I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.
This story is the second in a four part series of stories, which describe the visit of Uncle David Figalilly to his nieces in California. The theme of the series is "Promises." As always, the series explores relationships within families. This story focuses on the nature of promises and the complications that they can create, when too many promises are made that become at odds with one another.
Complications of Promises
Visits by relatives from far away can be stressful times. This is especially true when the visitor is a family member who has never met most of the family, comes from a different culture, and is coming to see how things are going after a big change. When Uncle David Figalilly came to visit his nieces Phoebe and Trelawney one year after they had settled in California, there had been many big changes in their lives. He was concerned by these changes and the fact that it was impossible to know what was really going on from a distance of thousands of miles away.
Information and news from the States had been confusing, between the differing reports of various relatives and the speed at which decisions and choices were being made there. Uncle David had not seen Phoebe in nearly two years, right before she began to work as nanny for Professor Harold Everett. These jobs tended to last a few months. She would come in, get the family settled, the father married off, and be on her way. In between jobs, she would try to stop off for a visit home. But this job was different.
She had already been with the family for a longer time than with any other. This in and of itself, was puzzling. The reasons that she had given for remaining with this particular family for so long indicated that something had changed within her. Several visiting relatives reported a most uncomfortable fact. She was claiming contentment. An added concern for her parents was that she had been away from home for so long. They all missed her, especially her younger sister, Trelawney. Sadly, she would never see her parents again.
Out of the blue, one beautiful morning, her cousin Emmeline, David's youngest daughter, brought word to her that her parents had been killed in a car wreck. At the same time, she brought her younger sister, who was grief-stricken and in need of her sister's companionship and comfort. Had all things worked out according to her parents' plan, they would have left immediately for England. Phoebe would have rejoined the family in their little village in Cornwall, England. Together, they would have grieved and she would have set about reconsidering her life and life's choices.
However, that very simple plan began to fall apart almost immediately. Phoebe was reluctant to leave right away, a red flag that her cousin missed or chose to ignore. Not wanting to add to her sadness, she had humored her. Before she knew it, Emmeline was caught in the middle of a conflict between Phoebe's emotional confusion about her feelings for the Everetts and her responsibilities to her younger sister and family. Emmeline sensed almost at once that there were feelings developing between Phoebe and the older, handsome professor, but from the beginning, it was the entire family that had wanted her to stay.
In the end the decision was made that Phoebe and her younger sister would live with the Everetts. She would remain Nanny and Trelawney would be a kind of sister to the three Everett children. Their love for each other would make them a family. Within months, Phoebe had recognized that her true love was for Hal Everett and she rejected the man to whom she had been betrothed since birth. The family back in England was only just getting used to this change, when she became married to him and shortly thereafter pregnant. She was very happy. They were very concerned.
Things did not go so well for her sister, who didn't quite fit in with American culture. She had suffered at the hands of the ex-fiancé several years before. This did not help her mental state, which was fragile at best. Highly sensitive and very intuitive she found American culture often materialistic and confusing. Trelawney was a simple child with simple needs. She wanted nothing more than to live with her sister, but the home situation was not working out as neatly as everyone had hoped. Fortunately, Hal's parents had relocated up the street and shortly after Christmas the girl moved in with them. They were now also her legal guardians.
Love her as they might, they could not fully understand her. She came from a different world and had an entirely different perspective on life. She also had rather powerful psychic abilities and a savant-like ability in music. Like many children her age, eleven years old, she was impulsive and had poor judgment. She loved her sister as she loved no one else. Her greatest fear was that they would be separated. Now that Phoebe was married, she was obviously not going to move back home to England. But Trelawney might be forced to.
The question was whether California was the right home for Trelawney. The child had a very simple measure of right and wrong. As long as she was with or very near her sister, she was in the right place. She loved her sister deeply and viewed their relationship as the most important in her life. However, David Figalilly felt that there was much more to the issue than proximity to her sister. Her safety and wellbeing needed to be assured as well.
Her troubles indicated that this might not be true. He decided that the only way to know for sure was to come himself and have a "look-see." He was a kind and caring man, whose responsibility for the wellbeing of both girls weighed heavy on him. He already felt that he might have failed Phoebe in this regard. He wanted to take no chances with Trelawney. He had promised his father to keep her safe, as her sister had promised to raise her. Under the present circumstances, it appeared that it was no longer possible to keep both of these promises. All of life's choices have ramifications.
Life in America
Catherine Everett, Hal's mother, was impressed by the time, effort, and care that Phoebe's uncle was putting into making the assessment of his younger niece's life. Uncle David had been visiting for two weeks and had made an every effort to get a real sense of both of his nieces' lives in the United States. He watched as Trelawney got on the bus each morning for school and got off in the afternoons. He sat with her while she had a snack before she did her homework, went down to Phoebe's, or went to an activity. The doctor had suggested that she join some physical activities to increase her appetite.
Not one for competitive sports, she decided to go to dance classes like Francine. It turned out that she was naturally graceful and quickly picked up the movement and technique of ballet. At her age it was possible to pass through the early levels of ballet quite rapidly. Thus she swiftly accelerated to Francine's level, to the delight of both girls. The level was challenging, since the classes were pre-pointe however this was good for her. In order to succeed and stay there with her friend she would have to get physically stronger.
Not to be left out, her other friend Sarah invited her to try a gymnastics class with her. Once again, her natural grace was very useful and she enjoyed learning the tricks. Catherine was concerned that she might get hurt, but the teacher assured her that she wasn't strong enough to do any of the moves that were really dangerous. However, the gymnastics would make her stronger and with the ballet classes would also help build muscle. As long as she was happy, Catherine was happy to enroll her and pay for the classes. Her appetite improved accordingly.
She was also still attending her Saturday morning theatre program. That Saturday, she and Francine had come running into the house fairly bursting with excitement. As his own theatre project before he left for college, Trelawney's friend Mike was being allowed to produce his own version of Tennessee William's "The Glass Menagerie." He had cast Francine as Amanda and Trelawney as Laura. The casting was a bit of genius.
Catherine could not imagine a girl more suited to the part of Laura than Trelawney. Francine might have to work at being a "faded, Southern belle," but she was an excellent actress and had a very overbearing mother. The relationship between the girls was close, and Francine was the dominant personality. She cared for the fragile girl socially in school and made her feel safe. She was glad that the news had come while Uncle David was there. It was a demonstration of one of Trelawney's successes in their world.
It did concern Uncle David that she was enrolled in a large public school where she needed protection by her girlfriends and Hal from some of the other students. He sensed that she really didn't fit in. He admitted that back home she had not had any girlfriends who were as close to her as Francine and Sarah. However, she also did not have any problems with teasing or bullying either. And he didn't like the fact that her English teacher, rather than encouraging her love of books, was frequently bothered by her observations. Catherine understood his concern, but didn't see what could be done about it.
Another thing that he noticed was that she did not really spend much time with Phoebe. Even though she went down to the house for dinner each night, he noticed that she spent most of her time there doing chores. He commented to Catherine that it was somewhat unfair that Trelawney was off doing laundry or cleaning while Prudence got to spend time alone with Phoebe. Since he didn't want to upset Phoebe, he asked Catherine for an explanation.
It wasn't easy for her to admit that Prudence had always demanded the lion's share of Phoebe's attention and Trelawney never complained. However, David had a point. Trelawney was ostensibly living here to be with Phoebe. Her heartfelt description of the rainbow at her parents' burial and God's promise that she be with her sister indicated that she wanted her time as well as her presence. She didn't seem to know how to get it.
A few days later, her grandson Hal came to her. In the past few weeks, he had been taking an extra interest in the girl and trying to unobtrusively support her. He had realized that the issue was about to come into focus.
"Grammy," he said. "Trelawney really wants to spend more time with Mom alone, she's sad that she doesn't. She told Sarah and Francine a while ago. They tried to get her to tell Mom but she doesn't want to worry her. I think that Uncle David isn't happy about that."
"What makes you say that?" asked Catherine, as her heart sank.
"He told me," replied Hal, bluntly. "He wanted to know why Trelawney never spent any time alone with Mom. He asked if this week was different because he was here. I didn't want to, but I figured I couldn't lie. I told him that this is the way that it always was. Trelawney came to the house every day but only got to talk to Mom at dinner. The rest of the time she's doing chores or Prudence was there with them."
"What did he say?"
"He said that talking at dinner didn't count since she hardly ever said anything. But he said something else that was kind of funny. He said that at dinner, she always looked at Mom like she was missing her," replied Hal. "He thinks that Mom is sad too because she doesn't ever get to be alone with her. He said that when Mom came home to visit her before she got married that they were always together. He thinks that since their parents have died that they need each other even more now."
"Oh," responded Catherine, who really didn't know what to say because she knew that it was all, true. "Did he say anything else?"
"No," answered Hal. "He just looked that he was thinking about a lot of stuff."
I'm sure he was, thought Catherine to herself. She was going to have to talk to her son. He had thought that getting Trelawney out of the house would help Phoebe, but now she wasn't so sure. He still had the advantage of Trelawney helping out with the chores, but if Phoebe was feeling the loss as much as Trelawney then things were going to have to change. She might have to put her own foot down about the girl doing chores that really weren't her own. It would be nice if she and Phoebe could have some time alone each day. It was not impossible. It might just take some creative scheduling.
She recalled that on the day of the anniversary of their parents' deaths, when Trelawney hadn't gone to school, that they had spent a lot of time both together and alone. They had both seemed happier for it. She thought back to the image of the child weeping in the graveyard for her sister. She doubted that her thought had been that the price of being near to her was that she would be living up the street and doing her stepchildren's chores.
Her son Hal was unhappy when she brought it up to him. Because of the child's unsettling nightmares and troubled talk, he had not been sorry when it was suggested that she move out of the house. He felt that she only disrupted their lives and upset her sister.
"Mother," he said. "Since neither of them is complaining, I don't see why we need to be borrowing trouble where there is none."
"Well, son," she replied. "You may find yourself with more trouble than you bargained for if David claims custody because in addition to not living with her sister, the girl actually spends no time alone with her. Your father and I take good care of her, but David and his wife could do the same. And she is their goddaughter. As for her not complaining, it's because she doesn't want to upset Phoebe. Hal knows that she told Sarah how she feels, but she refuses to say anything to Phoebe or anyone else. David was also asking Hal about it."
Hal stared off into space. Catherine suspected that there were times when he would be willing to send her back to her family in England. Now that they had met the person who would raise her and it was clear that he loved her very much it didn't seem like such a bad option any more, at least from his perspective. She knew that he wasn't thinking at all about how Phoebe would feel about it.
Absorbed as she was in her own child, Catherine knew that her next thoughts were of her sister, even before her stepchildren. Eleven years of family history with the young girl would not be erased by her marriage. And by talking with Phoebe about the little girl, she knew that their relationship was irreplaceable in her mind and heart. That was something that sooner or later Hal would have to come to grips with. As always, Hal was so busy with his work that he only saw what he wanted to see, unless it was pointed out to him.
"I suggest that you discuss it with your wife before her uncle brings it up," she added. "And don't wait for the 'perfect time.' Sometimes you have to have difficult conversations whether you want to or not. In this case, I'd say the sooner the better."
That night, Catherine decided that they would have dinner at home, just the four of them. Trelawney was more gregarious than she normally was without the other children at the table. After dinner, she sat and played piano for her uncle for a while. She had the time to since she had been able to get her homework done before dinner. She did chores when they went to Hal's house and had to do her homework later. When David asked her if she missed going to her sister's house, she said that she missed her Phoebe, but nothing else. As always, she was devastatingly honest.
Families and Feelings
Hal never liked it when his Mother interfered in his family business, but this time he realized that she had a point. As usual, he hadn't been paying attention to what was happening in his own house. When he came home in the evenings, he was happy that Phoebe was not worn out and the children were behaving themselves.
He was grateful for the help that his parents and Trelawney were giving Phoebe, but he had forgotten that part of that need came from the fact that two of his own children weren't pulling their weight as family members. Mother was right. It wasn't fair to Trelawney. He decided that he would speak to Phoebe first.
That night, after the children were in bed, they were sitting together in the living room. He had some reports to read for a meeting the next day and rather than sit at his desk, he decided to sit on the couch where Phoebe could sit beside him and knit or read. Tonight, she was curled up against him resting. After a while he put down his papers and took a deep breath.
"Honey," he asked. "Do you ever feel as if you don't get enough time with your sister?"
"All the time," she replied automatically, but then immediately amended. "It's very difficult to get enough time with those you love. We are all very busy."
"I know, but this is different," he said. "Trelawney is living here in the States because she wants to be with you. She's no longer living with us and it seems that when she comes over she never really spends time alone with you."
"That's true," admitted Phoebe. "But she is very determined to help me. These days she is more worried about the baby than she is about herself."
"That's because she's like you," said Hal, fondly. "She has a very loving heart. She puts others ahead of herself. But I would like to see her happy."
"Do you think that she would be happier if she and I spent more time alone together?" Phoebe asked, hopefully.
"Yes, I do," he replied, not missing her tone. "And truth be told, I think that you would be happier too. The anniversary was certainly a very sad day for both of you, but you spent a lot of time alone together. You had a lot of time to talk and share that you don't usually get."
"That's true," she said. "Of the four children I spend the most time alone with Prudence. That's primarily because she is the most needy."
"Or because she expresses her needs the most strongly," he corrected. "In her own way Trelawney is just as needy. Why do you think that she plays so many pranks? I think that she has settled down recently because she wants to give you the space to focus on Maisie. Remember that she told Uncle David that babies should come first with their Mums. But there is also the matter of her own custody as outlined in the will. If you are not able to raise her, she is supposed to live with Uncle David."
"Well, your father was right when he said that I didn't read the will carefully enough. I admit that I didn't read it at all. When the estate lawyer here explained it to me, most of it was about the property and finances. To be perfectly honest, I didn't want to think about that then. I just assumed that my parents' wish that she live with me would be honored," she agreed.
"In fact," she added. "I didn't even realize that my parents had made arrangements for secondary guardians. That was put into a codicil a little more than a year ago. If she isn't living with us and I spend no time with her it is hard to argue that I am really raising her. In that case, Uncle David has legitimate grounds for challenging me in court."
"How do you feel about that?" asked Hal, carefully.
"Frightened," she said. "If she goes back to England now, then our lives will diverge to the point where we will lose all sense of closeness. She will never know Maisie or our other children, unless we go back to visit. And it is too expensive to do that very often. I doubt that once back in the village the family will allow her to leave again, and certainly not to visit me. The thought that I may lose her completely like that terrifies me. It may seem selfish but I really want to keep her living close by, even though the present circumstances are, well, far from ideal."
"How would Trelawney react to a separation?" he asked, becoming uncomfortable with the mention of the phrase "far from ideal." It implied that she really wasn't happy with the present arrangement.
"That is what scares me the most. If she panicked, she might do something potentially harmful to herself," she replied quietly. "If her friends knew, they would protect her. But if she were really determined then she wouldn't let them know. When she stopped eating last year she was very clever about it. We only knew because the girls noticed and told Mike and he told his mother."
"Dad and Mother are very concerned," said Hal. "The lawyer that Dad spoke to is reviewing the will and checking it against English common law, which is not the same as American case law. He said that in an American court we would be hard pressed to argue that you were raising your sister. The fact that you have married, have three stepchildren, and are pregnant with another means that you probably don't have the home situation that your parents envisioned when they named you guardian."
Phoebe was silent. Hal could see that she agreed, but didn't want to admit it. She did not want to face the present circumstances and their potential implications any more than he did. He decided to be more blunt.
"Phoebe," he said gently. "We've talked about how Trelawney would feel about a separation, but how would you feel?"
She refused to look at him. He realized that she was fearful of his reaction. She always wished to avoid confrontation at all costs.
"Tell me the truth," he urged. "We need to talk honestly about this. Don't think about my feelings or the children's feelings. Think about your own feelings. If Uncle David challenged you for custody and won, how would you feel?"
"I would feel as if a part of my heart were ripped out," she replied bleakly. "I have for all intents and purposes broken most of the ties with my family. Trelawney is my last real link with my parents and my home. It would not only be that I was failing her. I would be failing my parents as well.
"Aside from that, I have always loved her very dearly. In fact I went home as often as I did when I was traveling mostly to see her. My parents understood the wandering nature of some of the Figalillys, but she did not. She has always been the child that was my own to love. The others were all borrowed. Now of course that has changed, but my relationship with her is still unique. We are so close in spirit that we understand each other as no one else can. We are very much a part of each other. I do not wish to lose that. It would almost be like losing a part of myself."
Hal watched her face closely and could see the tears forming in her eyes. These weren't the tears of an emotional pregnant woman. These were the tears of someone, who had known great heartache. And was fearful of more. He recalled the image of the two sisters sitting in the sunlight smiling at each other on the day of the anniversary. The bond between them was really incomprehensible to him. He had never felt that way about either of his brothers.
"Well," said Hal. "I don't want you to have to suffer like that. Things are going to have to change. Mother is planning on telling her that she may no longer do chores when she comes here in the afternoon. Mother also wants to make sure that you two have time together that does not include Prudence or the boys."
Phoebe looked worried. Hal could see that she was now thinking about how his children, mostly Prudence, would feel about it.
"Honey," he admitted. "I've been selfish. In fact we've all been selfish. We forgot that if she hadn't been willing to share you with all of us in the first place, you would have left a year ago. She is difficult, but so are my three. She's had a much tougher row to hoe. Things have not worked out the way that we thought they would and she is the one who has suffered the most for it. But now I am starting to realize that you have been feeling it as well."
"I'm glad that you realize that," she replied. "Sometimes I have been afraid to mention it because she can be so difficult. She doesn't mean to be trouble. She really doesn't mean to be anything. She is too simple to be anything other than who is she. That is why she struggles so much. That is why she needs to be kept safe."
"I'm ashamed to say that the person who really saw it first was Hal," he answered. "He told Mother that she was sad because she couldn't spend time with you, but Trelawney didn't want to tell you herself because she didn't want to upset you. It's one of the reasons why he has been so short-tempered with Butch and Prudence recently whenever Butch teases her or Prudence starts whining. He not only wants to protect her at school but at home as well. If he feels that she needs protection at home then there is clearly something wrong here."
"I didn't know that that was the reason," she replied. "I thought that he would be happy when she left the house. Although even before she left, their bickering had really diminished a good deal. He's grown up a lot, hasn't he?"
"Yes, he has. I'm very proud of the way that he is turning out. I suspect that he is a lot more sensitive than the average thirteen-year-old boy."
"I'm sure that you are right," she said thoughtfully. "Maybe if we talk to him, he can help us come up with a solution."
"It wouldn't surprise me if he did," said Hal, albeit doubtfully. If Hal had thought of a solution he was sure that he would have suggested it by now.
Rob Everett was one of those men who said little but observed a lot. He recognized that David was the same kind of man. Since arriving, he had spent time with both of his nieces. He had both visited with Phoebe and spent time in her home during her daily routine. She was clearly content as a wife and mother and overjoyed at the idea of having her own child in six months to love and care for. The household was busy, but she was able to manage it.
Trelawney was putting her best face on everything. She seemed like a very normal little girl with friends and school and activities. He and Catherine were giving her the time and care that she had missed when living with her sister. Her mother's dog that David had brought was now an added benefit. However, if the reason she was living in the States was to fulfill her parents' wish that Phoebe raise her, then that was not presently happening, nor was it likely to happen. And he knew now that Trelawney wanted more time with her sister.
The pathos of her story of the rainbow in the graveyard was deeply affecting. What was saddest to him was that he was not that sure that God had kept the promise that she would "be with her Phoebe." Because Trelawney clearly believed that He had, Rob knew that it would be a shock to her if David decided to fight for custody and take her away. His own lawyer told him that unless the arrangements changed, that was very likely to happen.
If Trelawney were a couple of years older then she would have a far greater say in where she lived. As it stood now, the court would decide. Since technically speaking, he and Catherine were not family, it was the Figalilly family that had the stronger claim. It did not matter which court heard the case. It was a point of law where American case law and English common law converged. If Phoebe could not raise her, under the conditions set forth by the will, she had no right to give her custody to a third party. Her parents had clearly designated David and his wife as guardians.
He believed that if the only person they were dealing with was David then they could probably work something out. However, there were other family members who might feel differently. So far, no one had been able to figure out where his wife Anna stood on the matter. He knew that David would take no legal steps until he returned home. No doubt, he would want to take the time to consider all the information he was gathering carefully and consult with the family before taking legal action. That gave them some time to work out some solutions.
Thankfully, Hal and Phoebe had finally taken a stand with the younger children and insisted that they do the chores assigned without complaint. Trelawney and her friends were no longer going to do the work for them. Catherine would still go down to cook the occasional meal for them and at those times they would all eat together, but Trelawney was going to have time alone with her sister. Prudence objected to this strenuously saying that now that she had a Mommy she wanted her all the time.
At last, Phoebe worked up the courage to let her know that Trelawney was very special to her. As her sister, they shared memories that no one else understood. Sometimes they needed to be alone. To make things easier, it was decided that sometimes Phoebe would come to their house alone. That would ensure that they had the privacy that they needed.
Rob was hoping that more time with her sister would help to lift some of Trelawney's underlying melancholy. When they told Trelawney about the new plan she did not have a big emotional response. However she glowed with an inner joy. There were very few things that they could have told her that would have made her happier. She still wanted to help with chores, but Catherine stood her ground. Trelawney had her own chores to do. Butch and Prudence needed to carry their own weight.
Having grown up in a large family herself Catherine knew that it was not uncommon for the older siblings to help raise the younger ones. That was just a part of being in a large family. However it also meant that the younger siblings often got away without doing a lot of the work that their older brothers and sisters were doing. When she had gone off to boarding school her mother had felt the difference right away and had the devil of a time getting her younger sisters to do the chores that she had done. She had no sympathy for Prudence.
Catherine was pleased because there were no emotional issues with Trelawney going on at this time. She was very happy that the dog was there. The girl had been concerned that she might be lonely when she went to school, however it turned out that Elspeth and Waldo became very good friends.
Waldo (according to Trelawney) showed her around the neighborhood including where his territory extended and which spots to avoid. There was a bit of jealousy on the part of Fifi, who was Francine's dog, but Waldo was happier. He didn't like Fifi anyway. He and Elspeth were both British Isle breeds. Even though he had been born and raised in the States, they still understood each other.
One night at dinner, Trelawney just went on and on about the dogs and their adventures in the neighborhood. David listened to her with interest. He seemed to think that it was perfectly normal that she could talk to the dogs and relay the little dramas of their day. Taking their cues from him, she and Rob also gave her imaginings the same serious attention.
She didn't talk much about school unless directly asked, but she also went on and on about her friends and her activities. She was actually more outgoing than Catherine had ever known her to be but she and Rob agreed that that was something that they should never mention.
Church was a little tricky, because David assumed that it was Pastor Paul who was helping Trelawney through her troubles, as her pastor at home had done. Fortunately, Rob was able to warn Pastor Paul to play along, which he did. Trelawney was very careful to suggest without lying what their relationship was. No one else even thought to bring up Pastor Jason by name. Luckily, Emmeline who knew him had never mentioned him by name to her father.
There was also some excitement during the first week because when Phoebe went to the doctor she was able to hear the baby's heartbeat. Hal took the day off and went with her. They returned home fairly bursting with excitement.
"The doctor says that everything is going splendidly," said Phoebe. "It was so marvelous to hear that little whoosh, whoosh through the stethoscope. I hadn't realized that the heartbeat would be so fast."
"Well, Phoebe," said David. "I'm glad to hear that you're so well. Everyone back home will be thrilled. You know that we all do think about you, don't you, girl? We're all praying for you and the little one. No chance of twins though? You know they do run in the family."
"No, Uncle David," she answered. "The doctor thought maybe, because I'm a little bigger than average and have had the very bad morning sickness. But he only heard the one heartbeat. I'll be happy with one healthy little girl."
Catherine held breath. Phoebe had slipped by mentioning the sex of the child. But Uncle David didn't seem to notice.
"So you're wanting a girl then?" he said, smiling. "Well, I know you'd be happy with a boy as well, but I'm supposing that you'd be thinking of naming a girl for your Mum."
"Yes, I am," replied Phoebe smoothly. "If I get my little girl, she'll be Margaret Mary. I'm afraid that we haven't even thought of a boy's name."
"Well," said Hal, with a smile. "I don't think that that would really be too hard. If a girl is named for your mother, there's no reason why we wouldn't name a boy for your father. I know you really want that girl though."
"And if it's a boy?" asked Rob, playing along.
"Well, then I'll guess that we'll have to keep trying until Phoebe gets her girl."
"Easy for you to say, nephew," commented David. "You don't have to carry the little one for nine months."
"I will take as many children as God gives me," said Phoebe, with a look of joy and serenity.
Nobody said it, but they all were thinking about how Phoebe's mother had wanted more children but had only had the two girls. David had told them that it had taken Meg a while before she got pregnant with Phoebe. It was one of the reasons why he had married Meg's sister Anna. By the time Trelawney came along, like Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, she had given up hope. But Owen hadn't. He had always believed that one day he would take the cradle out again. In this case it was the father who had had faith in God's promise.
But things could not always go perfectly. On Thursday of the second week, Aunt Henrietta called inviting herself to dinner the next night. Catherine immediately made an executive decision. Trelawney was not going to be present. She called Janet Tucker right away to ask her to invite Trelawney for a sleepover. When Janet heard that it was to get her away from Aunt Henrietta she agreed immediately.
"I don't know what it is that that crazy old bat has against her," said Janet. "But here and there she keeps dropping little predictions of doom for Phoebe and the baby if the poor child doesn't go back to England."
"Well, crazy is just about all that you can call her at this point," said Catherine grimly. "She even had the nerve to walk into my house, uninvited, the day of the anniversary and make that very prediction. Both girls were upset enough and then she came in and made everything worse. I wouldn't let her in my house again, except that their uncle is in town and plans to take her to task for upsetting Phoebe while she's pregnant."
"It's about time someone did. Sarah told us that Uncle David was in town. Trelawney is very happy to have him here. She knows that he could contest her custody, but since he is her Papa's good brother, she doesn't think that he'll do it," she replied.
"Well, she could be wrong about that," said Catherine. "I don't think that he'll say anything before he leaves. However once he returns home, the family may decide otherwise."
There was silence at the other end of the line.
"Catherine," said Janet. "I think that you should know that Trelawney told Sarah and Francine that she will never leave Phoebe. They are afraid that she will hurt herself if you lose custody. I've talked to your neighbor Mrs. Fowler and she said that there was similar concern last summer when that ex-fiancé showed up, and even later on when the aunts visited. But Hal didn't want to hear about it then. I'm hoping that you will now."
"Janet," replied Catherine sincerely. "Thank you for telling me. This just confirmed what I suspected. I don't dare tell Phoebe or Hal because they are very happy right now. Last week when they went to the doctor they heard the baby's heartbeat."
"Oh, how exciting!" said Janet. "Especially for Phoebe since this is her first child. You know when the time gets closer I'd really like to throw her a baby shower."
"That's so kind of you!" said Catherine. "Helen got rid of all the baby things after she got sick, but I don't think that Phoebe would want them anyway. Aside from being seven years old, she should have her own things."
"Of course," agreed Janet. "Well, I'll have to run. Just have Trelawney bring her overnight things to gymnastics and I'll pick up the girls. If you want, I'll drive her to the community theatre on Saturday morning."
"That would be great!" said Catherine. "Thanks again for helping us out. I just can't bear the thought of Trelawney anywhere near Aunt Henrietta again."
"Don't worry about it," replied Janet. " She's a sweet little girl. We never mind having her around."
Catherine hung up the phone, relieved. She was truly thankful that the girl would be out of the house and with such a lovely family tomorrow night. In addition to Sarah, Topher would be there to play her knight in shining armor. She was amazed by the way that Trelawney had dropped all that kind of talk since Uncle David had come. It was funny, but she actually missed it. It was a part of her charm and her uniqueness. She was certain that she would start it up again once he left. She wondered if she would keep talking to the dog.
Phoebe was grateful that Catherine had arranged for Trelawney to be at Tuckers on the night of Aunt Henrietta's visit. She wanted no more contact between her sister and her aunt. The child had been happy all week. Things had been going well and they had even worked through the problem of spending time alone with her that she had when Trelawney had very cooperatively left the house a month ago. What no one had known was that in fact she and Trelawney had spent more time alone together than anyone had realized while she was living in the house.
On those nights when Hal worked late at the end of the semester, rather than miss him alone, she had gone down the hall to her sister's room. Once she had moved out of Prudence's room, Phoebe could sit on her bed with her and they would talk the way that they had when Phoebe used to come home to visit and they shared a room. During those times they had often stayed up, talking together after their parents had gone to bed. It was another one of their secrets. It had only been natural for them to continue to keep it a secret. Phoebe was afraid that if Prudence knew that she would want to join them.
After her sister moved out she sometimes went into the room to sit alone. Hal thought it was because it would soon be the nursery. It was difficult to explain to people that the child occupied a place in her heart that no one else ever would. No matter how many children she should have, there would always be that one corner for her little Trelawney. If she ever lost her, it would leave an empty space, a hole in her heart and soul. She was unable to convey this effectively to Hal. Because of who Trelawney was, Hal would never meet another child like her. Unless of course it would one day be one of his own children.
On the night of the dinner, Aunt Henrietta showed up late. It was necessary so that she might create a more dramatic entrance. However it was also wasted on Uncle David who was just as sanguine about her as Emmeline was. She was immediately disappointed to discover that her younger niece was missing.
"Why, Phoebe, dear," she said grandly. "What possible social engagement could have been more important than dinner with the family?"
"Just about any," mumbled her son Hal under his breath.
Aunt Henrietta gave him a withering look. When she turned to Uncle David, he rolled his eyes and Prudence giggled. Butch clapped his hand over her mouth before Aunt Henrietta could notice. The children had all been warned to be on their best behavior and not cause any trouble with her Auntie. It was clearly not going to be a fun night.
"Well, I think that it's nice that the wee one has a friend or two," commented Uncle David. "This girl Sarah is quite a lovely Christian girl, as kind and thoughtful as any that I've ever met. I would say that our Trelawney were lucky to have such a friend."
"Well! I am sure that my sister would never have permitted such a breach of etiquette," she replied haughtily. "You see, Phoebe, this is what happens when you hand over your sister to be raised by these people. They cannot give her the firm upbringing that she needs."
Phoebe felt distressed by the thoughtless remark. It hurt to have Catherine compared to her mother in this way. But Aunt Henrietta was determined to get into things right away. She knew Uncle David well enough to know that he never made snap judgments, nor that he would take any action without consultation with the whole family. She suspected that her aunt was trying to push him into making a decision now, perhaps even returning home with the girl when he left in a week; the very thought of it made her anxious.
Fortunately Uncle David discerned her rising anxiety and set her mind to rest at once.
"Henrietta," he said reasonably. "I know that you've got many opinions that you need to express to me, however I am relying on my own observations for the moment. Before I leave, I will certainly meet with you so that you can fill me in on what has happened in the last three months before I came, but for now why don't we try to keep things cordial, eh?"
Aunt Henrietta looked disgruntled, but couldn't argue. Phoebe was happy when Catherine called them into dinner. Talk at dinner was mostly about the baby, a topic that always made Phoebe very happy. That day, the cradle had arrived and Rob had insisted on putting it together in Hal and Phoebe's bedroom. Surprisingly Prudence had objected. She was still grumbling at dinner. Uncle David tried to explain it to her.
"Love," he said patiently. "A tiny infant needs to be near her mother so that she can feed frequently. When they are so small they need to nurse quite often to get what they need to grow."
"But why can't Mommy just bring the bottle to the nursery?" she complained.
It was Uncle David's turn to look surprised.
"Phoebe," he said. "You weren't planning on bottle feeding, were you?"
"Well, we haven't discussed it," she said. "But no, I'm planning to nurse."
"Uh, oh," said Butch. "Why do I think that this is going to be gross?"
"Why young man," answered Uncle David. "There is nothing gross . . . did you say? . . . about a child nursing at her mother's breast. In fact it's one of the most beautiful sights in the world."
Phoebe was amused to see the family's reaction. Even her husband looked surprised. She knew that practice was not so nearly as common in the States or cities as it was back home, but it was an assumption that she had always taken for granted. She knew that nursing the child herself would be much healthier for her than any formula that she could buy. She also knew of the strong bonds that developed between nursing mothers and their infants. It was one of those aspects of motherhood that she was most looking forward to. However her amusement turned to consternation at Aunt Henrietta's next remarks.
"Well, of course," she said dramatically. "That does presume that you heed my advice regarding certain issues involving the one not present."
"What issues?" asked Prudence, puzzled.
"Nothing," interjected Rob immediately. "Aunt Henrietta, I have told you before to desist from the fortune-telling in my home."
"I am not 'fortune-telling,'" she replied, insulted at the mere thought. "However I have had some very specific warnings."
"From Waldo?" muttered young Hal, remembering an incident during a séance at home when Waldo inadvertently "interfered" with her psychic connection by getting tangled on her scarf. It had been a family joke for weeks after.
"Young man!" she chastised. "You must learn to have more respect for those older and more knowledgeable than you."
Butch rolled his eyes and Prudence giggled. Phoebe could see that the other adults were having difficulty controlling themselves, but not Rob. He was deadly serious.
"Call it anything you like," he said sternly. "Just don't do it in my house."
Phoebe was relieved that Rob was being firm. She also knew that it was important for Uncle David to see that he was master in his own house. It would give him more reason to respect his judgment and gravitas. They had managed to get two thirds through the visit without incident and it was obvious that Aunt Henrietta was there to create one.
Because of the fact that Trelawney wasn't there, she had hoped that dinner would be amicable. But it seemed that Auntie was determined to bring her into the conversation anyway. She looked around at the three children who were very curious about all of this. No one had told them about the warning on the anniversary. It was still painful for her to think about. Quite frankly, she didn't really want to think about it. Unfortunately, Butch, of all people, managed to connect the dots on his own.
"Are you saying that Trelawney is going to hurt the baby?" he asked in his usual forthright manner. There was dead silence at the table as everyone looked at Aunt Henrietta.
"Excuse me, please," Phoebe said, and got up and left the table before anyone could say anything. She had had enough for one night.
Not knowing where else to go, she went upstairs to Trelawney's room. The carton with the dollhouse was waiting to be unpacked. She had promised that she would help her do that this weekend. The doll, Tessa, was sitting on the bed and Elspeth was curled up next to her. When she entered, the dog lifted her head and gave a short bark of greeting. Absentmindedly she scratched her head, picked up the doll, and sat down with it in the rocking chair. She closed her eyes and rested her head back.
She wondered why everyone just couldn't leave them alone. She and Trelawney, more than anyone else, knew that their parents had not intended the situation to turn out this way. They thought that in time she would marry Cholmondeley and return to the village to raise her own family. If anything happened to them, Trelawney would come to live with them there. But that situation had been made impossible even before they had died. Seeing Trelawney's disturbed mind when she met him again, the family would have figured it out and that would have been the end of Cholmondeley.
But how were any of them to have known that her employer Hal Everett was a husband or lover of hers from a past life or lives? It was against all the rules that when he decided to grab her under the mistletoe that she, in a moment of weakness, would have permitted him the kiss that had unlocked that knowledge. But it had also opened up this wonderful life of family and motherhood to her. She wouldn't trade that for anything. Her sister, with her simple, romantic perspective on life had never been anything but supportive and loving of her marriage, even if it was to an outsider.
Now they were here, she and Trelawney, in this place. And because of circumstances beyond either of their control, they could be separated forever. She recalled the sound of her child's heartbeat and she thought of the times that she had fallen asleep in the same room as her sister slept. Then she had fallen asleep to the even rhythm of her breathing. It was odd how Maisie and Trelawney were so interlinked in her mind and heart.
Aunt Henrietta was doing her best to convince her that she must choose between them, her daughter and her sister. She was determined to prove that Trelawney was a danger to Maisie. In her heart, she knew that this was not true . . .
A voice broke into her thoughts and she saw Uncle David standing before her. His face looked kindly and concerned.
"Are you feeling all right, love?" he asked, with genuine feeling.
"Physically, I am tired," she replied, honestly. "But I feel as if my heart was breaking. I can't bear to be in the same room with Auntie anymore. In fact, at this moment I really don't want to be with anyone but my sister."
"Is that why you came up here?" he asked gently, as he sat down on the bed.
"Yes," she said wearily. "I feel her presence here. I am glad that she is at her friend's house and away from Aunt Henrietta, but I still miss her. And I miss Mum and Papa. I miss my little family. My heart hurts. Uncle David, please don't take my baby sister away from me."
She felt like she was begging. He could not know how she felt. Figalillys always had large families. She could think of no other family with only two siblings except for Christabel's and she would surely be having more. But what their little family lacked in numbers they made up for in intensity.
She could see that her uncle was discerning her feelings, even as she was discerning his. Their ability to understand each other on this level gave them a measure of honesty unknown to others outside their kind. She knew that he was torn also. His love for her father, his brother, was very deep. But he knew that it did not come near the feelings shared by her sister and herself. Unlike the Everetts, he was capable of truly understanding their connection.
"I can't make you any promises, niece," he said. "The decision is not entirely mine. But even if it were entirely mine, I could still make you no promises. I know that you don't entirely trust me. I know that you are carrying a little girl and she'll be named for your Mum. I've known it from the moment I first saw you. I was hoping that you would tell me yourself. It saddens me greatly that you no longer trust me, even with such joyful news. You know that Trelawney does."
"Trelawney is a little fey," she replied. "We all know that. She either trusts or does not trust. The world is very simple to her. If you try and take her away, she will . . . not go willingly."
"I know that, dear," he said. "That's what is tearing me apart. The child will try to destroy herself before she will leave you. I can't let that happen. But I am very fearful that she is not safe in any case."
He stared off into space.
"Uncle, has anyone been able to see any glimpse of her destiny yet?" she asked without much hope.
"Those such as her never have a clear destiny," he said sadly. "Their minds are too simple. It's almost like trying to read palm of a hand with no lines on it. She is very fragile. Even those who try to protect her could destroy her."
"Do you mean me?"
"And me," he admitted. "My heart wants to keep her here with you, for your sake even more than her own. Contrary to Henrietta, I do not believe she is a danger to you. My sense is that you need her. And your child needs her."
"Please, uncle . . ."
"No, Phoebe," he interrupted. "Please don't ask. My visit isn't over. There is still time. And there is still much talking to be done at home. You may even have more visitors."
Phoebe leaned back in the chair and clutched the doll. The mere thought of more family members coming to evaluate them and pass judgment on their lives was exhausting. With a little bark, Elspeth came beside her and took up a position of guarding her. Uncle David regretfully stood up. Then he stopped, as if to say something, but instead turned and left in silence. Alone Phoebe let the tears flow.
She did not know what was said after Uncle David went downstairs. After a while, Hal came up to tell her that it was time to go home. Reluctantly, she stood up and placed the doll back on the bed. Elspeth also stood up, jumped back up on the bed, and curled up next to the doll. For a few moments she allowed Hal to envelop her in his warm embrace. But even that was no comfort. She and the dog looked at each other and wordlessly communication passed between them. Elspeth promised to stay close by Trelawney. At least she could count on the dog.
When they went downstairs, Catherine took her hands and looked in her eyes. Phoebe saw that her eyes were full of love and caring. But she no longer knew what to say. Perhaps she was too tired. Catherine understood and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Turning to her son, she said meaningfully, "Take care of them."
Hal nodded and put his arm around her. It was silent walk home. For once there was no fighting. There wasn't even any tattling about what had been said after she left the table. The children must have all realized that she didn't care.
While Hal got the kids ready for bed, she got herself ready. The kids came in to say good night and they each hugged and kissed her quietly. When they were finally settled, Hal came in and got ready. He wordlessly got into bed and opened his arms. After she had nestled herself in his embrace she could feel him willing his strength and love into her. That was what she needed most. More than anything, her mind and heart needed that spiritual affirmation that no words or physical intimacy could express.
Finally at peace for the night, feeling safe and protected once more, she drifted off to sleep. In dreams she saw two girls with long blonde hair and sky blue eyes holding hands in a meadow filled with buttercups. They were looking at her and smiling. It was
Trelawney and Maisie. They were safe and happy, together.
Rob had found Aunt Henrietta's visit more disturbing than he cared to admit. He was glad that Catherine had been wise enough to get the child out of the house. He wished that they could have done the same for Phoebe. Aunt Henrietta had made very quick work of upsetting her and getting her to leave the room. He knew that she viewed it as proof that Trelawney was potentially harmful to her child.
He could see that David was also very upset when he saw Phoebe's reaction to Aunt Henrietta's allusion to her own prediction of doom for her child if Trelawney stayed near her. It was this kind of talk that might jeopardize the life of the unborn child. She was a family member of sorts, but she was not his blood relation. Through her sister, she was related to the girls. Yet as the male relative who held the greatest degree of control over the two sisters, he had every right to shut her down. In addition to controlling them, he was their protector, at least in these family matters.
"What kind of nonsense are you talking about now, Henrietta?" he asked with more than a trace of annoyance in his voice, once Phoebe was put of earshot.
"Why, David," she replied imperiously. "Rosalie has come to me rather often with a message from Meg and Owen letting me know that there were potential dangers if the child remains here."
"Were those dangers specifically related to the baby?" he asked. "As I understand it, you were making these kinds of statements before you even knew that Phoebe was with child."
Aunt Henrietta was silent because she knew that this was true. In fact she had been the last to know about Phoebe's pregnancy. She had learned of it from Mrs. Fowler so she had been able to announce her knowledge before anyone in the family told her. She had tried to cover herself but it wasn't easy. By the time she made her pronouncement, half the town knew.
Rob would have been amused but he suspected that she wasn't done with her meddling. Her next statement proved that she wasn't.
"Rosalie has refined her knowledge as time has gone by. First she said there was a danger to a third party. Then she said to send the little lamb, Phoebe's secret name for the child, home. It was only recently that she put the statements together," she insisted. "And they come directly from Meg and Owen."
"And if you keep this up," replied David logically. "I have no doubt that the stress of it will affect Phoebe and her child. These kinds of prophecies can be self-fulfilling you know."
Rob was now enjoying the exchange. It was obvious that David saw her as the same fraud that everyone else did. If Trelawney had tried to say something like that no doubt Aunt Henrietta would have boxed her ears. She had no such recourse with the scion of the Figalilly family.
Not having an answer to his challenge, Aunt Henrietta flounced out of the house. As she left she was muttering about the other side of the family and how they couldn't possibly desire to protect their niece as she did. When she was out the door, Rob could feel himself breathe a sigh of relief.
"I agree," said David. "Now I must go up to see my niece and try to reassure her of my intentions toward the child."
After he left the room, Catherine told the kids that they were going to help her clean up. Their father and grandfather had important business to discuss in the living room, privately. The children had been subdued by what they had just seen and heard and were concerned because Phoebe had left the room. Even Butch did not complain.
The Men Talk
"Hal, I think that you and I need to talk with David," said his father, when they were alone. "We need to figure out a way to help Phoebe get some peace of mind and keep Aunt Henrietta away."
"I don't see how we can do that," he answered. "I think that our last conversation with her proves that she has very little respect for David. She seems pretty convinced that her proclamations are being brought to her by Rosalie on behalf of her parents."
"I doubt it," replied Dad. "Trelawney seems very sure that her parents are in heaven and David and Phoebe are giving every indication that they believe her. I do not get the impression that someone like Rosalie is traveling back and forth through the pearly gates on a regular basis."
"True," he answered. "Trelawney reports facial expressions and feelings by those in heaven, and the occasional tears. She has never reported any actual statements. Whenever she talks about getting messages, it is always from angels."
"And angels," commented Dad. "Are messengers. Their name 'angel' comes from the Greek word 'angelos' or 'messenger.' And she would not be the first person to report talking to angels."
Hal didn't know what to think. Then Uncle David walked in, clearly now upset.
"The poor girl wants to know if Trelawney may stay here permanently," he said. "But I can't answer that question now or even before I leave."
"We are doing our best to keep her safe and protected, if that is your primary concern," said Dad. "And we are working to give the girls more time alone together."
"The latter statement is not relevant to our decision," said Uncle David. "My only concern is her safety. If it weren't for that, I would say that she could stay. I think that Phoebe needs her and so does her child."
"Did you tell Phoebe that?" he asked.
"Yes, I did," he answered. "But it's cold comfort to know it. She knows as well as I, that we must be concerned with the Trelawney's safety first. In my position as head of the family it my duty to insure this. Phoebe knows this."
"And the safety of Phoebe and her child?" asked Rob.
"That is your concern," replied David. "And your son's. Your task is no easier than mine. Marrying as she did, Phoebe forgot that when a woman marries, she is joined with her husband's family. But her sister is still a Figalilly. We do not have to work at cross purposes, but it may feel that way at times."
Hal could see that his father was thinking hard.
"Please be honest, David," he said. "Do you recognize my custody of Trelawney as legitimate?"
"No," answered David reluctantly. "If the child had no other family in the world but her sister and she needed to be placed in your care, your guardianship would be valid. However, Trelawney has a large family. There are many who would gladly take her into their homes back in the village, but my claim is the strongest. I am her godfather and that counts for a lot in our world. I was also named as secondary guardian in the will."
"I know," said Dad. "What of the girl's statements, regarding her parents in heaven?"
"They're valid up to a point," admitted David. "The child may be fanciful but would never invent such a tale. Aside from the fact that one would never falsely ascribe feelings to the dead, she doesn't have the guile for it. I'll not dispute the feelings of the mother as indicated by her smiles, but my brother's feelings are ambiguous at best."
"In what way?" asked Dad, now very curious about all of this.
"The question before us is for what reason is he smiling because I am a good brother?" replied David. "Is it because, as the child interprets it, I will make the judgment that she wants, to stay with her sister? Or is it because I have come to insure her safety, even if it means taking her away? There is no way to know the intention behind the smile."
"What of Phoebe?" asked Hal.
"Young man," answered David. "That I cannot say. Emmeline, Phoebe, and Trelawney all firmly believe that her parents would have approved of your marriage. I am more cautious than they are. I will say that it is impossible to prove, even by one such as Trelawney."
"Are you swayed at all by Aunt Henrietta?" asked Dad.
"Not in the least," said Uncle David. "She doesn't know what she's talking about. I know as well as you do that Phoebe's carrying a girl and she'll be named for her grandmother. Henrietta has no idea. If she had any true prescience at all then she would know it too. And she wouldn't be shy about mentioning it."
"How do you know all that?" asked Dad curiously.
Uncle David gave them a thin smile. "The same way that Phoebe knows what your favorite dinner is before you tell her or answers the door before the bell rings. Most of the family can do it. It's just the way we are."
"And you've told me," said Dad.
"I didn't have to," replied Uncle David. "Trelawney has told you already. If she hadn't then I wouldn't have said anything. I don't have the same trust in you that she does. But don't go getting insulted about it. I suspect that it's because she knows you better. I don't go giving my trust lightly to anyone, even those I know well."
Hal realized that he knew more than he was admitting to and was learning more each day, and not by merely observing. But this was a kind man. He was one who loved his nieces very much and wanted what was best for them. It was also obvious that he had more knowledge of the whole picture than any of them did.
"Hal," he said. "Your wife is up in Trelawney's room crying. You need to sooth her and bring her home. She doesn't deserve this. This should be the happiest time of her life. Before I leave I will do my best to make it so. But you need to do your part. Love her with all your heart and love her sister as well. Don't be so ready to send her home with me. And don't deny that it's crossed your mind. We all know that it has.
"Trelawney knows her place and is no threat to your relationship with your wife. Remember that she loves you and trusts you absolutely. In her simple mind, you protected and saved her when she needed you most. Those such as her will give you their lifelong devotion for such action. She will be more loyal to you than any of your own children. It is the only way that she knows how to be."
Hal nodded and went upstairs. He had forgotten that. In his desire to shield and protect his wife from the emotional havoc that the child was capable of wreaking on all of their lives, he had forgotten how much the girl loved him. Her love was as unconditional as his wife's. If she had had any sense that he was considering letting her return home, she had never shown it. She had responded the only way that she had known how, with love and trust. She deserved the same in return from him.
After the family had left, David had turned in for the night. Catherine and Rob sat down in the kitchen with a pot of tea to discuss the events of the night. So much had happened that they wanted to try to sort through it and make sense of it before going to bed themselves. They also needed to think about how to get through the final week of David's visit.
"He's not here to take Trelawney away immediately," commented Rob. "That's the good news. The bad news is that he realizes that we can't give her the protection she may need. I am still not completely sure of who or what she needs protecting from and how we can do it. The fact is that we don't even know what he is talking about when he says, 'those such as her.'"
"I know," sighed Catherine. "And quite sadly, so does Phoebe. She obviously did not fully think through the degree of help that her sister would need to live safely outside of her own world. Or perhaps she didn't know. She did not, after all, have constant contact with the child. From what I can tell, the girl was insulated from all of life's stresses by her parents."
"Yes," said Rob. "It is very clear that they never pictured the girl living outside the village. They did not picture Phoebe settling out here either, or perhaps they did. We'll never know."
"What makes you say that?" asked Catherine.
"Don't tell Phoebe," he replied. "But these people are very prescient with regard to the future. It is quite possible that the sentence in the will that sets up David and his wife as guardians if Phoebe cannot do it may have been put there to deal with this very situation. It is that sentence that gives them the greater legal claim. And had only been put in as a codicil shortly before they died."
Catherine was silent as she considered the possibility. It was not farfetched. In fact, it was extremely practical. But as Rob said, there was no way to know. One of the difficulties with wills is that they are written in a legal language that does not always express the intent behind the words. But she had hope. Trelawney was not capable of understanding the legal language even if she knew of it. She was very certain that things were happening the way that they intended. She appeared to be the most prescient of them all.
She had said that her Mum was happy because God sent her "Mama Kate" to her. Catherine was fascinated by the fact that David had never once questioned the girl's use of the name. Mama Kate was there to keep her safe. This was what they had also been told by Pastor Jason. Catherine was beginning to miss him. She had not realized that he was such a strong source of wisdom and strength for the whole family.
"David said something else to Hal," said Rob, interrupting her thoughts. "He told him to love Trelawney more and that she was no threat to his relationship with Phoebe. It is interesting advice. He is telling our son to help Phoebe fight to keep her."
"Well," answered Catherine. "It doesn't take any kind of special psychic powers to know that Hal blames Trelawney for all the upset. He's kind of like Prudence in that he tends to forget that Trelawney came first. Trelawney was part of the package when he married Phoebe in the same way that Hal, Butch, and Prudence were a part of the package for her when she married him."
"I don't think that he sees the parallel," replied Rob.
"Oh, I know that he doesn't see the parallel," said Catherine. "He doesn't want to see the parallel. However, legally and emotionally the parallel is a very real and a strong one at that. The promise that Phoebe made, not once but twice, was an acceptance of a parental responsibility for her sister. Just as she took on his three children as her own, Hal's marriage to her meant that he was taking on Trelawney as well. I think that he missed that point. It got lost in the translation so to speak."
"Well, I know he missed it," said Rob. "David knows it as well. Like it or not, Hal married himself into a very complex situation. If anything happens to Trelawney or she must return to England, it will break Phoebe's heart. Pastor Jason has stated very clearly that either of those scenarios could put both her and her own child at risk. Hal needs to realize that."
"Well, since we do," said Catherine. "Then we can help him to realize it. For all their sakes, he has to let go of the notion that everything would be fine without her."
Rob considered what she said carefully. From everything that he had heard one fact remained that his son seemed to have forgotten. If Trelawney had never come to his home in the first place or agreed to stay, Phoebe would have returned to England to be with her and it all would have ended there. He knew very well that on the night that his grandson Hal had proposed that Trelawney come to live with them, Phoebe was prepared to take Trelawney and leave the next morning.
Emmeline told them of how the issue had been forced by Prudence refusing to accept that Trelawney came first with her sister. The tension had become unbearable when the child announced that she would go to boarding school rather than force Phoebe to leave first the Everett family, and then Hal. Trelawney had always put Hal before herself where Phoebe was concerned.
If Phoebe had returned to England, who knew what their lives would have been in that case? He doubted that any of them would be any happier than they were. How many more housekeepers would have passed through the house? Would he and Catherine have become so fully integrated into their lives?
It was impossible to know. He was glad that the child had not been present in the house tonight. She would have been distraught if she knew the pain that Aunt Henrietta had caused her sister on her account. He wondered if she knew the mental anguish that she was causing her Uncle David. Of course, she would view that differently. She would probably say that David could end his own anguish by seeing things her way.
Yet there was still one very bothersome thing.
"Catherine," he asked his wife. "Can you think of another instance that Trelawney has not been compliant with whatever has been asked of her?"
"Do you mean other than being separated from her sister?" responded Catherine. "Only her refusal to accept Phoebe's ex-fiancé as such and return with him to England."
"Hmm," he said thoughtfully. "I forgot about that, but if you think of all the other difficult things that we have asked her to do, she has never said no. If she knows that it is something that she has to do for Phoebe, she does it without complaint."
"Yes," replied Catherine slowly. "Our grandson Hal was telling me that he wished sometimes that Trelawney would put her own feelings ahead of Phoebe's and the baby's. He told me that she refused to advocate for time alone with her sister because she didn't want to upset her. He didn't want to say anything himself, but it really troubled him."
"Do you think that she might know something but, to use her own words for it, doesn't know that she knows?" he asked.
"What are you getting at, Rob?"
"I think that she is so adamant about staying near Phoebe because her prescient mind is telling her that she needs to be here," he said. "And I don't think that it's a selfish 'she herself needs.' I think that Phoebe and the baby need her. There is some role that she will play in their future safety that she doesn't know about yet. Obviously no one else does either."
"Do you think that Phoebe knows that?" asked Catherine curiously.
"No," said Rob. "I think that we can be pretty sure that Phoebe needs and wants her here for purely emotional reasons. However, David feels it or he wouldn't be hedging right now. He could take us to court tomorrow and win custody very easily. He just can't justify leaving the child in what he views as a dangerous situation."
"Do you think that it is possible that what is safe for one sister might not be safe for the other?" asked Catherine uneasily.
"No, not if we believe what Pastor Jason told us," replied Rob. "I think that it is the circumstances that will dictate the safety issue. All he said was to keep her close to you if we want to keep Phoebe and Maisie safe."
Catherine sighed. Their conversation had just come around in one big circle. About the only thing new to come out of the evening was that David had indicated that he knew that Hal did not fully appreciate the love that Trelawney had for all of them. That would certainly work against them. She hoped that her son could get passed that. Maybe now that it had been pointed out to him, he realized it.
It was the middle of the night when Janet Tucker's daughter Sarah came to wake her.
"Mommy, please," she begged. "Trelawney is having a nightmare. She's very scared of something. We don't know what to do."
Janet got up immediately and went to the room that Sarah shared with her older twin sisters, Rebecca and Rachel. Rachel was sitting on the bed with Trelawney with her arm around her and Rebecca was trying to talk to her. The young girl was crying and not making any sense. Her son Topher had heard the fuss and come into the room as well. Janet was not the mother of six children for nothing. She took control of the situation immediately.
"Topher, turn on the light. Sarah, get her a glass of water," she said quickly. "Girls, why don't you stand back and give her some space. Is she awake?"
"I'm not sure," answered Rachel. "She hasn't said anything that has made any sense yet. All I know is that she is scared."
Janet nodded. She went over and sat on the bed with the girl and put her arm firmly around the child. She must have sensed the stronger, adult presence, because she began to calm down. Sarah gave her the water and after she drank some she began to breathe normally. She was shaking less.
"Do you want to talk about it, honey?" asked Janet gently.
Trelawney looked around at them all. She seemed confused about where she was.
"Where is my Phoebe? Where is my Mama Kate?" she asked, bewildered. "Where am I?"
"You're at my house, remember? I'm Mrs. Tucker," said Janet softly. "Sarah and Topher and Rachel and Rebecca are here with you. You came to have a sleepover because your Aunt Henrietta was coming to dinner. Your Mama Kate didn't want her to upset you."
Janet noticed that Trelawney closed her eyes and seemed to be thinking. Her face looked troubled. She wondered what the nightmare had been about. Suddenly her son Topher spoke.
"Hey, little princess," he said quietly. "Do you need your gallant knight to slay any dragons for you?"
Trelawney looked up and focused on him. There was recognition in her eyes.
"There are no dragons, thank you," she said. "But there is an evil witch who will harm the lovely lady and the fair maiden. We must keep her away."
"Did she come for you in your dream?" he asked.
"Yes, brave sir knight," she replied. "She seeks to harm Trelawney, for Trelawney knows the truth."
Janet was a very down to earth individual. Sarah had told her of Trelawney's medieval stories and fantasies. She knew that when she was frightened, she retreated into this world for safety. Janet looked at Sarah who seemed to know exactly what she was talking about. She gave her a nod.
"Phoebe is the lovely lady and Trelawney is the fair maiden," she explained. "Aunt Henrietta is the evil witch. In Trelawney's nightmare, Aunt Henrietta was trying to hurt her and Phoebe. Was it terribly frightening, Trelawney?"
Now fully awake, the girl nodded, "Terribly. She only wants to hurt Trelawney, but she will hurt all three of us. She hurt my Phoebe tonight. I know she did. I know that she made her cry."
Janet hugged her tight. "I'm sorry about that, honey. But don't worry you're safe here. That's why your Mama Kate sent you here. I'm sure that your Mama Kate is taking care of Phoebe too."
"Yes, I see that now," she replied. "I'm sorry that I was a bother. I don't mean to have nightmares and wake the whole house up. Please don't send me away."
"If I had an aunt like your Aunt Henrietta," commented Rachel. "She'd give me nightmares too. We all love you, Trelawney. We won't send you away."
Trelawney looked at Janet. "The Professor was upset by my nightmares. He wanted to send me away. Pastor Jason said that I must live with my Mama Kate. She will keep me safe."
"Well, you know that your Mama Kate will keep you safe," said Janet kindly. "I am sure that the Professor really didn't want to send you away."
Janet saw the girl nod thoughtfully, though not necessarily in agreement. She decided that the fear was passed and called Sarah over to tuck them into bed. Rachel and Rebecca also went back to bed. She turned off the light and went outside with Topher.
"Poor child," she said to her son. "Catherine sends her away for the night to keep her away from Aunt Henrietta and she still can't get away."
"It doesn't seem fair that after all she and her sister have been through," he said. "That Aunt Henrietta has to come along and upset them like this. Hal says that his Mom is very happy most of the time. But she's sad when she thinks of her sister living apart from her now. The only time she ever gets upset, however, is when Aunt Henrietta starts up her nonsense."
Janet sighed. "With any luck, this visiting uncle will put a stop to it. Something tells me that she's not likely to give it up easily. It seems that she won't be satisfied until she drives the poor girl out of town."
Topher looked at her curiously. She had seen him get that look before. It said that she had just given him something to think about. Something told her that if Aunt Henrietta went after Trelawney again then he would try to stop her. No doubt he had taken the child's statement that she needed her gallant knight to fight off the evil witch seriously.
Trelawney had spoken of danger to the three of them, meaning presumably Phoebe, the baby, and herself. The thought of her son mixing himself up in another family's business like that disturbed her, but she knew that she couldn't stop him. He was a very loving and caring person. They had brought up all of their children to stand up for those who were weaker. She was very proud of him.
She decided that there was no reason to tell the Everetts about Trelawney's nightmare. She had no doubt that the visit with Aunt Henrietta had been upsetting for them all. And one did not even need Trelawney's imagination to figure out that she had made Phoebe cry. Janet saw no point in stirring up any of that again tomorrow. It would be best if they all just let it rest.
However, what Janet did not realize, was that the nightmare and the child's fears about her sister's husband sending her away were both things that, at the very least, Catherine needed to know. If she was going to keep her safe, she needed every bit of information that she could get to do so. Trelawney never said things carelessly about her sister. She loved her with a fierce and powerful love. No one would ever take her place. Even before her birth, there was a mystical connection between herself and Maisie that even Phoebe was aware of.
Another important piece to the puzzle was the fact that she had asked Topher for help when he offered it. She asked him to help keep the "evil witch" away. She showed no fear of her Uncle David at all. Whatever was going on in her mind at this time, she was unable to articulate in a comprehensible way who and what she feared. She certainly had no idea of how to protect herself, let alone her sister and her niece. However, Topher was a young man with a strong character and loving nature. Doubtless, he would prove a valuable ally to them all.