Disclaimers:  I do not own the Magnificent Seven or any of its characters.

Notes:  Just a drabble, no real plot.  A random bit of nothing that has been nagging at the back of my mind for weeks now.

Truth in Ruin

She looked down at the burnt remains of the roast, thinking that it was a testament to the ruin her life had become.

Maude Sinclair had led a carefree life.  She had wanted for nothing.  The only child of a ruthless scoundrel and his equally
money-adoring wife.  What money they earned, they spent with casual abandon, dining in the best restaurants and staying in
well-appointed hotels.  She learned their trade at their hips, playing her first hand of poker even before she could count,
watching them easily slip into one persona or another as their cons required.

But they weren't careful enough and one day their ways caught up with them.  A skirmish in a back alley after a particularly
good night at the poker tables led to Father's death.  Mother tried to carry on alone, but even at ten years old, Maude could see
that it was a struggle.  It was hardly surprising that she succumbed to the fever that winter.  Maude knew then that love would
get you nowhere.  In fact, it could only hurt you in the end.  So she endeavored that she would never fall into that cruel trap.  
Her life would remain carefree and fun, never tied down to the anchors of family or friends.  She didn't need either anyway, so
long as she had money.

She was sent to live with relations in Georgia.  They were well-off, good God fearing people who had no children to call their
own.  And they were all too willing to spoil their young orphaned niece.  Uncle, especially, took great pride in her.  He doted on
her, giving her all that she could ever want and more.  She pretended to be the dutiful child, in the light of day doing whatever
she could to keep him happy.  There was no sense in risking the comfortable existence she had.  Yet, at night, she could be
found in a local gambling house, practicing her skills at the poker table.  She would need them once she came of age and went
out on her own.

When she was fourteen, the lessons she had learned with her parents' deaths failed her.  She met a young man by the name of
Patrick Standish.  Suddenly, it was as if her world had been a dark abyss of nothingness and here he was, this shimmering light
of goodness that she felt drawn to.  He was handsome, a good decade her elder, kind and beautiful inside and out.

Maude put her talents to use, wanting only to be near him for the rest of her days.  Naturally, she succeeded and within the
year the two of them were married.  They had a lovely little home and for a time, Maude was happy enough.  She gave up on
her trips to the gambling dens, devoting herself to be a proper wife.  When Ezra came, they were both delighted and Maude's
heart melted just a little bit more for him.  If Patrick was the sun, then surely Ezra was her moon, the two of them brightening
the entirety of her days, filling her life with light.

She should have known it wouldn't last.  She should have remembered her vow.  Love could only hurt you in the end.

Ezra was only four when Patrick died and the sun disappeared from her life.  Family came and went, offering consolations and
help.  Maude declined their offers, determined to see herself through this struggle.  Through it all she remained composed,
never allowing others to see her as weak.

Then came the lawyers and the collectors.  Patrick had amassed a lot of debt, had taken out loans which she could not afford
to repay.  The house was taken, the servants dismissed.  Only a meager stipend remained, just enough for a tiny cottage on the
outskirts of town.  Her first night there, she finally realized the fool she was being.

Ezra was hungry.  Well, she was too.  It couldn't be that difficult to cook.

Now she was staring at the burnt remains of what was meant to be a roast.  She slumped to the floor and put her face in her
hands and wept for the first time.  She wasn't meant for this.  This wasn't her life.  She should be dining in the finest hotel,
being catered to by numerous adoring suitors, lavished with gifts and tokens of affection.  Not here in this squat little hovel, this
filthy little hole.

And Ezra?  How could she inflict this torture on him?  He deserved so much more.  He was a Standish for heaven's sake.  He
was HER son.  He deserved the very stars if he so desired them.  She'd have to teach him, as her parents had taught her.  But
she would be smarter than them and he would be smarter still.  He wouldn't fall into the same traps as she had, as her parents
had.  He would be better than them all.  She'd make sure of it.

A little body dropped down onto her lap.  Tiny arms wrapped around her.  "Don't cry, Mama," Ezra whispered, hugging her as
tightly as he could manage.

Maude barked out a slightly hysterical laugh.  She pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped the tears from her eyes.  
She smiled down on her son, the only bright spot remaining in her dim life.  "I won't cry.  Never again, my sweet boy."  She
stroked his hair.  He did so look like his father.  She lifted him up and set him on his feet.  "Come."

He took her hand easily and followed obediently.  She packed everything she could into a single bag.  She left everything else.  
They wouldn't need it anymore, wouldn't be coming back here ever again.

"Where are we going?" Ezra asked as she buttoned his jacket shut for him.

She smiled and smoothed the fabric down.  "Why, my dear boy, I think it's time you learned a trade."  With that, she picked up
her piece of luggage and took up Ezra's hand, leading him out of the cottage, out of their past and into the bright future of their
new lives.

The End