War and Peace: Chapter One. Peace

All traces of the Starlight meal had been cleared away and the farmhouse set to rights. A lively fire crackled in the grate, the sweet smell of apple wood scenting the winter evening with memories of the year gone by. The home glowed with light from the old fashioned lamps placed around the room. Although the furniture was old these were no expensive antiques but comfortable country pieces, worn family pieces, smelling of beeswax and large squashy armchairs covered in handmade throws. Karen was seated in one of the largest of these, relaxing with her feet up on an overstuffed pouffe drinking in the peace of the night. The door opened with a squeak and Robin and Ruth came running out of the bathroom, bathed and ready for bed. Like two happy little puppies they swarmed over the arms of the chair and snuggled into her arms. With a smile she closed her book and hugged her seven-year-old twins close, breathing in that curious mixture of warm skin and baby powder.

" Kids, be careful, don't fuss your mother," Jack warned, gently as he took his jacket from the hook. " Come on now, bed."

" Aw, Dad," they both chorused. " Not yet, we want mummy." Two pairs of large blue eyes pleaded with him.

" It's O.K. Jack," Karen smiled up at him. " It's fine, a little longer won't hurt them."

" If you're sure love?"

"I'm sure." Karen hugged the twins closer.

" I'll be about half an hour, no longer," Jack assured her, " so be good."

" We will, daddy," Robin and Ruth promised.

As Jack left he could hear the twins begging for a story.

Karen sighed with contentment. These peaceful moments were moments she treasured. Anytime she spent with her children was special to Karen but, since September, these two now went to Mary's little school at the library during the week. With the babies in bed these moments with Robin and Ruth were now extra special.

"Story, mummy. Story."

" O.K. sweethearts, " Karen soothed them. " Sssh.. your brother and sisters are fast asleep. Now where shall we begin?"

" Tell us about the princess," Ruth begged.

" Alright, darling, where do we begin? Ah, yes. Once upon a time there was a very special princess, " Karen began as her twins snuggled ever closer. " and her name was Fionella."

" No, mummy, Marigold," Ruth corrected.

" Yes, you're quite right," Karen kissed her head," she was called Marigold. She was the only child of the King and Queen of the realm and she lived in a huge white castle. She was good and kind and beautiful but she was under a wicked spell that made her very, very unhappy."

" Was she as beautiful as you, mummy?" Robin asked.