#1 in the Holidays series
The Lancer characters do not belong to me. I’m just borrowing them for a short time.
Word count: 6,195
Murdoch sat on the hard wooden seat of the pew and tried to concentrate on the words the Reverend was saying, but his thoughts were everywhere this cold Sunday morning.
The family had bundled up in warm woolen blankets for their Sunday visit to the church in Green River. This Sunday before Thanksgiving had proven to be sunny but cold. As the horses worked in unison to bring the family safely into town, their breaths blew in white clouds of mist.
Murdoch remembered the fog swirling along the river and the frosty white fields covering the newly sprouted grass. They’d had some early storms in October, but so far this month, no rain at all. He found himself worrying about the ranch as he often did when he thought of the unpredictability of Mother Nature.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the movement of Scott bowing his head for the final prayer, and as he did the same, he realized with shame he’d missed most of the sermon. He had been aware that it had been filled with words of Thanksgiving, but his mind drifted and he was left wanting.
The family slowly made their way down the short aisle of the church as there was always a line to gather the heavy coats from the cloak room and thank the minister. Murdoch stood back as Scott swiftly gathered the family’s overcoats and he thrust his long arms into his heavy wool coat.
“Thank you, Son.” He smiled at Scott as he followed his oldest to the door of the church, and he joined Scott’s wife Caroline as she was talking to Reverend Tucker.
When it was Murdoch’s turn, he shook the Reverend’s hand and wished him well for Thanksgiving. Murdoch moved out into the yard and shivered at the icy breeze blowing through the yard. He saw his family making their way to their carriage and Scott was checking the harness in preparation for their return home.
Dave Wentworth, the bank manager stopped him briefly. “Good to see you Murdoch. Have a good Thanksgiving.”
“You too, Dave. I’m sorry we can’t stop a while, but it’s just too cold.” Murdoch pulled on his gloves.
Dave laughed, his round face splitting into a grin, “You can say that again. I think everyone has the same idea. Go home and get in front of the fire.” They both watched the assembled crowd as they all hurried to get to their warm destinations. “Give Johnny and his family my best.”
Murdoch gave Dave a smile as he started toward his family, “I’ll do that Dave, he and his family will be out to Sunday supper later this afternoon.”
Murdoch climbed into the back seat of the covered carriage and pulled the blanket over his lap and made sure it was snugged in tight around the little girl next to him. He pulled her closer. “You sit close to me Elizabeth, and keep your Grandpa warm.”
The little girl giggled and snuggled into the space he made next to him and Murdoch wrapped his big arm around her tightly.
“Everyone ready?” Scott asked as he looked over his shoulder.
“Let’s go home son.” Murdoch replied.
As the carriage started forward with a start, Murdoch leaned over and gave his granddaughter a kiss on the top of her blonde head. Her hair was a mass of ringlets, that he knew her nanny tied up painstakingly every night. At seven she was the apple of his eye. The birth of his first grandchild had been an event that would long stand out in his memory.
He glanced at the square shoulders of Scott and beside him his tall stately wife. Scott had met Caroline on a business trip to Chicago. She was originally from Pennsylvania but was attending a teaching college in Chicago. They’d been married almost ten years now and to Murdoch’s eyes they were a settled couple. Scott was obviously devoted to her and while Caroline was a reserved sort, Murdoch could see she was as devoted to him.
They made a striking pair. Scott with his strong, handsome features would stand out in any crowd. His manners were accentuated by his intellect, and he had a wide circle of business associates in the state.
Caroline was tall, blond, and mannerly. He thought with a smile. ‘Mannerly.’ That was the word Johnny used to describe his sister in law. Caroline had delicate features in a heart-shaped face. Very blue eyes and a slender, graceful figure.
Their daughter Elizabeth, resembled both her parents. She was tall, slender and fair. She had her father’s eyes, but her mother’s features. Murdoch figured Scott would have his hands full in about ten years. That thought brought another smile at the trials and tribulations his sons would have as their children grew up.
While they all had been robbed of the experience of growing up together, molding three strangers into a family had not been without its challenges. Murdoch had spent many a sleepless night worrying about his sons who were who knows where at one o’clock in the morning on a Saturday night. Now he didn’t have to worry like that anymore as both were settled down with families, and he could just sit back and enjoy the grandchildren.
As his thoughts drifted back to his two sons, he thought with a smile, ‘I still call the tune, just not as often as I used to, and that sits fine with me.’
His thoughts drifted as he relaxed into the padded leather of the seat. He smiled down at Elizabeth, now sleeping softly under the protection of his arm.
Johnny listened to his wife as she hustled the children back into their Sunday best. They had all gone into Morro Coyo early this morning for mass, and now they needed to get going or they’d be late for Sunday supper at his father’s house.
It had been impressed on him early that they would eat at three o’clock on the dot and they were expected by two. “Hurry up, we’re gonna be late.” He called as he heard little feet running down the stairs and his wife gently urging their oldest to hurry along the youngest.
As his young family assembled in the entranceway, his sparkling blue eyes looked them over. Freshly scrubbed faces and hands. Dark unruly hair quickly wetted and combed into some semblance of order. At six, the boy Enrique, was a sturdy reflection of his father. Dark curly hair, long eyelashes, and the bluest of eyes sparking with mischief.
Next was his beautiful daughter, Juliana. Even at four, Johnny knew she’d be a raving beauty like her mother. She already had long, dark, wavy hair that reached the middle of her back and a smile that he found he couldn’t resist. Her eyes, dark like her mother’s, flashing with spirit and fire.
Johnny’s eyes were drawn to Sarita. His wife and partner. His match in so many ways. She could argue him to a standstill when necessary and support him to the hilt. Her curvaceous figure drew stares, but she only had eyes for her husband, and he for her.
In her arms was their youngest, another boy not quite two, Cristian. He wiggled with impatience at being held so still and Johnny gave Sarita a kiss on the cheek as he took hold of the boy. “Let’s go. Everybody in.”
He waited until Sarita was settled in the backseat of the covered buggy before handing her their son. He climbed up into the front seat next to Enrique and made sure everyone was secure before starting the three mile drive to the Lancer hacienda.
Johnny pulled the horses up in front of the white washed hacienda, glad to finally get there. A north wind had blown steadily and they were all cold. He’d glanced more than once at Sarita and he could tell she was unhappy. Her nose and cheeks were pink, her mouth set, and he knew she never looked forward to these family suppers.
A wave of regret washed over him that his family had not taken to Sarita in the way he’d hoped. His father had always treated her with utmost respect but the warmth was just not there. Scott tried, but he was caught between wanting to support his brother, and his wife’s disapproval of Johnny and his choices. It wasn’t the fact that Sarita was Mexican, he knew that now, but Caroline had firm beliefs in manners and conventions. Neither Johnny or his wife managed to live up to her expectations.
With a deep breath, he climbed down out of the buggy and helped Sarita and the children down. Taking his wife’s hand he led his family through the front door. “Anyone home?” He called as they all hung their coats and hats on the stand in the front entryway.
“In here.” Murdoch called.
The children ran to their grandfather, where Murdoch spent several minutes hugging them, before tossing Cristian into the air. “You’re getting too heavy for this my boy.” He mock scolded as the boy giggled in delight.
“Abuelo, pick me up.” Juliana begged holding her arms up.
Murdoch sat on the couch, “Come up here.” He patted his lap as he sat Cristian next to him. “Sit down my dear.” He indicated a chair next to the roaring fireplace for Sarita.
“What have you been up to Enrique? Have you seen staying out of trouble?” Murdoch teased Johnny’s older son.
“Si Abuelo. I got a new pony and papa’s teaching me to ride him.” Enrique said proudly looking up at Johnny.
Johnny smiled down at his oldest and tousled his son’s hair. “He’s been doin’ real good too.”
Murdoch smiled as he knew all about the pony, but enjoyed hearing his grandson relate the news.
Johnny’s family were all settled when Scott joined them. “Hey brother.” Johnny called across the room.
“Good to see you Johnny. Don’t get up.” Scott said as he started to fix drinks for the adults.
“Nothing for me, Scott.” Sarita called.
Scott raised his eyebrows, but continued to fix drinks as Caroline swept into the room. She was resplendent in a light rose silk gown that showed off her creamy flawless skin.
She took the offered wine glass and sat down on the side chair. She looked over at her sister in law and smiled, “Anything we can get you dear?”
Sarita folded her hands nervously under her sister in law’s scrutiny, suddenly aware of her plain skirt and blouse. “No nothing, thank you.”
“Where’s Beth?” Enrique asked.
“Elizabeth is just getting up from her nap. Her nanny is getting her dressed.” Caroline answered stressing her daughter’s full name.
“I don’t take naps anymore. Naps are for babies.” Enrique countered, glancing at his sister.
“I’m not a baby!” Little Juliana piped up.
Murdoch quickly intervened. He gave her a hug, “Of course you’re not.”
Their attention was diverted when Miss Charlotte brought Elizabeth by the hand into the living room.
“Thank you Charlotte. That will be all for now.” Caroline instructed.
“Come here Princess.” Scott called to his daughter. She climbed on his lap and Scott continued his conversation with Johnny until they were all called for supper.
The children were quickly settled at the table in the kitchen with Elena and Charlotte keeping a close eye on them.
The adults were seated in their usual seats at the large dining table. Murdoch at the head as always, Scott at the foot. Johnny thought it funny that Scott had migrated to that location upon his marriage. Once Johnny had moved into his own house, he preferred the round table in the kitchen where he could easily see his whole family.
Caroline sat on Scott’s right, Johnny and Sarita across from her. “Sarah, I appreciated that lap blanket you gave me for my birthday this morning.” Murdoch smiled at Johnny’s wife using the anglicized version of her name.
Sarita turned her large dark eyes at her father in law and smiled shyly, “I’m glad you like it.”
Murdoch smiled back and the family continued their Sunday supper in near silence. Johnny reached over and squeezed his wife’s knee in a show of support and he felt her relax just a bit. They both knew this formal dining was a far cry of the boisterous atmosphere around their own dining table at home.
At the sound of raised young voices coming from the kitchen, Sarita started to rise, but Johnny stopped her. “I’ll go.”
Johnny strode through the kitchen door, “What’s goin’ on in here?” Johnny had to bite his lip to keep from smiling at the angelic looks on his children’s face.
“Enrique spilled his glass of milk all over my new dress, Uncle Johnny.” Elizabeth tearfully complained as the nanny was trying to blot the milk from the dress with a cloth.
Elena was cleaning the milk from the floor, and looked up as Johnny spoke to her, “Gracias Elena. Enrique, how many times have I told you to be careful with your milk?”
Johnny’s son bowed his head, “A few times papa?”
Johnny placed his hand under his son’s chin and raised the boys face to his. “More than a few times son. I want you to apologize to your cousin, and son, you need to be more careful.”
Order was restored once more at the children’s table, and Johnny rejoined the adults where four sets of eyes looked at him expectantly. “Just a spilled glass of milk. Charlotte doesn’t think it will stain Beth’s dress.”
Caroline started to rise, but Scott’s hand on her arm stilled her. “That’s a new dress!”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s just milk.” Scott advised quietly and as he sipped his wine.
Caroline’s attention was diverted to Sarita, “I suppose you’ll be bringing your usual Mexican fare for Thankgiving again this year. I hope it’s not too hot for civ…. ah…all of us to eat this year. Perhaps you could bring something more traditional?”
Johnny reached under the table and grabbed his wife’s hand as she started to rise in anger next to him. They were long used to Caroline’s insensitive nature when it came to them, but Johnny felt his own temper start to boil over. Now it was Sarita’s squeeze of her hand urgently signaling him to keep quiet.
Before either could say anything, both were grateful when Murdoch told Sarita, “I enjoy your enchiladas and especially your rellenos. I’d miss them and of course your tamales at Christmas are my favorites.”
“Thank you Murdoch.” Sarita looked across the table at her obviously unhappy sister in law, and added, “I know your parents will be here for a visit, so I will make them not so spicy.”
Johnny wished for an end to this strained family supper and he knew neither of them looked forward to Thanksgiving supper. One sustaining thought was that they had decided that it was time to start their own family traditions at Christmas and as soon as Johnny got up his courage, he would be informing his father that starting this year, Johnny and his family would be staying at home to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Johnny knew it would not be well received, but it was necessary as traveling with three children in winter, even the three miles, was just too much. Now that they knew another child was on the way, Johnny intended to put his foot down.
His heart surged with love at the thought of his brave strong wife giving them another child. He felt truly blessed by the gift of their children. They brought joy into his life like he never dreamed of.
His former life seemed so far away now. The ‘dark days’ is what he called them. He felt like he stepped out into the bright sunlight and he had no intention of ever going back to the dark. As each year passed and his life became more settled, those days seemed like they belonged to someone else.
His thoughts were interrupted when he noticed Sarita looking at him expectantly. They had talked about this and agreed today would be the best day to tell them. They couldn’t wait much longer as last time, it had caused a family rift when the news had been inadvertently announced by Doctor Johnson.
Scott and Caroline had been blessed with Elizabeth fairly early in their marriage, but any further children weren’t meant to be as Caroline had miscarriage after miscarriage. They had pretty much given up hope for another child, and Johnny wanted to spare them as much as possible, when they found out that Sarita was expecting a fourth child.
Johnny smiled once more at his wife, and gathered strength from her. He cleared his throat, “Hey Murdoch? How do you feel about being a grandfather again?”
Johnny watched as his father’s wrinkled face broke into a huge smile. His father’s blue eyes sparked as he exclaimed, “That’s wonderful news. Congratulations!” He reached over and shook his son’s hand.
Johnny turned to Scott when his brother said, “That’s great news brother. When should I expect my new niece or nephew?”
“We think in May.” Sarita replied.
“Congratulations.” Caroline said stiffly as she finished her glass of wine. “I’ll check on the children and see what’s keeping coffee and dessert.”
Scott took another sip of his wine, “She’s just a little….”
“That’s okay, Scott. We understand.” Johnny assured his brother.
“I’d like to propose a toast. To my new grandson,” Murdoch smiled at Sarita, his eyes twinkling, “or granddaughter. To many years of happiness.”
They all drank to their good fortune and before long Murdoch added, “I’ve been thinking, that house of yours is really too small for six.”
“I was thinking the same thing Murdoch.” Johnny replied relieved he didn’t have to bring the subject up.
“Why don’t you move back in here. There’s plenty of room after all. You could have the whole east wing to yourselves. And I could see my grandchildren more often.”
Sarita and Johnny looked at each other in dismay, not wanting to hurt Murdoch’s feelings, but there was no way they would consider moving back in with Murdoch. They clearly remembered the strained relations and arguments Johnny’s family had caused between them and they had no intention of getting in the middle of that again.
Johnny looked to his brother for support and he found himself feeling strangely hurt when he saw Scott didn’t think it was a good idea either.
“Thank you Murdoch. We appreciate the offer, but I was thinking of adding on to the house.” He paused before plunging ahead, well aware he often said the wrong thing at the wrong time. “For us, its home. It may be small, but we like it.”
His heart sank as Murdoch set his wine glass down on the table a little too hard, “Fine. We’ll have coffee and pie in the living room before you go home.”
Scott gave his brother a look of sympathy and gestured with his head to the front door. Sarita caught the signal and went into the kitchen to check on the children while Johnny and Scott donned their coats and went out onto the covered patio.
Johnny kicked at the stone floor, “Nothing to be sorry about Scott. That’s the way it’s always been between me and the old man. Nothing new.”
“No I meant about Caroline. She didn’t take this well, but she will be happy for you. We’re both happy for you.”
“She’s got her reasons Scott. We know that. We also know you both love our children.”
Scott smiled and Johnny felt once again connected to his brother. They each had a wife they loved more than anything, and their friendship was strong. Even though they were both owners of this ranch, the sheer vastness and magnitude of the work often meant days would go by before they saw each other for more than a few minutes. These Sunday suppers, while often a strain, allowed them a little time to reconnect. Sometimes it was over a glass of whisky and a chess board, or like today on a chilly November day out on the porch.
Johnny gave his brother a grin that only could mean trouble, and he punched his brother lightly in the arm, “All ready for the In Laws, brother?”
Scott smiled, “I’m thinking of hiding out in your parlor brother. Do you think you’ve got room for me there?” he teased.
“Anytime Scott, anytime.” Johnny slung his arm over his older brother’s shoulders and the two of them walked back into the warm house.
Sarita was removing her clothing getting ready for bed. Johnny lounged on the bed watching her with amusement as his wife undressed; still obviously angry. “It is the same every time! She insults us and we let her get away with it. Why do we do that?” Her dark eyes flashed angrily as she combed her fingers through her long wavy hair. “Answer me husband. Why do we put up with her?”
Johnny reached out his arm and pulled her down with him onto the bed. “Because she is Scott’s wife and Beth’s mother and she’s family.” His voice low and earthy. He began kissing her gently at first and then with more passion as she responded.
They came up for air and Johnny pulled a few lingering strands of dark hair away from his wife’s eyes, “Did I tell you today how beautiful you are and how much I love you?”
She smiled the crooked smile that drove him crazy and whispered, “Not since this morning my love.”
“Well then, I have several hours to make up for it seems.” Johnny ran his hand over the bulge that marked where their child was growing. “You make me so happy.” He whispered in her ear as he made good on his promise.
The week went by quickly as the weather stayed mild. Cold mornings followed by crisp sunny afternoons allowed the ranch work to be done on schedule. Johnny was riding a young mare he was training. She was a blood bay with black stockings and black mane and tail. She was a strong willed mare, but had a lot of energy and she was making a real fine cow horse.
Today, he was riding through the willows along sage creek looking for strays when he came upon a herd of ranch horses grazing in the meadow beyond. He smiled as he recognized Barranca who had turned to look at him, grass sticking out of his lips.
He recognized the welcome nicker and rode down to see his old friend. He carefully tied the mare’s reins to a nearby tree and walked over to the palomino holding his hand out in greeting.
“Hey boy. You look like you’re having a good day, fella.” Johnny rubbed Barranca’s forehead and moved to stroke his neck. His winter coat was growing thick and it would provide good protection from the winter chill.
“You’re looking good boy. Nice and fat and furry.” Barranca snorted as though he could understand him. Johnny gave him a final pat. “Wish I had time for a quick ride today boy, but I still got to go check those heifers, and it’ll be getting dark soon.”
Johnny returned to the mare and swung aboard, moving her away from the herd. He looked back at Barranca following slowly behind. “Stay here Barranca.” He called and nudged the mare into an easy lope, while glancing over his shoulder to make sure the gelding didn’t follow.
Johnny was relieved to see the horse turn back to his herd mates. It had been a hard decision to retire Barranca but the horse had too much heart, and even though his mind still wanted to work hard, his body couldn’t keep up with the rigors of working cattle.
Johnny still took him out on easy rides, but his compadre had earned a good retirement. Johnny was thankful for the friendship Barranca gave to him. He was a once in a lifetime kind of horse. They were so close they could practically read each other’s mind.
Barranca was allowed to pretty much do as he pleased. He appeared every night at the barn at feeding time, and spent his days grazing in the meadow with the other horses. All of Johnny’s children had taken their first ride on Barranca’s strong back. His gentle way with the children had enforced the love they had of horses, and he patiently walked in endless circles while even the youngest had a turn.
With his thoughts still on his old horse, Johnny rode on to check the heifers before circling back home. He spent a lot of his day just putting in the miles. He often rode a young horse, giving it a lot of wet saddle blanket time. Putting on the miles helped add to the stamina needed to work on the ranch.
“Johnny!” He heard his brother call.
With a smile he allowed the mare to pick her way through the rocks to where his brother was pulled up. “Hey Scott. How’s it look over on the east range?” He asked knowing that’s where his brother was working today.
“It’s looking good. I think the grass will hold for a few more weeks. We better plan to move that one herd by the middle of December though.”
“Sounds good. Hey, I was just headin’ to check the heifers. Wanta’ go with me?”
Scott checked the sun, “Sure, I’ve got some time.” Turning his horse to follow Johnny.
“Well, will you look at that.” Johnny pointed to three new born calves with their young mothers. “Musta been born last night, cause they weren’t here yesterday.”
Scott watched as the three new mothers moved nervously away from the horses with their tiny wobbly white faced calves following behind. “That makes 15 so far. I’ll let Murdoch know tonight.”
The two men rode slowly on the outskirts of the herd of first calf heifers. These young cows were all giving birth for the first time, so they were monitored more closely than the more experienced cows. “Looks like she’s going to be next.” Johnny pointed to another cow, with swollen belly walking slowly, cropping grass.
“I’ll be sure to check her tomorrow.” Scott replied. This time of year, they tried to visit the heifer’s daily as their schedule permitted. The young cows could generally handle giving birth by themselves, but once in a while, they needed help. Both men had saved more than one calf by their timely intervention.
As they completed their circle of the herd, they were back on the trail leading to the crossroad where they would soon go their separate ways. “Are the Jackson’s all settled in?” Johnny asked.
“Yes, they arrived yesterday. Are you sure you can’t come to supper tomorrow? I know they’d like to see the children.”
“Sorry Scott. Thursday is the soonest we can get over. We’ll try to get there early though. Are you still going to surprise Beth with that pinto pony?”
Scott smiled in anticipation at the pleasure he’d have when he gave the flashy pony to his daughter. “Yes, Pedro is brushing her up on some of her lessons. Maybe Enrique could come over on his pony and the four of us could take a ride.”
“Let’s give both of them some time to get used to them, then we’ll set it up.” Johnny replied.
They stopped their horses at the crossroads. The sun was already starting to go down even though it was only four in the afternoon. By five it would be dark. They each had just enough time to get home and get their last chores done before they couldn’t see their hand in front of their face.
“See ya Thursday Scott.” Johnny said as he urged the mare into a lope.
“Bye Johnny.” Scott called as he too headed for home.
Once again, Johnny and Sarita loaded their boisterous family in the buggy and headed out to Murdoch’s house. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes. Johnny admired the beautiful dress Sarita wore and couldn’t help as his eyes strayed to the delicate lace trimmed along the bodice. Her dark hair glistened and she wore it up in an elegant swirl. It was held in place by an ornate Spanish comb trimmed in abalone. The red silk of her dress accented her curvaceous figure and Johnny was more than a little glad they were attending a family dinner rather than a social function.
Johnny pulled his sleeves down on his suit coat and eyed his family once more before they started off down the rugged road. “Don’t forget what I told you kids. Be on your best behavior. Enrique, watch where you put your milk this time, hear?”
“Si papa. I’ll be careful.”
“Use your best manners too. Aunt Caroline’s parents are visiting and we don’t want them to think we’re raisin’ a bunch of wild horses.”
“Papa, why are they here?” Juliana asked.
“Well miel, I guess they just wanted to come out for a visit to see their daughter and granddaughter.”
“Mama? How come your padre and madre don’t come see you?” This from Enrique.
“They live down south and it’s hard for them to come all this way. Maybe we’ll go see them next year.” She sounded wistful and Johnny kept his secret. She had no idea her family was coming for a visit for Christmas. It was supposed to be a surprise and he hoped all his plans worked out.
In short order the family arrived and they were swept into the festivities. Johnny helped Sarita bring in her contribution to the Thanksgiving meal. She had carefully tested the recipe to make sure it was seasoned enough, while at the same time could be tolerated by less accustomed taste buds.
“Johnny!” he turned as Teresa came running through the door to give him a hug. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too querida.” Johnny replied hugging his foster sister tightly. Since Teresa had married three years ago and moved closer to Stockton, they usually only saw her on special occasions.
Johnny was swept into the noisy gathering of introductions and before long the men were settled in the living room enjoying Murdoch’s finest scotch, the women retired to the kitchen to make sure all was ready for the feast and the children were upstairs in the playroom noisily playing with the pure joy only childhood brings.
As Murdoch and Caroline’s father talked about the improvements in the train schedule and Lancer shipping beef to Chicago, Johnny nudged his brother. “Those two seem to be hitting it off.”
“Yes, they think alike on politics and business. It’s a relief they’re getting along.” Scott took a sip of his scotch. “Speaking of in-laws, does Sarita have any idea her parents are coming in December?”
Johnny shook his head, “Not so far. She really misses them. Her mother hasn’t been up since Cristian was born and she hasn’t seen her father since before that.”
“She’s really going to be surprised.” Scott added.
“I hope it’s a good surprise, anyway. I may have to sleep in your parlor if it’s not” Johnny teased.
Scott chuckled and then changed the subject, Scott asked. “What plans do you have for enlarging the house?”
Johnny was relieved for the change and launched into their plans to add two new bedrooms, an indoor water closet and bathing room. He hoped to start the addition right after the first of the year.
The noisy arrival of four children signaled the end of the adult’s conversation. Before long Mr. Jackson had his granddaughter, Elizabeth on his lap. Murdoch had Juliana on his lap with Enrique and Cristian on each side of him.
“We’ll Enrique, I hope you are up to being the man of the table when we sit down for dinner. I don’t want any squabbling going on today.” Murdoch’s voice was gruff, but his smile took the sting out of it, as he watched Enrique duck his head.
“Yes sir.” Enrique flushed as he remembered the spilled milk from last Sunday.
“Sounds like they’re calling us.” Scott put in, when Teresa announced that dinner was ready.
Scott and Johnny escorted the children to the children’s table. For this special occasion, a small table had been set up between the bookcase and the couch. It had an elegant lace tablecloth and the second best dishes laid out with just enough crystal to make Johnny cringe.
Once the children were settled and the adults were in place at the main table, Murdoch asked them all to hold hands. Johnny held Sarita’s hand with his left, and Scott’s in his right. They all bowed their heads as Murdoch said a prayer of Thanksgiving blessing their food, their family and friends. As the final amens rang around the table, Elena brought in a large serving tray with a golden roasted turkey on it.
The giant bird was set in front of Murdoch and he began expertly carving and serving the meat. Bowls of stuffing, gravy, corn and beans were placed on the table. Sarita rose only long enough to make sure the children had everything they needed and had their napkins tucked into their shirts. With a final whispered warning in Enrique’s ear to be good, she rejoined her husband at the table.
At Johnny’s look, she shrugged her shoulders and sighed, “Llo que será sea.”
Johnny laughed and she joined in, knowing full well the chances of their children getting through this dinner without something spilling was very unlikely.
As the meal progressed, Murdoch tapped his knife on a glass to get their attention. “I want to propose a toast.” He waited while they all became quiet and had raised their glasses. “First, I want to thank all of you for coming today and for joining with our family on this day of celebration.” His eyes met Mr. and Mrs. Jackson and they nodded. He then turned to Teresa and her husband Jason. His eyes found Scott and Caroline, “Next, I want to congratulate Scott and Caroline on a well fought campaign for Scott’s election to the State Senate.” He waited as the table congratulated Senator Lancer. “Finally, it’s with great pleasure that I toast my son Johnny and his lovely wife Sarita, as they’re expecting their fourth child in the spring. We are all truly blessed this Thanksgiving. No family is without their trials and tribulations and our family is no exception.” At the snort he heard from either Johnny or Scott, he added, “and ours has had more then its share.” Everyone chuckled. “Happy Thanksgiving everyone.”
The whole table toasted each others happiness and good fortune when a muffled gasp was heard from the children’s table. “My dress! Enrique! You spilled milk on my dress again!”
As Caroline and Sarita went to the rescue, Johnny and Scott erupted with laughter. Ignoring the dirty look his wife shot him, Johnny snickered, “You can dress them up…”
Scott reached over to the side table behind him. “Another shot brother?”
“Don’t mind if I do, brother.” The two brother’s toasted each other with Murdoch’s best scotch each acknowledging silently the happiness they felt with their lives.
Late that night, after everyone departed, the remains of the meal were cleaned up and put away, all was quiet in the Lancer household. Scott took Caroline tenderly in his arms. The moonlight lit the room enough so he could clearly see her features. The old bed creaked as he shifted her closer to his body.
Her eyes searched his, “I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting. I’ve just been so scared…”
He silenced her with a finger on her lips, “I know. They all understand.”
“I just don’t know what I’ll do if I lose another child, Scott.” Her quiet voice full of emotion.
Scott held her tight trying to give her strength while at the same time needing some himself. His throat was dry and he had to swallow before he could trust himself to speak. “Whatever happens is in God’s hands and we will accept it and go on. It doesn’t change the love we have for each other, does it?”
“No…but… what if I can never give you a son to carry on your name?”
“I won’t deny that I’d love another child, but if it’s not meant to be, we will go on and be happy. I know that to be true.” Scott looked deep into his wife’s eyes and saw her love shining back at him. “I love you more now than the day I married you.”
Tears began trickling down her cheeks, “You’re my protector and my life. I love you Scott.” Their lips met and they gave themselves to each other and left their future in the hands of fate.
(Llo que será sea) What will be will be
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