Title: Five Moments to
Disclaimer: I'm not Bellesario or CBS, so I don't claim to own them. However, Mrs. Merriweather and Angelique are from my own imagination.
Word Count: 6,400
Beta: Demona (and CJ's stamp of approval)
Note: I wrote this based upon the closed NFA School Challenge by kgibbs.
Doris Merriweather didn't have any family of her own left. Her husband had passed away in 1978 and they had never had children of their own. Neither her nor her late husband had any siblings, so there were no nieces or nephews to dote upon. If one were to look at only that information regarding Doris Merriweather, they would assume she was a lonely, elderly lady with no one to care for her. Those were the people who didn't know just how much Mrs. Merriweather had.
Just as the world began recovery from the Second World War, Doris Merriweather began her sixty-year teaching career with third grade at the center. Now, at 80-years of age, she had been forced to retire, but her legacy lived on in the thousands of impressionable minds that had paraded through her classroom.
Every year, in place of the letters one would receive from relatives, she received notes, cards and letters from her students. Jill May, class of '68, wrote to tell her how she was the reason that Jill had gone into elementary education and how much she wanted to thank her for that. Bobby Wright sent her pictures of his twins in their costumes for their third grade play; evidently, they got the same roles he shared with his twin brother in 1983.
Every note made her smile and she always replied to each and every one. Some of her students would continue correspondence while others did not, but it didn't matter one bit to her. Her 'family' was prosperous, whether it was in their work or home life, and she was proud of that fact.
It was those thoughts that were going through her head as she sat on her deck at the end of her last day as a third grade teacher. She was sad for her livelihood to come to an end, but, God willing, she could still find a purpose to continue on. She sorted through her mail, separating the bills from the credit card applications only to stop with a plain white envelope in her hand. The return address from Washington, D.C. had a name she had not seen in many years, but at the same time brought back so many fond memories.
"A. DiNozzo," she read out loud with a smile as she was pulled into a memory of how she first met a proper but shy little boy dressed in a sailor suit.
Mrs. Merriweather took a deep breath as she sat in front of her empty classroom. In moments, the children would fill the seats and for the first time since her first day on the job she had butterflies in her stomach. This was the first day teaching since she had lost her precious Tom, and the pain was still too fresh. She was hoping that a classroom full of new children ready to learn would help ease her deep-seated pain.
One by one, the students began to filter in and she took note of their faces, starting to commit them to memory so she could match the name with the face after roll call. Once they were all seated and the bell had rung, she stood up, and with one more deep breath, said in a steady voice, "Welcome to the third grade! I'm Mrs. Merriweather, but you can call me Mrs. M."
Her broken heart began to heal as she heard the giggles she had learned to expect each year with her announcement. It wasn't every day that children were able to call a teacher anything other than their given name. But she found it a way to bond with her students in a way many other teachers never managed.
"Now, to begin the day, we are going to do a roll call so I can learn your names and you can learn each other's. When I call your name, I would like you to stand up and tell us about something you did this summer."
She went down the list in alphabetical order and smiled as Christina Anderson told of her trip to the beach. Then Michael Borders talked about going camping with his dad. She listened as each child talked about their time spent with family and friends during the summer. Shortly she reached the d's and called out, "Anthony DiNozzo."
She frowned slightly when she heard a few students giggle as a small boy stood up, dressed from head to toe in a sailor suit. She wanted to call out the children for their teasing, but knew that if she did it would only further embarrass the young boy whose face was beet red. "Would you like to tell the class something you did this summer, Anthony?" she prompted in a kind voice.
"Um-" Anthony started out, "Angeliquea, the cook at our house, showed me out to make spaghetti with this super secret sauce that she said only a-- a handful of people in the world know how to make."
"That's great Anthony. Maybe when we do our lessons about Italy you can bring some for us to try," Mrs. M. said encouragingly, even as young Anthony dropped back to his seat in a rush and buried his head in his hands.
Mrs. M. felt the void that had been in her heart just minutes before begin to pull a different direction. She knew she had found her purpose to continue on in her husband's absence, at it was to see that Anthony DiNozzo was given the love that it appeared he so desperately needed. Little did Mrs. M. know how much work she had cut out for her.
Back in the present, Mrs. M. gingerly turned the letter over to open it. A piece of folded paper fell from the envelope along with a picture of a handsome man sitting in front of the presidential seal. She shook her head in disbelief as she flipped the picture over to read the hand-scribbled caption, 'Tony on Air Force One,' on the back.
With a laugh, she opened up the letter to see what one of her most favorite pupil had to say.
Hey Ma'am -er- Mrs. M.!
Do you think I would make a convincing President? Me either, but it was worth a shot. Sorry I haven't written since I left Baltimore for DC. But since I started at NCIS… well, the boss keeps me busy. Bet you never pictured me working for the Navy in any capacity after those God-awful sailor suits I showed up to class in. But it's a good fit for me, even if I didn't picture my life going that way.
I hate that I that I slacked off in writing, but it seemed like I never had the time. Of course, right now I have more time than I ever wanted to have. See, I recently found out that you lied to us impressionable young children all those years ago. Remember how you told us, and then reassured me after class, that people can't get the plague anymore? Well, I'm proof that you are wrong.
I'm okay now, or at least getting better. I also have some family to take care of me this time, some great ones in fact, so you don't need to worry about me even though I know you will. I guess it all started with this letter sealed with a kiss we received to our office…
"Class," Mrs. M. began her new topic with gusto. "We've been talking about the Middle Ages, and now I would like to mention something that happened in Europe during that time. Julie, could you point on the map where Europe is?"
"Thank you Julie," Mrs. M. smiled at the young girl. "Now, as you should remember, during the Middle Ages there weren't hospitals and doctors the way there are today. Many times there were diseases that no one knew how to make better with medicine. Even a simple cold or flu could sometimes go uncured for the people who lived back then."
"There was an illness call the plague that many people became sick from and they eventually died because no one could cure it. Because of this thousands of people died from the disease. In some cases whole cities were affected."
With her class' rapt attention, Mrs. M. carried on her lesson, moving from the plague to kings and queens which the class found even more interesting. After the final bell had rung and the students were exiting the room, Mrs. M. noted the quiet form of young Anthony DiNozzo still sitting in his chair. She was making slow progress with the shy boy, but even slow progress was better than none in her mind.
"Is there something wrong Anthony?" she questioned as she moved to kneel near his desk.
Anthony looked up at her with wide eyes. "No Ma'am," he said quietly.
"You can call me Mrs. M. like the other children," she chided with a smile. "Ma'am makes me feel like an old lady."
That drew a small smile out of the boy as he said in a tone that indicated he was quoting someone word for word, "Adults are to be treated with respect and should be addressed as sir or ma'am, Ma'am."
Mrs. M. wished, and not for the first time, that Mr. or Mrs. DiNozzo would come to at least one parent-teacher conference. She would love to have a word or three about the way they were raising their son. She kept a smile on her face as she dropped her voice to conspiratorial whisper, "It's okay for you to call me Mrs. M. at school. I won't tell if you don't. Do we have a deal?"
"Really?" Anthony questioned with wonderment in his eyes. "Like a secret?"
"Yes. Cross my heart," Mrs. M. added as she moved her finger in an x-motion over her heart. "Do you want to shake hands on it?"
Anthony seemed to consider her offer as any serious businessman would. Then he reached out his small hand and said, "Deal."
She accepted the gesture with a smile and then asked again, "Is there something wrong that caused you to stay behind?"
"Not really, Ma-- Mrs. M.," he said as his face puckered in concentration. "Can people still catch the plague from other people?"
Mrs. M. never would have thought that was what was bothering the boy, but she indulged his curiosity none-the-less. 'At least he's opening up to me,' she thought to herself.
"No. People don't get the plague anymore and even if they did, the doctors could fix them right up."
"Oh," Anthony responded back. "But-- But my nanny said that my mother was sick and the doctors couldn't fix her. I thought that meant she had the plague then, because you said the doctors back then couldn't fix it."
Mrs. M.'s heart leapt out for the little boy. She wasn't sure what his mother had or if he even understood his nanny correctly, but it didn't sound promising. "Oh Anthony, there are other diseases that even our doctors today can't fix."
"But if they can't fix her, does it mean she'll die like the ones with the plague did?"
"I don't know the answer to that question Anthony," Mrs. M. said quietly, wanting nothing more than to pull the young boy into her arms.
"Who does?" he asked with tears in his eyes.
"I'm not sure," she answered truthfully before the chauffeur who picked Anthony up at the end of each school day interrupted them.
"There you are young Anthony," he said in a scolding voice. "You know how your father doesn't like you to be late from school. Now come along."
Mrs. M. gave a sigh as the boy hurriedly grabbed his things and all but ran from the room to follow the driver back to the car. Later that night she called the number for the DiNozzo household that was listed on Anthony's school record.
"I'm Mrs. Doris Merriweather, Anthony's teacher and I would like to speak with Mr. or Mrs. DiNozzo please."
The housekeeper who answered replied back in a clipped tone, "I'm sorry Ma'am but the DiNozzos are not available. If there is a problem with young Anthony's school work or behavior, I can direct you to his nanny."
"No. That is not necessary," she said in disappointment. Then a stray thought struck her about the only person at the household that Anthony had ever smiled about when he mentioned them. "Would Angelique be available?"
The housekeeper seemed taken back by that question, "I suppose, but why--"
Mrs. M. cut her off before she could question any further, "Please transfer me to her then."
Mrs. M. waited with anticipation until she heard a heavily accented voice on the other end. "This is Angelique."
"Hi Angelique," she said with a smile that she hoped traveled through the phone. "I'm Mrs. Merriweather, Anthony's teacher at school. He's mentioned you a few times and I thought you might be able to answer a few a questions for me."
"Oh Mrs. M.!" the other woman said excitedly. "Little Tony hasn't stopped talking about you since school started. It's Mrs. M. this and Mrs. M. that. That boy worships the ground you walk on."
Mrs. M. wasn't sure how to respond to that, as that didn't seem like the quiet, solemn child who addressed her as Ma'am at school. "Are you sure we are talking about the same Anthony?"
"Heavens yes, my dear," the woman said kindly. "You just got to give that boy some time to warm up to you, then you can't keep him quiet. The quickest way to get him to talk is to call him Tony. He prefers that to Anthony, which is also his father's name."
Mrs. M. was beginning to like this Angelique; even she hadn't met her in person. "Thank you for the tip. I was actually calling to find out some information on a question An-- Tony asked me after school today and thought that maybe you could help me."
"I can try, my dear."
"Well, he mentioned that he heard his nanny saying that his mother was sick and that the doctors couldn't help her. Is that true?"
"Oh my," Angelique said quietly. "Yes, unfortunately. The staff was told only a few days ago. Cancer and in-operable and that."
"Oh! How horrible," she said as her fears about what Tony had said were answered.
"Yes," Angelique agreed. "Though I'm not sure that Tony will have much to lose. That woman has never been his mother except by blood. But still, he will grieve her loss when the time comes."
"Is there something I can do to help?" Mrs. M. asked quietly.
"Just be there for him at school. It's his chance away from the demands his father puts on the poor boy; his saving grace so to speak. Oh my, Mr. DiNozzo just returned. I'm sorry, but I have to go. If you ever have any questions about Tony don't hesitate to call me. I'll give him my home phone number to give to you, that would be better than calling the house I think."
Mrs. M. could only agree as her heart went out to the young boy who by all she had learned so far had a far from perfect family. "Thank you for your time and answers Angelique. I do appreciate them."
"You're much welcome Ma'am," she said as the phone clicked off.
Two weeks later, Tony walked into class several hours late and dressed in a black tailored suit. She could see the tear stains on his face and knew that his mother must have passed away. She took the note from his shaky hand and, thankful that the other children were out for their physical education class, pulled the boy in for a hug. "It'll be okay Tony," she said over and over as she held the crying boy close to her heart.
Now I'm stuck at Gibbs' place for the next few weeks. Gibbs is my boss by the way. I think you would get along great with him; he smacks me on the back of the head when I'm not focusing. I guess you could say he treats me like a dad should, but I'm not really sure about that because-- well you know why…
Two Days Before Christmas, 1978
Mrs. M finished hanging the last of her handmade ornaments on her tree. It had felt foreign to her to decorate without her husband there to help. He was the one who always untangled the lights for the tree and took the time to fully decorate outside. She did her best and was grateful for the help that her neighbor provided with the outside decorations. It was just one more little thing she would have to learn to do on her own.
She sat down in the easy chair that Tom had used every evening from the day they bought it and let a sigh that threatened to turn into a sob. For the last few months, she had been able to keep her mind focused on her students and not take time to think about Tom's absence in her life. Now, sitting alone in the living room with the Christmas lights blinking, she felt all the hurt she had buried rise to the surface.
Just then, the phone rang loud and clear through the house and startled her from the chair. Wiping the unshed tears from her eyes, she picked up the receiver and gave a quiet, "Hello?"
Her question was met by silence on the other end. "Hello? Is someone there?" she asked again.
Then she heard a faint sound that turned into a question from a familiar voice, "Mrs. M?"
She felt her heart skip a beat as she realized who was on the other end of the line. "Tony? Is something wrong? Are you okay?"
"I'm-- I didn't mean to bother you. But--" Tony's voice broke off as she heard him give a slight cough. "Myfatherleftonatripandmynannyisn'thereandAngeliqueisgoneforChristmas," he paused with a cough. "And I don't feel good."
"Tony," Mrs. M. tried to keep the panic out of her voice. "Is anyone else there with you?"
"No," came the small voiced response.
"Tony I need you to stay by the front door to your house," Mrs. M. started as she stretched the phone cord to grab her jacket and put her shoes on. "Make sure it is locked, can you do that for me?"
"Okay," Tony answered as she heard shuffling on the other end of the line. "It's locked."
"Good. Now I'm going to need to hang up the phone so I can drive to your house," she said slowly as she thumbed through her student files and pulled the one that contained Tony's home address. "Can you stay still until I get there and not open the door for anyone unless you hear my voice?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Tony said quietly. "Will you be here soon?"
"As soon as I can," she said, not wanting to give the boy a time frame. She recognized the address, but had never been in that part of the city before. "Now just sit tight and I'll be there before you know it."
"Okay," the tiny voice answered before she disconnected the phone call.
Mrs. M. tried not to panic as she turned the car on the various roads that would take her to the DiNozzo estate. Somehow that precious young boy had been left alone over Christmas and she wanted nothing more than to gather him in her arms and take the hurt away. Twenty minutes later, she found herself blinking back tears as she pulled into the long driveway that led to the front door of the house that could be termed a mansion. The thought of Tony alone in that large, empty building cut her to the bone.
She approached the door slowly and rapped on it with the knocker. "Tony? Can you hear me? It's Mrs. M. You can open the door dear."
Moments later the door creaked open and Mrs. M. saw the sheet white face of Anthony DiNozzo looking up at her with round eyes. "Mrs. M.?" he asked quietly.
"It's me Tony," she said as she stepped through the threshold and gathered Tony into her arms. "Heavens! You're burning up."
Tony rubbed at eyes, "I haven't felt good all day."
"I imagine not," Mrs. M. agreed quietly. "Can you show me where your room is? We need to get you some clothes and then I'm taking you to my house."
"Your house?" Tony asked with hope. "Like a sleepover like the other kids at school talk about?"
"That's right. Now let's get some stuff gathered up. Do you know where your father or nanny are?" She kept her tone light as not to show the anger she felt towards the ones who should be taking care of Tony.
"Father's on a business trip. I can't call him when he's working. And Janice wasn't here when I woke up. I fixed myself breakfast like Angelique showed me how. Didn't even make a mess in the kitchen."
Mrs. M. smiled at the boy even while she felt sad at how he couldn't have a normal childhood. "That's really good Tony. And calling me was good too," she added as she put clothing into a bag she found. "Is there anything else you want to bring with you?"
Tony looked up at her with shy eyes. "Can I bring Joe?"
"Who's Joe?" she asked with a knowing smile.
He reached by his bed and held up a G. I. Joe action figure dressed as a marine. "He's a marine. That's what Angelique told me when she gave it to me for my birthday."
"Well, Joe is more than welcome to come. How about you carry him and I'll carry your bag?"
"Okay," Tony said as he clutched the toy close to him.
"Now we'll get your shoes and then be on our way. Tony," she paused as she saw some paper on a desk in the hallway leading back to the front door. "Tony? Do you know when either your father or Angelique are supposed to return?"
"Father won't be back until after the new year," Tony said around a yawn. "Angelique told me she would bring me a Christmas present and fix my favorite spaghetti the day after Christmas."
Mrs. M. clamped down own her shock that young Tony would have been alone for three or four days if he hadn't called her. "Tony," she said quietly after they got his shoes and jacket in place. "I'm going to leave a note for Angelique so she knows where you are at. Do you know a good place for me to leave it where she's sure to see it?"
"Yeah," Tony said thoughtfully. "She has a secret place in the kitchen that we leave notes for each other. She always checks it when she comes in." Then he added in a far quieter voice, "Father wasn't happy when he found out she taught me how to fix food. Said it was not a man's place to learn how to cook. So she said we had to be clandi-- cland-i-estine when we talked."
Then he froze and looked up at her with horror stricken eyes, "You won't tell father, will you? He doesn't like it if I don't do what he told me to do."
"Don't worry Tony. You're secret's safe with me," she said with a smile. "Now let's go leave Angelique a note so she won't worry and then we'll go to my house and have some soup. Do you like chicken noodle?"
"Yeah," Tony mumbled. "Angelique made it for me one time when I didn't feel good. Is that why you want to make it?"
"Yes it is," she said as he led her to the kitchen. "Chicken soup is good for people who don't feel so well."
Several hours later, Mrs. M. stood in the darkened guest room of her house looking at the sleeping form of young Anthony DiNozzo. "What am I going to do with you dear boy," she whispered quietly. Then she walked over and pulled the covers up tightly around him and placed a feather kiss to his forehead. She was granted a smile from the sleeping form as he made a contented sigh.
She moved out of the room, leaving the door ajar and started to make mental notes of the things she would need to do in the morning. When she had asked Tony if there were any Christmas presents he wanted to bring, he had said no. And she was certain that there weren't any 'Santa Claus' presents hidden away for Christmas morning either.
She would need to run to the store and pick up some presents, food and possibly a little cold medicine if he didn't sound any better in the morning. She turned the lights off and then prepared for bed, leaving her door open so she could hear if Tony needed anything during the night.
Bright and early the next morning, Mrs. M. found herself whistling as she stirred some pancake batter. She felt better that morning than she could remember since Tom's death. Having Tony at the house was doing wonders for the depressed mood she had been in the night before. She smiled as she saw a bleary eyed Tony stumble into the kitchen.
"Watcha fixin'?" he asked around his yawn. Mrs. M. was pleased to note that his voice didn't sound as raspy as it had the night before.
"Pancakes," she answered. "Would you like to help set the table?"
"I can? What do I need to do?" Tony asked in wonderment.
"Well, first you can carry the plates I have sitting on the counter and put them on the table. Then I'll show you what drawer has silverware and after that there's butter and syrup for the pancakes."
"Okay," Tony said as he set about completing his tasks without the complaints that many children would make about being assigned a chore.
"After we're done eating, I need to run out to the store to pick up a few things. Are you feeling good enough to come with me?" In all honesty, she didn't want to leave him alone, but she also didn't want to take him out if he was still under the weather.
"I'm feeling better. Not even coughing," Tony answered proudly. "Where are we going?"
"Well, I need to stop at the grocery store and pick up a few things so we have plenty of food and maybe some snacks too," she added with a smile as she brought the plate of finished pancakes to the table. "Then we'll see what else we need to do while we're out."
She watched as Tony dug into the pancakes and smiled at his muttered, "These are good," comment. She was silently wondering if Santa was still at the mall and what Tony would think about going to see him and get his picture taken. She would find out later, she resolved.
That night, she couldn't keep the smile that had been on her face all day away as she watched Tony sit a plate of cookies and a glass of milk near the fireplace. He also propped the framed picture of him with Santa near the plate as a reminder to Santa of who he was. At first he had been hesitant when she asked him if he wanted to see Santa, but soon he agreed and he hadn't stopped talking about since.
"Are you ready for bed?" she asked him as she walked over to kneel beside him.
"Yeah," he answered solemnly. "Does Santa really bring presents? He never has to me."
"I think Santa just wasn't sure where you lived, but he knows about my house since we saw him today, so I wouldn't worry."
"Okay," he said with trust in his voice as she led him to the guest room.
She awoke at six o'clock in the morning to shouts of, "Mrs. M.! Mrs. M.! He came!"
Mrs. M. smiled as she slipped on her robe and slippers and headed for the living room and the excited Tony DiNozzo she was sure to find.
The day flew by and before she knew it, Mrs. M. found herself tucking Tony in for another night in her guest room. "Did you like your presents?"
"They were the best!" he said as he struggled to keep his eyes open. "Do you think Santa will know to find me at home next year?"
Mrs. M. vowed that she would do everything she could to make sure that Tony received some presents the next year and for as many after that as she could manage. "I'm sure he'll know now. Now get some sleep and I'm sure we'll get to see Angelique tomorrow. And maybe she'll make that spaghetti you've been telling me about."
"Yeah, and I'll help…" Tony's voice trailed off as he slipped into sleep.
Mrs. M. pulled the covers snug around him and bent in to give him the kiss that had been a nightly ritual since she brought him over. "If only I could keep you," she said quietly before leaving for her own room.
The call that came from Angelique at ten in the morning while Tony was watching thePrice is Right was expected. Once Mrs. M. assured the older lady that Tony was just fine, she invited her over for the day, both so she could check on Tony herself and so they could talk about what needed to be done.
"If only I could report both that Janice girl and his father to the authorities," Angelique began after they had put Tony to bed. "But I'm afraid it won't get very far due to his ties and I would probably end up out of my job in the best of cases."
"That boy deserves so much more than what he gets. Even just giving him a simple chore was met with excitement that someone cared enough to give him something to do. But you're right, we'd just stir up a hornet's nest if we tried to something."
"The best we can do, I'm afraid, is to just be there for him like we are now," Angelique said quietly. "His father won't be back until after New Year's, so if you want to keep him here until then, that's just fine with me. I can come pick him up if I hear otherwise."
"That would be great I think. I can't believe that the man doesn't even know that his eight-year-old son isn't at home."
The two women chatted for another hour before Angelique left for home. She promised to stop back by every few days until it was time for Tony to return home.
When the day finally came, Tony looked up at Mrs. M. with sad eyes. "Couldn't I just stay a little while longer? I won't be any trouble. I promise."
Mrs. M. felt her heart quiver as she reached forward and pulled him into a hug. "Oh Tony," she said through a deep sigh. "I'd keep you hear forever if I could, but you need to go back to your own home. I'll make you a promise though."
"What kind of promise?" he asked in a small voice.
"Angelique is going to let me know whenever your father is going out of town and when he does, you'll get to come stay with me. It'll be our little secret, just like the note hiding spot you have with Angelique. Do you like the sounds of that?"
"Yeah," Tony mumbled into her shoulder. "My father goes away a lot."
"Good," she said with a pat to his back. "Now let's get your things and head out. Don't forget your picture with Santa," she reminded.
"Can I leave that here with you? I--" he paused as if he didn't want to say what his reason was. "I don't think it would be good if my father saw it. He said that men don't believe in Santa and that if I was ever going to be a man I shouldn't either."
Mrs. M. pulled him tighter. "Well, Tom, my husband, he believed in Santa and he was the best man I ever met. And I think you can be like Tom if you want to be."
"Was Tom a businessman like my father?"
"No," she said quietly as she thought about her late husband. "He was a policeman and he died saving a little boy just like you."
"That's what I want to do when I get bigger. Then I can still believe in Santa, right?"
"You can believe whatever you want to believe, Tony. And don't you let anyone ever tell you different."
I know I never told you thanks for all that you did for me over the years. Between you and Angelique, I felt like I actually had a family like the other kids talked about. Did you know that I use to pretend you were my mom? Especially when you showed up at the boarding school for some of my games and stuff. Hope you don't mind that I did.
I always wished I could have just moved in with you. Now that I'm older, I realize how much both you and Angelique risked doing what you did. And just a simple thank you is not enough for it. I don't even know what I should do to thank you. Without you I never would have stood up to my father when he wanted me to go to an Ivy League school of his picking. I never would have thought about going into law enforcement either. I owe you so much…
"Mrs. M.?" the voice on the other end of the phone made her smile just like it had since the first time she heard it.
"Tony," she said with excitement. "Are you ready for your graduation? I'll be there with bells on."
"Thanks," he said a voice she had come to recognize as his 'I've got something that's really bothering me, but I don't want to talk about it even thought I need to,' voice.
"What's wrong Tony?" she asked, knowing he wouldn't refuse her for long.
He gave a short laugh. "You know me too well, Mrs. M. It's what it always it," he said in explanation. "My father."
Mrs. M. let out a sigh. "He's not coming to your graduation, is he?"
"After today, I don't think he wants to be in the same country as me," Tony said cryptically.
"And what is that suppose to mean?" she asked.
"I stood up to him," he said quietly. "Told him to take his money and his Ivy League shoe-in and stuff it where the sun doesn't shine. Told him I was going to Ohio State on an athletic scholarship and that I was going to become a cop."
Mrs. M. sucked in a breath. She would never have thought Tony would actually confront his father, but it turned out he did. "Good for you," she said with pride. "You'll do great at OSU and you'll make an even better cop."
"My father told me I would wind up in the gutter," Tony said in a flippant tone that didn't completely hide his pain.
"Well your father is an idiot and his son is a much smarter and kinder man that he'll ever know," Mrs. M. said with conviction.
"Are you my personal cheerleader? Maybe I should get you a uniform," he said in a teasing tone that made her heart feel lighter. Her Tony was still there, even behind the hurt.
"I'll have you know young man that I was the envy of all the girls in my class and Homecoming Queen to boot. I think I could still compete with those young things you seem to like."
Tony chuckled lightly. "The high school girls, yes. But I'm about to be a college man, Mrs. M. All those college girls and so little time."
"And if I find out that you aren't keeping up your grades because you're partying too much, I'll come to Ohio and tan your hide."
Tony outright laughed and Mrs. M. knew she had pulled him out of his funk over his father. "I wouldn't have it any other way Mrs. M. I promise to be a good boy."
"Good," she said. "Now tell me about this girl that Angelique mentioned. Jessica wasn't it?"
Well, I think Gibbs is walking in and I'm not really suppose to be out of bed right now and he'll probably whack me in the back of the head, so I better put this up. I promise to do better about keeping in touch. Maybe I can fly up one weekend and visit. I'll call you about it when I'm able to actually talk five minutes without coughing up a lung.
Bye Mrs. M.
PS: If Gibbs happens to call you, tell him that I was justified in writing this letter. He seems to think I should have been doing my bed rest like the doctor ordered. And don't tell him any stories about me, he doesn't need the ammunition.
Mrs. M. sat back in seat and smiled the smile she had always reserved for Tony. Then she went inside and pulled out her stationery and a pen. A picture of a young boy sitting on Santa's lap caught her eye and she took it to the table with her as she began writing a return letter.
You should have had someone call me the moment you got sick. You know I would have been there in a heartbeat. At least it sounds like this Gibbs knows how to take care of you since you can't seem to do that for yourself. I think I need to have a little conversation with him just to give him a few hints about how to handle you. Every little bit helps where you're concerned…
Mrs. Doris Merriweather smiled as she continued her letter. Memories were a treasure for her and this was just one more she could add to the collection that was reserved for Anthony DiNozzo.