The Waiting Time 1

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Hamlet, Act I, scene 5, lines 166-167

Prologue

Hal woke up early on a glorious, sunny summer morning. The heavy thunderstorms over the weekend seemed to have scrubbed the hazy sky to a clear blue. Now that everyone was home safe and sound from the weekend's adventures, he was ready to focus on the arrival of his youngest child.

His lovely wife lay sleeping beside him. She looked beautiful in the early morning light. At eight months pregnant, she rested gently on her left side. She had grown quite large. Too large to make love to, but he was able to enjoy her nonetheless. She was not shy about allowing him to see her body in this state. She still enjoyed his touch as he massaged her back muscles after the stress of carrying her precious cargo all day.

He still looked at the bulge now slightly below her waist in amazement. He had been watching it grow over the past six months in awe. If she weren't sleeping so peacefully he would have begun to caress her and the child gently. For now he must satisfy himself with watching her and dreaming of the day that their little bundle of joy would sleep beside, rather than within her mother. It was warm, even for early in the day. They had slept only beneath a light sheet.

She stirred slightly and sighed softly. There was the faintest of smiles on her lips. Hal knew that she was dreaming of the child within. He knew that most of her thoughts these days centered on her daughter. She was an active child. Hal was amused to think of Phoebe's first view of the baby moving below.

"She's kicking, Hal!" she said amazement as she looked down. "Look! You can actually see her kicking!"

Hal had stood behind her and reached his hands around so that he could grasp her belly. The child was indeed moving quite a bit.

He smiled now because he could see that the child was beginning to move again. Phoebe wouldn't stay asleep much longer. He pulled her thick blonde hair off her face and began to kiss her. Slowly she responded as she gradually woke up and then turned on her back and demanded his full mouth. He gladly gave it. He had to admit that he missed her. He was looking forward to the day when the child was born and he could make love to his wife again.

Done with kissing her for the moment, as he cradled her in his arms and gently caressed her, he returned to his early morning reverie. She cuddled closer, as she always did in these moments of tender intimacy. He enjoyed the new voluptuousness that pregnancy had added to her figure and she was pleased by his enjoyment. There were many kinds of lovemaking and the challenge of her girth gave them the inspiration to explore new ways of satisfying their appetites for one another. And explore, they did.

For now he had to make due with pleasuring her in ways other than the "usual way." She also insisted on returning the favor, although it was not the same. However it released the tension for both of them. They had been such passionate lovers since the time of their marriage that it seemed odd to go to bed and not make love before sleeping. However it was a sacrifice that they willingly made for the miracle of life she now carried. In a little less than a month that same little miracle would make her entrance to the world. At that point, their lives would be changed forever.

It had been a warm summer so far, even by California standards. It had also been very dry. This had made Butch and Prudence happy because it meant that his baseball team had had no rainouts and she was able to swim almost everyday at Brownie camp. Hal had been away now for a month at Cal Tech for the past month. At the local science fair that spring he had won a scholarship to an elite program of the best eighth grade science students in the state. He was busy, but still found time to write almost everyday.

He and Phoebe missed him, but they were obviously very proud of him. Because he had a sabbatical coming up in September, his own workload was very light. He enjoyed spending the long, lazy days with his wife. With all of the children occupied during the day, they were able to spend many hours relaxing in each other's company. His mother, who lived up the street, warned them to take advantage of it while it lasted.

"Once that baby comes along," she said. "She'll have you up night and day with her demands."

Phoebe had smiled softly when she said that and even he felt a little sentimental. When his other three children were infants, he had been so busy teaching and earning tenure that he hadn't been around much. His first wife had relied very much on her own mother for company. Now, for the first five months of her life, he would be able to enjoy significant time with his infant daughter on a daily basis. Then, when the older children returned home from school, he would have time to spend with them.

Despite the fact that the baby would be a half-sister, none of the children had even thought to use the word. Prudence referred to her as her "real sister (or brother)," mostly because when Phoebe's younger sister Trelawney had initially joined the family, she had confused others by referring to her as her sister. It had taken a while to sort things out by explaining that the girl was like a sister, but not a "real" sister.

Butch had felt the same way when those outside the family called Phoebe his stepmother. He had responded that she "feels like a pretty real Mom to me," when once questioned about it. Hal smiled at the thought. There was harmony in his home because no one viewed anyone else as steps or halves. They all just loved each other.

Then the alarm went off, breaking into his thoughts. Phoebe groaned. He knew that although already awake, she didn't really want to get up. She was having trouble getting herself in and out of bed these days between the heat and her growing size. He had tried to convince her to let him get Butch and Prudence their breakfast and then pack them off for their activities, but she still insisted on doing it herself. She didn't like the mess he made in the kitchen and the fact that sometimes he forgot to feed Waldo, their English sheepdog, to dire consequences.

So they got up together, saw the kids off and with a sigh she sat down at the kitchen table to have a cup of tea. Coffee gave her heartburn these days, just as almost everything else did. He set down her teacup and after sitting beside her, picked up her hand to kiss it. She rewarded him with one of her gentle smiles and rested her cheek on his hand for a minute.

"What's on the agenda for today?" he asked, knowing that there was some appointment or another.

"We're interviewing possible nurses to help with the home birth," she replied.

"You mean that Mrs. Clancy will be interviewing possible nurses," he grimaced.

Mrs. Clancy was the midwife who Phoebe had decided was the best for her, mostly because she reminded her of the old midwife at home, Mrs. Pengally. Hal had asked her cousin Emmeline if Mrs. Pengally was something of a drill sergeant.

"I'd say more of a dragon," replied the young woman with a smile. "But she was the best. And if Mrs. Clancy makes Phoebe feel safe, don't complain. That's the important thing, you know."

Hal was still getting used to the idea that this child would be born at home, in the bed in which she had been conceived. Initially, the doctor had refused to touch the case with a ten-foot pole, but they had been able to find an experienced midwife who was board certified. So the doctor agreed to continue her prenatal care with two conditions. An experienced obstetric nurse must be found to help with the birth and a promise was made that if any complications presented before labor started, the child would be born in the hospital.

Phoebe had reluctantly agreed to the second condition, but felt better now that the baby had dropped and was in the correct position. She had had a healthy pregnancy all along. The baby appeared to be of a normal weight, and she knew exactly what to expect. The midwife had told them that that was the most important thing.

"For some women today, a home birth seems like a romantic, back to nature sort of idea," she explained. "Then the active labor kicks into high gear and the regrets start. But since you've been present for several home births you know what you're in for. However I do suggest that you get the younger children out of the house, and that enormous hairy creature."

The agreement was made that Butch and Prudence would stay with his Dad at their house. Waldo, "that enormous hairy creature," would go there as well. Mother wanted to be there and Phoebe was grateful. Trelawney would also be allowed to be present. Phoebe's cousin Emmeline, who was to be the godmother, had somewhat reluctantly also promised to be present. The only other home birth that she had attended was Trelawney's and that had been a difficult one.

He agreed to be there but was really not looking forward to seeing his wife in pain, not to mention all of the other messy aspects. However Phoebe's father had sat loyally by his wife's side through both of her births, so she expected him to do the same. It was one of the very few times that he had any regrets about the cultural differences between them.

This morning they spoke to three women before they found one that Phoebe was comfortable with and the midwife liked. The nurse, Mrs. Morgan, would also stay for an extra day or two until Phoebe and the baby were comfortable nursing together. Despite being one of the most natural things in the world, all women needed help in the beginning. If Phoebe were at home in the village she would have had more opinions than she knew what to do with.

That was another one of her insistences, no bottles. Initially, he had found this very disappointing, since feeding the baby was one of those activities that he had been looking forward to himself. With the others, he had been happy to take the "late night shift" to give his first wife a little bit more extra sleep.

However, finally he happily agreed to this, even though it meant that he wouldn't be able to feed the baby until she was older. Especially since nursing would give the child immunities that would keep her healthy for the rest of her life. And he knew that she was looking forward to it. Nursing her daughter would develop a close bond that would last for a lifetime.

Now that a decision on the nurse had been made and everything was in place for the home birth, there was nothing left to do but wait for the big day, all the early precautions were in case the baby came prematurely, but the midwife was highly doubtful of that now. She explained that first babies were usually late and came after a long labor. It was second babies that came much faster. He and Phoebe had shared a smile after that comment. They were very hopeful that this would be their first baby.

A Change of Heart

Tom Williams wasn't especially surprised when he got a call one Monday morning from Catherine Everett inviting them up to spend the day and stay dinner later in the week. Prudence had some sort of a Brownie Jamboree in the morning for her day camp and Butch had a baseball game that afternoon.

One thing that made him happy about Bernice's final change of heart about Phoebe's pregnancy was that he could get these phone calls and hear no trepidation in the voice on the other end of the line. Bernice would have no real interest in the baseball game but she was always ready to attend any event involving Prudence.

Bernice was a much happier woman for having accepted Hal's remarriage to another woman. However, what no one (except him) realized, was that she was only able to do this after she had finally come to terms Helen's death. One of the reasons why their contact with the family had been so patchy since her passing was that it made it easier for Bernice to avoid acknowledging that she was, in fact, gone. The news that Hal was involved in a serious relationship with another, much younger woman, had hit her like a ton of bricks a year ago.

When she finally discovered that this was not a passing fling and that they had an "understanding," she had insisted on visiting the family, in order to meet her. He had then been deeply embarrassed by her rude treatment of the young woman. Conversely, he had found Phoebe's kind and gentle response to that "assault" very touching.

Not surprisingly, Bernice managed to put herself "on the outs" with all the kids, who obviously adored "Nanny" and wanted her to marry their Dad, and Hal himself of course. Yet it was the unusual little girl, Trelawney, who had really moved him. Although she was Phoebe's sister, she was every bit as much a member of the family as the other children. He recognized in her the innocent simplicity of his deceased son Stephen. If Bernice had not been so busy hating Phoebe at that time, she might have seen it too.

After four months of listening to her anger and bitterness over first the loss of her surviving child and then the loss of her grandchildren, he had decided that if he didn't do something, they would both be miserable for the rest of their lives. The single visit that Hal and the children had made to their home in November had been an unmitigated disaster.

She had been highly insulted first by the fact that he refused to allow them to visit his home again, and then, that he would not bring Phoebe unless she would promise to treat her with the respect due the children's new mother. Butch and Prudence had been openly hostile to her. When he had called asking for a visit at Christmas, Hal had flatly told him no. He was not going to put either his children or his wife through that again, especially during their first holiday together as a family.

At that point he realized that there was only one thing for it. They all needed to meet on neutral ground. Bernice had fought him tooth and nail against going to the Christmas Pageant. She only agreed with the understanding that they would leave as soon as it was over. She neither wanted to see Hal's new wife nor face another rejection by her grandchildren. But the circumstance that even he had not factored in was the little girl who wanted to make everyone, above all her sister, happy.

He did not know how Trelawney managed to follow them out into the parking lot so quickly after the pageant. She seemed to glow in the light of the open door behind her, as she sweetly smiled at them. She had looked like an ethereal little angel herself in her pale blue dress and long golden curls tied back in a ribbon.

And then, in her musical little treble-pitched voice, she gently chided Bernice because "her angel" (referring to Helen) was weeping. Even his wife's heart at melted at the sight of the child and for the first time she recognized her similarity to little Stephen.

Phoebe had looked terrified when the young pastor brought her out, and she had seen her sister with them. But ultimately it was a simple gesture by the little girl that overcame the last bit of antagonism in Bernice's manner. It is impossible to hate someone, when an angel places your hand in hers. Especially if you are surrounded by people, who are praying, that you will accept the gentle young woman into your heart.

The way forward had not always been straight or easy. Mostly, Bernice had made every step of it more difficult for herself. But the faith of the young girl had been relentless. She refused to believe that anyone could not love her sister. And she knew how much his granddaughter Prudence needed Bernice. In fact it was almost as much as Bernice needed Prudence.

It was no surprise to anyone that Prudence was an emotionally needy child. She had no memory of her mother and had only known a father consumed by his work, at least until Phoebe came. As her nanny, Phoebe had filled this need in her life. But then she was forced to share her attention with Trelawney, the orphaned sister who needed Phoebe's care even more than she did. And then with Phoebe focused on her unborn child, despite the fact that she had always wanted a younger sister, she began to feel lost again.

It was at this point that she and Bernice began to bond in a very unique way. Nobody knew how Trelawney knew, but Prudence did indeed look more and more like Helen, as she grew older. She loved to look at pictures of her "angel Mommy" and see the resemblance. As a bittersweet irony, the first picture that she could compare herself with was a picture of Helen at her age dressed as an angel for a Christmas pageant.

If Bernice had initially found the resemblance painful, it was now a comfort to her. This became even more so after the recent dance recital and when she discovered how engaged that the child was in Brownies. Both of these had been among Helen's favorite activities.

Thus Bernice could see that although she had never known her mother, she was still very much like her, even having the same interests. Having a stepmother did not replace her mother, nor had Prudence rejected her and her memory, as his wife had originally feared. In fact, seeing her "earth Mommy" pregnant with her own child, had sparked her own very natural curiosity in the woman who had given birth to her.

With Prudence to begin to fill in the gap in her life, Bernice moved further away from her grief. As she did so, she realized that it was the lovely young woman, whom she had initially resented, that had made it all possible. Had Phoebe not come to their daughter's family and created the impetus for Bernice to take a more active interest in their lives. It was likely that they would have drifted farther apart.

Like the child Trelawney, Phoebe never bore any of the resentment towards her that Hal and the children did. In fact, her homely family values were such that she actually wanted them in the children's lives. Rather than trying to remake their daughter's family in a way that excluded them, as Bernice had feared, she wanted them there to provide the love and support that every child needs from their grandparents. And that was not something that she herself could offer them.

Young Phoebe had also known tremendous heartache, and the loss of close family. In fact, she was still grieving for that loss. The very recent and traumatic deaths of her own parents had made her especially sensitive to Bernice's grief. Yet she never sought sympathy for herself. She never tried to play the victim to Bernice's outright rejection of her. Rather, she had always extended a loving hand of warmth and kindness.

He was not exactly sure of what force had motivated him to offer himself as a grandparent to her child, when he saw her for the first time after she had become pregnant. It had been rather startling to feel the child kick back in response to the suggestion. Especially after he learned that he had been the first to feel her presence in that way. He often thought that it might be the half-Cornish blood in the child responding to the half-Cornish blood in him.

It was of course a fanciful notion, but then all people of the Cornish race were given to whimsy and fancy. He had heard many stories from his father of the little people who inhabited the moors around his hometown of Camborne. And that was one of the most delightful aspects of little Trelawney.

She too was full of tales of knights and princesses, good kings and evil witches, and all the stuff of which fairy tales are made. As usual, as much as he would look forward to seeing his grandchildren whenever they visited, he was looking forward to seeing that little girl as well.

And when Bernice finally realized that this sweet little girl had actually engineered her reconciliation with her family, she began to feel very tenderly towards her. The child had forced her to face her fears, all of which were truly non-existent, and now rather than living out her life in bitter loneliness, she would have the love and affection of all of her grandchildren, but most especially that of her little granddaughter, the one who was most like her lost daughter.

So on a hot and sunny summer morning they drove up to where the family lived. During the drive, rather than having to endure her usual sullen silence, he was treated to her chatter about the children. She wondered about how much Prudence had grown and whether Butch had maintained his perfect record of saves.

She asked him to tell her once again about young Hal's scholarship to Cal Tech for the summer. She wanted to be able to ask "intelligent" question to find out how he was doing. And she hoped that they would also get to see "her" little Trelawney. She even expressed concern that Phoebe might be pushing herself to hard to keep up with the children. Yes, a new chapter in their lives had definitely begun.

The Brownie jamboree in the morning was exactly what one would have expected. There was an exhibition of arts and crafts, some singing and dancing, and a lot of little girls joyfully running around in the hot sun. Bernice was delighted to see how happy Prudence was. The rest of the family was out in force, except for the other children who had their own activities. Phoebe looked like she had wanted to go home before she got there, but gamely put on a cheerful face for Prudence's sake.

Catherine and Phoebe's cousin Emmeline were standing guard so that she would not overdo things, while Hal and Rob, just as he and Bernice, allowed themselves to be pulled off to whatever activity was next. About halfway through, Phoebe had had enough, so Catherine brought her home. Bernice was concerned.

"Why did she come if she wasn't really up to it?" she asked Hal.

"Have you ever tried to stop her from doing something that she had set her mind to?" he asked in response. "Besides, Prudence gave her the big puppy dog eyes this morning and she couldn't say no."

"Well," she replied. "I hope that she's not planning to go to the baseball game this afternoon."

"No, she is not," said Hal. "In fact Butch told her that he didn't want her to come to any more games. He said that it would make him nervous if he thought that she might get sick just to see him play."

"Well, I guess that's the difference between a son and a daughter," commented Tom.

"Or the difference between Butch and Prudence," corrected Rob. "Butch has a tendency to worry more about Phoebe than the other two. It's not that he loves her any more than they do, it's that he worries about her more. Prudence on the other hand is always looking for more attention. And she is not above playing the guilt card if she gets the chance."

"How is Hal doing?" asked Tom quickly, before this line of conversation about Prudence had a chance to go any farther. He had no doubt about the fact that Bernice would not be pleased by any criticism of Prudence.

"He's doing great!" said Hal. "We were just talking to him on Sunday. He loves the science program and is making lots of new friends. Of course he is also eating, sleeping, and breathing math and science, so he's in heaven for the moment."

"I'm glad to hear it," replied Tom. "That was certainly a very impressive project that he did for the science fair. And it tickled me that he dedicated it to Trelawney."

"That relationship has certainly come a long way in the past year," commented Rob.

"Actually," corrected Hal. "In the last eighteen months. It's hard to imagine it now, but it's only been a year and a half since Trelawney came to live with us. Boy, were there some big battles when she first arrived, mostly over the bathroom. Although I think that some of them were instigated by Prudence so that she could have the pleasure of an ally in the family's own version of the 'battle of the sexes.'"

"But then there was the homework war," added Rob.

"That was an interesting one," said Hal. "Hal and Trelawney should have been on the same side, since they both like to work in peace and quiet, but their own version of sibling rivalry got in the way."

"But now they seem to have made up," said Bernice. "It looks like they are the best of friends. Is it because she moved out?"

Tom winced. He suspected that that could be a sensitive topic. But Hal took the question in stride.

"No, I'd say that it's in spite of that," answered Hal. "You see, Trelawney was the inspiration for Hal's project."

Bernice looked surprised.

"Didn't I tell you that, Bernice?" asked Tom. Looking at his wife's face, he could see that he hadn't.

"Yes, well, Trelawney challenged his notions about the make up of the solar system and he ended up researching string theory," Hal explained. "It was really Trelawney who taught him that good scientists re-examine proven theories rather than just accept them. That's how science moves forward and makes new discoveries."

"I can see that happening," replied Bernice.

"You can?" chorused the three men.

Bernice looked amused.

"I do pay more attention to these things than you realize," she said. "Trelawney has a very unique view of the world around her. It is very easy to imagine that she and Hal would bump heads over some idea or another. And you have to give Hal credit where credit is due. He's in love with learning and discovering new things. If she piqued his curiosity about something it makes sense that he would pursue it."

Tom had to look at his wife in admiration. She really was getting passed her grief for Helen and re-engaging with the rest of the world in a very positive way. Listening to her talk now made him see her once again as the woman of their earlier years together, before they had lost first Stephen and then Helen.

Although until now reticent about it, it was obvious that she was taking a lively interest in all the children, not just Prudence. He was gratified to see that Rob and Hal had noticed as well. After she spoke, they had looked at one another in a combination of surprise and bewilderment. After all, this was a Bernice that neither of them had ever seen before.

"Well, this event looks like it is winding down," he said. "What's the game plan for this afternoon?"

"Dad and I are going to the game after lunch," said Hal. "We were assuming that you'd want to come with us, Tom. Bernice, I'm sure that Butch would understand if you wanted to stay back at the house with the ladies. Phoebe will be resting of course, but you can hang around with Catherine and Emmeline. Prudence and Trelawney will be coming home earlier than we will anyway. And I know that you want to spend some individual time with Prudence."

"Sounds good to me," replied Bernice. "I would much be with 'the girls' than out on a hot baseball field."

Tom was once again pleased. If she had come to the game, no doubt she would have wanted to leave early. He was also happy that she would have the opportunity to spend some time with the "other women" in the family. He knew that in the future, activities with the boys would more often be a "guy thing." He was glad to know that in the future he wouldn't have to choose between seeing his grandchildren or leaving her at home alone.

The Good King

The game was a success, with Butch racking up another save, and the family celebrated two happy events that evening at Rob's house. After dinner, the children went out back to play and the adults sat in the living room drinking coffee and tea. Once the children were gone, Tom got the distinct impression that the others wanted to talk some kind of business with them. However, none of them seemed to know where to begin. Finally, Phoebe's cousin Emmeline broached the topic.

"Well, I haven't seen you in seven months," she said, sounding almost formal with her charming British accent. "But it seems as though as of late you have become closer to these other members of the family."

"Yes, we have," said Bernice warmly. "And I would have to say that it is mostly due to little Trelawney. She is very determined when she sets her mind on something."

"That's our Trelawney," replied Emmelne fondly. "She may be a sweet and simple child, but she always wants to do what's best for everyone."

"Well, I must agree with that," said Bernice nodding. "It is difficult to imagine what our lives would have been like without her."

"There is much more to Trelawney than meets the eye," commented Emmeline looking around. "She is very sensitive to various aspects of the world around her. It's almost as if she was too good sometimes. In fact, to protect herself from reality at times, she has constructed her own almost fairy tale world where those she knows play different roles that she uses to understand them. Catherine here has discovered that they match up with Jung's archetypes."

"I can see that," said Tom. "The child has a vivid imagination. And I can see how she would have trouble understanding and interacting with the rest of the world."

He looked over at Bernice and could see that she was buried in thought. No doubt she was remembering Stephen and his simple understanding of the world, and the imaginary worlds where he lived and played in, not to mention his difficulties in school.

"We finaly reached a point," said Catherine, now picking up the thread. "Where we had to pull her out of school. Since February, we have been teaching her at home. Public school was just not the right place for her. The other children teased her and her teachers, especially her English teacher, found her to be a nuisance. In September, we'll be starting her off at a local all-girls, Catholic school. Hopefully, her new teachers and classmates will be more understanding of her special qualities."

"I hope that they will," said Tom. "But I don't think that we're here to talk about Trelawney and her difficulties in school."

The others all looked at each other. This time Rob picked up the story.

"When Catherine and I came down for the blessing last year, we stayed for an extra few days to babysit the kids while Hal and Phoebe got a few days away," he explained. "We've stayed and in fact permanently moved here because first Trelawney, and then we realized Phoebe and the rest of the family, needed us. It was on the night before we were set to leave that we finally discovered what had been going on in that little head of hers."

Phoebe looked down at her hands. Emmeline put her arm around her and said softly, "Hush now, love. It's over and done with. We'll just move on then, won't we?"

For moment everyone was silent. Tom looked at Bernice, wondering what was coming next.

"Before Trelawney came to us, she had suffered a serious, uh, 'injury' at the hands of someone whom she came to refer to later as 'the unicorn,'" continued Hal. "It was then that I discovered that I was her gallant knight who had saved the two fair maidens, Phoebe and herself, from him when he returned. But at this time, the stories started up again with a new twist as Mother and Dad were getting ready to leave."

"They might as well know the whole lot. It's the only way that they will make sense of it," interrupted Emmeline. "The unicorn was her name for Phoebe's ex-betrothed from birth. No one in the family, not even her parents, knew of the assault. If we had, the betrothal would have ended a few years ago. And that would have saved Hal and Phoebe a lot of heartache.

"But I digress. In fact, I was responsible for him coming here to finally, after a number of years avoiding it, do his duty and marry Phoebe. Trelawney couldn't abide him although at the time we didn't know why. But she and your grandson Hal managed to run him off so that these two could finally realize how much in love they were and plan to get married."

There were now tears in Phoebe's eyes.

"I'll finish this," she quietly. "We only discovered the truth about the unicorn when two of my other aunties came to visit. They tried to speak with Trelawney about her impulsive behavior and threatened to separate her from me and bring her back to the village if she didn't improve. That was when she really became upset. None of it made any sense. When we got the full story, the aunties decided to leave her be and gave their blessing to the marriage. And the rest seemed to be history. That is until Auntie Henrietta showed up."

"Yes," said Catherine. "The night before we were to leave, Trelawney predicted her coming. What was it she said? Oh, yes, 'the circus is coming to town.' But only Phoebe knew what that meant. Later that night, she woke up from a terrifying nightmare. She called her the evil witch. Then she told us that we needed the good queen to protect them. That, it turned out, was me.

"Because she was now married, Phoebe was no longer the fair maiden, but the lovely lady. Hal is still the gallant knight. Prudence is the wee fairy, because she comforted her when she had nightmares before we knew about them, and Rob is the wise gentleman. He makes all the decisions for the family. She has been told that she must obey him."

"Who are Hal and Butch?" asked Tom, now curious.

"The elder and younger fools," replied Emmeline quickly. "But let's not go into that. With the recent troubles and all of Auntie's crazy premonitions, Trelawney has now told us to be on the lookout for the good king."

"Who is Tom," supplied Bernice.

They all looked at her in astonishment.

"How did you know that?" asked Tom.

"It's really very simple," she said with a smile. "Trelawney has always referred to her father as her 'Papa.' Our grandchildren call you, Papa. It only makes sense."

"Yes, it does," said Emmeline. "Prudence figured it out as well, and so did Phoebe. The biggest problem with Auntie and her rubbish is that there tends to be a kernel of truth in what she predicts. These premonitions, however, tend to confound rather than enlighten. It is quite maddening really."

"This past weekend, three of her premonitions came to pass, or perhaps better stated almost did," said Rob. "Hal, Butch, and I went out of town to one of his baseball games. On the way home we got caught in a terrible storm and car went off the highway just as a huge lightening bolt struck nearby. This meant that her prediction of the danger of the blinding light and the three lives hanging in the balance came true. Lucky for us one of Trelawney's friends came up and rescued us before anything worse happened. She had sent him."

"Meanwhile at home, poor Phoebe was so upset that she very nearly went into premature labor," added Catherine. "Fortunately our pastor friend, Pastor Jason, was here to calm her. He was with us because Trelawney sent for him. But had he not been here, the innocent would surely have suffered."

"So let me get this straight," said Tom. "Three of your Aunt's premonitions of misfortune almost came true, but Trelawney stopped them."

"That sums it up," said Rob. "It is also why we are taking her advice about finding the good king seriously."

"Yes, we have no alternative if we hope to keep everyone safe," said Emmeline. "Aunt Henrietta may be bonkers, but she is being used by some cosmic force that is trying to interfere with the safe birth of Phoebe's child. We don't know why but we think that this may be the reason that Auntie has been trying to get Trelawney to go back home. It seems that she is the only one capable of fighting that 'malevolent force,' whatever that might be."

"And you can protect Trelawney as well?" asked Bernice, now looking concerned.

"Yes, as long as she is in Catherine's care, she is safe," replied Emmeline.

"And Phoebe and the baby?" asked Tom, also looking anxious.

"Need the good king," she said. "Tom, I know that this is asking a lot, but would you be willing to be present at the birth?"

Tom was silent. He had never been present at a birth before. He knew that they wouldn't be asking if it weren't important. He looked over at Phoebe and her eyes seemed to be pleading. After everything that she and her sister had done to return their family to them this was the least that he could do.

"I would be honored," he said quietly.

There was an audible sigh of relief among all of the others, including, to his surprise, his wife.

"We have one more thing to ask," said Phoebe. "Would you be willing to be my child's godfather?"

"I would be even more honored," he replied immediately. "And I would take my commitment very seriously."

"And I will help him," added Bernice. "One of us will always be there for you."

Tom looked around curiously at the Everetts and Phoebe's cousin. It seemed extraordinary that they should be taking the words of a fey little girl so seriously. They spoke of her abilities to understand the cosmos and its nuances as if it were completely normal for a twelve-year-old girl. She was certainly a unique child, but her ability to see through the facades of others and foresee aspects of the future was uncanny.

Then, at that moment, the little one came running into the living room and curled up next to her sister on the couch. Phoebe lovingly brushed the stray hairs back from her face.

"Has the good king accepted?" she asked, looking directly at him.

"The good king has accepted," he said.

"Jolly good!" she said happily. "You can help us pick the Professor up off the floor if he faints."

"Trelawney!" said Catherine, Emmeline, and Phoebe together.

But the mischievous girl just laughed. As usual, she knew what others were feeling, even if they had not told her. But then she turned and looked at Bernice.

"Mrs. Williams," she said. "Thank you for loving Phoebe and the baby. Both of your angels are happy now."

"Both of my angels?" Bernice asked slowly.

"Of course," she replied cheerfully. "Helen and Stephen. They have both been most worried about you. Angels can do that, you know, worry that is."

Tom could see that Rob, Catherine, and Emmeline were all astonished. Phoebe and Hal were surprised, but at least they had known of Stephen's existence, although when they had told Hal, they had not mentioned his name.

"Come here for a minute, Trelawney," said Bernice gently.

The girl walked over and stood in front of her. Bernice reached up and took her hands.

"How do you know about Stephen?" she asked. "Did Hal or Phoebe tell you?"

"Oh, no," she said. "I have always known about Stephen. He's a lovely little boy, a little fey, like me, but that is no bother in heaven."

"Trelawney," said Emmeline sternly. "That is enough."

"But Em . . ." began the child, turning towards her cousin.

"We shall speak about this later, little one," she interrupted, but this time more gently.

"I am most sorry," she said, now looking around at everyone. "But when I am happy, sometimes I forget and say things that I shouldn't. Are you bothered that I told about Stephen, Mrs. Williams?"

"No, little girl," she replied with tears in her eyes. "I am glad to know that both of my angels are happy."

Trelawney rewarded her with one of her brilliant smiles and skipped out of the room. Tom looked after her fondly. He hoped that her new school would work out for her. After all of the good things that she had made happen for others, she deserved a few good things of her own. Then he felt Bernice pat his hand.

"She really does remind one of Stephen, doesn't she?" she said.

Silently, he nodded. But he thought, such a child had a difficult path to follow. He could only hope that her fate would be happier than his son's had been. He could sense in her the same fragility as he had in his son. It really was good that she had so many people to protect her. Without asking, he knew that they could now count on Bernice as one of them.

To be continued . . .