I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.
This story is the third in a four part series of stories that describe the visit of Uncle David Figalilly to his nieces in California. The theme of the series is "Promises." As always the series explores the nature of relationships within families. This story looks at the implications of promises made when unforeseen circumstances arise.
Promises and Their Implications
David Figalilly found himself on the horns of a dilemma after he had spent two weeks in America visiting with his two nieces. He had concerns about each of them for very different reasons. David was not one of the Figalillys with wanderlust. Like his older brother Owen, the girls' father, he was happy to remain in the village of his birth and keep the home fires burning, so to speak, for the rest of his peripatetic family. It was an odd breed that they were, in their little corner of Cornwall, a bit to the northwest of Tintagel along the coast. "Some liked to roam and some liked to stay at home," as they would often say.
Those who roamed tended not to marry and settle down. Those who stayed at home married and had large families. There were some who enjoyed wandering the world who would eventually have to return home because of their responsibility, by virtue of birth position, to the family. His own two eldest children, Christabel and William, were good examples of the two different kinds of the "homebound." Christabel had never wished to be anywhere other than where she was. She had been happy to marry and settle down to the business of having children a while back. William had been one of the wanderers, but the death of his Uncle Owen had changed that for him.
He suddenly found himself heir to the position of oldest son of an oldest son, since Owen had died without a son. He had known that there had always been an extremely good possibility of this because after many years of marriage, Owen had only produced two daughters. However, Owen had died very young by Figalilly standards. David himself had found that his own position had changed greatly changed. He had never pictured himself in this position of great responsibility, nor that he would be faced with such a difficult situation right away.
Owen's older daughter, Phoebe, had been bitten by the "wander bug" as much as any Figalilly could be. To cement a family relationship with the Featherstonehaughs, she as oldest daughter of the oldest son at been betrothed to the oldest son of the oldest son at birth. It was lucky for her that her intended, Cholmondeley, had been bitten by the same wander bug and was also not inclined to marry young.
He was committed to claim her as his bride "some year," but no date had ever been specified. There were no deep emotions between them, but that didn't matter. Both accepted their filial duty to their parents and to their families. Everyone knew that someday they would be satisfied with their lot in life and marry. In a culture that prized loyalty to family so highly, neither even considered questioning the betrothal. For them it was simply a fact of life.
David himself had been quite content to marry his parents' choice for his bride, Owen's wife Meg's younger sister Annabel. Normally, a second son would not get so much attention, however when Meg and Owen failed to produce a child within a year, the Figalillys and Meg's family, the Trelawneys, became anxious about the strength of the families ties. It was the children of such a union that mattered to the alliance of the families, as they represented the future.
Fortunately for everyone in the family, his marriage proved more fruitful. Theirs was not the great love match that Owen and Meg's had been, but they were happy. They loved each other and were content with their large brood of children. He was disappointed that there were not more grandchildren, but he knew that William would eventually return home to do his duty. He had several suitable girls from which to choose to become his wife.
Having seen what had happened with Phoebe and her disastrous betrothal from birth, as paterfamilias, and the one in charge of such matters, he decided not to make any more contracts without full disclosure. Phoebe had been wrong, on the face of it, to reject her betrothed. However, later revelations about the young man proved his unworthiness for the hand of any Figalilly woman. There would be debate among the family for years over whether this had been the merciful hand of fate intervening or just sheer coincidence and dumb luck.
"Cautious and caring," as the family had begun to call him, he would permit William make his choice from a select group of young women. William was amenable. He was not ready to settle down yet, but he knew his duty. When the time came he would marry and begin the process of breeding the next generation. And of course, Christabel would also be adding to the lot.
Presently, William was determined to accompany Cholmondeley on his travels and make sure that he stayed away from his cousins. Like all the Figalillys he was both angry and sorrowful at his treatment of young Trelawney, whose very fragility elicited the protective instincts of all in the family. He was prepared to take "drastic action" to keep him away from the sisters. There were times that David feared that Cholmondeley might at some point fall victim to a fatal "accident."
William had a fierce temper and was impulsive. David knew that he was fully capable of "solving the problem, once and for all." This was not the answer that anyone else in the family could give their approval to. It was necessary to forgive and move on. They must act in accordance with the precepts of their Christian religion as set forth by Jesus. However, William was one of the few in the family who had never taken to religion or faith. It would be just like him to seek revenge.
David was praying that he wouldn't. Such action would certainly damn his soul forever. There is never any justification for this kind of action, no matter what the crime of the recipient. It could in no way be viewed as William taking care of his own. Despite her hatred of Cholmondeley, the sensitive young Trelawney would never want her cousin to so damage himself for eternity. Of all who knew and loved him best, he would disturb her the most if he took this action.
The Good Uncle
Despite the fact that Phoebe was radiantly happy with her marriage and impending motherhood, David was still concerned. Even though his sisters Agatha and Justine had given their blessing to the marriage, they had not given their approval. The reason given was that Phoebe had been set free from her contract. But it was not, as she believed, by the star-crossed nature of her love for the outsider. She had simply been told that since she had "given herself" to him, they would give their blessing.
The "star-crossed lovers" justification had been a romantic notion of Trelawney and one accepted by both Cholmondeley and Emmeline, probably because at that point, they wanted to. Cholmondeley's pride was injured by his intended's obvious preference for another man. Emmeline's resistance had finally been worn down. However Phoebe had actually been set free from the contract by the violation of her sister by her ex-fiancé. Her "freedom" had had its price paid for by the girl who had suffered great harm. The child had bought her present happiness with the loss of her innocence.
Already fragile in mind, no one could ascertain if the incident had done more damage. Even those who had been living with her at the time could not recall if there had been a drastic change of behavior during or after his fateful visit. Challenging his fitness to be her sister's husband at that time had simply been viewed as a bit of childish temper. She never spoke of it after, until he showed up in America.
However, it was agreed among all concerned that Phoebe should never learn this. Being the loving sister that she was, Phoebe would most certainly feel very guilty. She would suffer greatly from this knowledge, despite the fact that she had nothing to do with the wrong committed. It was also pointless for her to know, since it would change nothing.
His daughter Emmeline could give all the excuses that she wanted, but the elopement was not the proper way for any Figalilly daughter, but especially an oldest daughter, to behave. What neither girl considered was that David would never have forced her into another engagement for the sake of a family alliance. As in the case of his son William, his expectation would have been that she would choose a young man of their own people.
And he would have wanted her to make her choice only after she had come to terms with this great tragedy in her life. If at that point she had still been determined to marry an outsider, he probably would have let her. Despite the fact that he had to take difficult stances as a part of his new responsibilities, he was a kind and loving man. The pleas of a romantic young woman would not have gone unheard.
He was less bothered by the unseemly nature of the wedding within the first year of her parents' deaths than he was by the fact that she was clearly still grieving for them. Emotionally, it had been much too early for her to take such an important life step, especially without consulting those older and wiser in the family. He also believed that she had not fully understood the ramifications of her decision for her sister.
One such as Trelawney should not be allowed outside the village. There were too many risks for her. If she had the strength of mind and enough guile to conceal her psychic powers it would have been one thing. Those Figalillys and others from the village who roamed the world were very adept at hiding their true natures. Trelawney was not. Even if she was stronger, the people liked to keep their children close until their minds had developed the kind of sound judgment and reason needed to navigate the treacherous outside world.
It was safer for the young to be raised among their own people where they could be guided into a better understanding of their psychic natures. Many of their children, like Emmeline and Phoebe, made their first venture to the world outside when they attended university. A child of Trelawney's age was too young to know whether it was her lot in life to roam or stay home. However, even discounting her special nature, she was showing every inclination towards staying home.
Trelawney was too honest and too innocent to effectively disguise her psychic nature. The more contact that she had with the outside world, the greater the chance was that her true nature would be discovered. As it was, it was very difficult for her to remember that her gifts, both musical and psychic must always be disguised. She was not always aware of the nature of her perceptions of the people and world around her. She had trouble distinguishing between her psychic and cognitive knowledge. Her sweet and loving temperament also made her very vulnerable to those who might take advantage of her.
Except when she was playing her harmless pranks, she was not very well practiced in the art of deceit. She had a silver tongue when it came to syllogism, but her rhetorical constructions were simplistic. They often appeared to be more clever than they were because they very apt and humorous. She took a childish delight in playing with them, especially if they might cause a bit of harmless mischief. Play with words as she might, everyone knew that she never lied. She would also never make promises that she knew that she would or could not keep.
From his perspective, Phoebe's marriage to the handsome and older professor had been ill considered because of the nature of her responsibility and relationship to her sister. It was obvious to him, if no one else, that the single largest stressor to their marital relationship right now was her sister. No one had been more devastated by the accident than the girl. Trelawney's grief had been all-consuming and it was recognized that if they did not allow Emmeline to take her to Phoebe at once, there was the very real possibility that she would harm herself.
The close relationship between the sisters had been carefully nurtured by their parents. Even if they did not die young, there was always the very real possibility that the younger would always be dependent on the older. Thus Phoebe had been brought up with the expectation that she would always care for her sister. Trelawney had been brought up to believe that her sister would always be there to care for her. This relationship was simply a part of their identities.
Because Phoebe had not been present for the initial wave of grief, she had no idea of its intensity. The potential for self-immolation was not a new problem that had suddenly emerged in America. It had been present when she was living in England. Additionally, the powerful connection between the two sisters made it very difficult for them to live apart happily for any length of time. This was especially true of Trelawney whose worldview was very simplistic. But even for Phoebe, it explained her need to keep returning home to visit with the child.
Emmeline had not only allowed Phoebe, but her new husband, to "have his cake and eat it too" in the situation. The price was the mental health of the child. She had the security of his parents' love and attention, but not the close relationship with her sister that she craved. Since she had been in America she had not received the focus and attention of her sister such as she had during Phoebe's visits home throughout the previous years of her life.
David did not have the heart to tell Phoebe that this was the root of her emotional difficulties, not the fear that he would take her away. Trelawney somehow knew that he wouldn't do that unless forced to. However, her assumptions were based mostly on her deep faith in her older sister that she would fulfill the promises made to their parents. The child was presently living under the belief that this separation was temporary. But unless she would be able take responsibility for sheltering Trelawney from the stresses of life that could destroy her, she would lose her. It appeared that she had relinquished that responsibility.
He was beginning to fear that Trelawney had that special prescience of the simple-minded of their race. Because her mind was free of a complex understanding of the world, it had the capability to perceive the universal consciousness at a very deep level. Thus, it was very possible that she had discerned her own fate in a way that no one else was able to. It was impossible to know because there was danger for her even if she just spoke it out loud. Even she understood that.
There is a subtle difference between the words fate and destiny that is based on their linguistic roots. The word "fate" comes from the Latin for, fari, fatum literally to speak. Fate is a prediction of the future spoken aloud. The asking results in the speaking. Until spoken, it would not occur. The danger in the asking is that it may unleash or unlock some negative destiny. Once the questioner knows of it, he may want to avoid it. The avoidance results in the fulfillment. On the other hand destiny is simply the end point, most literally the destination. Destinies may be interrupted by unanticipated events or accidents. The course of destiny can be changed by wrong choices or human action.
An inkling of one's destiny can often be determined by knowing the person, his or her circumstances, and their likely choices based on this. Discerning the destiny of one such as Trelawney is nearly impossible. Her simple mind and her understanding of the universal consciousness at a level deeper than any around her, made her potential choices incomprehensible. Her love and loyalties would run deep, but it was difficult to ascertain how she might react to betrayal, or for that matter, to even know what she might regard as betrayal. Her devotion to those she loved was powerful. And she was devoted to no one more greatly than her sister.
He could see that Catherine and Rob Everett were now making adjustments to the living arrangements to meet the girls' need to be with one another. Doing this would not only give the child, but Phoebe herself, greater stability and peace of mind. Happy as Phoebe was, she was easily shaken by any degree of emotional upset. There was ample evidence of this. But he was not convinced that Phoebe's husband would ever accept the very deep psychic connection between the sisters. Hal viewed the child as disruptive of his household. He also feared that she would interfere with his own relationship with his wife.
This could not be further from the truth. Phoebe had an enormous capacity to love. Additionally, he had proven himself to be a worthy protector of the child. He seemed unaware of how much she truly loved him. Ultimately, in order for the child to stay with her sister, Phoebe would need to have more not less care of her and time for her. Had she married among her own people, her husband would have taken for granted that Trelawney was an integral part of their lives.
His son Hal recognized this. In fact it was his understanding of the nature of the situation that made David hopeful that he would not have to separate the sisters. The younger Hal intuitively understood the child and was protective of her not only in the world outside the home but within the home. This was not easy for him, since in America these kinds of extended family ties were not nearly as strong as they were at home.
When trying to explain why she had left the sisters in California last year, Emmeline had cited young Hal as the reason. At that time, all of Everetts had come to view Phoebe as family. His syllogism had been as simple as one of Trelawney's. If Phoebe, or Nanny as they called her, was one of their family then by extension her sister must also be. The marriage had shifted the paradigm, first for Hal and then for all of the children except his eldest. David suspected that Phoebe also knew this, but was refusing to accept it.
Hal also understood the powerful love that his mother had for her sister. He had seen the sadness in both of them and after his discussion with himself, had advocated on their behalf to his grandmother. Whatever the origin of the young man's goodness, it could prove very useful to all of them. More so than his father, David felt that he could rely on him to look after Trelawney's, as well as Phoebe's, interests within the family.
The younger Hal was also important to the future of the sisters, especially Phoebe and her children. David knew that it was highly unlikely that Hal's older brothers would marry and produce children. Ultimately, it would be Hal who would carry the mantle of family head into the next generation. He would be like his grandfather, a man that one could respect. As he grew out of adolescence, his emotions stabilized, and his mind matured, he would become a strong and wise man. He was also not afraid to expand his own definition of family.
His father was too much the academic, so focused on his university career that he was often away from his household and unaware of what was going. Because of this, he often missed the subtle changes happening and tended to respond impulsively when he discovered them. Emmeline had described this as his tendency to "yell first, ask questions later," usually after feelings were hurt. He was very practiced in the art of apology.
Since he was a third son however, this was not really a great handicap. In a close extended family, it would mean that he was leaving these matters to the prevue of the paterfamilias. This would promote harmony within the generation if he were not competing with his older brother to be heir to his father's family position. Thus the dynamic between himself and his family made sense in David's world, though not really in America.
David had also realized that Catherine Everett loved young Trelawney more than his wife Anna ever had or would. He knew instinctively that she had always wanted a daughter and was enjoying her role in the child's life. Anna loved her as she did any of her nieces and would accept responsibility for raising her sister's child out of family duty. However it was a completely unexpected responsibility. No one had ever envisioned a scenario in which Phoebe was not raising her sister. Anna's focus was now firmly on her grandchildren. This was a perfectly natural state of affairs.
Even within the Figalilly family, the child's position was not as loving as she needed or deserved. There were many ready to open their homes to her out of family loyalty or love for her parents. But she would be a most challenging child to raise. No one could remember there ever being an orphan so young in the family before.
Her special needs placed extra demands on her caretakers. Thus no one was sure of how to deal with her. There were no such uncertainties in her relationship with Catherine Everett. She simply accepted her as she was and loved her. When Trelawney said that her Mum was happy that she was in Catherine's care, he believed her. He knew that Meg would have liked her very much.
However, she was far safer living in the village. He knew that Owen would have been less sentimental about her caretakers and more concerned with her physical and emotional safety. Nothing that David had seen or heard so far had convinced him that she would be just as safe living here as she would at home. It was all of this complexity that made the ever-cautious David reluctant to promise Phoebe that he would leave the girl where she was on a permanent basis. He would only make promises that he knew he could keep. At the moment all he could promise was that he would act in the best interest of the child.
Discerning the best interest was indeed a very deep conflict between the wishes of her mother and her father. Her mother wanted her close to her sister and cherished by those around her. Her father wanted her safe. David feared that it was impossible to do both. He had no doubt at all that Meg would want her near Phoebe and living with Catherine. Owen would want her in the village. It was a conundrum. It was his responsibility and his alone to resolve it. He could listen to advice and opinions on all sides, but only he had the ability and power to make the final decision about where the child lived.
A New Day
When Phoebe woke up the morning after the disastrous dinner with Aunt Henrietta she realized that she needed to do something to take control of her life and cheer herself up. She needed to have some individual time with her sister. She decided to ask Hal to take the other children out somewhere in the afternoon. She could then spend that time alone with Trelawney at Catherine's. They could unpack the dollhouse and set it up. One of Trelawney's favorite activities when she was younger was to take all the furniture out and together they would put it back in, arranging it in different ways every time.
There were two dolls that had come with the house that were the perfect size for it. Mum had actually gone to London to find them. They were very special to her sister. They were two sisters, an older and a younger that Trelawney had named Mimsy and Tansy. They lived together in the house and Trelawney and their mother had made lots of clothes for them. Phoebe had enjoyed participating in Trelawney's fanciful stories as Mimsy, the older sister. They spent a lot of time trying on outfits together and talking "girl talk."
The idea that today they could return to an earlier part of their lives, when their parents were living and the family secure for even a little while, was very appealing at this time. For even a short while, Phoebe needed to retreat from the issues of the present and lose herself in a simpler past. She felt a certain safety when she was in Catherine's care. She felt that she needed to be with her sister and hoped that Hal would understand.
When she told him what she wanted to do, he took her in his arms and said that if it made her happy and soothed her spirit then he was glad to cooperate. He would take the kids fishing and then they would bring the catch up to Dad's house for dinner. When she breathed a sigh of relief, he kissed her forehead.
"Honey, don't ever be afraid to ask me to help you find time to be with your sister," he said gently. "If it makes you happy, that's all that matters to me."
She rested her head against his chest so that she could hear his heart beating. She could feel him tightening his arms around her. Once again, she realized how much he loved her. She could feel him stroking her hair before he rested his cheek on her head. She looked up and sought his mouth for a deep kiss. He gladly obliged. She knew that he was happy that she had lost none of her passion with her pregnancy.
When he had asked the doctor about making love to her, the doctor smiled and told him that he was a lucky man. He then explained that while they shouldn't make love with too much pressure on her abdomen. They could experiment with different positions until they found one that worked for them. They had and both were pleased that they could once again satisfy their desire for one another.
Having unintentionally stirred these feelings, they now regretfully parted as they went downstairs to have breakfast and start their day. Before they opened the door, Hal whispered in her ear that they would have a "date" later. She gave him an alluring smile and promised to be ready. It felt good to know that he was beginning to understand and accept her sister's role in her life. Perhaps he would soon realize that she would never come between them.
When they told the children the plans for the afternoon, Butch and Hal were excited about going fishing. Prudence was unhappy and said so very plainly.
"I don't see why I have to go fishing with the boys," she complained. "I want to stay home with you and Trelawney."
Phoebe had purposely not told the children how she planned to spend the afternoon with her sister because she knew that Prudence would be jealous of the time they spent playing with the dollhouse. Yesterday she had been very eager to open it and get into it herself. It looked like she was going to be jealous anyway. However, she did not plan to sacrifice her precious time alone with her sister. After last night she needed it.
"I'm sorry, Prudence," she said. "But I need to spend some time alone with my sister."
"Oh," said Prudence knowingly. "I understand. You need to. You don't want to."
Phoebe decided that she wasn't going to get into that little word game again. It had gotten them into trouble before. Despite the apparent innocence of the questions, they were designed to make Trelawney feel bad if she learned of them. It was time to put a stop to it, once and for all.
"Okay," she said. "I'll clarify that. I need to because I want to. I need to for myself, not for her. I miss spending time with her since she moved to Grammy's house. Sometimes I need to spend time with her because she is my sister. She is my only sister and is very special to me. I spend a lot of time with you, but it's different. You are my daughter. In fact I spend much more time with you than I do with her, especially now."
Prudence still looked dissatisfied, but she couldn't say anything. A sister and a daughter were two different things. Even she knew that. Phoebe knew that she was now disgruntled on two accounts, the issue of the cradle in the bedroom and that of time alone with Trelawney.
It was taking her a long time to become accustomed to the fact she could no longer monopolize Phoebe's time. Butch and Hal had always known that so they didn't expect to. But they were less needy in that regard and they were boys. In six months, Prudence would no longer be the youngest child and the only girl.
Phoebe had hoped that Catherine would help out, but Prudence had not taken her as Trelawney had. Catherine tended to be very strict with her, as she was with all the children. She also didn't spoil her the way that Phoebe admitted that she herself did. Trelawney did not expect to be spoiled. She was used to strict parents and to being disciplined when she misbehaved or spoke out of turn. For Trelawney, Mama Kate represented safety in more ways than one to her. She knew that she was impulsive and needed help controlling herself.
Thus, later that morning, with the picnic lunch that she had packed, Hal drove off with the kids and she walked up to Rob and Catherine's. When she arrived, she discovered that Rob and Uncle David had gone off to play a round of golf. It was nice to find Catherine alone. She enjoyed her "baby talk" with her. She was also not ready to see Uncle David again.
"I know that Trelawney will be so pleased to find you here to spend the day with her," she said. "She should be home in about an hour."
"I know," said Phoebe. "I wanted to come down early to spend some time with you. I need some advice about how to deal with Prudence right now."
"I'm sure that you do," replied Catherine. "She is not happy that she has more chores to do and that you are starting to spend more time with your sister. There will be more issues when the baby comes."
"I know," sighed Phoebe. "Things will be better when school starts and I'll have my days alone with Maisie, but for the first three weeks, if the predictions are on target, Prudence will still be home all day long on summer vacation."
"Well," said Catherine. "Those weeks will be a very intense time for you and Maisie. Newborns need constant attention. If you are going to nurse her, you should know that, especially if she is small. Small infants can't take in too much at one time and need to feed more frequently than larger babies. You will also find yourself up at all hours of the night. The best way to manage your sleep is to sleep when the baby does. Hal will help you with the other three. We'll help out too."
"I know," she said. "I am sure that Trelawney will want to help too."
"Oh I know that she will," said Catherine. "She has already been talking about it. When your cousin Christabel had her babies, she went down to the house after school sometimes to help out. When the second one came along she apparently made herself, very useful helping with the older child. David was telling us a few nights ago that she is wonderful with small children. She apparently loves to tell them stories and play with them."
"Does that surprise you?" asked Phoebe. "I'm not worried at all about her being jealous. We have talked about it and she knows what to expect. In fact, she is looking forward to being an auntie. She already knows about sharing love and expecting nothing in return."
"Well, maybe she can help you talk to Prudence," suggested Catherine. "Although Prudence's feelings about her seem mixed these days."
"You are certainly right about that," said Phoebe. "It may help her to get used to sharing me. I just don't want her saying anything that may hurt Trelawney's feelings or make her feel guilty. I'm afraid that she can be very manipulative when she wants."
"Yes, she can," said Catherine. "That's one behavior that we certainly need to work on."
Phoebe enjoyed these little chats about the children with Catherine. She found them comforting and could understand why Trelawney had wanted to call her Mama Kate. She had easily slipped into the role of surrogate mother to them both. Knowing her Auntie Anna, she knew that she would not give her sister the love and attention that Catherine did here. Surely Uncle David knew that too. She knew that that was one of the reasons that he was conflicted over the situation.
It occurred to her that living here with her and the Everetts he must see how much time, love and attention they, but mostly Catherine, lavished on her. Catherine had always wanted her own little girl. Trelawney had always been a Mum's girl. Auntie Anna was not as warm as Catherine. She was very close to Christabel and her grandchildren. If only they could convince Uncle David that they could keep her safe here.
When Mrs. Fowler dropped Trelawney off after her theatre program and she saw her sister there, she threw herself into her arms.
"Oh, Phoebe!" she cried. "Was Auntie dreadful to you? I was worried about you all night. But Mrs. Tucker was lovely. She assured me that Mama Kate would take the very best of care of you. I did miss you so much, but I knew that you wanted to keep me safe from our mean Auntie."
Knowing that she couldn't lie to the intuitive child, she admitted that Aunt Henrietta had upset her. But she also let her know that Uncle David had stood up to her. Then Elspeth came rushing in for pets and hugs from her little mistress. She told her how Phoebe had cried but she stood guard. Trelawney looked at her reproachfully.
"Phoebe you mustn't let Auntie or Uncle make you cry," she said. "Maisie will be sad. After all, she does know what you are feeling."
Phoebe noticed that Catherine was looking curiously at them. She knew that Catherine thought that it was odd that her sister talked to the dog as if she were a person. She did it too, but she was careful about when she did it. Hal and the children knew that she talked to animals, but she had tried to avoid letting too many people know. She would have to talk to Trelawney about it.
"Are you hungry for lunch?" asked Catherine.
"Yes, please, Mama Kate," replied Trelawney politely. "May I please have a grilled cheese and my milk shake?"
"Of course dear," she answered fondly. "What you like Phoebe?"
"Oh, I'll have the same," she said. "But I would prefer a glass of milk."
Trelawney giggled. "Phoebe is not really very fond of milk, but now she's drinking it for Maisie."
"Yes, I am, little sister," replied Phoebe. "Mum drank lots of milk while she was carrying you and you were a fine healthy baby."
Catherine watched and listened as the sisters chatted away while she made their lunches. They were so happy together. Trelawney was delighted to have her sister all to herself and Phoebe was happy that she was in such a good mood. When she told Trelawney that Hal had taken the other children fishing, she clapped her hands and her eyes sparkled.
"Even Prudence?" she asked hopefully.
"Even Prudence," Phoebe assured her. "I want to open up your dollhouse and help you set it up. I am sure that Mimsy and Tansy have missed you very much. And they've had such a long journey."
"Yes, they have, poor dears," replied Trelawney seriously. "We must be very kind to them. We must give them lots of attention so that they will be happy again. I know that they will love Mama Kate too."
"I'm sure that they will," said Phoebe. She noticed Catherine smiling at them. She knew that she was happy that they were able to spend the time alone together. When they were done eating, she shooed them upstairs to play as if they were both little girls. With Elspeth at their heels they went upstairs to open the box up.
Before she knew it, Phoebe found herself giggling with her sister as they sat on the floor with the house, the furniture, and the dolls. Elspeth sat nearby watching as she always did. Phoebe knew that she had been sent by the family to keep an eye on Trelawney. No doubt Uncle David had tasked her with making sure that Trelawney was safe and protected. She knew that she could count on her to tell her if Trelawney was troubled or needed anything.
Hal Everett had enjoyed fishing since he was a boy. It was something that he hadn't done much of in his later years until Phoebe had come. She viewed it as a way of him bonding with the children, especially the boys. Prudence was a "girly-girl" and had no interest in the sport. If Phoebe came along she was happy to go. However, she had no desire to be out with her father and brothers today, if her Mommy was at home giving her undivided attention to Trelawney. She decided to sulk.
But it was a beautiful day and the boys were both in a great mood. They loved having time with their Dad. Hal decided that he wasn't going to let Prudence spoil things for the rest of them. He ignored her. Butch had no problem with that strategy, but his son Hal was worried.
"Dad, what if she makes Mom feel bad because she wouldn't let her stay home?" he asked.
"You do worry about your mother, don't you Hal?" he responded.
"Well, of course I do," replied Hal. "I want her to be happy. But I know that she isn't happy when she can't spend time with Trelawney. And she isn't happy when Prudence makes a fuss. Trelawney never makes a fuss. But that's because she doesn't want Mom to feel bad. I think that Prudence makes a fuss because she does want Mom to feel bad. It's not right."
Hal was thoughtful. His son had a very good point. It occurred to him now that it was probably not a good idea to allow Prudence to sulk by herself. No doubt when she got home she would do her best to make Phoebe feel guilty because she was left out of whatever the two sisters had done while she was gone. He didn't really know what they were doing except that it had something to do with the dollhouse.
Leaving Hal to keep an eye on Butch, he went over and sat down next to Prudence. He didn't have a chance to say a word before she started whining.
"It's not fair!" she said emphatically.
"What isn't fair?" he asked, doing his best to maintain a reasonable tone of voice.
"Mommy stayed home to be alone with Trelawney. But what about me?" she asked.
"Don't you want to spend time with us?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
"No," she said honestly. "I want to be with my Mommy. We always do things together on the weekends. I wish that Uncle David would just take Trelawney back to England."
"Prudence, you don't mean that," he said, still trying to be patient.
"Yes, I do," she said stubbornly.
Prudence was normally a very loving child. Things had certainly been going her way even before the marriage. That was because Trelawney was unselfish. However, that unselfishness had been to her own and now Hal realized his wife's detriment. Prudence had become rather spoiled in this regard and that needed to be nipped in the bud. When Maisie came along, things would be even worse from her perspective.
This would no doubt add strain to her relationship with Phoebe. He wanted Prudence to understand now that her love for her mother could not be exclusive. It was part of an entire family love. And being part of a family meant sharing her love with everyone and not forcing others to make unfair choices.
He recalled that his father had told him about a conversation that he had had with Butch while they were in Hawaii. During the course of that conversation, Butch had made the suggestion that Trelawney would be happier if she had new parents and lived in a new house. Rob had not been shy about pointing out to him that he really didn't care about Trelawney's feelings. He was primarily thinking of himself.
Dad's point to him had been that being part of a family was hard work. He also pointed out to him that his Mom would be very unhappy if Trelawney went away. Butch had seen his point, although Hal knew that he had felt somewhat vindicated when she moved to his grandparents' house. However he thought that it was worth a shot to try the same approach with Prudence.
"Prudence, how do you think that Mommy would feel if Trelawney went back to England with Uncle David?" he asked.
"I don't know," she replied stubbornly.
Hal gave her a very skeptical look. Such an answer did not even dignify a response.
"Okay," she admitted. "She would be sad. But she would get used to it. She has the baby to think about now and us. Butch says that Trelawney makes her upset anyway."
Hal sighed. Her response was harsher than he had expected it would be. He wished that he had either of his parents' wisdom when it came to these things. This was the kind of thing that Phoebe usually handled. But this time it was not only about Phoebe, it was about an issue that she felt very sensitive about. It was time for him to step up and be a Dad about it. He decided to take another tact.
"Prudence," he asked. "Do you remember a year ago when Mommy and Trelawney were going to go back to England together?"
"That was only because Mommy had to go," said Prudence. "She thought that Trelawney had no one else. But Trelawney had her Uncle David and Auntie Anna to live with. Nobody told her that then."
Hal could feel his temper rising. "Prudence, I know that we have never discussed that in front of you children. How do you know about that?"
Prudence looked guilty for about two minutes. She had obviously been eavesdropping again. However, she then got a very petulant look on her face.
"You never tell us anything!" she accused him, trying to turn the tables.
"You are a child and you don't need to know everything. Especially when it comes to things that you can't understand," he explained patiently. "Mommy does not love Trelawney because she 'has to.' She does not spend time with her because she 'has to.' In fact, the only thing that Mommy is doing right now with regard to Trelawney because she 'has to' is live in a different house from her.
"On the day that we moved Trelawney to Grammy and Grampie's house, Mommy was very, very sad. In fact, she was sadder than Trelawney. It is easy for us to forget that before Mommy knew us, she was Trelawney's sister. When Trelawney was born, she made a promise to always take care of her. She did not make that promise because she had to, she made it because she loved her sister so much."
"Does Mommy love Trelawney more than me?" asked Prudence.
"I don't think that that is a fair comparison," replied Hal, even though he knew in truth that excepting himself, Phoebe loved Trelawney more than anyone else in the family. "Mommy told you this morning that she wanted to have 'sister-time' with Trelawney. That is not the same thing as when she has 'daughter-time' with you. I think that it is too hard to say whether Mommy loves her sister or her daughter more. And it is certainly not fair to ask her."
"Oh," said Prudence. Hal could see that she had begun to think a little more open-mindedly about the situation. He decided to take things a step further.
"Prudence, it isn't always easy to love all the members of your family. In fact sometimes it's very hard," he said.
"Like when Uncle Bob and Uncle Ben were saying things about you and Mommy?" she asked.
"Exact . . . wait a minute, how did you know about that?" he said becoming annoyed again.
"Sorry, Daddy," she replied repentantly. "But I think that I know what you are saying. I guess that right now it is hard for you to love me."
"Prudence," he said sincerely. "You may say and do things that annoy me very much, but no matter what, I will always love you. That's the way that things are in families. You can always count on your parents and brothers and sisters to love you, no matter what you say or do."
Prudence was now very quiet. Hal could see that she was thinking very hard about what he had just said.
"Trelawney doesn't have any parents any more," she said slowly. "And she only has one sister. I see why she needs to have Mommy love her so much. She has to love her enough for all those people."
"Yes, she does," said Hal softly. "But we can help too. We can love her no matter what."
"I suppose that part of loving her means that I have to let Mommy spend time alone with her without complaining," she said.
"Something like that," he said. "But if you really love her and Mommy, you'll do it because you love them, not because you have to."
"But that's harder," complained Prudence.
"Yes it is," he replied. "But it's also called doing the right thing for the right reason. Nobody ever said that it was easy. That's the way that Jesus did it. You can't always love people because of what you may get in return. Sometimes you just love them as they are."
Hal decided that it was time to let Prudence start to think things out for herself. He returned to his sons and was pleased to see that they had already caught several good-sized trout. He picked up his rod and reel and got ready to cast in. Suddenly he felt a tug on his shirt and saw that Prudence had come up behind him.
"Can I do that, Daddy?" she shyly asked.
"Sure, honey, let me show you how to bait the hook," he said. He looked over her head and saw his son Hal smiling at him. Once again, Hal had proven what a fine young man he was growing into. He was already demonstrating that he was not one of those people who always took the easy way out. He loved his family enough to look around and see what others' needs were. He was ashamed to admit that he hadn't learned that from him. He had learned it from Phoebe.
When Rob and David returned from their golf, they found Catherine working alone in the kitchen baking a cake. She gave them an update on the rest of the family.
"Hal took the kids fishing. He is hoping to bring home fresh trout tonight for dinner," she said.
"I hope that you have a back up plan for that," replied Rob doubtfully.
"Oh, I have hamburgers in the freezer just in case," she answered with a smile. "Phoebe and Trelawney are upstairs in her room. The plan was to unpack the dollhouse and play together. They've been up there for about three hours now."
"That's no surprise to me," said David. "Those girls love that house. You should look at it, Rob. The craftsmanship is lovely. Owen put his heart into it. It's a great treasure."
"Do you think that the girls would mind if we stopped in to look?" asked Rob.
"I don't think so," said Catherine. "I peeked in on them before. They looked so happy playing with the dolls. Trelawney was spinning some kind of a yarn about the two sisters living together."
"That's our Trelawney," said David fondly. "She's a charming little creature."
They went upstairs. The bedroom door was open, but it was very quiet. When Rob looked in he could see that they were napping side by side on the bed. As always, they were holding hands. Elspeth was on the bed with them and cocked her head at him. David took a peek in and smiled. The dollhouse was set up on a table and the furniture set in place. The two dolls were sitting at a table together having tea.
Putting his finger to his lips, he encouraged them to walk away.
"The little lambs," he said fondly, when they came downstairs. "They must have worn themselves out playing."
Rob was amused by his reference to the sisters as if they were both little girls. "More likely, Trelawney was up half the night giggling with Sarah. Phoebe usually naps at this time."
"Yes of course," David agreed. "But when I look at them like that, I'm reminded of when they were younger. When Phoebe would come home to visit, Meg had the devil of a time getting Trelawney to bed. She didn't want to miss a minute with her Phoebe."
"Was she a little tag-a-long, like Prudence?" asked Rob curiously.
"Oh, yes," said David. "But Trelawney was not quite so demanding. She would share her with the rest of the family and give her time alone with someone if she wanted it. Trelawney's is the kind of love that wishes to make the other person happy. She does not think much about herself. And unlike Prudence, if Phoebe told her to keep a secret, she did. There was no forgetting with Trelawney, even though her mouth does run ahead of her brain sometimes, as Meg used to say."
"She seems to have a great trust in your daughter, Emmeline," commented Catherine, who had come in with the tea.
"Oh, yes," replied David. "Em and Phoebe were always close. I think that before she was old enough to know the difference, Trelawney thought that Em was her sister too. Once Trelawney came along, Phoebe wanted them to spend their time at her house."
"Trelawney told us that when Phoebe went to university, it was Em who would babysit her," said Rob.
"You mean that Em was the only one whom Trelawney would allow to babysit for her. The child would scream bloody murder if they tried to leave her with anyone else. It was kind of funny too. Our Em was never one to like children much. But Trelawney was different," he explained.
"And then Aunt Alma babysat for her," said Catherine.
"I never did hear how that happened, but when Em went off to university, Meg had to find someone else. The little one took a fancy to Alma. It delighted the old lady. I think that she misses her," he replied. "There's many in the village that miss our Trelawney, young and old alike. It's hard not to like her."
"Unless you're Aunt Henrietta," said Rob.
"I have a hard time counting Henrietta as one from the village," said David, with a grimace. "She is one of the family who roams. She never spent much time at home at all. Funny thing, she never liked Trelawney. When she was a small child and knew how to be seen and not heard, she would look at her with those big baby blue eyes. Even then I think that she knew that Henrietta was a bit of a fraud, but not entirely."
"That's what Phoebe and Emmeline told us," said Rob. "To quote your daughter, sometimes she does get it right, even if her wires get crossed on occasion."
"Well," answered David. "I'll have none of her nonsense around the girls. The upset doesn't do either of them any good. I'm not looking forward to it, but I'll visit her next week and straighten her out. Oh, and feel free to kick her out of your house any time you want. Tell Hal to kick her out too."
"I assure you that I will," said Rob.
"Good," he replied approvingly. "As the head of your family, you hold great sway over your people, at least in our world. You are actually in a better position, as Henrietta would see it, to look after Phoebe than your son is. I suspect that she has been taking advantage of the fact that you don't know that. Unfortunately, you don't have the same rights over the child."
"Legally I do," stated Rob.
"That does not matter to us," said David smoothly. "Our own customary law is more valued among us than your case law or English common law. We will use the British courts if we have to, but in the end the best way to resolve this is between ourselves. I'm sure that your lawyer has told you presently you are not meeting the standard set out by the will for Phoebe raising the child."
"Yes, he has," said Rob. "But we're working on it."
"I know that," replied David. "I'm not as heartless as you think. I got no pleasure last night out of making my niece weep for fear of losing her sister. Catherine, I know that you love Trelawney as your own, but as long as she is a Figalilly she's ours. I'm not saying this to be contentious. I am stating it as a fact."
"What is your plan for the rest of your time here?" asked Rob.
"I'm planning to continue to live with the family and explore more of the town where the girls are living. I want to go to that school of Trelawney's and see for myself what it is all about. I can't quite know what to make of a school where our Trelawney needs to protected from her classmates," he said.
Rob looked at Catherine. This was a perfectly legitimate point. There are very few people who would want to see their children in that situation. But it was also an unfortunate fact of life in American schools. He realized that the same was probably true in the larger schools in Britain. But in a small village school where everyone knew everyone, it was hard to imagine it happening.
"You realize that the trauma of separating them could have an adverse effect on the baby," said Catherine, but it was really a question.
"Yes, I do," replied David with a sigh. "It is the reason that I am moving slowly and deliberately. If it were possible to keep Trelawney safely here until the child is born, that would no doubt be best for all concerned. But eventually she most likely will come home. Once Phoebe is absorbed in her daughter, she will be more ready emotionally for the parting."
"You can see no scenario in which this could become a permanent home for the girl?" she asked.
"It is not impossible, but it is simply not probable. Until I am actually boarding the plane with her, I will refuse to rule out the possibility," he said. "I will promise Phoebe before I leave that I will explore every possible way of keeping her here. I will also give you time to make adjustments to the present situation."
"When do you plan to return to us?" asked Rob.
"I would very much like to be present for the christening," he replied. "I know that Phoebe has promised Emmeline that she will be godmother. Until then it is better if she stays away."
"Is this punishment for helping Phoebe go against the family's wishes?" asked Catherine.
"Actually," answered David. "No. I am trying to avoid any more tension between my daughter and the family. As her father, I do not like to see her at odds with so many of her aunts, uncles, and cousins, not to mention her own mother. If Henrietta reports that she has returned, the family would be very suspicious of any further changes you make. I don't want that for either of their sakes."
"I understand," said Catherine. "But I do know that Phoebe and Trelawney have both been greatly comforted by her."
"So do I," said David thoughtfully. "I will see if there is another family member who would be willing to come and show them the same comfort. I also am very sure that one of Meg's many siblings will be along. However, they will not be here to provide comfort, except perhaps to Phoebe."
"But your judgment carries the most weight," said Rob.
"Yes, it does," he replied. "But as paterfamilias I have a responsibility to keep the family together and not let these issues further divide us. I do not believe that Phoebe is aware of how her impulsive actions have really created conflict within the family back home. If she had really been that set against a large wedding, I would have respected her choice and made sure that the rest of the family did. Her reasons were absolutely valid and no one would have wished to add to her grief, even for the sake of tradition. I regret that she did not give me the chance. But there may have been other factors at work."
"Can you tell us what they are?" asked Catherine.
"I really should not, however you have become aware of much so more than we would normally allow outsiders to know, that I will trust you. You may never speak of this to anyone. Only Trelawney knows and she does not know that I have discerned it from her mind," he explained.
"The child that Phoebe is carrying is what we call a 'fated child.' This means that she is destined to be born when she will be. She was in fact waiting to be conceived. In this case, the wedding took place in its proper time. Had it not, the child would have been conceived, although certainly not born, out of wedlock. This would have cast a shadow over her life."
"So then Phoebe and Hal were right to marry when they did?" asked Rob.
"That is impossible to say," replied David. "Such things are never clear, nor are they ever made clear. The degree to which circumstance and opportunity play their own roles is never apparent, even in the long run. From what I understand, Trelawney was very unhappy at the time of the elopement. This means that she only perceived the waiting descent of the child after it occurred. That, itself, raises many questions.
"What happened has happened and we must all move forward. My concern with Phoebe is because of love, not obligation. She is no longer mine to care for. She is yours. Trelawney, as I have said before, is my concern. Until she marries into another family, she always will be."
Catherine and Rob looked at each other. They both had come to love the little girl. They had originally wanted to keep her near Phoebe to make her happy, but now they wanted her with them because they loved her. David had obviously sensed this.
"It touches my heart that you have come to love our little Trelawney so much," he said with feeling. "I know that you will do all you can to keep her safe. I can only hope that all you can do will be enough."
They heard footsteps on the stairs and fell silent as Phoebe walked in.
"Have I interrupted an important discussion?" she asked warily.
"Yes, we were talking about you," answered Rob just as carefully. "But it was not all bad. We are going to do our best to work through the situation slowly so that in the end we achieve the right result."
"Yes, I know," she said. "And I am grateful. But you need to know this. Trelawney had a nightmare last night at the Tuckers. She is fearful of Aunt Henrietta. But I do not know why. She did not tell me directly. She was talking in her sleep just now."
She turned to Uncle David, "She knows the emotional impact Auntie had on me. She sensed it and it frightened her. She has not had a nightmare in months. Please have a sit down with Auntie soon, Uncle. I can feel her fear and trepidation. And I don't want to see Auntie again."
"I will do my best, Phoebe," he replied seriously. "But you know that I hold no sway over her."
They were all silent again. No one knew what to say, but then they heard the pounding of footsteps on the stairs and Trelawney calling for her sister. Elspeth was barking and the two ran into the living room. The girl looked around fearfully and when she caught sight of her sister threw herself into her arms as she sobbed.
"You were gone when I woke up!" she cried. "I thought that I had lost you forever!"
David watched as Phoebe comforted her sister. He had not realized that the girl was so severely traumatized by the mere thought of separation. Her response was profound. She sat her down on the couch and Trelawney buried herself in her arms as Phoebe stroked her hair and whispered softly to her. Catherine left the room to make some more tea and Rob sat close to Phoebe. It was in these moments, that David came face to face with the entire emotional and spiritual connection between the girls.
He realized that this was a powerful force that could very well be critical to the well being of both and therefore, all three. Everyone had known how close that they had been before their parents had died. As he looked at them intertwined in each other's arms he watched as their auras converged and became one. It was an extremely rare phenomenon. He was grateful that Rob and Catherine Everett were who they were. He prayed that they had the strength and wisdom to keep them together.
Separating the girls would weaken both of them psychically. Within their minds and hearts was some interlinking aspect that no one could break without causing great harm to both. The bond between them transcended all others in their lives. He had never seen such a thing, but had heard of it. There were many on the family who believed that it had existed between Owen and Meg and that that was why they had died together.
The doctors had said that Meg had died instantly, but Owen probably fifteen minutes later. His injuries had been much less severe, but it may have been that the breaking of the deep spiritual connection that weakened him physically. His soul had instinctively sought hers and they had escaped the boundaries of physical world together. It was completely logical that the children born of their union would share this deep connection. Both had been much prayed for. Their interdependence had been nurtured through their upbringing.
They had lived together now for a year. No doubt that had strengthened the psychic connection. Emmeline had sensed it, but he knew that she had never witnessed this. If she had, she would never have withheld the knowledge from him. But this explained a lot. It was something that all of the Everetts would need to come to grips with, but he was reluctant to tell all of them.
For the first time since he had arrived, David felt as if the situation was out of his control. He realized that he had fallen prey to one the most insidious of spiritual vices, hubris. He had assumed that he had all the answers but simply had to plot out an amicable solution. What he had just witnessed would force him to rethink all of his assumptions.
At present, Trelawney was clinging to her sister out of a need that she clearly did not understand. However it was not a completely selfish need. She needed to offer what protection she could to Phoebe and her child. She would sacrifice all for them. In her simple mind, she did not understand that this was the most destructive thing of all for them.
He was shaken from his reverie by Catherine, offering him more tea. He could see that Phoebe had now soothed her sister. Trelawney was now curled up beside her, with Elspeth's head resting in her lap. The dog was looking at him oddly. He realized that in taking over her duty to protect Meg's daughters, she was viewing him with suspicion. Dogs are sensitive creatures and very loyal. She knew the bond between them and understood it with her own sixth sense. She would guard the girls well, but no longer viewed him as an ally. Still, he was glad he had brought her.
He sighed and stood up to leave the room. He needed to think alone. He walked over to the girls as kissed each on the forehead, as if they were his own daughters. Phoebe must have perceived his uncertainty. She gave him a hopeful little smile. He gave her a little tap on the cheek to reassure her.
Trelawney huddled closer to Phoebe, but he knew that she was still upset by her nightmare. Henrietta clearly represented some kind of threat to her. He wished he knew what so that he could protect them. However, he strongly suspected that whatever the threat was, it was not intentional. No doubt Henrietta would create some mischief that would blow up in her face. He just hoped that none of the innocent would be harmed.
Hal was pleased by the catch that they were bringing home from their fishing trip. Even Prudence had caught a couple of fish that she was very proud of. After their talk, she had greatly improved her mood and attitude. In fact when it was time to take a break for lunch she was reluctant to leave her pole.
At lunch, Butch brought up the subject of Phoebe and Trelawney.
"Dad," he asked. "I know that Mom really, really loves Trelawney, but I still don't understand why she wants her around if she knows that she is going to upset her. Uncle David seems like a pretty cool guy. Why doesn't she just let Trelawney go live with him?"
Hal decided that getting annoyed would probably not solve anything. He also realized that this was an issue that would not go away, especially because he knew that Uncle David could have all the sit downs that he wanted to with Aunt Henrietta, she was not going to stop harassing Trelawney until she was good and ready to. It was probably a good idea for the four of them to discuss it together before they went home. Fortunately his son Hal stepped.
"I don't think that it's fair to blame Trelawney because Aunt Henrietta is crazy," he said reasonably. "It wasn't Trelawney who upset Mom last night. It was Aunt Henrietta."
"But do you think that she could be right?" asked Butch. "About Trelawney hurting the baby?"
"No way!" said Hal. "No one has been trying to help Mom more that Trelawney. In fact, she really loves the baby already. She told me that she hopes that it's a girl because if it is then Mom and Dad are going to name her Margaret. That's what her Mum's name was. Right, Dad?"
"That's right," said Hal, grateful that his quick-thinking son was being such a big help. "And if it's a boy, he'll be Owen for her father. It really doesn't matter if the baby is a girl or a boy, just as long as she's healthy. And before you ask about that, Butch, we keep calling the baby 'she' because we don't want to say 'it.'"
"That would be silly to call a baby 'it.' I hope it's a girl too. Isn't Grammy's mother named Margaret too? And I wasn't eavesdropping," she added defensively. "Grammy told me all about her when we were baking cookies one day."
"That's neat!" said Butch. "Do we have anyone in our family named Owen?"
"Not that I know of," admitted Hal. "That's a question for Grammy and Grampie. I'm afraid that I don't know as much about our family as Mom and Trelawney do about theirs."
"Why is that, Daddy?" asked Prudence.
Hal had to think about that one. Fortunately, his son stepped in again.
"From what I can tell," he explained. "It's because they all live in the same little village in England. Trelawney told me that 'some of them roam, and some stay home.' And the ones who stay home have lots of kids. If everyone lives so close I think that it's easier to keep track and know everyone."
"True," agreed Hal. "I know that I have cousins on Grammy's side that I have never met because they live so far away, and aunts and uncles."
"Are any of them like Aunt Henrietta?" asked Butch.
"I doubt it," replied Hal with a smile. "But since I don't know who they are, it's always possible."
"I hope not," said Butch. "One Aunt Henrietta is enough for any family."
"But she's funny," commented Prudence. "I like it when Trelawney makes fun of her."
"I don't," said her older brother Hal. "I think that Trelawney makes fun of her because she's scared of her."
"I don't think so," said Prudence. "Trelawney's not afraid of real people. She's only afraid of dream people and monsters."
"What dream people?" asked Butch curiously.
"The ones that she talks about in her sleep," replied Prudence. "When she slept in my room, she talked about all different kinds of scary people who wanted to hurt her and Mommy. But she made me promise not to tell, so I guess that I tattled again. I forgot."
"I don't think that you forgot," said Hal. "I think that you wanted to tell us, so that you could let us know that you know more than we do. That's mean."
"Is it, Daddy?" asked Prudence uncomfortably.
"Well, Prudence," said her father. "I would say that it is mean in two ways. The first is that you knew very well that Trelawney didn't want you to talk about it. That's one of the reasons why we had to move her out of your room. Because we knew that you would tattle. In the second instance, I think that it makes you feel more important when you can talk about things that we don't know."
"But it's really mean," added Hal. "When you say things that you know will get other people in trouble. Like at dinner two weeks ago when you and Butch tattled that Trelawney had told us about Christabel's wedding. You knew that Uncle David might get mad at her."
"But he didn't," said Butch defensively.
"That's probably because he has six children himself and he's an expert in dealing with tattling," answered his father. "Or Emmeline told him so he already knew. But there was no reason to bring it up."
"I guess not," said Prudence. "But I don't think that it's fair that everyone always wants to treat Trelawney so special. Especially since she doesn't like it when people make a fuss."
"Prudence," said her father. "You have to realize that without parents to care for her and with your Mommy being pregnant, unless we take special care of her then she doesn't have anyone. When the baby is born, I can promise you that everyone will make a fuss over her. In fact it will probably be a much bigger fuss than we make over Trelawney."
"I remember when you were born," said Hal. "Everyone sure made a fuss over you because you were a girl. Especially Nana. For a while I was wishing that you had been a boy."
"Hey! That's not nice!" said Prudence.
"No, it wasn't," admitted Hal. "But I was only a little older than you. I didn't know any better. Then Papa explained it to me."
"He did?" asked his father.
"Yeah! Papa's a really smart guy," replied Hal. "He said that Mom and Nana wanted a girl to fuss over and buy pretty dresses for. It's not that they didn't want a boy, it's that they wanted a girl more. After Mom got sick, I felt happy for her. I knew that she really wanted to have that little girl, so I was glad that she got one, before . . . well, you know."
"I don't remember that," said Butch, skeptically.
"You were too little," replied Hal. "But Papa and I had a man to man talk about it. Dad, you were too busy."
"I know," said his father. "Unfortunately, I have a job that keeps me very busy. That's why Mom needs help from Grammy and Grampie, as well as you three."
"Trelawney said that back home when people get busy, their families always help them out," said Hal. "I think that that's why she always wants to help Mom. That's just how her people are. I think that it's nice. I think that it will be neat to go there some time to meet their whole family."
"Someday we will," promised Hal. "But I can't tell you when. It will be very expensive to bring the whole family over. But I know that Mom will need to go back someday to take care of her house. Right now, Uncle David and Emmeline are doing it for her."
"Dad," said Butch, by now shifting around restlessly. "Can we start fishing again? I'm getting tired of just sitting around here and yakking."
"Good idea, Butch," he said. "Let's see if we can catch a few more so that we have enough for dinner."
As Hal packed up the car, he was very pleased with the way that things had turned out. He had had a chance to talk about some important things with the kids. He realized that it was just as good for the four of them to do things together, as it was for Phoebe to have time alone with her sister. He had never done that much. When Phoebe came she had pulled them together as a family, but she had always been there. This was one of the few times that he had to manage the kids by himself.
He hated to admit it, but he wasn't very good at talking with them about these family issues. He was really glad that he had Hal to help him out. He could see that his eldest son was taking his responsibility as oldest child seriously. He suspected that it could be Topher's influence. Topher was the oldest of six kids and he knew that he took his responsibilities very seriously.
He looked over at his son and realized that not only was he taller than Phoebe, he was inching up towards him. He was going to be a tall man someday. But he also knew that he would stand taller than most men in more ways than one.
When they returned from fishing, Rob was pleased to see that they had actually caught enough for dinner for the nine of them. He took the kids outside to scale and gut the fish. Prudence didn't want to go, but Rob's rule was that "if you catch, you clean it." Prudence was also unhappy that Phoebe and Trelawney had opened up the dollhouse and been playing with it together. After their tea, when Trelawney settled down, they had gone back upstairs. David wasn't exaggerating when he said that they could play with it for hours.
Rob noticed that after Trelawney's emotional outburst he had been treating both girls more tenderly. He had seen or realized something as he had watched Phoebe comfort her sister. Rob sensed that he was more conflicted than ever. By the time they were done, Prudence was good and cranky. Since he knew that almost everyone else had tried to talk with her about her attitude, now it was his turn.
"Prudence," he said. "Please stay out here with me for a minute. I want to speak with you."
She looked like she wanted to refuse, but she didn't have a choice. If Hal knew that she had rudely walked away from him she would be in big trouble. She went over to the chair he pointed to and sat down with arms folded across her chest and lower lip stuck out.
"Prudence," he began sternly. "I am not going to permit you to go back into the house until you sweeten up."
She looked like she didn't know what to say to that. He was speaking to her more strongly than either Hal or Phoebe had ever done before. And he knew it.
"Not acknowledging me when I talk to you is not going to get you in the house any faster," he commented. "Now I suggest that you stop being resentful because your mother and Trelawney had some time alone today. You seemed happy enough when you came in. What changed your mood? Other than having to gut the fish that you caught, that is."
"I wanted to be there when Trelawney opened up the house and played with it," she said in a whiny tone of voice. "It was my idea that she ask for it."
"And it was a very thoughtful idea," said Rob. "But I hope that the idea was about making Trelawney happy, not yourself."
"Oh, brother!" replied Prudence, rolling her eyes and borrowing one of her brothers' favorite expressions. "Now you sound like Daddy and Hal. All they care about is making Trelawney happy. And all you and Grammy care about is making Trelawney happy. And Mommy cares more about her than she does about me. Why doesn't anyone want to make me happy?"
Rob thought for a moment. He was trying very hard not point out how selfish she was being. He was sure that his daughter-in-law, son, and grandson had already covered that ground. He was also sure that they had pointed out that the other child had recently lost both her parents. If only the girl was not so stubborn about putting her own feelings above everyone else's.
"Prudence," he asked. "Has Trelawney ever done anything to hurt you?"
"No," she answered, reluctantly.
"Has she ever been mean to you or teased you?" he asked.
"No," she replied, pouting.
"Did she pick up the slack on your chores without tattling on you or complaining?"
"Does she defend you when your brothers teased you?"
"Does she help you with your homework?"
"Has she ever once complained about all the time that you spend with your Mommy?"
"So tell me then," he concluded. "What has Trelawney, not anyone else, but Trelawney herself, ever done to make you feel so resentful of her?"
He could see Prudence thinking hard. He knew that she was searching her mind for one injury or slight that Trelawney had committed against her in the year that they lived together. Of course there was none. Butch and Hal might have reason to gripe about her, but Prudence didn't.
"Do you know why that is?" he asked, when she was unable to come up with even one example.
"No," she said, obviously a bit chastened now.
"Trelawney has always been like a sister to you. That's the way that you wanted it," he explained. "Trelawney learned how to be such a good and loving sister from your Mommy. Your Mommy didn't give her lessons. She just always acted like a good big sister and Trelawney copied her. Now this summer, you are going to have a new brother or sister. Do you want to be a good big sister?"
"Yes, of course," said Prudence.
"Then maybe it would be a good idea to start practicing to be a good big sister by being a good little sister. There's really not much difference," he said. "If you watch them closely, your mother and Trelawney don't only say that they love each other. They act like it. Trelawney has been very generous sharing her sister with you. You will need to be generous like that when the new baby comes."
Prudence finally decided to look him in the eye. He could see that he was finally getting through to her. He knew that deep down she was a very loving child and she was bothered by all of the upset in the house, both good and bad. She was also afraid that Phoebe wouldn't have time for her either when the baby came. However, she had to stop this manipulative behavior before the rest of the family grew tired of it.
"Do you think that if I ask nicely that Mommy and Trelawney will show me the dollhouse?" she asked.
"I think that they will," he replied. "They both love you very much, but you make it hard for them when you become so possessive of your mother. Your Mommy doesn't love you any less because she loves her sister. That's not the way that love works."
Rob sighed as she walked into the house. He didn't think that that was the last discussion that one of them would have to have with her. He thought of his own words about the love between Phoebe and Trelawney. It made him realize that what they shared was special and unique. It was amazing to him that as deeply as they cared for one another; they were never selfish.
He realized that David knew this as well. He also suspected that he had seen something when Phoebe was comforting Trelawney that he and Catherine could not. He thought of what his son had told him about looking through the picture album of pictures of just the two of them and that special smile they shared. He had looked through the album himself. Even when Trelawney was a baby, that smile had been there. Hal wanted to figure out the connection, but Rob doubted that there was anything to figure out. It was simply a look of pure love.
That night, after the family had left and Trelawney went to bed, David made a decision. He decided that he had to tell Rob and Catherine what he had seen earlier. He had debated telling Hal as well, but he doubted that he understand it. In fact, it would probably upset him. Since he finally seemed to be accepting the fact that Trelawney was no threat to his marriage, he didn't want to disturb that process. However, it would be very helpful for Rob and Catherine to know.
"You have probably figured out by now," he said, when they sat down together. "That Phoebe and Trelawney share a closer than normal relationship as sisters. You need to know that even within our world, their relationship is very close."
"I have sensed that," said Catherine. "I have noticed that at times when they are together they become unaware of what is happening around them. They sometimes seem to be communicating without speaking."
"Well, that is actually not quite so unusual where we come from," he replied. "There's a deeper connection that I think that you have sensed, but don't fully realize."
"Go on," said Rob. "I have a feeling that whatever you are going to tell us is not only something important, it is something that you would normally not share."
"That's very true," he said. "But right now I am in a position where I have to trust you or risk doing the girls great harm."
"You can trust us," replied Rob. "I am assuming that we can't even tell Hal."
"Yes," answered David. "It's better for all concerned if he doesn't know."
"Okay," said Catherine. "You have our full attention and our promise not to betray your trust."
David nodded. He was able to discern from their minds that their love for his nieces was such that they would keep his confidences. Whoever had sent them to guard the girls had chosen well.
"Earlier this afternoon, while Phoebe was comforting Trelawney, I saw a most unusual sight," he said. "In fact, I have never seen such a sight before. I have only heard of it. When Phoebe was holding the child in her arms, their auras merged with each other, became one. This is a psychic bond on a very deep level. At this level, Phoebe's aura was actually strengthening Trelawney's weaker one. She was weakened by her fear.
"Both girls were sad. Trelawney was saddened by what she perceived to be the loss of her sister. Phoebe was saddened by her sister's fear. However, the strength that they drew from one another helped them to escape the negative feelings.
"Trelawney needs Phoebe because of her fragile mental state. She is too easily hurt by the outside world. Phoebe needs Trelawney to help her stay strong for the sake of her child. Each fills in the other a need that no one else can. Both were deeply wounded by the loss of their parents. It is by this very deep connection that they are actually healing as well as supporting each other. They need to be with each other, physically, to help each other heal and move forward with their lives."
"Does this mean that you will stop fighting for custody?" asked Rob.
"For now, yes," he said. "I will entrust the child to you. This will not be a legal action. It will be a verbal family contract. It will not be permanent, but it will give you the right, under our customs, to maintain physical custody of the child. I want to erase the fear from Phoebe's mind that I will take her from you. Trelawney is different. She has no fear of me. For some reason she is afraid of Henrietta. Do everything you can to keep her away from her. Crossed wires or not, there is every possibility that the danger to Phoebe and the child comes from Henrietta herself harming the girl."
"That's a bit ironic," said Catherine.
"Well, you're the scholar of letters," commented Uncle David. "Think of the role of irony in tragedy. This is very serious business. I doubt that anything I say will have any effect on her actions, but for the girls' sake I must try. It's a pity that the old girl doesn't have any real contact with Meg and Owen. I am sure that they would tell her to leave their little girl alone."
"Is there anything else?" asked Rob.
"I believe that you have been told this already, but the safest place for Trelawney is close to you, Catherine. I do not know why. I simply know that it is so," he said. "I believe that there are others who can keep her safe when you're not there, but not for long. Francine, Sarah, Mike, and Topher are also strong protectors. Aside from you, the strongest is your grandson Hal. But you must be watchful for a time when you must keep her by your side at all times."
"What about Phoebe?" Catherine asked.
"Her husband won't like this, but there may be a time when the girls must be together," he said. "In this case, you must bring Phoebe here. The safest place for all three of them is under your protection in your home."
"Can you tell us anything else?" asked Catherine.
"At this time, no," he said. "If I could, I would. But there are many unanswered questions. I love those girls like my own. I will do my best in the next week to learn more."
David then said his goodnights and returned to his room. There was a part of him that was wishing very much that a year ago, Emmeline had kept her promise to bring the girls straight home. This situation was a muddle of the very first order. He had never thought that he would ever entrust outsiders with so much information about their people. He would have a lot of explaining to do when he returned home.
But what else could he have done? He couldn't separate the girls and he couldn't separate Phoebe from her husband. Bringing them both home would be the safest for both, but it couldn't be done. If he could do that, it would stop Henrietta and her machinations immediately.
The only thing left to hope for was that Henrietta's bumbling would work in their favor. Unfortunately it had never worked out that way before. He had known that it was a mistake to let her come, but she had argued the loudest for it, and been heavily supported by her father.
It was too late to change the past. He had only Trelawney's powerful prescience about the future to rely on. Despite her present fears, she seemed very hopeful about the future for Phoebe and her child. This was a positive hope. She seemed to have a different kind of hope for herself, a hope of the more desperate variety. It was quite sad that the sweet child found it so difficult to envision future happiness for herself. It was a pity. After all that she had suffered and remained as kind and generous as she was, she deserved a little joy in her own life.
He decided that it was up to him to help her attain it. The occasional happiness that she felt now was purely transitory. Apart from her sister, she looked wistful when her name was mentioned or she was referred to. He had seen that look before, at home. If Phoebe had stayed away for too long, even her parents could not prevent the longing from emerging and the melancholy to set in. Now he knew why.
Before she had left with Emmeline for America, he had promised her that once she was reunited with her sister she would have the strength she needed to deal with her grief. If he had known what circumstances awaited her, he would never have made that promise. In the midst of her own grief, she had promised him that she would do everything that she could to help her sister. As always, she had kept her promise. Phoebe was struggling to keep her own promise. He pitied her because her marriage vows now interfered, to a large extent, with her previous promise to her parents.
He was still trying to come to grips with these Americans and their lack of understanding of the true meaning of the word family. Rob, Catherine, and young Hal seemed to be exceptional to him. Phoebe's husband was too typical. This so-called "nuclear family" here in America was a rather weak imitation of what they had at home. He knew that in her heart, Phoebe had thought that she could teach the Everetts to embrace the more powerful and inclusive definition. She still had hope.
However, unless her husband fully understood and accepted the implications of his marriage vows, these sacred promises, to his wife, she would not be happy. As much as her sister, she would long for that most special and irreplaceable connection. Remembering the similar connection of her parents, David prayed that no accident of fate would destroy them as well.
Witnessing the convergence of the auras, he had felt that there was a terrible beauty to it. There was an angelic quality to the two sisters, with their fair complexions, golden hair, blue eyes, and slender builds. Their pure and loving hearts made them almost too good for this world. The child Maisie would no doubt be like them. He had solemnly promised his brother to protect them, and he would. It did not matter what the implications were for his life. He would not foreswear his promise. In his world, implications were always accepted and their challenges met. It was one of the most enduring aspects of their families and their culture.