A/N: This is circa 1979. (Barnabas' perspective of view.)
Chapter 42: Free To Be... You And Me
I awaken at midday and She is there. The fire has gone out and is needless in the warmth the sun has already spoken for in the time we slept. It is quiet in sound, but the thunder of my heartbeat burdens me when I see her face, eyes still closed, lashes richly blended by their darkness in beautiful contrast to the apricot white of her skin. My bride lays still and she... is not dead. She and I remain on this new journey I grieved we would never begin. And so, the quiet of the room is only in sound, or lack thereof. For Josette's wondrous presence strikes its lightening into my soul and by sight is volcanic in volume to me.
If this wedded glory of the infinite weren't compelling enough? A wee child has entered the room to come and waken her mother, and this child is the Sarah I also lost almost two-hundred years ago. Lively and gay, curious and kind, and already aware of the sleep patterns her parents' share which she does not.
Cora, who married my friend, William Loomis, is near the door, having taken the role of nanny when our daughter awakens. Cora is wary to enter the room but not out of fear. She is there to make sure it is the right time for Sarah to enter without blighting our sleep. Of course our little one errs seldom in this regard. Sarah was rarely naughty in her own previous life.
"Papa?" asks my child, "Es-tu reveille?"*
I sweep her from the side of our bed and onto my stomach, saying, "Oui, ma petit demoiselle. You can see that with your own eyes."
"Would you kiss my puppy?" Sarah asks, holding out her toy and I do, if for nothing else but allowing my darling to smile. Perhaps this gesture is a remembrance to the little dog she lost when I had consoled her once upon a time, or perhaps it is merely a cherished item of affection. Whatever my child desired was under my consideration to grant and bestow. Pressing my lips to her cheek was far more enjoyable, of course.
Next was a happy groan of awakening beside us. Her mother, Maggie, blinking upward and reaching out those fine talons with which she stretched around our child's delicate hair to say, "Good morrow, my sweet angel girl."
"Why good morrow?" wondered our daughter to her.
"Good morrow is the next day from the last," my bride explained, "and, as your papa and I do not awaken in the morning? Good morrow is the best fit I could find."
"Mne-ah," Sarah shook her head, sharply. The sound she made reflected a feeling of not understanding Maggie's answer and wanting to continue enjoying herself in shorter equations than speech.
Sarah hopping from the bed had almost shocked me until I remembered the intense wealth of animation she had so long ago. This was the same little girl I had known when I was a mortal man, and now Sarah danced in Josette's room before us, unaware and unafraid of all the turmoil that had previously befallen her ancestors, even as one of those ancestors was herself. Sarah's beautiful, infantile gestures in her play gave me reason to applaud her, but silently within my heart as I and her mother appealed to her with smiles from our berth. We watched Sarah toss her plaything into the air and catch it. She wanted its attention and our attention and she had it.
"You're watching me, aren't you?" Sarah called.
Maggie lifted herself from the bed, "Yes, my dearest. We are." And then Maggie stepped toward her closet to fetch our day clothes, however little of the day was left.
"Gray, papa. Dress in gray, please!" little Sarah bequested, with sprightly warmth. What my daughter meant was a gray suit that exhibited the modern fashion rather than the semi-eccentric leanings of the Victorian times her mother preferred I wear.
"So determined about Papa's clothes," Josette laughed, happily, stepping over and pulling Sarah to the loveseat. My dearest bride did good to lift Sarah to her lap, "but what of me, little one? What does Maman wear today?"
Sarah blinked as Maggie lifted Sarah's chin to face her. Our daughter then clapped her hands and announced, "Long... no short... blue, the blue one."
"Teal," my bride laughed to our growing girl, setting her down and going towards the closet again.
"Oui, oui," Sarah chimed.
"Baby-mine knows best," Maggie giggled toward the wardrobe as they were picking out what to wear. This, Maggie knew, was a triviality to never take lightly. Our love meant to love, our hearts were meant to nurture, and our days were meant to open our arms to the infinite. That was what made my bride herself: She understood that so much was so sacred for the well-being of appreciation in the domestic, however supernatural our fates were laid out to be. Maggie knew, Kitty knew, Josette knew. And for that? I knew from all of her.
As the light of home-life proceeded to fill our room, more in metaphor than in solar spectrum, Maggie grappled Sarah in her hands, hoisted her up and then stood to look through her wardrobe for that short dress, so short it would make me wish to reach for her legs tonight.
It is simply without reasonability that I should see those slender, vigorous legs walk before me throughout the evening and not be allowed to touch them. I knew I could physically show adoration to them later on in the night or morning, but this was the true curse of my marriage as well as its blessing; to constantly see the fascination of what I knew was mine and always desired. This is why I allow a few others to see my journals detailing it. You must know this richness can also be yours, whether in life or in daydream. Love and its pleasures sustain us, always.
Yet in these moments that moved from libidinous estrangement to fatherly smiles, my heart split in shuffling between these two categories, of which I know to call them mere categories depletes their importance. All I know is in this room that I'd spent long sadness's and forlorn hopes, it was now the theatre of my current joys, ones I'd never believed to see; only dream about. Now was Maggie, as Josette and my bride, combined with Sarah reborn as our daughter, both flaunting their deliriously commonplace merry-making as if there was nothing so unbelievable in it at all? Simply a mother and daughter picking out clothing and planning their day and I had to lay there prostrate to such splendour unbelievable to me. Nothing ever prepared me for such happiness, and so my inner family should wonder at my tears is no surprise.
Sarah, so terrifically jagged with her infantile movements, jumped into my arms on the bed to request my approval in chosen clothing, in what her toy-puppy thought of all that was happening, and the only thing I wanted in all the world was to hold Sarah to my breast and cry out how I loved her as dearly as I did when I was only her brother centuries before, and not her father. But I couldn't declare such feelings. I simply held her and felt all this and smiled happily at her frivolity... wanting that frivolity never to end. And I was safe in my wish, for Maggie, my Josette, constantly assured me all this was continual.
The day's clothing was picked out and admired. We followed Sarah out the door of our room, down the hallway and to her old room, a nursery of olden times, in which she decided that her toy-puppy would be cosy in her bed and showily displayed how much she loved him by tucking him into her blankets and seeing his dollish head rest along the pillow.
"He'll do best there," Sarah declared, and then she added to the pretend beast, "Don't worry. We'll be back. We are going to see Cousin David to find out when I can start school next year." She patted her stuffed animal on her bed and I saw in all of these gestures that were little echoes of how she treated the real dog from our past, the one she suffered the loss of in my arms back then.
Maggie could sense the pang in my heart from this exchange and sent me the telepathic words, "I know, mon demón, I see it too. I remember. You wrote to me about it. It is another expression of her journey and there is no pain. She is exploring this new life with recollections of her old life, as we all do."
"Merci, my love" I thanked her from my mind.
As we managed hoisting our daughter down the steps of The Old House, my butler smiled at us and opened the door. I noticed more grey in his hair and wondered aloud to him, "My friend, are you still pleased in this employment?"
Wadsworth responded, "Fulfilled is the better word, sir. Happy is laughter and play. Fulfilment is meaning each heartbeat has a purpose and so I have that under your employment."
As Sarah toddled out that door and Maggie followed along to see she didn't stumble, I smiled to my dear butler, "What was it you told me years ago; about you wanting to stay with us, Wadsworth?"
He grinned, holding the doorknob, "Seizing the day is all well and good," he quoted himself, "but seizing the night is that glory untold but to precious few... like us... Sir."
Throughout the years my servant had shown me this, and with that confidence in knowledge? I understood, again, we had a love for each other in friendship, in battling troubles, in accepting the dark elements of our lives to make them embraceable.
Watching Maggie chase Sarah in laughter and joy, I joined my happy family, as my nodding butler and friend, gently closed the door behind me. The gentleness in this gesture acknowledged his approval in all that our home displayed now.
Such delights of the afternoon continued in Sarah's exposure to the outside world, her distractions to sea sounds, the leaves of trees, experiments in speaking and singing and doing something that was a mixture of both, as children are apt to experiment with. We strolled and she gambolled, The Great House of Collinwood pleased her and she would cry out, "The castle!" for the turret reminded her of such structures in her toys and stories.
I was worried Sarah might hurt herself in attempted cartwheels, but my bride, Maggie, assured me, "She is trying out her limbs... her skills. If she cries? We'll comfort her, Barnabas. But children..."
"Children are what they will be," I appended, "we cannot keep them from that."
And as Sarah spread her arms wide in the great outdoors and leapt in her play, Maggie and I squeezed our handheld grip in the joy of a family life we had never planned, but knew had to be. As sunken, passing clouds flowed overhead, the low orange sun was becoming to us, the awe of our daughter's embracement toward her new life was a delectation we could only shower with our smiles, our grasping of hands and our delicious tears. So much turmoil of life can only bring appreciation for the good when it comes and that is what our family shows to you who find these journals of our love.
Passing from one idea to the next of what Sarah wanted most, flitting and changing, until finally we ventured to the door and the family therein would welcome our little one in her excitement.
"Whatever can be done with such a child," Roger smirked, as Roger does, "isn't worth my time. I'm past that with my own son."
"Speaking of which," I remarked, while allowing Maggie to chase Sarah down as she poked her fingers in all the crooks of the furnishings, "we were wondering if we could speak to David."
"Just home from college on vacation," Roger swayed, "and likely reading that 'Go Ask Alice' novel that got so dearly popular."
"That one is, perhaps, better than 'Love Story'," I reasoned.
"Why better?" Roger asked, "At least 'Love Story' gives a false impression of one's refusal to apologize, and makes the reader think of how they want to strike some sense into the author of such drivel." A scoffing noise came and Roger added, "Really? 'Love means never having to say you're sorry'? Love induces that very need to say it when we are mistaken. Goodness knows I've made my fatherly apologies to David when I didn't have a baton lodged into regions unknown."
I have been noticing that as my Cousin Roger gains in age, so does his inflammation of sarcastic gloat over the world at large. (It also helped that he had a brandy in hand.)
"Nevertheless," I added, working hard to withhold my laughter at his sarcasm, "we're wondering if David might be willing to look after Sarah in the coming years... that is if he is to stay on at Collinwood, of course."
"If?" jeered Roger, quick to the punch, "Whoever in our family is intelligent enough to move away from the estate escapes my notice! I left with David and wife for nine years and it made little difference. We had to return anyway. It seems that if one is born here or not they always return, physically or spiritually, as the case may be."
"Yes," I nodded, as patiently as I could, "Such as it amounts between Sarah and David, as you know."
Roger stopped blustering, paused and gave a sly wink, "Ah, I see what you mean, Cousin Barnabas. Victoria and Maggie were governesses to David while Sarah's ghost befriended him, yes?"
"Yes, Roger!" called my bride as she chased Sarah about the drawing room, tickling our daughter within an inch of her reborn life. "And now we're wondering if David would like to fulfil that same role!"
"David?" Roger wondered, "A governess?"
Maggie picked Sarah up in all the shared levity, and stepped back toward us in the foyer, her own giggling manner giving way in how she spoke, "perhaps a governessor?"
"Heh," Roger snorted, jovially, "Tutor, do you mean, Miss Evans?"
(At this juncture I wasn't about to rectify Roger's address to calling my bride Madam Dupres.)
"Yes, tutor, although we must consider why Victoria and I were rarely called that."
"Mnn," Roger pontificated, "because the title of governess has a semi-regal ring to it, obviously. No wondering about that. At any rate... ohhhh... can't that little transmigration calm her mirth?"
Our child, Sarah, made the most delirious of faces and gestures at her mother, at Roger, and at myself while she was in Maggie's arms, to the point I was concerned she might spontaneously combust.
"I'm afraid not," Maggie chortled with similar mirth, "I shan't allow my sweet thing to be watered-down. Now, how do you feel about our proposal to David?"
Roger raised a greying eyebrow, "Humph! You be the judge; As it turns out? Quentin beat you to it. David has already agreed to serve the same function to that little beast of a Caleb they're bringing up in the lighthouse. I don't suppose you will want him and Sarah to get anywhere close to associating, much less having the same daytime guardian."
Maggie studied the foyer tiles, thoughtfully, with designs of old and whispered, "Angelique Bouchard... you little rascal..."
I took the floor for loud pronouncement and expressed, "It sounds idyllic! Sarah and Caleb being brought up side by side was precisely what we'd been hoping for since we'd heard Angelique was with child."
Roger squinted at me, "Bats in the belfry as well as at home... Hmnn, not much I can do for that. Feel free to handle David in your questioning. I've already warned my son that all this would come to him if he decided to stay home. I was hoping he'd see fit to inherit some wanderlust, but it stands to reason he will remain at Collinwood and do his fair turn to the next in line as was done before him."
My bride hugged our daughter, who now clutched her about the neck, and asked, "Roger, you can't tell me you would prefer David out of the way, do you?"
Roger gave a downcast glimmer, "No, I can't, Maggie. But you can hardly blame me to favour the possibility, can you?"
It took some time guiding Sarah's four-year-old steps up the well-known staircase of The Great House, but she managed with our help. I stayed behind them in case she should trip. As we went Sarah became fairly meditative in her concentration of each step upward. Then we reached the turning and she had to glide her tiny hand along the balustrade, always needing to touch things as she went.
Finding David's room, we gently knocked and heard him respond, "Who is it?"
"David," Maggie answered, "It's the little family from The Old House."
Shuffling noises ensued and he responded, "Come in!"
So much taller now, young David was certainly recognizable as the same lad so long ago, but grown less thin, filling out to manhood, still slightly boyish and his voice much deeper than once upon a time. He stood expectantly, button down shirt tucked neatly into his vertically striped trousers.
"Welcome home, David," I began, "it's good to see you back."
"Thank you, Cousin Barnabas," he answered with a sheepish grin, "Good to be back. I'm certainly enjoying the quiet after that miserable term I had."
"Oh?" Maggie rejoined, "Were the exams too difficult?"
"No," David settled, with the toss of his head, "too many girls to fend off."
We tittered in response. It was little surprise as David was a very attractive young man, and less given to flirting than when he began college.
"Sarah? You remember David, don't you?" I inquired our little one.
She stood with a wide-eyed observation of him, "Yes... but he's... so much bigger now! He's so old!"
More awkward sounds of mirth came through. Sarah toddled over to him, "You are so much older, David!"
He crouched down to meet her face, "And you are so much younger... Sarah."
"Oh, I'm not any different," she reproached him.
"Of course not," he smiled.
It wasn't unlike her to make these unusual remarks. Many of them were half-baked in that way children have with discussion. They make a stout observation with what knowledge they have. In little Sarah's case she had degrees of knowledge that were both real to her and to us. Those memories could flip from her 1790's life to the time she spent with us as a ghost, to very recent ones from her current life. Due to her extreme youth, nothing was considered unusual by outsiders, just whimsical. Strangers had no knowledge of her supernatural past or future. Her family recognised quickly and rarely, if ever, argued with her about what she expressed. Why would we?
"Are you to be part of my classroom?" David asked Sarah with a gentle tilt of his head.
"Not now," she reasoned, "Next year. You have to finish school first, Mister Collins."
"And what would you like to learn about, Sarah?"
"Oh-h-h-h," Sarah began, showing much enthusiasm, "I want to learn how to read! And I want to paint like my Grand-père!"
Maggie looked at David and then toward me, almost stunned, "Well! That is the first time I've heard of this."
"Perhaps you can practice with me and learn it from your Grandpa. I'm afraid I can only supply the materials," David confessed to Sarah.
"I'm sure it's not something to dwell on, my darling," I told Maggie, telepathically, "you know how children change their minds repeatedly as they grow."
"Of course, Barnabas," Maggie responded, aloud, "but it all makes me want to run over to Pop and ask him about it."
Sarah smiled up at her mother as David raised an eyebrow with charm.
"Ohhh," he folded his arms, a playful yet suspicious grin quirking the side of his mouth, "I'd heard of this."
Sarah giggled, "Yes, they think things at each other, David. Sometimes I can hear it, too."
"Aren't you the lucky, one?" David looked down at her, happily.
Maggie almost blushed, "I am sorry, David. Barnabas attempting to be discreet about that misfired from me."
"No need to apologise... Josette," David's emphasis on her older name signified him remembering her ghostly form in his youth, detailing the obvious knowledge of –This is Collinwood. These things happen.—
"Besides," David continued, "sharing secret messages in a private way, which is what telepathy is, isn't rude. Not to me anyway. What's rude is speaking in another language a third party doesn't understand so as to talk spitefully about them while they're in the room."
"You have a good point there," I agreed.
"Thank you," David nodded, "Well, I suppose I should pull out my final year at college while looking into teaching supplies. Juggling the topics of Economy, Business, and Anthropology satisfied my interests long enough that I'll be ready to discard those and see if I can find myself at-home again. Helping to bring up the kids sounds like just the mischief I'll need after all this grown-up stuff."
"You sound far more self-assured then I ever expected, Cousin David," I marvelled.
"Getting through all the scary excitement here, Cousin Barnabas? And you included?" he teased, "What more would I need for confidence?"
"Not only that," Maggie pointed out, "taking care of our children will allow you to know whether or not you want children of your own."
David sighed, with nodding approval, "Exactly, Miss Evans! Exactly!"
I had to ask him, "How do you feel about it now, David? Having your own children someday?"
"I don't have to feel anything about it now, Barnabas," he simpered, "I'll know when the time is right, as you did."
I loved his response but had an inner twinge that he'd caught me out somehow.
Within a year of time David Collins graduated with flying colours, though higher marks in Anthropology than his other subjects. What we had deduced was that his choice of Economy and Business was persuaded as run-of-the-mill for Family and Estate, whereas Anthropology turned out to be escapism from the other two, and it was likely why his grades were better there.
In his adult years, David was showing himself in the point of fairly calm and soft-spoken most of the time. It was as if the adventures of his boyhood, which were often coupled with the extreme tension of unbelievable events, had laid the ground work for desiring peace. Uncommon was it for him to raise his voice about almost anything. We doubted when it came to being a tutor that this quieter trait would maintain. But we would have to wait and see, and that suited us perfectly. There was no rush in our lives now.
Then there was Caleb Collins. Quentin and Angelique often wrote to us about his upbringing. Rarely did they desire to discuss it verbally with anyone, it worried them so.
Caleb's baby years having been fairly raucous and fussy seemed to change when he finally encountered our Sarah. Both were five years old at the time and outside Collins House, as we began calling The Old House again, both sets of parents were meeting to discuss the details of our children's education. All six of us came together near the tree with the swing David and so many others had used to play on.
We mused with each other on how Quentin and Angelique tended to prefer classic but more modern attire, whereas Josette and I indulged in the clothing that harkened back to older days. It made the four of us stand out as rather odd, but in a way which was more entertaining to us considering our shared histories throughout time. As usual, being close to Angelique as a friend gave a tingle of the astounding. There was something of shared forgiveness on both of our parts that we never stopped being grateful for. Then with Quentin and I there was a brotherhood we often smiled over when we managed moments of sequestered solitude.
Our two little ones were attracted to the swing, but not enough to use it. Caleb had seen Sarah before but only barely, and there she was at a much closer range telling him, "I know you!"
"How do you know who I am?" the little blond boy asked, haughtily.
"You're Caleb Collins," Sarah observed, "We're cousins now, but we weren't always that way, you know."
His mother's ocean blue eyes flashed out of him as Caleb spoke, "Says who?"
"I remember," Sarah insisted, politely, "I remember you, Caleb. You have a temper."
"Everyone has a temper, you girl!" pronounced the little boy. He didn't have the accent yet, but he had the makings of it, I could tell.
"We will be in school together with Cousin David," Sarah informed him.
"I know that." Caleb stated, flatly. The flatness was when I noticed the change. Something about Sarah was finally calming him. He wanted to resist companionship, but Sarah was altering his feelings about it as if she had hypnotised him.
Angelique watched with us and noted, "She has that effect on me, but that's not why Caleb is reacting that way, I'm sure. It can't be inherited from me. I think she's finally triggering his ghostly memories rather than the ones from his previous life."
"That's what I was picking up as well," Maggie admitted, "he only marginally noticed me in that way."
As time went along in that hour the two children went from sharing observations about education to pushing the swing toward each other as neither of them were tall enough to sit on the seat of it. As they interacted in the way that children do, it was decided among the four of us that Sarah would be gathered, along with Caleb, in the morning to head to The Great House of Collinwood for their tutelage with David. All would work similar to how public schooling did in terms of hours, play time, meals, time off, etc. This made it easier for my bride and I, due to the midday hours we were used to rising. Sarah would have no need to miss our presence in the morning as she would be occupied up until a close enough time that Maggie and I would awaken, in any case.
There would also be fewer hours to start with when they began. This was good for both students and teacher. We had been concerned what with David going into a tutor mode so quickly it could irk his sensibilities, but he assured us that he was looking forward to something that might bring him back to the simplicity of youth, wanting that fascination for the new or even common busy work. He went so far as trimming his hair to its old shortness for the occasion.
David did wonder if he should be searching in any supernatural tomes for what to do if anything of that nature leaked out from his future students. Professor Stokes and his wife, Julia, assured him that if anyone was equipped to understand the children and the adjustment to their new lives? It was David. He'd encountered so much of the same at that age and knew both Sarah and Caleb from their previous existences as helpful spirits.
I, myself, had to become used to the notion that education was ranging into different mediums with moving pictures and sounds, filmed performances either over airwaves to a television screen or displayed onto a white sheet from projecting strong light through a rotating stretch of celluloid. Some of what I had seen had confused me highly, but I was learning from it myself. It was like a sudden puppet theatre emerged from nowhere with flattened versions of real people and constant changes in angle of perspective. Maggie reminded me that the purpose for this was to keep the eyes active so they wouldn't feel lulled to move away from the shifting patterns of light.
"And you trust this?" I questioned her, apprehensively.
"Only because I understand how it works. Many people have no idea a form of hypnosis is even being used when it comes to this aspect of instruction."
Ever the wise one, my bride was.
And so it went that this method being introduced to the education of Caleb and Sarah, were film strips David found which were being used in a great many classrooms now. One film in particular opened with a carousel in which the riders became cartoon versions of themselves and their steeds that then jumped off and raced away from the contraption toward greenery and glorified sunset. Bizarre perhaps but I could recall storybooks of equally strange amusements. The basic concept was to encourage post-1960s gender neutrality, saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one's identity. Its major thematic message was that anyone—whether a boy or a girl—can achieve anything.
Considering what we all went through upon our undeniably spooky home, filled with potently differing individuals of all sort coming and going? I had to admit this children's entertainment project was very valid for my daughter's upbringing. And so I leave the lyrics of its theme as testimony to how we began Sarah's education for the second, more prosperous time.
There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live
In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be you and me
Every boy in this land grows to be his own man
In this land, every girl grows to be her own woman
Take my hand, come with me where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll run
To a land where the river runs free
To a land through the green country
To a land to a shining sea
To a land where the horses run free
To a land where the children are free
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be you and me
* French translation: "Are you awake?"
A/N:Please let me know what you enjoyed in the box below. If you loved this and wish you knew what to say? Say, "Thank you." That's all you have to do. ;)