Sarah mostly rested over the next several days. Her beautiful new daughter slept in a cradle next to Sarah's bed. Soon Kevin's parents and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews would be arriving for the Naming. She had not seen them since Geoff's Naming. She was worried. She tried not to be but couldn't help it. She knew that Kevin had forgiven her for leaving; had understood. Would his family?
"What is it?" asked Kevin entering the bedroom.
"I didn't hear you enter," said Sarah. "I'm sorry."
"Nothing to be sorry for," said Kevin sitting down next to her on the side of the bed and hugging her. "Now what has you so worried? And don't say nothing."
"I guess I'm worried how your family will accept me," said Sarah. "They know how much I hurt you."
"True," said Kevin. "They also know how happy I am to have you back in my life. Sarah, we can't change the past but we can determine our present and future. I love you."
"I love you too, Kevin." responded Sarah.
Kevin had just started to kiss Sarah when the little one awoke and let it be known that she was not comfortable. Kevin broke the kiss and laughed.
"I'll get her and change her," he offered."Why don't you get settled in the rocking chair?"
"Alright. I'll just get a drink of water first," said Sarah.
As Sarah left the room, Kevin lifted his daughter from the cradle. He was completed enthralled by her.
"I know you are hungry and want your mommy little one but I think we should get you a dry bottom first," Kevin spoke softly to her.
By the time Kevin was done, Sarah had returned and settled into the rocking chair undoing the buttons on her robe. Kevin handed her the precious, but loudly squawking, bundle to nurse. Sarah smiled as she looked down at her daughter nursing. When she looked up at Kevin she saw him watching in awe, his love for mother and daughter obvious. When Kevin saw that Sarah was watching him, he returned her smile.
"Sarah, do you feel like having company this evening to discuss the Naming Ceremony?" he asked.
"I think so," said Sarah. "If we just meet in the sitting room, I can come back here if I feel tired."
"Alright then, I'll let our families know," said Kevin. "Or will that be too many for you?"
"That would be fine," Sarah said. "I've missed getting together with everyone. They each visit every day but only one or two at a time. I wonder if Hugh and Susannah will want to talk about their plans for their Pledging Ceremony."
"Quite likely," said Kevin. "My family should start arriving in a couple of days."
"Yes," said Sarah softly.
"It will be alright, Sarah," Kevin said. Going over and kneeling beside the rocking chair, he took her hand in his. "I will be with you and you know I love you."
"Yes, I do," said Sarah. "I must be the luckiest woman in the world."
"And I'm the most fortunate of men," Kevin declared as he rose to his feet. He bent and kissed her on the cheek.
"I need to get back now. Be sure and eat the lunch I brought as soon as the little one is done hers," he said with a smile.
"I will," Sarah promised.
As they had done since the baby was born, Kevin and Geoff picked up the evening meal at the Dining Hall and brought it back to the house to eat with Sarah. Soon after they finished, the others; Margaret and Daniel, Amanda and Miles, and Susannah and Hugh, arrived. Sarah took each couple to view the sleeping infant and then they all got settled in the sitting room.
"She's such a beautiful little angel," said Amanda. "But I will be glad when the Naming is over and we can know her name, and use it. Have you decided on one yet?"
Sarah laughed. "Ages ago," she said. "In fact, the day the midwife confirmed the baby was a girl."
"But you won't tell us?" asked Amanda.
"Curiosity is getting you, isn't it?" Miles teased his wife.
"Yes!" said Amanda laughing.
"It's a faeryfolke tradition to not let the name be known till the baby is presented to the community at the Namimg Ceremony," said Sarah.
"So Miles has told me," said Amanda. "Is this held in the Gardens like our Pledging?"
"It can be," said Margaret. "Typically, though, it is held in the family's yard. It's just a brief ceremony followed by an informal luncheon."
"But," said Sarah, "Perhaps it would be better in the Gardens' gazebo. Maybe after Hugh and Susannah's Pledging as everyone will already be together."
"Oh," said Susannah. "We don't want to take away from your day. I thought we'd have our Pledging later."
"Besides," said Hugh, "We aren't planning to hold it in the Gardens. Kevin, Sarah, have the Naming where you are most comfortable."
"I must admit here, in the yard, would suit me better," said Sarah.
"You and the baby are the most important consideration," said Kevin. "So here it will be."
"Sounds good," said Maragaret. "Now then, Hugh, where were you and Susannah thinking of for your Pledging?"
Hugh and Susannah smiled at each other before Hugh spoke. "We wish to have are Pledging at the lake. It has become an important place to us."
"That sounds wonderful Mama!" said Amanda.
"Yes. It sounds perfect," added Margaret.
Susannah smiled. "We think it's the perfect place."
"How long will your family be staying Kevin?" asked Miles.
"Let's see," replied Kevin. "My parents and Jennifer are arriving the day after tomorrow, Wednesday, but my sister Fiona & her husband and children, and my brother Sean and his family will arrive Friday. I think all plan to leave on Sunday."
"I'm glad that business in Forrest isn't keeping them away," said Miles.
"I think we've your thorough report and explanation to thank for that," said Kevin.
"That really doesn't give us a lot of time for two events then, does it?" asked Margaret.
"We could do the Naming Sunday morning," suggested Sarah. "It's really quite a simple affair and you could have Saturday for your Pledging."
"Or we could do both Saturday," suggested Hugh. "If you are up to it Sarah. We had planned to have the Pledging at Sunset so there'd be time between the two events."
"That would actually give more rest in a way," said Kevin. "What do you think Sarah? You are the one I'm most concerned about."
Sarah laughed. "Well, all I really will be doing at both is just showing up so either would be fine with me. Which would be easiest on the ones doing the setting up and such?"
"Sarah, this isn't the Outer World!" laughed Miles. "Remember these are faeryfolke and they will be using magic. They can handle both in one day."
Sarah smiled. "I do sometimes forget still."
"But, faeryfolke, like humans do need to recover from childbirth," reminded Margaret. "Sarah, you need rest. Amanda, you need more rest too as your time is getting closer."
"Just two more months," said Miles, smiling at Amanda.
"I'd be fine if the two were on the same day," reassured Amanda.
"So are we agreed, then, that Saturday will be the day for both?" asked Hugh.
"Agreed," said the others.
Saturday morning, as she showered, Sarah reflected on the last couple of days. Meeting Kevin's parents again had been a bit difficult. There was no animosity toward her on their part but they had been wary. With the support and love of Kevin, they had warmed to her and she was so grateful. It was good that they'd arrived a couple of days before his married brother and sister and their families. It had given them time to move past the awkwardness. Things had been much smoother with Kevin's siblings. Geoff had enjoyed meeting the cousins he'd never known he had.
Sarah shut off the shower and got out. She put on a robe and went into the bedroom to get the baby to nurse before she got dressed.
"Soon Little One, we'll all be addressing you by your new name," said Sarah to her daughter.
Kevin came into the room and smiled at the ladies in his life.
"Has everyone arrived?" Sarah asked him.
"I think so," he answered. "Your parents and mine as grandparents are enjoying the role of host. As are Hugh and Susannah as honorary grandparents."
"Good," said Sarah. "Oh!"
"What?" asked Kevin.
"Hugh and Susannah! They are seeing each other on their Pledging Day before the ceremony!" said Sarah.
"I thought of that too," said Kevin. "But they assured me, with an evening ceremony, they'd had no intention of going all day without seeing each other."
"I can understand that," smiled Sarah. "Little one and I should be ready to meet the community in about 20 minutes."
"Alright," said Kevin. "I'll check back in 10." He bent and placed a soft kiss on his daughter's head before kissing Sarah gently.
After Kevin left, Sarah spoke to her daughter, "Little one, you have a wonderful father. I hope that someday you are as fortunate as I."
Sarah had decided to wear the dress she'd had made for her anniversary celebration last year which was such a joyous occasion. It was a fine green cotton gown with embroidered flowers. Margaret had made the baby a gown to match it.
Sarah was just finishing dressing the baby when Kevin returned. "Just me to dress now," said Sarah handing the sleepy baby to Kevin.
Sarah got dressed and sat before her vanity to brush her hair. Kevin placed the baby in her cradle and came up behind Sarah. Sarah noticed him and paused.
"Let me," said Kevin, taking the brush from her hand. Sarah closed her eyes and savored the feel of Kevin running the brush through her long strawberry-blonde hair. When the brushing stopped, Sarah opened her eyes and saw the intense look in Kevin's eyes as they both looked in the mirror.
"You are more beautiful everyday," Kevin said.
Sarah smiled, "Love is a powerful cosmetic."
"Love is powerful in many ways," said Kevin.
They stared into each other's eyes in the mirror, entranced, till a knock at the door broke the spell.
"You ready yet?" asked Geoff.
"Yes," said Sarah. Kevin got the baby and they went out to Geoff.
"Hugh told me to let him know when," said Geoff.
"You can tell him now, then," said Kevin.
Geoff ran ahead to tell Hugh. Kevin, Sarah and the baby met them at the rear door. Hugh stepped out onto the porch.
"My fellow faeryfolke," Hugh addressed the people gathered in the yard. "Our newest member and her family."
He left the porch to join Margaret who, like the grandparents, aunts and uncles, was by the porch.
Geoff, Sarah and Kevin holding the baby stepped onto the porch. Kevin turned toward Sarah slightly so that the baby was faced toward the group between them. Geoff stood in front of them with each parent placing a hand on his shoulders. Kevin spoke.
"We thank you all for coming this morning. Please welcome Willow of the Whimsical Woods."
The whole community softly sung a ballad of welcome and thanksgiving.
Sarah noticed tears in her parents' eyes. She hadn't told them of their plan to name the baby for her paternal grandmother but she could tell they were pleased. Sarah looked at Kevin and smiled. She looked down at her daughter between them and whispered "Willow". Willow was quite oblivious to it all as she slept.
"Oh, Mama, you look so beautiful", said Amanda as she hugged her mother. "You made the perfect dress for yourself."
"Thank you, Amanda," replied Susannah. "I hope Hugh likes it."
"He will, my friend," said Margaret.
Susannah took another look in the cheval mirror here in Amanda's bedroom where she dressed for her wedding and smiled. Her dress was a chiffon fabric coloured with swirls of soft aqua, baby blue and mint green. The full skirt flowed free from a high waist to just below her knees where it ended in a scalloped hem. The bodice was a solid aqua with a modest sweetheart neckline. The elbow length bell sleeves were solid as well She wore a choker of freshwater pearls around her neck. Her silver-streaked golden hair cascaded in loose waves down her back to her waist. She wore silver sandals on her feet.
Their was a knock on the door. Amanda opened it. "Are you ready?" asked Miles.
"Yes!" called Susannah enthusiastically going to the door.
"Then let us go down to the lake," said Miles.
When they arrived at the lake, Margaret went to join Daniel and Sarah and her family in the front row of the seats that had been set up facing the gazebo on the water. Amanda and Miles escorted Susannah to the gazebo stairs on the grass edge, where Hugh stood, waiting, wearing an aqua shirt and and navy blue pants. Amanda and Miles then joined the rest of their family leaving Hugh and Susannah to make their pledges.
Hugh and Susannah stood for several moments, in the centre of the gazebo holding hands and gazing at each other. Then Hugh looked at the filled seating and started to speak.
"Family. Friends. Thank you so much for coming to share in this special evening with us."
Hugh turned his eyes back to Susannah and started his pledge.
"As a very young man I thought that love was simply love. That lack of understanding the differences nearly cost me a very dear friend. She assured me that when I found the mate meant for me there would be no confusion or doubt in my heart; that I would know I'd found my life-mate as she had found hers. My life was always full. I had friends and family to love. I enjoyed my work very much. I think somewhere along the way I came to an acceptance that this was as my life should be. Looking back I recall saying as much to Alden who gave a mysterious smile and only said 'Perhaps'. I know that he is here in spirit today smiling at us.
"Susannah, I knew, as my friend had told me I would, that I had found my life-mate the moment I saw you. It was a unique and wonderful love that filled me. I felt, too, your wariness, your pain. The joy I felt at finding my life-mate helped me to wait as you gained strength and confidence. My life was full but you brought me awareness that there could be even more and that that more was wondrous beyond anything I'd ever experienced. Today, in front of our dear family and friends, I pledge to love you in all ways for all the days of our lives."
"Hugh," started Susannah."I came to the Whimsical Woods with my newly-found daughter and a newly found hope after years of merely existing. I had lived in my own lonely world for so long. From the beginning you were there, helping me to grow and heal; often knowing what I needed before I knew myself. I had much to resolve before I trusted and accepted my feelings. I knew what I felt for you was the love for a life-mate but I had to get comfortable with the past. You were so very patient with me. To be blessed with a second life-mate is rare and precious. I thank the Powers That Be for this gift. I pledge this day my love to you as long as we both shall live."
Hugh kissed Susannah and lead her to the bench in the gazebo where he had proposed to her. She sat and he knelt to remove her sandals. He then sat next to her on the bench and removed his own sandals and rolled his pantlegs up nearly to his knees. He stood and, taking Susannah's hands, helped her to her feet. Hugh and Susannah descended the steps from the gazebo to the beach. They walked along the water's edge where the waves lapped at their ankles. The sun was very low in the sky and they stopped to watch it set wrapped in each other's arms.
[Whimsical Woods Index]