Saturday morning, Sarah laid in bed, eyes closed, reliving the past week. She'd been into Woodtown everyday. She and her mother had been to the house to do more baking. Even with eleven of them, she really didn't think they'd eat all the baking but it had been so much fun especially being able to bake with her mother. It had been too many years. Amanda had joined them at times as had Susannah. After discussion, it had been decided that artificial greenery would be best for the indoor decorations. Susannah, accompanied by Amanda and Miles, had shopped for some and made garlands, candle rings and other decorations. The house was looking very festive with decorations throughout. Hugh had helped Susannah on a couple of the trips but was needed at the Council as Alden seemed to be fading more each day. It was such a busy, bustling week filled with music and laughter and family and friends. For Sarah it was like a dream come true. She was almost afraid to open her eyes and find herself back alone in the bed at the house in Woodtown with the last several months being nothing but a dream. But then a tiny kick assured her that it was very real. She placed her hand on the small but growing mound on her abdomen. She felt another hand join hers and opened her eyes to see Kevin leaning on his elbow looking at her. She smiled at him.
Kevin returned the smile saying, "I've been watching your face and feeling your emotions. You had been happy but had gotten sad and tense. I was getting concerned and was about to wake you when you seemed relieved and touched our growing child."
"I wasn't asleep," explained Sarah. "I was remembering this past week. It has been such fun. I was afraid to open my eyes that I'd be back alone; that we'd not gotten together again; that there was no new baby on the way; that Mother and Father were not back; that all of these last glorious months were just a beautiful dream."
As she paused, Kevin gave her a kiss then whispered in her ear, "It's all very real and I'm older and more tenacious than I was before. I'll never let you go again."
"I'm glad. But your daughter already reminded me that it was all very real," said Sarah rubbing her belly.
"Daughter? You asked the midwife?" asked Kevin.
"Well, no but I feel sure it is a girl," answered Sarah.
Kevin smiled,"Me too."
There was a knock at the bedroom door. "Yes?" asked Kevin.
"Uncle Miles and Aunt Amanda are here," said Geoff.
"Oh my! Is it that time already?" whispered Sarah to Kevin.
"We'll be there in a few minutes, Geoff," Kevin responded.
As they heard Geoff walk off down the hall Kevin and Sarah quickly got out of bed and started to dress. By the time they'd reached the sitting room, Belinda and Tristan had arrived as well. Soon the seven of them were on their way to Woodtown. On the way to the house, they had decided that, since Amanda's car could only hold five people that Kevin and Miles would take the youngsters to get the tree and Sarah and Amanda would stay at the house preparing things for a tree-trimming party later.
As the five were getting into the car, Sarah had told them to get one that was really bushy as there were a lot of decorations for it. They assured her that they would.
This was Tristan and Belinda's first time in a car and they were a bit nervous. Geoff tried to reassure them. He remembered his first ride on a pegasus that first day of visiting the faeryfolke settlement and how he had felt. "Cars really are quite safe," Geoff told them. "And Uncle Miles is a really good driver."
Miles turned and looked into the back seat. "All buckled up?" he asked.
"Almost," said Geoff as he helped the other two. "Okay. We're ready."
"Alright," said Miles,"We're off then."
Amanda and Sarah backed away from the car but stood waving as Miles backed the car out of the driveway. Those in the car waved back.
"Uncle Miles," started Geoff.
"Yes?" asked Miles.
"Mom said we could drive through Burger King and get Croissanwiches," answered Geoff.
"Sounds good to me," said Miles.
"Um, Geoff, what does that mean - drive through? Burger King? Croissanwiches?" asked Belinda.
"I'll start with Burger King. It's a fast food restaurant. They have burgers and french fries and milkshakes and that sort of stuff. On their breakfast menu they have Croissanwiches which are egg and cheese on a croissant bun. You can get meat put on them too but we usually just get the egg and cheese. You can park the car and go in and get your food and even eat at tables in there but they also have a speaker you can drive up to. Someone will ask what you want and you tell them. Then you drive to a special window and pay for it and they hand you the food."
"That does sound good," said Belinda.
"How much further?" asked Kevin. "My stomach is rumbling."
Everyone laughed and Miles said, "Just a few more blocks. And everyone thinks I worry about food too much!"
Sarah and Amanda waited till the car was out of site before going back into the house.
While hanging up their coats, Sarah asked Amanda what she'd like for breakfast.
"Dry toast and, maybe, some green tea," said Amanda.
Sarah grinned and gave Amanda a big hug. "Have you seen the midwive yet?" she asked.
"Not yet," said Amanda. "I just tried a home prenancy test."
"I know," said Sarah. "I had to go back in the drugstore and I saw you paying for it. I really didn't mean to pry and I've told no one."
"That's okay. I've so many questions, Sarah. Would you mind?" asked Amanda.
"Not at all. We can talk while I make breakfast. I'm past the nausea stage and very hungry," laughed Sarah. "I also do not have the knowledge that a midwive would have."
"Alright but I think my questions are pretty basic," said Amanda as Sarah put the filled kettle on the stove to boil. "First, how different are faeryfolke from humans as far as health things go? Will this be a lot different from a human pregnancy?"
"There's not a lot of physical differences at all between faeryfolke and humans. Pregnancy and childbirth are within the same range of possibilites that humans face. If the midwive thinks there will be complications she will send you to an obstetrician in Woodtown. As to other health differences, we share most illnesses and ailments with humans but there are some we seem to be immune to and some that are unique to faeryfolke. Has Miles told you about Wandering Feet?" asked Sarah.
"No," said Amanda. "What is it?"
"I'll let Miles explain it to you but tell you it's not anything to worry about. Of course, we also have our own special needs for the replenishing energy of nature," said Sarah.
"Yes. That one I know well from Mama's experiences. Another question. Can Miles feel this pregnancy; feel the baby?" asked Amanda.
"Not yet," answered Sarah. "As a general rule, fathers start tuning into their unborn children about the same time mothers start feeling their kicking."
"So Miles, wouldn't know I'm pregnant yet?" asked an obviously concerned Amanda.
"Something has you worried. That is obvious," replied Sarah. "Miles may well know you are pregnant by your anxiety or the same clues that made you think you were. He's probably waiting though for you to tell him before he'll say anything. You almost sound like you're worried about how he'll take the news. Miles will be thrilled that you are going to have a baby."
"I know," said Amanda. "He's talked a lot of his time with young Geoff. I think he really wants a son of his own."
"Miles was wonderful with Geoff," said Sarah sitting down at the table with a plate of scrambled eggs and another with toast to go with the tea already there.
Amanda half-smiled at Sarah. "I bet he was. But ..."
"But what?" Sarah asked.
"I know it's early but I just have a really strong feeling that the baby is a girl," replied Amanda.
"That's great! I'm sure my baby is a girl too!" was Sarah's enthusiastic response.
"Oh Sarah that is wonderful but ..." started Amanda.
"That but again," said Sarah.
"Miles wants a son," blurted Amanda.
"Aw, now I see. Miles would love a son. He'll love a daughter every bit as much. In fact I would bet you, we'd see both of our husbands wrapped tightly around our daughters' little fingers from their first smiles at their fathers," Sarah said.
"Oh, Sarah! You are probably right. I can just picture that. Thank you, my friend," Amanda said as she went over and gave Sarah a hug. "I feel so much better now."
"I'm glad," said Sarah, standing up and returning the hug. "I guess we best get busy on the tree-trimming party meal."
Sarah went to the freezer and removed a copper jelly mold in the shape of a wreath of fruit.
"Oh good. It's all frozen," said Sarah.
"What is that?" asked Amanda.
"It's the ice ring for the punch bowl. I put it in the freezer yesterday when I was here," answered Sarah.
"It looks good with the fruit in it," said Amanda.
"Well the punch is a simple blend of a large can of pineapple-orange juice, a thawed can of apple juice concentrate; which I better move to the fridge to thaw; and a bottle of ginger ale. I make the ice ring from apple juice so that it doesn't dilute the punch and add red and green maraschino cherries, chunks of pineapple and mandarin orange slices to give it some color."
"I can hardly wait to taste it. What are we having with it?" asked Amanda.
"Make-your-owns," answered Sarah.
"What?" asked Amanda.
"They are set up rather like production lines. Make-your-own salad means putting the big salad bowl filled with ripped lettuce pieces out with individual bowls by it. Next comes red and green pepper strips, onion, celery, and cucumber slices, tomato wedges, cut-up broccoli and cauliflower, grated carrots and cheddar. Next will be the dressings. Make-your-own sandwiches starts with various types of bread and buns with butter nearby; followed by dishes of sandwich salads like tuna and egg; a platter of cold meats and cheeses; then there's onion slices, tomato slices, shredded lettuce. Did I forget anything?"
"I don't think so," laughed Amanda.
Kevin, Miles, Geoff, Belinda and Tristan arrived at the Christmas tree farm and nursery.They walked through the showroom of the nursery and out the back doors.
"May I help you?" asked a young man wearing a Santa style hat with the store's name screen printed on it.
"We're here to get a Christmas tree," answered Geoff.
"Pre-cut or cut-your-own?" asked the young man.
"We'd like to look at the cut-your-own trees," answered Miles.
"Alright. If you just go over by that post, a horse-drawn wagon should be along soon to take you out to the trees."
The five went to wait where they'd been directed. They could see the wagon in the distance. Some people were already out amongst the trees in what appeared to be a designated area.
"I was wondering," started Belinda, "with so many people celebrating Christmas and putting up trees, wouldn't it be better to use the artifcial trees like we saw inside? I mean it doesn't seem right to just chop trees down for a few days."
"Well many people do use artificial trees and some cities even have by-laws allowing only artificial trees in public places or apartment buildings," Miles said. "But many feel a real tree is very special and prefer them. Since these trees are grown on a tree farm expressly for use as Christmas trees, chopping them down to use is really no different than cutting down corn or wheat or any other crop."
"Oh. I see," said Belinda.
"After Christmas," continued Miles, "we'll put the tree outside and decorate it for the winter birds with balls of suet and seed and the popcorn strings. Then, in spring, it can be chipped for mulch for the garden."
"Does everyone do that?" asked Tristan.
"No. I'm afraid they don't but there are cities that do special pickups of the trees after Christmas and make them into mulch which they give out free in the spring to their citizens. People have become very aware of the environment in recent years," Miles told them.
"Hello!" called the wagon driver as he drove up to get them. He got down to help them up onto the straw-covered wagonbed.
"It's turning into a sunny day ... very nice for choosing a tree."
"Yes, it is," agreed Miles.
"If everyone is settled, we'll head out now," said their driver turning to make sure all were seated comfortably back from the edges. He turned back and started the horses slowly moving. "I'll be taking you to the area of ten to twelve year old trees as those should provide you with a good tree."
Before long they were in the designated area and the wagon stopped by a small stand. They got down from the wagon and were greeted by a woman wearing a hat to match the young man they'd seen earlier. She had axes and saws to loan to those that needed them and told them she'd have some warm cider and cookies for them when they returned. Miles decided to on an axe to take with them and they left to search all the different types of trees for the perfect one for their Christmas.
Geoff told them that he and Miles came to this farm each year. Over the years, they had come to the conclusion that a tree just a bit taller than Miles was the right height.
"Remember Sarah said to get a really bushy one as there will be a lot more decorations this year," Miles reminded them.
"There should be lots of space since we're putting it in front of the window this year instead of the corner. We can use the back of the tree too!" said Geoff with a chuckle.
Miles laughed with him. "True!" The other three just looked at them sort of funny.
"Well there's no point putting lights and decorations facing the wall," he explained.
"You really left part of the tree undecorated?" asked Kevin.
"Yep," said a smiling Miles.
Geoff and his friends had gone ahead, looking each tree over carefully.
Kevin took this opportunity to talk to Miles. "You and Amanda seemed rather tense this morning. Is something wrong?"
"I don't think so," Miles replied.
"You don't think so?" asked Kevin.
"My guess is that Amanda is pregnant but ..." started Miles.
"I hope that's true, Miles. I know you want to be a father. What's the but for?" Kevin asked.
"That I don't know. She seems really worried. I hope she'll talk to me about it soon," Miles said.
"Maybe she'll talk to Sarah about it this morning. Sometimes women prefer to talk about these things with other women," suggested Kevin.
"Maybe," said Miles.
Then they heard Geoff yell, "Dad! Uncle Miles! We found it!"
Kevin and Miles hurried to the young people who were standing in front of a beautiful, bushy seven foot high scotch pine.
"By golly! I think you really have!" Miles told them.
"Are they hard to chop down?" asked Tristan.
"Um, well," started Miles. "I've never completely chopped one down."
"What did you do?" asked Kevin.
"I'd start to chop it then tell Geoff I'd feel better if he was safely back at the stand while I chopped," said Miles.
"Yes and you joined me there dragging the tree after a few minutes," said Geoff.
"I did but I employed a wee bit of faery magic to chop the tree after you left," confessed Miles sheepishly.
Everyone laughed. "This year, you can watch!" laughed Miles.
The tree was quickly down and they set off for the refreshment stand where they warmed up with the cider. The wagon soon appeared to drop off a family just starting their hunt and to take Miles, Kevin, Geoff, Belinda and Tristan, along with the perfect tree, back to the farm entrance.
"Mom!" Geoff yelled in from the door to the back porch. "We found the perfect tree!"
Sarah and Amanda left the kitchen to go to the back door to see this specimen of perfection.
"By golly! I think you really did!" Sarah agreed as she looked at the tree Kevin was holding up for inspection.
Miles stepped into the house for a minute and took Amanda to one side. He hugged her and gave her a little kiss on the cheek while whispering in her ear, "You seem more relaxed and happier than earlier."
Amanda gave him a big smile, "I had a nice talk with Sarah and now I need a talk with you."
"After I help Kevin get the tree set up, okay?" asked Miles.
"Fine," replied Amanda.
"Miles! We need your expertise!" called Kevin. "You're the only one who has ever put a tree in a stand before!"
Miles smiled, gave Amanda a quick kiss, called back, "I'm coming!" and went back out aid Kevin and the young people.
Soon the unadorned pine tree was sitting in the living room in front of the bay window where they all stood admiring it.
"Kevin, did you pick up the fresh bread and buns from the bakery on your way back with the tree?" asked Sarah.
"I'm sorry, Sarah," said Kevin. "I was so intent on keeping the tree on the roof of the car I forgot."
"Amanda and I will go get some," offered Miles.
"Alright," said Sarah. "Just get a variety of breads like whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel and some kaisers, croissants and bagels. I think that should do it."
As they were getting the jackets on, Miles whispered said to Amanda, " This will give us a chance to talk."
"Good thinking, Miles," said Amanda.
Sarah came into the hall and told them, "Don't dawdle, however tempting it may be as the others will be here before long to eat lunch and trim the tree."
"Alright," said Miles to Sarah; and then added, softly, to Amanda, "Sisters sure can be bossy!"
"I heard that! And you better believe I can big brother!" responded Sarah with a smile and a wag of her wooden spoon.
In the car, on the way to the store, Amanda told Miles about using the home pregnancy kit and getting a positive result.
"I'd hug you right now," said Miles, "but it might interfere with my driving. That's wonderful news."
"Pay attention to your driving. I can wait till we're parked," laughed Amanda.
It wasn't a very long drive to the bakery and soon Miles was parked. He undid his seatbelt and Amanda's and drew her into a close hug.
"This is the absolute best present I could ever get," Miles said.
"I still need to see the midwife and have it confirmed officially," warned Amanda.
"I know," said Miles. "But I trust your faery instincts to know that you are having a baby."
"For being only half faeryfolke, and only recently even knowing that and starting to try to use faery instincts, I seem to be getting a lot of new feelings about things. I'm pretty sure this little one will be a girl," said Amanda.
She waited for his reaction. Miles drew back slightly from the embrace and looked Amanda squarely in the face. Amanda returned the look and saw love and a sense of awe.
"Oh, Amanda, a girl! If she's like her mom, she'll be so beautiful I'll need to start getting into shape to fend off all the boys!" said Miles. He noticed tears welling in Amanda's eyes. "What is it?"
"Miles, I was so silly. I was worried you'd be disappointed if the baby was a girl. Sarah made me realize I was wrong. She thinks her baby is a girl too!" said Amanda.
Miles hugged Amanda close again. "Yes, you were silly. I'll love our child, boy or girl just as I love their mother. It's good to know that Kevin will be in the same boat. We can help each other out with fending off the boys."
"Sarah believes that daughters could wrap you and Kevin around their little fingers," Amanda said smiling at him.
"There may be some truth to that," Miles said. "We better get in there and get the bread and get back before Sarah gets a chance to accuse us of dawdling. Are you okay?"
"I'm much better than okay," said Amanda. "Let's get in there."
At the house, Kevin was helping Sarah get all the lunch items out on the dining room table while Geoff and his friends were watching another Christmas tape. The chairs were all moved away from the table to the perimeter of the room. The salad 'production line' went down one side of the table; the sandwich line down the other in the opposite direction so that one could do one continuous loop. The punch bowl was in the center of the table.
"I think that's everything," Sarah told Kevin. "Except for the bread which goes and that platter and the buns and rolls go in there."
She pointed to a large serviette-lined basket.
"It looks great Sarah," said Kevin. "How about sitting for a few minutes till the others get here?"
Sarah smiled at him. "Sounds wonderful!"
"Good!" he said taking her by the hand to the living room and making her sit on the loveseat to the one side of the fireplace. He put some logs in the fireplace and utilized a bit of magic to get a fire going and then joined Sarah. He sat next to her and pulled her close so that her head rested on his shoulder. Sarah had put CDs of Christmas music on softly when they set the tree in the room earlier.
"Oh this is so heavenly," said Sarah. "The smell of pine, the warmth and glow of the fire, the sweetness of the music and the comfort and security of being next to you."
[Whimsical Woods Index]