I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.
Home Comings and Goings
On Thursday morning, Phoebe awoke to the now familiar sound of her daughter crying. Since Sunday night when she was born, Maisie had dictated every move she made. However up until now, that had been pretty much limited to two moves, eating and sleeping. Of course the first necessitated a third move, diaper changing. She had essentially spent the last three days caught up in this endless cycle, mostly because after the long weekend she was so tired, that she felt incapable doing anything else.
But today, she finally felt as if she was ready to get up and get on with their lives. After she had nursed Maisie, she decided that she felt awake and well enough to walk down to Catherine and Rob's to allow them to spend some time individual with their new granddaughter. Whenever they had seen her before, other family members were surrounding them and vying for their attention.
Since Monday, the house had turned into a revolving door of well wishers. Hal and Emmeline had attempted to exert some form of control over the numbers of visitors in a single sitting and the length of time spent. After Monday evening, it was hopeless. With children, relatives, and friends there was a constant stream.
Finally, they just gave up and limited visitors to the living room, when she and Maisie were up and ready. Luckily, Maisie was unperturbed by the constant parade of newcomers looking, poking, and making silly noises. Considering that the normal pace of home life was noisy and busy, it boded well for the future when school would start up and everyone was home.
This morning, Prudence and Trelawney would both be at their activities, which were in their last week, and Butch would be at baseball practice. His team had made the playoffs this year, so it was anybody's guess how far they would go. Emmeline and Sylvia were borrowing the car to go off on some "secret mission," which no doubt involved buying gifts for Maisie before they both left on Saturday. Mrs. Morgan was leaving tomorrow.
The nurse had been unobtrusively helpful all week. She kept a watch over both Maisie's and her health. She quietly put her foot down when she thought that they were too tired for any more socializing. She was there when she had questions about childcare and breastfeeding in general. When her milk had come in yesterday, she had made sure that things were (literally) flowing along nicely. If they went out this morning, then she could get some rest for herself.
So she dressed Maisie up in one of the cute little "onesies" that Catherine had gotten for her and Hal pulled out the baby carriage that the math department had chipped in to buy. After Prudence had outgrown all of her baby things and Helen had gotten sick, Hal had asked Tom and Bernice to get rid of them. He thought that they would never need them again.
Hal was delighted that they were going to get to use the carriage, and together the three of them left the house to walk up the street and surprise his parents. Along the way, they met a couple of neighbors who peeked in at the baby and told them how cute she was. Maisie just stared back at the strangers and gurgled a little. They arrived at the front door and Phoebe lifted Maisie out of the carriage. Because it was unlocked, they walked in as they usually did.
"Mother!" called Hal. "Guess who came to visit?"
Phoebe looked into the living room as Catherine came hurrying out of the kitchen. Standing before her, looking somewhat awkward was her cousin Liam. She was holding Maisie in her arms and instinctively held her closer. The sight of her cousin set her on edge.
"Liam," she said quietly. "Why aren't you with Cholmondeley?"
Hal looked confused by her sudden change in mood and demeanor. He had obviously never met him before. Catherine looked at her and called out for Rob to join them. Seeing the tableau before him when he came up from the workshop, he quickly covered his surprise. Calm as always, he took charge of the situation.
"I think that we all need to sit down and talk," he said. "Hal, I don't believe that you have met Phoebe's cousin, Liam Figalilly."
"Pleased to meet you," said Hal, politely shaking his hand.
"Same to you, sir," replied Liam formally. "How are you doing, Phoebe? And how is my newest cousin?"
"Very well, thank you," she said, feeling a little shell shocked as he kissed her and looked down at the baby.
"She's a lovely little girl then, isn't she?" he said softly.
They all, somewhat uncomfortably, sat down, with Hal putting his arm around her. Catherine started.
"Phoebe, dear," she began. "I know that you are wondering why Liam is here. We have some bad I guess you could say, news for you. But we wanted to wait until you were stronger to tell you."
"I'm strong enough now," she answered bravely but uncertainly. "Why are you here, Liam? And how long have you been here?"
"I flew in from Australia on Sunday morning with Sylvia," he explained. "Or rather I should say that we were both on the same connection from Singapore. I had to come. Johnny found us in Tasmania and told Cholmondeley what I was about. They gave me the slip, so I figured that they had come here."
"Oh, so you came here to make sure that he couldn't get near Trelawney?" she asked even more uncertainly. When Catherine had mentioned bad news, she had thought that it referred to one of her beloved family members back home.
"Something like that, love," he said gently. "I did find him however. And now you and Trelawney Rose, and the baby, will never have to worry about him again."
"You didn't . . ." she started, but then couldn't finish the question. All the Figalillys knew that for the past year he had been threatening to "kill him with his bare hands" if he could.
"No, I didn't," he answered. "But someone else did. Your brother-in-law Bob hired a couple of security guards to watch the house after he discovered that Cholmondeley was 'on the loose,' so to speak. One of them . . . had to do it."
"Oh," Phoebe said in a very small voice.
She couldn't think of anything to say. She had been so caught up in her own happy little world that she had forgotten about all of the looming threats and dark shadows outside the seclusion of her home and her single-minded focus on her daughter. Hal tightened his grip on her and she rested her head on his shoulder. In order to insure her happiness, they had obviously not told him. He could never have concealed such a thing from her in his mind. Rob and Catherine didn't seem to know what to say. Liam then gave a deep sigh.
"Phoebe," said Liam quietly. "It's over. The unicorn is gone forever. It was a powerful wickedness that had taken over his soul. That was the real danger to you three. Your little sister did everything that she could to protect you so that Maisie could be born safely. But the other . . . deed had to be done or there wouldn't have been peace for any of you. This constant state of fear and anxiety that the two of you were living in couldn't go on indefinitely.
"Sooner or later, something was going to have to give. None of us wanted it to happen like this, but he didn't leave us with a choice. He had a gun and would have used it. The security guard tried to shoot the gun out of his hand, but he missed."
"Trelawney is at peace now," said Catherine at last finding her voice. "Her happiness is not just because Maisie is here. It's also because the unicorn and all of the nightmares and fears that have been chasing her are gone. Pastor Jason told us that she is free of it now. She has been haunted by this for almost four years. She will never forget, but she can finally heal. And so can you. It's a new beginning for both of you."
"It's a new beginning for me too," said Liam. "I'm free of the burden that I took upon myself. It wasn't just about looking after my kin, that's my family obligation. But I was being driven by a powerful hatred. It was consuming me. It was making me just as miserable as the fear that was destroying your lives here.
"I've called up Dad and talked it over with him. Now that I've seen you and the baby, I'll be returning to the village. I'm going to marry and settle down. Dad wants me to come into the business and prepare myself for my family duty someday, hopefully in the very distant future, when I take his place as paterfamilias."
"But why, after all these years of avoiding it, are you finally changing heart?" she asked.
"The little one has taught me that sometimes it is more important to put the needs of others ahead of your own," he replied. "I've talked the whole thing over with her as well, and she knows that she was the one who gave me the strength out there to fight off my own demons. The child is pure light and goodness. But she's fragile. Someday, I'll have the care of her, just as Dad has now. But I'll never part her from you, I promise."
"Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you for everything."
Liam grinned his cheeky grin.
"Well, I don't know how much you'll be thanking me after I'm gone and Butch returns home," he said. "I've been telling him a thing or two about coping with younger sisters. You know, just a little man to man talk if you're hearing me."
Hal looked puzzled.
"Forewarned is forearmed," she said with a glimmer of her own smile. "Cousin Liam did do his best to torment the girls when he was growing up."
Aunt Henrietta's Come Down
After he had spoken with Phoebe, Liam called up Johnny at his hotel. It was now time for the two of them to drop in on Auntie and put her in her place once and for all. The police had returned their passports yesterday and now they could leave the States together. Johnny also wanted to see Phoebe and the baby as the representative of his side of the family to wish them well.
He had been on the phone with his father, Uncle Charlie. His mother, Auntie Clara, had all but disowned him. But Uncle Charlie had seen his sister in action first hand when he had visited in the spring. He had said then that she was battier than a belfry. There was no doubt in his mind that Johnny was telling the truth and that Cholmondeley had caused his own demise. He had promised his son to help bring the Trelawneys around to seeing things their way.
They decided that after they talked to Aunt Henrietta, they would stop off to say goodbye to Phoebe and return to the village. It would not be a pleasant homecoming since they knew that the Featherstonehaughs would be waiting to do their own interrogation of the incident. Word from the family was that they were furious about the shooting and determined to get to the bottom of things. But at least they could support each other.
Liam borrowed Rob's car, which was finally out of the shop and picked up Johnny. They drove to her home together and were amused to see several cars parked outside.
"Well, cousin," said Liam cheerfully. "It looks like we'll have a little audience for our scolding. Unless she has the common sense to dismiss them before we get into it."
"I'd like to see her made a fool of," he replied. "It will make a better story when we get home. Dad gave us all quite a laugh at the idea that good Catherine would sic the dogs on her."
The two young men grinned at each other and walked up to the front door. There was no response to their knocking, so they decided to walk in. Both of them knew the way back to her "presence chamber." When they strode in, she was seated in full regalia from brightly colored turban to toes, with her eyes closed in front of a crystal ball and invoking Rosalie to stop being a naughty child and "come out to play," as Liam later paraphrased.
"Good morning, Auntie!" declared Liam gaily. "How are you are this bright and sunny morning? Weather a lot better than when I last saw you, isn't it?"
Her eyes popped opened and with a deep sense of outrage in her voice she stated, "You have broken the mood! And just as young Rosalie was about to cooperate!"
There was a groan from the women surrounding her. Liam laughed to himself. Cooperate my arse, he thought. This was just a good excuse to get her off the hook for a while so that she could invent a bit more foolishness to spew forth. He wondered how much cash they had forked for the séance already.
"Sorry about that, dearie," replied Johnny in a mocking tone. "But we just wanted to have a little chat with you before we went home."
Liam turned to the women and said, "Sorry about that, ladies, but family business and all that. We need to have a word with the Princess here and then she can go back to predicting whatever it is that she predicts these days. Did a pretty good job with the weather last weekend, eh? Lots of blinding lights and danger for the waiting and all that. I'd fork over a pound or two myself if I needed a little peek into my kismet."
"Well, I never!" emoted one of the women.
"I don't know who you two think you are," added another in outrage. "But the Princess deserves greater respect than that from her nephews. I don't know what this generation is coming to."
"Me neither," agreed Liam. "But Johnny and I do need to have a wee bit of a chat with the old girl. We'll be done quick enough if you want to wait."
Aunt Henrietta waved the women off.
"As long as they have contaminated the atmosphere, I might as well speak with them," said Aunt Henrietta regretfully. "I doubt that they will leave until they have said their piece. It won't take long and then we can start again."
After the women had left, Liam and Johnny looked at her and stopped smiling. It was time to get down to business.
"It's over Auntie," said Liam flatly. "You're done with tormenting the little one. Stay here if you like and continue to soak these poor suckers, but stay away from Phoebe, Trelawney Rose, and the baby."
"I don't know what you are talking about!" she replied indignantly. "The child belongs back in the village with her family. It was only through my intervention that the baby was born safely through all of that divine rage she inspired last weekend."
"You're wrong on all counts, Auntie," said Johnny. "Trelawney Rose is quite safe out here as long as you stay away from her. And it was the little one who insured the safe birth, despite the fact that you nearly prevented it. The origin of that rage was profane, not divine. And it was furious when it lost."
"I surely do not know what you are talking about!" she said grandly.
"Trelawney Rose was only endangered by the unicorn, you know," answered Johnny. "The man that you tricked me into bringing here. He was the one who almost brought death and destruction to Phoebe and her little girl."
"How dare you malign the dead!" she declared.
"Malign nothing!" spat out Liam. "The bloody fool disgraced himself and nearly destroyed an innocent child in the process! You were there when Aunts Justine and Agatha told it. Say what you want about anyone else's honesty. Those are two you'll never impugn."
"I would never question the veracity of those two upstanding women," she replied. "But one must consider the source."
"An innocent child who is incapable of lying," said Johnny bravely. "She didn't even understand what happened. She only knew the fairy tale. Auntie Agatha knew the truth."
"She is a danger to herself and others, why on Sunday night . . ."
"Don't say nothing about Sunday night!" interrupted Liam. "We were there, not you. It was Trelawney Rose that kept them all safe, and not just Phoebe and the baby. Everyone in that house was at risk. But it's over now. They are all safe. Her angel is still here to watch over her."
"How do you know that for sure?" she demanded. "In fact, how do you even know that there is an angel? I've never even seen him myself."
"Sylvia knows him," he said. "She won't tell none of us who he is. But she knows him and trusts him. You can say all you want about Em and myself being the bad seeds and all that rot, but Syl's the do-gooder, remember? She wouldn't leave the child alone here unless she knew personally that she was safe."
"So you are going home to deceive your poor grandfather?" she asked.
"It's you that's been doing the deceiving," replied Johnny. "Grandfather trusts me. If I tell him how you tricked me into bringing Cholmondeley here where he might have destroyed his darling Trelawney Rose, it will be the end of you with him."
"You are lying!" she replied.
"No, you are," he answered spiritedly. "And I challenge you to come home and tell him yourself. He'll see the aura as plain as I do. In fact, it's the same as my Dad saw with his own eyes a couple of months ago. Muddy gray-brown you old fool. You can trick these poor blind idiots here because they can't see it, but we can."
"Yes, we can," agreed Liam. "And you need to find a brighter contact over there than little Rosalie. She don't know the difference between a lie and the truth herself. It's no wonder she's still stuck out there in limbo. It's no wonder that she's a restless, not to mention nearly useless, soul. Shoulda made it back here years ago."
"How dare you!" she yelled. "How dare you insult my darling!"
"Well if she really was your darling, then you would have protected her better yourself when you had the chance," replied Johnny. "If you had kept a better eye on her back in the day, she might not have ended up leaving you so young. Some people never learn. It's always been about the money. Amazing how the same things can trip us up lifetime and lifetime again."
"John Trelawney!" she declared. "You have permitted yourself to be led astray by this reckless young fool. Continue on this path with him and his temper will be the death of you as well."
"This time around, Auntie," said Liam. "It's been the death of my temper, not me. I admit it. It's happened many a time. The old temper does me in. Not this time. This time I'm in control, not my anger."
Now she looked like she was going to explode. Clearly she was blindsided by both Liam's and Johnny's changes of heart. The one had found more self-control, the other more self-determination. She could no longer use their own weaknesses to undermine them. It was a bitter lesson indeed, but not quite as bitter as having to let the little one be.
Whatever Auntie wanted to hold against Trelawney Rose in Rosalie's name from a past lifetime would never be accounted for, at least not for now. Liam couldn't tell if Johnny realized it, but he could sense Rosalie's presence in the room. She was a silly, spoiled little thing who had been overindulged and refused to listen to reasonable warnings once upon a time. In the end it had been her own undoing.
But she would do no more harm to Trelawney Rose. Much as Auntie had once loved her little darling, she loved her present lifetime and the rewards of her present chicanery even more. If she had to let go of her own private war against her niece, then she would. And Rosalie would continue to help her as much as she ever had, which probably wasn't too much. Auntie's devious mind and knack for reading weakness in others were really her best tools in predicting the futures of others.
"Off with you two!" she said. "That child is of no interest to me anymore. If you will not heed my warnings, then I will no longer waste my breath. But at the end of the day, you will be sorry."
"Whatever you say," replied Johnny with a roll of the eyes. "We'll take our chances, won't we, cousin?"
"Yes, we will," assented Liam. "We'll be on our way back to the village. Don't trouble yourself, Auntie. We know our way out!"
And with that the two left to say their farewells to the rest of the family. They had a flight to catch that evening so that they could be home tomorrow. Now that he had concluded his business in America, Liam just wanted to get back home and start planning his new life. He wondered if Mary Chenoweth was the same sweet, pretty little thing that she had always been. She was a nice homely girl too. She reminded him of Phoebe in that way.
It was still dark, when Phoebe awoke to the sound of her daughter crying. Her breasts ached, as they now often did since her milk had come in. In fact the sound of the child crying seemed to create a physical, as well as emotional response. She shook herself awake and stood up. Reaching into the cradle beside her bed, she lifted the girl up. After climbing back into bed, she held the baby in her right arm and opened her nightgown.
Feeling an expert after only five days, she placed the child at her breast. The child immediately latched on to the nipple and began to suck. It was a release to feel the milk flowing out. Sometimes she felt so full. Her nipples were still tender. She had been warned that it would be a few more days before they would toughen up from the unfamiliar use.
Hal stirred in the bed beside her. She was afraid that she had woken him up, but she also knew that he was quickly adapting to sleeping through anything. After about fifteen minutes, the baby released, but was still hungry, so she switched sides. She was grateful that the child's appetite was so large that she could usually empty both breasts at a feeding. She was such a good baby, content as long as she was close to her mother.
It was quite often that even in the middle of the night, Phoebe would sit up holding her and just enjoy the feeling of the warm little being in her arms. And while her little daughter nursed she would look up at her with understanding. It was as if she knew that she had moved from within her body to this larger world only a few short days ago. But now the child closed her eyes and released. Hal, himself only half awake, reached over and mumbled, "Lie down so that I can hold you again."
Since she had grown too large for him to make love to towards the end, he had taken pleasure in lying behind her with his arms wrapped around her. He always made her feel loved and safe. Putting the little one back in her cradle, she snuggled back down into his arms. She could feel him take a deep breath and hold her closely. As always, he made her feel protected.
She couldn't fall asleep again right away, so she reviewed all the changes that were happening around them. Her three cousins were leaving or had left and her three children were coming home. Sylvia was off to Toronto, Liam to England, and Emmeline to parts unknown. Prudence and Butch were returning from their grandparents' house and Hal from Caltech. Tom and Bernice would pick Hal up and then stay the night with Catherine and Rob so that they could finally get some time with the baby.
To Phoebe's relief, the nurse had left yesterday. Mrs. Morgan had been wonderfully helpful and kind, but she was very glad that there were no complications that would have necessitated her staying any longer. Her milk came in with no problems and she was managing beautifully. As she said goodbye, she had assured her that she would be happy to return for the next baby.
Once Emmeline was gone, she would be able to take over the running of her home again. Even with the three children returning, she knew that both Hals were planning to take over some of the housework so that she could care for the baby without feeling overwhelmed. She was also eager to get back into her own kitchen again. She enjoyed cooking for the family. Besides, the only way for life to get back to normal was for the six of them to begin to make a new life together.
Following her unexpected meeting with Liam the other day, she asked Hal to drive her over to see Pastor Jason. She had wanted to show him the baby anyway, but now she also needed to talk to him. She felt very guilty about what had happened. Despite the fact that she had had nothing at all to do with the events on the night of Maisie's birth, she still took the blame.
When she walked into his office with the baby in her arms, Pastor Jason stood up and immediately came over.
"She's simply beautiful, Phoebe," he said warmly. "She's perfect in every way."
Phoebe returned his smile, almost shyly. Pastor Jason, as much as anyone else knew that she had been dreaming of this child her whole life. Hal knew that she wanted to speak with him alone, so he offered to hold Maisie in the waiting room. The minute he said it however, Maisie gave a little squawk and began rooting. Now that Hal knew what it meant he looked at her in amusement.
"Doing it already, aren't you?" he said playfully. "That's okay, you can stay with Mum while I sit out here and ponder what I shall do now that I have three women like you in my life."
Phoebe turned around to see Pastor Jason chuckling.
"He can't say we didn't warn him," he commented. "But he seems to have accepted it more than gracefully now. If you need to nurse her, feel free. You won't make me uncomfortable."
Phoebe gratefully unbuttoned her blouse and Maisie latched on immediately. She grimaced a little at the twinge of pain.
"Rough going in the beginning," he added. "My wife said that even the second time around it took about a week for them to become used to their new use again."
"Yes," replied Phoebe. "That's what everyone who has ever nursed has told me. Not to mention my husband who has read up on the practice."
Phoebe shook her head.
"It's one of the things that I love about him," she said fondly.
"What is that?" he asked.
"That his determination to research and understand things includes me," she answered.
"Well," he said. "As much as I wish that this was a completely social call, I suspect that this is about the death of the unicorn."
Phoebe stopped smiling and fell silent. She cuddled her daughter closer. She wanted to talk about it but didn't know where to begin.
"You know Trelawney came to see me on Monday," he said, to fill in the silence. "She felt guilty about what happened. I had to help her see that it was not her fault. We all make our own choices in this life. In the case of Cholmondeley, it was his choices, choices that he made before he came last year to finally claim you as his bride, that led to his fate."
"I know," she answered. "But I can't help but feel that if I had done something different, that things could have turned out differently, better somehow."
"Sometimes we need to remember that the universe is a much larger entity than ourselves and our own little piece of it," he said. "You and your people, better than most humans understand this. Even though in day-to-day existence it is easy to forget it."
"I realize that of course," she said. "And I know that there is really very little that we can control it, but when a man dies at the same time that you are giving birth to the child that should have been his, it makes you wonder."
"Tell me honestly, Phoebe. Was Maisie ever truly destined to be his child?" he asked. "She was destined to be your child, just as Trelawney was destined to be your mother's. Knowing what you know now about Cholmondeley and his weakness, do you really think that he could have fathered Maisie? And the man sitting outside who has been by your side, giving you nothing but unconditional love for almost two years now, can you imagine another man who could have created this precious gift of God with you?"
She shook her head, blinded by tears. She knew how much Hal loved her and the pain that he had endured to stand by her. Cholmondeley throughout all the years of their betrothal had never shown such dedication and loyalty. He talked a great deal about loving her, but never showed it to the great extent that Hal had. And she had never missed him or longed for him to claim her. She had never ached for him in all the years that they were separated.
Pastor Jason watched her and nodded.
"A child such as Maisie, just like a child such as Trelawney," he explained. "Is not born from a contractual marriage. They are born of a deep and abiding love. That's why there are so few of them in this world. It takes great strength to raise such children, not to mention patience and understanding. Did you notice what he just said now?"
Phoebe shook her head. She had been so concerned with what she wanted to talk about that what Hal said before he closed the door hadn't really registered.
"He said that he wanted to ponder having three such women in his life," he replied. "He wants Trelawney back. I can't say how it happened, but he understands and wants to bring her home. And I don't think that it's because the nightmares and phantoms are gone."
"I still feel like I could have done something," she said, refusing to change the subject.
"Let go of it," he advised. "You cannot change anything. It is the way that the fates worked out. You have your child, your husband, your sister, and your other children who need you. Turn the page on this dark chapter of your life. Focus on the next chapter of the story. That is what you can change if you want."
"Do you think that we can bring Trelawney home now?" she asked.
"Trelawney asked me the same question," he answered. "I told her that she would know when it was time to return. She accepted that answer. What I will say to you is this. When it is time for your sister to return to your home, you won't have to ask. You'll know. There must be no uncertainty."
Phoebe shook herself out of her reverie. From her position in the bed, she could see Maisie lying in the cradle on her stomach, her head turned and facing her. She looked very content, with her little fist curled up beside her. It was one of her great pleasures to wake up and seeing her facing her each morning. Sometimes when she awoke, the infant was watching her knowingly and once she saw that she was awake would start to wail. It was as if it was only then that she realized that she was hungry.
It was almost as if time no longer existed for her as it did for everyone else, measured out in arbitrary hours and minutes. She lived on "Maisie time." They went through life together from feeding to feeding and nap to nap. They lived in their own rhythm and pacing, even though they had made steps towards reentering the world of normal life.
Maisie was completely dependent on her for her physical needs. She remembered living at home with Mum in the months after Trelawney was born, but it had not registered with her how utterly intertwined their lives were in the beginning. Now she knew. There were times when she felt equally dependent, emotionally and physically on her daughter. She felt deeply connected to her child, closer than she could ever remember feeling to anyone else.
She marveled that Hal never displayed even an iota of jealousy. When she and Maisie were in their own little world, she would sometimes look up and notice him looking at them indulgently. She could detect a bit of smugness in his manner. He took great pride in his part in bringing to her this most precious gift. He took great enjoyment from her happiness. And she had no doubt about the fact that he was looking forward to bringing her more happiness as their family grew to include more little Figalilly-Everetts.
Emmeline was almost reluctant to leave Phoebe and Maisie on that Saturday morning. It had been a lovely long visit, just over a month in fact. But she did need to move along. She also knew that she would be back in a few months for the christening. Phoebe had been very gracious about postponing the date until November, right before the American holiday of Thanksgiving so that Mum and Dad could be present. It would be a most appropriate coincidence. There was nothing that any of them could have been any more thankful for than the birth of the child.
Christabel could now have her baby in October, with Mum, Dad, and Sylvia there and not feel as if she was keeping them away from Phoebe. Liam seemed to have taken a shine to young Mary Chenoweth. She was a sweet girl, a few years younger than herself. Mum liked her very much, especially since she was Christy's husband's younger sister.
The family was still a bit skittish on marriage since poor Phoebe's disastrous betrothal, so a deepened alliance with a family already connected to them would set all their minds at rest. There was even a possibility that if things worked out as hoped, the newly affianced couple would also travel to America for the christening.
Sylvia was leaving as well, but taking a different flight because she was on her way to Toronto. When she asked her if she was up to more "do-gooding," she just gave her a cheerful grin and nodded happily. Sylvia loved a happy ending and that was certainly what they had achieved here.
All the children except Trelawney were returning home to Hal and Phoebe today. She and Syl were sorry that they wouldn't get to see young Hal, but they would both be back soon enough. The family would only have a couple of weeks at home together before school started up again.
Hal was relishing the idea that he would have his fall sabbatical and therefore lots of time with Phoebe and Maisie. Emmeline was amused at his boyish pleasure whenever he rubbed in to Butch that he wouldn't be returning to school full-time. Between his new sister and the impending start of school, Butch had spent the last few days in a very dark mood.
Trelawney had unintentionally bugged Butch yesterday when a large parcel containing her school uniform arrived and she was so excited that she ran upstairs to try it on. She was brimming with enthusiasm for school to start so that she could make new friends. As always, the mood swings were large.
She had been very sad when she returned home because it was the last day of her summer theatre program. But the joy at receiving the uniform sent her back on the upswing. Butch seemed to barely contain his fury as she preened and pirouetted before them. Prudence looked at the blue plaid, pleated skirt and navy blue blazer and wrinkled her nose. Trelawney didn't seem to care. The uniform even had a blue neck tie like those at home.
She had earlier confided in her and Sylvia that she very desperately wanted to return home to Phoebe, but Pastor Jason had told her that the time wasn't right yet. They all knew that Hal was willing and even wanted her back, but everyone was afraid of how Catherine would feel about losing "her" little girl.
"She'll always be my Mama Kate," explained Trelawney passionately. "But I do miss my Phoebe and my little Maisie. How are we to know when it is time?"
"You'll know, love," Sylvia assured her. "Just give it time. And once school starts, you'll be very busy, won't you?"
"Oh yes, of course!" she replied. "That's why I am so worried! It may be whole days between visits. What shall I do?"
"Well, little one," she herself had said. "You can be pretty sure that Phoebe will be over to see you with the baby. They'll be missing you too, you know."
But Trelawney had sighed dramatically. Sylvia had given her a concerned look, but she knew that there was nothing that they could do about it. Even without the threat of the unicorn, it was clear that Trelawney still needed the guidance of the angel. And he was really the only person that she would listen to anyway. They could all only hope and pray that the new school would work out. It would settle her at least for five years.
No one could quite picture her attending an American college, although none of them had had the heart to tell Phoebe that. It seemed to be an expectation here in America that children automatically went to university after high school. The same was not true in the village. Ending one's education at the age of seventeen had no stigma attached to it, especially for a girl with no plans to leave the village and simply wished to stay settled and marry there.
But at that point, Dad would no doubt step in and organize something. At any rate, Phoebe would no doubt have her own little brood of small children, even as the older Everett children were moving into their teen years and college themselves. Perhaps at that point, the two of them might be willing to part so that Trelawney could marry a nice young lad at home. And looking at the sweet, flighty little girl it was hard to imagine her marrying out here. She sincerely doubted that there was any man capable of caring for her and coping with her in this world, and probably not at home either.
Now her bag was packed and she was preparing to walk up to Rob's with Hal, Phoebe, and Maisie so that he could drive her and Sylvia to the airport. Before they left the house, Hal and Phoebe wanted to speak with her.
"Emmeline," said Hal. "We can't thank you enough for everything that you've done for us. It's hard to imagine that Maisie would even be here right now if it wasn't for you."
She brushed it off.
"Oh, you two would have muddled through," she said. "Now we can all see that nothing was going to stop you. I'm just glad that I got to be a part of it."
"Well," said Phoebe. "That may be, but you're still very special and important to all of us. Now before you leave, we want to give you prints of the pictures that we took the other day of the baby and the rest of the family."
"Well, that's going to make everyone else at home happy," she said. "Even Grandfather has come around after Liam and Johnny talked with him. I know that he'll be very happy to see these pictures of his two granddaughters and his newest great-granddaughter."
"Of course he will," said Phoebe. "It's a pity that he can't come for the christening."
"No it's not," muttered Emmeline to Hal as Phoebe went to settle Maisie into the carriage. "You never met a crankier old bastard in your life."
Hal winked at her, but immediately shifted his focus to the baby. Emmeline smiled at the sight of the two of them gazing raptly at the new center of their lives. She had not even been in the house for a whole week and already it revolved around her. She was not sorry to be leaving before the other three returned home. There were going to be some big adjustments for everyone to make.
When they arrived at Rob's, Sylvia was ready to leave. Trelawney hurled herself into her arms and said, "Oh, Em! Do you have to leave so soon?"
"So soon, love?" she replied. "I've been here over a month. Why don't you beseech your cousin Sylvia? She's barely been here even a week."
"Oh, I have," declared Trelawney. "But she has ignored my request also. I will miss you both so much!"
"So will I," said Butch. "Now I have to go home and live with my two sisters."
"Glad to see that you think I'm good for something, old man," replied Sylvia. "However you weren't all that pleased to have me here in the mornings when I was taking my bath."
"Well," commented Rob. "I hate to interrupt this touching and emotional farewell, but you two have planes to catch."
And that was it, in a flurry of hugs, kisses, and promises to stay in touch between now and the funeral, Emmeline and Sylvia at last got into the car to leave for the airport.
"It's amazing how you family members always manage to coordinate your travel plans so well," he remarked.
Emmeline and Sylvia shared a conspiratorial glance. If he only knew! Travel for the Figalillys was as natural and easy as breathing. Coordinating? That took no effort at all.
Rob returned home just minutes ahead of Tom and Bernice arriving with Hal. He was glad that he was able to see Hal meet his new sister for the first time. He seemed to have grown at least three inches taller, now towering over Phoebe. But when she offered to let him hold the baby, he awkwardly, but securely, took her in his large arms and hands.
Maisie was awake and stared up into his equally deep, blue eyes. Young Hal looked down in wonder at the tiny little creature and then back up into his mother's eyes that were overflowing with tears. After a minute the baby began to indicate that she wanted to return to her Mum with her little baby noises that told them that she was hungry. Unsure of what was happening, Hal nervously handed her back.
"How come Hal got to hold her right away and I didn't?" asked Prudence who seemed to be always looking for a grievance these days.
"Hal's older," explained her father. "He's a lot steadier."
Prudence protruded her lower lip. The first time that they had allowed her to hold Maisie, even though they had sat her down on the couch and laid her directly into her lap, she was wiggling and squealing so much that Maisie started to cry immediately. Prudence had been insulted and had been not permitted to hold her since she was unable to promise that she would sit still and be quiet.
Phoebe went off to the living room to nurse while Hal turned to greet the rest of the family. Bernice looked torn. She obviously wanted to see the baby, but she was also used to stepping in to sooth Prudence's feelings. Seeing her dilemma, Tom whispered, "I'll take care of it."
With that Tom went over, lifted Prudence up, and began to question her about Brownie camp. Bernice turned and followed Phoebe. Rob returned his attention back to his grandson who had begun to enthusiastically explain to them all about the program. It was clear that living away from home for two months had given him a new measure of maturity and confidence. He was still excited about his work, but he was also more thoughtful about it. He, like Trelawney, was eager to get back to school.
"I can't wait to talk to my new guidance counselor," he said. "The high school requires that all freshmen take biology, but I'm hoping that they'll let me take physics too."
"Don't you already have a pretty crowded schedule, son?" asked Hal.
"Well," explained Hal. "I do have one free period."
"If I recall correctly," he commented. "I believe that the other name for that free period is lunch."
"Oh, that's not a problem," replied his son. "Lots of the guys I met don't have a lunch period so that they can fit in extra science classes. The guys going into medicine have to get all the biology and chemistry that they can fit in."
"Why is that?" asked his father.
"You know, you need to be prepared for college!"
"I think I might know something about that," answered Hal thoughtfully. "Oh, yeah . . . I'm a college professor. I don't think that I have ever viewed one student as better than another because he didn't eat lunch during high school. But maybe that's why so many of the guys that I teach are so skinny."
"Dad! I can't believe . . ."
Hal looked around and realized that his father was pulling his leg.
"Welcome home," said Catherine. "Just remember Hal, one of the most important functions of your family is to keep you humble. If you think this bad, just wait until Butch starts in."
Hal laughed and Butch looked away from him.
"I really am glad to be home," he said. "I've missed you all a lot. I'm glad that everything is okay after that big storm. I was really worried about you guys."
"You should have been," interjected Prudence from Tom's arms. "The unicorn is dead now."
There was silence in the room.
"What are you talking about?" asked Tom, who was the only one who still didn't completely understand who or what the unicorn was. Rob was trying to remember if, when he and Bernice had been told about the shooting last week, they had called him the unicorn or by his name of Cholmondeley.
"Cholmondeley came back and Grampie's security guard shot him dead," she explained. "Now he can't come and hurt Trelawney or Maisie or anyone . . ."
She must have realized that they were all staring at her. No one had said a word to her or Butch about shooting last weekend. Butch was looking curious, but his son Hal was very unhappy. They had all done a very good job of getting Phoebe past the first shock the other day. There was no reason to stir up that again. Fortunately she was fully engaged with Maisie and Bernice in the next room. This revelation would need to be dealt with swiftly.
"And where did you hear that?" asked Catherine briskly.
"Oh, Sylvia was telling Trelawney that it wasn't her . . ." her voice trailed off as she realized that she had been caught eavesdropping and tattling again.
"That's enough of that for now," she said meaningfully.
Rob saw Trelawney was looking at the floor. She had been hanging back throughout the whole reunion with Hal, no doubt giving him the full limelight. Since she had spoken with Pastor Jason, she had seemed to make peace with the whole situation. Now she simply turned and went upstairs, undoubtedly to her room. Catherine threw him a backward glance and followed her up.
His grandson had taken the whole scene in.
"Why don't you tell me about it another time, Dad?" he said diplomatically. "Sometime when Mom and Trelawney aren't around. Well, Prudence, it looks like you're my same old, annoying little sister. Still tattling about everything you hear."
"And how!" agreed Butch who had his own agenda. "By the way, now that you're home, you can come to my next playoff game. If we win, then we will make the state championships."
"Cool!" said Hal. "How many saves do you have?"
The two boys went off to the living room together as Butch regaled Hal with stories of his successful summer, leaving the three men in the hall with Prudence.
"Prudence, why don't you go find your Nana?" asked Tom as he put her down. "I think that she has a little something for you in her purse. We can talk about this later, but you should not bring up the subject again."
Prudence looked at them uncertainly, but Hal inclined his head to indicate that she should go into the living room.
"Why don't we go into the kitchen?" asked Rob. "I have some cold beer in the fridge."
After the three men sat down, Tom looked at them seriously and then asked, "Is this about the shooting last weekend?"
"Yes," said Rob. "Now I know why Trelawney wanted to see Pastor Jason and why she felt better after they had talked. She must have felt guilty. We had wanted to avoid the topic with the kids, but now we're going to have to deal with Prudence. I know that if we tell the boys an abbreviated version they won't mention it again. But Prudence is another story."
"I talked to Prudence's camp counselor yesterday, you know, Topher's sister," he said. "She told me that Prudence constantly looks for attention. Of course, she also does at home. I'm not exactly sure of what to do. Phoebe is fully wrapped up in Maisie, which is perfectly natural. The latest bombshell she dropped was because Hal was the center of attention since he had just come home."
"Nobody ever said that juggling four kids was going to be easy," said Rob. "Nothing that Prudence says or does is in the least way malicious. But Hal, being on sabbatical, I know that you will be able to find more time for her. And right now, nothing special is going on for her. Hal has lots to tell from his summer program and Butch is obsessed with the playoffs, but they need to do their part too in order to bring her around.
"Having raised three sons myself, I can see that Butch is starting to cross the threshold between annoying little brother and pal. The two against one dynamic is about to change, but they could be more helpful. They don't always had to treat her like the bratty little sister."
"Even if she is," agreed Tom. "In fact, maybe if they treated her as if she was older, then she would act older."
"That makes sense," said Hal. "I suppose that I was mostly annoyed because this was one of those times when her tattling hurt someone, in this case Trelawney. And upsetting Trelawney, upsets Phoebe."
"I think that Catherine will turn her around before she sees Phoebe," Rob assured him. "She will also not want to see Phoebe if she is sad or worried. But Prudence is old enough to start exercising more self-censorship. You should take her out for a little father-daughter time and help her to see that. It will all work out. But the bigger deal that you make about the unicorn, the longer it will take to go away."
"It will never go away," said Hal. "Both Phoebe and Trelawney were hurt much too deeply. They will heal, but the scars will never disappear. Since the cat is out of the bag about the shooting, I'll have a talk with all the kids so there won't be any need to bring it up again."
"Well, having said that," replied Tom. "I suggest that we go into the living room and have some family time together. Life is too short to dwell upon the shadows."
Rob agreed. By the time they reached the living room, Maisie was done nursing and was allowing Bernice to hold her. Hal and Butch were caught up in their own male bonding time, as they swapped stories about science and baseball, occasionally even listening to one another. Trelawney had returned with Catherine and seated herself at the piano to play some Mozart. The whole family was home and sharing in the joy of celebrating their newest member.
"Pastor Jason," said Topher.
"Yes, Topher?" he said encouragingly. Topher had requested another personal conversation about the other night, this one without Mike present.
"Pastor Jason," he continued. "I have discovered that I can see other people's auras."
Jason raised an eyebrow. This was an interesting turn of events.
"When did you discover this?" he asked.
"On Sunday," he said. "When we were visiting the Princess, she and Liam were talking about auras. And I looked and suddenly realized that I could see them."
"Are you sure it wasn't the power of suggestion?" asked Jason. "It was a highly charged emotional situation."
"Yes, I know," replied Topher. "But I can see your aura now. It is a pale gold, the color of spirituality."
"So then," he said, as much to buy himself more time to consider, as to clarify. "I am guessing that you are also reading up on auras."
"As much as I can," he answered. "There really is not a lot of information out there."
"No, there's not," he agreed. "But what does this newfound talent mean for you?"
"I'm not sure," said Topher honestly. "I mean, I thought that it could be useful when we went out after the unicorn, and it was. His aura looked just like those weird storm clouds. It was the same as the Princess's in fact. I think that maybe the same evil force was creating all three, the two auras and the storm I mean."
Jason did not know what to say. Not only was Topher coming into his own gifts as a child of light, he also was smart enough to understand what they meant. He was going to have to be very careful around him. So was Trelawney. If the two of them got together and began to compare notes, things could get very tricky. And of course, Trelawney had just casually mentioned to him the other day that Topher was a child of light. On that night they had synergized into a very powerful force for good.
Synergized, he thought, szyzegy! Oh, great! Now he had another one! Trelawney, the light-hearted, little intuitive romantic and Topher, the analytical scientist. They were their own male and female opposites, just like Phoebe and Hal, not to mention Catherine and Rob. And knowing Trelawney, it was only a matter of time before she figured it out. Topher's own turquoise aura was glowing. It was perfectly fitting with Trelawney's violet one. They were both good, kind, and devoted to God. Topher was looking at him expectantly. Ever the science student, he was eager to know if his hypothesis was correct.
"Topher, you are right when you say that there was a very evil force at work on Sunday night and that it was not just working through the storm," he said. "However, you are going to have to be very careful about who you discuss this with."
"You're the only one that I've told it to," he said. "But I want to talk to Trelawney about it. I think that she understands these things. I think that she sees auras too."
"She does," affirmed Pastor Jason. "But you must be very careful with her. She knows many things that you cannot understand. And she is very fragile."
"I know that," he sighed. "When we were talking with Liam, he said that Trelawney was probably going to have to live with her sister for the rest of her life. He said that she would probably never be able to live . . . independently. It seems sad."
"Why is that?" asked Jason. "She adores her sister. She and Phoebe have been raised with the expectation that they would always be together."
"Well," he said. "It seems sad that everyone is assuming that she can't grow up and marry and have children of her own. She's such a kind and loving person. But it also seems like no one thinks that she ever will grow up. Why is that?"
"Topher," asked Jason. "Have you ever heard of someone being called 'fey'?"
"No," he said. "I don't think that I've ever heard of the word before."
"It's an old Cornish expression," he replied. "It means simple-minded, childish, impulsive. In Trelawney's world, she is what they call fey. She is very good. Deceit and unkindness are two difficult things for her to understand. She would never hurt anyone and in turn is deeply hurt when another person betrays her."
"Like the unicorn?" asked Topher. "Liam told us all about what he did to her. It's why we both went out in the middle of that crazy storm after him. He was one sick dude."
"That is an example of the ultimate betrayal of a child like Trelawney," he said. "She didn't understand it when it happened. It frightened her badly even before she learned what it meant. In many ways it set her back emotionally. She was very confused on Monday. She felt safe because he is gone, but was distraught because of the violence of his defeat. When things are too difficult for her to understand, she retreats into the world of fantasy, medieval stories of gallant knights and fair maidens."
"I've seen that," he said. "But she's still a little kid. Isn't that normal?"
"She's growing older every year," he replied shaking his head. "Even though she is only a year younger than Sarah, you will soon start to see her fall behind Sarah and Francine in many ways, although not academically."
"That won't make them leave her behind though," said Topher. "They love her."
"No," said Jason. "They most certainly will remain her loyal friends throughout high school. And things are going to work out very well for all of them at their new school. But no one can really be sure of what will happen when they graduate."
"Yeah," said Topher. "I can see that. But I just feel like there's something important for me to do with my own life. But it doesn't have to do with science or anything like that. I mean, I could be a scientist, but that's not the real important work that I have to do. It has to do with Trelawney."
Jason immediately became more alert. He could see what was in the young man's mind and it was too soon. Both young people had growing up to do and things to learn. He was going to have to put a stop to this way of thinking right away. They both had important work to do in the future, but it was in the future. Trelawney especially desperately needed her childhood.
"Well, Topher," said Jason carefully. "You realize that at your ages, you both have lots of options. Knowing both of you the way I do, I think that you will both end up dedicating your lives to helping others. You both share a deep sense of altruism and love of humanity. It would make sense for you to follow similar paths."
But Tophet was already out in front of him.
"No," he said. "I think that it's more than that. I think that we are meant to follow the same path. I don't know how I know it. I just know it."
Pastor Jason looked away. The young scientist sounded just like his romantic little friend. He was grateful that Topher had such a good head on his shoulders. And was very grateful that he trusted him and would always come to him for advice. He certainly wouldn't want him to say or do anything that might frighten the child or worse yet, overexcite her. He then realized that if he had thought that his job of guiding Trelawney had just gotten easier, it was actually just as hard. But at least the final outcome was likely to be much happier.
"Pastor Jason," said Topher, recalling his attention.
"I think that all of you are underestimating Trelawney," he replied. "Just because she's good and beautiful, doesn't mean that she's too fragile for this world."
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
"Because last Sunday night," he explained. "She was the strongest one of all. And while everything was going on, she was nothing but good and beautiful. I could feel the anger and hatred out there in that storm, but she broke through it. I know she did. Liam said she turned his mind from revenge to forgiveness. And I stepped out in front of a gun to offer that sick bastard the mercy of Jesus because I heard her calling me to do it. How can you say that anyone like that is weak?"
"Topher," he replied. "Those were extraordinary circumstances. Trelawney is an extraordinary child. Her greatest challenges come from ordinary life."
Topher looked back at him doubtfully. Jason was glad that in a year he would be off to college where he could forget about his kid sister's odd little friend, at least until they were both older. But then, he got the strangest feeling that Topher had somehow read his thoughts and was himself beginning to think on a new track. It was perhaps even a new medieval tale, one without any unicorns.