Amanda sat on the bench in the gazebo watching Miles pace. Now and then Miles would stop look as if he was about to speak to her and then shake his head. Amanda could feel how difficult this was for him but knew not how to help. Finally Miles came and knelt in front of her. He took one of her hands in each of his. Amanda liked the link she felt with Miles through their joined hands.
"Amanda," started Miles, "there's so much to tell. And I'll try my best to tell it all. Please listen to it all and try not to judge anyone too harshly."
"Where to start," mumbled Miles and, with a smile, recalled Geoffie's impersonation of Wisdom when Sarah had used that same phrase before explaining to Geoffie. Hopefully Amanda would be as receptive as Geoffie had been.
"Amanda, I know you realize that you have some magic. You used it to clean spills. That is because you, like myself, are half-faeryfolke."
"Faeryfolke?" inquired Amanda.
"Yes. I think I'll begin with my story. My mother was from the Faeryfolke of the Whimsical Woods. She met and fell in love with my father in the Outer World while travelling between faeryfolke communities. We lived in a small town next to the Whimsical Woods and Mother took Sarah, my sister, and I there often to learn about our heritage. In order to reach a faeryfolke settlement which is always in a natural, wooded area, the Protectors must recognize you as faeryfolke and open the passages. Father could not enter the settlement. As we became adults, Sarah and I chose the Whimsical Woods as our home. Father and Mother set out on a quest to have Father granted honorary faeryfolke status so that they could both join us in the Woods. It took many, many years during which they visited faeryfolke communities around the world. They only returned a few weeks ago. A spiteful relative of Father's had told Sarah and I that they had died so it was a shock to see them again but also very wonderful. Mother had a favor to ask of me."
Miles paused. Through their joined hands, Amanda could feel his anxiety and felt the next part of the story included her which meant that Miles knew who she was before he arrived.
"You came here looking for me, didn't you? Miles?" Amanda asked.
"Yes. You and your father, to be more precise."
"You are too late, much too late to find Papa." Amanda responded with such deep sadness that Miles felt the sharpness of it. He rose and sat next to Amanda on the bench putting his arm around her shoulder and pulling her close. Amanda accepted the light embrace and felt the caring and concern Miles was extending to her.
"Why were you looking for me Miles? How did you know of me?" Amanda asked.
"As I was saying my parents visited many, many faeryfolke communities. Mother became friends with one very sad woman that she felt a special connection with. This woman, like Mother, had fallen in love with a man in the Outer World and married him."
"Mama?" Amanda barely whispered. She knew Miles heard but he continued his tale.
"But after that their stories are different. She did not think her husband would accept her if he knew her heritage, so she told no one and tried to live as a human in the Outer World. Faeryfolke can manage in the Outer World but only if they make accomadations for their faery nature. They must live in close proximity of a faeryfolke community and visit often to renew their strength and resources. They need to daily spend some time in a natural spot absorbing the atmosphere as maintenance between the visits. In order to keep her secret, she was unable to find a way to visit her settlement for the renewals she needed. But she did live near to it and so the decline was slow. She had a daughter. 'Half-faeryfolke' is a misnomer in that there is not one faeryfolke gene. It is more scattered than that so that a child of mixed parentage could be said to be anywhere from nearly completely human to almost completely faery. She loved her daughter but felt that her daughter was nearly wholely human so did not tell her of her heritage. I think she was wrong in her assessment probably due to erosion of her faery senses. Then she moved away from her woods and to a very large city. A large city is difficult for even a faeryfolke with their resources and strength at maximum levels. Her decline excelerated. She did finally return to her community for help. Her resources were so depleted the Healers did their best but there were so many years of neglect and abuse to her system that it was a very slow process. It took five years to regain a healthy status and there was some permanent damage to her faery senses. The Healers would not allow her to leave the Woods as they felt she could not tolerate even a short visit beyond their boundaries. She wanted to find her husband and daughter so much, but just as the Protectors can keep people out, they can keep people in."
This time Amanda looked Miles squarely in the face to ask, "Mama?"
Before answering Amanda, Miles gathered her closer enclosing her with both arms. He looked down into her face and said,"Yes, Amanda. The woman my mother befriended was Susannah, your mother."
"You've seen her, Miles?"
"No. Well I saw someone in the Atlantean Woods the day I took a boat on the lake that I felt was her but I've not met her."
"This explains so much."
"Such as Papa's regrets. Especially the one about wishing he'd told her that he knew. Such as the day I saw such yearning and need on Mama's face when she was looking across the lake at the Woods and did not know I saw her."
Amanda paused a moment.
"Miles?" she asked.
"What is it, Amanda?"
"You can visit her settlement, can't you? You could visit her for me? Tell me how she is doing?" requests Amanda.
"I can do that Amanda," Miles replies. "But you could too. You have faeryfolke in you. The Protectors would allow you in. You could see for yourself how she is doing."
"Miles, what would I say to her? Papa was so sad after she left. He really did love her. Couldn't she have written at least?" asks Amanda.
"I suppose she could have after she'd recovered enough. But several years had already past. She also still had her secrets. I would think it would be hard to explain in a letter and even harder for her to tell her husband they'd never be able to meet again. So many people have so many regrets about things they didn't say." Miles paused and hugged her just a bit tighter. "Lately, I've been fortunate enough to witness some very happy reunions. It seems to be the time for them."
Amanda returned the squeeeze then moved away from Miles, standing and walking to the other side of the gazebo. She turned and looked over at Miles. "I need some time to digest this information Miles. On one hand, I feel like a deserted child. On the other hand she is my mother and I've missed her. Then again on the other hand, Papa suffered so much. Too many hands again. It's a bad habit of mine," she added with a weak smile.
"Take all the time you need, Amanda. It's a lot to take in all at once," Miles reassured her.
"Miles, I' d like to hear more about faeryfolke. But first, why are you so certain I'm not clumsy?" Amanda asked.
Miles smiled at her. "It wasn't your own feet you were tripping over. It was a mischievious little imp who would dart in front of you. I could see him quite clearer. In the past few days, I feel that your faery side has been increasing. You seemed to stop the last time the imp tried to trip you. When he wasn't successful, he stopped and grinned at me, shrugged his shoulders and left. I don't think he'll return. Imps like their games to be easy."
"Oh!" exclaimed Amanda. "I think I know the time you meant! I didn't see anything but I did feel something so stopped a moment till the feeling left." Amanda twirled around, laughing. "This feels wonderful!"
Miles was concerned she might make herself dizzy with the whirling so arose and went to her. He grabbed her hands and twirled with her. Her hair was flying, her eyes twinkling and her laughter musical. Miles could not recall any sight that had ever been so beautiful to him as Amanda was at this moment. She ceased twirling and gave Miles a hug and a light kiss upon his cheek. Then she sat back down on the bench.
"Tell me more, Miles, please!" Amanda begged.
"I would love to. Right now though, I'm beginning to feel rather hungry. Could I treat you to dinner at the restaurant?" asked Miles.
"Oh my! The time has flown by, hasn't it?" Amanda smiled at Miles. "I've a suggestion."
"I see enough of the restaurant working there. How about I cook us a meal?" asks Amanda.
Miles stood in front of her and tipped her face to look into his. He took the invitation as a sign of trust and he wanted Amanda to know how precious he considered that trust. "Sounds wonderful," he said smiling.
Miles and Amanda decided that they would drive separately to Amanda's house; Amanda driving her car and Miles following in his rental car. As Miles turned onto her street he recognized the name on the sign was the same as the listing he had found for her father.
Miles pulled into the driveway behind Amanda. She had gone to her trunk to retrieve the bag she'd put in there earlier. Miles joined her as she was closing the trunk. As they walk to the door of the house, Amanda smiled at Miles and said, "I should warn you. I was rather impulsive with the invitation."
Miles looked at her, afraid she was regretting the invitation but he did not feel regret from her. What he felt was more akin to chagrin.
While unlocking the door, she continued, "I probably should have stopped at a grocery store on the way here. I've no idea what I might be able to make!"
Miles grinned at her. "Anything will be fine," he said.
In the kitchen now and studying the inside of the refridgerator, Amanda said, "Well I hope you mean that. I think I can make a cheese omelete and salad. And some refrigerator rolls. Does that sound alright?" asks Amanda.
"Better than alright," assures Miles. "Might I help?"
As she removes the eggs, cheese, rolls and vegetables and places them on the counter, she says, "Sure. Would you like to do the salad or omelete?"
"As an old bachelor, I've become pretty good at omeletes." The two set about preparing their meal with general chatter and a few laughs.
After eating their dinner and doing the cleaning up together, Amanda and Miles are sitting in Amanda's living room enjoying some herbal tea and cookies.
Amanda turns the conversation back to faeryfolke. "Tell me about sensing people. I know I feel things from you like if you are nearby or if you are happy or nervous. Do you feel things from me too? Can you read my thoughts?" she asked.
"Okay," Miles starts. "Faeryfolke are not telepathic. We can not send mental messages or read thoughts. But we can sense the presence of other faeryfolke. The closer the relationship to the other person, the stronger the awareness. It allows one to know where another is and if they are moving closer or further. I suppose it is something like radar. But it is not limitless. Even someone you share a strong bond with must be within a range to be sensed. They need, too, to be in an area where there is not a lot of interference such as a large city might have. Emotion sensing is a lttle different. We can feel the emotions of another person and very strong emotions can be felt from someone you have a close bond for at a greater distance than a presence could be felt. For example, if my sister was in danger and feeling great fear or had some good news and was feeling great joy, I would feel it even though we are much too far from each other to feel each other's presence right now. Sometimes, you may not want others to share your emotions. You can throw up a privacy screen on your emotions to block out everyone or just some."
"But not on your presence?" asks Amanda.
"Right. But privacy screens do require energy to maintain."
"Oh. When you are around a lot of faeryfolke you must be getting a lot of emotions. Isn't that difficult to handle?" asks Amanda.
"Have you ever been in a room full of people talking?"
"And notice that you don't really hear what everyone is saying? You can still hold a conversation with someone. There's a sort of natural selection. Faeryfolke develop that type of selection with their emotion sensing. In a crowd, I'd only really be aware of the emotions of those near to me and those I've a strong bond with," Miles explained.
"I think I understand," said Amanda. "But why would you need a privacy screen then?"
"There are various reasons. Perhaps you've some happy news that you wish to save to tell those close as a surprise. Sometimes, like making love, you may want only one person to know your emotions. That also saves embarrassment for those you have close bonds with." Miles smiles in remembrance.
"I guess so. You look like you know that feeling well."
Miles looked at Amanda. "As I said earlier, I've witnessed several reunions lately. My sister and her husband were estranged for many years. Her husband lived in the faeryfolke settlement at the Whimsical Woods but she and my nephew lived in the Outer World. She'd not used her faery skills in many years. When they were reunited, she didn't put up a privacy screen initially. It was a relief to me when she did. Her husband has been my closest friend since childhood. The two are very important to me and I'm so glad that they have reconciled and are together again. But some things are definitely meant only for the two of them to share."
"Miles," started Amanda looking very worried concerned. "I should have asked this sooner."
"What is it that has you so worried, Amanda?"
"Are you married?"
Miles smiled. "No, I'm not. I've only recently met the one meant to be my life-mate and have not yet had the opportunity to talk to her of marriage."
Miles felt the sadness sweep over Amanda as she misinterpeted his comment. She was sitting in an armchair looking so very hurt and sad. Miles left the couch and knelt on the floor in front of her and gathered her into his arms. "Amanda, you do know that I mean you. Don't you?"
Amanda couldn't answer as she had been trying so hard not to cry from thinking Miles was in love with someone. She felt some relief but was still afraid that speaking would loose the tears.
"Amanda, I meant to work up to that more slowly. I know you hardly know me. I hope I've not frightened you."
Amanda felt Miles' worry and knew that it was her turn to be reassuring. She placed her finger over Miles lips and said, "I'm not frightened. I am surprised. Happily so. You hardly know me either. How can you be so sure?"
Miles smiled at her and lightly kissed her finger that was still gently pressed against his lips. He placed her hand on his chest so that she could feel his heart and know his sincerity.
"Well," he began. "That is where faery senses can be a great help. I know that with you I feel something I've never experienced before. This love is a unique and wonderful blend of excitement, concern, caring, and desire."
Amanda looked at him and smiled. "And faeryfolke have a clear understanding and deep trust of their feelings?" she asked.
"Being honest, I have to say, not always. There are factors that can cause confusion and distrust. But I believe in these feelings completely. Nothing has ever felt so right to me. Besides." Miles paused unsure whether to proceeed.
"Besides?" asked Amanda.
"Well I dreamt of you in a certain way last night and I know that faeryfolke only have such dreams of a specific person if that person is the one meant as their life-mate."
"'In a certain way'?.... Me? ......In your dream?" Amanda seemed flustered, blushed and looked down.
Miles lifted her chin so that she looked up at him and smiled at her. "Did you dream of me to, Amanda, 'in a certain way'?"
"Yes." Then Miles lowered his lips to hers to place a gentle kiss. Amanda reached up placing her arms around Miles' neck keeping his face lowered to hers. Miles took that as an invitation to deepen the kiss and proceeded to do just that. Eventually Miles broke the kiss and just held Amanda tightly.
"Amanda, will you marry me and live in the Whimsical Woods with me?"
"Are you really sure, Miles? Part of me wants to say 'go slowly' but part of me is screaming 'YES! This is right'."
"I am very, very sure Amanda. I may not have known you long but I recognize you as my mate and I love you deeply," Miles assures her.
"I love you too Miles. Will I be allowed into the Whimsical Woods? Do they have a restaurant? Waitressing is all I know. I guess I'd have to sell the house. And what about Mama?" Amanda pauses for a breath and Miles stops her questions with a quick kiss.
"You would be allowed in. There is no restaurant. The rest can wait till another day to be decided. But not too long. I want you completely mine as soon as possible."
"I want that too. Miles, I don't know anything about faery society. Rules and etiquette and such."
"What are you wondering about Amanda?"
"I'm not sure how to say this Miles. I guess what I'm wondering is."
Amanda was blushing again. Miles raised an eyebrow.
"Miles, I'm thirty years old!" Amanda blurted. "I've not dated much but I have dated and ..."
"Aw," said Miles in comprehension. "I think I understand. I'm thirty-nine and a normal healthy male.
Actually faeryfolke are more open about such things. They accept their sensuality and sexuality as natural and normal. There is no offence attached to such actions for an adult before they have met their life-mate. When they find that very special person meant for only them, they are very loyal."
"What is a faeryfolke wedding like?" asks Amanda.
"Present faeryfolke weddings have much in common with human weddings." Miles explains, "A couple pledges their love and loyalty to each other in front of the community and there is a celebration after with dancing and fellowship. The pledge to each does not have to be public though for a faery couple to be considered married."
"So we could make a pledge to each other now and be considered married?" asks Amanda.
"And then you would be my husband and could," Amanda breaks off blushing again.
Miles smiles at her very widely. "Very definitely," he replies emphasizing it with a kiss.
"Good morning, my love." Miles kisses Amanda waking her. She opens her eyes and is relieved to see that Miles was not just a dream but somewhat disappointed that he is standing beside the bed fully dressed.
"Breakfast," he says holding up a bag from the drive-through in one hand.
Amanda starts to throw the covers back to get out of bed then quickly covers herself again. Miles just chuckled; said "See you in the kitchen"; and left the room.
Argh, thought Amanda as she got up, I've married a morning person! Married! As she showered, she relived the past night. It had been beautiful beyond her expectations. There was something to be said for experiencing the other person's feelings along with your own. Miles had taught her how to throw up a privacy screen for the future. The future! So many things to see to! She donned some jeans and a light Tshirt and hurried down the stairs to the kitchen.
Entering the kitchen, Miles greets her with a warmer kiss than the one he awoke her with then points to the table.
"I'll give your breakfast a zap in the microwave,"said Miles.
She sees a mug of tea awaiting her along with some wildflowers in a papercup vase. She smiles at them.
"I wasn't sure if you'd have a vase or not so I asked for a papercup when I got breakfast," Miles explains.
"They are lovely, Miles. Where did you get them?"
"I went to the campsite I've been using and gathered my things up. I took some time too absorb some energy from nature while I was there and gathered a few flowers at the same time."
"Is that why you look so much better than me this morning?" asked Amanda.
"I think you look quite wonderful," said Miles. "But you will have higher energy levels after you visit nature and absorb the atmosphere. There's a nice park I stopped at yesterday morning that we could go to to talk and make plans. Are you expected at the restaurant today?"
"No, I'm not," replies Amanda. "Today and tomorrow are my full days off."
"Do you feel you need to give them some notice or can you just quit?"
"Actually, some of the part-time waitresses have been asking for more hours, so that I could probably go in today and let them know and they can get my shifts all covered. I would need to clear out my locker as well."
"When you are done your breakfast, shall we go to the park?" asks Miles. "We could drop by the restaurant on the way."
"Let's go then," agrees Amanda as she stands up.
Miles takes the time for another hug and long, slow kiss which left Amanda feeling quite dizzy and not the least inclined to leaving the house.
[Whimsical Woods Index]