I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.
This story is the fourth in a four part series of stories that describe the visit by 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 conflicts that arise within families when too many unrealistic promises are made.
Rob Everett's head was spinning after the second week of David Figalilly's visit. He was a practical and pragmatic man and had never in a million years thought that he would end up in the middle of this mysterious, mystical, and mystifying situation. The revelations of the past weekend about his daughter-in-law and her family had him utterly bemused. He had never had any idea than any people such as these could actually exist in the twentieth century, or at any other time for that matter. They seemed to have come straight from a fabled and fantastic past.
His youngest son had fallen in love with the lovely, young nanny to his children. Admittedly, when he and his wife had visited last year they had encouraged the relationship. In fact, even when all sorts of difficulties and obstacles began to crop up they had still supported him. Phoebe was a beautiful and loving woman, but she was not all that she appeared to be. Now that they were married, his son Hal was finally starting to realize that the differences between them would be a greater challenge than he had originally thought.
All married couples face challenges. Often after the wedding they discover things about each other that they had not known before. It is impossible to know absolutely everything thing about one's prospective spouse. Phoebe had never lied or misrepresented herself, however she had withheld a good deal of information. At the time, Hal had been so in love with her and determined to make her his wife that he had accepted her as she was. Believing that in the end, love would conquer all.
It was also not an unusual thing for a new wife to become pregnant shortly after the wedding. Both of them had very much wanted a child, but this added to the complexity of the matter. Like all pregnant women, Phoebe suffered from the usual first-trimester morning sickness and fatigue. Managing a household with four children suddenly became a challenge. He and Catherine had stepped in to help.
This young woman also came from a world where pre-cognition and pre-destiny were facts of life. Her people were highly intuitive both about other people and events in the future. Most of them seemed to have a very deep faith in God and lived closely to the ideals set out by Jesus during his time on earth. Their actions were based on love and kindness. They were devoted to family. Some of them even believed that they could talk to angels. In and of themselves, none of these things were bad. Put together, they made for a very perplexing situation.
Phoebe and her younger sister Trelawney were both kindness itself. Thoughtful and generous to a fault, they had brought a new sense of family to all the Everetts, not just Hal and his children. Over two years ago, Phoebe had arrived to become Nanny to his son's three motherless children. The process had really started then.
In the nearly two years since their mother had passed away, the house and the kids had gotten completely out of control. His son, a professor of mathematics, was relatively clueless about family relations and running his household. Housekeepers were easy to find. Finding a housekeeper willing to take the kids in hand and bring the family together as such seemed to be an impossibility.
Then, as his son had told him, she showed up on his doorstep right before he was about to call the employment agency for housekeeper number six in a year. He knew that there was something different about her when she seemed to be highly intuitive about a number of things, including who was at the door before the bell rang, what guests' favorite foods were, and what the animals were saying.
But within days, the house was running smoothly and one by one the children accepted her unique brand of kindness, "magic," and discipline. However, that situation was never meant to be permanent. Phoebe had considered it her job to see him married (to someone other than herself) and the family intact so that she could go off to set her next family to rights. This was the mission that she had taken upon for herself in life. She lived the principles that she held most dear.
Then tragedy struck her when her parents were suddenly killed and she was left with the responsibility for her younger sister. But her job with Hal's family was incomplete. She had yet to find him a suitable wife to take her place so that she could declare victory and move on. In what seemed a masterstroke of convenience, the girl willingly came to live with the family. Hal put himself in the position of protector to both.
Things were moving in a romantic direction for Hal and Phoebe when her "betrothed from birth" showed up. Refusing to accept "the inevitable," the children took it upon themselves to chase him off. Hal and Phoebe acknowledged their love for one another, married, and conceived their first child, all within the span of a single year. Looking back on it now, Rob realized that things had moved much too quickly. At this point the "happily ever after" part of the story was supposed to kick in. But, as always in real life, it was elusive.
Phoebe's marriage to Hal had surprised her own family in more ways than one. Of course rejecting her betrothed was an enormous breach of family tradition and custom. The culture of her family was embedded in a very parochial and patriarchal world. It was a true anachronism in the modern world. They had barely had a chance to get used to the idea that she was engaged to marry an "outsider," when she eloped. There were concerns from two perspectives.
The first was an authoritarian one. Very few family members had met her intended and she had not returned to her home village to be married amidst her own. As was expected. This was a serious breach of family tradition. The second was the concern held by her Uncle David, that she was not emotionally ready to take such a large, life-changing step so close to the death of her parents. Because she acted, and in his view needlessly hastily, family matters were now in a very large tangle.
Now the custody of her sister was compromised. She had sworn to care for her in the case of the loss of her parents. She was assigned custody in their will. However shortly before their deaths they had added a codicil giving custody to David Figalilly and his wife if Phoebe was unable to care for the child. Considering their psychic nature, they must have had a premonition of their own that caused concern, despite the fact that Phoebe had renewed her vow before leaving for her job with the Everetts.
There were a variety of issues with the child living in her household that at this point no one completely understood. She had been moved to Rob's home to be cared for by his wife. This was because their good friend and trusted confidante Pastor Jason had recommended it. He also did a bit of restructuring within the Everett family, setting up Rob and primary decision maker for them all. However this change in custody violated the terms of the will.
Because Phoebe was pregnant with their first child, no one wished to add to her stress, including her uncle. But it was unavoidable. To top it all off, her Aunt Henrietta, a sister of her mother had settled in town and was creating problems of her own. She was a self-proclaimed psychic with direct connections with the "other side." Rob felt as if he were up to his eyeballs in customary law, family tradition, and a whole culture of psychics. As more details of his new daughter-in-law emerged he felt caught between the love that he had for her and her sister and his own sense of reason and sanity.
Just as his counterpart David, he felt that events had taken on a life of their own. David had come with the intention of checking up on his nieces and then attempting to find a way to amicably bring the younger girl home. However, recent events had proved even to him that the girls should remain together for the wellbeing of both and Phoebe's unborn child.
Rob and his wife Catherine had fallen in love with both girls and wanted to keep them together. However, Rob was still not entirely sure of why David and his family were so reluctant to leave the child in his care. It was obvious that she was special, but less obvious as to why this precluded her "safely" residing in the "outside world" as he called it. There was also the issue of Pastor Jason and his determination to keep Trelawney in America near her sister. None of it made any sense.
David was a good man who loved the child very much. He could see that Phoebe had too many worries of her own to care for the girl with the level of attention that she needed. She had a new husband and unborn child to concern herself with. There were also the three stepchildren, whom she loved as her own, to consider. When Trelawney had lived in the household she had become lost in the shuffle. She never complained, but slowly began to fade away as she had stopped eating.
Once Catherine took over her care, while Phoebe and Hal honeymooned, she began to put on weight and become stronger. The move up the street to their house had been wrenching and there were then issues regarding the amount of time that the sisters had together. As Catherine continued to shower her with love and attention, her mood stabilized and should continued to put on weight and become physically stronger. But she was clearly still pining for her sister. Rob was in a quandary as to how to improve the situation when David made it clear to him that he must do more to give the girls time together. It was not just Trelawney that needed it. It was Phoebe as well.
Rob had only the vaguest understanding of what an "aura" was, although he did know that there were special people with "second sight" could see the glow around another person. His wife, a scholar of English literature and with a relatively good understanding of psychic phenomena from a Jungian perspective, explained that some people believed that the golden halos around the saints in Christianity were actually auras projecting their goodness. Knowing Phoebe and her sister Trelawney, Rob was ready to believe David when he spoke of their "auras." However the "merging" of the auras that he described completely baffled him.
In some ways, Aunt Henrietta was easier to understand. She was crazy. Uncle David on the other hand was a rather serious fellow. He was kindly and gentle and clearly was acting on behalf of the girls out of love. He no longer wanted to bring the child home immediately. He wanted to keep her with her sister to protect "the three of them."
Just as his niece Trelawney, he viewed Phoebe's unborn child as a full human being, a complete soul simply waiting to be born. Her life, for she was a girl destined to be called Maisie, had begun at conception, perhaps even before. This was something that young Trelawney had known and was apparently indicative of a highly prescient mind, whatever that meant.
Respite from the Turmoil
After her afternoon with her sister, Phoebe found herself feeling renewed. However, this might also have been because as she moved into her fifteenth week. She was no longer feeling nausea in the morning and she was also recovering her energy. The doctor had promised that this would happen. She also knew that within the next couple of weeks she would begin to feel the "quickening" or the first flutters of movement as the baby would be large enough to make her presence felt as well as known.
Trelawney was happier as well. When they met at church the next morning, she gave her a big hug and then insisted on sitting beside her after Sunday school. This did not please Prudence, who then herself insisted that she sit between Hal and Phoebe. This displeased her father. However, Phoebe had decided that Prudence would not get her way in this. Trelawney was still feeling the effects of her vicarious contact with Aunt Henrietta. Phoebe knew that she was spiritually strengthened by her physical, as well as emotional, support.
Yesterday, when she had held the girl in her arms to comfort her, she had felt an energy pass between them. She had never felt it before and wondered if Trelawney had. She knew that there had been positive benefit in it for both of them. There was a safety and security, as they seemed to be able to close off the rest of the world. She suspected that it was something that the two of them shared alone with each other. She had no idea of its origin, but she hoped that it was not the fanciful imagining of a pregnant woman. It had soothed her as much as her sister. She wondered if Maisie would share it.
Trelawney was always at peace when they were at church. Their parents had instilled in both of them a very deep belief in God and his care of all people. She knew that she missed their good friend Pastor Jason. She did as well. She had not realized the strength that he gave both of them.
He had been sent as Trelawney's guardian angel, but she only now realized that he was there to protect all three of them. At coffee hour, her sister clung to her side, but when it was time to go home, obediently joined Rob and Catherine. Catherine put her arm around her and she noticed that Uncle David was watching them. He looked concerned.
After lunch, Rob, Catherine, and David decided to take all of the children out to a local fair so that she and Hal could have some time alone. None of the children complained. She even got a mischievous little smile from Trelawney that said that she knew what they would be up to. Of course she was right.
No sooner had the car pulled away than Hal swooped her up and carried her off to bed. After the upset of the last two days, they had missed this kind of physical intimacy. Despite the drama of their entrance into the bedroom, his lovemaking was tender and gentle. Before he took her, he softly caressed every inch of her expanding body. She knew that he was enjoying her newly voluptuous figure. His touch stirred her as he moved his mouth along the curves. She could feel herself involuntarily arch with desire. But he could no longer take her on her back.
As her belly swelled with the child, so did her breasts in anticipation of their new use by her child after she was born. Until she could take solid food, they would be her sole source of nutrition. Phoebe had never seen her mother use a bottle with Trelawney. There was no need. She knew that if a woman could not produce enough milk to adequately feed her child that she would have to supplement with a bottle. She hoped that this would not be the case for Maisie.
When Hal had completed his initial exploration, he began to arouse her. She knew that he wanted to stretch out the experience for as long as possible, but since her pregnancy she had become more sensitive to his advances. She found herself softly moaning for him quickly. To protect their child, he pulled her on top where he held her gently. She needed him and found him waiting. Once he had obliged, he held her in his arms protectively. She snuggled closer and sighed with contentment. She had missed him more than she had realized.
"I love you," she said softly, as she reached up and ran her fingers through his hair.
"You know," he answered. "No matter how many times you say that to me, each time feels special. I love you too."
He tipped her head up so that he could look into her eyes and she parted her lips. Smiling, he leaned down for a deep kiss. She felt herself stirring again and pressed her body against his. His mouth trailed off hers and he made his way down to find her. He took her in another deep kiss and she felt herself reel with pleasure. As she released the tension, he held her.
"I think that you enjoyed that," he said with a devilish look in his eyes. She knew that he loved watching her lose control.
"Mmm," she answered. "I feel as if I can't ever have enough of you."
She could feel him hold her tighter and stroke her hair as she cuddled once more in his arms. It was a lazy afternoon after what had been an emotional weekend so far. It was pleasant to leave all of those emotions outside the bedroom door and just focus on her lover for a few hours. It was a pity that she was so tired. But she knew that there was still a lot of time before the family returned. Before she knew it, she had fallen into a restful sleep.
Hal felt her relax and fall asleep in his arms. Her body, as always, felt soft and warm next to his. He found their lovemaking deeply satisfying. He wasn't sure if it was because of her "blossoming" figure or the fact that she was bearing his child within her. But simply feeling her so close was very pleasurable.
He had begun to show restraint when arousing and pleasuring her. He knew that he really couldn't hurt the baby, but he did want to show her how much he cared for her. Oddly, this in no way interfered with his own pleasure. Of course he had no experience making love to a pregnant woman, but all of his instincts told him to be gentle. The fact that she still desired him even as her body was expanding with a new life pleased him greatly.
He looked down at her as she was nestled against his shoulder. He shifted himself to find a more comfortable angle and prepared to rest himself. He knew that after they napped, there was plenty of time for more lovemaking. He had missed her cheerful, sunny disposition and was glad that she was happier. Perhaps now that the visit with Aunt Henrietta was over she would stay away for a while. They all needed a break from the anxiety that her pronouncements, although mostly bordering on the absurd, gave them all.
The week had been busy and he was also feeling the stress of the weekend and Uncle David's visit. Something about the man made him feel uncomfortable. He sensed his disapproval but did not understand the source. He loved his wife with all of his heart and was doing everything that he could think of to make her happy. What more could he expect? He was looking forward to the man leaving next weekend. Then they could pick up their normal daily lives without feeling as if they were constantly under the scrutiny of a microscope.
David was not kidding when he said that he had decided that he was going to spend a day with his niece Trelawney at her American school. This was not a particularly pleasing plan to her guidance counselor or her teachers. However, after an intense discussion with the principal, David had his way.
He would be permitted to "shadow" his niece throughout the course of a school day, attending classes with her and even eating lunch with her. He did not feel that he was asking for anything unreasonable. The only person that he actually wanted to speak to was the guidance counselor, Mr. Preston. All he wanted to do in the classes was sit unobtrusively in the back and watch and listen.
His niece Trelawney was unbothered by the idea. Most seventh grade girls would have been mortified by the prospect. She accepted it as his right as one of the guardians appointed by her parents to care for her. In her culture, a male relative exerting such rights was not unusual. Ostensibly, he was not going there to assess the teaching or the curriculum. He was mostly interested in observing his niece and her interactions with those around her.
That morning, instead of taking the bus, Rob drove Trelawney, Hal, Francine, and David to school. Trelawney first brought her uncle to her guidance counselor's office and politely introduced them. David was unimpressed by the man's sharp suit and overly jovial way of speaking.
"Well, then, " said Mr. Preston. "Isn't it great that you've come all the way from England to see how our little Trelawney is doing?"
David could see Trelawney suppressing a smile. He knew that she was thinking that it was rather specious of Mr. Preston to refer to her as "our" little Trelawney. He could also see that Mr. Preston wanted to put the best face on things right away so that he could get them out of his office as quickly as possible. He was looking forward to having his morning coffee with one of the pretty, young female counselors. Taking note of his wedding ring, David decided not to accommodate him.
"Yes, sir," he replied respectfully. "I have not seen my niece in over a year and I want to make sure that her new school is up to the standards that we expect. Trelawney love, why don't you go off to find your little friends? While Mr. Preston and I speak? I am sure that he can bring me to your first class."
Trelawney knew his intentions and gave him one of her funny little mischievous smiles.
"Yes, Uncle David," she replied dutifully. "I have math class first, sir."
With that she went skipping off to find her best friends Sarah and Francine. David turned his attention to the somewhat bothered guidance counselor. He was definitely not used to having the other person take control of the situation. However, as he saw it, Mr. Preston was a paid state employee and was there to serve the public. Since Rob and Hal's taxes paid his salary, David felt completely within his rights to make demands on his time. Also young Hal had already warned him that the man was pretty spineless and "an idiot." He could see that immediately.
Mr. Preston reluctantly led him back to his office and seated himself behind a large, very neat desk. He indicated that David should sit in a seat across the desk from him. David could see that he was trying to put himself in a position of power by putting the desk between them.
He was unimpressed, especially when he noticed the pictures of his wife and children prominently displayed. Considering his thoughts about the young woman, his sense of decency was offended. This man was no role model for the young people he was paid to "guide." But still, he casually sat back and looked at the diplomas on the wall.
"So, Mr. Figalilly," said Mr. Preston with forced cheerfulness. "What would you like to know?"
"Well, I must admit that this school is very different from our little school in the village back home," said David, not wasting any words. "What I am most concerned about is that Trelawney Rose seems to be in need of protection from the teasing of the other students by her friends. What kind of a culture are you promoting here if this kind of nonsense is permitted to go on?"
Mr. Preston looked very ill at ease. No one thought much about the "culture" of the school. The teachers were busy trying to keep pace with the rapidly changing curriculum and maintaining high standardized test scores. These kids were the tail end of the post-war baby boom and classes were overcrowded. Discipline wise, the school was in pretty good shape. It served the children of the upper middle class in town, including many children of the university faculty and staff. High parental expectations mostly kept the kids in line, at least academically. It wasn't his fault that the child was different and so sensitive.
David discerned his thoughts and was annoyed. But he decided to sit there until he got some form of verbal response.
"Well," he finally replied. "I think that it's great that Trelawney has made such good friends. You know that sometimes there is a bit of competition between the various groups of kids. She's a bright little girl and quite advanced in some subjects. Some of the other kids may be envious."
"Some of the other kids," answered David sternly. "To quote young Hal Everett, think that she is 'weird,' whatever that means. My niece is a sensitive and creative child. She is well read and rather musically inclined. I fail to see how that is weird."
"Oh, you know how these kids today are obsessed with pop culture," replied Mr. Preston, now looking anxious.
"No, as a matter of fact I don't," said David. "Why don't you tell me about?"
He leaned back and enjoyed himself as the other man squirmed.
"The kids have their idols and their own definitions of 'cool,'" he said defensively. "You can't blame them if they avoid her because she isn't interested."
"Avoiding would not be quite as bad as saying and doing things that hurt her feelings," replied David. "Teaching the children to show kindness rather than disrespect to those who are different would be a good place start. You know that children often imitate the adults around them."
Now Mr. Preston looked extremely uncomfortable. He knew that some on the faculty found her eccentricities fodder for gossip and amusement. What he didn't know was that David could read his every thought and now knew that the problem was not just the other children.
Luckily for him, the bell rang.
"That's the ten minute warning bell," he said, clearly relieved. "I need to walk you to the math class."
David noticed that he did not offer to continue their discussion later. In fact it appeared that he could not get out of the room fast enough. David decided that it wasn't worth his time to talk with him further. He had learned everything that he needed to know by reading his thoughts. He would speak to Rob and Catherine about the incompetence of the man. It was really intolerable.
David found Trelawney's classes to be exactly as she had described. The math and science were somewhat interesting to him, although not to her. The Spanish was too rudimentary to be worth anything. The European history class was far too basic for an actual European. Her teacher, however, was a middle-aged man who clearly appreciated her knowledge. Occasionally, he asked her for a detail about this or that. He enjoyed having her in class.
The other students were quite definitely irritated by her superior knowledge and humility about it. She knew that she had simply studied the subject more. They viewed her as a show off. The English teacher seemed to be on her best behavior. She accomplished this by completely ignoring his niece. Needless to say, this impressed him as little as her previous reported behavior.
Lunch was a very new experience for him, since in the village the children returned home for dinner and then went back to school for afternoon classes. The cafeteria was a chaotic jumble of children mostly yelling at each other and eating with very poor manners. In fact he noticed that most of the food was thrown in the trash. The tables were a disgraceful mess.
There were teachers who were on "cafeteria duty" who mostly ignored the children while they talked together. That is until a fight broke out and they had to separate the combatants. He asked the girls if this was a normal day and Sarah cheerfully said that it was better than usual. At least no one threw any food at each other.
She also had a music class that day. But even David, who had a tin ear, could tell that it was worthless. The children were even more poorly behaved that in the other classes and were clearly bored by the "game" the teacher was playing by playing bits of music on a phonograph and having them identify the styles. Some of them amused themselves by calling out foolish things to entertain their classmates who obliged them by laughing. In this class, he also became acquainted the "spit ball," which he found unsanitary as well as distracting. He had never seen anything like it.
In fact, the discipline in all the classes seemed lax. Of course, he only had his own previous experience with the British standards to go by. Many of the students were whispering and passing notes while the teacher stood up the front of the room talking. Trelawney behaved herself as she had been taught.
Considering that she must have been bored in some of her classes, this was no mean feat. In the end, he was unimpressed. When Rob picked him up after school, he told him so. He was glad that Trelawney had a dance class to attend so that he was able to discuss the matter privately.
"So what did you think?" asked Rob curiously. "I imagine that it is very different from her old school."
"Very different doesn't sum up the half of it," replied David. "It's amazing that any of those kids learn anything. I've never seen such poor discipline. Oh, I believe that the kids are bright enough. I just think that the expectations are too low."
"Well," admitted Rob. "Hal's classes are much more challenging and the students far more eager to learn. These days, the math and science are so important that the kids whose talents lie elsewhere do not have honors classes to take that would track them away from the riffraff. The only subject that Trelawney struggles with is science. And that's mostly because she never studied it before."
"No," said David. "Our little school places a much higher value on the study of letters and the humanities. They of course learn their maths, but this kind of science isn't studied until later. Are there any other schools that she could attend?"
"We haven't given that any thought," said Rob. "But a private school would have tuition."
"Oh," said David. "That's no problem. There's a good bit tucked away for her upkeep and education. As executor, I would be happy to pay out money for tuition at a better school. In fact, I should really be paying for all those lessons she takes and a bit of support for her living expenses."
Rob looked uncomfortable. David could see that although he wasn't offended by the suggestion that he make them some financial compensation, he just never thought to ask for money to raise a child that he loved and viewed as family. In fact he was embarrassed by the offer.
"That's not necessary," answered Rob finally. "We love Trelawney and it is no hardship to provide for all of her needs. I will talk to Catherine. If you want to pay for a private school and we can find the right one, that is one thing. But I could not accept money for any of her other expenses."
"You're a good man, Rob Everett," answered David. "I won't force the money on you. I will keep it in the account for the child. It can help pay for any university fees if she should choose to attend one here in the States. Eventually the money is for her to use as she wishes anyway. It is separate from the marriage portion."
"Thank you for understanding," he said.
David could see that the man truly loved his little niece. He was grateful. As long as the child suffered no financial hardship, he would leave things as they were. But if she were to stay in the States for any length of time, he would want to see her in a different school.
He was a bit surprised to find himself thinking along these lines. The decision to allow her to remain here was a big one. It was difficult to imagine leaving her here permanently if she were not living with her sister. He was afraid that other family members would want to invoke the clause in the will on his behalf if he refused to do it himself. He was also afraid that the others might not believe that he saw the auras merge. It was a very rare phenomenon. He knew that there would be more visitors for them to cope with. But there was nothing he could do about it.
The Sit Down
The last thing that David had been looking forward to during his visit was his discussion with Henrietta about his nieces. He had never liked Henrietta. She was his wife's oldest sister had always been a challenging character to deal with. He would have found her more amusing if she were not his sister-in-law and therefore his relation. Unfortunately when marriage contracts were made no one ever thought of the other relations who came with the bargain. As it was, she was a most annoying nuisance. Unfortunately she was also a potentially destructive nuisance where the girls were concerned. He had to try to stop her before her mischief caused some real damage.
The house in town that she was renting looked as though it had seen better days. It had all the faded glory of a charming old manse. It suited her purposes perfectly. Through its ambience she was able to project her persona as a connection with the "other side" to all of her potential clients more effectively. Back home she was the family joke, even amidst her own. By some quirk of fate, she was the least intuitive of them all. Ironically, her chosen profession was that of a medium, communicating with the dead and foretelling the future to any and all that would listen, and pay for the "privilege."
Somewhere along the line she had married a real prince and was reborn as "Princess Lotus Flower." Conveniently, the prince died and she was left with the name. She then purchased a traveling circus and used it to help ply her trade. This was a very lucrative business. She had the showmanship necessary to entertain the masses and just enough prescience to suck in the gullible.
She wasn't always right, but she was often enough to build the loyalty of her clients. She also had become very adept in talking her way out of her mistakes. It was difficult to distinguish the flotsam from the genuine predictions. Because of this, she was a dangerous person to deal with. In this case, he knew quite well that her predictions regarding Phoebe, Trelawney, and the baby were a lot of bunk. It was very puzzling to think that Trelawney would put any stock in them at all.
With more annoyance than trepidation, he knocked on the door and heard the summons from within. He entered the hallway and followed the rather plangent tones of "Enter! Enter!" until he reached the room where their conversation would take place. It was decorated in her usual colorful style with all sorts of billowing scarves and draperies. There were pictures of various astrological symbols and other images of the occult. As always, she was dressed in a colorful tunic, with a turban on her head. David involuntarily rolled his eyes.
"Must you surround yourself with all of this heathen folderol, Henrietta?" he greeted her.
"David Figalilly, one day you will regret that you mocked me," she replied dramatically. "There is bad karma in the air! There are warnings not being heeded! There is danger for those you love!"
"Henrietta, I know that I hold no sway over you," he answered calmly. "But you're carrying all this a bit far, don't you think? Our little Trelawney has never done anything to hurt a soul. And she's a sad little mite these days. How can she possibly cause any trouble for anyone?"
Henrietta stared at him with her large eyes. David knew that she had been spreading her tales of doom and gloom all over town. It would certainly not do her reputation any good if she had to back down now.
"You are an unbeliever," she said haughtily. "My predictions do not come through for the likes of you, because you refuse to see the truth. Trelawney once was also an unbeliever. She is now afraid because she has seen the truth. Return her to her home and all will be set to rights."
David felt his temper rising. Henrietta obviously had no idea of the closeness of the girls. Anyone with true second sight could see it, and that it was growing stronger all the time. The fears that she had stirred in the child were weakening her. Ironically, as Phoebe sought to comfort her sister, their psychic connection was strengthening. Elspeth could feel it and had told him that he was not mistaken about the auras.
She had also seen it, because of her devotion to Meg her former mistress, she was very sensitive to the emotions of the girls. As usual, Henrietta's manipulations had backfired on her. The more she tormented the child with her false premonitions, the closer she and Phoebe grew. In all likelihood she had actually created a situation where it was dangerous for the baby if his nieces were apart. If the matter weren't so deadly serious, it would be funny.
"Believer or not," he said sternly. "Trelawney is mine to care for. I promised her father that I would guard her and protect her until her marriage."
"If that is true then you will take her home," she answered. "But I do not recognize your authority. My father has claimed that as the elder patriarch, it is his right to guard the child. He says that she must return to the village."
"Your father, regardless of age," he replied. "Has nothing to say over the care of a Figalilly woman. Those rights belong to the family of the father."
"Then why was the child named for the family of the mother?" she asked with a hint of triumph in her voice. "My sources tell me that her parents did so because they wanted her in my father's care. While you have been here, he has filed for legal custody because he knows you are unworthy."
"And who might your sources be?" asked David. "That twelve-year-old little nincompoop who could barely spell her name while she was alive?"
"Do not challenge the worthiness of my darling Rosalie!" she replied. "Rosalie is in direct contact with Meg and Owen. They want the child at home. My father is carrying out their wishes as they have been directly communicated to me."
"Your father can put up all the legal challenges he wants," replied David. "The will makes no mention of him or any other Trelawney having any legal claim. Legal custody has been granted to me if Phoebe cannot fulfill her duties. If anything happens to Annabel and myself, my will specifies William as her guardian. He'll not be fooling with the likes of William."
"Ah, William," she said mysteriously. "Now there is a young man who is pursued by bad kismet. Mark my words, he'll lose his temper one too many times and come to a bad end. It is written in the stars."
"Written in the stars, my arse," answered David furiously. "Don't you dare threaten my son!"
"He's not the only one you need to worry about," she continued. "Young Emmeline is headed for a world of trouble herself. She is surrounded by bad karma. You should leave young Trelawney to my father and worry about your own children."
"This whole conversation is ridiculous," he said, now completely losing his patience. "We all know that you are nothing more than an old fraud. Save your fairy tales for these fools out here. Those who know you better know the truth. Let the child be. Her surname is Figalilly and that's all that matters. And trying to intimidate me with evil predictions about my own children will get you nowhere."
"You will be sorry that you did not heed my warnings," she answered in a very threatening tone of voice. "I see three lives hanging in the balance."
"Well, then keep away from them!" he replied in his own threatening tone. "And I am sure that they will all be fine."
David got up and walked out of the house before he said anything that he might really regret. Talk about a bloody loon, he thought. No wonder the child was scared half to death. As if she didn't have enough weighing on her mind, the last thing she needed was Henrietta casting about her phony prophecies. He hoped that she wouldn't hear about the nonsense that she had just spewed forth about William and Emmeline. Knowing her she would take responsibility and it would worry her more.
Before he left to return home, David Figalilly decided that he wanted to have a final discussion with Hal and Rob. He had seen and heard many things over the last three weeks. Some of them had allayed his fears, some had confirmed them, and others now created new ones. But his resulting conclusions weren't all bad.
He was convinced that despite his own reservations, both girls were essentially happy and where they wanted to be. He could also see that they both were loved, by those around them, very much. Unfortunately, there was really only one matter that the Everetts wanted his assurance on, the issue of whether he would permit Trelawney to stay or would he insist that she return home.
He had not come to California with the intention of taking her away with him immediately. It was February and he had already decided that she should finish out the school year in America. That gave her at least four months more with her sister. If she were to leave, he had thought that he would give them at least an additional month of transition. However, he was unsure of the last point.
He did not want to take the girl away so close to the birth of Phoebe's child. The separation would be traumatic, whenever it happened. And he wanted nothing to greatly upset his niece in the final weeks of her pregnancy. He also knew that Trelawney would never forgive him if he took her away right before Phoebe's first child was born. It was a personal dilemma for him, as were so many other unanswered questions in how the return of the child to her family would take place.
There was nothing that he had learned during his visit that had convinced him that this was the best home for Trelawney. His feelings about Phoebe's choices were mixed, but they were after all, her choices. Once freed from the betrothal contract, she could marry as she pleased and live as she pleased. Had Owen lived however, he had no doubt that she would have consulted with him before choosing to marry someone else.
As it was, it would have been better if Agatha and Justine had stayed out of the matter and simply insisted that she come home or at least not marry until she had spoken with him, her paterfamilias. He might have expected this kind of behavior from Agatha, but certainly not Justine. It was obvious that the revelations about Cholmondeley were so shocking that they had affected their judgment. Phoebe had also forgotten that she had no right to take such liberties with the control she had over her sister's life.
Ironically, it was the action of her parents that had precluded this from happening. For whatever reason they had had at the time, Owen and Meg had taken that power out of her hands when they wrote the codicil. Unfortunately, there was really no way to know what the intention was behind the action. Her essentially blind choices had given him direct control over the child. The Everetts may not recognize this, but he knew that even an American court would.
The critical phrase in the will "unable to raise her properly" could easily be invoked. Quite simply, she was no longer raising her. Her in-laws were in fact, raising her properly, but they had no right to do this. Phoebe had been wrong to sign over her custodial rights, even if it had seemed the best solution at the time.
The question for him had always been, what problem was she trying to solve? He now realized that neither she nor anyone else in the Everett family even knew, although it obviously had something to do with the time and attention that she was able to give to her sister. He knew now that there was another underlying cause. It would not be well received when he finally had to mention it. However, mention it he must, if there was to be any hope of Phoebe keeping the girl in the long run.
There were not many like Trelawney among their people. She was a very fragile being. Loving one such as her was not enough. She was barely equipped to manage life in the village, protected as she was by those around her. If she remained in this world, sooner or later it could destroy her, with or without any help from Henrietta.
The only one who was a key player in the drama whom he had not met was the Angel. Whoever he was, he had disguised himself well. Trelawney and Phoebe, who certainly knew who he was, had done a very good job of concealing him in their thoughts. From what he could tell, no one else even knew that he existed.
Much as he wanted to know who he was, he also knew that it was he who was presently keeping the girl safe. For his own purposes, he needed the Angel in Trelawney's life until he could bring her safely home. Aunt Henrietta wanted to find him and "unmask" him, to use her words. David was very reluctant to do this. Once the Angel was known for who he was, he could not stay where he was. Without him, Trelawney was definitely not safe. He would have to return to get her immediately and that scenario could set some very tragic events in motion.
He knew that he could count on Elspeth to look after the child. When Meg had passed, the dog had been despondent. However, he had been able to convince her that one day she would be needed for Trelawney. Even without Hal's suggestion, he would have brought her. Elspeth would live with Trelawney and watch over her. Even when they had lived at home, Trelawney had poured her heart out to her. That was how Meg had been able to care for the child so well. Now Elspeth would stay close to the girl and tell Phoebe if anything was amiss.
He had also been pleased to meet Waldo who also understood the child as well. Even if Elspeth were unable to get directly to Phoebe, she could always find Waldo and Waldo could tell her. He could tell as soon as he met him that Waldo was a good man. Waldo had also been very forthcoming with details of life in Phoebe's household. He knew much more than he would ever let on. However it was one of those cases where the more he knew, the less he was sure of what to do about it.
David was glad that he had a long journey home on which to ponder everything that he had discovered before he had to face the rest of the family. The most troubling was the closeness of the sisters in mind and spirit. They needed each other to stay strong emotionally and psychically. Yet he could not be sure of how the family would receive this news. He was not so worried about the Figalillys. He knew that they would be guided by him. But Meg's family the Trelawneys, were a different kettle of fish altogether.
The patriarch, James, was a stern old fellow who was more than thirty years his senior. The nonagenarian had lost none of his vigor with age. At the moment he was furious not only because Phoebe had taken liberties with the family customs. But he also had no real control, under those same customs ironically enough, over the girls. While he knew that Henrietta's predictions were all balderdash, he was not averse to using them where convenient. He was also a bit of a hypocrite on the issue of religion. He claimed deep piety, but acted with cruelty and inflexibility when he wanted. He needed to be right, even at the expense of the truth.
David owed him the respect due his position by virtue of age, but that was all. He was now a patriarch in his own right. Essentially, Meg had passed out of that sphere of influence when she had married Owen. To maintain cordial relations with his in-laws, Owen had given him more respect than any of the other Figalillys thought was his due. After all, he was Meg's father. And he did rule the family with an iron fist. David, through his marriage to Annabel, had felt the same thing only to lesser degree. It was an advantage of being a second son.
He would do his best to explain all of this to Hal and Rob. Rob needed to know that no matter what anyone else told him, Trelawney was a Figalilly and as such belonged to Owen's, not Meg's, family. He had little hope that Hal would understand it. Emmeline had not exaggerated when she had said that he was obtuse where family relations were concerned. However, Rob was a man that one could respect. He really couldn't imagine what would have happened to the girls if he hadn't moved close by.
Rob was uncertain of what to think when David requested a meeting with himself and Hal. He asked if Catherine and Phoebe might be present, but he refused. When he mentioned this to Phoebe she was unbothered. Uncle David presently had the upper hand legally. She explained that he would work out family matters through his own customs. By respecting them, Rob would not only earn his respect but stay out of court as well. That would be better for everyone in the long run.
She had no desire to be present and thought that there would be little to be gained in having Catherine there. Confidentially, she told Rob that she didn't see much point in Hal being present either. He would be there purely out of courtesy as her husband. The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss Trelawney and, as her brother-in-law, Hal had no say in that. What little say he might have had, he had given up when the girl's custody was transferred to Rob and Catherine and she had moved out of his home.
Rob also knew that David's sit down with Aunt Henrietta had not gone well. Essentially, she had refused to respect him because she didn't have to. She only had to answer to her father and he fully supported her. She continued to assert that her predictions were accurate and that when he returned to England he should bring Trelawney with him. It was the only way to keep Phoebe and the baby safe.
The three men sat down for serious discussion on the night before David was scheduled to leave. David began by thanking Rob for his hospitality, but then spoke his piece.
"I'm afraid that I'm not a man of many words," he stated. "So I'll say things plainly. For now I plan to leave things as they are. However back at home there'll be much discussion of what I've learned. At present, most of those at home want to bring the child home."
"After spending three weeks with her," asked Rob carefully. "How do you feel about it?"
"I would say mixed," replied David. "She's as happy as she's likely to be here. Whether she lives here or at home, she's going to miss her Mum and Papa. She's still grieving. You all love her, for the most part, but at home there's more in the family that love her and understand her. But she does have Phoebe here. That counts for a lot. At the moment, she and Phoebe need each other for strength and support."
"Is there anything that you would like to see change that would change your mind? In the long term, I mean," asked Rob.
"It's not a matter of changing one or two things," David explained. "The things that should have been changed to make a difference should have changed months ago. Most of them can't be changed any longer."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Hal with an edge in his voice.
But David just looked at him calmly.
"Son," he said. "A big part of the problem is that Phoebe married before she was ready. It wasn't until after she married that the big problems started for her with regard to holding onto the custody of her sister. We put up a challenge before the wedding and lost. We would not lose if we made the same challenge today.
"If she had come home to talk through everything with us we could have talked about the codicil in the will. She would have known what her choice to marry and live permanently in the outside world meant for the child. There are other things. But there's no point in going over all that. It won't change anything and in the end Phoebe'll just be hurt."
"Why is that?" asked Rob.
"The more she knows, the more she'll realize that she chose Hal over her sister," he explained patiently. "She didn't realize that then and I don't think that she sees it now. There are other things, but I don't want to tell you. She'll discern them from your mind and it'll upset her badly."
"Does Trelawney realize that?" asked Rob.
"I would say if she doesn't know it, she's sensed it," said David. "But she'll not tell. It's important for you to remember that she loves her sister more than anyone else, including herself. She will do anything willingly for her sister. That's why she left your house, Hal. She knew that it was for the best for her sister."
"If there was a scenario where it was best for Phoebe for her to return to England, would she go?" asked Hal.
"I can tell you this much, son," replied David, with a trace of annoyance in his voice. "That scenario will never occur. For reasons that you can never understand, it is better for Phoebe, for both of them, if they live together. When you married Phoebe, in a way, you married Trelawney as well."
"Then why would you separate them?" asked Rob.
"What is better may not be safer," answered David. "I know that you think that that is a non-answer, but that's how it is. You may think that they are together right now, but in truth they are not. And remember that I am saying 'may.' I'm a cautious man and I like to think things through proper. I need time to do that. It'll be best for all in the long run. The girls know it. They will both accept my final decision, whether they like it or not. That's how our women are."
Rob could see that his son was beginning to get frustrated. As he was learning more about his wife's family circumstances, he was beginning to see he had made a choice that was sometimes going to be difficult to live with. He and Catherine had been afraid of this.
In order to care for his wife, he was going to have to make compromises or she would not be happy. Perhaps David was right. Fated child or not, had Phoebe returned home as she was supposed to, things would have been a lot simpler for them all, simpler, but perhaps not better. David was right. There was no way to know, only consequences to live with.
"Hal," he said. "We can't really go back and change anything, so let's move forward. David, what is the biggest threat to Trelawney's safety as you see it right now?"
"That school she's in is not a good place for her," he answered bluntly. "I would rather not see her in school at all, although I am sure that she's required to attend school. I did not like the feeling that I had when I was there. And the girl would not manage there at all without her friends. That's not good.
"If you don't want her to live with Phoebe, let her stay close to her Mama Kate. It will be the best way to keep her happy. And she and Phoebe need to be together more. Catherine knows what's good for the girl. Catherine loves and understands her better than any of you."
"Does that include me?" asked Hal defensively.
"You resent her," replied David bluntly. "And I can't think of why. The child did everything that she could to bring you and Phoebe together. She even risked the wrath of members of her own family, which, by the way, she earned in spades. It's probably the only reason why so many of the Figalillys want to bring her home. They believe that she betrayed the family.
"Trust me, if I took the poor girl away with me tomorrow, your wife would be miserable. She'd be begging you to take her back to the village to be with her. Even she doesn't know that. It's a powerful love that those girls have for each other, but it's a bond between sisters. It in no way impacts Phoebe's love for you. And it never will."
At that point, Rob decided to take matters into his own hands. He knew that Hal was upset by David's declarations, but the last thing that they needed was a disagreement between Phoebe's husband and uncle. That would surely create more stress for her. He would deal with Hal himself later.
"David, I promise you that I will do everything that I can to keep the two girls together, safe, and happy. You have my word as a man of honor and as head of my own family," he stated firmly.
"I accept your answer," he said. "I will leave Trelawney in your hands for now. This is a great trust that I am putting in you, man. I am entrusting you with my brother's younger daughter whom I have pledged to keep safe until she marries and is under the protection of her husband. If anything happens to the child, I will hold you personally responsible."
"I know," replied Rob. "I will not let you down."
Father and Son
When they were alone, Hal grumbled to his father.
"I don't like the way that you were talking about me as if I were a petulant child," he said.
"You certainly were acting like one, son," replied Rob calmly. "You have to realize that we all come through life with baggage. You certainly have your share. You want to come home to your lovely wife every night and have the house happy and in order. You want the children to behave perfectly and your wife to have easy pregnancy so that she can present you with your new daughter. In time you and she will have another and another. She'll be happy with her babies and you'll be happy with your job and your home and family.
"Life's not perfect like that. You know that better than anyone. Look reality in the face and make peace with it. Accept that in order to make that sweet and beautiful girl truly happy you will have to make sacrifices. That means giving her more time with her sister, and not begrudgingly. Give her the love that she is giving you tenfold. You'll never regret it."
"Of course I know that life isn't perfect," said Hal. "My concern is keeping my wife safe and healthy throughout her pregnancy. Being around her sister is upsetting for her."
"Not always," said Rob. "And you know that. When you took the girl into your home last year it seems as if you thought that it was temporary. But she had become as much Phoebe's child as Hal, Butch, and Prudence are yours. The will clearly spells out that Phoebe's role in her life is parental. How would you feel if someone told you that one of your children had to move out of the house?"
Hal was silent. Last year he had not been thinking long term at all. He certainly had no idea of what the will said although he knew that Emmeline told him the main points. At that point he hadn't cared. The crisis of the moment had been Phoebe leaving and his family falling apart again. He was only coming to realize, most uncomfortably, that his motives for inviting the girl to live with them had been selfish.
At the time she had seemed like a sweet little girl who made a wonderful companion for his daughter. He had simply seen her as a fourth sibling to add into the mix. Other than the usual children's squabbles for the first few months that was how things worked out. He had even enjoyed it when she began to play matchmaker.
Of course when Cholmondeley came and nearly ruined all their lives, she was the one who had fought most strongly against him and on behalf of his own interests. It was Trelawney who had first recognized the attraction between him and her sister. She and Hal had colluded to bring them together. She had never shown him anything but love and generosity. She wanted her sister to be happy and had, in her own way, entrusted her happiness to him. The child had given him far more than she had ever taken. She had never made any demands.
He had always known that Phoebe was different from them. He knew that her intuitions were far more than that. Trelawney was just like that, but even more so. When Phoebe had been Nanny she had always seemed invincible. He thought that it was her sister who had exposed her frailties. However, he also now realized that it was probably her grief as well. Her grief was a singular emotion that she shared with her sister. He knew that they drew strength and comfort from each other. The idea that perhaps they always would, bothered him. He felt that she stood between Phoebe and him.
He had never really thought of Trelawney in the same light as Hal, Butch, and Prudence, but now he realized that his father was right. It made him uncomfortable to also realize that she had a more open and generous concept of family than any of his three except for maybe Hal. He thought of the endless discussions that they were all having with Prudence to help reconcile her to the changing family make up. While they seemed to be about Trelawney, they were really about the baby. He wanted nothing to spoil Phoebe's first weeks and months with their newborn. No such discussions would ever be needed with Trelawney.
Perhaps that was a part of the comfort that Phoebe drew from her. She demanded nothing. She gave everything. He supposed that even he made demands of his wife. Well, to be truthful, the biggest demand he was making was to decrease her contact with her sister. She knew that his heart wasn't really in his suggestions that they find more time for her and Trelawney to be together. She was choosing to ignore that, because she loved him in all of his human weakness.
Hal knew that he had a lot of thinking to do, but it wasn't easy. He had a lot of things to concern him at work and when he came home at night he did want things to be running smoothly. They seemed to be now, but he had to admit that even before Trelawney came life had never been perfect. For the time being, he decided that he would just put it off. He had midterms coming up and was working on an important project with a couple of his colleagues for NASA. Once the emotions of Uncle David's visit died down it would be easier for all of them to think more clearly.
The next morning, after church and before Uncle David left, Phoebe arrived at her in-laws' home with her family. She was anxious about what he might tell them regarding Trelawney's custody. She knew that he would not take her away with him today, but he could easily have decided to give them time to adjust to the news and would come back later for her. She also doubted he would take her before the play that she had just started rehearsing for. He knew how much the role meant to her and he would not want to disappoint Francine, Mike, and the others in the cast.
When they arrived at the house, Trelawney was playing on the front lawn with Elspeth. Waldo had walked up with them and wandered over to the other dog. They ran off on their own and Trelawney came over to them. She greeted Phoebe with a hug.
"Uncle is leaving today, Phoebe," she said happily. "I wonder what he will tell us."
"I am sure that whatever he has to say," replied Phoebe. "He will have most carefully considered."
"I'm sure that he has," answered Trelawney seriously. "You know that he loves us both very much. He is very displeased with my school and with Aunt Henrietta. She is being most uncooperative. He told her to stay away from us, but I don't think that she'll listen."
"Why is that?" asked Butch.
"Aunt Henrietta is not a Figalilly," replied Trelawney. "She does not have to listen to Uncle David. She only must obey Grandfather Trelawney and he wants me to come home. And because Uncle David is younger than she is, she doesn't respect him at all."
"What's wrong with our school?" asked Hal a little defensively.
"He doesn't think that it is a good place for me," she said soothingly. "It is a good place for you because you are so clever at sciences and maths. They have a special program for you so that you are challenged. There is no special program for me. He also doesn't like the fact that the other children and the teachers think that I am odd. No one thinks that you are odd. In fact they admire you. No one admires Trelawney."
Phoebe felt even more anxiety. She knew that her husband was concerned because he put his arm around her. She still could not understand why her sister seemed so unworried by what Uncle David might say. She seemed blithely unaware of the potential issues that might face them. Then Uncle David came out of the house with Rob and Catherine. Catherine came over and stood beside Trelawney.
"Good-bye, children," he said to Hal, Butch, and Prudence. "It was a pleasure to meet you. Now you take good care of your Mum."
"Yes, sir," said Hal. "And we'll take care of Trelawney too."
"That's a good lad," said Uncle David with a smile. "I know that I can count on you."
"Well, Uncle David," said Hal, with genuine good humor. "It was nice meeting you. We'll look forward to meeting more of Phoebe's family."
Uncle David looked at him quizzically, but silently shook his hand. Phoebe could see that something was bothering him about her husband. However, Uncle David was very skilled at concealing his thoughts, even from her. He leaned forward to kiss her.
"Good-bye, Phoebe dear," he said fondly. "Please know that we are all praying for you and the little one back home. And thank you for the lovely portrait of yourself and Trelawney on the day of the blessing. They'll all be happy to see you wearing your Mum's wedding dress and that our little one is looking so well."
"I appreciate that Uncle David," she replied sincerely. "I'm sorry now that you couldn't be there."
"Well," he said. "It was another time and place in your mind. As long as you're happy that's all that concerns me."
Phoebe took a deep sigh and watched as he turned to Trelawney.
"Good-bye, my darling girl," he said gently. "I am glad to see that you are well. You know that there's many who miss you back home."
"Yes, uncle," she replied solemnly. "I know."
He looked at her kindly. Phoebe noticed that he was sad and regretful.
"Trelawney, dear," he said. "I am going to now place you in the care of your Mama Kate and Mr. Everett. I want you to be able to be close to your sister for the time being. I want you to stay close to your Mama Kate. She loves you very much. There's none right now that could take better care of you other than your Phoebe. But she is otherwise concerned."
Trelawney began to tremble. Phoebe realized that this was an unexpected turn of events for her. She could see now that she had been hoping that Uncle David would insist that she either live with her or go home with him. The fact that he had placed her in Catherine's care was completely unexpected. She could see that Uncle David also understood this. It explained his regret. He turned to Rob and Catherine.
"Robert and Catherine Everett," he said solemnly. "I am placing this orphan child, who is one of my own, in your care. I will hold you accountable for her future welfare and safety, until she either returns to the care of her sister or to me as outlined under the terms of her parents' will."
"I understand the great trust that you are placing in me," answered Rob, with equal gravity. "I will not let you down."
"Trelawney, love," continued Uncle David. "As your paterfamilias, I am commanding that you show the respect and obedience to Rob and Catherine that you would to your own parents."
"Yes, uncle," she replied meekly. "I will."
He kissed her on the forehead and she turned to Catherine who had knelt beside her and buried her face on her shoulder. Catherine tenderly stroked her hair and Phoebe thought that her heart would break. It should be she who was comforting the little girl, but she knew that in this instance it was now Catherine's role in the child's life.
She could not understand why her uncle had done this. He had taken her away, but not taken her away. His action meant that they would not be separated by thousands of miles, but only a couple of blocks. It only then occurred to her that she too had been hoping that he would insist that Trelawney be returned to her care. She did not understand his motives, but also knew that she didn't have to. It was her place to accept, but not question the decision of Trelawney's paterfamilias. Her own was now Rob and he had clearly pre-arranged the situation with Uncle David.
She realized that that was probably what last night's discussion was about between the men. She now understood why Hal had been so touchy when he had come home. No doubt he had realized that his presence was purely superfluous.
But there would be no legal challenges to be made to her uncle's pronouncement. The lawyer had explained that she had surrendered her rights to her sister's guardianship by allowing her to live elsewhere and signing over her custody to someone other than her uncle. Considering the rights that Uncle David had been granted under the codicil, his decision was very generous. Essentially, he was not going to challenge the legal rights that she had given over to Rob and Catherine.
Uncle David turned and nodded to Rob. He did not try to say anything further to Trelawney. Phoebe knew that he was also regretful that the child was taking the news so hard. The rest of her family was puzzled, but that was because they could not know their minds. The other children thought that she should be happy that she was allowed to stay. She could not decide whether it was better or not that they did not know what they could not understand.
As Rob and Uncle David got into the car, Trelawney pulled away from Catherine and walked slowly into the house. She didn't turn to look at her. As Phoebe watched her walk away she felt a yearning deep inside herself. She somehow knew that it was Maisie. Even she wanted to be closer to her auntie.
After Rob left with her uncle, they quietly walked home. Not wishing to speak to anyone, she went to the kitchen to make lunch and then called the others in. It was obvious that for the children, the moment was passed. They no longer had any thoughts of the situation. They were chattering away about what they might do with the rest of the day.
For them, everything had returned to normal. Hal looked at her sympathetically, but she knew that he still did not understand what her uncle's final pronouncement had meant to her. He thought that things were back to normal as well. For the first time, in a very long time, she felt alone.
She was looking at her own sandwich without appetite when she suddenly felt a searing pain in her heart. She knew that it was Trelawney, now lost in a deep well of despair. She could see her in her room, looking at the dollhouse and wondering if Mimsy and Tansy would ever live together again. She knew instinctively that she must go to her. That only she could sooth her aching heart.
"Trelawney needs me," she said quietly. "I must go."
Without looking back, even at her husband, she walked back down to Catherine's house.
After Rob left with David to drive him to the airport, Catherine decided that it would be a good idea to give the girl some lunch. It would do her no good not to eat. In fact it would only make her feel worse. She was not entirely sure of what it was about David's decision that had upset her so much. He was allowing her to stay near her sister. She thought that that was what she had wanted.
After her lunch was prepared, Catherine went up to Trelawney's room where she was seated in front of her dollhouse, motionless. She noticed that there was only one doll in the house. She didn't see the other. Elspeth was sitting next to her, facing the door as if on guard. Before she could say anything, the little girl spoke.
"I am alright, Mama Kate," she said. "Truly I am. Uncle David has entrusted me to you. He would only do that if he believed that you would keep me safe."
"Trelawney," she said gently. "Why are you sad? Will you miss your Uncle David?"
"No," she replied quietly, and then turned around. Catherine could see the tears in her eyes.
"I had hoped that perhaps Uncle David would insist that I could stay only if I went back to Phoebe's," she said sadly. "But he never even thought of it. He didn't even know about the Angel. But I do. Pastor Jason knew that I was a problem. So did Uncle David. He knew that the Professor had wanted sent me away because I was too much trouble. Mrs. Tucker said it wasn't true, but it was. I don't mean to have nightmares about the evil witch and be a problem. Rachel said that if she had an Aunt Henrietta that she would have nightmares too."
Catherine thought that her own heart would break at the bleakness in the child's eyes. The girl looked down at the floor. She realized that she had been hoping that David would assert his rights over her and insist that the terms of the will be upheld. She had thought that Phoebe would never let her leave. She was deeply disappointed that he hadn't. But she, too, realized that there were other forces at work.
"My Phoebe cannot care for me. She is otherwise concerned," she continued. "There is no one at home for Trelawney. I am too much trouble. I must listen to Pastor Jason. I must listen to Uncle David. The good queen will keep me safe. Now my lovely lady will be safe. The fair maiden will also be safe. I cannot break my lovely lady's heart."
But you would let your own heart break, little Trelawney, thought Catherine, realizing that she had once again descended into her medieval landscape. It was a very clear sign of how upset she was. Then she heard a sound behind her and Trelawney looked up.
"I knew that you needed me, little sister," said Phoebe. "Here I am."
She quietly walked over to the rocking chair, seated herself, and held out her arms. Trelawney walked over and looked into her eyes. Catherine sensed that acceptance settled over the girl. She was reconciled to her fate. Silently, she sat herself on the floor and put her head in Phoebe's lap and quietly wept.
Phoebe soothed her by stroking her hair and whispering softly, but there were tears in her eyes as well. As had happened once before, a shaft of golden light fell through the window and over the girls. Elspeth got up and moved herself over in front of the girls as if to stand guard.
Catherine turned to leave the two to their private grief and saw that her son had been standing behind her and watching. He followed her downstairs.
"We were sitting at lunch and Phoebe suddenly got up and said that Trelawney needed her," he said, completely bewildered. "She didn't even say good-bye. She just walked over here. I followed her because I was worried."
Catherine didn't know what to say. She herself had barely understood all of David's talk about converging auras and psychic connections. She knew that Hal believed that as her husband, he could fill all of Phoebe's emotional needs. But in reality, no human can do that for another. What he just witnessed was the very real need that the two sisters had for each other. Catherine lacked the second sight needed to confirm it, but she believed that their auras had merged once more. She believed that in the golden light came comfort from their parents.
The disappointment of the child was almost more than she could bear. She knew that at that moment Phoebe was no doubt learning of its source. She wondered how sad she would be when she realized what the hopes of the child had been, what had ultimately dashed them. It was no wonder that she had looked forward to David's coming and called him her good uncle. Now she knew why the girl had been unconcerned by the codicil to the will. She looked at Hal. He needed to know what was happening.
"Trelawney believed that David would insist that she return to Phoebe or return with him," she explained. "She did not expect that he would place her in our care. Phoebe must have sensed her sorrow and came to comfort her. They miss each other more than we realized."
"Pastor Jason had said when we moved her that they could spend as much time together as they wanted," he replied. "I guess we didn't realize how much time they wanted."
"Or needed," she sighed. "We all need to do our best to give them what they need. They seem to be able to feel one another's emotions. If they can, then we will need to work at helping Trelawney to find some happiness. It will help Phoebe to be happy also. But this explains something that I have wondered about."
"What is that?"
"Why Trelawney loves you so much," she answered. "Her love for you is as unconditional as that of her sister. She knows how you feel about her. Just now she told me that you were the reason that she was sent away. Pastor Jason knew how impatient you were becoming with her. And it's too stressful for Phoebe to have to constantly run interference for her. She also needed you to fill in some of the parental role in her life because Phoebe focused on her own child. She's a sensitive little soul really. I wish that the other children were more like her."
Hal still looked puzzled. Catherine knew that it was going to take him a long time to wrap his head around this new bit of information. Of course he would understand both girls better if he had a better understanding of his own Christian faith. Their natures were self-sacrificing and their actions based on love. This was one cultural difference that she hoped that the whole family would eventually absorb.
Catherine thought back to the day of the blessing and the blessing that Pastor Paul had given to the family. He had blessed Phoebe for taking over the care and comfort of Hal's three children and charged Trelawney with gracing her sister's home with her loving heart. However, nothing had been said about the place of the child within the home or that fact that essentially Hal was taking over her care and comfort as well.
It was an important omission. This was why she was safer and better off living with her. Pastor Jason moved her to a home where she get the love she needed all the time by someone with a higher threshold of tolerance for her weaknesses. As she had said, it was not her fault that she had nightmares.
But even he had not known of the powerful bond between the sisters. He had never mentioned that at some point they might have to physically be together. Something had changed, but she didn't know what. It seemed that no one knew.
She was looking forward to Pastor Jason's return in a week. There were so many things that she needed to tell him. And Trelawney certainly needed his blessing and comfort. Perhaps he would have words of wisdom for her son, to help him understand the powers at work in the relationship between his wife and her sister. He also might understand the phenomenon of the merged aura and be able to explain it further. Phoebe and Trelawney were clearly from a very different world than their own and it would seem, of a very different nature.
Now she looked at her very confused son. She knew that he felt helpless once again. However, there were still things that he could do, and needed to. This was a time where he would need to be strong and do a little self-sacrificing himself. Phoebe had not merely come to comfort her sister.
She was there for her own peace of mind and aching heart. But this was not Trelawney's fault either. It was no one's fault. They were two grieving and loving sisters caught in a set of circumstances beyond their control. Hal might not care much for Trelawney, but Phoebe needed him to be strong.
"Hal," she said. "Why don't you go home and look after the other children? Make sure that they do their chores and get their homework done for tomorrow. Get some of your own work done as well. Phoebe is fine here. She is caring for her sister. This is what her parents wanted her to do. She needs to do it to sooth her own guilty conscience."
"She has nothing to feel guilty about," said Hal tensely.
Catherine looked at him calmly.
"Yes, she does," she answered. "And she knows that now. She promised her parents that if anything ever happened to them, she would raise her sister as her own child. However, she has made choices in her life that prevent her from doing just that. She broke that promise the day she married you."
"That's crazy," he replied. "I've never heard of anything so ridiculous."
"You sound like your son Hal a few months ago," she replied. "Just because you didn't know something, doesn't make it crazy. It makes it something you didn't know. In this case it is something that you never even considered. But neither did she. The consequences are much more painful for her than they are for you. Please. Go home. See to your children and get your work done."
Hal looked as truculent as Prudence. Catherine had one more thing to say.
"Give her the space she needs now with her sister," she said firmly. "She'll always come home to you and she'll always love you completely. Tonight you will take her to bed and sleep with her by your side. You will be there to comfort her as no one else can. Let her be here now to comfort her sister as no one else can."
Reluctantly, he got up and left. Catherine sighed. Welcome to the real world, son, she thought. Things must have been very different with Helen. First there were only the two of them and then the children came along. Bernice hovered in the background, but that worked in his favor when he needed to work at all hours and leave his wife alone. This was a new and different challenge. He was not used to having to take so many other people's feelings into account.
It wasn't as if he was intentionally selfish, but it was similar to his problem with occasionally misspeaking. He acted without fully thinking through all of the possibilities. Or if he did, he thought only of the logical ones, not the illogical. In this case, he could not have predicted all of the emotional responses of those around him. He had also acted without a complete understanding of his wife, her previous commitments, and her culture when he married her so quickly.
Those were some pretty big gaps in his decision making process. However, the goodness and love that Phoebe and Trelawney had brought into all of their lives could teach them all well. It was time for all of them to open their hearts and to love as they loved, completely and without conditions. In the long run, it would not only make them stronger. It would make them happier.
That night Catherine sat up for a long time with Trelawney. Each time she thought that she had dropped off to sleep and left, Elspeth came downstairs in a few minutes to get her. Trelawney would be sitting up wide-awake with the light on. Finally, she gave up and just sat down in the rocking chair with her embroidery. Trelawney wouldn't let her turn the light off anyway. Around one in the morning, Rob came in.
"Is she sleeping?" he asked quietly.
"For now," she answered. "But she wakes up every twenty minutes or so asking for her Mama Kate."
Rob looked worried.
"I'm going to keep her home from school tomorrow," said Catherine. "In fact I think I will keep her home all week. Hal can bring her assignments home and we can teach her. I'm afraid that if she goes into school she will behave oddly. You can call up that guidance counselor tomorrow and he can make himself useful by collecting her schoolwork for us. I will call the school nurse and tell her that she is ill."
"Are you sure that that is a good idea?" he asked.
"Pastor Jason said that at times it may be necessary to keep her home from school to keep her safe," she replied. "I don't know why, but I feel as though this is one of those times. Phoebe can come down here and spend her days with her when the others are all at school and Hal is at work. "
"And then there won't be any jealousy or tension to deal with," finished Rob. "You realize that this is not a permanent solution."
"No," said Catherine. "But it will give us time before Pastor Jason gets back and can advise us. It will also be better for the girls. I don't know what to think anymore. I am hoping that he can make sense of it for us."
"So do I," said Rob.
After he left, Catherine leaned back and settled in. It had been years since she had sat up with a sick child through the night. But she could see the truth in Pastor Jason's assertion that Trelawney was not sick in her head, she was sick in her heart. She looked like a tiny little figure curled up in the big bed with her doll. Her golden curls were sprawled about her head like a halo on the pillow. Normally, she braided her hair at night, but tonight with all the upset they had forgotten. Her hair would be quite a tangle to comb out in the morning. Elspeth slept beside her, but she knew that the dog was alert for any potential danger. She didn't mind her own lost sleep. Tomorrow she could sleep after Phoebe came over.
She hoped that her son would adjust quickly to the new knowledge that they had gained about Phoebe and Trelawney. They couldn't tell him everything but they should be able to give him enough information to sooth his fears and become accepting of the girl in his wife's life.
She had to admit that if the time came, she would be sad when she would have to give Trelawney back. She was a very special child and she loved her very dearly. She had no regrets about the challenges they faced. They would face them together as a family, and it would make things better for them all in the long run.
As the long hours of the early morning passed, she reflected on the nature of promises and their role on human lives. There had always been something about those dark and quiet hours that lent clarity to her perceptions of her life.
Very rarely does anyone make a promise with the intention of breaking it. As a general rule, those who make promises intend to keep them, especially when they are made to beloved family members. Yet the complexity of human relations often makes promises made in good faith, difficult to keep.
As a young woman, Phoebe had promised to care for her sister and raise her as her own if anything happened to her parents. On her wedding day, she had promised to love and honor her husband for as long as they both should live. These were both powerful vows, and certainly not lightly made. One might argue that the present dilemma was further confused by other promises, large and small, that had been made by other family members. However, it was those two promises that were presently in conflict.
The conflict was by no means irresolvable. However the eventual resolution depended on the choices and decisions of others. Hal could argue it anyway he wanted, but the proof was lying in bed before her. Little Trelawney slept in her home, while her sister slept, very appropriately, beside her husband in her own home. When a woman marries, she leaves her parents (and siblings) behind and cleaves to her husband. David was right. When Phoebe chose to marry Hal, unless Hal chose to accept Trelawney into his home unconditionally, she was leaving the child behind.
No doubt, Phoebe had expected that Hal would love as she loved. His love for her was absolute and unconditional, as it was for his own children, his "flesh of my flesh." He was unable to share that same feeling with Trelawney. But whoever Phoebe and Trelawney were, they were creatures that only knew how to love wholly and fully.
She knew that much of their nature was due to their upbringing and those unique people who were their parents. Catherine felt a deep regret that she would never have the opportunity to meet them. They must have been very special people to raise such kind and loving daughters.
Rob told her that David had told Hal that when he had married Phoebe, he had also married Trelawney. The complete syllogism was that this was just as Phoebe had married his three children. Arguably, Phoebe had had a much better idea of what she was getting into with Hal, Butch, and Prudence. However, Hal had not been completely unaware of Trelawney's differences and eccentricities. He had known of the great traumas of her life.
The revelations about Trelawney's nature were strongly akin to those about Phoebe's nature. David had also told him that the girls shared a deep and abiding love, but it was a bond between sisters. It was no threat to him. However, Catherine knew that Hal had no paradigm from his own life with which to understand it. She wondered herself about it. She had had no such relationship with any of her own siblings. Certainly Hal did not with any of his brothers. But she could see the beauty in it. She could understand the nature of the promise that Phoebe had made.
If Hal were to be able accept that promise, and in doing so accept the girl back into his home, then he was going to have to acknowledge its existence and support his wife. He would also have to live with her unspoken disappointment in him if he did not.
She reflected on the promise that she and Rob had made to David to love and care for the child whom he had commended into their care. They would of course. And it would be for the sake of love. She knew that it was the primary reason that David had entrusted her into their care. He knew that they would love her as their own.
In a way, their promise bound them more closely to their son's family. It made it possible for Phoebe to salve her own conscience for the promise she had broken and in doing so, not interfere with her relationship with her husband. In her mind's eye, she could see the sisters sitting in the golden light, basking in the love of their parents. She wondered if their parents, wherever they were, knew of the broken promise. She wondered if Trelawney could see her angels weep.
But the girl would never tell. Such words would certainly break her Phoebe's heart. Thus they would all move forward. She hoped that they would all be more careful before making any more promises that they might not be able to keep. Of course in this, they had Trelawney as a role model. She never lied. She never made a promise that she knew she couldn't keep. It was ironic that it was she who suffered most from the broken promise. But David had said it quite plainly. Irony was an important element of tragedy.
Yet just as life was not a fairy tale with a "happily ever after ending," neither was it a tragedy that leaves everyone dead or suffering. The lessons of life are a part of a continuing story. There is always room for enlightenment and change. But, in the words of her daughter-in-law, it would take "a little bit of faith and lots of love."
The story will continue when the Angel returns.