"Good morning, my love," Miles said ...... into the phone.
"Good morning Miles," came Amanda's voice through to him. "I was so happy when Kevin told me it was all settled yesterday and you would head back today! I've missed you so much."
"I've missed you too Amanda," said Miles. "I'm all packed and about to leave. I should be there by the evening meal tomorrow.I love you."
"I love you too Miles and I'll be here waiting," returned Amanda.
After Amanda hung up the phone, she turned to Kevin who was waiting by the door. "Thank you Kevin for letting me in here so early for Miles' call. It was nice to talk to him before he left there and have him still able to get an early start back."
"You're welcome," said Kevin. "I'm glad he's on his way back too. Shall we go join the others for some breakfast?"
"Yes, let's," said Amanda. "I'm sure everyone will be happy to hear the news. Especially Margaret and Daniel."
They had left the building and were heading to the Dining Hall.
"I've no doubt that Sarah has filled them in," said Kevin with a smile remembering his wife's reaction to the news that all the children were safely back with their parents and that her brother was well and had not had to face any danger.
Kevin had spoken to his parents the night before too. He was concerned that this incident would frighten them enough to keep them from the new baby's Naming Ceremony but they had assured him that they would be there. It had been a few years since his parents or any of his siblings had visited the Whimsical Woods. They hadn't seen Geoff since his Naming Ceremony. He had sent them pictures over the years. Miles, of course, had kept Kevin up-to-date on Geoff's life and brought pictures whenever he saw Kevin. Now with Sarah and Geoff back with him, those lonely years seemed like a bad dream. There were times he'd thought of going to them in Woodtown but he knew, from experience that he'd not be able to stay long without becoming weak and eventually ill. Still, he would have gladly risked that if he felt he could convince Sarah to return to the settlement with him. Miles had told him how changed Sarah had become from her time with her aunt in Metropolis. She had completely turned her back on her heritage and wouldn't even allow Miles to speak of the faeryfolke. Miles had respected her wishes but did give young Geoffie his wand and some contact information should Geoffie need him when he wasn't around. Miles had since likened it to giving a human child a cell phone and the number to call. After that it was a relapse of Miles' Wandering Feet that had set everything else in motion. Kevin hoped his friend suffered no more relapses but he was grateful for that one.
Amanda had seen the far-away look on Kevin's face so had kept silent as they walked to the Dining Hall. She couldn't help but notice he was smiling at his thoughts. She had no trouble occupying the time with her own happy thoughts.
When they reached the building, Kevin opened the door for Amanda to enter. Amanda had barely entered when she was swept into a hug by her mother.
"Amanda, I told you he'd be alright," said Susannah.
"I know Mama," said Amanda. "But it feels so good to have things settled and him on his way back."
"I agree," said Sarah as she also gave Amanda a hug.
"Very definitely," added Margaret.
Because of the early hour only Geoff, his parents, his grandparents, Amanda, Susannah and Hugh were in the Dining Hall although busy sounds could be heard from preparation areas. Kevin had asked them all the night before to be here early.
"Hugh, have you decided on what, if anything to tell the community," asked Kevin.
"I will issue a brief statement this morning," said Hugh. "How does this sound - 'Some of you are aware that Miles has been called upon by the Settlement of the Whispering Woods for aid. The problem has been resolved and he will return by tomorrow evening. When his report is written up it will be shared with all.'?"
"Sounds fine to me," said Daniel and the others agreed.
Others had started to arrive and the buffet table was filling with dishes so the group went to get their breakfasts.
Hugh sat next to Susannah in the Dining Hall and turned to her, speaking softly, "Susannah, now that we know Miles is okay and on his way back, I was wondering if you'd join me this evening for a picnic supper out by the lake so we can watch the sunset."
"Oh, Hugh, I'd love to but," Susannah hesitated.
"But?" asked Hugh.
"Miles is still away and Amanda still alone," said Susannah.
Amanda was sitting on the other side of her mother and overheard the conversation.
"Sorry to break in," said Amanda. "Mama, I'll be fine. Go along with Hugh"
Sarah now spoke up. "We were hoping Amanda would join us this evening."
Now the whole table was involved in the discussion that Hugh had so quietly initiated.
"Oh?" asked Amanda.
"Yes. With Miles away, we thought we'd take advantage and have you be our fourth to play some games with us and Geoff," explained Sarah.
"I'd enjoy that," said Amanda.
"Alright, then," said Susannah to Hugh. "I'd be happy to go with you this evening."
"I'm glad," said Hugh.
After the meal they all went off to their own activities. Sarah and Amanda were heading to check in with the midwife. Sarah took Amanda's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
"I'm so proud of you," she said.
"Oh?" asked Amanda.
"You are accepting Hugh's relationship with your mother," said Sarah.
"Yes," said Amanda with a smile. "I was rather silly before, wasn't I?"
"Not silly," said Sarah. "Just concerned."
"And a bit jealous," admitted Amanda. "I had just gotten my mother back and I didn't wanted to share her."
"So what changed?" asked Sarah.
"It seems so obvious now but somehow I couldn't see it then," said Amanda.
"What's that?" Sarah asked.
"That there's no limit on love; that the heart grows to encompass all the love one wishes to give and receive." Amanda smiled and went on. "At our Pledging I told Miles, he had taught me about love."
"I remember," said Sarah.
"In a way, he has continued to teach me," said Amanda. "I witness daily the love he gives to you, Geoff, his parents, Kevin, the whole community. He gave so much and, yet, I knew that the love he had for me was not diminished in the least by what he gave others. His heart was big enough to hold us all and would continue to grow to hold our child and probably many more people in the years to come."
Sarah smiled as Amanda took a pause.
"Watching him, I finally realized that I had no need to be jealous of Hugh; that Mama's love for him was separate and unique from her love for me. Once I got past that, I could look at Hugh more objectively and see what a good man he is. I could see how he made Mama glow. And I could be happy for them both."
"That's wonderful," said Sarah.
After the mid-day meal, Hugh had made the arrangements for this evening. He had some important things to discuss with Susannah and wanted everything to be perfect. The picnic supper would be sent to the stables where Susannah would meet him. He had thought on his sixtieth birthday, that he'd lost all chance at love. Now, two years later, he knew he had been wrong. He had met Susannah. There seemed to be no age limit on falling in love; on finding a life-mate. She had grown lovelier everyday. Her health, both physical and emotional, had improved so much since she'd arrived here. He had promised Susannah that he would not rush her and, with great difficulty, he had kept his word. But now he sensed things were different and, just maybe, this was the time to ask her about making some future plans, with him. The afternoon had seemed to last forever. He couldn't recall a time that he'd ever been so nervous. At last the afternoon was over and he could leave.
Kevin met Hugh on the way to the door. "Good luck," said Kevin.
"On what?" Hugh asked.
Kevin chuckled. "Well," he said. "You're level of anxiety has been building all day; you've not heard half the things I've said to you this afternoon as you seemed lost in your thoughts; you are taking Susannah for a sunset picnic supper at her favourite spot. I suppose I could be wrong but I think that adds up to you being about to ask her a very important question."
Hugh smiled at his nephew. "You are very perceptive," he said. "So what do you think my chances are?"
"You do seem to have grown quite close to each other," said Kevin.
"We love each other," said Hugh. "But I know Susannah has had reservations. I think the time might be right now though."
"You could be right," agreed Kevin.
"I think Amanda's encouraging her mother to go with me this evening was a good sign," said Hugh.
"I agree," said Kevin.
They had reached the door and left the building. Before heading off in different directions, Kevin said, "If you've anything you wish to announce after, Amanda will be at our place."
"I'll remember," said Hugh.
Arriving at the stables he found the horse and buggy ready and waiting. The supper was packed in the back. It was only a few minutes before Susannah arrived. He helped her into the buggy and took his own seat and they were on their way.
They had eaten their meal in the gazebo that jutted out over the edge of the lake, by candlelight, sitting across from each other at a small table so they could look out over the lake at the sunset . They'd packed up things and put them back in the buggy. They were sitting close, huddling together on one of the built-in benches in the gazebo when Hugh finally began what he'd practised saying over and over again all day.
"Susannah, I know I promised to not rush and I think I've kept that promise, but I love you so much and really want you to come share my home and be my mate."
"Oh Hugh," Susannah said. "I do love you and you've been wonderfully patient with me."
"Do I sense a 'But'?" asked Hugh.
"Hmmm," said Susannah snuggling close. "I don't think so."
Hugh broke the embrace putting a bit of space between them. Susannah looked up at him.
"What exactly are you saying, Susannah?" Hugh asked studying her face.
Susannah smiled and said, "I love you Hugh. I want to live with you and share your life."
Hugh kissed her then, long and deep.
"Oh god, Susannah," said Hugh. "I was so scared you'd say no. I had a slate of arguements ready to persuade you."
Sunannah laughed lightly. "You can still use them. I think that kiss though was most persuasive."
Hugh smiled but said, "Seriously, Susannah. You've always known this is what I wanted. When did you change your mind?"
"I'm not sure exactly Hugh," said Susannah. "Just that each day the doubts started to dwindle and the confidence that being with you was right increased. I had been concerned at first about how Amanda might feel but I noticed that she, too, had changed. She was warming to you."
"Yes, I felt that too," said Hugh. "And have been so glad of it. She will be my daughter."
"I think this morning she gave a clear sign of her acceptance," said Susannah.
"I agree," said Hugh. "So shall we go tell our news to the 'kids' and go settle into our home? I'm not taking you back to the Bachelor's quarters except maybe to pack."
Susannah felt grateful for the darkness as she was sure she was blushing. "Yes, Hugh. That's what I want too."
As they walked, hand in hand, to the buggy, pausing frequently for a short or maybe not-so-short kiss, Hugh had another subject to ask Susannah about.
"Have you thought about a Pledging Ceremony, Susannah?" he asked.
"Only in general terms. Why?" she asked.
"I'd like to have it soon after Kevin and Sarah have the Naming Ceremony for their baby," he replied.
"Any particular reason?" asked Susannah.
"Kevin's father, my brother, Peter and his family will be visiting the Whimsical Woods for the Naming. I'd like them to witness our Pledging," said Hugh. "I know he will be happy for me."
"Sounds like a wonderful plan," agreed Susannah.
They soon set off back into the main part of the settlement to share their news with Amanda, Kevin, and Sarah and, then, to their home to start their life together.
It felt so good to be back thought Miles as he drove into the driveway of Sarah's house in Woodtown. It was always good to return but now, with Amanda in his life, it was even more so. Miles knew he'd always go help other communities if needed but wondered if there was someone else who might take over the role. It would need to be some one of both human and faeryfolke blood. There really weren't that many who fit that qualification. And those that did were probably, like Amanda, living in the Outer World with no knowledge of their faeryfolke side. He had been fortunate that his father knew of his mother's people and allowed her to take him and his sister into the settlement to visit and learn. Leaving Amanda had been difficult. Leaving Amanda and their child would be much more so. He left the car in the garage and went to the house to check for mail, phone messages and emails.There wasn't anything new since he'd last checked, just before leaving for Forrest. He locked the house up and replaced the shield of protection on it. He and Kevin hadn't mentioned it to Sarah but had agreed amongst themselves to keep the house protected. With that done he set off at a brisk pace for the Whimsical Woods settlement ... and Amanda.
As he entered the Woods, Miles heard a giggly, "Welcome home Miles."
"Thank you, Pixelle," he said. "It's good to be back."
"Of course," he heard from a tree stump.
Miles bent down to be on eye level with the stump. "Hello Wisdom. How are you two?"
"Fine, of course," said Wisdom.
Pixelle fluttered into view. "You best hurry Miles. Amanda is anxious to see you and has some news to share with you."
"Oh?" asked Miles.
"Don't worry. It's happy news Miles," reassured Pixelle.
"Sarah hasn't had the baby while I was gone, has she?" asked Miles.
"Not yet," said Pixelle. "But very soon. I've already said more than I should but it's so hard to keep happy news to oneself."
"Well bye then," said as he straightened up and went on his way.
Pixelle giggled watching him.
"Of course you had to tell him there was news," said Wisdom.
"If I hadn't I would have burst," said Pixelle.
Miles looked at his watch as he entered the settlement. It was still a bit early for the evening meal so he decided to head to his home in hopes that Amanda would be there.
Amanda was sure she'd felt Miles approaching and had stepped out onto the porch.
"Miles!" she exclaimed at seeing him.
Miles looked up at the sound of his name and broke into a run. When he reached Amanda he grabbed her up and swung her around.
"Miles! Put me down!" said Amanda, laughing.
Miles obeyed but bent down to give her a kiss. "Amanda, I've missed you so much."
"I missed you too Miles," said Amanda, somewhat breathless from the kiss.
"Gosh, I'm tempted to say to forget the evening meal and stay here; just the two of us," said Miles.
"That is tempting, Miles," said Amanda. "But I need to eat for the baby and I know you'll be hungry."
"There's more than one type of hunger," Miles responded. Amanda just smiled at him. "Alright, we'll go eat ... first."
Amanda laughed. "Besides, your family will want to see for themselves that you've returned safely."
"You're right," conceded Miles. "I met Pixelle and Wisdom as I was coming through the Woods. Pixelle said there was some happy news."
"It's not really my news to share," said Amanda.
"Alright, then let's get to the Dining Hall so someone can satisfy my curiosity," said Miles. "Shall we go by the Bachelor's Quarters on the way and get your mother?"
"There wouldn't be any point. She won't be there," answered Amanda.
"No? Where would she be?" asked Miles.
"At Hugh's. Well actually I guess it would be her and Hugh's home now," replied Amanda.
Miles stopped abruptly causing Amanda to stop as well since he was holding her hand. He stepped in front of her facing her and taking her other hand. "Are you okay with this?." he asked, concerned.
Amanda gave him a wide grin. "Very," she said. "I'm truly happy for them."
Miles gave her a brief hug and then, pulling on her hand, set off again. "Let's hurry. I need to wish them well."
Amanda laughed. "Slow down Miles. I'll never keep up."
Miles made his report and the faeryfolke were relieved that the children had come to no harm. Perhaps a greater relief was that there was not an enemy of the faeryfolke that had emerged to cause more serious difficulties. Miles had also started to make inquiries to find someone of both faeryfolke and human blood who might be interested in taking over his role of liaison with the Outer World. He found that he was more unique than he would have thought. Most faeryfolke gave the Outer World little or no thought. Those that did make matches with humans tended to try to stay in the Outer World completely so as to not endanger their settlements. Miles was determined to do a thorough search.
The days were growing longer as the Equinox drew closer. Although the Whimsical Woods enjoyed temperate conditions all year, most weather related conditions were no different than that of the Outer World. Spring arrived as a glorious sunny day after several days of rain.
Sarah was sitting on the tree swing, the one Kevin was sitting on when she had returned to him, enjoying the sunshine when she felt the first contraction. It didn't last very long and so she was not overly concerned. Although she had laboured several hours for Geoff, the midwife told her that second babies usually come more quickly. She smiled thinking it rather poetic that her daughter would be born on the first day of Spring. When a second contraction started ten minutes later Sarah decided that it might be best to go in the house and get ready. Although much in the settlement was simple and rather old-fashoined by Outer World standards, the faeryfolke did not spurn modern advances. They just carefully chose which would enter the life of the settlement. Sarah had been given a pager of sorts to contact Galeena, the midwife, when the time came.
Kevin did not need to be contacted. He'd known with the first contraction. The combination of physical discomfort and joy that he felt from Sarah could not be anything else! He headed home to be with Sarah. Miles would pass the word around for him and go to the school for Geoff. As he entered the house, he felt Sarah experiencing another contraction and rushed to the bedroom to find Sarah partially undressed, holding tight to one of the bedposts. Kevin felt her abdomen and the rock-hardness of the contraction. Sarah lifted her head and took a deep breath.
"That one is over," she said, smiling at Kevin. "It looks like today will be our daughter's birth day."
Kevin returned the smile. "It sure does. Have you contacted Galeena yet?"
"Not yet," answered Sarah. "My water hasn't broken so I don't think things will progress too quickly yet. Help me get changed?"
Kevin helped Sarah undress and put on a nightgown. She had just sat on the edge of the bed when her water broke and she had a very strong contraction. Kevin didn't ask Sarah about contacting the midwife now, he just pressed the button on the caller. He quickly helped her change her nightgown and changed the sheet. He was amazed at how quickly he managed it. He got her in bed just as another contraction came on.
He heard Miles, Amanda and Geoff entering the house and went to see them in the sitting room.
"I'll go sit with Sarah," said Amanda.
"Alright but I'll be right back there," said Kevin.
"How's she doing?" asked Miles.
"Quite well I think but I'll be glad to see Galeena arrive," answered Kevin.
"Goeff," said Kevin.
"Yes, Dad?" asked Geoff.
"Your mom could use your help," said Kevin. "Remember how we talked of you wiping her face with cool cloths?"
"Yes, sir!" said Geoff scurrying down the hall.
Kevin was about to follow Geoff to the bedroom when Galeena, the midwife, arrived. He greeted her and then he lead her and Miles to the bedroom. Geoff was standing on one side of Sarah, dipping a facecloth into a bowl of cool water on the nightstand and wiping her face. Amanda was sitting on the open side of the bed with her back against the headboard talking to Sarah.
"Here comes one!" said Sarah.
Kevin rushed up to Sarah's side behind Geoff and took her hand in his; which she squeezed mightily. Galeena directed Sarah in her breathing. At the end of the contraction, Sarah dropped Kevin's hand and gently touched Geoff's arm.
"I'm alright, Geoff," she reassured him. "It is painful to have a baby but worth every bit of it."
Then she looked over at the doorway where Miles had remained.
"Hello Miles," she said.
"Hello, Sarah," Miles returned.
"Sarah," said Galeena. "I need to examine you. Perhaps you'd like your visitors to wait in the sitting room."
"I want Kevin to stay," responded Sarah.
Amanda got off the bed and headed toward Miles. She held a hand out to Geoff and said, "We'll be just down the hall if needed."
"Thank you," said Sarah.
When Galeena had finished and went to the sitting room to get Geoff, she found that Daniel and Margaret had arrived. Geoff hurried down the hall back to his mom while Galeena spoke to the adults in the sitting room.
"Sarah is doing very well," she started. "It'll be a little time yet. Perhaps you should visit only two at a time though."
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"Mother, Father, why don't you go say hello," suggested Miles.
After his parents left the room, Miles turned to Galeena. "I was wondering about something."
"Yes?" prompted Galeena.
"I noticed how hard that contraction was for Geoff to see," said Miles. "I was wondering if it was wise for him to be there."
"Geoff would feel his mother's pain even if he was not there," said Galeena. "This way he can see she's alright. Kevin and Sarah have prepared him for possible emergencies and he knows that if I say for him to leave the room he is to do so quickly."
"Alright," said Miles.
The labour continued to progress normally. Hugh and Susannah arrived with a tray of sandwiches and a couple of pies figuring no one would want to leave for the Dining Hall. Eventually, Miles replaced Kevin next to Sarah on the bed, helping her to sit up to push, while Kevin waited to deliver his daughter with Galeena's supervision and aid. At the baby's first cry, happy shouts went up from the sitting room. Miles and Geoff soon joined the group as only Kevin stayed while Galeena delivered the afterbirth and made sure everything was okay. She cleaned and dressed the baby and changed the bedding while Kevin helped Sarah freshen up and put on a clean nightgown. She told Sarah she'd check back on her in the morning but to use her call button if needed before then. On her way out she dropped into the sitting room and sent Geoff to return to his sister and parents. She asked the others to give the young family a few minutes before they went down to see the baby. When she was outside she took a deep breath and looked up at the stars. No matter how many births she attended, it seems, she was still in awe of the miracle of new life. She gave thanks to the Powers That Be.
[Whimsical Woods Index]