After deciding to use Miles' rental car as it was parked behind Amanda's car, they went to the restaurant. Miles waited ouside with the car while Amanda went in and settled things. After a while she returned carrying a bag with the things from her locker in one hand and a bag with some take-out sandwiches and muffins in the other. Miles deposited the bags in the trunk and they went on to the park by the river.
At the park, Amanda sat on the bench of a pinic table but Miles opted for his favorite spot; directly on the grass. Miles decided to start the conversation with a topic that he felt needed settling most.
"Amanda, have you decided about visiting your mother?" When Amanda did not answer, Miles added, "I would be with you."
Amanda went and sat on the grass looking at Miles. "Miles, I know you feel my fears and confusion. I really don't know what is best."
Miles opened his arms and Amanda went into them snuggling her face against his chest. Miles gently stroked her back.
"Amanda, lately I seem to be hearing a lot of people talking of regrets. Even faeryfolke can not change the past. But hopefully we can learn from it and use that to help direct the future. For your own peace of mind, Amanda, you need to accept that your mother did what she felt was best at the time. Let the regrets, hurts and disappointments of the past go. They serve no useful purpose. You can start a new chapter in your relationship with your mother. It'll have a better chance of working out if you start it on a clean sheet free of the stains of the past."
Amanda tilts her head to look at Miles. "How, Miles? How do I let them go?"
Miles places a gentle kiss on her forehead. "That's the hard part and I'm not sure I have an answer or if there is a general answer. It is probably different from person to person and situation to situation. Maybe the first step is to see your mother. You have both been hurting. Maybe you can help each other heal."
"She is hurting, isn't she Miles? I think I can feel her and feel her pain."
"Yes she is. Your faery senses are sharpening and that you feel your mother is very likely. That pain can not ease without action. Amanda, you are the one that must take the first step."
Amanda nestles back against Miles chest. She cries softly as Miles strokes her hair and back. When the tears cease, Amanda tilts her head to look at Miles again.
"You would stay with me? I know I'd need you, Miles."said Amanda.
"I would be there as long as you needed me to be."
"Alright. When will we go?" asks Amanda.
"Well," starts Miles. "I think we should leave in the morning. I should warn you. Cars and travel are not good for faeryfolke and I'll need to stop in a natural area from time to time to renew myself. If we leave after some breakfast we should get there in time for a meeting before the midday meal. There are a few things I would like to do there in the afternoon then before we start back."
"Should we pack a lunch to take or will there be a restaurant there?" asks Amanda.
"Neither," Miles answers. "Faeryfolke settlements are communal in nature. There will be a Dining Hall for meals. Homes do have small kitchens but they are mainly used for snacks and such. Speaking of lunch though, I think I could use one of those sandwiches you picked up at the restaurant." Miles arises and retrieves the bag from the trunk and brings it back to Amanda.
"I've an awful lot to learn about faeryfolke and their communities. Do you have a house in the Whimsical Woods, Miles?" Amanda asked.
"No. I've been living in a suite in the Bachelor's Quarters which is actually for all unattached adults, not just men. We'll be able to live in a Guest Cottage until our home is built which is much quicker than humans build houses."
"We'll be able to live together before we have a wedding ceremony?"
"Amanda, we are married already in faeryfolke eyes. There is something I should have asked last night. I know you have lived all your life in the Outer World. Do you wish to have a wedding in the Outer World, too? I'd be happy to do that for you."
"Oh, Miles!" Amanda gives him a big hug. "You are so sweet to offer but we'll be living in the faeryfolke world so I'm fine with faeryfolke customs. I think I'm beginning to understand about the energy to be found in nature. I do feel different since sitting here. I'm not sure how to describe it other than 'good'."
"Your faeryfolke side is blossoming beautifully, Amanda."said Miles and since she was already in his arms he proceeded to kiss her soundly.
At the end of the kiss, in a breathy voice Amanda asks, "What do we do now?"
Miles grins at her saying, "I know what I want to do and there are some other things that can be accomplished from your house too, so, shall we?"
Amanda grinned back at him before racing him to the car.
"I need to write a letter to my parents and Sarah and Kevin. Do you have some stationery I could use, Amanda?" When Miles gets no response from his dreamy-eyed wife, he smiles and says, just a bit louder, "Amanda?"
Amanda shakes her head dispelling the beautiful replays of earlier with Miles. "I'm sorry, Miles. Did you ask something? I guess my mind was somewhere else."
Miles grinned widely. "I think I know where. I just asked if you had some stationery so that I might write my parents and Kevin and Sarah. I know they will have felt my happiness at finding my life-mate but they won't know that's the cause unless I write them."
"Oh gosh Miles! What if they don't like me?"
"I love you Amanda and they'll know that and be happy for me. Then, they'll probably love you almost as quickly as I did." reassures Miles.
"You really believe that I know. I hope you are right. I've stationery in the desk behind you. How long till we go there and meet them?"
Miles sits at the desk, opens the drawer and takes out the things he needs. As he starts to write, he tells Amanda, "It really depends on how long things take to wrap up here. I realize I'm asking a lot of you to move into the Whimsical Woods with me. We could leave major decisions like the house to come back and do at a later time. Whatever you are most comfortable with."
Amanda silently wanders around the room stopping and studying figurines and some photos as she makes her way. Miles has finished his letters and joined her by some shelves where she is looking at photos in frames. He stands behind her and wraps his arms around her. Softly he whispers in her ear, "It's better to wait and be sure of your decisions than to decide for the sake of deciding."
"I know. You finished the letters?"
"Yes. I need to go and post them. There's another stop I'd like to make too. Would you like to come with me?" asks Miles.
"Of course!" answered Amanda.
When Miles chuckles at her response, Amanda looks at him quizzically. So Miles responds, "Faeryfolke are not the only inhabitants of the Whimsical Woods. I've a very small friend named Wisdom and his favorite phrase is 'of course'."
"A very small friend?"
"Oh yes. Wisdom is a worm."
"A worm?" asks Amanda increduously.
"A worm. At the other end of the scale is Grinny. Grinny is a grizzly bear and a good friend."
Amanda is staring at Miles with her mouth open. "A grizzly bear friend named Grinny?"
"Uh huh. Now lets get to the shops. Okay?" asks Miles.
"Sure," replies Amanda. "They are only a few blocks from here."
Off they set dropping Miles' letters to his parents, Kevin and Sarah, and Geoffie in a letter box along the way. Miles wanted to go into the Curiosity Shop, so in they went. Miles led Amanda to a display case with rings carved from coral, green jade and lavendar jadeite. Faeryfolke, generally speaking did not wear jewelry and they did not use a ring as part of their wedding ceremony, but Miles wanted Amanda to have a small token of his love. He had looked at these rings while visiting the shop a few days earlier and been particularly fond of a coral one that was carved to be a band of roses. When Amanda looked at the rings, she immediately pointed to the ring of coral, saying, "Miles! Isn't that ring beautiful?" Miles smiled at their thinking alike and asked the shopowner to let them try the ring. Now, Miles knew that he could adjust the sizing if need be, but his ability to change objects size was something he'd not yet told Amanda about so was relieved when the ring turned out to be the right size.
Miles paid for the ring and they were about to leave when Amanda asked him, "Should I get a gift to take to my mother tomorrow?"
"The best gift for your mother, "said Miles, "is you."
"I hope you are right, Miles. I just hope you are right."
The next morning, Miles and Amanda were off early to visit the Antlantean Woods settlement. Miles had visited many faeryfolke communities but this was his first time to visit this one. He wondered what other inhabitants they might come across besides the faeryfolke. Even with a renewal stop along the way they arrived at the edge of the Antlantean Woods shortly before 11 am. After walking along a path a short distance, Amanda was surprised to see shrubs on the right of her move apart exposing a path previously hidden.
"The Protectors have recognized us and given us access," Miles explains to Amanda.
In the distance, they can see the buildings of the settlement and a man walking toward them on the path. When they are near to the man, they stop and the man greets them.
"Hello. Amanda and Miles?" he asks.
"Yes," replies Miles.
"We've been expecting you both. My name is Kennan. Welcome to the Faeryfolke Settlement of the Antlantean Woods. Susannah is down by the lakeshore where she spends most of her days. She has waited a long time for this day."
"How do we get there?" asks Miles.
"I'll show you," says a raspy voice. The three look down at a toad on the path.
"There you are Tutor! I was hoping you'd show up," says Kennan. "Tutor is an excellent guide."
"Happy to meet you Tutor," responds Miles.
"Yes. Nice to meet you," adds Amanda hesitantly.
"Follow me," rasps Tutor.
Before following Tutor, Miles asks Kennan, "May I speak with you after the midday meal?"
"I'll look forward to it." replies Kennan.
Miles and Amanda hurry their pace to catch up to Tutor.
"Miles!" exclaims Amanda. "I can feel her close!"
Miles takes Amanda's hand. "It's going to be okay, Amanda. I'm with you."
As they rounded a bend and reached the lakeshore, they saw a woman sitting in a chair under a tree. Miles recognized her from the day on the lake.
"Mama?" whispered Amanda so low that only Miles heard.
"Yes," he said.
As they drew nearer to the woman she looked up at them.
"Mama?" asked Amanda.
"Amanda?" the woman responded looking at Amanda with an expression of wonderment.
"Yes, Mama." Amanda said as tears rolled down her cheeks and she squeezed Miles hand.
"Hello Susannah," said Miles. "I'm Margaret and Daniel's son, Miles."
Susannah stood and looked at him. "Hello Miles. You look so much like your father. I hope your parents are doing well. Thank you for finding Amanda for me."
Susannah turned back to Amanda opening her arms. Amanda stepped into her mother's hug but did not relinquish Miles hand.
"Why don't we walk to the Dining Hall and talk on the way?" suggests Miles. "Susannah, could you lead the way?"
"I'll show you!" came that raspy voice again.
"Amanda, I'm so sorry for the way things turned out. Can you forgive me?" Susannah asked.
"Mama, a very dear friend advised me to let go of the past and start fresh. That is what I'd like to do."
"Thank you, Amanda. This dear friend wouldn't happen to be named Miles, would he?"
"Susannah," interupts Miles. "Amanda is much more than a friend to me. She is my life-mate."
Amanda and Miles look at each and the love that passes between them in that look is unmistakeable.
"Aw," says Susannah, "I have a son now too."
"Follow me!" came Tutor's clear order and the three of them set off to obey!
At lunch, Amanda finally frees Miles' hand as she begins to relax with her mother. The meal and conversation go so well that Miles, suggests that Amanda and Susannah go back down to the shore and visit while he runs a couple of errands. He has something he wishes to discuss with Kennan and a purchase that he wishes to make at the Emporium. With those complete, Miles is heading to the lakeshore when he feels a wave of sadness come over Amanda. He breaks into a run. When he arrives he pauses at the sight of the two women embracing and softly weeping.
Amanda looks up at him and says, "It's alright, Miles. Mama asked about Papa."
Miles quietly joins the embrace. After a few minutes, Susannah assures them she is ok. She sits back in her chair and Amanda and Miles sit on the grass nearby.
"I have some news," starts Miles. "I went to talk to Kennan to ask if I could make a request of the Healers."
"Something wrong?" a concerned Amanda asks.
Miles smiles at Amanda. "No. I hope something is right though. As I understand things, you are not able to leave here, Susannah, because the Healers have told the Protectors to keep you in."
"Yes," said Susannah. "Why do you ask?"
"I have requested that the Healers allow me to take responsibility for you and pledged to see you safely to the faeryfolke settlement in the Whimsical Woods if you wished to live there."
"Oh Miles!" Amanda gave him a big hug. "Do you think they will?" Amanda turns to her mother, "Mama would you like that?"
"Miles, Amanda, I'd love that! To be near you, Amanda, and to see Margaret and Daniel. It would be wonderful." answered Susannah.
"Kennan will present the request at a meeting tomorrow and, Susannah, they will let you know right away,"said Miles. "We'll come back to visit the next day and you can tell us the results and we can make further plans. I think there is a very good chance they'll agree."
"That would be so," Amanda stops mid-sentence, staring down the shoreline.
Miles follows her gaze to see some merpeople swimming ashore where their tails mutate into legs. They then stand up and walk into a small building emerging a few minutes later fully dressed. They appeared to be a family with an adult male and female and a young boy and girl.
Miles smiled at Amanda. "Well, they are probably going into town for something, Amanda. They couldn't very well do that nude."
"Huh? I understand. I think." Amanda sounds confused still.
"Susannah, is there a large community of merpeople in the lake?" asks Miles.
"I believe there are about 100 families," answers Susannah.
"Really?" asks Amanda.
Miles just chuckles. "Amanda, you have so many new and wonderful things to discover."
"I guess so." says a still slightly dazed Amanda.
Miles stands up and offers Amanda a hand to help her up.
"We better go now, Amanda, so that we'll be in Watertown by supper time."
Miles turns to Susannah who has risen from her chair and gives her a hug. "We'll be back in 2 days Susannah."
"Thank you, Miles, for everything," said Susannah returning the hug. Susannah then turns to Amanda and the two women hug.
"I love you, Amanda."
"I love you, too, Mama."
When the goodbyes are complete, Miles and Amanda start through the woods back to where they left the car. Before leaving the faeryfolke secret path for the regular path, Miles stops and gathers Amanda into a warm hug.
"Amanda, you were wonderful with your mother."
"Miles, thank you! Thank you for being with me. Thank you for giving me back Mama."
Miles kissed her briefly before the two continued hand in hand. At the car, Miles told Amanda, "I got a surprise for you at the Emporium."
"If I told you it wouldn't be a surprise," teased Miles. "After dinner, I'll show you."
"Argh!" exclaimed Amanda but she was laughing as she entered the car for the trip back to Watertown.
On the way into Watertown, Amanda and Miles stopped at a grocery store and bought a few things. They had agreed on spaghetti and salad for dinner with ice cream for dessert. Arriving at Amanda's house, they split the preparation duties. Over dinner, Amanda had some questions to ask Miles now that she had visited a faeryfolke settlement.
"Miles, I didn't notice any cars there. Are there cars in the Whimsical Woods settlement?"
"No. The Whimsical Woods is also free of motor vehicles."
"That means I'll have to sell my car, too, then, doesn't it?" asked Amanda.
"Not necessarily," answered Miles. "There are options of places you could store your car to use whenever you wanted to."
"Really? I'm not sure whether I wish to keep it or not. I guess I can leave that for a while then. I have decided I wish to sell the house though. Most of the memories here are sad ones. I'll get it listed tomorrow but what if it's not sold before we are ready to go to the Whimsical Woods?"inquires Amanda.
"Sarah still owns our grandparents' home in Woodtown," said Miles. "That's where I set up to start the search for you. I had the utilities re-connected. We could leave the phone number for there with the realtor to let us know and check the answering machine each day. There's also the option of email."
"Sounds like Woodtown and the Whimsical Woods are close."
"Yes, they are. Whimsical Woods reaches right up to the Woodtown boundary. Sarah's garage is one option for your car."
"Alright. But driving 2 cars there will feel lonely, Miles."
"True but there are ways around that." responds Miles.
"How?" asks Amanda.
"Later," replies Miles with a grin. "I'll explain after I give you your surprise."
"Alright. Keep your little surprise. Ready for dessert?"
"Sure am! Why don't I dish up the ice cream while you clear the table?"offers Miles.
"Sounds fine to me," replies Amanda.
As they both sit back down to eat their ice cream, Miles looks at his dish of rocky road ice cream and chuckles softly. Amanda looks at him puzzled.
Miles smiles at her explaining, "It's the nuts in the ice cream. Everytime I see nuts in anything they bring to mind a friend and I can hear him yelling, 'No nuts!'. It's a very important consideration to him."
"Is he in the faeryfolke settlement at Whimsical Woods?" asks Amanda.
"No. He's human although I really think he must have some faeryfolke blood in him. He is a very frequent visitor at a cabin in a clearing on one edge of the Woods. He's one of a group of fine people that can usually be found there. Some of the cabin people know of the faeryfolke and other special inhabitants of the Whimsical Woods."
"Are there any other humans there?"
Miles smiled. "There's a pair of newlyweds living in a cottage just inside the Woods not far from the stream and waterfall. They only have a vague idea of the enchantments of the Woods and how that played a part in their relationship."
After a moment's pause, Miles suggests, "Lets get these dishes done so I can show you your surprise."
"Don't I even get a little hint?" asked Amanda snuggling up to Miles with an arm around his neck.
Miles smiles at her sweetly. "Well," he starts then pauses to give her a tiny kiss on the nose. "Nope."
"Now?" asks Amanda as the two are sitting in the living room drinking a cup of tea. "Please, Miles! Curiosity is killing me!"
"Alright, Ms. No-patience!" said Miles grinning.
He undid the top few buttons on his shirt. As he opened the shirt, Amanda saw a secret pocket. From it Miles drew out two wands and placed them on the coffee table. One was a deep forest green with a spiral band of glowing neon green and the other was plain black. Amanda stared at them.
"Magic wands?" asked Amanda. "And why is one so bright and colorful and the other so plain?"
"Well," Miles began, "they are wands. They do not have any magic powers on their own really. They have to be charged up with your own magic. It's more of a focus and conduit for your personal magic. Not so very different then your sponge was. The plain one I bought today for you. When it starts to hold your magic it will change and be uniquely yours."
"Could I just use yours?" asked Amanda.
"You could in a limited way for a limited time. It would transform into your own just as a new one would. If I use a new one, it will transform to look just as my current one does," explained Miles.
"What will mine look like when it transforms?"asked Amanda.
"I don't know," answered Miles. "It will start at one end and work down so you'll get an idea soon after you begin using it. Each is unique to the individual both in terms of appearance and what they will do. You'll be able to tune it to more things over time." Miles smiled. "My nephew was stuck on fast food when I last saw him."
"How long since you started to search for me, Miles?"
"About 2 weeks I guess. I spent about a week trying to find a trace of you in Metropolis. When I switched the search to Watertown I got a phone listing in your father's name quite quickly." responded Miles.
"I've never bothered to get the phone listing changed," explained Amanda. "Did you spend a week in Metropolis?"
"No," said Miles. "I used the internet to do my initial searching. If I had found a lead there, I would have gone. I was really relieved not to have to. I've visited many towns in the Outer World, as well as several faeryfolke settlements but have managed to avoid Metropolis and hope I can continue to avoid it. If I'd have had an idea that was where Sarah and Geoffie were during that lost year, I'd have been there in a minute."
"Miles...." Amanda started hesitantly.
"What's troubling you Amanda?" he asked gently.
"I guess I was wondering ..... how do faeryfolke support themselves? What types of jobs? What about money? All that sort of thing." replied Amanda.
"Aw, I see. First of all any money you have you can keep in an Outer World bank for your use whenever you may want. Faeryfolke that have never left their settlements don't have any such resources but the settlement would provide for them should they ever need anything. There are several Councils to deal with different areas of concern for the settlement including one that watches over Outer World investments on the settlement's behalf so that there is money if and when needed. As I said before it's a communal society. We all do what's needed to be done. Faeryfolke are assessed on their talents and given responsibilities to suit. Some positions are for a lifetime like Healers but most are constantly changing. I've done many different things. I've been a Mentor, Teacher and a Coach but mostly I act as a liason with the Outer World as I know how to cope in the Outer World fairly well. As well I was living mainly in the Outer World for 10 years watching over Sarah and Geoffie and I took on a number of different jobs there over that time span. I will admit, no one does what might be called 'drudge' jobs as we do enlist magic to handle those things. Sarah, through her wand, can handle some major cleaning jobs. Many other faeryfolke have similar abilities."
"What about yours, Miles? What can you do through your wand?" asked Amanda.
"One handy thing is miniaturizing, especially when packing and moving. When I mentioned options earlier, I was thinking that we could go back in one car and take the other miniaturized with us. It does not keep things permanently miniaturized. If not re-sized back before the limit, they will automatically re-size at that time. Also, there is also a limit to how much I can keep in a miniaturized state at any given time," explained Miles.
"How do I go about using mine?" asked Amanda.
"How did you get the sponge to make the spills disappear?" asked Miles.
"Well," said Amanda. "I'm not really sure. Several years ago I remember taking the sponge to clean up a spill on a white tablecloth and being very worried that it would stain. I wished that it would just disappear and when I touched the sponge to it, that is what happened. It disappeared!"
"That is basically how you get your wand to work too. Although not everything you wish for will happen."
Amanda picked up the plain black wand. She thought she felt a bit of a tingle. She noticed that about an inch on the end that she was holding, was no longer black but a mix of white, coral, and salmon in a marbelized pattern. Amanda thought it quite beautiful. She wished for Miles to tell her he loved her.
Frowning, she said, "I guess that didn't work."
"What didn't?" inquired Miles.
"Well I made a wish and it didn't happen."Amanda explained.
"Which was...?" prompted Miles.
"Um, well, I wished for you to tell me you loved me," said Amanda blushing.
Miles smiled. "I do love you but you've just seen one of the limits of wands and faery magic. You can not direct another being's actions."
"Oh! Okay. One more serious question about faeryfolke, Miles,"said Amanda.
"Alright. What is it?" asks Miles.
"Faeryfolke .... are they immortal? I guess not because it sound like my mother nearly died but I want to know for sure, so are they?" asked Amanda.
"You are right. Faeryfolke usually live long, healthy lives but are not immortal. I've met some immortals and have learnt that it is not so wonderful as one might think. I'm not sure I'd wish to be immortal myself," answered Miles.
Miles got up and walked over to the chair Amanda was sitting and, taking her hands pulled her to her feet.
"Question time is over for now. Time for bed," he said.
"But I'm not sleepy!" Amanda protested coyly.
"Neither am I," said Miles laughing.
[Whimsical Woods Index]