The next day Amanda listed the house for sale with a realtor. Then came the difficult decisions of which furniture and things she would take with her.
"Miles, will we need furniture?" asked Amanda.
"Some I think. I've lived in the Bachelors Quarters at the settlement. I just had a bed-sitting room with kitchenette and bath. My apartment in the Outer World wasn't any bigger," answered Miles. "I've grown really fond of that brass bed of yours so let's be sure and take it." He grinned at her.
Amanda smiled back at him. "Yes, we definitely need to take that with us."
"We can come back for more furniture when the house sells," added Miles. "We'll have to make at least one trip back for that, maybe more, so not everything needs to be decided today. We should have a better idea of what we need after we actually have our house."
"Are the houses very big in the settlement Miles?" asked Amanda.
"In some ways, they are but not in others," replied Miles. Amanda looked confused so he continued. "The individual rooms are roomy but not huge. Most homes have a small entry hall. To one side is the sittingroom with a kitchenette adjoining. Since meals are in the Dining Hall there is no need of dining facilities in the homes. There is the Great Hall for entertaining and parties but there is visiting of family and friends to consider so the sitting room is not too small. To the other side of the entry hall, is the bedroom area. There will be as many bedrooms and baths as the family needs. More can be added as needed. I'd just bet we'll need a second bedroom before a year is up so might as well start with two bedrooms."
"Miles! Do you really think so?" asked Amanda. "That would be so wonderful."
"Yes. It sure would be," agreed Miles.
As Amanda filled boxes with clothes, pictures and other little things, they were lined up for Miles to miniaturize prior to their departure.
Miles and Amanda decided to have a picnic on the riverbank for their midday meal. Amanda had really noticed the difference these nature visits had made to her well-being. While at the park Amanda felt a strong sense of joy she was sure originated with her mother. "Miles! They must have said yes! I can feel Mother's joy and relief."
"Your faery senses are really growing," Miles beamed at her. "You are most likely right. In which case we could probably bring her back to Watertown tomorrow and then start to Woodtown the next morning. We'll come back later to deal with the house."
"You miss your family, don't you, Miles?" Amanda asked softly.
Miles embraced her saying, "I do miss them but more importantly, I want them to meet you. I want to share with them how happy I am to have found my special love."
"I want to meet them too, Miles but I am still rather nervous about it," admitted Amanda.
"I know," said Miles. "I wish I knew how to put you at ease."
"Tell me more about your family," suggested Amanda.
"Okay," started Miles.
Miles told Amanda many family stories over the next several hours while they packed and cleaned. He told of his parents quest. He talked of his sister and her husband. He chuckled over tales of his nephew. The time past quickly and he thought he felt some of the tension easing from Amanda.
When they got into bed that night, Miles embraced Amanda and spoke softly into her ear, "I love you Amanda. You make me feel complete; that I have found another part of myself." And then he gently proceeded to show her how very much he loved her.
Amanda and Miles were up very early on the day they were starting their trek to Woodtown and the Whimsical Woods. They had visited the Antlantean Woods the day before and found Susannah all packed; ready and anxious to travel with them. Miles had miniaturized the boxes and furniture they were taking with them and packed them in his rental car, along with Amanda's, now tiny, car. Before getting into the car, Amanda gave the house a long last look. It felt like an ending and also a beginning; an end to feeling different, awkward and lonely; a promising new beginning filled with belonging, excitement and love.
She had felt Miles approach before he stood behind her enfolding her in an embrace while whispering in her ear, "I feel a mixtures of sentiments tumbling in you. Take your time."
Amanda turned in Miles' arms and looked up at him smiling. "I'm ready, Miles. Ready for a future brighter than I ever dreamt possible."
After a brief hug, they joined Susannah in the car for their journey. Being mindful, of Susannah's faery needs along with his and Amanda's, Miles broke the trip into short segments and they visited many greenspaces along the way. They decided to camp out at night after Susannah assured them that she would, not only be comfortable, but actually benefit from the closer contact with nature. The travel time gave the three much time to talk and get to know one another better. They reached Woodtown in the early afternoon of the third day. They left the car, still fully packed, in the garage at Sarah's house and set off walking to the Whimsical Woods.
They had just entered the Woods when an excited Pixelle greeted them, "Miles! Sarah said she felt you approaching."
Amanda stared opened mouth as a tiny little fairy flew to Miles face and gave him a tiny kiss.
"Hello Pixelle. It's good to be back," said Miles.
Amanda looked in the direction those words seemed to come from and saw a little blue worm. "Wisdom?" she inquired.
"Of course, " was the reply she heard.
Miles chuckled at Amanda's reaction to his friends and she looked at him. "I guess I should make introductions," said Miles as he scooped Wisdom from a boulder and put him in his shirt pocket. "Amanda and Susannah, meet my very good friends Wisdom and Pixelle.
"Wisdom and Pixelle, I'd like you to meet Amanda, my love and life-mate," Miles said while giving Amanda a light hug around the shoulders. "And her lovely mother, Susannah."
"We heard about Amanda," giggled Pixelle. "Sarah is so happy for you, Miles! Welcome to the Whimsical Woods Amanda and Susannah!"
"Welcome, of course!" added Wisdom from Miles' shirt pocket.
"Were you two heading to the settlement?" Miles asked his tiny friends.
"We've already visited with Sarah and Geoffie today," said Pixelle. "We're going to Grinny's now."
"Waiting here for Ms. Feathers, of course," added Wisdom.
"Ms. Feathers?" asked Amanda.
"Ms. Feathers is a sweet bird friend who often gives Wisdom a ride," explains Pixelle.
"Aw," said Amanda. "but don't birds eat w..... never mind. I need to stop thinking in Outer World terms."
"Hmph!" was Wisdom's reaction to that.
"Now, Wisdom. Amanda never knew about faeryfolke and all the wonderful beings that share their world until very recently," said Miles.
"I'm terribly sorry Wisdom," said Amanda. "Please forgive me."
"Of course," said Wisdom.
Miles set Wisdom back down on the boulder and the group exchanged good-byes.
Miles, Amanda and Susannah continued on their way to the faeryfolke settlement. Miles could feel the love and welcome that awaited them there.
As the trio neared the settlement, Miles said, "I can feel the family waiting at Sarah and Kevin's house so that's where we'll go first."
They turned down a street in the settlement and heard a loud, "Uncle Miles!". Geoffie was running to greet his uncle with a big hug which stopped the group.
After a hug Miles did the introductions.
"Amanda and Susannah, this young man is my nephew, Geoffie."
Noticing the frown on Geoffie's face, Miles added, "who recently has decided he prefers to be called Geoff. Geoff, this is your Aunt Amanda." Miles took Amanda's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "And her mother Susannah."
"Hello Aunt Amanda," Geoff beamed at Amanda. Getting very close to Amanda, Geoff whispered to her, "I'm really glad Uncle Miles found you. He needed someone to take care of him."
"I'm so glad he found me too," Amanda whispered in Geoff's ear as she gave him a brief hug.
Geoff turned to Susannah, "Nice to meet you, ma'am."
"Everyone is waiting in the house for you," Geoff told them.
"We better get there then," said Miles.
And off the four started. After passing a couple of homes, Geoff, who was leading, turned up a path to a house. They were almost to the stoop, when the dar flung open and Sarah appeared.
"Welcome and come in," said Sarah, holding the door open. She hugged each of her guests as they passed her. When they entered the sitting room, Miles handled the introductions.
"Mother, Father, Saran and Kevin; this is my love and life-mate Amanda and her mother, Susannah. Amanda and Susannah; this is my mother, Margaret; my father, Daniel; my sister, Sarah; and my closest friend, Sarah's husband, Kevin."
The introductions were followed by much hugging. Amanda was sure she'd never been hugged so much. With each hug from these important people in Miles' life, she felt acceptance. Finally she sat in an arm chair with Miles sitting on the arm of the chair with his arm along the back of the chair. Amanda turned slightly, with her hand on Miles' leg and looked up at him.
She whispered, "Miles." Miles brought his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer as he bent to hear.
"Your family are wonderful. I already feel accepted," said Amanda.
Miles smiled at Amanda and then lightly kissed her lips. "I told you so," he teased.
Watching the tender moment from the sofa, were a very happy Susannah, Margaret and Daniel.
"It is so good to see you again Susannah," said Margaret. "You look wonderful."
"It must be the happiness coming through," said Susannah. "I'm near to bursting with it."
After a brief pause, Susannah continued, "Margaret, I can never repay you for this. You gave me back my daughter."
Margaret smiled at her friend. "Looks we both gained a daughter. It has turned out much better than I could ever have anticipated."
"Yes," agreed Susannah.
"Is it time to go to the Dining Hall?" asked Miles.
"Well some things never change," laughed Sarah. "We can always count on Miles to be hungry!"
"Me too," added Geoff.
"Me three," laughed Kevin.
"Well, I guess we better go eat then," said Sarah. "We can bring dessert back here to have with tea and talk more."
And so the happy group set off. Geoff and his grandfather were in the front with Geoff filling in Daniel on the things he had done that day. Next came Margaret and Susannah catching up on the months since they had last seen each other. Then came Sarah with Amanda as the two young women got to know each other. And finally Kevin and Miles who watched over their laughing, smiling family and reflected on all the changes a couple of months had brought.
Sarah had brought a couple of pies back from the Dining Hall. She made some herbal tea to go with them as they sat in the sittingroom of her and Kevin's home enjoying dessert and conversation.
Amanda asked Miles what time they should start heading back to Sarah's old house for the night.
Kevin said, "There's no need to go back tonight. Miles, we moved your things from your suite to a guest cottage already. Susannah, you've been assigned Miles old suite. Geoff and I could help you bring things back tomorrow, Miles."
"I'd like to help, too," said Daniel.
"That sounds lovely," said Amanda. "But we didn't bring anything with us to stay the night."
"I'm sure, between Mother and I, we can come up with anything you and Susannah might need for the night. Most of Miles' things are already at the cottage," said Sarah.
"I'm sure we can too," said Margaret. "And tomorrow the four of us can discuss your formal Pledging and the house that will be built for you and Miles while the men are off collecting your things."
"That sounds fine to me," Amanda said. "Mama, Miles, is that okay with the two of you?"
"It seems like a good plan to me," replied Susannah.
"Fine by me," said Miles. "As long as I'm with Amanda, it doesn't matter where we are." He grinned widely at Amanda who blushed but smiled back.
"The Pledging? Is that like a wedding?" asked Amanda.
"Yes, that is what it is really," answered Margaret.
"Is it a lot of work to organize?" asked Amanda.
"Not for faeryfolke," replied Sarah. "Technically it could be arranged in minutes but a week or two is more usual. We have a wonderful dressmaker who can whip you up a dress exactly as you would like in minutes. Parties with dancing in the Great Hall, can be created quickly as well but it's fun to take some time to think what you would really like best."
"If it is alright with you, Amanda, I would like to have the honor of making your dress," said Susannah.
"Yes!" said Margaret. "Susannah is a very talented garmentmaker."
"Really, Mama?" asked Amanda. "I don't remember that."
"Well," started Susannah. "It is through the use of my wand which I never used in the Outer World."
"Oh," said Amanda. "I've never seen your wand, Mama. Miles has told me a bit about wands."
"I guess a date would be the first thing to decide," said Sarah as she started to make notes in a book. "Miles, did you have a day in mind?"
"Only soon," replied Miles.
"Big help, big brother," responded Sarah as everyone laughed."Amanda, how about you? Do you have a day?"
"Not really," answers Amanda. "How about one week. You said that would be a enough time to set things up and I thing much longer might just seem too long."
"One week it is then," says Sarah as she makes a note in the book.
"Oh is that enough time to mail invitations?" wonders Amanda aloud.
"Actually, there's no need for invitations. The whole settlement will be invited and it will be in our announcements. Using a comparison to an Outer World wedding, the ceremony, in this case the Pledging, is usually held in the Formal Gardens with the Celebration following in the Great Hall."
"That sounds lovely!" enthuses Amanda. "But, what if it rains?"
"Not a problem for faeryfolke," chuckles Miles. At Amanda's troubled expression, he continues, "We can't change weather, but, the Gardeners have the ability to erect canopies to keep all dry in mere seconds."
"I'll show you the gardens tomorrow, Amanda," offers Sarah.
The group continued to discuss arrangements for the Pledging until it was time for them to go their separate ways for the night.
Daniel, Margaret, Amanda, Miles and Susannah left together. Sarah had given Amanda and Susannah cases with items they might need overnight. First stop along the way was the Bachelor's Quarters where they made sure Susannah was settled comfortably for the night. Daniel and Margaret then showed Miles and Amanda the guest cottage that had been arranged for them and where Miles' things had been moved to before they continued on to their own cottage.
Alone in the bedroom of their assigned cottage, Amanda opened the case she had been given by Sarah. On top was a plastic zippered pouch with toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and soap all smelling of forest and flowers. Under it was a wrapped package with a note. The note said, "I've always wanted a sister! Welcome to the family. I hope you enjoy this little gift that your mother helped me with. Love, Sarah". She was starting to open it, when Miles entered the room. He picked up the card and was reading it when he heard a gasped "Oh my!" from Amanda. He looked up to see her holding up a very beautiful, and quite sheer, coral nightgown.
In the morning, the eight met over breakfast in the Dining Hall. When Sarah asked Amanda about her gift, Amanda blushed but told her, truthfully, that she loved it. Soon after the meal, they broke into two groups. Sarah and Margaret took Amanda and Susannah to the Gardens to continue planning the Pledging ceremony and celebration. Daniel, Miles, Kevin and Geoff headed off for Sarah's old house in Woodtown to collect Miles', Amanda's and Susannah's belongings. They took a wagon with them for carrying things back. With Miles miniaturizing abilities, the wagon would hold almost everything.
On the walk to Woodtown, Daniel walked a bit behind, observing the interaction between the two younger men and Geoff, quite like Miles and Kevin had watched the family the night before. He'd missed so much while on his quest - his daughter's wedding; the younger years of his grandson's life. But it was so good to be able to be so close to them now. He had missed out on such large chunks of Miles' and Sarah's lives too as they spent time in the Whimsical Woods. He could understand too why Miles had chosen the Woods over the Outer World when he became an adult. If he and Margaret had not undergone the Search, he would have had some times from those years but he'd not now have this much closer arrangement now. It would be just little bits of their lives ever. To have this nearness and contact, he decided, the sacrifice had been worth it. The time with his grandson was especially gratifying to him and he knew that living in separate worlds would never have allowed him to develop the closeness they had now between them. There was one thing though that interfered with his total enjoyment. He could still lose it all. This was the last part of the process but until he attained Honorary Faeryfolke Status, he knew he could still face rejection of his application and be once again on the outside of his family's lives. He tried not to dwell on it but it was always there in the back of his mind. To be shut out after this would be far worse than before. He wouldn't be wondering what he was missing; he'd know what he was missing. He tried to live each day thankful for that day and filling it full of activities in case it was his last day. Although not faeryfolke, he knew that his family felt something of his inner turmoil. Margaret was especially in tune with his feelings and he knew she worried for him. Oh how he wished the Day of Induction when he would get his official status would hurry and arrive. It was good to know that Miles and Kevin were highly respected here in the Settlement. Kevin's roots like Margaret's, went back many, many generations. Kevin was even a member of the Council. But he knew that some of the Council was very wary where he was concerned. Admittance of a non-faeryfolke to a settlement was a very rare occurrence. Zelda's antics and the pain they'd caused certainly did not help his cause. He had had no idea how devious she was until he'd found out that she'd told his children that he and Margaret were dead. It hurt to know his own sister could sink to such a low tactic to serve her ends. He hoped there was no more to learn ..... that there would not be something that could be discovered that might hurt his application, or worse, hurt the Settlement. He may not be faeryfolke, but he sensed that there was something she'd left in place that might still cause problems. Shaking off the worrying sensations, he looked up and realized that the others were turning into the walk to the porch of the house he'd grown up in. His father had died when he was young and he'd lived there with his mother and older sister until he was sixteen. He'd never really felt comfortable in that house. Shortly after he'd moved out his mother had died and Zelda, who'd always lived there, inherited the house. He only took Margaret to the house once to meet Zelda. He knew the meeting had not gone well but hadn't been able to fully understand his young bride's upset until Margaret had told him she'd been overcome with negative sensations during the visit. After that he never returned to the house. The occasional visits with Zelda had been at his home or in public places. It had been over forty years since he'd been here.
Kevin had stopped a short distance up the walk, putting his arms out to each side to halt Geoff and Miles. "Wait!" he commanded. Daniel heard him and was overcome with a strong sense of trouble.
[Whimsical Woods Index]