"Rick, I thought you hid 45 eggs?"
"Darlin', I thought I did too." Rick came around the back of the barn, holding a bucket full of plastic and hard-boiled eggs. "Unless Jack ate them, we're missing 5."
Laurie laughed from her perch on a patio table. "That might be where they ended up…never saw a dog who loved eggs like he does."
Rick gazed at his wife's smiling face, and his spirits lifted. Less then a week after her ordeal, Laurie was starting to heal from the nightmarish attack. Having their family around seemed to be the key; that and talking things out with him and Rudy. Only when giving her final statement to a reluctant Ron that morning, did Laurie show any signs of being haunted by the shooting.
"So he was on top of you when you pulled the gun out of his waistband?" Ron's assistant Martin asked, matter-of-factly taking notes.
"Yes….I was trying and trying to get loose, but when he threw himself on me…I was so desperate I just grabbed the handle of the gun and yanked it out, then I squeezed the trigger." Laurie stopped when Ron shook his head. "I'm sorry, honey….that's all I need from you. Martin, anything else, you pull the notes!"
Relieved, Rick had thanked his friend, then took Laurie's arm and pulled her up from the chair. "Thank you, sweetheart, for being so brave…Jackson'll never get out of jail, ever."
"Only brave because of you, darling…" Rick hugged her as she added, "I had you to help me through being so scared."
"Rick, where's Laurie?" Oscar Goldman stood at the patio gate, then spotted his adopted daughter.
"Here I am, Dad….I'm helping count Easter eggs." She giggled, pointing at the basket next to her and at once the older man walked over to the picnic table she was sitting at.
"Looks like a few of these are worse for wear….how are you feeling, honey?"
"I'm better, Dad. Ron had to verify the statement I gave last Saturday, but I got through it." She sighed.
"Well, good, 'cause your Mother wants to talk to you….I just wanted to make sure you're okay." Oscar smiled, then gave her a hand up.
"I am, Dad…let me go see Mom before dinner." Laurie told him. As he watched her go up the steps to the house, Rick beckoned Oscar over.
"Thanks Dad, I think it's good for Laurie to talk over what happened, I just don't want her to overdo it."
"Me neither, Son…" the big man nodded. "And Cecilia will know what to say…."
An hour later, neither woman was outside, and all their family was arriving. Rick was just about to go inside and look for the two of them, when Laurie came out with a platter of meats and cheeses.
"Rick, can you put this in the center of the table…" she asked, handing it to him. Rick put the dish on the middle picnic table, then scooped her up in his arms and plopped back down on the bench.
"Isn't that better, sweetheart?" he grinned, and she gave him a searing kiss as an answer.
"What do you think…" she murmured when they came up for air.
"I think someone's dodging me…." Cecilia came out of the house, a frustrated look on her face. "I got all the food out of the refrigerator, honey, we can go talk in your room if you like."
"No, Mom." Laurie squeezed Rick's hand and got up from his lap. "I don't want to talk about last week right now…thanks." Rick heard the slight pause and knew his wife was trying to keep her temper.
"It's okay, darlin….Mom, you two can get together some time this week if you like." He hastened to say. Unfortunately Cecilia chose that moment to ignore him.
"Laurie, I think you'll feel better if you don't put it off…" she continued, then stopped short as Laurie shook her head.
"Excuse me…" she said, in an unsteady voice. Turning, she practically ran from the patio to the barn. Rick saw the stubborn look on his mother's face and took a deep breath.
"Mom, you can't push her like that…she and I and Rudy talked about what happened, and she had to go over it all again with Ron this morning." He explained quietly.
At once Cecilia's eyes filled with tears, and she choked out, "No, Rick…I didn't know…I thought she was trying to ..I mean ..pretending nothing happened to her…. I'm so sorry.."
"I know Mom, let me go get her…" Rick stood up and hugged her, then saw that Jack had finished playing with Oscar and was standing at the patio entrance.
"Hey, Jacky….go find Mom, okay?" Rick urged, having an idea of how to get through to his wife. Immediately the little dog barked, then raced to the barn, squeezing in through the partially open door.
"Rick, what happened?" Oscar came over from the barbeque grill, his face concerned.
"Um…maybe you ought to talk to Mom.." Rick said, uncomfortably. As the older man turned to Cecilia, Rick left the patio and headed across the yard.
As he came to the barn door, he heard Laurie's tearful voice, "Oh Jacky…" His heart ached for her as he opened it, saying "Sweetheart?"
Inside he saw her sitting on a hay bale, her face buried in Jack's fur. He "called" to her, "I love you.", and she looked up at him, then putting the little dog down, held out her arms.
At once he went over and wrapped her in his arms, holding her as she cried. For several moments she wept out how sorry she was at getting mad at "Mom", but that she didn't want to keep thinking about shooting that "monster".
"I know, Mom's sorry, darlin'..she didn't know you had to tell Ron again…." He soothed her, then raised her face to his.
"And I love you for not telling Mom off…."
Both Rick and Laurie turned to see Cecilia in the doorway of the barn, crying. Laurie immediately left Rick's arms to go to her and the two women embraced, as Cecilia apologized tearfully.
"I know, I know, Mom….thank you for caring so much." Laurie responded. "I know you were trying to help.."
At the sound of so many people being upset, Jack gave a mournful whimper, then lay down and covered his eyes.
"Jacky? Oh you sweet dog!" Cecilia exclaimed, and Jack instantly got up and barked happily at her.
"You are a good dog, baby." Laurie added, as Cecelia picked him up and carried him outside.
"What about me?" Rick grinned with relief, and his wife held out her hand.
"You're very good…." She smiled. Rick came forward and took her fingers in his.
"Well, after lunch I can be better…"
"That can wait, son…" Cecelia paused at the door and wagged her finger.
"Yes, Mom." Rick sighed, then kissed Laurie's hand. "Rain check?"
"Yes, love…" she whispered, then walked out hand in hand with him.
As they came back to the house, the three Simons found the rest of the family milling around the patio waiting for them. Jack spotted Davey and Katie, Robin and Ian's children, and ran barking to the two teenagers, who greeted him ecstatically.
"Here's the cookie monster! Good Jacky!" Davey said gleefully, pulling a dog treat out of an Easter basket.
"I'm glad to see you too, Jack….I wish we could have you with us!" Katie picked him up and fed the cookie to him, then set him down so she could hug her grandparents.
"Well….maybe you could…let me talk to your Dad." Rick whispered to the two of them.
Sure enough, after the belated Easter buffet, Rick was happy to stand and say, "I want to toast my son-in-law Ian and daughter Robin, who gave us all the best Easter gift. Guess who's moving back to Phoenix?"
"No…Ian….what happened?" Oscar asked, elated, as Rudy put an arm around a radiant Robin.
"I got tired of Chicago, Uncle Oscar. The kids did great in school, but…" Ian was interrupted as Petey said, "Too many people, too cold…"
"And too bad, we wanted to come home!" Katie exclaimed, hugging her excited grandmother.
"Well, you heard the woman…welcome home!" Rick raised his glass then nearly spilled as he saw their little terrier dance around on his hind legs.
"Wait a minute-how'd you learn to do that, Jacky?"
"I taught him that, Rick….he's happy!" Laurie giggled, her arm around Katie.
"Well, so am I…." Rick thought, seeing his children and grandchildren celebrating their homecoming. He turned and caught his brother's eyes as he and Linda came out of the house, carrying dessert.
"Happy Easter, A.J.."
Puzzled, A.J. nodded at him, then seeing Robin and Ian, got the idea.
"Happy Easter, Rick…and many more!"