It's been a while since I've written a Bedknobs and Broomsticks story, but since Mother's Day was just yesterday, I suddenly got inspired. This little one-shot plays on the fact that Eglantine has never been a mother before and now finds herself as surrogate mom to Charlie, Carrie, and Paul. However, when Mother's Day rolls around, they all find a way to come together as a family and heal old wounds.
I want to give a shout-out to ASianSuccessor2012, whose story "To Heal A Broken Heart" was an inspiration for this tale (particularly the part about Eglantine's mother dying when Eglantine was a little girl). Please check out her B&B stories when you can - she's quite a gifted writer! And, of course, this story goes out to all mothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, and mother figures who give their children all the love they can. Happy Mother's Day!
This day's every bit as unlucky for me as Friday the Thirteenth.
Eglantine Price had never been fond of Mother's Day. All right, that wasn't necessarily true. When her mother was still alive, Major Robert Price and his little girl had gone out of their way to honor the woman who gave them such joy and sacrificed so much for them – Camellia Price, his wife and Eglantine's mother. Eglantine had taken great pleasure in making little gifts for her mother, picking the most beautiful flowers from the nearby meadow, and relishing Camellia's delight when she received her presents. Camellia would always sweep Eglantine up in her arms, swing her around in a hug, and kiss her cheek, saying "I'm so lucky to have you, sweetling. You shine, my darling Eglantine, and I love you so."
Then came 1918, the year Eglantine turned eight. No sooner had the Great War ended than another, more deadly one broke out on home soil – the outbreak of the Spanish flu. Camellia contracted the disease and was soon confined to bed, with Eglantine, who miraculously was spared, trying her best to take care of her mother. Even with the help of Jessica Hobday, who had also managed to resist catching the disease, Eglantine was unable to help her mother get better, and Camellia slipped further and further away from them each day. Thankfully, Robert Price returned home from the war just in time to say his goodbyes to his wife, and give her one last kiss. Eglantine, through her tears, saw her mother smile, pat her cheek, and whisper the precious words for the final time: "I'm so lucky to have you. You shine, my darling Eglantine. I love you."
Even now, as she stared out the window at the setting sun, Eglantine felt tears trickle down her face. The pain of losing her mother still ached after all these years, especially on Mother's Day. After her mother's death, she was never able to celebrate it again – merely lay flowers on her mother's grave each year on the day. Although she was grateful to still have her father, who loved her fiercely, Eglantine wished her mother could have been there to guide her through the awkward, gawky teenage years, to tell her everything a woman needed to know... to give her advice on how to be a good mother.
Never in her life did Eglantine think that she would ever have children, much less want them. If she had children, what if she died like her mother did? Did she really want to put children of her own through the kind of pain that she herself had suffered? No, it was probably best if she never married, never bore children. But, as Camellia had always said, God had a sense of humor. Just last summer, her orderly spinster life had been disrupted by the arrival of three orphans from London – Charlie, Carrie, and Paul, with mischief in their eyes and imaginations as big as the great outdoors. Still bitter, Eglantine had made up her mind not to let them into her heart, to tolerate them as best she could, and the feeling seemed to be mutual on their part.
The good Lord's sense of humor and His love, however, were hard at work on Eglantine and the Rawlins children. It hadn't taken them long to discover that she was an apprentice witch, and she had bought their silence with a special spell – the magical bedknob that, when attached to the bed upstairs, would allow them to travel anywhere they wished. Despite the bit of blackmail involved, Eglantine had to admire their precociousness. These little moppets were street-smart and savvy enough to survive in a world that had obviously been cruel to them. Yet, it seemed as though all they yearned for was a home of their own and someone to care about them, love them, and Eglantine, having grown up without a mother for much of her life, could certainly relate to that. An odd bond had been forged between them when she gave them their magical gift, and that bond only deepened during their adventure through time and space. They helped her locate Emelius Browne, find the Substitutiary Locomotion spell, and fought alongside her in the "Battle of Pepperinge Eye," as it was privately called between them. When all was said and done, Eglantine had grown to love the children as strongly as if they were her own flesh and blood.
A smile chased Eglantine's tears away as she thought about the children – her children. Charlie, who had come a long way from the age of not believing, maturing from a slick little wiseacre into a strong, caring young man. Carrie, still a compassionate young lady with a beautiful heart. Little Paul, the bearer of the bedknob, so innocent and sweet, with a boundless imagination. These three, who had lost everything in their lives, including their parents and their homes, had been willing to give their lives to help her, and she had discovered that she was more than willing to do the same for them... because she loved them, as only a mother could.
Did they see her as their mother, though? Probably not. They no longer treated her like a cold stranger, which was a definite improvement over their first day in the house. She cooked their meals and made sure they went to school, helped them with their homework, and tucked them into bed – and kissed them goodnight, which they always returned with such grateful looks on their faces, it tugged at Eglantine's heartstrings. They had also, in the last few months, taken to hugging her periodically throughout the day, and Eglantine always returned these hugs, grateful for the affection they felt for her. However, they hadn't told her they loved her, nor had she told them the same – despite the strong maternal affection she felt for the children, she had felt in her heart that they needed to continue getting to know each other first, give each other time to heal. She didn't want to force Charlie, Carrie, and Paul to accept her as their new mother. She wanted them to accept her on their terms, when they felt it was time. No matter how badly I want that time to be now, today, of all days, she thought, resting in her favorite chair. Nobody's problems for me? That's not how I want it to be.
Eglantine was so lost in thought that she didn't hear the quiet footsteps creeping up behind her, nor the occasional "Shh!" from the three tiptoers in question. Only when she heard a loud shout of "SURPRISE!" did she snap out of her reverie – and scream loud enough to send Cosmic Creepers, the black cat, streaking upstairs, yowling and spitting in fright. Frightened out of her wits, Eglantine spun in her chair to behold Charlie, Carrie, and Paul, all of whom were laughing their bums off – and holding their hands behind their backs.
"Charles! Carrie! Paul, for heaven's sake! You scared the heart out of me!" Eglantine cried, holding a hand over said pounding heart, while Cosmic hissed in agreement from the upstairs landing.
Charlie made a show of looking around the drawing room. "I don't see it nowhere, Miss Price. Guess we didn't do a good job, then," he joked, grinning broadly the whole while.
"Oh, give over, Charlie!" Carrie said, turning to her guardian with a half-apologetic smile. "I'm sorry we scared you so bad, Miss Price. We just wanted to surprise you, it bein' Mother's Day and all."
Eglantine's fright vanished as quickly as it had come. Had she heard them right? "Mother's Day?"
"Yeah, Miss Price! Today's Mother's Day! Didn't you know that?" Paul piped up.
At last, Eglantine smiled. "Yes, Paul, I know today is Mother's Day. I'm just surprised because... well..." She spread her hands before her. "I didn't think you'd want to celebrate it with me. I'm not your mother, after all."
The three Rawlinses grinned at each other and then back at Eglantine. "Well, Miss Price," Charlie began, "We've been talkin' about this for a long time. We've been livin' 'ere goin' on a year, and we've gotten to know you pretty well, just like you've gotten to know us."
"You've taken care of us, tucked us into bed, kissed us goodnight..." continued Carrie.
"And taken us on some wicked adventures!" finished Paul, hopping up and down in excitement.
"So, we sat down last week, 'ad a good long talk, and we all decided we want you to be our mum." Charlie nodded to Carrie and Paul, and they all brought their hands back around, revealing flowers and wrapped gifts. "'Appy Mother's Day, Miss Price!" they chorused, beaming ear to ear.
For once in her life, Eglantine was speechless. And for the second time that day, tears sprang to her eyes, she was so touched by the children's admission. "I... I don't know what to say! You three!" She opened her arms and the children all but ran into them, not caring that their gifts were in danger of being squashed as their new mother hugged them tight. A melee of hugs and kisses followed for a good minute, until, overwhelmed with emotion, Eglantine wiped her eyes and released the children. "I love you all so much. You have no idea how long I've waited to hear you say you wanted me to be your mother, but I didn't want to push you. Let me tell you now, nothing would make me happier – save for having you as my children!"
"We love you too, Miss Price," Carrie said, her eyes widening on the last part. "Oops – would it be all right if we called you Mum now?"
"All right? My darling, do you even have to ask?"
"Yippee!" Paul gave a happy little leap, then held out his presents. "'Ere, Mum! These are for you!"
Eglantine took the gifts into her hands, savoring the feeling of being called Mum for the first time. "Why, Paul, they're lovely!" she exclaimed, examining the little bouquet of wildflowers. "Did you get these from the meadow down the road?"
"Yeah! We all did," Paul replied, as Carrie and Charlie handed her their bouquets as well.
"That's where I got flowers for my mother when I was your age. I'm so glad you found it. And what are these?" Eglantine took their wrapped presents and pulled off the paper, gasping in delight when she saw the necklace from Charlie, the earrings from Paul, and the tiara from Carrie – all made of seashells and sparkling crystals. "These are beautiful! Did you make these yourselves?"
"Sure did!" Carrie said proudly. "The last few times we've been to the Naboombu Lagoon, we all collected shells and crystals to make these for you. Mr. Codfish and 'is friends 'elped, o' course."
"We wasn't sure what to get you at first, but Mr. Codfish said maybe you'd like this stuff," Charlie explained. "'E said you looked like a mermaid when you danced in the Briny Ballroom, so 'e 'elped us make mermaid frillies for you."
Eglantine beamed at her children. "I've never had prettier." She made quick work of putting on the earrings and necklace, and held the tiara out to Carrie. "Since you gave this to me, sweetheart, would you do the honors?"
Giggling, Carrie slipped the tiara into Eglantine's strawberry-blonde hair. "I crown you Eglantine, 'Er Majesty the Mermaid Queen!"
"Give over, Carrie! 'Ow 'bout you just crown 'er our mum instead?" Charlie laughed.
"Or..." Eglantine's eyes were now glittering with joy. "How about we all hop on the bed and go to Naboombu Lagoon to enjoy ourselves? I want to celebrate this Mother's Day by having some fun with my children. What do you say?"
The house exploded in cheers and the children jumped up and down in glee; Eglantine had to restrain herself to keep from doing the same. "All right, everyone, let's go! Race you!" And with that, Eglantine, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul dashed up to the enchanted bed and soared away to Naboombu. On the way, Eglantine hugged her children close and told them exactly what her mother had told her long ago: "I'm so lucky to have you, sweetlings. You shine, my darlings, and I love you so." Silently, Eglantine thanked God for healing her heart and making her whole again – and for making her a mother to the three greatest blessings she ever received. Mother's Day was a wonderful day once again.