Angels Among Us:
This story is an expanded version of the second chapter of "The Children of Light." This series will now replace that one.
Part 1. The Expected Unexpected Blessing
Tucked away in a tiny corner of Cornwall, England there is a little village by the sea where a very special race of Celtic people lives. The village is so small that it does not appear on maps, overshadowed as it is by the city of Tintagel not far away. The inhabitants of the village are an interesting bunch.
They belong to large families and these families have lived together for centuries. They have names that sound odd to some, but not to those familiar with the Cornish. They have names like Tressidor and Killigrew, Trelawney and Chenoweth, Llewelyn and Morvath.
They are an insular breed, deeply connected with one another in mind and spirit. And they are very suspicious of outsiders. For outsiders can never really and truly understand the nature of these people. It has always been so. In different ages and for different reasons, the outsiders have threatened their peaceful existence. Yet in spite of this, they are all essentially good people. Most of them live so that they may work for the greater good. Among them, there are those that roam and those that stay at home.
In this small village, a large family, the Tressidors lived their own simple existence, pretty much the same as they always have for hundreds of years. They were a family of very high standing in the community. And while there was no real power structure in the village the paters of the most respected families held the most sway. The eldest brother, Owen, was the paterfamilias of the family. He was married to Margaret, the second daughter of James Trelawney, the paterfamilias of the Trelawney family.
Behind them in the birth orders of each family, David Tressidor, the second son, was married to Margaret's younger sister Annabel, the third sister. When the first marriage was not immediately fruitful, the impatient pater James had insisted that his younger daughter marry the younger son. Luckily, this marriage was immediately blessed with a son. If it hadn't been, James was quite out of daughters to marry off to a Tressidor.
In addition to the others, David and Owen had two sisters named Phyllis and Edith. They both loved to roam. They had the oddest balloon, in which they were able to travel to the most unusual places and in the most unusual times. It was one of those things that no outsider could possibly understand. Among their many siblings, Margaret and Annabel had a brother Charles, who was a gentle farmer with a not so gentle wife, Clara, and an older sister Millicent.
Millicent should have been the oldest daughter to enter into the marriage with Owen Tressidor, but she was a fiery, strong-willed woman, with a large presence and even larger mouth. Early in her life, believing that she was Arthur's own sister Morgana, returned in spirit, she refused to marry a mere village gentleman. Off in the eastern part of the world, she found herself a prince and was now one of those that roamed.
Thus, Owen was saved from what would have been a most difficult marriage and instead blessed with one to his own true love. Considering that no one had given him any choice in the matter, it was a lucky escape. Owen and Margaret, or Meg, had always wanted a large family, but had only been blessed, when they had finally been blessed, with one beautiful daughter, Selena.
Selena looked like so many of the Tressidor/Trelawney women, with fair hair and blue eyes. She was of a relatively short stature and delicately built. David and Annabel had been blessed six children, three boys and three girls. Like Selena, they were all golden-haired and blue-eyed. Of the children, the youngest, Emmeline, was Selena's best friend in the whole world.
Selena tried not to be envious, but she couldn't help feeling jealous because Emmeline had five brothers and sisters, and she had none. Periodically, Emmeline volunteered to give her one sibling or another who at the moment was annoying her, but it wasn't quite the same. Because Emmeline was the youngest, she often had to battle with her brothers and sisters for attention from their parents, not to mention anything else that she might want. In this way, Selena was the direct opposite. As an only child, she was showered with parental affection and attention. But she would happily have shared.
And so, until she was in her teens, Selena Tressidor was an only child brought up in the little village, as any other child was. Life in the village was simple for those who stayed at home. They lived among family and friends who had been together for centuries. But then there were those that roamed the earth in search of adventure. For most them, life was not very simple.
They were a very special race, suspicious of outsiders if they stayed at home. They used their special gifts to protect themselves and their children from those who didn't understand them. If they roamed, they used their special gifts to make the world a better place, for the most part. And they never stayed in one place long enough for anyone to be suspicious of them and their extraordinary abilities. There were too many tales of what had happened to their ancestors who had made that mistake. And most of them were not pretty at all.
Among the Tressidors, there were both of these kinds, those who roamed and those who stayed at home. There were also those who worked for the greater good of the human race, and those who worked for the greater good of themselves. It was often hard to tell the difference if you were an outsider. Selena was caught in the middle. She wanted to roam, and work for the greater good, but she was destined to stay at home. And she never much considered her own greater good.
Selena came home from school one day in early November to find her Mum happily puttering about the small kitchen. She had been rather cheerful the past few days, at times smiling as if she were keeping a very special secret. But she had been scrupulous in guarding her thoughts. Try as she might, her daughter could not penetrate them. Now she invited Selena to sit down for a cup of tea and some freshly baked scones. Of course, Mum always had a freshly baked treat ready for her when she came home. It was just her way.
She always served tea using Grandmother Tressidor's beautiful delft tea set that one of her many wandering brothers had sent her from Holland before the Great War. The other relatives shook their heads and clucked over that. It was too fine a set for every day. But Mum cheerfully disagreed.
She would ask them, "What good was having such a fine tea set of you only look at it?"
It was their custom to sit at the little table and share the details of their day. Selena always wanted to know what was going on in the house and with the neighbors. Mum always wanted know how Selena's classes were going. But today, she seemed to be more interested in telling some news of her own than listening to Selena's. She was fairly bursting with eagerness.
"Selena, love," she said joyfully (for that was the only way to describe it). "Come around May, you are going to have a little sister to call your own."
"Really and truly?" cried an astonished Selena.
"Really and truly," answered Mum nodding. "I've been to see old Mrs. Pengally today and she confirmed it. A little girl she says. And Mrs. Pengally is never wrong."
Selena knew that. She couldn't believe it. After fifteen years, her Mum was finally getting the second child that she had always prayed for. But then Selena became worried.
"But, Mum," she said slowly. "Aren't you a little . . . old?"
Mum smiled, clearly amused. "Not too old obviously."
"But isn't it . . . couldn't it be . . . dangerous?"
"Maybe a bit," replied Mum carelessly. "But God wouldn't have sent us this little one if He didn't think that it was safe. I knew that she was coming, that she was even waiting. It just took her a little time, is all."
"How did you know?" asked Selena curiously.
"I don't know how I knew," she said. "But I know that I knew. That's the way it is with these things."
"Oh," said Selena, still a bit perplexed.
"You'll see someday, love," added her mother. "Kenneth will come home when you're old enough. You'll marry and then have babies of your own. You're going to be a lovely mother."
"Yes, Mum," said Selena with an obedience that she really didn't feel.
She was uncomfortable with the idea that she had been betrothed to a man when she still a very little girl. She didn't really remember it, but she sometimes thought that she did. She had seen the pictures many, many times, so must be true. She was barely four and dressed in a little white dress that looked more like a communion dress than a wedding dress.
Of course Kenneth had not really been a man then, but a boy. He was fourteen and neatly dressed in a suit and tie. They stood together in the church. Someone must have told them to hold hands. Neither of them looked very happy. And on either side of them were their fathers who had just signed the contract. The fathers looked very happy indeed, for it was joining of two of the wealthiest families in the village.
Yes, the Tressidors and the Killigrews were two of the oldest and wealthiest families in the village. Her Papa was a master carpenter. For as long as Selena could remember, he spent his days working his little workshop behind the house making furniture, toys, or anything else that one could carve or build from wood. He would not have been a rich man if left to his own devices. It was Uncle David who managed the family finances.
Uncle David was a shopkeeper. He sold everything that one could imagine, including Papa's woodcrafts. He was also a very clever man. Because so many things were made today in factories, people were willing to pay high prices for Papa's furniture. People from the outside liked to visit the village because it was so quaint. Many of the houses had stood for more than two hundred years. There were many other homely crafts to be purchased from Uncle David as well.
There was even a small hotel, run by the Killigrews. That was how they made their money. A little spur line of the railroad from Tintagel came to the village. Outsiders liked to visit because it reminded them of the good old days. That gave everyone a hearty laugh, because, for them the good old days were today.
And when the visitors came, everyone was most friendly to them. The friendlier they were, the more money the visitors spent. Uncle David always said that cheerful smiles were good for business. But no one from the outside ever tried to move to the village. It wasn't really a place that modern people fancied for living. It was nice for a visit but not for a home. They missed their modern conveniences too much. But no one in the village minded. They didn't want outsiders moving in and trying to change their ways. Things were just fine the way that they were.
When she and Kenneth were older and understood how things were, they both accepted their lot in life. Once he had told her that he had been quite bothered by the betrothal when it happened. His father had made him come off the football pitch, get all dressed up and go to the church for the ceremony.
When he first saw her, he thought that she was a spoiled little girl, with her golden curls and lacy white dress. Later the families would force them to visit with one another. When she was little, she would scream and cry whenever he was there. She didn't know why, she simply did.
Mum was looking at her with sympathy now. Of course she knew every thought that had just passed through her mind.
"Don't worry, love," she said. "It will be just fine. Your Papa and I were betrothed and your Auntie Anna and Uncle David as well. Didn't things turn out lovely for us? For your Papa and I, it was love at first sight, it was."
Selena was still doubtful. She could never recall feeling "love at first sight" for Kenneth, even when she was old enough to feel that emotion. Oh, she liked him well enough now. However, truth be told, she would have liked him a lot more if she weren't betrothed to him. And he came from a good family with a lot of money. That was the important thing. It was a good match for both sides. Families were the center of their little world.
Duty to family was one of their most dearly held values. It far outweighed the silliness of puppy love and such. And nearly everyone had an arranged marriage in the village. They worked out, mostly. The older folk always said that a marriage based on infatuation and romantic love had a very weak foundation indeed. It was the elders who knew best. But when Selena looked at her parents, she thought that maybe, just maybe, that they could be wrong.
And there was nothing wrong with Kenneth. He had grown from an awkward, somewhat cranky youth, into a kindly lad and was very amusing. They laughed a lot when they were together. It's just that they weren't together very often. Kenneth was one of those who liked to roam. But when they got married, then he would have to be one who stayed at home, just like her.
Still, Selena wanted roam too. Every now and again she could feel the wanderlust creeping into her heart and soul. She wanted to see the world. And something kept tugging at her heart. She always felt as if there was work out there for her to do. She didn't know what, but she knew that it was good work. It was God's work. And when God called, you had to follow. It was the only higher duty than to family, duty to God. But for now she was only fifteen. There was plenty of time to figure it out.
The Solemn Vow
"Push, Meg!" said Dr. Tweedy sternly. "You're almost there. I can see her head."
Selena looked anxiously at her Mum, who looked rather small in the big bed. She had seen home births before, but it was different when it was her own mother. And Mum wasn't a young woman. At forty-five, she was well beyond the age when most women would have a child.
But she and Papa had always wanted more children. This was probably their last chance. Mum was very focused on "popping" the little one out. She had a look of intense concentration on her face every time she pushed. It had been a struggle, almost as if the child was trying to remain in the warm, dark environment that had been her home for the last nine months for as long as possible. To a certain extent, Selena could sympathize with her. Out here in the bright, cold world, things were much less secure.
And there, sat Papa beside her, holding her hand through it all. As always, he was her strength. Papa was not a man of many words except where his Meggie was concerned. There never seemed to be enough words or enough ways or even enough times to tell her that he loved her. Of course he loved Selena too, but his love for Mum was different. They were soul mates and could never bear to be far from one another. Even if Papa were working in his little workshop beside the house, Mum would sometimes wander over because she missed him.
Although now he projected strength and calm, Selena knew he was afraid things might go wrong. It had been several hours since he awakened her to go and get the midwife, Mrs. Pengally. But couple of hours later, she had sent Selena for Dr. Tweedy. And while she was at it, added Papa, she should fetch Uncle David and Aunt Annabel. Selena ran first to the doctor's house and then to Uncle David's.
She had knocked hard on the doctor's door. The man must sleep very lightly because he never failed to answer, no matter what time of the day or night. He took one look at Selena and knew why she was there. Then, with a nod he said that he'd be there quick. If Mrs. Pengally was the midwife, and she was looking for help, then it was serious business. Next Selena ran to Uncle David's and because he was family let herself into the house. No one locked their doors in their little village in Cornwall. It would have been unfriendly.
The Tressidor family was close, and Uncle David knew that Meg's time was near. Though normally she would not have breached their privacy, Selena ran directly up to their bedroom. They were awake in an instant. As he and Auntie Anna got up to dress, he told her to wake up her cousin Emmeline.
Em could keep her company and hold her hand through what was bound to be a very long night. No one else would be thinking about sixteen-year-old Selena while her mother was in labor, struggling to bring the little girl into the world. She was already called a miracle child. No woman in anyone's memory had ever had a child so late in life. Of course most women that age had all the children that they wanted, thank you very much.
And of course it was to be a girl. None of them knew how they knew, they just knew. And it wasn't because of any silly tricks anyone played with spinning wedding rings and the like. That was all stuff and nonsense. No, this little girl had been anticipated for years and years. She had even been given her name before anyone even knew that she was actually finally coming, Trelawney Rose, after her Grandmum who had passed away not even a year ago now.
Mum had promised Grandfather Trelawney that her little girl would be named for his dear Rosie. Even then she had known that the child was coming and that it would be a little girl at that. But she would turn the name around so that there would be no confusion. Trelawney Rose would be her own unique self. Although she was trying to be brave, Selena was still afraid for Mum and the wee child struggling to get out into the light.
There were those who suspected that the wee babe would be a child of light. What other explanation could there be for a child to wait so long and until her mother was so old to be born? It was very important that the children of light be born at precisely the right moment. Any error on one side or the other of the perfect time and the child would miss her opportunity to do the most good for the most people as was her destiny. But no one would know until she was older. It was not allowed.
Thus with their attention fully focused on her Mum, those adults who were present could not spare a thought for the older girl. There were other, more important, things for them to be concerned with. When Emmeline was dressed, and it was certainly more quickly than Auntie and Uncle, the two girls ran quickly up the lane to Selena's house.
It was dark and of course there were no street lamps, but the moon was full and the girls knew every inch of the way by heart. Emmeline was not only Selena's cousin she was her best friend in the whole world. Of course their world was not very large, but it was the only world that they knew nonetheless. Although Emmeline was two years younger than Selena, she seemed to be older. She had five older siblings who had "seasoned" her, as her Mum said, to the complexities of life. Selena, until this night, had been an only child and that made the difference.
The girls stopped at the gate of the cottage to catch their breath before they went into the house. It would not do to come running into the bedroom as if they had just finished a race.
"Don't worry, Selena," said Emmeline, answering her unspoken concern, once she could speak again. "You'll no longer be an only child in a few hours. Little Trelawney Rose will be here to plague you as I have so often plagued my big brothers and sisters."
But now Selena was uncertain. Trelawney Rose might be here, but what about Mum? She felt someone squeeze her hand and turned to look into Emmeline's blue eyes.
"Everything will be alright. Your cousin Em knows these things, then, doesn't she?" they said.
Selena and Emmeline did not need words to communicate with each other. They were so close that they knew each other's minds. It was not unusual for those of their race to know the thoughts of others, but it was different with someone you truly loved and trusted as the two girls did each other. Selena never had to keep her guard up with Em.
Maybe she did know, but it was only in serious times that a midwife called the doctor for a woman giving birth. The midwives in the village could always handle things quite nicely, thank you, without any help from the medical profession. And old Mrs. Pengally was the best.
It was she who brought Selena into the world sixteen years ago, not to mention all six of her cousins and half of the other children and young folk in the village under a certain age. But Dr. Tweedy was also the best and Selena knew as well as Emmeline that Mum and the little one would make it through. But the waiting was both terrible and terrifying.
They quietly entered the room. The doctor and the midwife were conferring. Both of their faces were filled with concern. Papa wiped Mum's head with a cloth and gently kissed her. Mum cried out.
"Push, Meg! Push harder!" yelled the doctor from the side.
Phoebe could see that Mum was trying to push, but was now very tired. She fell back, breathing hard.
"It's alright, my sweet," said old Mrs. Pengally softly, once she had walked over. "Tis hard work bringing a new life into the world. And Selena here was much more eager to get out and have a look see around. This one here is a stubborn little mite."
Mum smiled weakly, but Papa's face was filled with concern. Uncle David and Auntie Anna came into the room behind them. Papa nodded to them. Selena scarcely noticed, nor did she notice that Emmeline had put her arm around her. Her whole focus was on the bed. She watched as her Mum cried out and pushed several more times.
Some said that in the outside world, they gave women something for the pain of childbirth. But here in the village, the midwives clucked and said that was no good for the baby at all. It would take longer if the mum couldn't feel the pain and push harder. No, drugs and such things were for those who were sick. Pregnancy was not a sickness. It was a blessing. And if there was a bit of pain involved, well then, put the blame where it properly lay, with Eve eating the apple.
"Time to push down again, Meg!" said the doctor, turning back to her after a quick word with the midwife. "This time she's coming through."
"Aye, Meggie," said Papa, taking a quick peek. "We can see her now."
With a loud cry, Mum sat up and pushed down again. Selena held her breath as the little babe, suddenly, and very easily, slipped out. First came the head, then the shoulders, one first and then the other, and finally the rest of her. The doctor was there to catch her and turn her over.
As old Mrs. Pengally and Mum herself had predicted, it was a little girl. Little Trelawney Rose Tressidor had entered the world without a whimper. That is until the doctor tied off the umbilical cord and slapped her bottom. Then she squalled, and very loudly at that.
"Quite a set of lungs, I must say," commented Dr. Tweedy. "Pengally, you take the child to clean up and swaddle, I'll deal with the afterbirth."
But Selena couldn't take her eyes off the red, slippery little person, who had just escaped from inside of her Mum. A quick glance at Mum told her that she was exhausted but fine. Papa was still holding her hand.
"There, there, Meggie," he murmured softly. "Now that wasn't so hard, was it? The little one is safely with us. Like them all, she took her time about coming but once she was started, you couldn't stop her."
Mum was no longer breathing heavily, but smiled weakly. Her eyes were on Selena. Mrs. Pengally held out the child.
"Will you want to hold your little angel then, Meg?"
Mum shook her head.
"Give her to Selena," she said, in a voice barely above a whisper.
Mrs. Pengally raised her eyebrows but didn't say a word. It was a most unusual thing for a mum not to want to take her child immediately. But she did as she was told and the next thing that Selena knew, she was holding the tiny bundle in her arms.
"She's just a wee little thing," she breathed. "She must weigh less than a cat."
"Aye, she's tiny," affirmed the doctor as he worked. "But with lungs like that, that's a strong, healthy child. It's the lungs that matter, not the size."
The minute the infant was in her arms, she stopped crying. She looked up into Selena's blue eyes with her own sky blue eyes. They were filled with trust and wonder. As the two sisters gazed at one another, Selena had the oddest feeling that this was not first time that they were meeting. It was as if they already knew each other. Selena bent over and kissed the little forehead.
"Selena, love," said her mother, her voice a little stronger now. "Bring her here so we can see her."
"What a little lovey dove," said Papa, reaching with his large finger, to gently stroke the tiny cheek. "Looks like a little red monkey, she does."
Selena was shocked and cuddled the child closer. This precious bundle in her arms was her little sister, the little sister that she had been praying for all her life.
"Your Papa means no offense," said Mum. "All newborn babies look like this. Give her a few days and she'll be as bonny as any in the village."
"Do you want to hold her, Mum?" asked Selena reluctantly.
"You don't want to give her up then, do you?" she replied with a smile. "Tis alright, daughter. I'll be holding her often enough once she's hungry."
"Selena, bring the little one over here so we can see her," said Auntie Anna.
Selena carried her over so that Uncle David, Auntie Anna, and Emmeline could see the small miracle.
"Sweet little thing," said Uncle David gently. "How's the newest little Tressidor?"
But Emmeline looked ill. It was her first home birth and she was clearly not impressed.
"David, Annabel, Emmeline," said Mum, now having regained some of her strength. "Come over here with Selena."
The four walked over and stood at the bedside.
Selena looked at her Mum, still cradling the little girl tenderly in her arms.
"Selena," said Mum seriously. "Your Papa and I not as young as most parents are. I want you to solemnly vow, before your Uncle David, your Aunt Annabel, and your Cousin Emmeline that if anything ever happens to Papa and me that you will raise this little child, your own sister Trelawney Rose, as your own."
"But Mum!" cried Selena. "Nothing is going to happen to you and Papa!"
The thought was too terrible to contemplate. Her beloved parents, gone before this little one was old enough to care for herself. They might not be young, but they certainly were not old. And Tressidors were known for their longevity, many living well into their eighties. But Mum looked back at her seriously and Papa nodded.
"Selena," he said with equal gravity. "Your Mum and I have discussed this. It's the only thing that will set her mind to rest. You must vow to take the child to raise if, God forbid, anything should happen to the two of us."
"Yes, Papa. Yes, Mum," she said, still frightened at the thought. "If anything should happen to you, I solemnly vow to raise my baby sister, Trelawney Rose, as my own."
"Good," Mum relaxed back on the pillows. "David, Annabel, Emmeline, you have all witnessed this vow. I hope that I can count on you to help her fulfill it, if she must."
"Yes, of course, Meg, my love," soothed Auntie Anna. "We'll be sure to keep the girls together. Now you need your rest. Before you know it the little one will be hungry and looking for her Mum. Shall you have her now, then?"
"Let Selena hold her for now," she replied. "When the little one starts rooting you'll turn her over to me."
"Yes, Mum," said Selena.
She couldn't take her eyes off the child in her arms. This fragile being was hers to care for, for now. But nothing would happen to Mum and Papa. As usual, Mum was worried and Papa wanted no loose ends. Expect the best and plan for the worst, he always said. That's why Dr. Tweedy had been called. In the end, Mrs. Pengally could have managed quite well on her own. But she would never risk a woman's life for a little bit of pride. It was always better to be safe than sorry.
Later, she and Em were sprawled across her bed discussing what they had just witnessed.
"Ugh," said Em. "I can't imagine anything more awful than childbirth. My sisters told me stories, but they didn't do it justice. I'm never going to go through that myself."
"I didn't think it was awful," replied Selena. "It was beautiful. It was a new life coming into the world. What a miracle!"
"And then there was your father," she continued. "'There, there, Meggie, now that wasn't so hard, was it?' Easy enough for him, you know. I'd like to see a man have to suffer through that."
"Not really so easy," replied Selena loyally. "The way loves Mum, I'm sure that he was feeling every pain."
"Yes, well, it did look like it hurt," Em replied as she grimaced. "A lot. I'll leave it to the romantics like you and Christabel to repopulate the family. If Dad doesn't find her a husband soon, it's likely that she'll try to 'freelance' on her own, you might say. I would swear that she's had her eye on Freddy Chenoweth since he's come home from vet school."
"What a lovely way to put it," commented Selena. "It's a little harsh on old Christy, isn't it?"
"Well it's the truth. And she's obsessed with becoming a Mum. She wouldn't even think of university for herself. Good thing that she's handy with figures. She's a big help to Dad keeping his books while the boys are all away," the younger girl retorted. "Besides, I'm going to be one of those that roam. And those that roam do not have to marry and settle down. Of course you don't have that choice."
"No, I don't," replied Selena. "Oh dear, I wonder what Kenneth will think when he hears of my vow. He really should have been here. It has to do with him too, you know."
"I'm just as glad that he wasn't," said Em. "He's queer fish, he is. I'm glad that I wasn't betrothed to him when I was a little girl. But at least he is one who roams, for now. One day you'll be old enough and he'll have to come to claim you. That's your lot, love. I'm glad to be a youngest daughter.
"There's none of that family duty for the younger ones. Poor Liam, he'll be stuck with it now, the same as you. I don't think that your Mum will be having any more babies. One day he'll be the oldest son of the oldest son with a son, in the family. I wouldn't be surprised if Dad wasn't looking for a bride for him today. You know how they like to settle these things early."
"Perhaps he thinks that it would be disrespectful to Mum and Papa," replied Selena with an edge in her voice. "It would be the same as telling them that there were to be no more children. Besides, I have no doubt that Liam will only return home to marry under protest."
"You're right about that," shrugged Em. "We're all not as obedient as you are."
But Selena was uncomfortable at the mention of her betrothal. She knew that someday she would have to marry and settle in the village, but she was like Em. She wanted to roam as well. Perhaps Kenneth wouldn't want to settle down too young. He had picked up several years ago and left for parts unknown. Periodically he returned home to visit, but she was still too young to marry. And she wanted to go to university.
Em was looking at her sympathetically. She could never disguise her thoughts from her. But now she would put Kenneth and the betrothal out of her mind. The baby was crying, no doubt hungry again, and she must fetch her from the cradle and bring her to Mum. Papa was outside, working in the shop as if it were any other day. So it was left to her to help Mum until she was strong enough to be up and about. She didn't mind a bit. It was good to finally have a little sister to love. And for some reason, whenever she held the child and looked in her eyes, she had the oddest sense of recognition.
Had they known each other in a previous life? It was certainly not impossible. But it was not likely that they would ever know when or where. There were those who said that the speechless infant held in her mind all the knowledge of her past lives. But there was no way to know if that was true. When little Trelawney Rose uttered her first word, all that knowledge would escape from her conscious mind. But Selena would always wonder.
The Last Visit
It was nine years later and Selena was enjoying her stay with the family. It would be time to move on soon. The spirit was calling her to her next family, a motherless home in the United States in northern California. She had never been to California before. It seemed to be rather a dull location after such exciting places as Burma, Argentina, South Africa, and the like. Family duty or not, Selena had become a traveler.
Selena had found her calling while still at university. One summer, lured by an advertisement in the school newspaper, she interviewed with an agency that matched up college students as au pairs, or mother's helpers, in different countries. Given her pick, she chose Spain, Barcelona in fact. There on her days off, she could visit the art museums. One summer and she was hooked.
After graduating with a most impractical degree in art history, she continued with the agency, until she discovered that jobs began to come her way in the oddest fashion. A friend or a relative in an interesting part of the world would call on her to help with a family in need. The families always had desperate, but temporary needs.
Sometimes a mother was sick or had recently died. She would stay until the mother recovered or the father remarried. That always happened once she had organized the house and made everyone happy. Sometimes a mother had twins or triplets. Sometimes an elderly grandmother or grandfather was causing stress on the family.
In fact, what all of the families had in common was that they were breaking apart due to the stresses of modern life. Selena would go in and mend things and then leave them happy with their new-found love for each other. That was what Selena was about. Because she felt so blessed to have her own wonderful family, she wanted to help others have the same. It wasn't really a career. It was more of a vocation.
And in it, she was able to travel all over the world, live in all kinds of interesting places, and meet all sorts of interesting people. She knew that she couldn't do it forever, but she thought that as long as she was doing such good work, perhaps fate would be kind and give her more time before she would be forced to marry and return home.
Luckily (from her perspective) between his travels and hers, Selena had not seen Kenneth in over five years. They each would come home on occasion, but never at the same time. And he made no effort to find her while they were both out in the world. Since she didn't really like him much better than she ever had, this suited her fine.
However, there were those in the village who had begun to wag their tongues about it, but not about her. It was for him as the man to claim her for his bride so that they could marry. That was simply how it was done. Once again, a new family to mend meant another reprieve. Selena never had left a family before they were settled. She didn't know why, it was just the way that it was.
But although this family was smaller than most, in some ways it was a greater challenge. The father was a university professor, a widower who had lost his wife two years ago to cancer. His four children were basically running wild, having chased off almost a dozen housekeepers in that time. Housekeeper number eleven, presently on the verge of a nervous breakdown, was about to depart in a few days when the two boys pulled one prank too many on her.
Her sister Trelawney Rose had grown into a happy, if somewhat simple, little sprite. Mum and Papa were too old to give her too much discipline. Instead they, but mostly Mum, gave in her whims and fancies. And Selena did too. It was hard to say no when she looked at her with her big, blue eyes. But they never spoilt her. It would never do to indulge a child too much. It was for the father to rule the home, not the child.
That morning, Selena had told the family that it was time for her to move on. A new family was waiting for her, even though they didn't know it yet. But Mum was worried.
"America, did you say, love?" she inquired. "But don't they have stricter rules about immigration and work visas and such?"
"I've never had trouble before," replied Selena carelessly. "If I'm called somewhere then it all works out for the best. Thanks to Cousin Chloe, I've secured a part-time spot in the campus ministry office of Dr. Harrington's university, but presently have nowhere to live. It shall have me well positioned, shall we say, to come to the rescue when the poor man needs to hire a housekeeper quickly. Nothing ever left to chance you know, or the need for references. If I am sent, the Lord will provide and that makes all the difference."
"Of course it does," said Papa. "And you know that we're all proud of you, setting the world to rights one family at a time."
"Must you go so soon, Selena?" asked Trelawney Rose wistfully. "Tansy and Mimsy still have so many stories left to tell."
Selena's father had built little Trelawney Rose a lovely Queen Ann style dollhouse several years ago. It even had miniature furniture that must have taken him hours to carve. Mum had made all of the bedding and curtains. It was very realistic, with even a few of the floors carpeted. Living in the house were two sister dolls that Trelawney Rose had named Mimsy and Tansy. Because she had not been able to find what she was looking for locally, Mum had actually gone to London to search for a pair of dolls the right size to live in the house.
The dollhouse had been a "secret Christmas wish," a wish made to Father Christmas but only told to a single trusted family member, in this case her Auntie Alma. Selena had been happy that she had been home for the holiday that year so that she could see her sister's eyes round with delight when she entered the living room on that Christmas morning. Because she still believed in Father Christmas, it was even more special. And to this day, Trelawney Rose still believed in magic.
Trelawney Rose was also a wonderful storyteller. She and Selena could play for hours with the dolls in the dollhouse and never lose interest. Mum said that of course she played with the house when Selena went off on her adventures, but it wasn't the same. For young Trelawney Rose, the house was more than a favorite toy. Whenever she was too confused by life, she retreated to it to try to work things out. There were times that Selena was worried that the world of the dollhouse was more real to her than the world in the village.
"Trelawney Rose, dear," replied Selena. "You know these jobs never last for very long at all. All that I need to do is go in and get the children settled and the professor married off. He's ready for a wife, but he needs to spend more time with those children. They'll never learn to behave unless he spends more time at home. And if they don't learn to behave then no one will ever want to marry him."
"Well, I wish that you would spend more time at home," replied the girl, pouting.
"There, there, little one," said Papa. "One of these days, that young fool Kenneth will show up on Selena's doorstep and they'll both come back here for the wedding. There will be grandbabies for Mum and me to love and you'll be able to see your Selena every day if you like."
But Trelawney Rose looked at him oddly. The thought of Selena marrying and returning home did not seem to please her at all. It was almost as though with the mention of Kenneth's name, the light in her eyes went out. Uncomfortably, Selena wondered if she was not aware that she really had no desire to marry her betrothed. But Selena had noticed that her sister had been given to these funny bouts recently about other things as well. She would become very quiet and seem to be retreating into herself.
"May I please be excused, Mummy?" she asked politely.
"But, lovey," replied Mum. "You've scarcely eaten a bite."
"I'm sorry, Mummy," she answered. "But I am really not hungry."
Selena watched as she left the room. Mum and Papa were looking at each other, their faces filled with concern.
"Is she that upset because I am leaving?" asked Selena. "We've had quite a long visit. Why, I've been here since before Christmas. And she does know that I must move on where and when the spirit leads me."
"'Tis not your leaving that's got her in a bother," said Papa. "It's the mention of Kenneth and your betrothal. She has taken a rather odd dislike to him."
Selena was puzzled.
"That's most peculiar," she said slowly. "I thought that she always liked Kenneth. After all, he plays along with all of her little games and imaginings. Why, half the time it's almost like he were a big child himself."
"I can't say what turned her against him," said Mum. "But the last time he was here, (About two years ago now, wouldn't you say, Owen?) she told me that he was a horrid person. Of course she would never say why. I think that he teased her a bit too much and hurt her feelings."
"Silly girl," said Selena. "Kenneth wouldn't hurt a flea. But she does seem more sensitive than ever."
"Yes, dear," replied Mum. "Very sensitive. We must be very careful with her. I fear more strongly than ever that she may be a little fey."
"Oh," said Selena. She didn't like to hear that. It meant that she would need special protection. The outside world could be cruel to those such as Trelawney Rose.
"Yes, and whenever there's a mention of Kenneth and his disappearance, she says the most dreadful things," added Mum. "She told your cousin Christabel that she hoped that he fell off the rim of a volcano when word came that he was off in Indonesia. It was quite disturbing to hear of such a violent statement by my gentle babe."
Selena shook her head. What could the child have been thinkng?
"I suppose that the gift of music should have been our first tip off," sighed Papa, returning to the original issue. "'Tis not natural to be able to play the piano such as she does, especially with no lessons to speak of. She has begun to play pieces that she has never heard before. Some of them are even written by the famous composers your cousin Sylvia tells me. She knows such things, you know. I have a tin ear if there ever was one. Our Trelawney Rose claims that she hears them in the music of the spheres."
"That's not so unusual," replied Selena. "Many of us can hear it."
"Aye," said Mum. "But only if we listen closely. I believe that Trelawney Rose hears it all the time. And how many folks do you know that can sit at a piano and play what she hears? Why, she only told me the other day that she hears the music and flows out of her fingers, just like that. No, it's really not normal at all.
"And every day, she grows more and more sensitive to mood and atmosphere. There's times when she has run out of other folks' houses if there is any conflict or unhappiness. We try to keep from worrying here. But she also has had the moods, laughing one minute and crying the next. And she'll disappear. She always comes home before dark but there's still the fear that someday she might not."
"Perhaps I should stay longer, Mum," said Selena. "You know there's others to answer the call if need be."
"No, love," replied Mum. "You have your work to do. But I am going to ask you to promise me again that should anything happen to Papa and me that you will take care of our little girl. There's no one in the world that understands her like we do other than yourself."
"Mum, Papa," said Selena seriously. "I have never forgotten my solemn vow to you and my sister. Wherever I am, the child will always have a home with me."
But Mum still looked worried.
"I won't rest easy on this until you and Kenneth are safely married and living right here in the village," she said anxiously. "I don't know what that boy is about, dawdling in the oddest places. He's shirking his duties, he is. Do you never hear from him, love?"
"Never," replied Selena truthfully. "If I know anything of him, it's what you tell me when I come to visit."
"Now Meggie," said Papa soothingly. "Things always work out for the best, when taken in their proper time and order. You'll see. Before you know it, our Selena will be back with us and you'll have those grandbabies that you've always wanted to spoil."
But Mum had only smiled uncertainly. For the rest of Selena's visit, she looked worried. Once again, Trelawney Rose withdrew into herself. Selena spent every minute that she could with her, but a melancholy seemed to have grabbed hold of her. One night Selena was awakened by the sound of her softly crying. Reaching over she gently drew her in her arms to try to comfort her.
"'Tis alright, little lamb," she said. "Your Selena will be back before you know it."
Trelawney Rose looked back at, her eyes flooded with tears.
"I am afraid that when I see you again we won't be here, Selena," replied the child.
"Now that's silly, little one," she answered. "Of course, we'll be here, and so will Mum, and so will Papa."
But the girl shook her head.
"No," she said. "If you go, it will be a very long time before you return. Please don't leave us now."
Her voice was barely a whisper in the darkness. Selena knew that some little fancy had caught her and would not let her go. It was true. The child was a little fey. She seemed unable to imagine the world in more than a few days at a time. Her concept of a very long time was certainly relative only to her own experience, which, when you thought about it, was really only a very short time.
"You know that I must go where I am called," she answered. "I'm doing God's work for sure. You cannot imagine how it is out there, little one. It seems sometimes like more families are flying apart than coming together."
The little girl got out of bed and stood by the window in the moonlight. With her fair skin and pale blonde hair, she looked like a little ghost. She turned and looked back at Selena with her hands neatly folded in front of her. Her light blue eyes glowed in the dark.
"We shall miss you most dearly, my Selena," she said quietly. "Mummy and Papa and I all love you with our entire hearts. We must all go where we are called. You will see."
"I will see what, little one?" asked Selena carefully.
But Trelawney Rose didn't answer. She looked out the window thoughtfully.
"I wonder what the moon looks like in California?" she asked as if she didn't expect a answer.
"I will tell you when I return," said Selena. "But first I must save this family. We are lucky to have such a family as ours. It will always be together."
But the girl just looked at her reproachfully. Selena then realized that by her own departure, Trelawney Rose felt as though their family was flying apart, just as the family that she was going to. But no, the scope of the girl's world was simply too limited. It would be years before she would have the opportunity to go out in the world and travel for herself. But then, perhaps she would not. Those such as she seemed to be were never allowed to roam beyond the village. It wasn't safe.
Two days later, Selena took her leave from her family. At the time, she had no sense that this lovely little world could ever be anything other than what it was. As always, Trelawney Rose wept. Her parents said that they loved her and were proud of her. Mum begged her to return home soon, even though she knew that the request was futile.
Selena never really had any control over where she went in the world or how long she stayed. She went where she was needed, and it was not she who determined where that might be or for how long. She was one of life's travelers on a mission to spread love and goodness to all who lacked it. And sadly, in this world, there were many who did.
As she walked down the lane, Selena turned and looked back towards the house one last time. Mum was working in the garden and Trelawney was playing with Mum's Corgi, Elspeth, in the garden. Already, her mind had moved to another place. She and the dog were chasing each other in circles. She fixed the vision in her mind like an old photograph that she could take out and look at when she was homesick. Then she turned and had the oddest feeling that she was walking towards her destiny.