"Granddaddy won't let you stay here very long."
Jonathan kicked at his sister, but she was too far down on the bed. "Go get in your own bed, before Mom catches us."
"I can't sleep, it's thundering outside. Besides, you need to know Jonathan."
He sat, and peered groggily at Candy. "Know what?"
"They don't think Mom's raising you right cause she's mad at our Dad." Candy picked at her nails, trying to hide the sudden flash of hot tears in her eyes. "So Granddaddy and Grandma are going to drive up here and make you go to Dexter Academy where Daddy went. In Philadelphia."
"How do you know?" Jonathan blustered. "Captain Gregg won't let them do it. He won't let Mom –"
"Stop scaring me with that stupid old ghost of yours." Candy raised her chin, but as the lightning flashed he could tell she was crying.
"Nobody tells Mom what to do, that's what she says in this letter." Jonathan thought to snatch the envelope from her hand, but something in Candy's look stopped him short. "Don't touch it. I've got to sneak it back on her desk before she misses it. I think she's gonna mail it to Grandma Williams tomorrow."
"Should we throw it away?" he suggested.
"No, dumbo. Mom thinks it's sad but she's also scared." Candy crossed her legs, which frightened Jonathan even more. His sister was serious.
"Because she didn't love Daddy? Will she get in trouble for that?" He thought for a moment. "I don't care if she didn't love Daddy. Sheesh, Candy. I didn't even know him."
"Well I did, and I don't care if Mommy didn't love him because he was mean to her, that's what I heard everybody say when we went back to Granddaddy's after they closed his casket."
"Daddy wasn't mean!" Jonathan shouted. "He couldn't be if he loved us."
They stared at each other.
"I won't let them take you, Jonathan. Martha says everyone in Philadelphia has brooms up their butts anyways."
"What will we do?"
Neither of them remembered falling asleep just after that, Candy at the foot of the bed and Jonathan with his head on the pillow. When Martha knocked on the door the next morning, they were sound asleep in his bed, blanketed by a heavy quilt that smelled suspiciously like one of the trunks in the attic.
"Scared of the storm, I'll bet," Martha nodded at Carolyn as she entered the room, coffee mug in hand. "Poor little ones, no father to comfort them and keep them safe except old man Muir."
Carolyn rolled her eyes, but Martha saw the tears anyway.
"Dear, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way, Mrs. Muir. Oh, maybe I did." The housekeeper hugged the mistress of the house, patting her back soothingly. "Dear, you are so little. I've got some bacon and eggs downstairs that might give you just enough energy for carpool. You go on downstairs and I'll get the kids up and ready for school."
Carolyn stared sadly at the children.
"Thanks, Martha. For supporting my decision, even though you're not particularly fond of Schooner Bay."
She felt his presence before he materialized, a steady warmth at her waist as she descended the stairs.
"I believe someone borrowed this from your desk yesterday."
Carolyn's eyebrows rose as he handed her the letter.
"Oh no," she exclaimed as she sank quietly into the kitchen chair. "Why would I think Candy doesn't snoop?"
"They won't remember a thing, Madame," the Captain affirmed softly as he poured himself a cup of coffee." She waited for him to pry, to preen but there were only his soft grey eyes, goading hers into a smile. "Certainly not the bit about Jonathan."
For a moment, she thought to reach across the table and cup his lovely face with her hand. He seemed very corporeal there, leaning into the table, weathered hands strong and red in the morning chill.
"Except that their father loved them very, very much," he said quietly, with such authority that his words wrapped themselves securely around her. "That's all they need to remember for the moment."
He vanished at the sound of Martha clumping down the stairs.
"Loves," thought Carolyn as she stood and poured herself a second cup.