The next day, Miles was reaching the Dining Hall for the midday meal just as Kevin, Sarah and Geoff did.
"Uncle Miles," said Geoff. "Gosh you must be hungry! You missed breakfast."
"Hello Geoff," said Miles. "Your parents kindly left some fruit and muffins at the house for us. Thanks Sarah and Kevin."
"Had a feeling you might not want to go out this morning," said Kevin with a smile.
"Where's Aunt Amanda?" asked Geoff.
"She's resting," answered Miles. "I'll take her back something to eat."
"She okay?" asked a concerned Geoff.
"Just tired," said Miles. "I'm sure she'll come to the evening meal."
"Okay," said Geoff whose parents were broadly grinning at Miles. "Hey, Uncle Miles, we're going into Woodtown this afternoon."
"Oh?" asked Miles.
"Yep. Mom and Dad and and I are going to take Belinda and Tristan. They've never been out side of the settlement." exclaimed Geoff.
"The Outer World does have some nice features," agreed Miles.
"They've been helping me so much in learning about faeryfolke stuff that I thought it would be nice to show them some of the good parts of the Outer World," explained Geoff.
"Sounds like a good idea to me," said Miles. "I've certainly enjoyed much in each world and am grateful for that. Well, I think I've had enough to eat so I think I will go visit the Snacks and Lunches Counter and pick up something to take back to Amanda. Enjoy your outing and I'll see you at the evening meal."
After exchanging goodbyes, Miles went on his way.
"Are we all done here now?" asked Kevin a few minutes later. "I see Belinda and Tristan waiting by the door for us."
"I'm done!" said Geoff.
"I am, too," said Sarah. "I just need to visit the ladie's room and then I'll be right with you."
"Alright," said Kevin as he stood and helped Sarah to her feet, giving her a tiny kiss before she left them.
"Let's join your friends, Geoff," said Kevin.
"Okay, Dad," replied Geoff and they went to join his friends.
Kevin greeted his son's friends with, "Already to go?"
"Oh yes," said Belinda.
"Sure am" replied Tristan.
"Since this is your first time in Woodtown, Belinda and Tristan," started Kevin, "we'll only be there a short time."
Sarah joined them saying, "Let's be off then!"
The group made their way through the Whimsical Woods. Just before leaving the Woods, Kevin opened a large sack he'd been carrying. From it he took jackets and hats to hand out to each member of the group explaining, "We'll be leaving the temperate climate of the Woods soon. Different areas of the Outer World have various climates and Woodtown happens to get quite chilly in their late autumn."
Soon the bundled up group reached Woodtown. The first thing to catch Belinda and Tristan's attention in the town were the roads and, of course, the cars driving on them.
"Wow!" said Tristan. "They sure can go fast!"
"They seem a bit scarey to me," said Belinda. "What is this path we are walking on made of?"
"It's cement and they call these sidewalks," answered Geoff.
There was a woman approaching them on the sidewalk being lead by a rather large dog on a leash. As she approached she smiled at them and said, "Hello! Lovely day, isn't it?"
Sarah smiled back. "Hello. It's a fine day," she said as the woman passed them.
"Are all humans like that? She seemed quite nice," said Belinda.
"Humans are all different and can be very good, kind hearted people through to evil but I think most are basically good," replied Sarah. "Here we are!"
With that the group turned up the sidewalk to the front porch of the house. Sarah took a nervous sidelong glance at Kevin which he noticed and smiled back at her; and leant to whisper in her ear, "It's just a house now with nothing to worry about."
"Shall we go in?" asked Sarah after unlocking the door.
Once in the house, the first room they entered was the kitchen. Tristan and Belinda were both amazed at the kitchen.
"What is this room?" asked Belinda.
"What do all these things do?" asked Tristan with a sweep of his hands.
"This is the kitchen, Belinda," Sarah answered. "This is where I'd prepare our food. I didn't use magic but did have some handy machines and gadgets."
Geoff took over the explanations. "The small kitchens in the settlement have a small refrigerator but we had a bigger one to keep all our food that needed to be kept cold," he said pointing to the lower door on the refrigerator. "Up top is the freezer section for things that had to be kept frozen. This other big appliance is the stove for cooking the food and baking cookies. My Mom makes the best cookies."
Pointing to the table and chairs in one corner of the room, Belinda asked, "And then you eat right here? Not with others from the community?"
"Well Uncle Miles joined us lots of times but usually it was just Mom and me. Sometimes we'd do things fancier though and eat in the dining room," said Geoff pointing to an archway.
Belinda and Tristan went to look.
"This table sure is bigger with room for eight people instead of just 4," said Tristan.
"That table can open out even bigger," said Geoff.
Kevin noticed tears forming in Sarah's eyes. "Geoff, why don't you show your friends another room? We'll be with you in a minute."
When the children had left, Kevin embraced Sarah asking, "What is it?"
"Memories. Good ones," replied Sarah. "It'll be so odd not to celebrate Christmas. I really loved that season. The baking, the decorating, the turkey dinner."
"We can still do that," Kevin said.
Sarah smiled up at him. "Oh the times I pictured a big family dinner in this room with you and my parents joining Miles, Geoff and I."
"Did your parents celebrate Christmas?" asked Kevin.
"They sure did," replied Sarah.
"And Amanda most likely has too. Perhaps even Susannah," mused Kevin.
"True. Why?" asked Sarah.
"I was just thinking that they might miss it too. Why don't we hold a Christmas celebration here?"asked Kevin.
"Oh Kevin! That would be so much fun!", Sarah said giving him a kiss on the cheek. "I'd need to come into town several times to shop and bake and decorate."
Kevin smiled at Sarah. "Just promise me you won't overdo. I can just picture the wheels spinning in your mind and know there will be dozens of lists by tomorrow. I think we better start heading back since it is the first time Belinda and Tristan have been out of the Whimsical Woods."
After giving Sarah a soft and short, but not too short, kiss on the lips, Kevin went to get Geoff and his friends.
"I'll check the answering machine to see if there's anything from the real estate agent about Amanda's house," said Sarah to the departing Kevin.
As they walked back to the Whimsical Woods, Kevin and Sarah told the children of their plan.
"Awesome idea Mom and Dad!" enthused Geoff.
"What is Christmas?" asked Belinda.
"It's many different things to different people," started Sarah. "At the very center is a celebration of the birth of a baby named Jesus Christ. Many, many humans belong to the Christian religion and believe that this baby was God's son sent to earth teach them. The season is about peace, love, laughter, food, beautiful music, and family gatherings. It's a wonderful time."
"There's presents, lights, Santa, Frosty, Rudolph and the Grinch," added Geoff. "Turkey with stuffing, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and lots of cookies."
"Wow!" said Belinda. "I don't really understand a lot of what you are saying but it must be very special to make you so excited, Geoff."
"You'll need to slow down and explain each thing to us," said Tristan.
"I guess I did get carried away," responded Geoff. "I had some wonderful Christmases with Uncle Miles and Mom. This year, with Dad and Grandmother and Grandfather and Aunt Amanda, and friends, real friends, it will be so much better."
They continued to talk of Christmas all the way back to the Whimsical Woods. Sarah and Geoff even sang some carols along the way. They did pause at one point to observe a man on a ladder putting strings of lights on his home.
On entering the Woods and it's protected climate, they removed the jackets and hats they wore to town. Kevin retrieved the sack from a hollow tree stump he'd left it in so they could pack the outerwear back in it.
When they reached the settlement, they first went to Belinda's home. Before saying goodbye to her, Sarah told Belinda's parents a little of their plans promising to fill them in more as details were arranged and hoping they would let Belinda join in. They were a little hesitant but Kevin reassured them by saying he, and probably his Uncle Hugh, would be there with them. After the goodbyes were exchanged with Belinda they moved on to Tristan's home. Sarah and Kevin talked to his parents as they had Belinda's. They had both worked, at times, in the settlement's offices in the Outer World. They were all for Tristan's being part of the Christmas celebration. Geoff and his parents continued on to their home. Sarah decided to rest for a while before the evening meal and Kevin and Geoff continued the Christmas discussions as this was all quite new to Kevin as well.
At the evening meal, the Christmas plan was received with great enthusiasm.
"Christmas baking!" exclaimed Margaret. "It's been so long and I really did love doing it."
At nearly the same time, Susannah exclaimed, "Decorating! Oh that was so much fun."
"Oh, Mama," said Amanda. "I've still got all the old decorations you made at the house in Watertown. I never had the heart to use them after you left but I did keep them."
"Thank you, Amanda," said Susannah.
"I guess we'd better take a trip to Watertown," Miles said looking at Amanda.
"Oh!" exclaimed Sarah.
"What is it?" asked Miles.
"That just reminded me. I check the answering machine while at the house. The real estate agent said she has a good offer on your house so needs to hear from you whether you wish to reject or accept the offer," explained Sarah.
"Oh that's wonderful!" exclaimed Amanda. "Miles, can we go to the house in the morning and phone her?"
"Sure," answered Miles. "And maybe we should pack some clothes and go on to Watertown right after. With luck, you might be able to sign papers for the house as well as pick up other things you want from the house."
"I still don't know what to do with a lot of the things," said Amanda.
"Anything you think you may want, I can miniaturize and bring here for you to decide later. Anything you know you won't want, you could give to a charity thrift shop," suggested Miles.
"Sounds good, Miles," Amanda agreed.
Meantime, Hugh was whispering to Susannah. "What time shall I pick you up tomorrow for our picnic by the lake?" he asked.
"I've no idea where it is," said Susannah "Or how long it will take to get there so don't know. It would be nice to be there before noon to have our midday meal there."
"Alright. How about eleven o'clock?' asked Hugh.
"That sounds fine," Susannah said, smiling at Hugh.
Monday morning, Amanda and Miles were up early and packing for their trip to Watertown. After the morning meal, they picked up their luggage, now miniaturized and placed in Amanda's purse before starting on their way to Woodtown. They carried jackets to put on when they left the warm protection of the Woods. At the house, Miles checked his email and found the real estate agent had sent more details in an email. Amanda read them over and phoned the agent saying to accept the offer and that she would be in Watertown in about 2 days time. Then they got Amanda's car from the garage and started on their way.
Meantime, at the settlement, it is eleven o'clock and Hugh has arrived at the Bachelor's Quarters to meet Susannah with a phaeton pulled by a dappled grey horse. Susannah was outside waiting for him. He got down and went to greet her.
"Good day Susannah," he said.
"Good day, Hugh," she replied smiling. "This is so lovely and such a surprise."
"The lake is on the very far corner of the Woods. I didn't want you to get exhausted walking there," explained Hugh.
"Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you," Susannah responded.
Hugh helped Susannah in, then went to the other side to climb in, and off they went.
Susannah found herself feeling shy alone with Hugh. How silly, she thought. I'm not a young teen but a mature woman. Oh but I do feel young again when Hugh is around. Young and feminine and alive.
"Susannah?" came through her thoughts.
"Yes Hugh?" she asked.
"I was just wondering if you were okay. You seemed far away and didn't answer me the first couple of times," replied Hugh.
"I'm sorry! I'm afraid you caught me daydreaming," she told Hugh with a smile. "It's a lovely day for a picnic."
Hugh chuckled. "That's almost exactly what I had said to you!"
Susannah laughed. "Well, at least we are in agreement."
"That's true. The trees of the Whimsical Woods do help to provide us with a special temperate climate but they can not control the sun and rain. Of course the rainfall is very necessary but I'm glad the sun is shining today," said Hugh.
"Me too," responded Susannah.
Before long they arrived at the lake. "Oh it's beautful!" exclaimed Susannah. She felt a strong call from the lake so sat down and removed her shoes and walked barefoot to the water's edge on the beach area of the lake. As she got closer, she lifted her skirt to keep it dry. It all felt so marvelous! She was overwhelmed and tilted her head back to have the sun bathe her face and started twirling around. She soon became dizzy and started to fall but Hugh was there to catch her. He had removed his shoes and socks and rolled up his pant legs so that he could follow her.
"Oh my!" said Susannah. "I don't know what got into me. I haven't done anything like that since ... well I don't know if I've ever done anything like that."
Then realizing that Hugh was still holding her, she said, "I'm alright now. You don't need to hold me up."
Hugh smiled at her. "If you are sure," he said and let go of her when she nodded.
They walked back to the beach and picked up their shoes. To the far side of the lake was a boardwalk that had a gazebo built out over the lake. Hugh suggested that Susannah go to the gazebo while he got the picnic things from the buggy. Susannah had offered to help but Hugh assured her, with a bit of a chuckle, that he could manage. Susannah laughed when she saw all the things floating behind Hugh as he made his way to the gazebo.
"That looks like a handy trick," Susannah told Hugh.
"It certainly can be," agreed Hugh.
The afternoon passed quickly for the two of them as they talked of many things.
"We'd better head back as we'll be expected at the evening meal," Hugh said with regret.
"Yes, we should. Hugh, thank you for this afternoon. The lake, the picnic, everything was wonderful," said Susannah.
Hugh took her hand and started walking to the buggy with the picnic things floating along behind them. At the buggy the floating parade softly landed on the ground. Before helping Susannah, Hugh turned to look at her face to face. Now he was feeling shy. He took a deep breath.
"Susannah, I really want to kiss you. Is that ok?"
Susannah smiled up at him saying, "Yes."
So Hugh bent his head to kiss her lips. He was trying to keep this a short, simple kiss but Susannah's response surprised him and so the kiss became long and deep. When the kiss ended, Susannah was so surprised at how she had reacted. This kiss had awakened a dormant part of herself. It had been so long since she'd been kissed and this felt so very right. She hoped Hugh didn't think her too forward. She now felt shy about her response and looked down at the ground, afraid to look at Hugh.
"Susannah?" asked Hugh.
"Yes?" she responded without looking up.
"Please look at me," he requested.
She looked up and saw that Hugh was concerned for her.
"I'm sorry if I rushed beyond what you were comfortable with," said Hugh.
Susannah placed a finger on his lips to quieten him and said. "You didn't. I was surprised at how the kiss made me feel. I enjoyed it very much. I was afraid you might think me too ... well."
It was Hugh's turn to put a finger to Susannah's lips to silence her. With a smile he said," I enjoyed it very much too. I think you are a warm, wonderful woman and I'm so very glad to have met you."
Susannah returned the smile.
"I'd better help you up now or we might never leave here," Hugh said with a laugh.
Susannah joined in the laugh and got into the buggy. Hugh stashed the picnic items into the buggy and got in himself. As they were driving away, Susannah turned back for a last look at the lake.
"I bet it's beautiful at sunset," she commented.
"We'll have to find out. We could come out one evening to see," suggested Hugh.
"I would love that," said Susannah.
Hugh knew there would be a lot more trips out to the lake in the future.
On Wednesday, Amanda and Miles reached the house in Watertown. Amanda immediately phoned the real estate agent to let her know they were there but would only be there for 2 days. They arranged an appointment for the next morning for her to go in and sign some papers.
Amanda showed Miles the boxes of Christmas decorations that were stored in the basement; all six of them!
"Wow!" exclaimed Miles. "Sarah's house is going to have every inch decorated."
"My mother loved the decorating," said Amanda. "And much of the decorations she made. It will be so good to see them used again."
"Anything else from down here?" Miles asked as he started miniaturizing the Christmas boxes.
"Yes," said Amanda leading Miles to a wooden cradle. "My father made this when Mother was expecting me. I want to keep and, hopefully, use it."
"It's beautiful, Amanda," said Miles as he miniaturized it adding it to the now tiny boxes.
"And one more box," said Amanda pointing to a box labelled DOLLS. "Anything else here can go to the thrift store. By the way, how are we going to get everything to the thrift store? We can't really use your miniaturizing talent."
"That's true but I think if we phone them they will come and pick the items up," said Miles.
"Of course. Why didn't I think of that?" asked Amanda.
"Because you've a lot of other important things on your mind," answered Miles. "How about I call and arrange a pick up for tomorrow afternoon? Will that give you enough time?"
"I think that should work out okay. I really plan to get it all decided today," replied Amanda.
Miles put the chosen boxes and cradle in their miniaturized state in a sack to take out to the car. He'd come back down and miniaturized the other boxes just to get them up to one of the main floor rooms so that they'd be easier to get at when the truck came for a pick up.
"Amanda?" he asked.
"Yes, Miles?" she responded.
"Would it be ok to designate the living room as a place to put all the items for pick up?" asked Miles.
"Good idea, Miles. Let's finish that room next then so we can set it up for that," replied Amanda.
"Alright," said Miles as he lifted the bag for the car and followed her up the stairs.
While Miles went to the car to pack the basement items that were going back with them, Amanda wandered around the living room trying to decide if there was anything in it she wanted to keep. She'd taken all the pictures and smaller items that meant something to her on the first trip to Woodtown. The only piece of furniture in the room that she really liked was the old desk that had belonged to her father's parents but she wasn't sure where she'd be able to put it in her new home. When Miles came back into the house and joined her, he couldn't help noticing her perplexed look.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Oh, I was just wondering if there would be a place for the desk in our new home," she replied.
"It would go nicely in ether the sitting room or our bedroom," responded Miles.
"Okay then I guess we'll take it along with us. All the smaller things can be boxed for the pick up. I hope they have a big, empty truck."
"I called when I came in and explained that there was furniture and several boxes so I think they'll have plenty of space," said Miles.
After getting the living room furniture pushed to one side and boxing up the other items, Miles asked, "Which room next?"
"I think the bedrooms now that we've space in here to put things for the pick up. We can finish this level after that," replied Amanda.
"Ok," said Miles. "Why don't you go up and see what you wish to keep and leave while I make us some tea?"
"Alright," replied Amanda.
Amanda went first into her room. She start to pack her remaining clothes into boxes. They would take most of the furniture from this room. She looked at the big empty space that had been left from taking the brass bed and sighed. Miles had entered the room and heard her sigh. He followed her line of vision and smiled. He handed a mug of tea to Amanda and placed his own on the dresser. He went over to the empty space; reached deep into his pocket; pulled out the miniaturized brass bed and placed it on the floor. He then moved back and used his wand to restore it to full size.
"Miles!" exclaimed Amanda. Her mug joined his on the dresser as she gave him a big hug. "What a wonderful surprise! Thank you!"
Miles kissed her and all thoughts of packing were chased away.
The next morning, Amanda and Miles arose early. There was still so much to do.
"Too bad one of us doesn't have a magic talent for packing," said Miles as they sat in the kitchen eating breakfast. "It sure would be handy right now."
"I still haven't learnt what mine might do," mused Amanda. "Shall I try it?"
"Sure," said Miles.
Amanda withdrew her wand from it's special pocket. "Okay, what do I do?"
"I think if you concentrate on the dishes in that open cupboard and that empty box, they will pack themselves," replied Miles.
Amanda did just that and found she was getting a tingling sensation. It worked! The dishes were now all neatly in the box.
"Oh my," said Amanda. "I can't believe that worked!"
Miles hugged her saying,"Believe it, my faery princess."
Amanda smiled brightly up at him returning the hug.
"We still better get moving on things since we're supposed to meet the agent later this morning and have to have everything ready for the pick up this afternoon," Miles reminded Amanda.
"True. We can leave everything in my room till later as it will all be going with us when we leave tomorrow. The one bedroom is empty and Papa's room is just furniture all of which can go for the pick up," said Amanda.
"I'll get the furniture down from there now," said Miles.
"Okay. I'll keep packing in the kitchen although there's no need for anything from there either," said Amanda.
"Sarah has lots of space in the kitchen at the house. If there's anything you wish to keep, I'm sure it'll be okay to keep it there," said Miles as he headed upstairs.
It didn't take Miles long to get the furniture upstairs miniaturized, brought downstairs, and restored. Soon he was taking boxes that Amanda had packed in the kitchen to the living room or car depending on if they were keepers or not. With a bit of a boost from their magical talents, the work was quickly dealt with. There was just enough time for a quick shower before heading off to see the realtor. After signing the papers, Miles suggested shopping for little Christmas gifts at the shops he had visited on Amanda's advice when he first came to Watertown.
They arrived back at the house shortly before the truck came to pick up the donations. Without the aid of miniaturizing, it took a while to get all the furniture and boxes from the living room into the truck.
With everything packed away, they opted to phone for a pizza for their evening meal.
"Before we leave in the morning, we'll need to call the utility companies to shut things off and send on a final billing," said Miles while they sat on the floor eating the pizza.
"Where will they send it?" asked Amanda.
"We could use Sarah's house; or we do have an address through the settlement's offices in Woodtown. Everyone in the settlement does. It would, in turn, get delivered to us in the settlement," explained Miles.
"Sarah is so good letting us use the house, but I think we should get these bills sent to us," said Amanda.
"Alright," said Miles as he gathered the garbage to take to the trash can. The realtor had said she would put the garbage out on the appropriate day.
As Miles left the room with the trash, Amanda said,"The only things not packed, are some clothes for tomorrow and the bed. So-o-o-o, race ya to the bed!"
Amanda laughed heading quickly for the stairs, knowing she had a big head start on Miles. Miles still managed to catch up to her at the door to the bedroom.
"That wasn't very fair!" he laughingly told Amanda as he blocked the doorway.
She smiled at him. "True; but the only way I have a chance!" she said ducking below his outstretched arm and running to the bed.
[Whimsical Woods Index]