|Aunt Henrietta's Circus
Author: Helena Mira PM
Exciting things are happening for the Everetts, but Aunt Henrietta continues to have ominous premonitions. Fortunately, one of Phoebe's cousins comes to visit at the same time. As more family visitors arrive, she becomes very helpful. Story is a continuation of "The Science Fair."Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Family/Supernatural - Chapters: 4 - Words: 44,368 - Reviews: 3 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 06-27-12 - Published: 06-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8208215
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ruminations and Revelations
Pastor Jason had run into a lot of crazy situations as he made his long faith journey through the world, but the present one involving the mending and blending of the families surrounding Trelawney Rose Figalilly was probably the craziest. And was all due to one person: Aunt Henrietta aka Princess Lotus Flower. Every time things began to move towards a harmonious conclusion, some mischief-maker out in the cosmos started problems in a new direction. However, after his conversation with Sylvia Figalilly, he knew that even more serious issues could potentially surface.
It seemed to him that the best way to solve the "Aunt Henrietta problem" was for Grandfather Trelawney to tell her to leave. Unfortunately, he was still refusing to accept the fact that young Trelawney Rose was not his dear, departed wife Rosie. He suspected that it was Aunt Henrietta who was keeping her father's hopes alive to the detriment of all involved. James believed her because she was telling him what he wanted to hear. However, in all of her premonitions that appeared to be genuine, there was no indication that any reincarnations were involved. From a distance of thousands of miles, it was easy for her to deceive him.
It appeared for the moment, that there was no malicious intent on anyone's part. Aunt Henrietta was using her Princess Lotus Flower persona because it was financially lucrative and she enjoyed her celebrity in town. She was trying to keep her father happy by helping him bring Trelawney home. She also actually thought that she was protecting her dear Phoebe. He knew that he must keep his eyes and ears open if he hoped to fit all of the pieces of this perplexing puzzle together correctly.
Fortunately, there appeared to be previously unknown reinforcements who being set in place as guardians. The better angels of a couple of very strong individuals were surfacing at this auspicious time. He knew that there was no way that this could be a cosmic coincidence.
He had always known that Topher was a very special young man, but as he grew towards maturity previously unknown facets of his nature were being revealed. Janet was very concerned that he was becoming too involved with the Everetts and their family problems. In fact she had recently come in to see him about it. He had found it difficult to relieve her mind without revealing too much about her son.
Tom Williams was another interesting figure. While it was impossible to tell without meeting him and learning more, it was very probable that he was the good king. One powerful indicator was that his renewed involvement into the family's life was entirely due to the presence of first Phoebe and then Trelawney.
Another clue that no one had picked up yet was that Williams was a very common Cornish surname. If there were an ancestral connection within his lineage to Cornwall, it would explain his recent comment about Aunt Henrietta, his insight into the danger that she posed, and his offer to help. Tom was no accidental player in the unfolding drama.
There was also the almost miraculous conversion of Bernice Williams' heart in order for her to accept Phoebe as Hal's wife and the children's mother. This process had certainly been set in motion five months ago at the Christmas Pageant by Trelawney. He knew that she had continued it by her phone call to Tom two weeks ago about the important baseball game. Once again, Tom was able to persuade Bernice to attend a family event because she would have the opportunity to slip away unnoticed if she wanted.
He had no doubt that Mike and Sarah's recent good fortune was the result of some form of intervention by Sylvia Figalilly when she had come to visit her cousin. Thus there was a pattern that was now emerging from Trelawney's interactions with others. Those who saw the beauty of the little girl for the sweet and simple child that she was, and loved her and cared for her, were rewarded by some quirk of fate.
Hal had been inspired by Trelawney's belief in the music of the spheres to pursue his science fair project on string theory. Had she not mentioned it, he would never even have known of its existence. It was this project that had won him his scholarship to Cal Tech that summer. And Prudence would not have switched dance schools if Trelawney had not begun to take lessons with Francine. Prudence's great desire that her grandmother attend the ballet recital had been the trigger for the reconciliation of Bernice with Phoebe's pregnancy.
Kindness was returned with kindness, and a lovely tapestry of interwoven strands of fate had emerged, composed primarily of the hopes and dreams of those that she loved. Yet because she was a little fey, Trelawney seemed unable to recognize that she was the source of all this good fortune. She acted in the only way that she knew how: she wanted to make others happy. Hers was a pure goodness. Such goodness was the natural enemy of the darker forces. Such goodness was also quite fragile in this temporal world.
The only true nemesis that she had ever faced was Cholmondeley. Whatever the canker was in his soul that had influenced his behavior years ago, it would not have spontaneously disappeared. It was even possible that like Aunt Henrietta, he was the unwitting tool of some malevolent force. His suspicion was that Cholmondeley was not truly evil. If he were, then some Figalilly, Trelawney, or other villager would have picked up on it years ago. But he was weak, like Aunt Henrietta, and therefore could easily have fallen prey to whoever or whatever sought to destroy the child.
His suspicion was that Cousin William, or Liam, was the "false guardian." That was why he had warned Sylvia that under no circumstances should he take it upon himself to avenge his cousins. An injudicious act by the impulsive, hot-tempered Liam could result in tragedy for all. The Featherstonehaughs would not take kindly to their kinsman's harm or mysterious demise. They had convinced themselves that Trelawney was lying to enable her sister to marry the man of her choice. The alternative was too wicked to contemplate. Acting against Cholmondeley in any way would add complexity to an already complex situation.
The innocent child was likely to be Maisie or Trelawney. That call was difficult to make without knowing more details. Phoebe seemed caught in the middle, but she was now well protected. At the moment, her greatest danger came from her own fear. She seemed to have lost her faith in the rightness of things. This was easily traced back to the moment that she had learned of the violation of her sister.
That had been the source of her anxieties and nightmares last summer. While that fear had been dispelled, others kept creeping in. He could understand how she could be questioning her faith. Many injustices had occurred to those around her, beginning with the untimely deaths of her parents. After the discovery of the injury to her sister, it meant that the three people that she loved best had been the undeserving victims of bad karma. He suspected that subconsciously, she was deeply fearful for her unborn child.
He wished that he could tell her that Maisie would doubtless be safely born, however he knew that such knowledge could potentially disrupt fate. It would also fail to account for possible complications after the birth for mother, child, or both. Painful as it was, the uncertainty kept the others on the alert. It was lucky that no one took Trelawney's cryptic words seriously, even if they could decipher them.
Her connection with the universal consciousness via her archetypal constructions seemed both innocent and whimsical. But he knew that she had a better understanding of that world and its relation to this one than anyone else. The only one who even had an inkling of this was Catherine. Fortunately, she was very good at holding her tongue whenever she felt it was necessary.
While he was still unsure of what Aunt Henrietta's blinding light was, he was fairly certain that the lights falling from the sky were not nearly as apocalyptic as Sylvia had imagined. He suspected that they referred to the timing of Maisie's birth in mid-August. If Hal knew of this aspect, it was certain that he would affirm this, but the sheer negativity of the premonition meant that it would also frighten him.
Lastly he thought that the threat of the cousin to the two sisters was quite possibly and most probably the threat that Liam posed to Phoebe and Trelawney if he should injure Cholmondeley. Because there were still those among his family who refused to believe Trelawney's story and were highly insulted that Phoebe had broken the betrothal to marry an outsider, it could easily become an excuse to harm the sisters and inadvertently the unborn child.
It was fortunate that there had been a four-month gap between the broken engagement and the marriage and then another ten and a half months time between the marriage and the birth of the child. In no way could it be said that that Phoebe had betrayed their family or the culture's code of ethics. He believed that once the child was born and it was discovered that she was indeed a fated child, that the Featherstonehaughs would be mollified. At the very least, they would no longer be able to quibble over Phoebe's choices.
The larger course of destiny must always be adhered to, even if it hurt their pride. Since Hal was the only man who could have fathered Maisie, Phoebe's rejection of Cholmondeley must then be viewed as a result of destiny changing its course. Most likely, the course change would be viewed as the result of the parents' untimely deaths. This was most unfortunate, since it would still leave the family room to deny the actual cause.
True reconciliation between the clans could not be achieved, until there was some form of acknowledgement and closure regarding Cholmondeley's wrong action. He would like to see the eccentric man proved as the fool that he was. It would be easier for all concerned if they were all able to understand and to see him as a puppet rather than a perpetrator of bad karma. That distinction could be made, if anyone could discern whether his abhorrent behavior was the result of mental illness or not. One did not need to be a psychiatrist to determine this.
No fully sane and rational person would ever behave in such a manner. Such sick people do not restrict their behavior to one victim. Until there was proof of other victims, he would reserve his own judgment with regard to the man. As a man of God, he knew that in any case such judgments were not for men, or even angels for that matter, to make. Because only God could know all, this level of forgiveness and the impact on the soul's journey remained the preserve of the Almighty.
Conversely, no one should take it upon himself to avenge any injustice without proof of intent. And under no circumstances, should a life ever be taken. Ultimately, Liam would achieve no "balance of justice" by his own wrongful action. In fact, he would achieve the opposite result. More negative forces would be released to create more chaos. And thus Liam would find himself the unwitting tool of the dark forces. Unlike the forces of light, the forces of darkness did not always work "cooperatively." Potential conflict between Liam and Cholmondeley might actually evolve into a chaotic conflict of evil versus evil.
Oddly enough, Trelawney might have been telling them this all along, although she probably did not know it herself. When she referred to the unicorn as being dead, it was perhaps not Cholmondeley himself, which made absolutely no sense. The evil demon that had inhabited him to do its destruction to her innocence was now dormant. What humans did not realize was that just angels might choose to "borrow" humans to do good works. The opposite was also true of demons. However, whereas angels sought strong souls, the demons gravitated towards those with weak characters.
There was no way of knowing how much of this was presently working in the lives of the Everetts, but from his perspective it was the only logical explanation. Of course, for no one else was this, a logical explanation, except perhaps Trelawney. However the child had a different calculus of logic than the others.
She was very much like her mother in her belief that God did not make mistakes. However on a subconscious level she understood that there were forces, the bad angels cast out of heaven, who would continue to challenge the primacy of God's goodness. They could not win, but they were capable of creating chaos as they tried. These creatures of darkness fed their own strength with the hatred and cruelty of others. Those such as Trelawney, who were not only incapable of hate, but inspired others to goodness, were their natural enemies. It explained the fragility of their beings. Those who tormented and persecuted them did so at the whim of the forces of darkness.
Catherine and Rob decided that they would speak with Pastor Jason together. They both had questions and it would be easier to ask them at the same time. It would mean that they wouldn't have to share the responses without him present to clarify. It was almost the end of the school year, so they would be able to ask Phoebe and Hal to stay with Trelawney for a short time after lunch and no one would be the wiser. Their major concern was shutting up Aunt Henrietta before her premonitions caused any real trouble for either Phoebe or Trelawney.
As always, Pastor Jason was available for them. Catherine had ceased to wonder how he knew when they needed him. She was just glad to be able to see him "on demand." He welcomed them cordially into his office and after the usual pleasantries were exchanged, got right down to business.
"Talk to me," he said seriously.
"We are very concerned about this whole situation with Aunt Henrietta," replied Catherine. "The whole thing is very stressful for Phoebe. That stress had increased since Sylvia left."
"Is Trelawney worried?" he asked.
"No," answered Catherine. "In fact she is very pleased with life. It seems that good things are happening for many of the people in her life. But a couple of days ago when she said that 'good karma' was all around, Phoebe seemed to be even more anxious."
"I can see why you are worried," he replied. "I know that there is a lot of good karma going around right now. Most of it is emanating from Trelawney and her relationships and activities. However, you are wrong to completely dismiss Phoebe's concerns. There is an undercurrent of bad karma that could surface at any time. Acknowledging the validity of her concerns and then promising to be vigilant will go a long way towards calming her."
"Sylvia told us that Catherine should stay close to Trelawney and Hal should stay close to Phoebe and that that would keep them safe," said Rob. "She also warned Hal not to become complacent."
"That is true. Especially the advice about complacency where Aunt Henrietta is concerned," replied the Pastor. "Remember that there are no absolute certainties in life. Proximity to the girls is meaningless if the guardians are not watchful. Don't allow yourselves to be lulled into a sense of security by lack of any definite or substantial threat."
"Does that mean that you don't believe Aunt Henrietta either?" asked Catherine.
Pastor Jason was silent for a moment.
"It is not a matter of believing or disbelieving," he replied. "It is a matter of how you receive the pronouncements and then act on them."
"You didn't answer my question," said Catherine as she felt her annoyance rising.
"Yes, I know," he said. "But if you want a more specific answer then I will tell you the truth. I don't know."
"Oh," said Catherine quietly.
"Pastor," said Rob. "Would there be any value in sending Hal and Phoebe out of town? We could easily take care of the kids for them."
"That is probably the worst thing that you could do," replied Pastor Jason. "Phoebe would be terrified if she thought that her only protection was to leave her family. And she would fight you about being separated from her sister. This is the exact kind of behavior that you need to avoid. Press the panic button and you will create a whole new set of issues."
"It's just so frustrating!" declared Catherine. "I feel as if there is nothing that I can do!"
"Catherine," said Pastor Jason in a soothing tone of voice. "Look at the big picture, the one that has evolved since you came to visit eight months ago. You are already doing a great deal. You have moved your whole life here to help her out and you have welcomed her sister into your home. You have given both girls nothing but love and support since you've met them. You have been very patient with the Figalillys and now they are your allies. But I will ask you to do one thing. Support Phoebe in her desire for a home birth."
Catherine was silent. She looked at Rob, who looked extremely uncertain.
"But suppose that there are complications?" she asked tentatively.
"The safest place for Phoebe's child to be born is at home," he replied, neatly dodging the question.
"Why is that?"
"In Phoebe's culture," he explained. "Children are born into homes, not hospitals. Hospitals are for sick people. It is therefore their view that since pregnant women are not sick, childbirth is not an illness. The child will have a much happier life if she is born at home. If she is born in hospital, she will always be fearful. And don't forget that Phoebe has already attended home births, including her sister's. She knows exactly what to expect."
Catherine grimaced at the thought.
"Her doctor is refusing to be responsible," she replied. "I am concerned because I doubt that there is any doctor around who will know how to safely deliver a child at home, or for that matter, one who would be willing."
"I am sure that there is at least one, and probably more than one, midwife in the community with the proper credentials. Home births are not as unusual as you think," he said. "If Phoebe is willing to undergo the discomfort, then it should be her decision."
"I suppose that you're right," answered Rob. "It should be her choice."
"Of course I'm right," he replied. "Have I ever steered you wrong before?"
"No, you haven't," Catherine admitted. "But I am worried about the time that Trelawney will be away from me during the day when she attends her theatre program this summer."
"She will be perfectly safe," said Pastor Jason. "No one is going to harm her in public. She will not go anywhere with anyone willingly. And Mike Lenihan will guard her with his life. He has been in to see me. He feels deeply indebted to her, and to you, Rob. You gave him hope when he felt very low."
"I only did what any caring person would," answered Rob. "The boy was obviously feeling betrayed by life. But he didn't need someone to help him feel sorry for himself. He needed a swift kick in the pants so that he would take responsibility for his own decisions."
"You're right about that," said Pastor Jason. "He already had plenty of people feeling sorry for him. What he needed was someone who was able to step back from the emotions of the situation. Participating in them goes a long way towards reinforcing them. You gave him some perspective when he needed it. It's a pity that someone can't do the same for Lois."
"She is very bitter," commented Catherine. "She's a very strong woman, but she can't seem to let go of this."
"No she can't," replied Pastor Jason. "But that is because she is still in love with her ex-husband. Despite everything that he has put her and the boys through, she would still take him back. In many ways, he doesn't deserve her. She is a good woman who, in spite of the current social trends, believes that a commitment in marriage is forever. She is also distraught about the effect that this is having on both of her boys."
"I imagine that she would be," said Rob. "Mike is very angry and bitter. He understands his father and, quite understandably, has responded by throwing him out of his life."
"For the moment," he replied. "That is probably the best thing that he can do. Until his father is ready to accept and affirm him for whom he is, he has the power to really harm him. And until Mike senior is ready to make these changes on his own, there is no controlling him or his decisions."
"Do you think he ever will?" asked Catherine. "Regret his decisions?"
"He may," he answered. "Only God knows. I never rule out a change of heart on anyone's part. Just look at Bernice."
"I have been," said Catherine. "She seems like a different woman these days."
"That's because she is," replied Pastor Jason. "Once again, God works in mysterious ways. In this case, it is less a matter of mystery and more a matter of Trelawney's love for your son's family. Bernice was causing all of them a great deal of anger and sorrow, but no one more so than herself. In her own innate goodness, Trelawney saw through her guise and helped Tom to bring her around. He is a very good and patient man. I would like to meet him someday."
"The way things are going," commented Rob. "I have no doubt that you will. He is coming up for Butch's playoff game tomorrow night. If the team wins, both he and Bernice will be up for the championship game on Saturday."
Pastor Jason looked thoughtful. Catherine knew that he was considering his options. She wouldn't be at all surprised if he made an appearance at one of the games.
"Tom has offered to help us protect Trelawney," she said. "He saw Aunt Henrietta's performance on the night of her birthday and was unimpressed. However, he also saw her as a threat to the girl and to Phoebe."
"Seeing Aunt Henrietta as a threat to Trelawney, and by extension Phoebe, does not take a lot of deductive reasoning," he replied. "And he owes a lot to Trelawney. When she effected Bernice's change of heart, it had a very positive impact on his life as well. He understands his wife very well and still loves her for who she is. They have had a long and loving marriage with no small share of suffering. He could have dumped her years ago, but instead he has chosen to stand by her. That's true love."
"Yes it is," said Rob. "And loyalty. Tom's a good man. And from what Hal and Phoebe have told me, he has always liked Trelawney."
"Yes, he has," agreed Pastor Jason. "Now I have another appointment coming in. My last advice is this. Try not to worry so much in front of Phoebe. She's a young and healthy girl and her pregnancy is going very well. We have no reason to believe that she will not give birth to a healthy daughter. Keep reaffirming that."
"We will, Pastor," said Catherine. "Thank you for your time."
After they had walked out, Rob turned to her.
"You know," he said. "As usual, he didn't answer half our questions."
"But he did tell us everything that we needed to know."
Butch's team did indeed win their playoff game and were now due to face their biggest rival in the championship game on Saturday. While they were undefeated, the other team's single loss was to Butch's team. Since they were the higher seed, this time they were the home team. The rematch promised to be very exciting. In fact the local newspaper even carried a brief story about it. Butch was mentioned as the star reliever who had saved the day on more than one occasion.
Phoebe was terribly proud of him and carefully clipped the article and put it on the refrigerator beside the articles about Hal and his science achievements. When Butch saw it, he was pleased.
"Aw, gee, Mom," he said. "You didn't have to do that."
"No I didn't," she replied. "But I wanted to."
In an unusual gesture, the usually undemonstrative Butch gave her a hug. But he quickly sprang back when the baby kicked.
"What was that?" he asked, clearly startled.
"That was the baby," explained Phoebe. She then placed his hand back on her stomach and Maisie cooperated by kicking a couple of more times.
"Wow!" he said. "Do you think it knows that I'm her brother?"
Phoebe smiled at the use of the pronoun "it" and felt Maisie shift in displeasure.
"Butch, why don't we stick to saying 'she?' she asked. "It's not like the baby is an object."
"I know," said Butch. "But I'm really hoping that it's, I mean that she's, I mean that he's a boy."
Now Phoebe laughed because Maisie was even more insulted. Butch didn't understand what was so funny, but there was no way that she could explain it to him. So he went off shaking his head and muttering about "girls."
After he left, she turned back to the dinner that she was cooking. Her spirits had lifted considerably in the last two days. At Butch's game, Tom had made a point of sitting next to her. In between plays, he assured her that he would do everything that he could to look out for her and the baby.
"We Cornish have to stick together, you know," he had said with a wink.
Phoebe had raised an eyebrow.
"Oh yes, my parents emigrated before I was born," he explained. "They were originally from Penzance. As always, there were never enough jobs, so my Dad decided to move to the States before the turn of the century. He was a blacksmith by trade and headed west with my Mom."
"That's very interesting," she replied. "Did Hal ever meet them?"
"I'm afraid not," he said. "They both passed away while Helen was a child. She barely knew them."
"How did you know that I was from Cornwall?" she asked curiously. "I know that I never told you."
"Those pregnancy hormones must really be affecting your memory," he answered with a smile. "You told me the first time that I met you. But when I told Trelawney about my own background she didn't seem at all surprised. She wisely nodded as if she already knew."
"That is quite possible," she said carefully. "Trelawney is very perceptive."
"Very," he said. "She has an instinctive understanding of human nature. She sees the good in everyone. If she does not see any good in Aunt Henrietta, then it means that there is no good to be seen. However I do not think that she is afraid of her."
"No she isn't. But she is smart enough to stay away from her."
"I thought as much," he replied. "There is something very unpleasant about the old girl. You should stay away from her yourself. Her 'bad vibes,' as the kids call them these days, are not good for either of you."
Tom's words had comforted her. After the victory, he had pulled her aside one last time.
"See you on Saturday," he said. "If you need anything, just ask. I'm here for you."
She had no doubt that he would be. She wondered if Bernice knew of his offer to act as a grandparent to Maisie. Now that she knew that he was Cornish, even if he was not of her people, it made her happy to think that her daughter would have even this slender thread to her heritage. But she was much less fearful of Bernice. She would be seeing her for the fourth weekend in a row and every time they met, it seemed that they were inching beyond acceptance towards a genuine friendship. For everyone's sake, she prayed that it was so.
On the morning of the big game, she felt tired. She tried to hide it, but of course Hal could see through her attempts.
"If you're not up to it," he said. "Then we can stay home. I know that Butch would understand."
"But you don't want to miss your son's big game," she replied. "If necessary, I can manage here alone."
"No!" he said sharply. "There is no way that I am leaving you home alone."
"But Hal . . ." she protested.
Her husband stood firm. If she were not up to attending the game, then he would not leave her side. She began to feel dreadfully guilty. Butch might understand, but he would still be disappointed. They had both been present for all the other children's big moments. She decided to take a nap and then see how she felt.
When she woke up around noon she felt somewhat refreshed. Hal looked at her suspiciously, but didn't try to stop her when she insisted on going. Of course he could always take her home if she didn't feel well again. Catherine also looked concerned when she saw her, but she also knew better than to try and stop her. She and Hal exchanged glances.
When they arrived at the ball field, the game was about to begin. Once she was comfortably settled in, they all turned their attention to the action on the field. The day was hot and sunny, but Hal had brought the umbrella. If the last game had been a "slugfest," to quote Rob, the rematch was a "pitcher's duel." It was less exciting, but more nerve wracking. She was glad that she didn't have to watch Butch pitch for the whole game.
By the top of the ninth inning, Butch's team was up 1-0. Butch was called in to close it out for the win. The first two batters went down on strikes, but the third reached on an error by the second baseman who, in his nervousness, overthrew the ball to the first baseman. The runner, who should have been out reached third.
With the tying run in scoring position and the "go ahead" run at the plate, the game seemed to rest on Butch. Once again, statistics did not matter. If the runner on base scored, it would be an "unearned" run, as would any subsequent runs. But if they lost the championship, Butch's individual stats would be meaningless. Teams won and lost games together.
As he wound up for his first pitch, he was probably the calmest one on the field or in the stands. Sensing her own anxiety, Trelawney had moved over to sit beside her and hold her hand. She looked up and gave her a tentative smile.
"It's all Butch," she whispered.
Phoebe nodded. There would be no funny hops of the ball today. She then watched as Butch methodically sent the batter down swinging on three strikes. In a battle of nerves, Butch had clearly been the winner. At first everyone was silent, as if they couldn't believe that the game was actually over and the championship won. Then one of Butch's teammates let out a whoop from the bench and the boys and coaches all rushed the mound.
Through swimming eyes, Phoebe watched the exuberance. But as the stress fell away from her, she felt everything go black.
The next sensation that she felt was a cool cloth on her head and someone holding a cup of water to her lips. As she revived, she realized that Trelawney held the cloth while Bernice was helping her drink. Apparently, it had all happened in the blink of an eye, before anyone else had had time to react.
"Stay back," she heard Tom say. "All she needs is a little air. She'll be fine."
"Take a few deep breaths," said Bernice quietly. "Very slowly. You don't want to hyperventilate."
Phoebe obeyed her and could feel her head clear. Trelawney moved aside so that Hal could kneel next to her and hold the cloth to her head. She could feel his grip tighten around her.
"Don't hold her too tightly, Hal," Bernice warned him. "You don't want to suffocate her. She's just had a little too much sun and excitement. If you overreact then you will upset the children. And that won't help Phoebe at all."
She could feel Hal loosen his grip and kiss her head. All she wanted to do was go home, but she knew that if she stood up too quickly that she would faint again. Above her, she could hear the others talking with one of the coaches who had a background as a paramedic. His advice was the same as Bernice's. Fortunately, most of the people, including the children, were so busy celebrating that they were unaware of her own little drama.
Hal wanted to take her to the hospital to be sure that she was okay, but the coach didn't see the point. Any benefit that she might get from an examination by the doctor would be offset by the anxiety of just going in. Because Phoebe didn't want to grab any more attention from Butch's big moment, she agreed. Other than being tired, she felt fine. And she had been tired even before she had arrived at the game. The only thing that mattered to her was that Butch was once again the hero of the game. She wanted him to garner all of the attention.
When she was ready, Bernice and Hal helped her to stand. She insisted on walking with them to the car and then sitting with Phoebe while Hal went back to tell Rob and Catherine that he was taking her home. As they waited, Bernice patted her hand.
"You'll be fine now," she said. "But you probably should not have pushed yourself to come to the game. Why didn't you just stay home?"
"Hal insisted that he would stay home with me if I did," she replied weakly. "I didn't want him to miss Butch's big game. I am very glad that we both got to see it."
"Well," she said. "All's well that ends well, but you really shouldn't take this kind of risk again. Listen to your body when it tells you to rest. And let Hal make his own choices. It's not just about you, you know. This child is just as much his as the other three are. You both won't be able to be in all places with each of the children all the time."
"You're right of course," sighed Phoebe. "But it has taken Butch so long to get out from behind his brother's shadow. I want him to know that we are equally proud of his accomplishments."
"You are, and he knows it," she replied. "But now you need to focus on your unborn child. Once she is born there will be plenty of time for more sibling rivalry to set in. Enjoy this lull for as long as it lasts. It seemed that as soon as the novelty of having a baby brother wore off, my grandson Hal got very jealous every time he stole the show."
Phoebe nodded and smiled weakly. She was too tired to talk anymore. Without thinking, she rested her head on Bernice's shoulder. She could feel the older woman pat her head gently and smooth down her hair.
When she woke up, she was in her own bed. Hal sat beside her in a chair.
"So you finally decided to wake up?" he asked cheerfully.
"How long have I been sleeping?" she asked looking around.
"Long enough," he replied. "You know that was quite a sight when I returned to the car. There you were sound asleep on Bernice's shoulder. She insisted that Tom follow us back to the house so that she wouldn't disturb you. I carried you up and we both tucked you into bed. They are presently up the street at Mother's house for the big barbecue."
"I'm glad," said Phoebe.
"So am I," he said. "It seems as if Bernice has finally taken that last step towards viewing you as a family member. She was very concerned, even though she didn't show it. It was the first time that I really understood why Helen came to rely on her so much when she was ill. She is a very strong woman."
"Yes, she is," replied Phoebe thoughtfully. "And now she seems to be a much happier one."
"I think that we're all a lot happier," he said. "You know, when it comes to Trelawney there are a lot of up sides and down sides to having her in the family. But in the balance of things, the ups far outweigh the downs."
"Do you really mean that?" she asked, her eyes filling with tears once more.
"Really and truly," he answered softly. "I feel as if every time I turn around, some good fortune for another is being attributed to her. Tom and Bernice feel especially blessed to know her. We talked for a while after we got you settled in bed."
"What did they say?" asked Phoebe curiously.
"Bernice admitted that it didn't matter to her who I married, if I remarried. And she was really hoping that I wouldn't," he replied. "Anyone that I married was a threat to Helen's memory. When Butch and Prudence seemed to reject Helen in favor of you last fall, she thought that her worst fears were being realized. The easiest thing for her to do was blame you."
"I guess that it would be," she said.
"Tom saw what was really going on," he continued. "But she wouldn't listen to him. In fact, she did not like being dragged out to the Christmas Pageant and was not pleased when Trelawney followed them outside when they were trying to leave without being seen. She told me how Trelawney insisted that Helen's soul would not rest peacefully until she accepted you. Deep down she already knew that, but she didn't want to let go."
"Tell me," asked Phoebe. "What caused her to let go?"
"When Trelawney put your hands together on Christmas Eve, she said that she felt as if Helen were telling her to set her free and hold onto to you," he explained. "As long as she refused to let go, Helen's soul could not be at peace."
"And all of this was because of Trelawney?" she asked.
Hal nodded in response.
"Trelawney's sensitivities may be disruptive at times," he said. "But she only exercises them for good. Tom believes that her nightmares are her subconscious mind battling the darker forces that threaten her very goodness, so to speak."
"How does Tom know about her nightmares?" asked Phoebe curiously.
"Do you remember the weekend that Prudence spent with them a couple of months ago?" he said. "You know how she prattles on about things. She told them about the nightmares and her fears of the dark. Tom figured it out right away. That's why he feels so tenderly about her. So does Bernice. No one knows this, but Helen had a younger brother. The age difference between them was about the same as what it is between you and Trelawney."
"She had a younger brother?"
"Sadly, he passed away as a child," replied Hal. "I never knew him. Like Trelawney, he was a special child, but physically much weaker."
"What do you mean that he was 'like' Trelawney?" asked Phoebe.
"He was a very simple child, and very good," Hal explained. "He didn't do well in school despite being very smart. He was able to read before he went to kindergarten. No one taught him. He would play for hours with his cars and trucks, and his blocks. He was constantly building things and telling stories about them. The other children teased him unmercifully because he didn't see things the same way that they did. He also had nightmares similar to Trelawney's with evil creatures chasing him."
"When did he . . . pass?" asked Phoebe.
"He was about six, I believe," said Hal. "He got scarlet fever and his body wasn't strong enough to fight it. But knowing this now explains a lot about Bernice's overly protective behavior with Helen when she was so ill."
"You didn't know it before today?" asked Phoebe, surprised.
"Helen never told me," he replied. "After we had you safely in bed and came downstairs, Bernice let her guard down. She told me the whole story. Tom offered up his own observations about the similarities between the two children. He may be a taciturn man, but he is a very thoughtful one."
Phoebe was silent. She was feeling tired again. Hal insisted that she eat something before she went back to sleep. She wondered about Helen's brother who had also been a little fey. She wondered what his name was. But she no longer wondered about Tom Williams and his caring interest in her sister. Tom had understood her all along.
Once again, life was going well, when the specter of Aunt Henrietta popped up. This time Hal was really annoyed. The school year was drawing to a close and they were once again making the transition from school to summer activities. Thankfully, all the children, including Butch, had great report cards. Hal would be moving up to the high school next year, while Butch went to fifth grade and Prudence to second. Trelawney would start eighth grade at Our Lady of Mercy or just "Mercy" as they now called it for short.
Since the big championship game, a real serenity seemed to have fallen over Phoebe. The revelations by Bernice and Tom about Helen's previously unknown younger brother seemed not to have bothered her. The championship game also marked the last big event of the spring for them. Life had settled down.
It was obvious that she was more inwardly focused on the life that she would be bringing into the world in two months. But as Hal prepared to go away to Cal Tech for the summer, she became emotional. Each time they mentioned his departure, she would tear up. It was only then that he realized how much she had come to love and depend on his oldest son.
But as always, Aunt Henrietta just couldn't let things be. She had stayed away from them since Trelawney had threatened her with the dog. But now scraps of information began to make their way into their awareness courtesy of those who attended her séances. It seemed that she was keeping Rosalie very busy these days. However, he hit the ceiling one day when one of her messages hit him a little too close to home.
Mrs. Fowler came over in a tizzy one afternoon because Princess Lotus Flower had sent her to him with a message. He was grateful that she came over at a time when Phoebe was over at Mother's house playing with Trelawney and he was home alone working. Quite typically, she barged into the house unannounced and let herself into his study. Before he could throw her out, she caught his attention.
"Yoo-hoo! Professor!" she called out in her high-pitched voice. "I have a message for you from Helen."
Hal was too thunderstruck to speak. How dare Aunt Henrietta drag his deceased wife into this! It was a violation of his privacy that he would not easily forgive. Getting no response, Mrs. Fowler continued.
"Princess Lotus Flower was communing with the other side when Rosalie told her that Helen had a message for you," she said. "Helen is concerned that you are ignoring her children to give all of your attention to the present Mrs. Everett."
"Out!" he roared as he could feel his blood boiling.
She scooted out hastily. Hal leaned back and closed his eyes. This was totally crazy. He had been told that he must stay close to Phoebe to keep her safe. Now it seemed that someone was trying to emotionally manipulate him into dropping his guard. He rapidly made his way to Mother's house and sought out his father. Rob was furious when he told him.
"That woman is a raving lunatic," he fumed. "What does she take us for? Of all the shallow, cruel, and manipulative things that she could say!"
"What should I do, Dad?" he asked. "Phoebe is calm and happy again. What the hell is going on?"
"I don't know, son," replied Rob. "But this latest stunt was clearly meant to hurt. It really doesn't matter what she claims that Helen said, the fact that she is abusing her memory in this way has crossed a new boundary of indecency."
"I would like to go and punch her in the nose," said Hal.
"I'd like to do worse than that," said his father. "But that would solve nothing. We need to approach this logically."
Hal looked at him dubiously.
"Even if the situation has no logic," he added. "We can't let ourselves be sucked in by these feeble attempts to distract us from the real issue."
"Which is to keep Phoebe safe," said Hal.
"Yes and Trelawney as well," his father said. "We need to stay vigilant, but not panic. We know that everything that she is saying about Helen is just as nonsensical as what she claims about Phoebe's parents. To quote your sister-in-law, 'the angels have no truck with her.'"
Hal smiled weakly. "Well, it's probably better if we don't mention this to the girls. What about Mother?"
"Oh, I can guarantee that Mother is up to it," he said grimly. "But I wouldn't be surprised if she wanted to punch her in the nose also. One of these days there's going to be a showdown between the two of them and it won't be pretty."
"I'd like to see that," joked Hal. "In fact I'd even pay the price of admission."
"And what would that be?" asked Rob laughing.
"Being in her presence," replied Hal. "As long as Phoebe wasn't there."
"You're right about that," said Rob more soberly. "But I don't think that she'll be coming here any time soon. I was amazed at how seriously she took the threat of Elspeth. Of course she was really worked up, baring her teeth and everything."
"Something tells me that we shouldn't judge Elspeth by her size," said Hal. "I would put my money on her in a fight with any other creature if she was defending Trelawney."
"Well, let's hope that we never get the chance to see that," replied Rob.
Mother was infuriated when Hal told her about Aunt Henrietta's latest pronouncement. She agreed that they should not tell Phoebe. However, she also pointed out that it was one of those statements that were too rational and lucid to be true. No doubt Mrs. Fowler was following instructions, but she was also incapable of seeing her playacting for what it was. After talking with his parents, Hal felt a little better, but it still stung.
Phoebe sensed his mood because later as they lay in bed together she asked him if he was feeling well.
"I'm fine," he said in a subdued voice. "But I am a little tired after four busy weekends. And we only have a couple of more weeks with Hal until he leaves."
"I'm going to miss him too," she said. "And by the time he comes home, Maisie will be with us."
The thought of that cheered him up. He snuggled with his wife, but she was too large too comfortably make love to anymore. He didn't miss it. There was another kind of thrill that he felt when he was holding these two precious lives in his arms. He knew that this was an experience that Helen would never have begrudged him. And the children had received much more of his attention since Phoebe had come than they had ever gotten before.
But it was impossible to avoid Aunt Henrietta. The long anticipated Trelawney relative arrived from England in the form of Uncle Charlie. Charles Trelawney was another of Meg's siblings, the father of the unfortunate John, and husband of Aunt Clara, nee Featherstonehaugh. At least Aunt Clara had chosen to remain at home.
Uncle Charlie seemed to be a gentle soul, although Trelawney asserted that he was "quite" under the thumb of his more forceful wife. Phoebe thought that he was chosen because he was one of the least combative of her mother's family. He was so mild-mannered that even Trelawney liked him.
They were having dinner one night, when Aunt Henrietta decided to make an appearance. True to form, she walked straight into the house without ringing the bell or even knocking, dressed in her full regalia of scarves, bangles, and turban. His three children all smiled knowingly and Prudence giggled, but Elspeth was clearly displeased.
Trelawney grabbed the growling dog and left the room, but Waldo picked up where she had left off. His son Hal grabbed Waldo and on the way out, he quietly told him to stay with Trelawney and not to let her return until she was gone. Hal nodded and gave Phoebe a look of reassurance. He put his arm around her and pulled her closer.
Mother stood up and calmly asked her to leave.
"I am here to see my dear brother," she declared grandly. "How long has it been Charles?"
To Hal's amazement, her kind, gentle brother stood up to her, face to face, and retorted sarcastically, "Not long enough. Now isn't it time that you picked up your circus show and took it on the road? You've been here for almost eight bloody months. Time to shove off then, eh? Little bit too long for one of the family to be in one place, eh? What was you thinking, girl? Getting into one of them nasty ruts, is you?"
"Why Charles, you know very well that Father sent me here to keep an eye on things," she answered smoothly. "Now you ought to know better than to disobey James Trelawney."
"And you should know better than to lie to him," he said. "Johnny told me about your nonsense. He was in court for all the testimony regarding the little one's custody. And he saw how upset poor Phoebe here was. What's in your mind, woman? It's thanks to you as much as anyone, if three lives hang in the balance, you old fool."
"You cannot tell me that Father does not want the child returned home," she said.
"No, I cannot," he replied. "But Father is much too old to care for her. And Emmeline has talked it through with Alma. Understanding how things are, such as they are, she is now refusing to take her. Alma loves the girl more than her own life, and Phoebe and the baby too, and she wants all of them happy. Besides, the child is a Figalilly and it's for David to decide where she lives, and with whom. David Figalilly is not a man to be swayed by sentiment. If he had any worries concerning the girl's safety, he would have brought her home four months ago."
"David is a fool," she replied. "And Emmeline will come to a bad end. She and William both will bring grave troubles to the family, mark my words. And then you'll have your wife to contend with as well."
Hal could feel Phoebe's anxiety rising at the mention of Emmeline's name, not to mention at the apparent non sequitur. But Uncle Charlie and Aunt Henrietta were locked in a battle of wills as only two siblings could be. Things were about to get very ugly. Butch stood up and tipped his head in Prudence's direction.
He nodded and Butch led a reluctant Prudence out of the room to join the other two children and the dogs in the backyard. He wished that he could do the same with Phoebe but he didn't want to call Aunt Henrietta's attention to either of them, fearful of what she might say.
"David Figalilly is no fool," said Uncle Charlie tensely. "And you owe him the same respect that you would any other paterfamilias in the village."
Aunt Henrietta seethed. She knew that her brother was right, but didn't want to admit it. It was like watching a battle between Hal and Butch, when the younger brother bested the older in logic. She also didn't want him interfering in her present, rather comfortable, situation. The fact that he was taking such a strong stand against her, and undoubtedly his father as well, meant that there was disorder in the ranks of the family. Perhaps even a coup d'état was about to take place.
Phoebe had told him that Uncle Charlie was next in line to be paterfamilias of the Trelawneys. It appeared that he was asserting his authority early. Mild-mannered and gentle as he seemed to be, it was very clear that he had nerves of steel and a will of iron. Dad was watching in amusement, but Mother was waiting to jump in to defend Phoebe and/or Trelawney if necessary. He just wanted to make Phoebe and himself as inconspicuous as possible so that she would leave them alone.
Then, Aunt Henrietta's anger gave way to a dull stare. Uncle Charlie took a step back and Phoebe gasped. They obviously could see something that the rest of them could not. Mother and Dad reflexively moved closer to them. She spoke as if in a dream, somewhat as Trelawney did when she had her moments. Only her voice rang with malevolence.
"Beware of danger as the bright light comes," she said in a loud and creepy voice. "Three lives hang in the balance, threatened by one. The cousin has the power to destroy the two sisters. Hatred is in the air. The day is coming when the innocent shall suffer. Only the elder generation can save the younger. Doom awaits those who stand waiting as the bright lights fall."
They all stood transfixed as Aunt Henrietta's affect slipped away as if she had taken off a mask.
"Charles," she thundered, picking up the previous conversation without skipping a beat. "I do not have to listen to you. As long as there is a single breath left in the body of James Trelawney, he is my master. I will stay here to protect my darling Phoebe. If you had an ounce of common sense, then you would take the child away with you."
"No, Henrietta," he said, shaking his head. "You're the one lacking in common sense. And you've lost your sanity. I didn't want to believe young Sylvia but now I've seen it for myself. You're the one who is the danger to your darling Phoebe, deceived by what you are too blind to see. Now look here. Can't you see that you've frightened the poor girl half to death? And her, carrying Meg and Owen's first grandbaby. I don't know what you're thinking and neither do you."
"This is outrageous!" she shouted. "How dare you accuse me of endangering my beloved niece and her child? Rosalie has come to me time and time again with words from our dear sister, begging, yes I said begging, me to save her."
Now Uncle Charlie shook his head sadly. Whatever was going on, that none of the Everetts understood, made sense to him.
"Now I have a prediction for you, Henrietta," he said calmly. "If you don't stop repeating whatever nonsense that insipid child tells you then your predictions will come true. Only you will have set them in motion yourself."
It was obvious that Phoebe understood the subtext of the argument. Hal drew her closer and she buried her head in his shoulder. He held her securely in his left arm while he placed his right hand over her head. He was trying to shelter her as much as he could from the turbulence of the emotions swirling around them. He glanced over at Mother who now looked ready to explode. Dad stood up.
"Aunt Henrietta," he said patiently. "I am only going to tell you once to leave my house and never return. And while you are at it, you will also stay away from Hal's home. As paterfamilias of the Everett family, I am asserting my rights to keep my people safe."
"And if I choose to ignore your assertion?" she asked boldly. Hal guessed that as long as she was ignoring Uncle David's authority, she had also decided to ignore Dad's. She was also standing up to her brother. It was most peculiar that in a world that clung so powerfully to the dominance of the male that the female would so strongly assert itself. And Mother saw this right away.
"Then you'll hear mine," she replied, fighting "female with female," so to speak. It was obvious that all of the anger and frustration that had been building for months was about to erupt from his normally sweet and gentle mother. Like a summer storm, over the months the dark thunderheads had been building. Unless Aunt Henrietta backed down, they would release their full force.
For the first time, Aunt Henrietta turned to her and insolently returned her gaze. It was clear that she had no respect for her. She was too angry and jealous at the way that she felt that Mother had usurped her place in Phoebe's affections. But they had never directly confronted each other before. Both were filled with pent up emotions.
"You are as ineffectual as your husband," she said dismissively. "You do not even know what you are dealing with here. You shelter that fey little creature, who has the power to destroy you all. She belongs at home in the village."
"The only destructive force in this house right now is you," replied Mother. "Every time that Phoebe is happy, you stir up whatever problems suit you best. You manufacture the stress and worry that threaten her and her child. Leave her alone. Leave us alone."
"No! You fools are ignoring the pleas of those who have passed into the next life. Meg, Owen, and even Helen have all been offering you guidance and yet you cast it all away because of your own hubris. It is very clear that you do not know what you are doing!"
"Neither do you!" replied Mother, through gritted teeth. "Talk about hubris! This farce is over. We know you for who you are! And you are nothing more than an old fraud and a faker. Your little game is over."
"Never!" she cried. "Never will the forces of darkness and light cease their perpetual struggle!"
By now she was gesticulating madly. Her wild motions and dramatic tones were no longer amusing. Hal was glad that Phoebe couldn't see her, even if she could hear her. He was glad that he had discussed her with Sylvia. At this moment she really did look like the Oracle of Delphi gone mad and to quote Sylvia, "not making a lick of sense." It was because of this insight that he was able to maintain his composure.
"Take this pathetic little act out of my house!" yelled Mother. "No one here believes you!"
"You will pay for your disrespect, Catherine Everett," thundered Aunt Henrietta. "The day is coming when you will rue your words!"
The vehemence of Aunt Henrietta's response was shocking. But Mother refused to be intimidated.
"Get out of this house instantly!" she shouted back with equal force. "Or we'll let the dogs chase you out. Now wouldn't that be a sight? You, with scarves flowing, running out of the house chased by a pair of barking dogs."
Aunt Henrietta could see that she was deadly serious. With one last proud gesture, she flounced out of the house grandly, with head held high. Then there was dead silence, until a sob escaped from Phoebe.
"There, there," he whispered.
The children must have realized that Aunt Henrietta was gone because they came running back into the dining room with the dogs following close behind.
"It was all that we could do to keep them in the yard, Dad," said Hal. "We heard the shouting and Butch and I had to pin Prudence and Trelawney down and hang onto the dogs at the same time."
Hal noticed that Uncle Charlie was looking at the scene with concern. He walked over to Phoebe and knelt before her.
"Pay no mind, Phoebe love," he said softly, taking her hands in his own. "It's all in God's hands really. Now that I've seen her for what she is, I'll have Father call her off. And don't worry about the little one. She's safe with your good Catherine to look after her."
Phoebe looked into the kind face and Hal could see that his gentle gaze and soothing voice were calming her. As he had noticed sometimes with Trelawney, they appeared to be communicating without words. Phoebe's face began to acquire the same sweet serenity that it had lost when Aunt Henrietta had entered the room.
Mother was still breathing heavily from her exertion and sat down limply in her chair. Dad was still angry, but seemed to be controlling his temper for the sake of the others. All the children except Trelawney seemed confused. She was surprisingly calm. He could understand that. He felt calmer himself. It was as if the battle of female wills had dissipated some of the angst and tension that had been building since Aunt Henrietta had arrived.
Trelawney looked at Uncle Charlie and asked briefly, "Mustard or red?"
He looked at her seriously, and replied, "The former."
"Did you see it too, Phoebe?" she asked, turning to her sister.
Phoebe mutely nodded. But Trelawney looked thoughtful. Hal wondered what they were talking about. Before he had the chance to ask, Trelawney turned to Mother.
"Jolly good show, Mama Kate!" she said cheerfully. "It's about time that Auntie got her comeuppance. I didn't know that you had it in you."
"Me neither," replied Mother weakly.
"Well, you are a Leo you know," she replied seriously. "You certainly sounded like a lioness defending her cubs against the predator. You know there's nothing more fierce than a mother protecting her young."
"And how," agreed his son Hal. "Grammy, if I ever need someone to defend me, I'm going to call you up."
"Yeah, man," chimed in Butch. "You said all the stuff that I wanted to say to that old witch since I met her."
"Me too," echoed Prudence.
"Here! Here! Catherine," added Uncle Charlie with a hint of humor in his voice. "It's been a long time since anyone laid the old woman out in lavender. I pulled myself back from the fray once I could see that you were up to it. I always did like to see Henrietta get hers."
"So this has happened before?" asked Dad.
Uncle Charlie nodded. "About every five years or so someone or another gets fed up with her foolishness and lets loose. This was one of the better shows, I must say."
"Aw, man," said Butch. "And we had to miss it."
Uncle Charlie and Phoebe exchanged looks.
"It's better that you did, lad," he replied. "It's easy to laugh about it now, but it's quite a different sight to behold. It's not easy to stand up to her when she's in that state, but your grandmother did it as well as anyone could. I do like that image of the dogs chasing her out of the house. Now that would have been a sight to see. What made you think of it?"
"I don't know," she said. "I knew that she wouldn't take threats of violence seriously. I suppose that I thought that humiliation was the next best option."
"Good choice," he nodded. "I'll have to remember that. The family will certainly have a giggle when I get back home and tell them."
"Will you be leaving soon?" asked Trelawney wistfully.
"Yes, little one," he said.
Seeing her disappointment he added, "I do have the farm to tend to. The kids and lambs, not to mention the calves, don't look after themselves, you know."
"I know," she said. "But it would be lovely if you could stay. I miss those that visit from the village when they leave. Those that roam are those that I didn't see much of. It's not the same when they pop in."
"No it's not, I'm sure," he replied kindly. "But those of us in the village have our work to do. You understand then, don't you?"
"Yes, of course, Uncle," she said putting her arms around his neck.
It only then occurred to Hal that the child was still homesick at times. It was no wonder that she enjoyed her time with Phoebe so much. He wondered if Phoebe was ever homesick, but he doubted it. She had enjoyed her days of wanderlust and had made it very clear to him that he was now her home. He hoped that they had seen the last of Aunt Henrietta for a good long time. Perhaps Uncle Charlie could even convince Grandfather Trelawney to send her away.
There were many things that he still didn't understand about his wife and her family, but he had finally come to understand one thing. Trelawney was not the cause of their problems. In fact, she was as much of a victim as Phoebe. Sylvia had been right. Her sweet and simple goodness and uncomplicated emotions were a blessing. Under his arm, he could feel Phoebe resting more comfortably against him. She had discerned his thoughts and they were now helping to sooth her. But they needed to leave. It was time to get her home to rest before she relaxed enough to fall asleep.
Once Charles Trelawney was gone, Catherine returned her focus back to Phoebe and Trelawney. It seemed that more than ever, they needed to escape into a world of their own making. She wondered how they could play for hours with the dollhouse as they did. Finally, she asked Phoebe.
"It's Trelawney's way of coping," explained Phoebe. "The stories that she tells help her to work out things in her mind. She doesn't play with Prudence this way because Prudence can't understand her."
"Do you?" asked Catherine curiously.
"Yes, I do," replied Phoebe. "The dolls represent the two of us. They always have. Mum and Papa originally created this little play world for her so that she could express her feelings when I was away. Now she uses it to express the worries that she doesn't understand."
"What is she worried about?"
"She is afraid that she will lose me. But it doesn't have anything to do with any fear that the family will take her away," said Phoebe. "She is afraid that by growing up she will no longer have me in her life."
"That is an odd fear," commented Catherine.
"Not if you are Trelawney," answered Phoebe. "The truth is that she may never grow up, emotionally that is. She will read her books and play her piano and play with her dolls. She will help me raise my children, if she returns to live with me while they are young. If she had stayed in the village and I had married one of our own, that is how it would have been. And there would always have been someone in the family to care for her. If I predeceased her, the duty would have fallen to one of my children."
Catherine was silent. Somehow, she had always sensed that this was true. She had always known that the child was special, but it had never occurred to her that it was in this way. It was no wonder that her family loved her so much and wanted to protect her. Phoebe looked at her and answered her unspoken question.
"No, Catherine," she said quietly. "Trelawney is not a burden, she is a gift. She is truly good and honest. Aunt Henrietta is threatened by her purity and innocence, and that is why she doesn't like her. Trelawney has a genuine prescience and mysticism that few others do. She only wishes to use her gifts for good, as she has clearly demonstrated this year. Unlike Aunt Henrietta, she is not a creature of the circus, full of illusion. She is a child of the pure, golden light."
"Have you always known this?" she asked.
"Before she left the village where she was sheltered," she explained. "It was not really apparent. She was also too young. But even you should be able to see that she is not keeping up with children her own age. Butch is now the same age that she was when she moved here. He is growing much more mature."
"Will she be able to manage in school?"
"I don't think that it will be a problem," she said. "She is smart enough to keep up with the other students academically. In a Christian, all-girls school environment, she should thrive because the others will appreciate her kind and gentle spirit. Francine and Sarah will protect her against all threats, but I suspect that there won't be any. The culture of the school appears to be such that any meanness directed at her will be viewed as wrong."
"Do you ever worry about what will become of her, when she reaches adulthood that is?" asked Catherine.
"No," replied Phoebe. "I know that Hal will help me to keep her safe. Trelawney's ability to see others as archetypes means that she has true second sight into their natures. That is why she has been so patient with Hal, and more recently with Prudence, in this regard. She has always had faith that in the end they will be true to their real selves. Once again, Hal will be her gallant knight and Prudence will be her wee fairy to light the darkness."
"Are you at peace now, dear?" asked Catherine.
Phoebe smiled. "Yes. The confrontation with the evil witch has taken place and the good queen has won. The wise gentleman has asserted his rights over the family. I believe that the good king is closer than we think. For the moment, all is well."
"Only for the moment?" asked Catherine.
Phoebe nodded. "The ebb and flow of the universal consciousness means that all peace is temporary. There will always be forces that try to disrupt it. Those forces are larger than human beings. Those who fall prey to them, like Aunt Henrietta, are weak. Those who fight them, like Trelawney, are strong. It is more than cosmic irony. It is the truth."
"What about all of her ranting when she is in a trance?" Catherine asked.
"If she is no longer here to rant them, they will hopefully slip away," replied Phoebe. "But I trust those around us to keep us safe."
"Meaning you, Trelawney, and Maisie?" asked Catherine.
With a secretive smile, Phoebe nodded and once again bent her head over her knitting. Catherine knew that they were presently only under a temporary reprieve from the machinations of fate. She would like to believe that the reprieve would last until Maisie was born. Perhaps it would. But even if it didn't, they would be ready.