I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.

Family Time

Prologue

After his talk with Topher, Pastor Jason realized that he needed to separate Topher and Trelawney for a few days so that things could simmer down. Topher was very excited by all of his realizations about her and his own incipient understanding of who he was. But if he asked Trelawney too many questions that were on point, she would tell him the truth, a truth that Topher was still unable to fully comprehend at this time.

He was still not ready to learn the complete meaning of being a child of light. Therefore, it was better if he had no idea of this aspect of his identity. Unlike reading auras, there were no books written on the subject. If you were not brought up in the culture, you had to figure it out on your own. It was not something to be learned. It was something to be known. And anyone familiar with the Platonic dialogue "The Meno," would understand that.

But even worse was his dawning knowledge of the potential, perhaps even probable, role of Trelawney in his life. The five-year age gap that separated them now was an enormous, yawning chasm of maturity and time that would be nearly meaningless in ten years. At this moment, while Topher was on the very brink of coming into his own manhood, Trelawney was still a little girl. Therefore, if Topher's instincts were on target, then a separation was definitely in order.

Topher must go out in the world and make his own way. He must meet first girls and then women of his own age to date. He must finish his education. In order for his gifts to fully benefit humankind, they must first be nurtured and cultivated. He must also face the reality of who Trelawney was. He must meet the young woman Trelawney and see for himself the limitations of her social and emotional growth.

If there were an element of destiny in his newfound discovery of her, then the strands of fate would bring them both to the proper time and place for this realization on both their parts. That time would come only after Topher had acquired the wisdom to make such a choice and Trelawney had developed a modicum of the maturity needed to understand her own emotions and all their ramifications for any relationship with a man.

After considering several courses of action, he finally decided to call up Rob and ask him to take Trelawney away for a vacation until school started. This would allow for a cooling off period for Topher. When they returned, both young people would be very busy starting school. When he was once again in his own familiar milieu and away from the Figalilly world of intuition and metaphysics, he would be able to clear his mind and return to his own world of pragmatism and science. With any luck, he would win a scholarship to some university far away.

His plan was to tell Rob that he was concerned that he and Catherine had pushed themselves very hard all summer and that they needed a break. He wanted Trelawney to go with them because he didn't want Phoebe to have to worry about five children. And Hal's family did need time to work a few things out on their own in terms of bonding with one another and running the house.

The three older children needed to become accustomed to sharing their lives, and their new mother, with their youngest sibling. He was not really too happy that Butch and Prudence had been kept up at Rob's house and Emmeline had stayed to run the house for the first week of Maisie's life. It had only delayed the inevitable and would make it a bigger shock for Hal and Phoebe when the other children returned and they had to resume their own management of the household. Prudence would certainly need extra attention. Hers was the biggest adjustment of all.

The elder Hal had also become very used to letting his parents step in whenever things got complicated. Their helpfulness was gradually returning to its former enabling behavior. It would do him good to take care of a few complications on his own. He had no commitments until January other than his research work. Having so many people relying on him at home would keep him away from the university for a couple of weeks and perhaps make him indispensable in a few other ways. It would hopefully make him less apt to fill up his time there when things got difficult.

Of all of them, the one who would potentially be hurt the most was Trelawney, who would most definitely miss her sister and her new niece. But she was a resilient child. She had her own means of coping. If she needed to employ them, it would undoubtedly give Catherine a more realistic view of the child that she was dealing with. He felt bad for the girl and Phoebe.

They wanted to be together and Hal was now willing to accept her into his home as she was. But the timing was wrong. He couldn't say why. That had not been revealed to him. All that he could tell the child and her sister was that when the time was right then they wouldn't have to ask. They would know. He hoped that it wouldn't be because of any troubles on the part of the elder Everetts, but they were both no longer young. And Catherine, he knew, was the one thing that was holding back Hal, Phoebe, and Trelawney from even broaching the topic.

It had been odd, but when he had seen Maisie earlier that week, he had been able to detect nothing about her that indicated that she was different from any other baby. Perhaps she was too young. But other than a very deep bond with her mother, nothing was apparent. However, it may have been because he was so focused on Phoebe at the time of their meeting. It was a pity that like Trelawney, she felt responsible for Cholmondeley's demise.

It had been the only way. Unless he had accepted the offers of Liam and Topher to walk towards the light, he would have always been a threat to the girls. He suspected that it was ultimately the dark forces that had cut him loose. He was no longer of value to them and perhaps even in his heart had wanted to accept the love of God. It was impossible to know. As he had told the others, it was not for them to question the mind of God.

As for the Princess, her release by the forces of darkness might make her less effective, but her cunning and guile would keep her going as the local medium with the other world, at least for the time being. With any luck, she would commit some great blunder and have to move along to find a new set of gullible marks in a new place and town.

For now, he planned to take this lull in activity as a reprieve for himself and his family. They also deserved his attention and he in turn missed them. It was a year now since he had taken on the care of Trelawney. The work was arduous, perhaps not in body but in mind and spirit. When she returned, he would no doubt need all his strength to help her face her next set of challenges.

Big Sisters

Prudence felt uncertain about lots of things right now. She had thought that everything would be wonderful when the baby came. She had just known that she would be a girl and that she would finally have the baby sister that she had always wanted. But she hadn't realized that you couldn't actually play with baby sisters until they got bigger. And she hadn't realized how long that it was that they were so small that all they could do was eat and sleep and poop, as Butch kept saying. Babies in the movies and on TV grew up so quickly. But real life wasn't the same as a movie or TV show.

She had thought that maybe sometimes Mommy would let her give Maisie a bottle, like she did with her dollies. But Maisie didn't drink bottles. Well, Maisie drank from Mommy. And when she did, Mommy and Maisie looked very happy. Butch said it was gross and every time that Maisie was hungry he left the room. Daddy and Hal weren't bothered by it. Daddy even said that in the world most little babies were fed by their Mommies, just like baby kittens and puppies.

So she asked Daddy if her angel Mommy had fed her like that when she was a baby and he said no. She wanted to ask him more about her, but Daddy got a real sad look on his face. She couldn't figure out why. He was so happy about her new Mommy and the new baby. It didn't make any sense to her that he would feel sad anymore about her angel Mommy. She would have asked Hal, but he was just as sad as Daddy whenever she tried to talk about her. She didn't want both Daddy and Hal to be sad.

She missed Brownie camp a lot. She especially missed her counselor Rachel. She knew that if she could talk to Rachel about baby sisters then she would help her to understand it. The week after Maisie was born, Rachel had talked to her about lots of things. She told her not to worry because she had to live with Grammy for a few days because when her little sisters were born, her Mommy had stayed in the hospital. And then her Grandmother came to stay with the kids at home to help out.

At least she could go down and visit Mommy and Maisie. And by the end of the week, Mommy and Maisie came up the street to visit them. That whole week had been very strange. Mommy's cousins Sylvia and Liam, and even another one named John, came to visit out of nowhere. And it was a secret that cousin Liam had come.

Emmeline and Sylvia were very stern when they told her that she could not mention him to Mommy and Daddy. But then one day when she came home from camp, he was gone. He had seen Mommy and left to go home. Then, Emmeline and Sylvia left and her brother Hal came home.

When Hal came home, she and Butch could finally go home too. That night, after Nana and Papa drove him back from his program, all six of them went home together. She got to sleep in her own bedroom again and so did Hal and Butch. Maisie got to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's room in her new cradle.

That night, when Mommy tucked her into bed, she sat and talked for a little while like she did back in the old days. But just as Prudence thought that things were finally returning back to normal, they heard Maisie cry and Mommy went to go to her. Daddy came in right away to sit on her bed, but it wasn't the same.

"Daddy, does Mommy love Maisie more than she loves me?" she asked.

Daddy looked surprised by her question.

"Why of course not," he said surprised. "What makes you ask a question like that?"

"Well," she replied. "It seems like Mommy loves Maisie more than any of us right now. She never leaves her and whenever she cries, she picks her up and feeds her. And she hugs her all the time and smiles at her."

Daddy looked for a minute as if he was thinking real hard.

"Prudence," he finally said. "When babies are very tiny, their mothers always spend all their time with them taking care of them. As Maisie gets bigger, then Mommy won't need to spend so much time with her. But she loves all of us very much."

Prudence was not convinced, but she let Daddy kiss her goodnight and turn off the light. The next morning they all went to church together. Everyone wanted to see the baby. It was nice because lots of the ladies asked her how it felt to be a big sister. They talked to her about what a big girl she was becoming and how much help she would be to her Mommy, and that made her feel very important.

She was very happy when they went home and had lunch. But after lunch, Grammy and Trelawney came to visit with Trelawney's little dog Elspeth. Grammy and Grampie had decided that they needed a little holiday after how busy they had been before and after the baby was born. They were going to take Trelawney on a car trip up north to Canada for the next two weeks. Grammy wondered if Elspeth could stay with them.

Trelawney did not look like she wanted a holiday at all. But she didn't say anything. She just looked sad. Mommy handed Maisie to Daddy and put her arms around Trelawney and said, "There. There." Then they both walked out into the backyard to talk privately. They were not gone long, but when they returned, they both looked like they had been crying. Mommy kissed her goodbye and Trelawney left holding Grammy's hand. Elspeth whined a little bit and went out into the backyard. Mommy took Maisie back from Daddy and cuddled her close. Then she said that she was tired and wanted a nap.

Prudence could tell that if she asked Daddy any questions then he would get annoyed with her. It was one of those times when he looked like he didn't know what to do. She wandered upstairs and found her brothers just hanging out in their room.

"Grammy and Grampie took Trelawney and went on a trip to Canada for the next two weeks," she said before they could tell her to scram.

Both of her brothers looked up at her.

"And I'm not tattling because Grammy and Trelawney just came to say goodbye," she added defensively. "It's not a secret you know."

"Okay," said Butch. "What do you want us to do about it?"

"I don't know," she answered with a shrug. "I thought that you might want to know."

"That's going to make Mom feel sad," said Hal, looking up from his book. "Is she all right?"

"I don't know," Prudence admitted. "After she and Trelawney came back from saying goodbye they both looked like they had cried. Mommy took Maisie and said hat she needed a nap."

"What did Dad say?" asked Hal.

"Nothing," she replied. "But he had that look on his face that he gets when he doesn't want us to ask any questions. So I came up here."

Butch had been thinking this whole time.

"This means that Grampie can't go to my Little League play-off game this week," he said. "Grampie's gone to all my games this season."

"Don't worry," said Hal. "Dad and I will go. You can tell him all about it when he gets back."

"Yeah," said Butch. "I guess so. But I wonder why they wanted to take a trip all of the sudden."

"Grammy said they needed a rest because they've been so busy," answered Prudence. "And they wanted to give us a chance to get used to living with the baby. Grammy said that we needed to learn to manage without them coming down all the time."

"I never thought of that," said Hal. "I guess that's why they need a rest. They have been working very hard to help out all summer. They're not as young as they used to be, you know."

Prudence nodded.

"While you were away and Mommy was still pregnant, they helped out a lot," she agreed.

"Well, now that I'm home I can help out more," he said. "Have you two been helping much?"

Butch and Prudence looked at each other guiltily. They really hadn't.

"That's what I thought," said Hal in his superior tone of voice.

"We make our own beds every morning," said Butch.

"We can all do more," said Hal. "Let's go find Dad and set up the chore list again."

As they left the room, Butch grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

"That's what you get for opening your big mouth," he hissed. "If you do it again then I'm going to clobber you. Even if you are a girl."

Prudence looked back at him remorsefully. She felt sorry too. They found Daddy sitting at his desk in the study pretending to read something. When Hal told him what they wanted, he got up as if he were relieved that he had something to do. After they went through the chores and assigned them, they all went to the store to go grocery shopping. Daddy got hamburgers and some other things so that he could cook a barbecue dinner. That way Mommy wouldn't have to cook.

At first she thought that it wouldn't matter that Grammy, Grampie, and Trelawney weren't living up the street. But then she realized how much they had helped Mommy and Daddy out. It was funny, but it wasn't really about the housework. Originally she and Butch had been assigned jobs. But then Butch figured put that if they did them too slowly that they could get Daddy or Hal would do them. And since they didn't want to upset Mommy by yelling at them, they would just sigh and do it themselves.

It seemed like whenever they had run into some problem they needed to solve like who was going to drive Butch to baseball practice or if Mommy wanted to talk about a problem, Grammy and Grampie had been there. Daddy also seemed to have a harder time deciding about things. He was even afraid to go to the university in case Mommy might need him.

She thought that with Trelawney gone then she would get more "Mommy time." She did. But it wasn't the same. Maisie was always there, and even when she wasn't, Mommy would go to her as soon as she cried. And she had never known before how much she and Trelawney had played together over the summer and how much fun Trelawney was.

She was so bored that she even went to Buch's big baseball game without being asked. But then Butch's team lost and he was in a really bad mood. It got a little better in the second week when Mommy called up Amy's Mommy to ask if she could play there. Then Mary Jane came back from her vacation and she had someone else to play with.

But the best day was when Topher came over to hang out with Hal and brought his two little sisters with him, Hannah and Miriam. The three of them went upstairs to play in her room. As they went past Mommy's room, the door was opened so Prudence asked if they could come in and see Maisie. Mommy invited them right in. It was Maisie's feeding time and the girls were just as fascinated as Prudence had been.

"Mrs. Everett," asked Hannah. "Is Maisie really getting milk from, you know, that?"

"Of course, she is Hannah," answered Mommy. "It's very healthy for her to feed this way."

"And Maisie is a very good baby," said Prudence proudly. "She spends all her time with Mommy and she only cries when she is hungry."

"I don't remember having any babies in our house," said Miriam.

"That's 'cause you're the youngest," said Hannah. "But I don't remember any babies either. I was too little to remember you."

Mommy smiled at them.

"Well, why don't you three run along and play," she suggested. "Before Topher wants to leave."

"Okay," said Prudence and they went off to her room.

Topher and Hal must have had a lot to talk about because they got to play all afternoon. She was sorry when they left, but Topher promised her that Mrs. Tucker would invite her over soon.

"I wish that I could go to school with them," said Prudence wistfully to Hal after they were gone.

"I'm afraid that you're going to have to wait five more years," said Hal.

"I don't get it," replied Prudence. "You get to go to school with Topher and Trelawney gets to go to school with Sarah."

"It's the way the schools work," explained Hal. "You go to the school nearest to where you live. The middle schools and high schools are bigger, so kids go there together who live farther away."

"Oh," said Prudence. "Then why can't we go to their church?"

"Mom likes our church," replied Hal. "Since Dad kind of doesn't care, that's where we go. Since the churches are different you don't just switch from one to another."

"Did Jesus go to a different church?" she asked.

"Jesus was Jewish," answered Hal. "He didn't go to church, he went to a synagogue."

"Are we Jewish?" asked Prudence.

"No, of course not," said Hal. "We're Christian."

"But I thought that we were like Jesus," said Prudence, once again confused.

"Well, we're Christians because of Jesus," said Hal. "Jesus died on the cross and after he went back to heaven then the apostles who followed him, like St. Peter, taught people to be Christians. Don't you pay any attention in Sunday School?"

"Of course I do," she said. "But nobody ever said that Jesus was Jewish before. I just thought that Noah and Moses were Jewish."

Hal looked like he was starting to get annoyed. He didn't realize how hard all of these things were to understand. The Sunday school teacher told them lots of nice stories and sometimes Jesus was in them and sometimes he wasn't. Sometimes Jesus even told the stories. Then she thought of something.

"Don't you remember when Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me?'" she asked. "Well I'm a little child and how am I supposed to come to him if I don't understand all this stuff?"

"Why don't you ask Dad about it?" asked Hal.

"Oh, I tried that once," she assured him. "But he told me to go to Grammy. He said that she knew way more than him about the Bible. But Grammy's not home and I want to know."

"Then go ask Mom and quit bugging me!"

Prudence looked at him as he walked away. She went up stairs and found Mommy knitting in her bedroom while Maisie was sleeping. She tiptoed in very quietly and asked Mommy if she could talk to her. Mommy looked over at the cradle and then walked out with her. They went into the nursery and Mommy sat in the rocking chair and Prudence pulled another chair over.

Then she asked Mommy all of her questions about Jesus being Jewish and going to church. Mommy looked happy that she was asking all her questions. She was able to answer every single one. Prudence was just happy because she got Mommy's whole attention for once. That was until Maisie cried. Then Mommy went to get her. When she came back, Maisie started nursing and stopped crying.

They still talked about Jesus, but it wasn't the same. Even though Maisie wasn't the least tiny bit interested in the conversation, Prudence still felt like she no longer had Mommy to herself. She knew that she was being jealous, but she couldn't help herself. She missed the old days when she didn't have to share her Mommy. She knew that back in those days, she wasn't her Mommy. She was her Nanny.

So then she was even more confused. First she had thought that she wanted a baby sister, but now that she had one she didn't. Then she thought that she wanted Nanny to be her Mommy, but now she realized that even that wasn't so great. But if Nanny hadn't become her Mommy, then she would have gone away forever to take care of Trelawney and maybe even marry Mr. Feathers.

She also remembered that when she was little, she had wanted to grow up to be a big kid like Hal and Butch. But things had been easier when she was a little kid. Now there were too many confusing things to think about. She wished that Trelawney would come home. She was real good at explaining things like this. Everybody said that she was crazy when she explained things except Prudence. She thought that Trelawney's explanations always made perfect sense.

To be continued . . .