By: Angela B
Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be Note: This is my answer to the June challenge issued to Katherine.           ::::: What I want us a story that fills in some detail  on the missing parent's or even the ones that we do kow something about the people that bought them into this world. (paraphrased)

The First Con

The southerner was saddling up his beloved steed, Chaucer. The sun had long set and the moon in its third phase gave enough light to make everything in its reached have a luminescent glow. Ezra was so intent on burrowing down inside of himself and trying not to think of the previous conversation he had previously been listening to by his fellow friends that he did not hear the tall black haired cowboy enter the barn.

"Hey Ez," Buck said softly. "Mind some company?" he asked.

Ezra recovered from his sudden nerve startling experience and started to refuse the man his request. Right now he just wanted to get out of town, start on his tour of patrol and be by himself. Looking up at Buck to denounce his request, the gambler saw a look of sadness on his friend's face and relinquished. "Be honored to have your company, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra granted.

The two rode out into the dark desert in silence. Each caught up in their own thoughts of their past. The men had been discussing parents earlier as they sat around the table and ate supper. It had all started, as most conversations do, with a simple question. Josiah had asked JD how he had come to work in the stables at the mansion where his mother was maid instead of something else. JD had seemed a little shocked at first and Josiah was about to ease the conversation elsewhere when the kid broke out into a grin and started talking about his father. It turned out that JD's father was head foreman in charge of the horses at the same mansion where his mother had worked. That's how the two met. When JD was born, his father couldn't wait until the child was old enough to start going to the stables with him. JD then told them how he had literally learned to ride before he could walk. His father had later been killed in an accident when JD was fifteen. JD had already been working as a go-for for the fellows in the horse arena and was just hired on to help train the horses.

After that each of the men took turns telling about their youths and more specifically their parents. They already knew about Nathan and Josiah's parents, but they still shared off tidbits. Even Chris and Vin had been in their two cents. Vin hadn't recalled his father, but did state that his mother was awful proud of the man people called, ' Mr. Tanner'. He had been some type of law keeper back in Texas and they had lived on a small farm outside of Brownsville, near the Mexican border. Chris had  added that his parents owned a small farm in Ohio and later they had moved to Indiana.

Ezra had sat back very discreetly and listened. It was then that it occurred to him that Buck wasn't talking either. They exchanged a quick look and half-smile across the table and kept silent.

They had ridden a couple of miles and were halfway through the circle they took around the outlying land of the town when Buck quietly spoke up and asked, "Do you remember him?" 

Ezra stared straight ahead and hesitated whether or not to talk to the other man. Since joining this little group the only one Ezra truly felt safe in confiding in was the man beside him. He had shared things Maude had written him about in her missives and even told him once she had asked for him to help her in financial gain summation. Buck had only laughed at the wording and asked, "How much she want?" That was what Ezra liked about Buck so much; he took things as value and didn't get bothered easily.

While Ezra was still trying to figure out what to say, if anything, Buck started talking again. "Never knew who mine was. My mom said she was sure it was one of the fine, upstanding, moral gentlemen of the community that fathered me, but she didn't know which," he said, then shrugged his shoulders, "Or if she did she never said it aloud."

After a couple of seconds he said, "She said it didn't matter none because she thanked him every night for the gift he gave her."

Ezra looked over and if the light was anything to go by he could have sworn the ladies man who had no problems running down the street in his red unions was   blushing at his own admission. The gambler smiled and wished internally he could say the same. Maude had never made him feel like a gift. His talents, yes; him, no.

Ezra took a breath and made the plunge. "Maude didn't talk about her past, except once when I wanted to know why she couldn't stay married to one of her husbands. I liked the man and wished she would try harder to stay. I asked her why we kept leaving and moving on?" The gambler looked a little embarrassed at his mention of wanting to stay with someone, but Buck held his tongue and waited for the rest.

"She talked then about her past. She had been raised by parents, who were just poor dirt farmers with a large brood."  Ezra's voice became soft and low. "She mentioned having nine siblings at the time of her departure. When she was fifteen she ran away and headed for the glamorous big city she had always heard of by passing strangers. She was adamant that she wasn't going to wind up marrying some farmer and leading her mother's life. After her departure and subsequent arrival to the big city, at that time I believe she was referring to Macon, Georgia.  She became quite fascinated with the lights and the life other people were leading,"

Ezra let his mind drift completely back to that conversation. They had been sitting on his bed, while she packed his bag. Maude look disdained as she recalled how she had thought Macon was the big city. Later she would learn what a big city really looked like. She had worked for a woman tending her children for a while until she earned enough money to catch the train for Atlanta.  She quickly learned if she wanted the rich life she needed money and soon learned money was the most important thing in the world. Without it you were just a poor girl from a poor farm. "Money gives you everything," Ezra said, repeating what his mother had told him that night and almost every other night that they were together. He thought about this then mentally said, 'Well, maybe not everything.' as he looked over to the tall man riding with him.

"She met a young man. Supposedly from a well-to-do family and fell in love," Ezra started up again, keeping his voice neutral. The idea of his mother loving anything was a hard concept to visualize, but that night he had actually looked into her eyes and believed her. Maude had told him the man had talked of having a large family with lots of sons to teach skills to and girls to have sit on his knee be the apples of eye. Then that awful day had come. The day when he told Maude his family was sending to Virginia to meet a girl they wanted him to marry. Maude had been devastated by the news. She was hurt worse when she arrived at his home late one night with a plan to run away. There on the porch was the love of her heart sitting in a swing with another girl. Maude had left that night upset, humiliated and alone.

Ezra stopped his reiteration as the picture of Maude's face came into clear view as she told that part. She had truly loved the man and had been shattered to learn of his betrayal. Maude never told the man of her dreams she had let herself become pregnant and was in the family way. She would not lower herself to beg or trap a man into marrying her that didn't want her. She had become pregnant for a man she had loved, out of love, for love. That sudden realization flashed into Ezra's mind and he halted all other thoughts. He'd never though of it that way before. She had become pregnant for love. Ezra felt the weight of the world on his shoulders as he realized that at one time Maude had been just as desperate for love as he had been as a child.

Buck quietly cleared his throat to bring his friend back to the present and out of whatever kind of dark pit he'd fallen into in the recesses of his mind. He suddenly felt very bad for bringing up the issue. He was about to start talking about something else, light and amusing when Ezra began talking again. "Maude had me and knew she could not return to her family with.with.with a child born out of wedlock," he stumbled. "Maude persuaded a clerk in the city's office that she needed a death certificate. She got it
and that was the first con she ever pulled," the gambler said with a half sad smile. Buck didn't say anything, but he had the distinct feeling it wasn't the first con, but the second one. From just being around Maude the little he had, Buck had the feeling she had ulterior motives when she got pregnant, but he didn't say anything. Let Ezra believe his mother.

 "She returned to her parent's home and told them her husband had been killed shortly before my arrival. She stayed until I was a year-old and then left again. She couldn't stand the life on the farm. She bounced in and out until I was four and then took me away for good. She said she wasn't raising no child of hers to be a farmer," Ezra finished, his voice holding a note of sadness. Buck figured maybe that would have been preferred over the life he was raised in, but again kept his thoughts to himself. Ezra didn't often share anything about his life and he wasn't going to do anything to ruin it.

The two men rode the rest of the patrol in silence. One man knowing he was born from a mistake, but loved anyway and one man knowing his birth was caused by love, but was thought of as a mistake for the rest of his life.