the horse, wiping at his eyes. "It isn't a promise Chaucer. It's a fact. I will see it happens."
Chaucer bounced his head in agreement and Ezra licked his lip. "You know, I've been itching for a run. Bet you are too." Ezra glanced around the barn, spotting the riding gears. Each gear was tacked up at the wall with their owners' name etched in a wooden sign. "Don't believe Vin would mind too much if I happen to borrow his riding equipment, do you?"
Chaucer snorted as a reply.
"I do agree with you my friend. He is rather picky." Ezra petted the horse at the neck. "You deserve better equipment than used material such as his but it's closest to my size and it is what we have currently until I can purchase for better items." Ezra hauled Vin's items off the wall and Chaucer let himself out of the stall to stand beside Ezra.
"Now I never had a chance to ride you." Ezra spoke in the same volume as he did when he was younger but his voice had matured, it didn't bother Chaucer though. "You were too young at the time. I also understand you have been giving Chris a hard time. I thank you for that by the way."
Chaucer stomped his hoof and snorted some horse profanity out.
"My sympathies." Ezra gave Chaucer another mint. "I beg you not to do to me as you do to him. I'm not interested in running into the sunset. I done that and it's blinding, my friend. You cannot see where you are going. Perhaps that is the whole point. If so, I live in the sunset. But I am getting too symbolic. For now, lets ride with the raising heat of summer and worry about the cost later."
John had just placed a box inside the bed of Josiah's pick up when he by chanced glanced over to see Ezra and Chaucer coming out of the barn.
It didn't take John long to seize up the saddled horse from hell and the inexperience rider leading it out of the barn. No, not leading. The horse was dutifully following the boy. "Ezra!" John called out to warn the boy. Of all the horses Ezra had gotten, without permission it was that beast.
The call out from John got Josiah's attention who came hurrying out of the shed, stumbling over a box near the entrance and it also made Ezra quickly place himself on top of the saddle. John was already running towards Ezra, yelling his name again.
Ezra wined the brindle in his fist, leaned forward and whispered to Chaucer to make a break for it.
Chaucer didn't even hesitant
It had been awhile since Ezra had been on a horse and Chaucer rode as it was a race of their life. It was a struggle to stay on top but he held tight and allowed Chaucer to run his built up energy.
They both needed it. They both craved it. It was a moment of escape of everything. The heat of the summer, the warm breeze, the scent of everything hitting at them until they were exhausted.
Ezra knew once they got back to the ranch, there would be a price to pay but it would be worth it.
Chaucer stopped at a wide creek. The horse was breathing heavy from his run. Ezra wasn't sure how much they covered but even if it ended up being a loop around the ranch, he found it didn't matter.
Chaucer waded in the shallow depth of the creek, cooling off while hydrating himself. Ezra sorely slide from the saddle, landing in the water with a fit of laughter. He was sore, tired and now wet but it had been a long time since he had been happy, relieved maybe.
He finally stood up and began to take the gear off Chaucer to help the horse cool down before discarding his own wet clothes on a tree branch until he was in his boxers before wading to the deeper part of the creek and submerging himself into shoulder level.
He relaxed his body, allowing the water to pick him up in a float on his back. Chaucer splashed about like a colt new to the water and earning a giggle from Ezra.
But it was at that moment poor Josiah spotted Ezra. He had hurried to saddle Buck's horse, seeing as it was the strongest, tallest and fastest horse that would allow him to ride. Chris' and Vin's horse would had an issue with him. As quickly as he could, he took off after his son, his own father just moments behind him.
Ezra and Chaucer were running blindly. Nether knew the land but Chaucer was able to pick up the scent of a used trail and the smell of water to keep him on a path.
Josiah and John, they knew the land and knew exactly where Chaucer was heading. The horse was fast, the rider was light and they had a head start.
By the time Josiah and John had gotten to the creek, as a father, all Josiah could comprehend was a riderless horse and his son floating in the water. He hadn't stop to take in that Chaucer's saddle gear was neatly on the ground or Ezra's clothes drying on a tree branch. But John did.
John Larabee was a sheriff and his observant skills took in all the small details that Josiah had over looked in his panic. He calmly dismounted his own horse and took the reins of his son's horse, while Josiah raced into the water, splashing and yelling in desperation for Ezra.
Chaucer flicked his ears as if Josiah was a nuisance fly. Ezra had his ears below the water surface as he floated on his back but the waves Josiah made as he barreled towards Ezra alerted the boy that something as amiss.
Ezra bolted from floating to treading the water as he watched Josiah approach him.
Seeing that Ezra was safe and seeing as he was already in the water waist high, Josiah continued but slowed his pace but on reaching Ezra, easily pulled the boy into a bear like hug.
Ezra pushed him away, giving him a strange look. Water droplets running down his face like beads of sweat.
"I thought you were hurt! What the hell were you thinking?" Josiah held onto Ezra's arm. Not tightly but enough to lead him out carefully over the lose rocks below their feet.
"I thought I would go for a ride." Ezra mumbled, glancing over to Chaucer who started to make his way closer to the duo.
"I thought you couldn't ride!" Josiah grumbled.
"When had I said that? Never. I never said I couldn't." Ezra remarked.
"Allowing us to think that is the same as saying it." John said from dry land.
Josiah looked over at his father, annoyed at the situation and regrettably said, "I got this Dad."
John held his hands up in a surround motion. "He's got this." He whispered to his own horse who snorted.
"You were to wait until we saddled Sadie. You were to stay in the corral!" Josiah had turned Ezra around to face him once they were on stable ground.
"Experienced riders may leave the corral!" Ezra pointed over to John. "Mr Larabee had said that before I went into the barn!"
John opened his mouth to disagree but remember Josiah asking him to stand back, he closed his mouth.
"We didn't know you were an experienced rider!" Josiah reminded him. "You certainly don't know this land and you certainly had no permission to take this horse out!"
"Chaucer wouldn't hurt me." Ezra stole a glance at Chaucer who had moved in even closer.
"He wouldn't hurt you?" Josiah ran his hands through his hair, annoying his smirking father. "You know nothing about him. He is unpredictable. The things he done to Chris, who is an experience..."
Chaucer had taken that moment to give Josiah a hard shove, almost knocking the tall man over while he moved between the two humans.
John stepped forward in interest of the horse's show of protection towards his grandson and a little cautious because Chaucer was indeed, unpredictable after all.
Josiah looked at the horse in annoyance, thinking Chaucer was just being Chaucer's annoying self.
"He was mine first." Ezra blurted out, reaching out to put a hand on Chaucer's neck. "He was given to me and taken away from me."
Josiah was slow to react. Ezra past was a mystery to him and to Nathan. He rarely shared anything at all and Josiah didn't want him to turn back now. So he nodded his head. Just watching the boy and horse together, a person could see the bond between them.
"Well, sounds as there is a story behind those words." Josiah said softly, reaching up carefully to pat Chaucer's shoulder.
"The other's are going to be relieved to find you safe," John spoke from his spot. Josiah turned in his direction."I'm going to head back ahead of you two. Sounds as you both need to have a father and son moment."
Josiah raised a hand in a silent thank you. "That we do." He trotted to dry land as his father mounted the horse and steered homeward.
Josiah found a rock and took off his shoes, pouring the water and small pebbles out while Ezra took his own clothes from the drying branch and started to redress.
"How did you and Chaucer meet?" Josiah asked, not wanting the subject to drop too long in fear Ezra would shy away from telling it.
" I raised him," Ezra said softly, finishing his jeans and carrying his sneakers over to a fallen log where he started to put them on. He didn't want to go through it all, he didn't wish to relive the past but at the same time, he knew he couldn't back out. He had to find a way to keep Chaucer and it may mean explaining their story.
Chaucer walked over to stand next to him as he grazed on the grass under the shade, seeming to let Ezra know that he was watching out for him.
Ezra started. "Mother was married to a wine maker. It was her first marriage after Papa had died." Ezra reached towards the saddle bag, taking out a box of tin mints. Chaucer's ears flicked at the popping sound and he put his head over Ezra's shoulder for a few mint drops. Ezra smiled, giving him two before popping one in his own mouth.
" At first he seemed nice enough but after marrying mother, he changed. Mother was in a prenuptial agreement and had to stay in the marriage for a longer time than she wished to be in. She made arrangements for me to stay at my Uncle Alexander Standish plantation. The manor looked historical and was built in a nice, rural area in Georgia. It was a respectful horse breeding farm. Only the finest horses, I remember he would tell his clients. He was so proud of his business."
"Is that where you learned to ride? From your Uncle?" Josiah question.
Ezra shook his head no and then yes. "Papa taught me to ride some. It was Uncle Alex that allowed me to continue to ride. Even hired a riding instructor. It was good for his business after all. Most of his clients had children and it was a bonus if the horses were accustom to being around children. He also allowed me to present some of the horses to clients once I rode with dignified grace. " Ezra smiled lazily at the words his Uncle had chosen.
"He paid a riding instructor so he could use you to advance his business?" Josiah raised his eye brows at that.
"It was beneficial to us both thus practical, Josiah." Ezra said scornfully. "There is nothing wrong with practical business options."
"Unless it hurts other parties." Josiah told him.
"Which it did not." Ezra added. "I loved to ride. It was one of my..."
"Escapes?" Josiah finished but only receive a glare from his son. "I'm sorry. I am not trying to condemn your uncle. I would had loved it if your mother had handed you over to me instead though."
Ezra wanted to walk away, he didn't want to have a story time share moment. It was Josiah's way to try to lead conversation to bring out hidden facts. Ezra had to remind himself that he was doing this for Chaucer. It was for Chaucer.
"My uncle would state a few times on my long duration of visitation that some people weren't cut out to have children and they better for it when they admit it, accepted it and didn't have them. He was such a man." Ezra explained. "He loved horses. He loved being a business man. He was not the type that enjoyed company of children."
"Was he cruel towards you?" Josiah pressed, his face full of concern.
A young Ezra softly walked up to the half closed door and pressed himself against the wall as he listen to his uncle on the phone with his mother.
"I don't care! It isn't my problem! He isn't my problem!" His uncle was shouting into the phone. "You said a few days. A week at the most. It's been six month Maude! Six damn months! If I had wanted a brat in my house I would had bred one myself!" Then he roared with a mock laughter. "If I am that horrible, why the hell did you leave your son in my care? Oh that's right. Your holding out for a larger profit since my brother didn't leave you enough when he died! Instead you chose to stay with a man that you have to hide your own flesh and blood from so he doesn't beat the boy! He isn't even my blood nephew! If my brother didn't dolt over the bastard, I would never had taken him into my home! So before you start pointing your finger in my direction perhaps you best take a damn good look at your own self before you pass your judgment, woman!"
"No. He was a blunt man and perhaps a bit harsh with his straight forwardness but not cruel." Ezra paused, drawling up the memory of his past with his uncle. "There were times when he forgotten I was there. For his defense, he lived almost a hermit lifestyle for all his adult life and he was in no way a young man. If it wasn't for his clients, he would had been very happy in isolation."
"Sounds like a lonely life." Joseph gave a small shrug. "Some people are made that way, I suppose."
"Hmm." Ezra agreed. "But I am not and it was a very lonely first year that I stayed with him. I always felt in the way. There was no one but him and myself. Well, my personal educator came by during the week a few times. My maestro. He had a way of making lessons stick."
Ezra, only seven snapped back his hand as the stick swatted at him again.
"Your actions contradicts your intelligence!" Maestro Caputo snapped the stick once again of his student's hand when Ezra rolled his eyes.
"Tonight you must read more from the dictionary as punishment." Ezra's private teacher shook his head as if Ezra purposely misspelled the word mucilaginous. "I want you to cover the M's, as seeing you are having trouble with spelling of words starting in that letter."
With a quick smirk and the tone of his words indicating that there was no fond members of his teacher, Josiah asked "Wasn't a nice man, I take it?" in hopes of leading Ezra into that path of discussion.
Ezra gave his father a cold glance but didn't answer his question. "My uncle, he did try, I will give him that. He taught me to fish but that was to keep me busy and out from under him. I'd spend good part of the day during the summer roaming the fields, the orchards or swimming in the stocked pond. It wasn't a bad moment. I admit, I would had enjoyed it more if there was someone else of my age but there wasn't. There was no one."
"We can play until the fire-flies come out!" She took his hands in her own and they spun around and collapsed into a giggle of dizziness.
"I'm glad we are friends." He whispered to her.
"Me too, Ezra." She rolled on her belly and smiled at him. "But we have to be careful. I'm not allowed to let anyone know about me. So don't tell."
"We are each other's secret." Ezra mused plunking a daisy up and handing it to her.
Ezra blinked his eyes. It was too early for her memories to visit him. He had to focus on Chaucer. "I lost train of thought."
"Take your time." Josiah frowned at the troubled shadow that glazed his son's eyes.
Ezra looked around and then up at his father. "I forgot to bring water."
"So did I." Josiah held up his hands. "I'm getting thirsty too. Guess we both didn't think this little trip through."
Ezra took another mint out, to get his mouth some form of saliva creation and held out one for Josiah who thanked him and accepted. He got a hard nudge on the shoulder from Chaucer.
Ezra laughed and offered one to the horse by the cup of his hand. "Um...Uncle Alex, when he did recall that I was living under his roof, he would have me help him cook, taught me to wash my own clothes and well, basic skills. He was a very tidy man and perhaps that set me on that path but I like being tidy."
"That you do." Josiah smiled, knowing how picky his son was about how things had to look or was put. It wasn't an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but more perfectionism of his own belongings.
If Nathan would come home and drop his gym bag on the floor, Ezra would just step over it. Yet his own school bag, that had to go in it's proper place. Then again, maybe that was an underline mental issue that Josiah had never thought of it being other than Ezra's picky character. The little information his son was finally sharing had him looking at Ezra with a little beam of understanding. It was small but it was a start.
"I was probably there for half a year when Chaucer's mother delivered him. He was the first colt I ever seen." Ezra stood up and walked over to Chaucer, rubbing his muzzle up and down. "His mother passed away do to some kind of complication. My Uncle never told me exactly, not sure if he knew how to tell a boy of my age. He gave me Chaucer for as long as Chaucer remained alive, he was mine."
Ezra smiled in memory of a young Chaucer, all legs and stumbling over himself. "I bottled fed him. Did some internet searching to find everything I could. I slept in the hay beside him when ever I could. He became my only companion."
"He grew stronger and grew taller. He had started to follow me about. I remember my Uncle said he acted more like a canine than a purebred." Ezra gave his father a sly smile. "Gave me an idea on attempting to teach him a few tricks."
Josiah didn't say anything but he gave Ezra a large smile. The shine in is son's eyes were so vivid with the mischief.
"And Chaucer proved to be a very intelligent colt. He caught on quickly and even seem to think outside the box to come up with his own little tricks." Ezra voiced softened. "A year went by quickly and one day after my lessons, I went out to visit Chaucer." Ezra held out a box of mints. "Had his favorites with me as I had always to give him. But he was gone. My uncle had sold him and the buyer had picked him up while I was at my lessons."
"Didn't even say good-bye, did you?" Josiah mimicked his son's soft tone.
Ezra slowly shook his head. "No. I um..." Ezra averted his face from his father's view and cleared his throat. "I didn't think I would ever see him again. Then Vin and JD telling me about this astonishing horse and his gift for mischief on Chris, I wondered."
"It must had been a great relief to see him in your grandfather's stable." Josiah had stood up and slowly walked over to Ezra and the horse.
"It was more than I dared to hope for." Ezra beamed at his father.
Josiah rubbed his big hand over the neck of Chaucer. He knew the horse of this quality would cost more than he had and with buying the their new home, he wasn't very confident he could afford Chaucer. Maybe his father could work something out with the buyer. Some kind of contract that Josiah could pay a little at a time. If he shared Ezra's story and maybe if the owner had a soft heart.
"I will do everything in my power to get him back for you." Josiah pulled Ezra's head closer to him and kissed the top of his reddish brown hair. "I promise. Whatever I can."
Ezra pulled out of his fatherly affections, his poker face already in place. "I suppose we should get back? I am sure your father has a lengthy lecture for me."
Josiah wasn't sure what he had said wrong but the quick change in his son personality was an obvious one.
"I can't believe you already know how to ride!" JD was jumping around Ezra like someone holding a chew toy high in the air for a Jack Russel.
"Well," Ezra avoided his grandfather's meaningful glare. John did have a lot to say and there was a lot of rules that he also had clearly and carefully stated. He didn't find it at all amusing that Ezra had twisted his words about staying in the corral around to suit his actions. "I wasn't anxious about cleaning the stables."
Vin snorted, "That's probably the most truthful thing you said today."
"But Chaucer." Buck whistled. He had come home to find a note his father had written for his mother saying that Ezra ran-away on Chaucer.
Natalie was all in panic mode. She even told Buck to saddle up and go help look. She had called Chris and Nathan, told them to get to the ranch right away.
Vin was mounting his horse with JD's gear, a little sore that Ezra ran away with his gear.
JD kept repeating that Chaucer was going to kill Ezra and he really had like Ezra.
JD was going to take his mother out on the four wheeler to see if they could spot Ezra that way.
Nathan was going to search on the motor bike. He was doing a lot of mumbling about if he finds him unhurt, he was going to hurt him, fix him up and hurt him again.
But before the three riders could ride out, they spotted John in the distance. Knowing their father wouldn't had stop searching until he had found Ezra and seeing that Josiah wasn't with him, well they found themselves bracing for some bad news.
John gave Natalie a smile of reassurance when he was closer. "He's fine. If I was Josiah though, his rear end would be raw!"
Vin and JD winced at each other.
"Thank the heavens." Natalie did a silent blessing towards the sky.
"They are at the creek under the pine tree line." John unmounted, patting his own horse.
"Is he really alright? I mean Chaucer..." Natalie was wringing her hands in worry.
John reached out, taking both her hands into his own and leaned forward to kiss her forehead. "He is safe. Chaucer apparently loves the boy. We will talk about that later, Nat."
Chris snorted. "I'm not really that surprise. They both are the devil's spawn."
"You get the monitor off and the first thing you do is get grounded at the ranch." Chris shook his head at his young nephew. "The itch for trouble didn't take long to settle in."
"Chris." Natalie shook her head. It was Josiah's place to correct her grandson but John felt that being Ezra's grandparents and seeing that he did disobey John's meaningful words about riding outside the corral.
"No experience equals no meadow runs or trail rides, just the corral. But with experience, I can venture out into the wilderness? Correct?" Ezra had said.
"You got it. Once you get pasted the beginnings stage, you can move out to the open land." John had agreed.
John kicked himself for not catching how Ezra phased that earlier. The boy knew exactly what he was doing before he had even got to the ranch and he twisted John's words around to fit into his scheme.
John called him on it too. Wasn't shy about it. Remarked how deceiving he had been and grounded him while he was at the ranch.
Vin was upset that Ezra ended up grounded. Accused Ezra for liking it until he found out Ezra had to clean out all the stables for the next four Saturdays when he did stay at the ranch. "And don't be borrowing my gear!"
Josiah had taken John and Natalie aside and Ezra had a sneaking feeling that he was repeating their conversation. He couldn't help but feel a little betrayed, he still felt raw about sharing a bit of his life but also knew Josiah would in the end. John had connections with the current owner of Chaucer after all and Josiah had to explain why his sudden interest in the horse.
But Josiah had promised he would do whatever it took for Chaucer to be placed back into Ezra's hands and a lesson Ezra learnt well was that promises was broken every day.
When the weekend was over and Ezra found himself alone in his own room, he claimed exhaustion and Josiah waved for him to go rest up. As soon as his bedroom door was closed and locked, he went straight to his bedside clock.
The clock face was enclosed with in a thick, sycamore craved wood frame with extra thickness at the base. A gift from his mother but that didn't make it special. It was the hidden department and the treasure inside that Ezra wanted.
It was a clock in a puzzle box. You had to know the right corners and triggers to get the bottom of the clock to open up.
Once his fingers easily went through the puzzle keys, Ezra pulled out a large sum of rolled bills, credit cards belonging to a false identity, a small heart locket, his blue sleeping pills and a cell phone. A direct line to his mother.
Taking the cell phone with him, he walked out onto the balcony towards the far corner near the large tree that allowed him some privacy from on coming visitors. He took his box of cigarettes and lighter that he hid under the siding of the house and lite up while he dialed his mother's number.
The one person he knew he could count on. The one person who would be able to pull the necessary strings for him to have a stupid deed that would legally allow Ezra and Chaucer to remain together.
Maude was an impressive woman.
Two weeks later Josiah had started to get a weird number showing up on his miss calls. Normally he wouldn't pick up, figuring that the unrecognizable caller would leave a message. However, the caller was persistent.
So when the number showed up again, he accepted it with annoyance building up. "Hello?"
"Josiah! Why, hello darlin'!" The sweetest southern voice sang over the other end.
"Maude?" Josiah stood up, frantically looking around for Ezra.
"Of course it's me. Why, who ever else would it be?" Her teasing laughter still sent a wave of chills down his spine. "Josiah, are you courting away some ladies that you are having a difficult time in remembering names?"
"N-No." Josiah stumbled like a school boy. "I wasn't expecting a call from you. I have been trying to reach you though!"
"About those court papers and legally guardianship of my sweet boy?" Maude questioned him. "Sugar, you do whatever you feel you must but you really should know that Ezra will always do as I tell him. I am his mother after all."
"Well, I am his father and I want the best for him!" Josiah was starting to feel his blood burning.
"And as I." Maude kept her sing-along voice passive. "That is why you should also know that I took proper arrangements to purchase that stallion Ezra was heart broken over."
Josiah caught his breath, no longer searching for his son who he knew would be dying to hear from his mother. "When did you speak to Ezra?"
"I got in touch with him weeks ago." He could picture her waving a delicate hand at the phone as if it was old news. "Did no one tell you? All my charges have been dropped and I am back in the country. So the first thing I did was give my son a phone call. His lawyer had this number as his contact and he did answer it so naturally I assumed it was his personal phone." There was a slight pause. "Oh dear. Has it been your phone? Why, I would had left a message if I had known. I thought he was just being a teenager and ignoring my calls."
"Ezra doesn't have a phone." Josiah stated almost absently. "He has a lawyer? The man that helped with his auto theft?"
"No. That was a fellow that worked under his lawyer." Maude answer. "I did tell you that my dear departed husband had left Ezra a large inheritance. Now there was money set aside from that for his sixteenth birthday to purchase a new car. However, seeing as he cannot legally receive his driver's identification because of that tiny misunderstand about the stolen car..."
"There was no misunderstanding. He stolen it, Maude."
"Well I told his lawyer, " Maude continued as if Josiah had never spoken. " that there is no reason for Ezra not to spend it on a horse instead of a car. So his lawyer purchased the horse on Ezra's behave."
Josiah was relieved that Ezra and Chaucer would be together now but he felt like mother and son had plotted together and there was a lot of deceit.
"Josiah? Are you still there?" Maude's graceful voice started to break up. "I must be receiving bad signal. Best to allow you back to whatever you do in that small town."
"You know where I am living?" Josiah ran his hand through his hair.
"Give Ezra my love, would you Josiah?" Maude said before hanging up.
Josiah clicked the phone off and threw it on the sofa's cushions and peered out through the window of his Victorian home.
Above him, he heard the sounds of footsteps coming down the stairs fast. More than one pair. In a few seconds both his sons were in the library room.
"Hey dad!" Nathan beamed at him. "Me and Ez are going out for pizza. Want to join us?"
Josiah snorted. He would end up footing the bill but a boys night out didn't happen much with two teenagers. "I'd love too."
"Can I drive?" Nathan reached out for his father's keys.
Slowly Josiah pulled them out of his pocket and put them in Nathan's out reached hand.
"Thanks!" Nathan bounced out and Ezra was following when Josiah reach out, holding him back by the shoulder.
"Your mother called." Josiah looked Ezra in the eyes.
"Did she?" Ezra raised a brow. "You did know that she was back in the country, didn't you? That the charges pending against her were dropped. She's a free woman. Isn't that great."
"You didn't tell me." Josiah stated. "She called you?"
Ezra shrugged his shoulders. "She's Mother. I may not know her whereabouts often but she always knows where I am. "
"And Chaucer?" Josiah asked.
Ezra shook his head as if he didn't know but his eyes were dancing. He knew Chaucer belonged to him now, Josiah could see that clearly.
Ezra never doubted it. His mother never made promises. She just does what she does best.
"I don't know how but I suspect that you never lost contact with your mother." Josiah crossed his arms. "I also think that call was stage to cover up the fact that you know how to reach her."
"Why would I do that?" Ezra asked with fake confused expression.
Josiah chose not to reply, instead he opened the for Ezra to walk through while keeping a disappoint look upon his face.
That is my take on how Ezra and Chaucer found each other for the Country Road series. Hope you all enjoyed the story!
Thank you all for the continuous support for this AU. Stay health and Safe!