Word Count 1,215
Murdoch had considered celebrating both birthdays the same day. Since they were only four days apart, he thought it was the sensible thing to do. Luckily, Teresa had pointed out that this would be the first birthday for each young man since returning home and each should be special and individual. He had conceded the point, thus two birthday parties in a week.
Scott was still basking from his party. The affection and warmth he’d felt had been almost overwhelming. He had decided it was the best brithday ever. He was determined it would be the same for Johnny.
Unfortunately, Johnny wasn’t forthcoming about past birthdays. As with most everything else in his past, he didn’t want to talk about it. Scott had to reason it was because those birthdays had been disappointing. He wondered, not for the first time, what kind of mother Maria had been.
Teresa had planned a special dinner with all his favorites. She smiled at the thought of the celebrations they’d had and those yet to come. Their first Thanksgiving had been a little awkward but no blood was shed. She laughed out loud at that thought. Then came Scott’s birthday. Now, Johnny’s birthday then Christmas in just two days. She had to admit, she was exhausted.
Scott and Murdoch had several clandestine meetings the past few days. Both wracking their brains to figure out the perfect presents. Scott decided no one was harder to buy for than his brother. Murdoch agreed with his assessment. Still, they had managed to come up with some ideas and settle on what they hoped were the best ones.
And now the day had come. Johnny came down to breakfast looking miserable. No one said much during the meal and he went to work. As soon as he left, they began putting their plan into action.
Decorations went up in the great room. Packages appeared and were lain out near the fireplace. The dining table was transformed using the best china and silverware. They were ready. Now, all they had to do was wait. Teresa thought that was the hardest part but at least she could stay busy cooking.
Scott and Murdoch went to work, pretending it was a normal day. Scott rode out to the south pasture to help Johnny repair some fenceline. His brother was quiet all morning and he tried not to smile.
At noon, they stopped for lunch. Johnny sat down near a tree and still had not spoken.
“You’re awfully quiet.”
Johnny shrugged. “Got things on my mind.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“No, it’s okay,” he sighed.
Scott reached over and touched his arm. “Why are you so down? It’s your birthday.”
Johnny smiled a little. “Is that supposed to make it all better, brother?”
“Make what all better?”
“Nothin. Let’s just get back to work,” he said and stood up. He walked over and packed his mostly uneaten lunch away, then started working again.
Scott watched him, wondering what was wrong and trying to think of how to get him in a better mood for his party.
As the day progressed, Johnny’s mood had not improved. They were packing up for the day and Scott was getting frustrated.
“Johnny, you know we’re having a party for you.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Do you think you could at least try to enjoy yourself?”
Johnny stopped tightening his cinch and dropped his head. “Yeah, I’ll try.”
Scott walked over and laid a hand on his tense shoulder. “Talk to me, brother.”
Johnny turned to face him and attempted to smile. Failing miserably and knowing it, he dropped his eyes. “She died today,” he whispered.
Scott leaned in, certain he hadn’t heard correctly. “What did you say?”
Johnny looked at him, a deep sadness in his eyes. “She died today.”
Scott was flabbergasted. He didn’t know what to say for a second. “I didn’t know that.”
“No reason you should. I just don’t like celebrating. It seems …. wrong,” he shrugged.
Scott chewed his lower lip for a moment. “I feel like a fool.” He turned and walked away from Johnny.
“Hey, Scott. Don’t say that.”
“But you’re right. It’s not right to celebrate the day your mother died. All these years, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.”
Johnny sucked in a breath, realizing how callous and unthinking he’d been. “That’s different, Scott.”
“Why? My mother died the day I was born. Why is it different?”
Johnny walked up to him, not sure how to say it without sounding like a jerk. “Well, you don’t have any memories of her.”
Scott turned to face him. “No, I don’t. But you do, Johnny. Have you thought about celebrating that? Focusing on your memories of her and the fact that she gave you life?”
Johnny had not looked at it like that before. He took a moment to roll the idea around in his head. Finally, he nodded. “I guess you’re right. Never thought about it like that before.”
Scott smiled, pleased he’d made his point. He laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “I know you miss her. Tell me what kind of birthdays you had with her.”
They settled under the tree, knowing they should be heading home.
“She always managed to make it special. We never had a lot but she always made her special tamales for me. They were my favorite. She usually baked a small cake, too. The thing I remember most is the smell of cinnamon. She’d make hot chocolate with cinnamon every year. No matter what,” he laughed, recalling some years when he was sure that wouldn’t happen.
“That sounds nice, brother.”
Johnny looked up at him. “I’m sorry I made you think about your mother.”
“I’m not. I like thinking about her. Oh, it’s sad sometimes but I try to imagine what she was like.”
“Yeah, I guess I’m pretty lucky to have had her as long as I did,” Johnny sighed.
“Yes, you are.” Scott smiled.
“How’d you get so smart, Boston. And don’t tell me you learned it all at Harvard,” he grinned broadly.
Scott laughed softly. “I guess I just try to see all sides of a thing before I make up my mind.”
Johnny smiled slightly. “You okay?”
Shaking his head, Scott answered, “I’m fine. Are you?”
“Yep. Guess we’d better get goin. I think someone made a special dinner for me.”
“Yes, and if we try, I’m sure we can get some hot chocolate with cinnamon.”
They entered the house together smiling. Murdoch relaxed measureably at the sight. He didn’t know what was wrong but he figured Scott would fix it.
Plastering a frown on his face, he made an announcement. “I hope you two enjoy your birthdays this year. Next year, they will be celebrated together.”
They looked at each other and shrugged.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Scott said.
“So do I,” Johnny agreed.
Murdoch rolled his eyes and glared at his ward who smiled sheepishly.
“Supper will be ready in ten minutes,” she said and fled the room.
The evening was a huge success. Johnny enjoyed his birthday for the first time in ten years. He smiled affectionately at his brother and gave him a wink.
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