Penitent 37

Two years later:

"He is yours," I laugh as I lay our one year old son in Edward's lap. "He's worse than his brothers for energy and high-jinxes."

"That's a lot to lay on one so small," Edward said, taking the ginger-haired baby from me. When I straightened from laying his son in his arms, he leaned forward to kiss my bulging stomach. Yes, I was pregnant again. Yes, I seemed to have nothing but twins, as did Kate, and the others who'd mated with humans. Always a boy and a girl, the perfect balance. We were hearty bearers of children. My love-making with Edward was robust and insatiable, the high-light of my existence, next to caring for the fruit of our rapture. And I continued to grow stronger, so strong I barely suffered the normal dilemmas of pregnancy. And now that our environment grew less stressful and dangerous, my energy went less into trying to stay alive and more into nurturing the children his frequent and enthusiastic love making gave me.

These new ones we called Tamara and Jamine. They were big for their ages, as if the rest my dear husband insisted I get each and every day now that we were in one place, and the food he spoiled me with, and the doting care, as if all of that goodness had resided in them and made them specimens of humanity.

As for Amuel and Zane, at two and a half years of age, they were more advanced than I could have imagined. Amuel was already learning to read. Zane's physical prowess was something to marvel at and fear. It was not uncommon to catch him scaling the walls of the church, both inside and out. He had no fear of heights…no fear of anything, but perhaps, his father, on the rare occasions that Edward showed displeasure, for his general attitude toward this son was uncommon patience, to the point where I had to sometimes step in and say, no. And no.

There were times Zane's temper got the best of him. Edward would take him then, for long times of togetherness when his father would hold him and sing to him. Zane loved these songs. He would study Edward's face with grave interest as he sang to him. Zane tried to learn all of the sounds, and though he was loud and often off-key, he sang with his father much of the time.

There was much to do. In our area, we worked constantly to renew it. Supplies were gathered and organized, and housed in several of the larger buildings. Corrupt buildings were torn down, and the building materials categorized and stacked. Foundations were filled in. Parks were being cultivated, and gardens. Within the ghost-like decay of our city, a circle of clean, organized life was emerging. Slowly the circle was widening.

Those who could not have children were the guardians, the aunts and uncles of our growing population. They helped in the raising and nurturing. In that way we were all parents.

The fallen had not died, but they no longer were a threat. Without a mother they were weak and scattered. We did not see them or feel their influence. We set an ever-changing guard around our mother. It was the highest honor to go into the depths and serve in her presence. By turns we prepared for it, and were sent there with ceremony.

How we loved her. Our source.

Edward calls to me, and I have to go now, to see the new thing, usually it has something to do with one of our babies. This time it is Amuel, perched on Father Charles' pulpit, swinging his legs and clapping his hands, loving the sound of his voice echoing as he yells words, which made sense. He is very articulate for one so young, and this pulpit draws him, nearly everyday he sits upon it and gives us his words. "Love.," he says in his small but strong voice, "love each other, be kind, be truthful, and have courage. Live for your brothers and sisters. Never forget the love of your mother. Take her love into the world. And grow strong under your father's protection. Until you are the father or mother. Until it is your time to lead…in love."

We laugh and clap with joy. Amuel spreads out his arms and laughs with us. He then starts to sing, one of the old songs from the far away world. His voice was so innocent and pure, it seemed to calm us and inspire us all at once. Others came from different rooms in the church, until there were forty of us or so, and still he sang, soon joined by his brother Zane who climbed easily to the high perch where his brother sang so openly. They put their arms around one another, as Edward's arm slid around me. My husband and I smiled at one another, as the sound of our sons singing about love and kindness filled our ears. Edward kissed me then, and I realized, we stood like this in the very pew I'd sat in those long years before, a girl, with a rag in her hand who saw the penitent go by on his knees, his arms open, his hands open, and it was then I knew…love.