Preparations

After weeks of preparation, the big district-wide Science Fair was finally going to open tonight. Hal spent his day at the high school preparing his display and rehearsing his presentation. He had submitted his paper two weeks ago and received an A+ for his efforts from Mr. Oliver. Last week his paper, with all of the others, was submitted for adjudication to a blue ribbon panel assembled by the superintendent of local scientists and science teachers.

The second part of the process was the display, which in his case was a three-dimensional model of dual resonance theory, as well a a board filled with his own, drawings of graphs and charts illustrating it. Before the fair was open to the public, the judges would have the opportunity to go around and examine each exhibit.

For the final step, tonight the judges would be circulating through the gym asking the students to present their topic. They would then be able to ask questions. For Hal, that was the most nerve-wracking part of the process.

The term "string theory" had only been coined three years ago. And then last year it was verified by three researchers, each independent of one another. But it was still really entirely theoretical. As he had done his research, Hal had found out that not all scientists were convinced that it even existed. Despite the fact that he had read everything that he could get his hands on, he was still afraid that someone might ask him a question that he couldn't answer or challenge him with proofs he had not known about.

Mr. Oliver and his classmates had been very supportive. Some of the guys said that they couldn't imagine that anyone could possibly have discovered something that he didn't know. But Hal was still nervous. He was afraid that one of the scientists would find a flaw in the reasoning in his paper and come prepared to debate him. As he was fiddling with his model, he heard a voice from behind him call out.

"Hey, Everett! This is totally awesome, man! I can't believe that you actually managed to pull it off."

He turned around to see his friend Topher walking up to him. Topher was a tall, lanky junior with a brown ponytail. He was also a genius, one of the top science students at the high school. Hal had met him last summer in his advanced summer program. He suddenly felt better. Topher might be his good friend, but he always told him the truth, whether he wanted to hear it or not. Praise from him meant a lot.

"This is really cool," he said as he examined his display boards and model. "I heard from one of my teachers that some kid had submitted a project on string theory and that half the people on the panel had never heard of it. Some guy from Cal Tech had to explain it to them."

"Is that good or bad?" asked Hal nervously.

"It's good, man," he replied. "It's always good to stump the experts if you can."

"Well, I'll be glad when tonight is over," said Hal. "I don't care at all about the gold medals. I just want to make it through the exhibition phase without some scientific expert making me look like an idiot."

"You are not an idiot," answered Topher seriously. "You are taking a big risk by presenting a barely proven theory, but that's what good science is all about. You're totally right that it's not about the prizes, but you have to be confident when you present. If the experts smell weakness, then they go after you."

"How do you know?"

"I learned the hard way, man," he said. "I went into this competition three years ago with an ego so big you could barely get my head in the door. But the first question threw me for a loop and the next thing I knew, some expert from Stanford was throwing curve balls at me left and right. But there's a difference between confidence and arrogance. Now you definitely don't have any arrogance, but you do need a little bit of confidence."

"But what if a question throws me for a loop?" he asked, getting nervous.

"Well, what I would do, and have done since I learned my lesson, is I throw the question back at the guy," he said. "Just ask him for clarification. Usually you'll be able to answer him once you figure what he really wants to know. And it makes you look smarter."

"That makes sense," said Hal.

"Of course it does," he replied with a grin. "Would your old friend Topher steer you wrong? By the way, how is little Trelawney these days? Sarah misses her now that she doesn't go to school anymore."

"She's okay," answered Hal. "On Friday a judge made her custody with my grandparents official. Now we don't have to worry about her family trying to make her go back to England. She'll be here tonight."

"Cool," he said. "I can't wait to see her."

"Well, you may be not be seeing as much of her as you used to," said Hal. "Next year she's going to be going to another school. She just can't handle public school."

"Yeah," he said. "And public school can't handle her. She's a neat kid. I hope that they can find a school where they appreciate her."

"So do I," said Hal emphatically. "Right now I'm the one teaching her math and science."

Topher just grinned. The bell rang and as he ran off to class, he yelled good luck. Hal felt a lot better. He thought that Topher had given him good advice. And Topher had never once given him bad advice.

Family Time

Catherine found herself humming as she went about her daily chores. The house was full, with Bob, Ben, and Lewis all doing their business work in different areas. Rob was downstairs in his workroom. Phoebe and Trelawney were in her room playing with the dollhouse. As David had said, they never tired of it. Elspeth sat nearby, as always, watchful for trouble. Everyone else might be relaxed, but the dog never let down her guard. It occurred to her that it would be very interesting to see the dog's reaction if she ever came in contact with Aunt Henrietta.

She considered how simple Trelawney's needs really were. She did not care very much for new toys, but she was perfectly content to have her doll Tessa, her dollhouse with its own two dolls, and her mother's dog for company. It then occurred to her that Bob and Ben had arrived without the usual flood of gifts and the other kids didn't even notice. Butch was excited that they were present for his big victory on Saturday. Hal was thrilled that they would both be there tonight for the opening of the Science Fair. It was their time and presence that they really craved, not more toys that they would quickly lose interest in.

She thought about her son Hal. He was happier this weekend than he had been in a long time. The family had not had his undivided attention in months. She hoped that he would keep it up. He was used to trying to please everyone. He was also used to putting his job first and his family second. He had promised to change, but it wasn't the first time that he had made that promise.

Rob had suggested that they pack him and Phoebe up and send them away for a long weekend. But she was very reluctant to do that. Those little retreats managed so salve his conscience for a short time, but they never did anything to improve the behavior that made them necessary. No, she wanted to see him make some fundamental changes in his life before she began possibly enabling the old ways. In the end, Rob agreed with her. Hal needed to show them all that he was doing more than promising to improve his involvement in his family life.

She also knew that this was something that Hal was going to have to figure out for himself. If they kept intervening every time things got rough, even if they were doing it for the sake of Phoebe and the kids, he was never going to learn how to work through his own time conflicts. Everyone else is the family had become accustomed to humoring him when he created a busy schedule for himself or just got himself bogged down at work. No, this was one of those times when, as a parent, she was going to have to let him try to fix things on his own and then be there to pick up the pieces.

When she and Rob had moved down here seven months ago, it had been to help Phoebe keep up with everything and because Trelawney had so desperately begged for them. It had not been to enable Hal's old behavioral patterns. Of course she and Rob had thought that they were helping Phoebe and the kids, but now she realized that in some cases instead of helping them, they had only made things worse. But parenting was a hands on experience. Even at her age, she was still learning new things, as the boys grew older.

She had just finished cleaning up the kitchen when Phoebe wandered downstairs looking for a midmorning snack. These days she was always hungry.

"Taking a break?" she asked her.

"Trelawney decided to do a little of her math," she replied. "She's hoping that one of the four men in the house can help her if she doesn't understand it. Hal is going to be tied up with the science fair all week."

"That's a good idea," she answered doubtfully. Even her engineer husband was sometimes unable to help her with her "new math." He grumbled that it was the same old math only they were trying to make it harder by teaching the kids new ways of solving the problems. Then they wouldn't get credit if they solved it the old way.

Seeing that Phoebe was surveying the area for food, she offered her a freshly baked scone and some tea. Lewis enjoyed the same blueberry scones that Trelawney did. Looking a little guilty she answered affirmatively and they sat down to enjoy their tea.

"By the time this baby is born," commented Phoebe. "I'm going to be as big as a house."

Catherine laughed. "You're a tiny little thing. Once school starts and you're chasing the kids around you'll take off the extra weight quickly enough. And nursing the baby will help too. She'll be sharing your calories for a few months."

Phoebe smiled at the thought.

"Now that the custody question is settled, where do we stand on finding a good school for Trelawney?" she asked.

"Well, we have two good possibilities. Both of them are all girls and both are Catholic. One is Our Lady of Mercy, which is a 7 through 12 school. And the other is Sacred Heart, which is a K through 12 school. Rob and I are leaning towards Our Lady of Mercy because she won't feel like such an outsider among girls who have already been going to school together for 8 years."

"Oh," said Phoebe. "I don't suppose that there are any Episcopal schools in the area?"

"We did look into that, but the only one is St. Paul's, which is an excellent school academically, but they're rather thin in the arts. The big thing there is sports and Trelawney is not much of an athlete. It's also co-ed, so the culture is different."

"Oh," repeated Phoebe, clearly disappointed. "I had hoped that a religious school would be an Episcopal school."

"I'm afraid that considering her past issues, we really can't make that a priority," explained Catherine. "We don't want to limit our choices too much. We've discussed it with David and he agrees that we should concern ourselves with finding the best fit. We actually did take her over to St. Paul's, but she told us that she was uncomfortable there."

"So then she doesn't mind if it's a Catholic school?" asked Phoebe.

"I'm not sure that she knows the difference," replied Catherine. "Her most trusted adult friend outside the family is a Presbyterian minister and her best friend is Catholic. I'm not sure that she's really old enough to understand the theological nuances. She will have to study theology, but they have told us that it is mostly New Testament, Old Testament, and early church history. The girls are too young to understand the doctrinal debates about things such as transubstantiation."

"I see, so they won't be trying to convert her then?"

Catherine laughed. "They are more worried about hanging on to the Catholic girls that they've got. They aren't trying to round up more."

Phoebe laughed uncertainly. Catherine could see that she was uncomfortable with the idea, but she also didn't realize that Trelawney's acceptance to the school was not a given. Father Bob was pulling some strings and Lois Lenihan was an alumna of Our Lady of Mercy, and a generous one at that. They were both helping out, but entrance was competitive and girls were usually accepted at either the seventh or the ninth grades.

Sacred Heart was willing to take her at any grade, but Trelawney had not liked the school as much. And confidentially, Lois had told her that Sacred Heart never turned any students away. Because Trelawney was so bright, she needed to be among smarter girls. But Our Lady of Mercy was concerned with the social problems that she had had in public school.

Fortunately, at that moment Lewis decided to come into the kitchen looking to take a break of his own from his work. He saw Phoebe and smiled.

"Eating for two now, Phoebe?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Phoebe. "Do you have any thoughts on the matter?"

"Not a one, not a one," he replied. "I'm smarter than your husband. I know when to keep my mouth shut when it comes to such things."

"You heard about Hal's reading?" asked Catherine smiling.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "Rob was riding him good out there on the golf course the other day. Ben and Bob wanted to jump in, but Rob told them that the subject was closed as far as they were concerned until they decided to start providing him with some grandkids of their own. That shut them up quick enough."

"I bet it did," said Catherine. "But you don't seem too inclined in that direction either. Your father indicated that it disappointed him."

"Yes, and he has more than indicated it to me," laughed Lewis. "But I live a busy life and spend a lot of time trying cases around the world. Settling down in the village to write wills and settle petty disputes among neighbors holds no interest for me."

"He mentioned that your brother William would be returning home at some point to marry and settle down," she said.

"Well, that'll only happen if he decides to stop chasing Cholmondeley all over kingdom come. Sorry Phoebe, but you know how Liam is. He's not a very forgiving man and like the rest of us, he's always had a soft spot for the little one."

"I know," sighed Phoebe. "But it actually does make me feel better to know that he's out there with him. Trelawney is not so concerned. She is convinced that the unicorn is dead."

"Well, we know about the unicorn," said Lewis grimly. "That such a thing could happen to our Trelawney is a great sorrow to us all. There won't be any marriages between the Figalillys and the Featherstonehaughs any time soon. Dad will make sure of that."

"Trelawney was concerned when John was here because his mother is a Featherstonehaugh," she said. "She wouldn't speak to him and she claimed that he was here to avenge the unicorn."

"Coming from anyone else," replied Lewis. "I would laugh that off. John Trelawney is as mild as milquetoast. But Trelawney's got that sixth sense where things such as that are concerned. I'll let Dad know. We'll keep an eye on him."

"So will Elspeth if he comes near her again," replied Catherine. "The dog was actually baring her teeth and growling at him, even though he was on the other side of the screen door."

Lewis looked serious. "That's not good."

"Why is that?" asked Catherine.

"Auntie Meg brought up Elspeth to guard Trelawney at all costs," he replied. "Just as Phoebe here and my Mum promised to protect her, so did the dog. That's why Dad brought her all this way. It wasn't just to make the little one happy. Elspeth has a duty to the child."

"Well that makes sense now," said Phoebe. "When I knew that she was missing her I suggested to her that we look for a Corgi puppy as a pet. But she wouldn't hear of it. Only Elspeth would do."

Lewis nodded. "That's our Trelawney. I think that you sometimes sell her short. She may only be a wisp of a thing, looking like she's made up of fairy dust and moonlight, but she's very sharp. She's more capable of looking after herself than you realize."

Catherine was beginning to feel as if she had walked into that Figalilly alternative universe again that had logic unto itself. She had learned not to ask questions. At any rate, Trelawney came into the kitchen looking for lunch with Elspeth at her heels. As always, the dog settled under her chair. Realizing that the rest of them would be in for lunch soon, she asked Phoebe to help her get it ready. They cheerfully got up while Lewis questioned Trelawney about her "new math."

Mending Ways

When Hal went into work on Monday, despite the fact that he felt refreshed from his very relaxing and family-centered weekend, he still felt anxious. He was worried about what Fisk and Pulski would have to say to him about bailing out of their work over the weekend. He was also concerned because he was going to have to cancel a seminar next Saturday in order to attend Prudence's Brownie event. He was used to saying, "yes" to professional duties, not, "no." He wondered how his colleagues with families managed to balance their lives.

It occurred to him that Liz Carlson might be a good person to ask. After all, she was a widow with three sons to raise by herself. She had a live-in housekeeper, but as a Mom, she must be spending more time with her boys than he was with his family. He had never thought about it before, but how did she do it? In addition to her work in the math department, she worked very hard with the Women's Center on campus to promote women's issues as they related to students and faculty alike.

Tentatively, he knocked on her office door. She was busy, but she looked up from what she was reading and invited him in.

"Well, Hal," she said. "To what do I owe this honor?"

Hal remembered that they didn't really speak much, especially since she and Alice Miller had gotten up a betting pool as to when the baby would be born. But he still felt that she was the best person he could talk to, so he dove in.

"Um, well, Liz," he said. "I really need to ask your advice about something."

"And what might that be?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

Hal realized that she was probably not going to make this easy. But he decided to swallow his pride and admit that he not only couldn't figure out how to fix his life on his own, he also couldn't go to any of his male colleagues for help. This was about to become a humbling experience.

"Yeah, well, it's like this," he admitted. "Since I've remarried, I seem to be having trouble balancing my work and family commitments. Between the teaching and the project for NASA, I'm never home anymore. The family, especially Phoebe, is missing me and I miss them. But I don't know how to find more time for them. There's always one more thing to do around here."

"So why have you come to me?" she asked sharply. "Do you think that because I'm a woman with family responsibilities I would automatically have the answers?"

Hal slid down a little in his chair, wishing that she could get off her feminist high horse for once. But then he decided that he wanted her help more than he wanted to try to disguise his motives for coming to her.

"Yes," he said reluctantly. " I really don't trust the other guys to know what I'm trying to figure out. But I thought that you might understand."

She looked at him skeptically at first, but then must have realized that he was really there for some reliable advice.

"Sounds to me like the classic squeeze," she commented. "It's usually the working Moms that feel it, not the working Dads. I'm kind of surprised though. Didn't your wife have it all under control when she was your housekeeper?"

"Well, obviously things have changed," he said. "Our relationship has changed. When she was running the house as my housekeeper she was always on my back to spend more time with the kids. But now it's different. She wants my time too. And she's about five and a half months pregnant now so she can't do as much as she used to."

"I thought that your parents had moved to the area and were helping out?" she asked curiously.

"Well, they have, but it's not enough," he said. "Okay, and it's not just her. The kids want me around more often too. I went to one of Butch's baseball games for the first time this season on Saturday. Hal's big science fair is tonight and I have no idea of what he's cooked up, even though he's been trying to tell me. Prudence even asked my father to go to one of her father-daughter events at Brownies with her next weekend."

"Ouch!" she said. "That is certainly not a role that you want your folks to step into for you."

"Uh . . . no."

"Well, my friend, I think that you've come to the right person," she replied a little smugly. "Most men would have no idea of where to start with this. We women out in the working world have been dealing with it all along."

"Liz," he said. "I really don't need a lecture on the women's lib movement and how oppressed you all are. Why don't we agree that I'm oppressed too right now? You may feel cut out of the professional world, but right now I'm feeling cut out of my family life."

Liz pursed her lips thoughtfully and twirled a pen in her hands. Hal knew that he had finally seriously engaged her. One of the jokes around the math department was that when she twirled her pen it was a sign that the gears were turning in her brain. She looked back at him as if she was seeing him for the first time.

"You really are serious about this, aren't you?" she said. "This isn't some joke that Fisk and Pulski put you up to in order to yank my chain."

Hal sighed. "Fisk and Pulski are part of my problem. We're all working on the NASA project together. Whenever I mention wanting more time with my family, they start riding me about having a beautiful, new wife to return home to. But they're smart enough not to push that too far. They both knew Helen and how terribly guilty I felt when she passed away because I had spent so much time at work."

"And she didn't bother you about it?" she asked. "Remember Hal, I didn't know your first wife at all. I'm guessing that Phoebe is different."

"Phoebe is different," he affirmed. "But so am I. That was fifteen years ago. Helen always understood and supported my professional goals because she had been a graduate student herself. She also didn't have three stepchildren and a younger sister to care for. But at that time, I was working for tenure and trying to get published. You know what a beast that is. I don't have those pressures anymore."

"Hmm," she said. "Interesting. You have tenure, so you have financial security. You're an established scholar, so you don't have the "publish or perish" piece to the same extent as you once did. And publishing for you has never been an issue anyway from what I can tell. Tell me. Where does all your extra work come from? You know. The work that keeps you here when you want to be home."

"Well," he said. "Right now the NASA project is kind of putting things over the top. But I also spend a lot of time planning lectures, grading, other reading and research, advising students. I always have."

"And I'm guessing that if anyone asks you to do something that you always say 'yes,'" she answered.

"Sure, you know how difficult it is to say 'no' around here," he said.

"Not as difficult as you think," she said slowly and with emphasis. "But it's something that you have to learn how to do. You also can't be apologetic about it. If you have obligations at home, firmly and politely say no. Say it often enough and people will learn not to run to you first."

"You sound like an expert," he commented.

"Of sorts," she replied. "I've learned through trial and error. It's also some of the advice that I give to working mothers and single women with other commitments. Just like you, many of them are used to always saying 'yes' and are not very good at advocating for themselves. Until you mentioned it though, it hadn't occurred to me that our patriarchal culture was also putting the big squeeze on fathers."

"Liz . . ."

"Hear me out, Hal," she interrupted. "I'm on your side. The assumption is always the woman of the house keeps the home fires burning while the man goes out and earns the money. They have their separate roles. Now I'm out here trying to break down barriers for women who want fulfilling careers. You seem to want to break down barriers for men who want fulfilling family lives."

"Liz," he said impatiently. "My goals are not that . . . global. The only barrier that I am interested in breaking down is the one between myself and my wife and kids."

"So break it down," she said in amusement.

"Come again?"

"I said break it down," she repeated. "The barriers that I am trying to break down were erected by society and it's going to take years of hard work and effort on the part of all working women who want to be able to balance home and career. But in your case, you've erected your own barrier. Nobody forces you to spend all this time at work and you know it."

"Oh," he said. It was a little frustrating. This was the exact same thing that his mother and Phil had told him. He was the one who had to make the changes. No one else could do it for him. But he still didn't know where to start. Liz must have taken pity on him because she said,

"Hal, decide when you come in and when you leave work. Set times and stick to them. Put your family commitments on your calendar and give them the same priority, or better yet more, as you do all those impromptu meetings or conversations with your grad students. You wouldn't skip a department meeting to chat about the latest theory in whatever it is that you are teaching at the moment.

"And for Pete's sake, let Fisk and Pulski carry more of their own weight on that project. Everyone knows that if it wasn't for you the university would never have won that bid. You realize that all three of you will share the glory. Make sure that they share the work too."

Hal nodded. Liz could be abrasive when she went on one of her feminist tears, but he also knew that she was a loving mother to her three boys. She too had battles to fight over which she had no control. Now that he realized it, he had a lot more respect for her. He, on the other hand, was mostly fighting an internal battle. And it was one of his own making. Shaking her hand, he thanked her and went to the door.

"Thank you, Hal," she called after him.

"For what?"

"For saying goodbye to me as if I were a male colleague rather than giving me some condescending kiss on the cheek or something," she said looking half-serious.

He rolled his eyes. It had never occurred to him to give her a kiss on the cheek.

When he met with Fisk and Pulski later that day, he firmly told them that he had been spending too much time on the project and he wanted more time with his family. He was surprised by their response.

"Okay," said Fisk. "I could use some more time with Alice myself."

"Sure," added Pulski. "I've been promising Martin to play tennis with him this spring and still haven't gotten around to it."

Well, that was easy, he thought. Now I have to talk to the chair about this coming weekend.

Hal found him surprisingly accommodating as well.

"Hal," he said. "Has it ever occurred to you that with all the upheaval in your life this past year that you might need a break?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Well, I've been thinking about it and you're looking pretty ragged these days between the kids, the new wife, and a baby on the way," he said. "You never complain, but you can't be getting much time with the family."

"I didn't know that you noticed that," he said.

"I do notice these things," he said. "It's part of my job as department chair to make sure that everyone is healthy and happy so that they can do their best work. Now, I don't think that you realize it, but you've put in enough years here to request a semester long sabbatical. If you want to apply for one for the fall semester, I'd be happy to support you. Then you'll have plenty of time to stay home with your wife and new baby. You'll be able to focus on the NASA project but set your own hours with no competing duties."

Hal was silent. It was as if some divine intervention was taking place to help him get his life back on track. Of course there was no guarantee that he would get the sabbatical if he applied, but he certainly wouldn't get it if he didn't apply. He would need to have some kind of research to work on, so the project would fit the bill nicely.

"I'll tell you what," he answered. "I don't even have to think about it. Just tell me what I need to do to apply and I'll get right on it."

"Good choice, man," he said. "Now I believe that you have a big Science Fair to attend tonight. Word on the street is that one of those eighth graders has done an outstanding project. I'm going to stop by myself some evening this week to check it out."

Hal thanked him and left the office feeling better. He realized that it really was all about setting his priorities and taking control of things. But he wouldn't tell Phoebe or the kids about the possibility of a sabbatical. He didn't want to raise expectations, only to have them disappointed later. He wouldn't even tell Mother. He couldn't imagine the nagging she would do about it if she knew. Looking at his watch he realized that he was due in class in fifteen minutes. He went back to his own office to pack his briefcase so that he could go home as soon as class was over.

At the Fair

Tom Williams was pleased that he had been invited to attend the opening night of Hal's science fair. Bernice had also been invited, but she didn't want to go. Phoebe was pregnant and he knew that even though she had accepted her as Hal's wife, she wasn't ready for this step. She thought that it would be too painful.

"I don't believe that I can be gracious about that. She's a lovely girl and I'm happy for her, but it would be too hard to see her carrying Hal's child," she stated. "It would be better for all of us if I did not attend."

"Well, if that's the way you feel about it," he replied. Fortunately, she decided that she couldn't live up to the expectation that she would respond favorably to the new situation on her own. The minute he saw Phoebe he was glad that his wife was at home.

It had been four months since he had last seen her and she and Hal had been married for about seven. If she had been beautiful when he had first met her, she was gorgeous now. One look at her and he knew that she was in the middle stages of pregnancy. Yes, her tiny waist was thickened, but she positively radiated with light.

Her smile was as soft and beautiful as ever, but the news was in her eyes. There were still the traces of sadness, but she had acquired that air of serenity that all expectant mothers have. No doubt her quiet joy would have caused Bernice the heartache of remembering Helen at that time of her life. And she was right. She really wasn't ready for that yet.

Hal stood gallantly at her side, his own joy evident in his every gesture. His arm was protectively around her and he appeared to watch her every movement. Tom recalled that each time Helen had been pregnant it was the same way. Yet with Phoebe it was different. There was a tenderness that had not been evident with Helen.

Perhaps it was because of the age difference. Or perhaps it was because of all of her recent sorrow. The young woman seemed entirely unbothered by his fussing, but she also seemed unaware of it. If he spoke, her face looked up at his filled with love and devotion. She was completely his in a way that his more independent daughter had not been.

However, when they walked over to Hal so that he could explain his project, a new emotion filled her face, deep pride in the young man standing before her, who now looked about an inch taller than her. Tom watched as she reached up and drew down his cheek for a kiss. Hal was clearly enjoying the attention.

Tom walked over to congratulate his grandson and turning to Phoebe said, "It looks like congratulations are in order for you as well."

"Thank you, Mr. Williams," she said smiling happily.

"Why don't you call me Tom, like Hal does? No need to be formal," he said and turning to Hal said, "Didn't waste any time, did you old man?"

"I'm not getting any younger," Hal replied. "Besides, I figured that if I didn't move quickly, the kids would be fighting over the spare room."

"Good point," he replied. "So when is the new member of the family joining us?"

"Mid to late August," said Phoebe, tears glistening in her eyes.

Knowing how emotional pregnant women could get he turned back to Hal and said, "I'd be crying too if I had to think about being pregnant through that long hot summer."

"Tom . . ." she started.

Hal laughed, "Well, honey, it looks like you've got one more of us to deal with now."

She shook her head, not knowing if she should laugh or cry. Tom Williams' reaction to her condition had surprised her. She had been a bit worried that it might bother him, but it obviously didn't. She could not even imagine what his wife would have said. Yet he had asked her when the new family member was going to join "us." He was looking at her as if he knew what she was thinking. Quietly he stood by her side.

Looking down he whispered, "Your child is blood kin to Helen's three children. As you have so graciously accepted the role as their mother, I would like to offer myself to you as a grandfather to this child."

He placed his hand on her stomach and she was startled to feel the child move more strongly than ever. She actually kicked. She looked up at him in awe.

"I think that the little one has answered for you," he whispered and kissed her cheek.

She was stunned. She had felt the baby moving for the past few weeks, but no one else had felt her yet. She felt her move again, this time a little more strongly. Hal was listening intently to an explanation that his son was giving. She sidled up to him and he put his arm around her waist out of habit. She moved closer so that he could shift his hand and she felt another kick. Hal's arm tightened around her. He had felt it too.

She looked up as he looked down at her. His face was filled with wonder. Then they both turned their attention back to Hal's explanation. He was very proud of his work. There were many people at the fair who had never heard of string theory before. One man asked him why he had chosen the topic.

"I heard about it when my Mom's sister was talking last year about the music of the spheres and the idea that the planets made a tone as they rotated around the earth. It's an idea that goes back to the Epicureans two thousand years ago. The Roman poet Lucretius described it," he explained.

"Naturally I thought that she was crazy, but then I read a little about string theory, and realized that someday this is going to turn everything that we know about physics upside-down."

"I can see that," replied the man. "Your aunt must be a smart woman."

Hal grinned. "My 'aunt' isn't even twelve-years-old yet. But she knows a lot about ancient philosophy, the Greeks and Romans and all that. You might say that she was the first person to challenge my preconceived notions. But it was my Dad, who is a mathematics professor at the university, that actually directed me to string theory."

"I suppose that he helped you out with your project?" asked the man.

"He got me access to the university library so that I could do my research," replied Hal. "But he didn't know what I was researching."

"No, I didn't," said his father. "I'm Professor Everett and he wouldn't tell me a thing about the project until tonight. In fact I didn't even know what he was studying until I walked in here. Any guidance that he received, came from his math and science teacher, Mr. Oliver."

The man nodded. Phoebe then noticed that Trelawney had come into the fair with Rob, Catherine, and Francine. Following behind were Ben, Bob, and Lewis. As always, she was neatly dressed in a skirt and blouse with her long blonde hair bound back in two braids. Because she was small for her age and still a little on the thin side she looked younger than she was. She caught sight of Hal first and led them all over.

"Why it's little Trelawney!" said Tom, as he always did when he greeted her. "Hello, Catherine. Hello, Rob. And who is this lovely young lady?"

"This is my dearest friend in the whole world, Francine," announced Trelawney. Francine smiled and politely shook his hand, but Phoebe noticed that her full attention was on Hal. She had always had a crush on him. In fact it was one of the family jokes, since Hal had never appreciated her efforts to attract his attention.

Last year, when she had become close friends with Trelawney, her interest in Hal had abated somewhat. She had also grown more mature and thoughtful. In fact there were many times that Phoebe was grateful that she had reached out to befriend her little sister.

Even if the initial impetus had been to have the opportunity to spend more time near Hal, she had proven that she was a loyal and caring friend. Trelawney was always the first to know of duplicity or ulterior motives on anyone's part. The friendship that she and Francine had developed was genuine.

Just as Hal had grown taller, so had she. She carried herself well because of all her dancing and theatre work over the past year. She was also less fawning. Phoebe was amused to notice that several of Hal's high school friends from his summer program were looking at her with interest.

She caught Catherine's eye and she gave a subtle nod. There was no need to arouse Mrs. Fowler's ire because the older boys were showing an interest in her newly teenaged daughter. Francine had only turned thirteen last week. And Mrs. Fowler was extremely protective. It would be best to keep a close eye on the girl.

But if they noticed her, she did not notice them or the rest of the family for that matter. She was focused on Hal's answer to another question that she probably didn't understand the half of. Phoebe didn't understand it either, but she was making a good show of paying attention as if she did. Hal was listening intently with pride growing on his face with every sentence his son uttered. He clearly understood everything he was explaining and was very impressed.

When Hal finished talking, several people in the group clapped and came up to shake his hand before moving on to the next exhibit. Hal took a deep breath and walked away from his model and storyboard.

"So how many times have you made that presentation, son?" his father asked.

"That was only the third time," answered Hal. "But Mr. Oliver told us that by the end of the night that we would probably lose track."

"I'm sure that you will," he answered. "That's some mighty impressive work that you did for an eighth grader. I have graduate students who don't know that much about string theory."

"Hi, Hal," said Francine, smiling warmly at him. "Your project is brilliant. I don't understand a bit of it."

To Phoebe's surprise, Hal neither grimaced nor was condescending at her flattery. Instead he smiled politely and thanked her. She noticed a bit of admiration in his eye for the pretty girl. She had to wonder if he hadn't noticed the appreciation of the older boys as well and was taking a second look at the girl next-door. But Trelawney immediately jumped into the conversation.

"Hal, this is splendid!" she said. "However did you think of such a clever project?"

Hal smiled broadly at her.

"You gave me the idea," he answered.

"Me?" she asked, very surprised. "But I don't know a bloody thing about science, especially string theory. How could I have possibly given you the idea?"

"Well," he said grinning. "It doesn't say much about my teaching if you don't know a 'bloody thing' about science. Not knowing about string theory is nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe it would be better to say that you inspired me, you know, when you were talking about the music of the spheres last year."

"Oh, I remember," she said. "We did have a bit of a row that night, didn't we?"

"You bet," he said. "And Dad came up and told me about string theory. I was curious because it didn't make sense in the context of all the rules that we know about physics, so I did a little reading. It's really cool. I'm really glad that you brought up the topic of the music of the spheres. I'm sorry now that I laughed at you."

"Fancy that!" she said. "Who ever thought that I could inspire anyone about science? A regular Urania I must be."

Hal looked at her quizzically.

"The muse of astronomy of course," she said. "Even you must know about the muses."

Hal rolled his eyes, but Phoebe was happy to see them sparring again, even if it was just a little bit. It made her feel as though things were really getting back to normal.

Another crowd was starting to gather around Hal's exhibit. By now, Ben, Bob, and Lewis had joined them. Butch had followed Ben over since they were talking about the Dodgers and Prudence had come back because she had nothing else to do. She was really too young to either understand the exhibits or disguise her boredom. But her Papa Tom, obviously sensing her disinterest, stood beside her. She could see them talking quietly. Prudence was beaming at the attention.

But before Hal began to make his presentation, he said that he had an announcement to make.

"Everyone wants to know where I got the idea for my project," he said. "But it wasn't from any famous scientist or anything like that. My Mom's sister told me last year about the Greek philosophers and the music of the spheres. I thought that she was crazy, but my Dad told me that her ideas were kind of like string theory.

"It seems as though everyone thinks that a scientist is crazy whenever he has a new idea, but if he didn't have the idea then we wouldn't learn anything new. Now I know that we don't know much about string theory yet, but when I get to high school and college, I hope that I can learn more. And I owe it all to Trelawney Rose Figalilly. She was my inspiration for this project and a really cool kid. I am dedicating my work to her."

"Here! Here!" called a voice from the back of the group.

Topher came up from behind and picked Trelawney up to bring her up front so that everyone could see her. Phoebe could tell that she was uncertain of what she was expected to do. She smiled at Hal and said thank you, but as anyone in the Everett family knew, she hated any kind of attention or fuss. As soon as she could, she ran back to Catherine.

Inside, Phoebe could feel Maisie stirring once more. She decided to listen to Hal's talk again, since she had missed part of it while she was talking to Tom. The rest of the family was also there, so she didn't want to leave them. She suspected that her husband wasn't going to budge from his son's exhibit all night. She felt a tap on her shoulder and saw that Topher was standing behind her with a chair. She gratefully sat down.

This time there were more questions from the listeners. By now, Hal must have gained his confidence. He answered them intelligently and with ease. The Everett men were all looking at him with pride. She was certain that they were all thinking that he was headed for a bright future. Knowing Ben and Bob, they were probably both scheming about how they could help his career along.

Phoebe noticed that Butch was listening closely and trying to understand. Saturday had been his big day and Hal had been ready to slap his back and shake his hand after he saved the game to keep up the undefeated season for his team. She was glad that he was developing his own confidence as he was starting to shine in an area that he could call his own. It was nice that for a few days the boys were supporting rather than competing with each other.

Her cousin Lewis was clearly fascinated by everything that he saw around him. He had the sophistication of a European world traveler, but this world was new to him. She glad that he was able to see the more positive side of American public school education. Even though Trelawney had not fit in, it didn't mean that the other children wouldn't. Hal was clearly thriving. When Hal was done talking, it was time for another brief round of applause.

Once again a few people came up to shake his hand and congratulate him. Phoebe noticed that her husband was standing off to the side with his parents. Ben and Bob had gone up with Lewis to give their own good wishes. She realized that people in the community would certainly recognize him as a mathematics professor. Undoubtedly, he did not want to steal any of his son's limelight. It was his night. He had worked very hard for it and he deserved to get all of the attention.

Kudos

But the night would not be over until the prizes were given out. At the smaller science fairs that she had previously attended, Phoebe had seen the judges going around to place ribbons on the exhibits that had won. The fairs only took place for one day, but this one had over a hundred exhibits. And each middle school had only been allowed to send their best.

This was also the first time that the students were making these more formal presentations of their projects, instead of just answering questions. It all took time and if you wanted to see and hear about more than a few projects, you couldn't really do it. So this fair would run for four afternoons and five nights. She had had enough, but she suspected that her husband would be back and no doubt bring some of his colleagues. By 8:30, he was bursting with pride.

At that time, the students and visitors were all herded into the auditorium. A distinguished professor from Cal Tech, whom Phoebe recognized as the first man who had questioned Hal was introduced as the chairman of the blue ribbon panel. He explained that in order to put students at ease, the judges had circulated anonymously to hear the presentations.

Awards were then given in the form of gold, silver and bronze medals for best papers, exhibits, and presentations. Phoebe could see the tension starting to build in her son's face, as his name was not called. The final prizes awarded were for best overall projects. In addition to the gold medal, the overall winner would get a scholarship to a summer program at Cal Tech for rising science stars. The program would be composed of winners from science fairs like this one all over the state.

However, he explained, not every school district science fair would send a winner. This district would be given a place based on the overall quality of the exhibits presented at the fair. Therefore it was really an award for the overall excellence of the district-wide science program.

He then praised the pilot program at Hal's school as a model for other public school districts in the state. He encouraged them to apply for grant money if they didn't have the funding. He then acknowledged Mr. Oliver for his role as an inspirational figure for these boys and girls. There were not many future scientists who were willing to delay graduate school for three years in order to teach middle school.

Phoebe noticed Bob and Ben were listening hard. She also recalled last fall when Bob had asked Hal how his tax dollars were being spent. But as the man talked, her son, Hal, began to shift in his seat. She laid her hand on his arm and smiled at him. He smiled back uncertainly. Then the judge announced the silver and bronze medal winners.

By now, she thought that Hal was ready to explode. The judge began by praising the winner as doing work in a completely new and theoretical area of physics.

"For his project about string theory, the gold medal and scholarship are awarded to Harold Everett, Junior."

The applause was thunderous. Hal looked stunned, as if he couldn't believe his ears. Rob, Catherine, Tom, Bob, Ben, Lewis, Butch, Prudence, Trelawney, Francine, and lastly herself were all standing up around him. His father's face looked just as dazed as his son's.

Phoebe realized that it was the first time that she had ever heard Hal's formal name, which of course was tagged with "Junior." She had a feeling that her husband might never have heard it spoken in public before. Bob had to practically drag the boy out of his seat so that he could go up and accept his award.

She and the rest of the family watched as the tall, handsome young man walked stiffly up to receive his award. The judge shook his hand and he quietly walked back, still a bit bemused by the sudden admiration. As everyone got up to leave, Phoebe heard a familiar voice from the crowd.

"Hey, Everett!" hollered Topher so that he could be heard over the din.

"Hey, man! Great job!" he declared. "You know that you're a hero, don't you?"

"A hero?" asked Hal weakly.

"Yeah, man!" he replied. "It's been over ten years since the district won one of those scholarships. They only award twenty in the whole state. This is so cool, man! I'm jealous. You get to spend a whole two months at Cal Tech taking classes and working on your own project. You're going to have to come up with something pretty groovy to top this baby."

"But I didn't win it all by myself," said Hal modestly. "The judge said that the award was based on the overall quality of the exhibition. Mr. Oliver was an amazing teacher, but kids in the other middle schools did a great job too."

"You really did take my lecture this morning on humility seriously," he grinned. "Look I'm proud of you man. And next year we'll both be at the high school together. You may be a science genius, but you better make some time for stage crew. You already know how to run the equipment up in the booth better than half the guys who are doing it now."

"Well, flattery will get you everywhere, son," said Ben. "I don't believe that we've been introduced. I'm Hal's Uncle Ben."

"I'm sorry," said Hal. "I should have introduced you to the family. This is Christopher Tucker, but we all call him Topher. Topher, this is Uncle Ben, Uncle Bob, my Papa Tom, Cousin Lewis and I think that you know everyone else."

"Of course, I do," replied Topher. "Wow, man! The whole family really came out in force tonight. This is really cool!"

Hal grinned. Phoebe knew that by now he had probably forgotten all about getting "loot" from guilty relatives every time they showed up. They had seen them all so frequently in the past few months that there was no more need for any "guilt giving." And all the kids, not just Hal, were happy to see them more often.

"So how did you end up with the handle Topher, son?" asked Bob.

"My younger sisters Rachel and Rebecca," he said laughing. "They're identical twins and when they were learning to talk they had their own language. They started calling me Topher and the name just stuck. I kind of like it. There are plenty of Christophers and Chrisses out there, but I've never met another Topher."

"Neither have I," said Ben. "You know it's a good name for business. It's one that people will remember."

Butch had been taking it all in.

"If that's true, Uncle Ben," he commented. "Then why don't you go by Bentley? I'm sure that no one else has that name."

"I will, if you will," Ben shot back. "I believe that we call you Butch because you don't like the name anymore than I do."

Butch made the face that he always made when reminded of his real name. But Phoebe was tired. She looked at her husband who suggested that it was time to go home. Before they parted, Trelawney walked up to Hal.

"Thank you for dedicating your project to me, Hal," she said sweetly. "But I won't act all weird and give you a hug."

"Thanks, Trelawney," he said in relief.

"But I don't think that you'd mind one from Francine," she added mischievously.

Hal stuttered and turned red, but he didn't look too bothered when Francine came up and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Her husband glanced at her with a look that said, my son is finally starting to grow up.

"I guess the real Trelawney is finally back," said Butch, with a hint of mischief in his own voice.

"What do you mean the real Trelawney?" asked the girl with a toss of her head.

"You know, the one that makes fun of Hal," he said.

Everyone laughed, including Francine, who didn't seem to be quite sure of what the joke was. Hal and Rob began to gather up the family to finally get home. Bob, Ben, and Lewis all had an early flight the next morning. Since Bob and Ben were both flying to the east coast, Bob offered Lewis the use of the corporate jet to continue his flight back to Europe. Like all Figalillys, he was a frugal man and gratefully accepted.

All the children but Trelawney had to get up for school in the morning. Hal insisted that he would get the three children out to school so that Phoebe could sleep in. He got no argument from her. It had been another long day. Even after a nap this afternoon, she still felt more tired than usual. And she didn't even ask if it would make Hal late for work. She could already sense a change in his work habits.

She also noticed a look pass between Catherine and Rob. She knew that Catherine had "laid him out in lavender," so to speak, when she was away in Sacramento. She was glad. She didn't even feel bad about it. She just felt good that he really did seem to be trying to change his ways as opposed to just making promises. She hoped that he could stick with it.

"The Happy Recap"

One of the New York Mets sportscasters, Ralph Kiner, always said whenever the Mets had won a game, "And we'll be back with the happy recap after this commercial from our sponsor." Tonight Rob felt as if his recounting of the day's event with Catherine was nothing less than a happy recap.

"Well," he said. "We couldn't have had a happier outcome to the Science Fair. Hal worked very hard on the project. Who knew that he would come up with a project about the latest theory in quantum physics? Or that Trelawney would be the inspiration?"

"I did," she said. "Hal was bursting to tell someone last week. When he was unable to get his father's attention, he told me all about it."

"Well he certainly had his attention tonight," commented Rob. "Just as Butch did on Saturday. I suppose that it's Prudence's turn next."

"She has a dance recital in a few weeks and I'm sure that he'll be there with bells on," she replied. "And he cancelled a seminar so that he could go to the father-daughter event at the Brownies."

"Yes, thank goodness," said Rob. "I was not looking forward to spending my Saturday morning with a couple of dozen six and seven year old girls."

"I doubt that Hal is either," she laughed. "But he doesn't have much choice. He was there for Hal and Butch. Now it's Prudence's turn. But I am concerned about the dance recital, not with Hal, but with Tom Williams."

"So he spoke with you too?" asked Rob. "He really is in kind of a jam with her, isn't he?"

"Well," she said. "In this case, it's pretty easy to see both sides of it. Bernice made quite a fuss at Christmas over how much Prudence looks like Helen did at that age. And she really does. But we all know that she was not sick tonight. She couldn't bear to see Phoebe pregnant."

"Tom told me as much," said Rob. "He doesn't want to disappoint Prudence. He is also sure that Bernice will find a dance recital much harder to miss than a science fair. Apparently Helen took dance classes at that age also. But there will be no missing Phoebe at the dance recital. She'll be well into her third trimester by then."

"I suppose that it will be easier to see her after the baby is born," sighed Catherine. "But I guess that looking at your son-in-law's beautiful young wife pregnant with his child would be very hard."

"Well, it does bring to mind all kinds of implications that are easier to ignore if she's not pregnant," answered Rob. "But there is nothing that we can do about it. It's something that they'll have to figure out for themselves."

"Agreed," said Catherine. "To change the subject, I had an interesting conversation with Phoebe this morning about finding a new school for Trelawney in the fall."

"Hmm," he said thoughtfully. "What do you mean by interesting?"

"She's not too thrilled with the idea of a Catholic school," she replied. "I tried to explain that there weren't any real options for an Episcopal school other than St. Paul's, but she still seemed reluctant to view it as a possibility."

"Well," commented Rob. "She doesn't have to go there. Did you explain that the nuns weren't going to try to convert her to Catholicism?"

"Of course, but she didn't want to hear it," she said. "Or that Trelawney did not feel at all comfortable at St. Paul's."

"Well our first choice is Our Lady of Mercy, right?" he said. "By the way, how is that going?"

"We're waiting for a decision," she replied. "Fr. Bob and Lois were apparently very persuasive. Mrs. Tracy, her guidance counselor from Franklin, was also very positive about the idea, and Mrs. Griegan. Our old friend Mr. Preston however has been less than helpful."

"That's par for the course with that jerk," said Rob. "When she was in school, he was pretty useless, especially with Mrs. Fountain. I suppose that it wouldn't help to explain that the man is an idiot?"

Catherine smiled.

"I doubt it."

"Well, we don't want to push too hard," he said. "That could very easily backfire."

"You're right of course," she answered. "And we do have Sacred Heart to fall back on."

"I do think that things will eventually work themselves out," he said. "I have to think that if it is the right school for her that it will all pan out."

"You sound like Trelawney," said Catherine. "She is completely unconcerned."

"That's good," replied Rob. "But considering the other trials and difficulties that she has faced, this is probably pretty minor. I sometimes wonder that she hasn't been more damaged by all the traumas in her life in the past few years than she let's on."

"Hard to say," said Catherine. "There really is still a great deal that we don't know about her, or Phoebe, or the whole Figalilly family for that matter. The more of them that we meet, the more questions that seem to arise."

"Things have been going well for the past few days," he commented. "But it has only been a week since Aunt Henrietta began all of this most recent upset with her prophecy. Talk about something backfiring. Do you think that now that the custody issue has been legally settled that she'll pull up stakes and take her circus somewhere else?"

"We can only wish," she sighed. "But my gut instinct is that she isn't finished yet. The prophecy is still out there and Pastor Jason has yet to say anything about it. And Elspeth is still very much on edge. But let's not think about that. For now let's enjoy the fact that we just had a wonderful weekend with our whole family and things with our son Hal are on an upward trajectory."

Rob smiled to himself. Things were looking up. However he was not going to let his guard down where Aunt Henrietta was concerned. Catherine had not witnessed her most recent performance. If she had, she would not be so quick to dismiss it. But if he was going to be on guard, it was probably better for Trelawney that Catherine was at ease.

At any rate it was hard to know what was going on in that complex little brain of hers. The others might say that she was a little fey, but he thought that they were seriously underestimating her. He thought of John's comment that she was a "proper little Gemini." The simple soul almost seemed to be a clever disguise for the highly intelligent mind under the surface. However, her very being radiated goodness and light. He only hoped that in the end, she would not prove too good for this world.

Epilogue

The next night, Phoebe and Hal took a bit of time to do some of their own debriefing of the weekend's events. They had been too tired to do so for the last few nights. When she told him about Tom's gesture of the previous evening, he was just as amazed as she had been.

"Tom was always a great guy," he said. "But this is incredible."

"It makes sense that he would accept the baby and me so that he could maintain contact with the other children," said Phoebe. "But this goes far beyond that. And the baby knows it too."

Hal got a very odd look on his face. "Phoebe, she's not even born yet and already she's doing it."

"Does that bother you?"

"Absolutely not, it means that she'll be like you," he said gently.

"Or Trelawney," she couldn't help but add.

"That is a possibility that I have been trying very hard to ignore," he grimaced. "But she does seem to be regaining her mischievous spirit. That little tableau that she set up with Hal and Francine was quite a sight. But then I don't think that he minded. Think that she knows something that we don't?"

"Not that he's told her."

"I wasn't suggesting that he told her," said Hal. "But it is one of those things that she would 'know.'"

Phoebe was silent. "Trelawney's powers of perception do continuously grow stronger."

"Yes, they do," said Hal. "Is that bad?"

"Not necessarily," she said slowly. "Unless she gets out of hand again."

"It seems to me that she's been in hand for quite some time. In fact, since she moved in with my parents things have gotten a lot better," he commented. "The two crisis points were caused by forces beyond her control. By that I mean Uncle David's visit and the custody challenge. But the fact is that she seems to have taken both of those things in stride, better than any of us, come to think of it."

"Yes," said Phoebe. "And having a final decision with regard to her custody has definitely settled her. So has the baby's coming."

"Speaking of the baby's coming do you realize that you're almost two-thirds the way there? It's fifteen weeks, this week, to the big day," he said with a grin.

"Yes, I can keep count," she said warily. He had that look in his eye that said that he was about to tease her.

"Well, you know that you're going to keep growing larger."

"I think that I know enough about the process to realize that," she said.

Suddenly, he became rather amorous. "You know, it's not just your belly that is growing."

"No, I believe that there are a couple of other areas," she replied.

"Hmm, a couple of my favorite areas," he answered. Sliding his arms around her he nuzzled her neck.

"Maybe it's time to go to bed," she said.

"Are you tired?" he asked.

"Oh, no!"

Turning she beckoned him up the stairs. Once they were behind the locked door, she melted into him.

"Phoebe?"

"Yes?"

"You have got to be the most passionate pregnant woman on the planet."

"And you object to this because?"

"Who said I object? I've got to be the luckiest father to be on the planet."

"Hal?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Stop talking and make love to me," she said.

"If you say so, dear."

He gently lifted her up and carried her to the bed.

"'Man,' to quote our friend Topher," he said. "It really is starting to feel like I am carrying two."

He rested his hand on her stomach and was rewarded by a solid kick.

"You know, we may have a football player in there," he said.

He felt another, stronger kick. Phoebe laughed.

"I don't think that she agrees."

"Well, it is difficult to imagine a place kicker named Maisie," he replied.

"But not a dancer," she said softly and drew his lips down to her own.

Once again, his response was gentle. Now that he could feel the baby move, himself, he was very reluctant to put any pressure on her. Phoebe's response was equally gentle, as if she too, were more aware of the life between them. But he had been through this process before. Every time it felt new and different. Perhaps because each child was her own individual self. In the still of the night, he tenderly made love to his wife once again. And the child was at peace. Secure in the knowledge of how deeply her parents loved one another. And when they were done, the three of them fell asleep together.

The End