Just before entering the house, Hugh gave an amulet on a chain to each of Daniel, Miles and Kevin to put on.
Daniel had said he knew of no secret compartments in the house from his years growing up there. Miles, who had helped Sarah with the redecorating projects over the years, had never noticed any places that may have been added after Daniel's time.
Everyone had agreed that Zelda's room was the most logical place to find something. Daniel did mention that in the years that his mother was ill, Zelda had gotten a lock put on the back bedroom as well and it was only unlocked when Zelda was in there. Miles was never allowed to be alone with his mother. Zelda was present anytime he'd been allowed a visit. But Miles pointed out, that had been Sarah's bedroom and had had a full redecorating while she lived in the house, including the removal of old wallpaper and carpeting.
On the way to the house the group had debated the merits of splitting up and doing different rooms or going as a team room to room. In the end it was decided that they would work together. One of the reasons was the acknowledgement that everyone sees things differently and one of them might catch something another would miss. They started with the basement and worked their way up leaving Zelda's room till the last. The search had been fruitless but they were about to enter Zelda's room.
Daniel felt very odd to be in the room he'd only ever gotten glimpses of. Miles had never gone in the room before because he knew Sarah didn't want him too but he felt no awkwardness being in the room. For Hugh and Kevin the room was only a room. The room was more than a little dusty but they started to search leaving the obvious, the desk till the last.
Kevin checked the nightstand first and found a diary for the year that Zelda had convinced Sarah to leave him. There was no time for reading now but all agreed, it was certainly something to take back with them and study.
"Bingo!" exclaimed Miles from the closet. "Zelda loved to keep records. Here are diaries going way back. I think there's about 10 per box and 6 full boxes plus one partial box."
"I'll put the diary from the nightstand in that box," said Kevin.
"I'll miniaturize everything before we leave so it'll be easy to carry back," said Miles.
"Well, well, well," said Daniel. "There's something besides dustballs under the bed!"
Daniel brought out a metal box with a padlock from under the bed.
"It's getting close to time for the noon meal," said Hugh. "Miles, why don't you miniaturize the desk along with the box and books and we'll work on the locks back at the Settlement?"
"That sounds like a good idea," agreed Daniel.
"I think so too," said Kevin.
"Well I'll make it unanimous then!," said Miles.
Miles miniaturized the items and Hugh put them in a sack he'd brought along. He would restore them when all the adults concerned met after the midday meal in the Council Library.
As they walked back to the Settlement, Miles asked his father about something that had been puzzling him.
"Father," started Miles,"you said that Zelda took care of your mother."
"Yes," said Daniel.
"And you had a housekeeper?"
"Yes. Why?" asked Daniel.
"I was wondering when Zelda worked and doing what. Where was the money coming from to run the household?" asked Miles.
"Zelda didn't need to work. She had a trust fund from her father," answered Daniel. "I believe my father left some money too to my mother."
"Whoa! You had different fathers?"asked Miles. "I didn't know that."
"I've never really talked about Zelda or our parents much. She was 18 years older than I. It was a second marriage for my mother who was several years older than my father," replied Daniel.
"Very interesting," said Hugh.
Geoff was having trouble concentrating on his studies. It's not that he was bored or anything. Classes in the settlement were much more interesting than school in the Outer World had been. There was still math and science and history and geography. But they were different too. It was all in a faeryfolke context. There were classes in faeryfolke culture and magic too. He had some catching up to do to be on a level with his age group but it was so interesting and exciting to learn about that he devoted extra time to it. He'd made a couple of really good friends who were being especially helpful, Tristan and Belinda. They had were always there if he was unsure about anything to help him along. Funny, thought Geoff, how quickly he could get to know and find friends here where he'd never had a close friend in the Outer World. That didn't mean he'd not socialized. He did get to know kids from school and sport leagues but no one that he felt close to; no one he could share himself with completely. Now, of course, he knew why he'd always felt so different. He was! But not anymore. Here in the settlement he fit in. He truly liked his classmates and classes. He was having trouble concentrating because he wondered what was happening at the meeting.
At the midday meal, much discussion centered on Great-Aunt Zelda. Geoff was glad he'd been too young to remember her. She certainly did not sound like a very nice person. And now it turned out that she and grandfather had had different fathers. He wondered what other things his parents and everyone were learning while he was here. His dad had promised to come for him if they needed him and to let him know what all went on. Wow! It felt so good to have a dad and his was the very best. Just a few short months ago, he had no idea what his dad was like. Uncle Miles was terrific and Geoff loved him but he was so, so happy to have his own dad. And his mom was finally happy! That was better than he ever imagined. When she smiled now, he saw her whole face smile not just her lips and she smiled almost all the time! Things were going so well, he was afraid he might wake and find it was all just a dream. He wondered too if there might be something happening at the meeting that might snatch this all from him.
Break time at long last! It would be good to talk with Tristan and Belinda who knew about his family's problems with the house. They always met under a big oak tree in front of the building.
"Hello Tristan! Hello Belinda!"
"Hello Geoff," said Tristan. "Did you learn anything new at the midday meal?"
"Hello Geoff," said Belinda. "Are you still worried?"
"I'm a bit worried. I felt what happened to Uncle Miles and it was really bad. All I learnt was that my great-aunt Zelda was only a half-sister to my grandfather. My dad, uncle, grandfather and one of the Learned went to the house this morning. They brought back stuff to go through and are doing that this afternoon at the Council Library," explained Geoff to his friends.
"Wow! Too bad you couldn't be there," said Tristan.
"I'm sure they'll let you know what they find out," said Belinda.
"I know," said Geoff. "I'm just afraid that maybe there's something that could take all this away from me. I don't want to see my mom sad again or lose my dad."
"Oh Geoff, I really don't think that'll happen!" exclaimed Belinda.
"Boy, Geoff, that would be horrible!" said Tristan. "But we're friends no matter what."
"That's right," said Belinda as she took Geoff's hand and gave it a squeeze.
The three friends sat in quiet reflection on the grass under the oak until it was time to return to their classes.
After leaving Daniel, Kevin and Miles, Hugh had taken the items removed from Zelda's house to The Council Library. Alden spent his entire days now in the special chair he had in the Library. Hugh gave Alden a brief report and then headed for the Dining Room.
At the Dining Hall, Kevin had met him at the door and invited him to come sit with his extended family. This was Hugh's first time meeting Susannah although he had noticed her from a distance over the last couple of days. He was quite sure that she had noticed him as well although he had no idea why that would be or why that pleased him so much. He felt a happiness in her but it seemed edged in sadness and a feeling of loneliness although he saw her surrounded by her new family. Still, meeting her had been so pleasing, he almost felt guilty. When this Zelda and the house thing was cleared away, he hoped he'd get a chance to get to know Susannah better. Hugh had never married; never found his life-mate. He and Margaret had been such close friends as children that he'd thought maybe that would evolve into the special feelings that exist between life-mates. He'd even been jealous of Daniel at first when Margaret had come to him, in friendship, to confide that she'd fallen in love with someone in the Outer World. The jealousy faded as his love for his friend, Margaret, compelled him to be happy for her. He had devoted himself then to his studies to acquire a Learned position on the Council. The activities of Council had been very rewarding over the years. He'd also had a special relationship with his nephew, Kevin that helped fill the need to be a father. Kevin's father, Hugh's brother, was from the Whimsical Woods settlement but his mother was from a settlement in the Whispering Woods and when Kevin was a teen, they had left to move to his mother's community. Kevin had asked to stay in the Whimsical Woods with all of the friends he knew and his parents agreed to let him stay with Hugh as his guardian. Hugh had been content and felt that his life was complete and full until seeing Susannah. Now he was aware of a void.
As the group left the Dining Hall, Geoff set off back to his classes and the adults to the Council Library. As they walked the adults paired off to talk as they walked. Hugh found himself walking with and talking to Susannah. He was glad to have this chance to speak with her.
"How do you like our settlement, Susannah?" asked Hugh.
"It's a beautiful place," answered Susannah. "It is wonderful to be near to my daughter and her new family. And I'd gotten to know Daniel and Margaret during the Antlantean Woods part of their trek."
"I sense a 'but', Susannah," said Hugh.
"You are very perceptive," said Susannah with a half-smile.
"What is it then?" asked Hugh.
"I miss the lake. The faeryfolke of the Antlantean Woods are very drawn to water," explained Susannah. "With the travelling days, it has been nearly a week since I was by the lake after spending years sitting by it."
"It has been such a busy time since you've gotten here, I suppose no one has told you about our little lake, let alone taken you there," said Hugh.
"No! They haven't!" exclaimed Susannah.
"I have a feeling we'll clear up this business with Zelda and the house quite quickly. Perhaps after that I could take you there. Perhaps with a picnic lunch," offered Hugh.
Susannah smiled at him. "I'd love to but there's Amanda and Miles pledging in a few days. After that I'm sure there'll be time though."
"That's right! I'm sorry I wasn't thinking. That's on for Saturday, so how about Monday for a picnic at the lake?" asked Hugh.
"I'd like that very much," said Susannah.
Hugh and Susannah then realized that, absorbed in their conversation they'd walked past the Council Building. They turned and walked back to join the rest of the group waiting in the lobby for them and were quite oblivious to the grins of the others.
The eight adults entered the Library and greeted Alden.
Miles started to restore the miniaturized items. He started with the diaries which he then placed on the conference table in front of Alden. Alden had the ability, through use of his wand to read a book simply by placing his wand on it. After the box and desk were restored, Hugh put to use his special talent for opening locks.
It had been decided that each item would go on the table to be viewed and discussed by all rather than break into smaller groups.
The desk yielded very little. It was mostly just bills and receipts for utilities and taxes and such although a few were to individuals. It was time for the contents of the metal box.
The first document to be removed was a marriage certificate.
"Wait! This is wrong!" exclaimed Daniel when he saw it.
"What's the matter, Father?" asked Miles.
"The date! I'd have been two years old by then," replied Daniel.
"Very interesting," said Hugh.
Alden nodded as if he'd expected to hear that. He was reading the diaries even as he followed the proceedings with the contents of the desk and box.
The next document was Daniel's birth registration which gave Daniel another surprising revelation.
His parents were listed as Benjamin and Willow Greene.
"Who is Willow Greene?" he asked no one in particular. "I thought my mother was Juliet, like the marriage certificate has. I don't understand."
Margaret, who was sitting next to her husband, took his hand and gave it a gently squeeze.
"I think I'm beginning to understand," said Alden softly. "Daniel, how did you see the chronology of your family and, please include the ages of the members at the time.
"Well," said Daniel. "As I said earlier to some, Zelda was 18 years older than I. I had thought my parents married when she was 16 and that my father had been 25 and my mother about 37. I was born when Father was 27 and Mother 39. When I was 10 my father became terminally ill. Zelda, who had always seemed to run the house, took over Father's care till he died. It was soon after that, that Mother became an invalid and stayed confined to her room with Zelda caring for her."
"According to these documents though," said Hugh, "Your parents actually married 4 years later than you thought. It also seems very likely that Juliet was not your mother but your stepmother."
"She was always very kind to me," said Daniel. "But if you are right, and this Willow is my mother, how do we go about finding her?"
"I don't think we would be able to Daniel," said Hugh. "My opinion is that she died when you were an infant and your father, unsure on how to raise a child, married to have a mother for you. At this point, I do not know why Juliet agreed but perhaps we will find that out yet."
"That sounds reasonable," said Miles. He felt his father's confusion and turmoil and wished he could ease it.
"Perhaps I could go to the house and research Willow Greene on the computer. I think the birth registration says the birth took place in Riverton. That gives me a place and time to look up."
"That will not be necessary," Alden told him. "Although if you wish to get more details later you may wish to persue that, Miles. I know what and why from Zelda's diaries and some of my personal knowledge of faeryfolke but I am tired now. This old body has stood me well over the years but still the years do take a toll. I must rest. I have marked a few passages in the diaries around the time of Benjamin and Juliet's marriage and around the time of Benjamin's final illness. Daniel, I feel you should read them first as you will be most affected by the writings. Have Margaret share in it with you so that she might provide you support. At the evening meal, pass the books on to your children and offer to have your grandson spend the evening and night with you. This will give the younger couples a chance to absorb the imformation to be gained in the diaries and will also give you a chance to focus on your grandson who represents the good side of life and the future. Return after the morning meal here to talk to me and we will see if we can put all the pieces together and plan our future course. A good afternoon and evening to you all."
Daniel and Margaret went to Margaret's favorite little alcove in the Woods, the one where she had taken Miles to ask him to look for Amanda, to read the diaries. Alden had turned down the corners on the pages he considers to have important passages. Both were quite anxious about what they might find out in the diaries. Margaret sat on the log bench and read to Daniel.
"The first marked passage is the day of Juliet and Benjamin's wedding," starts Margaret.
" 'Poor Mother. Daddy left me in charge of all the money. She thinks this so-called marriage will get her some freedom. She will learn she was wrong. I guess I better go meet my new step-father and baby step-brother. This could be interesting.' "
"Well that's definite," said Daniel. "Juliet was not my mother. Willow Greene was. I wonder what happened to her?"
"I don't know, Daniel," said Margaret softly. "Shall I go on to the next passage Alden has marked?"
"Yes," replied Daniel with very mixed feelings.
While Daniel and Margaret were busy discovering some of Zelda's secrets, Susannah had returned to her room to rest till the evening meal. The two younger couples sat in the sitting room at Sarah and Kevin's discussing what they knew so far.
"In a way," said Miles, "It's good to know that Zelda wasn't really our aunt. But this all seems to be taking a toll on Father. His world has been turned upside down. I can feel his confusion and Mother's concern."
"I know, Miles," said Sarah. "I wish I knew what to do for him. I see the wisdom in Alden's plan to have Geoff with them tonight. He'll help them keep things in perspective."
"Yes," said Kevin. "I think so too."
"Kevin, might I ask you a question," said Amanda.
"Alright," responded Kevin.
"Well, I was wondering about Hugh. I know he's your uncle. I may be acting silly here. I've only had my mother back a short time but feel protective of her. It seemed to me like the two of them were looking at each other like they were attracted to one another."
Kevin smiled, "You noticed that too. Hugh is my uncle to whom I'm quite close. When I was 16, my parents moved back to my mother's settlement in the Whispering Woods. I wished to stay in this settlement and my parents agreed because Hugh would be my guardian. Hugh has never married. You will hear rumors that it was because his best friend from childhood, Margaret, fell in love with someone else; others feel it is because he's devoted himself to work for the Council; still others will say he simply hasn't yet found his special mate. What in particular did you want to know?"
"I'm not sure," answered Amanda. "I guess this sounds rather old-fashioned, but do you know his intentions toward my mother?"
"That's one question I really don't know an answer to. I'll be honest and admit, I'd be very happy if it turns out the two find themselves suited to each other. Hugh has a full, busy life but I think he gets lonely at times."
"But I thought that faeryfolke mated for life," said Amanda.
"They do," said Miles. Holding Amanda's hand, he gently continued, "For life. Your mother is free to find a new mate. Second marriages are uncommon among faeryfolke as we tend to live long lives together, but they are not unheard of."
"Geoff is due out of class shortly," said Kevin. "I promised to keep him imformed. Anyone wish to join me?"
"I'd like to see him," said Sarah, "Especially since he'll be spending the evening and night with my parents."
"Is it okay if we tag along?"asked Miles.
"As our tiny friend Wisdom would say, of course!" answered Kevin.
[Whimsical Woods Index]