Joel

CHAPTER FOUR

New Responsibility

"Can I see you and all your thee boys if I stayed a little longer?

Plus if there is a job in the offering I have you, a whole town and Maurice to convince to have me back is that not right?"

With the words at least hitting the point Maggie still keeping me at a distance as she turns giving me that grin that tugs every inch of my heart and her next words are not for me either:

"You can come back in Ed and bring those three eves-droppers in with you there is someone here they ought to meet before any else does."

Maggie finding my gaze as she whispers something across to me and what I am already aware off that though this town knows and though his big brothers might. Maggie's youngest son has no idea I am his father.

As I swallow hard seeing the two older boys first. Teenagers in there own right as I wave quickly dropping my hand at the comical pose that has come over me. My features turning serious to the looks I am now receiving as Ed comes in last.

The youngest boy not looking my way that he is to busy filling Ed in on his day as Maggie now tries to ease my difficult situation. As the other two continue to give me a stern, uncertain glare with a hint of mischief to it as she draws all three of them to attention:

"Chris, Daniel, Joel this is an old friend of mines and your late father he is Doctor Fleischman and he shares the same first name as yours Joel."

With O'Connell getting over the hardest hurdle easily as the three boys continue to gaze at me as Maggie negotiates the youngest dark eyes at last finding mines. As I find a smile receiving the same one back for a moment as there mother continues at break neck speed:

"He's came all the way from New York boys and he knows Cicely as well as any of you for its why he's applying to the job Maurice has on offer."

This giving me a chance to utter something and causing the three boys to give me another funny glance:

"You could have simply told them I worked here before Maggie and how am I meant to know Cicely as well as them when I've been away from here so long O'Connell?"

The comment causing Ed to cover his eyes, Maggie giving me a warning as the oldest boy now speaks:

"Why do you need to convince everyone, including mum about you staying Doc? If you worked here before and dad also talked a lot about you Doctor Fleischman."

I shut my eyes feeling all my years and the Chris before me now. Has his father's knack on hitting on the truth as I find Maggie's eye and then that of youngest son. Before looking to the teenager who has spoken to me. Seeing his own father's striking features there too as I look to the middle son.

Aware being caught in the middle between two siblings is not an easy ride either as I glance now to the boy who is my own son. Who is patiently waiting to see what I've got to say for myself with the young Chris Stevens having made a pretty good observation as I try to delay the inevitable:

"The answer lies in your last words young man and I pretty much hated it here the first time round and as the three of you are asking.

It really is going to take a whole load of convincing to win this town and you're mum round to letting me stay period."

The words hanging with justified silence as another far younger voice replies:

"Chris does coming back here in the first place not prove something and mum could not have been that hard on you before Joel?"

This causing Maggie to look my way as I grin at the comment Chris junior verifying the look between O'Connell and myself as Daniel adds to it:

"Mum could not be anything else little brother and they've got a history Joel."

As I now flinch hard my grin disappearing as the boy turns to his brothers. My earlier mixed up emotions coming back to the surface as I look between the three boys, coming to rest on the ten year old last. The dark eyes penetrating my own as my gaze wavers my head bowing again as both Maggie and Ed rescue me swiftly.

Maggie kicking in first:

"I think all three of you have said enough and Doctor Fleischman is in need of a place to stay and a stiff drink at the Brick before we come to any sort of decision over anything.

Plus I want to talk to you three boys alone for now and Joel needs to recover from the trip here too. So before you open any more cans of worms we're going to let him go for now with Ed right guys?"

The authoritative voice of Maggie's bringing everyone to attention as Ed sneaks in a further comment trying to balance the situation with my own mixed up emotions:

"Don't be to hard on Joel here for your mother has a lot to thank him for."

Maggie's quizzical gaze like the boys all falling on mines as I cover my face with my hands my head bowing wishing Ed to stop as I groan way to loud a young anxious voice. Reaching across to me:

"Are you ok Doctor Fleischman?'

As I realize slowly it is my own son speaking to me as my head lifts Ed having stopped talking as my dark eyes shift to the boy before me. Managing a smile as I do so my glance shifting to Maggie as I speak:

"Maybe Joel just it take's a little getting used to this place you know."

With my words having a double meaning the boy not picking up on it though as the two other boy's give me a hard look. The words not my wisest by any account as Maggie gives me a get out of jail card:

"So nine am, sharp Fleischman."

Her words throwing me on an entirely different tangent as I fall under her glare Ed and her three boys no longer in the picture. With her tone mesmerizing me completely and I have no idea what she is talking about either:

"Come on Joel the powers that be have not changed any and Maurice will be after blood come morning so you had better be prepared. For these three boys here might be a whole lot easier in comparison."

With three comical smiles gaining a quick reply in unison:

"Gee thanks mum and we could take Joel down easy."

This causing me to now back step away from them quickly towards the door my voice finely returning to normality:

"Yeah definitely your son's Maggie and business can wait till morning right?"

Maggie giving me that smile as my glance falls to the three boys seeing their close resemblance to their mother at this moment. Ed opening the door for me as I find something to at last say to them:

"I guess it is you guys who take such good care of her and keep her on the straight and narrow for she used to be a right party animal your mother."

This causing a major result on all levels Maggie turning a deep shade of red along with a look that could kill, with three mystified gazes, not believing a word I just said either as Ed leaps in:

"Definitely not lost your touch Doctor Fleischman and this might be a good time to leave as any."

As I turn back to Maggie:

"I'll be seeing you then."

Her reply typically on form as our eyes meet awkwardly:

"Maurice will come round like everyone else but you have a lot more than that to prove Joel."

Our gaze lingering longer than it should as I nod in answer giving the three boys who stand watching us a wave the youngest gaze the most serious of the three. Ed now shoving me out the door into the freezing Alaska air as the door bangs shut behind us Ed filling me in again:

"I think that went well Doctor Fleischman."

As I continue to look at the shut door sensing responsibility towards everything in a new way and it is huge. My head slowly turning from the shut door glimpsing the falling snowflakes, the trees and mountains that can be seen from here and the twinkling lights of Cicely itself my gaze hanging there now.

Raw emotion pulsing through me as I grip fear of the unknown and of what has just happened in there as a feeling I have not had in a long time returns with it. As I remember with a jolt my first night in Cicely long ago as I mutter incoherently under my own breath my dark eyes returning to the warmth of light spreading from Maggie's home with Ed speaking again:

"Are you coming Doctor Fleischman the Brick is going to be shut soon at this rate."

Giving Ed a brief smile at this comment the Brick being about the only thing I've to look forward to at this moment as I snatch that lingering memory of Maggie earlier and what I cannot deny that the depths of my soul belong only to her.

In ways that even now I don't fully understand as my eyes lift to the stunning scenery, those epic mountains and whether I like or not that Maggie is right. Cicely being my one true home even if it kills me first…

TO BE CONTINUED