Notes: PG, Magnificent Seven, many thanks to strangevisitor7 for the beta and the puppy eyes.
Summary: All Ezra wants for Christmas is his mother.
"Here you are, Mrs. Sparrow, as good as new," Mr. Kaufman said in German accented English, a beaming smile on his face.
"Thank you." Charlotte took the pendant watch from him, slipping the chain over her head. "And thank you for repairing it so promptly; I was lost without out it." She fingered the watch like a talisman. It had been an anniversary present from her husband, just before he'd died, and it was precious to her.
She looked over to where Ezra was peering into a case of pocket watches, as he always did when they came into Kaufman's; he was fascinated with them. It had been a busy day of shopping for them both, and this was their last stop. Ezra had a new suit and shoes for Christmas; he'd had his hair cut, and had gotten a present for his mother. All in all, it had been a productive day.
"I have a new watch in that I think you might like to see, young Master Standish," Mr. Kaufman told the boy. He and Ezra always spent time discussing the art of watch making when they visited his shop, much to the delight of both of both Ezra and Mr. Kaufman.
Ezra waited eagerly for the jeweler to reveal his latest acquisition. A velvet covered board was placed in front of him, and then Mr. Kaufman placed the watch upon it.
"It's the moon!" Ezra exclaimed.
"It is indeed," he replied, obviously pleased at the enthusiasm from his audience. "Not only does this tell the time, but it also tracks the phases of the moon."
"Look, Cousin Charlotte!"
She complied with the excited request, coming to stand behind the boy. "It is indeed quite fine."
"Pick it up," the shopkeeper encouraged Ezra. "You can not hurt it."
Ezra needed no further urging, picking the timepiece up and studying it carefully. "It's stem wound," he announced.
"Very good! It is stem wound. You are a very bright young man, Master Standish."
"Thank you, Mr. Kaufman." Ezra was beaming at the praise.
"Not at all," he said with smile as Ezra handed the watch back to him.
Charlotte put a hand on Ezra's shoulder. "I saw Sarah Beth McKinnon and her mother just pass by. Why don't you go catch up and ask them if they would like to join us for cakes and tea at Finche's?" Sarah Beth was nine and lived across the road from Charlotte. Ezra was quite smitten with her and they spent a great deal of time together when he visited.
"Yes, ma'am!" He nodded with alacrity. "Thank you, and good day to you, Mr. Kaufman."
"Good day, Master Standish."
She and Mr. Kaufman smothered their laughter as the boy smoothed down his hair and straightened his coat before leaving the shop. Once the door had closed behind him, they both began to chuckle.
"Young love, eh?"
Charlotte smiled. "Indeed."
"The boy would be a fine watchmaker. He's bright, with small, nimble fingers, and a zest for learning. I would be proud to apprentice him," he told her.
"Mr. Kaufman, I am touched by your offer, truly I am." She sighed, fingering her watch again. "But his mother...."
"His mother has other plans for him," he supplied the unspoken words. "Yes, I am sure Mrs. Standish does have plans for her son. But not ones you agree with," he said with a shrewd look.
"Is it that obvious?"
"What is obvious is that you love him very much."
Nodding, she smiled. "Yes, I do. And now I believe I am going to spoil him utterly for Christmas. May I see that watch?"
"All done," Charlotte murmured, tying the ribbon on the small cherry wood box containing the pocket watch she'd purchased for Ezra the day before.
In the end, she decided against the one Mr. Kaufman had shown him. Its glass cover and shiny case didn't seem to be a good match for the sticky fingers of a boy. Instead, she'd chosen one with a hunter's case that was etched with a fine crosshatch pattern. But it still had the moon phase function that had so entranced him. She knew it was an extravagant gift for a ten-year-old, but Ezra was very mature for his age, and she knew he would appreciate the confidence she had in him by giving him such a gift. After all the unhappiness of the last weeks, she had been unable to resist the urge to get it for him.
Humming softly, she pulled a book from an upper shelf, sliding the box in and then replacing the book. Hopefully, that would suffice as a hiding place. At least Ezra wasn't around to spy out where she'd secreted his presents. He was currently at the McKinnon's so that Charlotte could finish her Christmas preparations. Tomorrow, Charlotte would return the favour by having Sarah Beth over for the morning. Christmas was in four days and there was still so much to be done, so she and Mrs. McKinnon had decided to split child watching duties over the days leading up to the big day itself. And then on Friday evening, they would all attend church together. She was beginning to get as excited as the children; it had been many years since she’d had family with her on Christmas. She couldn’t wait to see the look on Ezra’s face when he opened his present!
She looked at her watch and realized it was later than she thought. If she didn't get a move on, she'd be late for her own appointment. Today was her monthly meeting with her business manager at Black Shipping, the company she’d inherited from her father. It would be the last business for her to take care of before the New Year.
As if she'd read her mistress's mind, Livy came through the door at that moment with her coat, gloves, and hat.
"You're going to be late, madam." Livy reached up, placing Charlotte's hat on her head and sticking a hat pin through it. "Mr. Holcombe is bringing the carriage around."
"Thank you, Livy." Charlotte slipped her arms into her coat. "Please make sure Ezra does his piano practice when he comes back home," she instructed as the maid did up the buttons.
"I shall, madam." She gave Charlotte her hunter green dyed kid gloves. "What time shall Mrs. Holcombe serve supper?"
Pausing to consider, she pulled on her gloves. "I should be home by six, so supper at seven, I think." Charlotte walked into the foyer, Livy following.
"Very well, madam." From the table at the door, she handed Charlotte her reticule and the case containing her business papers. Opening the front door, she said, "Make sure you use the lap furs, madam. I don't want you catching a chill."
"I promise!" she replied with a bright smile.
Livy lifted one expressive eyebrow, but didn't say anything as Mr. Holcombe met Charlotte at the top of the walk, taking her arm to escort her down the path.
Charlotte had barely settled into the carriage when Ezra hopped up onto the running boards, popping his head over the door like an enthusiastic Jack-in-the-box. "Can I come with you?" he asked excitedly.
"You would be bored, child. I will be in a meeting with Mr. Elbert for several hours and you would have nothing to do," she explained, tapping his nose with a gloved finger.
"But I wouldn't! I promise!" He looked up at her with guileless green eyes. "Please, Cousin Charlotte?" he wheedled.
She felt her resolve weakening. "What about your piano practice?"
"I shall practice twice as long tomorrow!"
Charlotte had her doubts on that score and smothered a smile. "If I allow you to accompany me, you shall play for me after supper," she counteroffered.
His face took on a thoughtful look, probably gauging the odds and deciding if he could outmaneuver her, she thought with amusement. He really was his mother's son. "Then I will not have to practice tomorrow?" he asked hopefully.
This time she did laugh. "A worthy attempt, dearest, but no, you will practice tomorrow as usual."
He leaned farther over the door, tilting his head, a mischievous gleam in his eye. "If I play for you tonight, you'll play Whist with me afterwards?"
"Just when, young man, did this become a negotiation?" she asked, arching an eyebrow, taking his chin in a light grip.
He giggled, leaning in and kissing her on the cheek. "Please?"
Sighing in defeat, she squeezed his chin before releasing him. "Very well, you may come! Now run up and change into your dress coat and boots, and hurry! I will most certainly be late for my meeting at this rate!"
Leaping off the carriage, he ran up the path, a shouted, "Thank you, Cousin Charlotte," trailing behind him.
Noting Mr. Holcombe's broad grin, she shook her head. "Yes, I know, I spoil the boy." Sighing in fond exasperation, she sank further into the lap furs.
"Twernt saying a thing, madam," Mr. Holcombe replied with abject innocence. "Not a thing."