Word Count 1,560
Don’t own any of the main characters, just taken them out of the box to play with for a while. I returned them unharmed and, in the main, unmarked.
Thanks to Karen for being my beta reader, for your encouragement and really helpful comments. They were much appreciated. Subsequent errors are mine.
“To every thing, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose
He slipped, unnoticed, into the Great Room. He felt closer to Murdoch here, the memories of that first day as clear in his mind as if it had just happened. The New Year’s Party was in full swing, but he’d never been much for parties and, anyway, he wanted to be alone with his thoughts.
He poured himself a scotch, raising the glass he walked around the desk to look out through the large picture window. “Here’s to you, old man” and he smiled to himself. He figured he was about the age Murdoch would have been when they came home – but he didn’t consider himself as old.
The ‘old man’ had been dead almost two years now, he’d had considerably more than his ‘three score and ten’, lived to see his grandchildren grow up on Lancer and known his great grandchild. He’d also livedlong enough to be able to walk the streets of Moro Coyo without a gun, something Johnny still found hard to do. He missed Murdoch, missed the arguing missed the closeness that had grown over the years. With a loud sigh, he settled into Murdoch’s chair and looked at the photographs. More there now than when they came home he thought. The ‘original’ ones were still there of course – Catherine, Maria,Murdoch, Scott and himself, but now there were the ones of Scott’s family, Teresa’s and his own.
“You’ve come a long way, Johnny.” He could hear his father
“Sure have, old man. Thanks to you.”
“No, son, you did it yourself.”
“If you hadn’t brought me – us -home, I’d have died thirty years ago. You gave me a chance of something different.”
“You took it, you grabbed with both hands and refused to let go.”
“I was a real pain in the ass, wasn’t I?”
“What do you mean ‘was’? But, you’re worth it. You learned that yet?”
“Nope, I ain’t nothing’ special. I love you old man”
“I know, son, and may I point out, you’re no spring chicken yourself”
He looked at the photograph of Olwen, mother of his children and he grieved for her too. When he closed his eyes, he could picture her sparkling brown eyes, hear her lilting Welsh voice that made her sound as though she were singing when she was only talking. She had named the third child as soon as she knew she was expecting. She ‘knew’ she was having a girl, she had told Johnny and had always loved the name ‘Rhiannon’, a Celtic fairy princess, but lived only ten days after the child was born. Had it not been for the children – Iuean, Gareth and Rhiannon, Johnny would not have wanted to go on, but he was only too aware of the pain of growing up without a parent and he could not, would not allow his children to suffer the same fate.
He hadhoped she would understand about him and Teresa, but he knew she wouldn’t want Rhiannon growing up without a mother – the poor child had more than enough trouble growing up as the only girl in the house. There were times when Johnny wondered if his youngest would ever be allowed to talk to a boy, much less get to know anyone well enough to marry, but Teresa knew how to get round that obstacle.
Scott and Murdoch had gone to San Francisco and brought Teresa back home following the death of her husband Ernest. He had been a banker who had made a number of bad investments leaving them destitute, and had then committed suicide. Neither Johnny nor Teresa had wanted a relationship with anyone, but they had grown close helping each other cope with the desolation of losing a beloved partner. They had remained together for support and comfort, the passions that had drawn them to their original spouses were absent, nevertheless it was a relationship that suited them both.
He often wondered how Olwen would have reacted to Iuean’s marriage to Tess. Both families had said ‘No’ when the young couple had announced their desire to marry. At 17 they were far too young, but so determined were they, that two months later they announced that Tess was pregnant, ensuring a quick marriage. Davey was now 5 years old and another was on the way.
His second son, Gareth was home from college and again pestering his father for tales about how things were as he was growing up. He wasn’t sure he wanted to drag up all those painful memories now, but Gareth had assured his father that his grandfather had already given his story and Uncle Scott had promised to do the same. Johnny wasn’t sure what it would achieve, but he’d give his son a condensed version, with the full one available after his death. Least that way, he wouldn’t be aware of anyone feeling sorry for him and Johnny Madrid’s story would be told as it actually happened, not as some Eastern author fancied it may have.
He saw the pictures of Scott and Olivia, they’d been together for 27 years now. Their elder child, James Murdoch had gone to Harvard to study business and then remained in Boston to take over Harlan’s empire and was doing incredibly well. The younger boy, Alexander had returned to Lancer following his studies and was learning the ranching side, gradually taking over responsibility for the day to day running of the ranch with his cousin Iuean. They had developed the same close relationship as their fathers which was one of the things that had given Murdoch the most pleasure in his later years.
Murdoch had enjoyed being a grandfather and great grandfather, indulging the children knowing it was for the parents to discipline them. Johnny had struggled with the discipline, having suffered too many beatings for misbehaving as a child. No-one had ever heard John raise his voice to his children, it seemed as though the quiet disappointment had more of an effect than anything else. Rhiannon was particularly affected and had been known to fold at one glance from her papa.
“So, what you doing, hiding in here, risking the wrath of Teresa?” Scott had noticed his absence and come looking for him.
“You know me, not much for parties” Scott recognised the drawl, abit gruffer now and although the eyes still sparkled they weren’t as bright.
“It’s a special night, Johnny, don’t spoil it for everyone else” Scott pleaded.
“What’s so special? Just another year passing. Another year older.”
“It’s 1900, Johnny! A completely new century!”
“Yeh, so? What makes ya think the next century is gonna be any better than the last? I seem to remember you goin’ on about some statue in New York – even went to see it” Johnny said
“The Statue of Liberty! Wonderful sight, wouldn’t have missed the presentation for anything. You really should have come!” Scott enthused.
“I’ll leave all that sort of thing to you, brother. Don’t wanna go see some city, need ta breathe, ya know. ‘Sides, figured my daughter needed me more” Johnny’s voice dropped. 1886 was the year Rhiannon was born and he had lost Olwen. “Missin’ the ol’ man, ya know?”
“Sure, John. Me too. He was a giant of a man, in more ways than one.” Scott agreed.
“When Iuean was just about two, and Olwen took him to go visit her pa, I asked Murdoch how on earth he stood up to mamma takin’ me away. I knew where Olwen was an’ when she was comin’ back, but I was so lost Scott. I really couldn’t imagine how he coped with losin’ us, never knowin’ where I was. Know what he said, brother?”
“He never, ever gave up hope. Took more’n 20 years, but every day he woke up thinking ‘This could be the day’. Don’t think I could’ve done it Scott! I miss him so much…and much as I adore Teresa, I miss Olwen. Seems so much harder at this time of year!”
“I miss him too John, in spite of everything, I think I was fortunate to have been his son”
“Me too, Boston.”
“So, who’s ‘First Footer’ tonight?” Scott asked.
“I volunteered Gareth. Sorry, but your boys’re jus’ too pale” John grinned. He thought of all the years he’d been ‘volunteered’ to be the first over the threshold on ‘Hogmanay’. As the only dark haired male in the house at the time, John had been happy to go along with the tradition Murdoch had brought from his native Scotland.
“And he has…”
“A piece of coal, so we’ll always have fire in the hearth, a piece of bread so we won’t know hunger and a silver coin so we will not know poverty in the coming year.” Johnny recited
“He’ll never be dead as long as we remember” Scott said softly
“And we will never be dead if Gareth tells others we existed” Johnny nodded. He’d made his decision. “Count down to the next century, brother?”
“You got it”
“We better go, then..” John paused, “Scott…”
He took his brother in a headlock as he used to when their world was young, “Love you Scott.”
“Love you too Johnny”
Together the went into the yard for the countdownto the New Year, a new centuryand a new life.
Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is more important celebration in Scotland than Christmas Day. The ‘First Footer’ is the first person to enter the house after midnight has struck and brings the New Year in with him. Traditionally, it should be a dark haired man, but the items he brings with him may vary. He should carry a piece of coal for fire in the hearth, bread (or black bun) so the household does not go hungry and coin of the realm for prosperity (this last element may not be included in all areas).
“Happy New Year to everyone. And may you have fire in your hearth, food to eat and funds to meet your needs in the coming year”
~ end ~
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