Author's Note: I have decided to add more to this story thanks to my reviewer, ConfusedColumbia26220's support. Thank you very much for your comment; it inspired me to finish this second half.
As for the rest of you: I've checked my reader traffic; I have readers, just not that many reviews! All I can say is, people, throw me a bone here! There's a little green button just beggin' to be pushed at the bottom of this page. All you have to do is say what you want to say about this story; I don't care what it is! Pleeease?
Part II: The Arrival
Yet another year passed by in that tiny village beneath the woods. The summer turned to fall, the trees shed their leaves before the winter's frosts came, and then the spring and summer returned once more. The forest birds sang their songs sweetly, the flowers bloomed, and at night, the long howls of wolves filled in the empty spaces of the woods.
Red and Jack had decided to stay around to help their parents for one more winter's hardship. They wanted the comfort and peace in their small group to last just a bit longer. By summer's end, they hoped to go out on their own and see the world, but they waited even longer for an important event to come. Cinderella was having a child.
It was a late summer's day when Cinderella had, according to Chip, fallen "ill with birth" and need not be disturbed by her other children, Chip sent Jack, Red, and his youngest son Thomas off into a nearby village to fetch supplies for the new member of the family when it arrived. All the children had to do was follow the straight path through the woods to market and be careful not to encounter any danger there. They had been through the wood before, but walking through the forest was never what it seemed.
"Do you think Mother will be alright, Red?" Jack asked his friend as they walked back through the portion of the woods that had their home.
"How should I know? I don't know much about babies," Red answered. "What do you think, little brother?"
"Mother'll be okay," answered eight-year-old Thomas.
Jack and Red smiled at each other and continued down the path, keeping their eyes peeled for any possible danger. A movement in the glade caught Jack's eye and he backed up with his younger brother to keep him out of harm's way while Red fingered her dagger. For all the children knew, a great beast could emerge from the nearby brushes to eat them, and they shuddered fearfully as the creature grew closer. Then, suddenly, a flock of birds emerged from the brush, twittering and fluttering about.
"Oh," Red said, and put away her dagger. "It's just birds."
"Mother's birds," Jack added. "What is it, little birds? Tell me the news."
Jack always had a strong connection to the animals. He quickly obtained Cinderella's skill of talking to the woodland birds. While he could not twitter like them, he understood their speech and they understood nearly everything he said as well.
"What's that? Mother? Father? What about the child?" He paused and listened to the birds twittering yet again. "Oh, I see."
"Enough small chirping, Jack. What did they say?" Red demanded.
"They say that the baby came all right. Mother pulled through strongly, but she's very tired. Father is busy taking care of them," he replied.
"So is it a boy or a girl?" Red asked.
"Brother or sister?" Thomas added.
"They won't say," Jack said with a smirk as the birds fled. "They're trying to be sneaky. Come on, though. We'd better get back."
"Brother's hungry," said Thomas.
"It could be a girl too, you know," said Red. "Milky White always has enough milk, so I don't think we'll have to worry about that."
"Well, are we just going to stay here?" Jack asked, running ahead of his siblings playfully. "Come on, I want to know."
"Wait for me!" cried their little brother.
"Oh Jack, will you ever grow up?" Red joked, laughing as she ran with her brothers. She caught up to Jack quickly and looked into his eyes.
Jack, noticing Red, looked away with a small blush and tried to run faster on his long, skinny legs. He could not let the beauty of Red distract him from meeting his new sibling. He had been thrilled about the child since his parents announced the news in the winter. He or she was a miracle upon the once accursed house.
The three children bolted toward the cabin and skidded to the door, banging on it with their fists. "Father! Mother!" they called inside frantically.
The door opened with a quick creak and their father stood in the doorway. "Shh! Children, please be quiet," Chip whispered. "We can't upset the child."
"Sorry," the three children answered synonymously.
The baker smiled at them. "Come inside, but quietly please." Then the baker led the children to the sleeping corner of the cabin. Cinderella was sitting down in her bed, humming faintly with a small bundle resting in her arms.
"Cinder, they're back," said the baker softly.
Cinderella looked up shortly with a tired grin. "Hello, my dears."
"Mother!" cried Thomas before being shushed by the other two. "Sorry."
"That's all right," Cinderella whispered. "Come close now. I'm sure you want to meet your sister."
"Yes! It is a girl!" chirped Red before coming to the bunk side with Jack and her little brother.
The three children peered cautiously at the bundle in their mother's arms. Beneath the bounds of the cheesecloth was the baby girl's tiny, pinkish-colored head. She was very small, and made little gurgling sounds every now and then as her head lolled from side to side. Her patch of hair, though only just beginning to grow, was strikingly dark brown, and her eyes were a newborn blue with just a hint of a brown color. If they had not known better, the children might have thought they were looking at Cinderella as an infant.
The baby neither slept nor was completely aware. Rather, she was in a state somewhere between, but she was very peaceful all the same.
The little boy pointed his finger slowly at her. "Hello sister," he said.
Jack and Red simply nodded, both somehow or other astounded at the sight of their new sister.
The baker stood behind the children proudly, keeping to himself as he too watched his newborn daughter moving about. Nobody said another word for a while after that. They just stared at the baby who was taking in her new family and their world; the world that was now hers to share as well.
At last, Red looked over to her father with a smile on her face. "You never told us what you would name her, father."
"Yes," began Jack, "-what is her name?"
The baker smiled faintly at Cinderella and their baby, receiving another promising smile back, before answering, "Joanna."
So began the life of little Joanna. Someday, she too would have a destiny that would surely lead her into the woods of life, but for that day, all she had to know was the love from the family she had found.
"Someone is on your side,
No one is alone."