The next two weeks flew by in a midst of preparations for Sarah, Geoffie and Miles to return to the settlement to live. Each day the 3 of them worked away on the many tasks but they would return each night for the evening meal in the Dining Hall with Kevin, and Geoffie and Sarah stayed the night in the home they had with Kevin. In the settlement, Miles had a suite in the Bachelor's Quarters. He had kept an apartment in town just to watch over Sarah and Geoffie and gave notice that he was moving out to his landlord. He had very little in his apartment and what he decided not to take with him, he donated to a thrift store. He helped Sarah to close up the house she shared with Geoffie. The house had once been her grandparents home and she had inherited it from Aunt Zelda. They covered furniture with sheets and packed the items they would take into the Woods with them. Through his wand, Miles was able to miniaturize the things they were taking with them; a very handy trick when packing. Sarah arranged to have mail forwarded to the settlement's post office box and arranged for the utilities to be disconnected. She considered selling the house but couldn't bring herself to do it. She or Miles could use it if they wanted to visit in town on occassion. Sarah dug out her wand which had dulled with lack of use over the years. It soon returned to it's usual glittery pink as Sarah used its aid in the cleaning chores. Geoffie's wand had fully transformed into vibrant rainbow colors but the only thing he seemed able to get it to do was supply fast food!
As well as the preparations to move to the settlement, Sarah had a couple of other things to prepare for. The date to be fully moved in by was also the thirteenth anniversary of her wedding to Kevin. There would be a party in her and Kevin's honor in the Great Hall after the evening meal. She wanted to have the perfect dress for the occasion. It had been so many years since she had danced with Kevin. Every day she gave thanks to The Powers That Be for her gentle, loving husband. It was all so marvelous she was afraid that it was a dream that would disappear or something would go wrong. Three days later there would be another celebration. On that day Geoffie, oops Geoff, as he was starting to insist people call him would be 12. He was growing up too quickly, thought Sarah, and a pang of guilt hit her as she thought of all that Kevin had missed out on. Father and son were now spending a lot of time together getting to know each other.
The day finally arrived and they were completely moved into their old home which was now their new home. Sarah made everyone leave while she prepared for the evening meal and the party after. Her wedding dress had been of fine white cotton. It had flowed from a high waist in very full gathers to a wide scalloped hem. The bodice had a scoop neckline and was covered in white-on-white embroidery in a pattern of flowers. It had bell sleeves from the fine, sheer cotton with the white embroidery at the hem. Tonight's dress was the same style but the fine cotton was a green that matched her eyes and the embroidery was in colors to match the real flowers. She wore her long strawberry-blonde hair loose and fastened a circlet of fresh flowers, that matched the embroidery, like a crown on top. Sarah took a deep breath and headed for the Dining Hall.
When she entered the Dining Hall, all conversation seemed to stop and Sarah stood there feeling self-conscious and looking down at her feet. The silence was broken by Geoff's exclamation, "Gosh, Mom. You're gorgeous!"
She looked up at the words and saw Geoff and Kevin leave Miles sitting at a table for four and coming toward her. She wasn't the only one to take special care in dressing tonight. Her two special men were dressed alike in soft blue lawn shirts that set off the blue of their eyes and went so well with their golden looks. The shirts were tucked into navy trousers. They looked so handsome and Geoff had certainly inherited his father's features.
When the two reached Sarah, Kevin kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear, "Our son is right. You're gorgeous."
With Geoff holding one hand, and Kevin the other, Sarah was lead to the table where Miles stood waiting for them.
After dinner the foursome went to the Great Hall. The dancing was started by Sarah and Kevin. It had been so long since she had last danced at all. It was heavenly to be dancing in Kevin's arms. The music ended too soon.
Geoff came over to them and said to Sarah, "May I have this next dance?" Sarah looked so surprised that Geoff whispered to her, "Dad taught me how so I think your toes will be okay, Mom." With a smile Sarah extended her hand to her son so that he could lead her back to the dance floor.
Next Sarah danced with Miles. "It is so good to see you smiling and happy, Sarah."He told her as they danced.
"Thank you, Miles. I never thought I'd be this happy again."
When Miles and Sarah returned to Geoff and Kevin at the conclusion of the dance, Miles announces, "Geoff and I are going to go now. We thought this would be a good night to camp out in Grinny's cave." We'll be back tomorrow afternoon."
Kevin and Sarah smile at Miles and say, "Thank you" simultaneously.
'Camping out' at Grinny's turned out to be less rustic than Geoff expected. Grinny's cave was very nice inside with a couple of comfortable bunks. Grinny was a very genial host and told great stories. Geoff especially liked the ones about things his parents and uncle did when they were kids. In the morning they had a breakfast of fresh cooked fish along with honey-sweetened tea. They were joined by Pixelle and Ms Feather and Wisdom (who had hitched a ride on Ms Feather). They chattered away the morning. Geoff used his wand for the one thing he knew how to do, and provided hamburgers and fries for lunch.
Then Geoff and his Uncle Miles headed back to the settlement. When they reached Geoff's house he entered yelling, "Mom! Dad! I'm back!".
Miles trailed in behind him. From down the hallway behind his parent's closed bedroom door, Geoff heard his mother exclaim, "Oh my gosh!" and his dad "I'll be right out!"
Geoff went to the hallway and saw his dad emerge from his bedroom softly closing the door behind him.
Kevin was wearing only a pair of jeans; no shirt, no socks, no shoes. His hair looked in definite need of a comb.
"You guys still in bed?" asks Geoff, incredulously. Miles gave Kevin a wide grin from behind Geoff. "I've been up for hours!" says Geoff.
"Well we celebrated until quite late," explains Kevin.
"I bet," said Miles, still grinning.
The door opened behind Kevin. Sarah stepped out dressed in a summery dress, hair neatly combed which was quite the contrast to Kevin's dishabille. She reached up and placed a kiss on her husband's rough cheek while whispering "Thank you" in his ear. She walked down the hall and led Miles and Geoff to the sitting room as Kevin slipped back in their bedroom.
As they sat down Sarah spoke to Geoff, "Just 2 days till your birthday now. Is there anything you'd particularly like?"
Geoff's brow creased in concentration. "I already got the very best presents. Living here. Meeting Dad. Seeing you smile, Mom. But,"
"What is it Geoff?"his mom prompts.
"Would it be okay to invite Wisdom and Pixelle and Grinny and Ms Feathers to the party?"
"That's a little unusual but I don't see why not. Especially since the party will be early, after the midday meal."
There's a knock at the door. "I'll get it," offers Miles.
"Hello Miles. Post Master asked me to give this too you. It's marked 'URGENT'." said the man at the door as he hands Miles an envelope.
"Miles?" calls Sarah from the living room.
"It's ok Sarah. The Post Master just had a letter for me and figured I'd be here."
Miles stares at the writing on the envelope. He was sure it was his father's handwriting. Warily he opens the envelope and reads the letter. It has his father's signature and says 'they' will be arriving at the settlement in 2 days. How could this be? Who were 'they'? The Protectors of the settlement would block his father should his father try to come here. Wouldn't they? Two days. On Geoff's birthday. Till he figured out some answers he would keep this to himself.
This was the very best birthday Geoff could ever recall. Having a father was wonderful and seeing his mother glowing with happiness was like a dream come true. He was making friends already among the other children in the settlement. He'd never really made friends in the Outer World. He always felt different and out of place there. Here was a deep sense of belonging. This was his party and he was enjoying it. People were talking and laughing and playing games. There was just one thing marring the day. Uncle Miles had seemed pre-occupied and worried the last couple of days. As Geoff thought about it he realized it had really started when Uncle Miles received a letter. It must have something to do with that letter. He knew his parents sensed something too. He could see the concern in their expressions when they looked at Uncle Miles. How Geoff wished he could do something to help as Uncle Miles had helped him so many times.
Miles was trying very hard to enjoy Geoff's party but the letter kept bothering him and he still hadn't figured out what it could mean. Miles started to feel a presence in the Woods. It felt familiar but he wasn't sure who. He sat very still concentrating on the feeling. Mother! It had been fifteen years but he was sure that's who it was. Now he had to tell Sarah who had probably felt it too. Miles got up and went to Sarah and Kevin. The three went over to a quiet corner. Geoff saw this and wondered what was going on.
Over in the corner, Miles was explaining about the letter to Kevin and Sarah.
"A letter from Father? But Aunt Zelda said he and Mother died thirteen years ago. Why would she lie about that?"
"I don't have the answers Sarah. That's why I didn't say anything sooner. But I just felt Mother's presence in the Woods. She is on her way here."
"Oh!" says Sarah. "I felt her too but didn't realize it was her."
Kevin put his arm around Sarah's shoulder and pulled her close in a reassuring hug. "Very close now," says Kevin. "Let's go to the door to greet them."
The three had just reached the door when it was opened and a handsome, silver-haired couple entered.
"Mother? Father?" Sarah says questioningly.
The woman opened her arms. "Sarah Sweet" It was her mother's voice and her mother's pet name for her.
Sarah entered her mother's embrace and the two hugged as tears trickled down their cheeks.
Next Sarah hugged her father while Miles took her place hugging their mother.
Kevin stood back watching the emotional family reunion. Geoff had come to see what was going on and stood beside his father. Sarah left her father and went to them.
Standing between them, with an arm around each, she introduced them to her parents, "Kevin, these are my parents, Margaret and Daniel. Mother and Father, this is my husband, Kevin and our son, Geoff."
Sarah's Father shook their hands. Her mother hugged each of them and then looked at Miles expectantly.
"Just me, Mother," he answered her unasked question.
Then Miles started to ask some of the questions on his mind. "If we seemed shocked, it's because Zelda told us that you'd both died thirteen years ago. And Father, how is it you were permitted access to the settlement? I don't understand."
"Well, we didn't know about Zelda's lie but the rest we can try to explain. Is there somewhere we can go to talk?"
The adults, having left Geoff at his birthday party, are sitting in Kevin and Sarah's sitting room. As the enjoy the tea Sarah made, Miles asks, "Well, Father?"
"Alright, Miles. As you know, I could not enter the settlement because the Protectors block anyone from the Outer World. They are afraid that knowledge of the settlement by outsiders could be harmful to the existence of the settlement. I think that is understandable. As you and Sarah grew up, your mother would bring you here to visit but I had to remain behind. Being shut out of an important part of your lives was not easy but I accepted it. Miles, you chose to make the Whimsical Woods settlement your home. Although you came to visit your Mother and I, I still missed you greatly. Sarah was nearly an adult and I knew she may too choose to live in the settlement. Your mother and I talked about how nice it would be for us all to live in the settlement. We hoped you would each marry and have a family.Spending time with grandchildren was nice to dream of but as things stood, it wouldn't work out well. So we decided to seriously look to see if there would be any way I might be allowed into the settlement. We finally found a way."
"Yes, we did," Margaret picks up the story. "But it would not be easy or quick. There is a grand Council of the Faeryfolke that rules over the settlements. If they are completely satisfied that a non-faeryfolke having access would be no threat at all; that is would keep it all completely secret, then they could send an order to the Protectors to allow admittance. First requirement was a faeryfolke sponsor who would go through the process with the applicant. That of course, was me." Margaret smiled warmly at her husband.
Daniel returned the smile and continued the story. "So, with you two both living in the settlement where you would be safe, we decided it was time to begin the process so that all of us could eventually live here. I gave control of my Outer World concerns to Zelda. I wasn't sure about trusting her but she was my older sister and I hoped wished me well. But those were just material concerns. I did not trust her where the two of you were concerned so I was glad you were in the Whimsical Woods where the Protectors would be sure to block her if she tried to enter. Needless to say she had over the years picked up some information about the woods."
"Oh no," Sarah exclaims. "All those visits when I was young at the playground and school, I told her things I shouldn't have! I'm so sorry!"
Margaret hugs Sarah saying, "You were only a child then. It's okay."
"The Council did know something of Zelda," continues Daniel. "And felt that she was a threat so were none to anxious to grant me access to a faeryfolke settlement. After two years of training, I was told I could enter a long apprenticeship of sorts. It would require many years and it was felt best that I cut my ties to Zelda and to most of my Outer World concerns. I told Zelda that I would not be returning for years and would not be communicating with her during that time. I asked her to sell off my interests and put the money in trust for the two of you. That must be when she decided to tell you we had died. I don't know why she'd have said that."
"Well," Sarah comments, "She did try to get me to leave the Woods and live with her then. It might have worked if I wasn't so in love with Kevin at the time. But I did continue to exchange letters with her and eventually she did get her way. Geoffie and I have only recently been reunited with Kevin."
Kevin, who has been sitting on the arm of the chair his wife is sitting in, puts his arm around Sarah's shoulders and gives her a gentle hug and a kiss on the forehead.
"Over the last thirteen years, your mother and I have spent time in nearly ever faeryfolke community. There was so much for me to learn. I'm now on my finally leg of the journey which is the Whimsical Woods settlement. If all goes well here, I will be granted honorary faeryfolke status and will be allowed to be part of the settlement."
"We are finally all going to be in one place!" exclaims Sarah happily.After an exchange of hugs all around, the five set off back to Geoff's party.
As the happy group walked along, Miles and his mother drifted to the back. When she felt no one in front would hear, Miles mother whispered to him, "I need to talk to you tomorrow. I have a favor to ask of you Miles." She then hurried to join the 3 in front leaving Miles quite perplexed.
Miles has arrived at the cottage his parents have been assigned to find out what his mother could want. He had tried to think of possiblities but came up with nothing at all. His mother must have felt his approach as she opens the door just as he reached it.
"Let's go for a walk in the Woods," suggests Margaret. Miles offered his mother his arm and they set off on a path that led into the surrounding forest. "It has been so long." She inhaled deeply of the atmosphere. They walked along in silence till they came to an alcove at the side of the path with a log bench.
"Let's sit here to talk, Miles," says Margaret as she heads to the bench. She seats herself on the bench but Miles opts to lounge on the grass floor. "I suppose you are very curious about the favor I wish to ask."
"Yes, Mother, I certainly am." responds Miles.
"Alright, let me begin. Over the time your father and I have been away travelling the world visiting faeryfolke communities, we have made many, many friends. One friend, Susannah, like myself, fell in love with and married a man from the Outer World. But from there are tales are quite different. Her husband was a handsome and gentle man but also one who had no interest or belief in the mystical world. She never told him of her faery nature. Susannah had a daughter whom she named Amanda. Amanda was a beautiful child but seemed to inherit none of her mother's faery qualities. Even by human standards, she was awkward. Susannah was missing her roots very badly. Then her husband got a job transfer. They moved from a rather small town to Metropolis. Metropolis is not kind to faeryfolke."
"Sarah lived there for a year with Aunt Zelda. She said she was very uncomfortable there and was glad to move back to our old hometown." comments Miles.
"I'm glad she did not stay there long," Margaret continues. "Even though Sarah is only half-faeryfolke, she would have been affected. For Susannah, it was quite severe. There were too many presences overwhelming her system and putting up screens was exhausting her. There was too little nature from which to draw energy. She became ill and needed to return to her settlement. Having gone so many years keeping her secret, she felt she could not explain to her husband and Amanda, who was by then a teenager. So she told them she had to go away for health reasons but would soon return. By the time she arrived back at the settlement her system was almost completely depleted. She had been away from the settlement for almost 20 years and had spent the last 3 living in Metropolis. The Healers were not sure she could be fully restored to health. It was a very long and slow process. It took nearly 5 years for her to regain a healthy status. Five years away from her husband and daughter. Her daughter woud then have become an adult. She had no way of communicating with them. She was going to go back and try to find her family but the healers told her that her energy resources would deplete much more rapidly a second time and a few days even would make her gravely ill. They will not even permit her a short visit from the settlement or allow her to travel through to another settlement. And now another 9 years has passed. Susannah is filled with guilt for not telling her husband and daughter her history and where she was going. She wonders about them everyday, especially about Amanda. Is Amanda married? Does she have children? Is she happy?"
"Is that the favor , Mother?" asks Miles. "To find out about Amanda and her father for Susannah?"
"Yes, Miles. I understand Susannah's pain in missing her child. It had been so many long years for me to see mine. But I knew my children had each other and were adults living safely in the Whimsical Woods; or at least I thought they were. I had no idea that Zelda would cause so much harm. I have deep regrets over that but now we should be able to live close to one another. Miles, I know it means leaving here for a while after you've really only settled back in again but I am hoping you will do this."
"I will try Mother but I'll need information to start the search," responds Miles.
"I've full names, relatives names, and past addresses. I even have a few old pictures from Susannah," adds Margaret. "Thank you."
[Whimsical Woods Index]