Angels Among Us:
This story brings together the two previous Angels Among Us stories, Selena Tressidor and Margaret Tressidor. Reading them will give background to this one.
Part 1. The Crisis
It was a clear and glorious day in the month of January when Selena Tressidor felt her heart almost stop. Looking out of the window of Dr. Justin Harrington's comfortable Victorian house, she could see the cab pulling away from the curb and two figures walking slowly towards the house. She immediately went to the door and opened it before they could even ring the bell.
Apprehensively, Selena opened the door to the two solemn faces. She looked directly into the deep blue eyes of her cousin Emmeline, a young woman slightly younger but unmistakably a Tressidor relation. Her bright blond was a shade lighter than her own and she was slightly taller, but the facial resemblance was unmistakable.
As children, people had often taken them for sisters. They were as close as sisters also. Their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sister, also close in age. They had lived on the same street where they had grown up as playmates and grown into the closest of friends.
Standing beside Emmeline was a young girl who looked about ten, clutching a dark-haired doll under one arm. Trelawney Rose Tressidor, Selena's younger sister was holding her cousin's hand tightly with the other hand. As Selena looked down, the girl looked away and then up at Emmeline. Chester, the Harrington family's tri-color Shetland Sheep dog, opened his mouth as if to bark but even he knew something was terribly wrong. He lowered his head and gave a small whimper.
Selena's heart sank. This was no casual visit, no surprise "popping in" to see how she was doing. The pain was evident in both faces, Trelawney's clearly tinged with fear. Neither spoke. Clearly neither could find the words to say whatever drastic occurrence had taken place to bring them to the Harrington's front door without any warning.
Emmeline, with Trelawney Rose in tow, authoritatively walked into the house. There was nothing else for it. Allowing Emmeline to take full control of the situation, not an unusual thing in any case, Selena followed her helplessly into the living room. Her intuition told her mind what her heart refused to acknowledge. One look at Trelawney Rose's face had betrayed the truth; whatever had happened, it was clearly tragic. Yet until the words were spoken, she could deny it.
Trelawney Rose was the bright light of her parents' life, their little "expected" unexpected blessing in their older years. Mum had always known that she was coming, but it had just taken her an extra bit of time. Selena was a teenager when she was born, and she was only their second child.
Despite the fact that they had wanted a large family, Selena grew up as an only child until one day their prayers were answered. Concerned by their older age, the girl was made to promise that if anything should ever happen to them, Trelawney Rose would be hers to care for.
Selena clearly remembered holding the infant in her arms, her sky-blue eyes looking up wonderingly and trustingly. In those eyes had been a sense of recognition, as if she had already met her once before. The promise had been easily given. The Tressidors were a closely-knit family. What to another might have been a burden of filial duty was lightly carried. And of course she never expected to fulfill it, it was just Papa being cautious as usual.
The love between the two sisters as Trelawney Rose grew up had deepened over time, despite long separations through the years, as Selena first went to university and then began her mission in life to save the world one dysfunctional family at a time. In fact, Selena had seen her barely over a year ago when she had stopped at home for a long visit before taking the job with the Harringtons.
At that time, Trelawney Rose had been a cheerful little sprite. Indulged by her older parents and the rest of the family in the village, she charmed all her knew her. She was sometimes given to bouts of sadness, but they never lasted very long. Nothing ever lasted very long for Trelawney Rose. Her mother called her, "her butterfly child."
A golden child with a golden existence she had never known true hardship. Her eyes had remained a light blue, but her hair had now darkened to a bright blonde similar to her own. It was long, thick, and somewhat curling. Looking at it, Selena could see that someone, probably Emmeline, had tamed it into a tight braid.
But the brightness in her eyes was dimmed. They were reddened, obviously from a good deal of crying, and she looked exhausted. Almost as if on cue she yawned a jaw-splitting yawn and quietly went to her sister's arms. Selena felt the warmth in her hug.
Despite caring for many children over the years, no child could ever displace her sister in her heart. As Trelawney Rose now clung to her, she tightened her own grasp and softly kissed the golden head. But the child was not at peace. And certainly Selena was not. For the first time she realized that Trelawney Rose was out of the village. Something was dreadfully wrong. Her eyes looked up to meet Emmeline's. The cousins gazed mutely at each other for moment.
Finally, Selena broke the silence: "Tell me."
With a sigh, Emmeline sat down heavily in one of the armchairs. Selena and Trelawney Rose followed her example, Trelawney Rose still clinging but now curled up beside her on the couch and rested her cheek on Selena's shoulder. Involuntarily Selena began to gently stroke her hair. Emmeline sat looking at her hands, as if they contained right words with which to impart what was the most tragic message she had ever had to deliver. She finally looked up, past Selena at some unknown object over her shoulder.
"Selena, there has been an accident. Last Sunday night, your parents were motoring home after a holiday across the duchy at Looe, just the two of them. Trelawney Rose hadn't come along because they wanted a bit of time for themselves and so she was staying with Aunt Alma. The road was narrow and the lorrie was traveling too fast. The man was drunk they say. The police say it happened in the blink of an eye and they probably never even know what hit them."
Emmeline took a deep breath and Selena felt the child in her arms shudder. She felt her own tears forming in her eyes. There was nothing to say. For once she was still and silent, unaware of her surroundings, and only aware of the child shaking in her arms. Trelawney Rose didn't weep, perhaps because she was all cried out. She clung to Selena as if for her life and the unspoken words passed between them.
"We laid them to rest on Wednesday," continued Emmeline. "Dad wanted to send a telegram, but I couldn't bear the thought. Neither could Mum, so he decided to send me to you to deliver the news personally. Trelawney Rose insisted on coming with me. She's been asking for no one but you since the news came."
The girl then stilled and looked up trustingly into the eyes of her older sister.
"Mummy told me to never worry if anything happened," she said softly. "You promised to care for me always. I have been left to you in the will."
The little girl's faith in that promise was absolute. As the tears welled and overflowed Selena could say nothing but Trelawney Rose understood. With a deep sigh, she cuddled closer, closed her eyes, and fell into a steady, even breathing. Once again in the embrace of her sister, she felt safe. Selena bent forward and silently wept as she held the sleeping child fast, holding on tightly to this last remnant of her once happy family.
Understanding, Emmeline knelt beside her to murmur soft words of comfort, for she knew Selena better than any other soul alive. She shared her pain and the devotion to the beloved child in her arms. Emmeline had interrupted her life to bring to her cousin, her closest and dearest friend, her little sister. At the time of the child's birth, which Emmeline had also witnessed, she had made her own vow, to help Selena take care of the child in just these circumstances.
Anyone who knew Emmeline well would find the idea that she might fall into the role of comforting or guardian angel almost humorous. As sweet, gentle, and unworldly as Selena was, Emmeline was tough and edgy. Beneath her demeanor however, lurked a genuine kindness and a deep love of family, Emmeline was fiercely loyal and committed to those she loved. The hard exterior masked a tender heart.
Thus Emmeline Tressidor was determined to drop the threads of her own life and stay with her two cousins until a new reality could be set in place. But perhaps drop the threads was not the proper way to look at it. Rather she was picking up the threads and weaving them once again with those of her beloved cousin who had been her soul mate for as long as she could remember.
For life is a seamless tapestry, whose threads are never broken until the last breath is drawn. The threads of life may twist and knot. They will go where they may, as the unseen artist weaves them together and then apart. The pattern woven tells a story. And this story was laden with sorrow and regret. Foremost in Selena's mind were the years spent indulging in her wanderlust rather than staying at home as the dutiful daughter.
Sensing another presence near the house, Emmeline stood up and prepared to face Dr. Justin Harrington. It would be asking too much to expect Selena to explain the situation. At any rate, Selena was oblivious to the world around her. A cocoon seemed to have surrounded the pair, a buffer against anyone or anything that might break into this most profound grief.
While Selena had known the depth of the tragedy as Emmeline had stood in the doorway, it was her spoken words that made it real. As she made a movement towards the door and Selena looked up.
"I'll tell him. You take care of Trelawney Rose . . . and yourself."
Once again Selena bent over the child, lost in her grief. Emmeline steeled herself. Although she knew there would be no confrontation, she knew what she was facing. Selena's feelings for the Harringtons had been stronger than any she had ever felt for one of her families before, although Emmeline doubted that even Selena herself knew how strong.
Emmeline also knew that as the initial grief subsided and Selena returned to the rest of the world, the conflict that those feelings would engender with those for her sister, would increase her suffering exponentially. Highly intuitive, as all the Tressidors were, Emmeline had a further gift of deep insight into human nature and the ability to see below the surface of actions and thoughts. She could look into the future and see what challenges might unfold for her Selena.
But Emmeline would be there, as guardian and guide. Em was one of the strong ones. She would safely shepherd the sisters to the next phase of their sad lives and somehow, she would make the Dr. Harrington and his children acknowledge the truth and let their housekeeper go.
Opening the front door before he could, Emmeline looked into the eyes of a distracted Dr. Justin Harrington. She reached out her hand and said crisply, "Good morning Dr. Harrington, I am Emmeline Tressidor."
News from a Foreign Shore
After a quick glance into the living room, Justin Harrington led the woman back to the kitchen where Miss Selena had not yet had the chance to finish cleaning up from breakfast. Emmeline Tressidor said nothing as she glanced around but walked directly towards the coffee pot. Pouring herself a cup she gestured to Justin who nodded.
Once again, words were unnecessary to convey the seriousness of the situation. What Justin Harrington lacked in intuition he more than made up for with acute powers of observation and scientific analysis. There was a stranger named Tressidor in his house and his young housekeeper appeared to be beside herself with grief.
As they sat at the table, they were both a bit dazed, Emmeline from weariness and Justin from confusion. Emmeline decided that the simplest explanation was probably the best. Stating the facts and giving them time to sink in she finally spoke without hesitation.
"Selena's first responsibility now is to Trelawney Rose," she said firmly. "When the child was born, she made a solemn vow to her parents, that if any ill should befall them, she would raise the girl as her own. I witnessed that vow and made my own, to help Selena to carry out their wishes.
"My own parents made their vows to them as well, you see. My father, David Tressidor, is the executor of the will. The girls' parents have left Selena with full guardianship and the financial means to raise her. She no longer needs to work to support herself and Trelawney Rose.
"My aunt and uncle always wanted to leave things organized if anything should happen to them. When she is able to travel, Selena will return with us to the village. She is now the owner of the small home where they grew up. It is where she will raise the child."
Lost in thought Justin pushed his coffee cup away. His mind was a chaotic whirl of misgivings and contradictory feelings, assumptions and suppositions. Despite his scientific and logical mind, his imagination ran wild with the possible implications of losing Miss Selena. Of course she must care for her sister, yet it was she who had set his life and those of his children in order.
Her presence ensured the stable continuity necessary for raising three active children and one recalcitrant teenager. Their acceptance of her as their housekeeper was based on the fact that she was Miss Selena. She was not merely there to clean up their messes and babysit. The love she demonstrated through her nurturing was authentic. She guided them without leading, and taught them to unselfishly love through example.
Over the past year, Miss Selena had worked hard to build up a trusting relationship with them. Only his oldest child Willa had consistently refused all offers of friendship and kindness. Considering the state of his family when she had arrived, it was nothing short of a miracle.
He had not fully realized it until this moment, but he knew that she had helped him to reconnect with them after his own tragedy and lure him back from the mathematical abstractions into which he had retreated after the loss of his beloved wife, Helen.
Unable to cope with the children, he had left them in the hands of competent housekeepers who were really not nursemaids or governesses and did not have the resources to cope with his brood. Neither did he. He knew that if she left them now, it would all fall apart again. And then he realized that the situation was actually when she left.
As his mind reflected on the possibilities he was aware of the young woman beside him. She was so similar to Miss Selena in appearance and mannerism that it was clear they shared a bond stronger than normal cousins. He felt her empathy but refused to look up in case he might betray his own feelings. Not that he even knew what they were.
For a moment he even forgot that she was a Tressidor and did not need to look into his eyes to read his thoughts. Trying to push his own selfish concerns out of his mind he knew that he had to say something to let her know that he understood. He looked up but the words caught in his throat.
Someone entered the kitchen from behind and Emmeline stood up to lead Miss Selena in and to the table where she sat down limply on the other side of her cousin - for protection? She seemed to be sleepwalking. Justin Harrington had never seen Miss Selena so subdued and colorless.
For an instant he forgot his problems out of concern for her. He longed to reach out and touch her, just to reassure her that he was there for her. But he didn't move. She didn't look at him, but he noted that Emmeline gave him a sharp glance. The young woman clearly missed nothing. Elbow on the table and resting her head on her hand, Miss Selena finally spoke.
"Trelawney Rose is sleeping peacefully in the living room. We can carry her back to the apartment when you're done here," she said dully. "Dr. Harrington, your briefcase is in the hallway. You don't want to miss any more classes today. Emmeline, you need rest too."
It was then that Justin remembered that he had returned home to retrieve the briefcase that he had forgotten earlier. It explained his distraction when he had come to the door. Because he had to return for it he had missed his first class, no doubt to the delight of the advanced geometry students who probably had waited the perfunctory ten minutes and then left.
Emmeline nodded. She looked and felt drained. It had been a stressful few days and then a long flight from London to LAX and then the puddle jumper to San Francisco. Perhaps she had thought that Justin might protest, but after assessing the situation he decided that now was not the time to talk. Both women needed rest and space to grieve. And he needed to get out of the house and away from the fog of emotions that clouded his judgment. He needed to get back to the intellectual escape of the university.
As he felt Miss Selena slipping away from them, he perceived his own descent back into the scholarly world and its clear, rational parameters. Regretfully he left the room. Chester, seated by his briefcase looked up at him inquiringly. Cocking his head with a little moan he seemed to be asking what was going to happen.
Without a thought that he was actually talking to the dog Justin said, "I don't know, boy. I just don't know."
Chester whimpered again and he answered, "We'll just have to see what happens. Will you hold down the fort while I'm gone?"
With a respectful bark, Chester padded off to the kitchen to assume his duties.
He had picked up his briefcase and was out the door before he realized what he had done. Sadly, he shook his head.
A Dark and Quiet House
The children returned from school to a quiet, seemingly empty, house. They knew that at least Miss Selena must be home, since her little convertible was parked in the driveway in its usual spot. Jay opened the back door into the kitchen and immediately smelled the aroma of oatmeal cookies baking.
With a look back at Max and Jennie he called out, "Miss Selena . . ." but didn't finish when he realized that the young woman standing by the oven was not Miss Selena but rather another blonde woman who looked very much like her. An uncomfortable silence ensued.
"Good afternoon Jay, Max, Jennie, " The woman spoke gently reaching out her hand, "Would you like a snack?"
Uncertain, Jennie reached back and allowed her to take her hand. The boys shuffled nervously in behind her. Although this woman was definitely not Miss Selena, her warmth and genteel British accent reminded them enough of Miss Selena to make them feel safe.
The blue eyes looking at them were filled with kindness and concern. Jennie allowed herself to be led to the table where a plate of still warm cookies was sitting with glasses of cold milk. Following her lead, Jay and Max also sat down, albeit uneasily.
Emmeline faced three pairs of solemn eyes. Taking a deep breath and attempting to modulate her voice into a calm, even tone she prepared to talk. She decided that quick and upfront honesty would ease that tension the best. But news such as this is never easy to speak, even if it has often times been repeated. With only the slightest quaver in her voice she began.
"Children, I am Miss Selena's cousin, Miss Emmeline Tressidor. She and I grew up together in England and have always been the very best of friends. I came here to America to bring Miss Selena the saddest news you can imagine. Her mother and father have gone to heaven."
Even little Jennie understood the euphemism and said, "Oh poor Miss Selena! Oh, how can we make her feel better?"
Jay's response to Jennie surprised Emmeline. After all she had heard about the young man and his scientific, practical nature there was great empathy in his voice when he said, "You can't. Nobody can make you feel better when your Mom passes away, but if both your Mom and Dad . . ."
Jay didn't finish. Jennie and Max had little or no memory of their mother, but Jay would never forget her. Before the children could continue, Emmeline decided to finish what she had to say.
"Children, there is a little girl who came with me who is Miss Selena's sister," she said gently. "Now you probably have never thought of Miss Selena as having a sister, but she does. And now poor Trelawney Rose is only ten-years-old and all alone. She has no one in the world but her only sister. In a short time, Miss Selena will be returning to England to care for Trelawney Rose in the little village where the rest of our family lives."
As she had expected, Emmeline was faced with three disbelieving faces. The emotions that crossed them were extraordinary, from disbelief to anger to sadness. The three Harrington children had clearly absorbed Selena's gentle lessons of kindness and understanding towards others.
But while they all clearly wanted to feel sorry for Trelawney Rose, they also knew that despite feeling truly sorry and sympathetic for her circumstances, their own self-interest was at stake as well. Oh how easy it would have been to feel sorry for Trelawney Rose and say they would do anything for her if it had not meant that they were giving up the one who had, in many ways, become the heart of their home and family.
Miss Selena had of course always been kind and generous to others, particularly other children. However, she had always quite definitely been their Miss Selena. They never thought of her as someone with her own life and family. No, she had become an integral part of their family. In fact in their minds she was family. Her nurturing grace had healed the wounds that had driven them apart from their father. She taught them to love and respect others and themselves.
If before there had been a doubt that they were a true family, Miss Selena's presence had dispelled all those doubts. In his growing maturity, Jay could feel, although not quite articulate, that while Miss Selena had taught them so many things about loving and caring for each other, without her guiding light these lessons would slowly slip away.
They were not ready for her to leave, but it had never occurred to any one of the Harringtons that Miss Selena, who had always seemed so in control of all the forces of nature, could not control her own destiny. Even she was subject to a higher power.
This was one of those cases where Emmeline regretted her ability to know the minds of others. Looking at the children, she could think of a thousand different Tressidor family words of wisdom. But this was not a situation to be soothed by a "you must always have faith in the rightness of things" or "love makes all things possible."
The uncomfortable silence was finally broken when Justin Harrington entered the kitchen. Jennie jumped up and cried out, "Daddy! Daddy! You can't let Miss Selena leave!"
As usual, Dr. Harrington was at a loss to respond. As he held his little daughter he felt a stabbing pain. For this time, although he would have to find another housekeeper, he knew that the children would never accept her as they had Miss Selena.
In the farthest recesses of his heart he also knew that he could never truly accept another woman to raise his children, to fill his home with . . . he had to stop this. This was about the children, the care of the children, and the stability of the home for the children. There was nothing else for him to concern himself with.
As he fought his inner battle he saw Emmeline looking at him intently once again. Something about her told him that she shared her cousin's intuition and ability to read and understand others. Over time he had come to accept that this uncomfortable trait was at the root of Miss Selena's innate kindness towards all, even the most unlikeable people. A propos of nothing he wondered if Trelawney Rose also shared this gift. Well, he was certainly not going to get much of a chance to find out.
For the first time Max spoke, "Dad, what's going to happen to us?"
The question, though natural enough, contained an aspect of bleakness. It was almost as if he had lost his job or the house had burned down. The loss of a woman who had lived in their home for barely more than a year threatened near calamity to them all.
Swallowing hard, Dr. Harrington simply said, "I don't know yet Max, we'll just have to see how things work out."
"But we can't live without Miss Selena!" In his blunt, forthright honesty Max expressed the feelings of all concerned.
"Well Max, that's a little drastic isn't it?" replied his father, now trying to bring a note of reason into the discussion. "Remember that Miss Selena always says that things work out best for all concerned when given enough time."
The words sounded a bit hollow in his mouth. However, Jennie seized on them: "So Miss Selena stays."
She was so emphatic that no one had the heart to correct her. Emmeline felt uncomfortable and wanted to get away. She didn't like these kinds of scenes and yet she felt responsible. After all, it was she who had created this catastrophe by bringing the news.
Her concern for Selena and Trelawney Rose had blinded her to possibility of becoming entangled of the emotions of the Harrington family themselves. Possibility? No. Probability? Maybe. Certainty. Yes. Being a Tressidor it was impossible for her to venture into this virtual ocean of churning emotions and remain untouched.
But Emmeline did not have time to further ponder because a large voice came into the room, followed by what she could only describe as one of the most flamboyant hippies that she had ever seen. The oldest child Willa had returned home.
"Who died?" she asked sarcastically, as she looked around at the sad faces. "You all look like Chester kicked the bucket or something."
No one knew how to answer that, but Chester, who was lying on the floor by Jay's chair, looked up at her and reproachfully woofed.
She rolled her eyes.
"Miss Selena's parents died," answered Max finally. "And now she has to go back to England to take care of her little sister."
"Oh! What a shame!" she said more cheerfully than sympathetically. "We all wouldn't want to keep her family duty now would we? Just think of that poor little girl without a mother or father."
"We are," said Jay uncomfortably. "But that doesn't mean that we don't feel bad that she's leaving."
"Well, considering how Miss Selena is always preaching love and lollypops about the importance of family," answered Willa. "I, for one, can't imagine that she would put anyone in front of her poor, little orphaned sister."
The other children looked at each other guiltily. They knew that Willa was right, but she was also trying to be spiteful. Only Willa could make Miss Selena's generosity, kindness, and love of family sound so crass. They all knew very well that she had wanted Miss Selena to leave since the day she came. It appeared that she had finally gotten her way and was now ready to gloat.
Emmeline did not like the tone of the older girl's speech or the vibes that she was throwing off. And she was very disturbed that Dr. Harrington did nothing to chastise her for her callous remarks. The girl clearly had a cruel streak that no one had ever addressed.
But not wanting to become involved in this domestic issue herself, she announced that she needed to start dinner and threw them all out of the kitchen. They all left slowly and rather sadly except Willa. Suddenly there was a new spring in her step.
Grief as searing, deep, and painful as the one that enveloped the Tressidors could not be sustained for long. As the traumatic psychological wound began to heal, emotions moderated into a steadier, more tolerable pain. Yet still, Selena and Trelawney Rose had not been able to venture forth from the little apartment. Emmeline tenderly ministered to them and also managed to keep the Harrington household running.
She took over the household duties. She was quiet by temperament and less of a "force of nature" when it came to organizing and getting things done. Meals were served, laundry cleaned, and the house kept tidy. Different from her cousin, she kept more to herself and out of everyone's business.
While it had sometimes crossed the Dr. Harrington's mind that Miss Selena had perhaps inserted herself too much into their lives, he suddenly realized that he missed her influence on the children. Jay was more engrossed in his schoolwork, Max in the avoidance of his, and Jennie began to look for more attention.
Only Willa was cheerful. She was walking around as though she had just hit the jackpot. It took a great deal of restraint on his part to keep from arguing with her, but he knew that conflict between them would only make things worse. Justin Harrington began to realize anew that Miss Selena had provided much more than housekeeping and domestic order.
Emmeline was not a housekeeper, but she did know how to efficiently run a household. Lost in herself for once, Miss Selena pulled back from the family completely. The children, sensing her need for space, respected the physical and emotional boundaries she established. Instead of yielding to temptation, none of them ventured over to the little apartment to try to see her. Despite his own personal feelings on the matter, Jay helped Max and Jennie to realize that the child now in her care needed her complete focus.
Paralyzed emotionally by the trauma, Selena was unable to even purchase an airplane ticket. Finally, at Emmeline's behest, after a week, she finally agreed to speak with her friend, the university chaplain, to seek some guidance. Understanding and kind, the man began to help her to sort through her feelings.
Eventually she reluctantly realized that she needed to return home. The cut would be painful, but it would be more merciful to make it quickly, rather than dragging things out. This was a new place for Selena. Suddenly, instead of being the one who sweeps in to set things right, she was the one who was leaving and causing the disruption. The comforter was now in the role of the comforted. But she knew what she had to do.
When she returned from her meeting, she told Trelawney Rose that they would soon be returning home. She had a couple of things to wrap up and then they would fly back to London. The child had been utterly morose for days. But the news cheered her up a bit and she asked to go over to the "big house."
Trelawney Rose loved to play the piano. She could play a number of classical pieces from memory and was particularly fond of Mozart. She was only in the house a few minutes, when she discovered Dr. Harrington's piano and asked permission to play. Since it was the first thing that she had taken any real interest in since she had arrived, Selena readily agreed. No one else was home at the time other than Emmeline, but her playing was so wonderful that anyone who heard it would enjoy it.
That day, when Jay walked in from school he could hear the piano from the living room in the kitchen. He knew that it had to be Trelawney Rose or Miss Emmeline (as they had come to call her) since there was no one else in the Harrington household that could play so well.
He quietly walked into the living room and stood beside the old upright. The little was sitting at the keyboard playing, her eyes dreamily staring into space. He listened intently and was amazed at the grace and flexibility of Trelawney Rose's long slender fingers. Finishing a measure, she looked up at him a little fearfully.
"Don't stop, that was amazing," said Jay carefully, not wanting to frighten her away.
Trelawney Rose looked down at the keys and replied simply, "That was my Mummy's favorite piece. It's Mozart, you know. When she was sad I used to play it for her and she would smile."
She shifted a bit and Jay sat down on the bench beside her. He considered his answer carefully. Although he wasn't particularly sensitive or intuitive, a lost mother was something he knew all about. In fact he could remember his own Mom playing on this same piano when he was little. This may have initially drawn him in, but now his inner sense of kindness wanted to reach out to the girl in some small way.
"When my Mom was sad, I used to bring her flowers from her garden," he said thoughtfully. "It made her smile. But towards the end it made her cry. I used to feel bad because I couldn't make her happy anymore. I didn't know why until she went away forever. When they told me that she would be leaving us, I didn't want to believe them at first. But I guess she knew that she really was going away."
Trelawney Rose was interested. She was always interested in other people and Jay brought up an issue that she had been curious about. Why was there no mother in the Harrington household? If someone had once told her, she had forgotten. Unsure of how to ask, she finally asked, "Where did she go?"
Now it was Jay's turn to be unsure of how to respond, obviously the subject was awkward at best. However the words just came out, "She went to heaven."
"Is she an angel?" asked Trelawney Rose with a spark of interest. "My Mummy is in heaven too and I just know that she is an angel, and my Papa too. Maybe they are all angels together. Do you think they are all angels together now?"
Jay was completely at a loss. He wasn't really too sure about heaven or angels. He was just repeating what everyone had always told him. But since Trelawney Rose seemed to be reaching out he didn't want to discourage her. He had never seen anyone with such sad eyes before, except for his mother when she was sick.
"I guess they could be . . . together I mean." Jay hoped that the conversation was over.
But Trelawney Rose persisted. "I think that they are all angels together. I really and truly do. In fact I think that they may be having their tea and are looking down at us now from heaven and smiling. Do you think that angels have tea? I do. Tea is such a lovely thing that I can't imagine that a place as wonderful as heaven could do without it.
"And of course you know that angels can look down from heaven and see everything that is happening on earth. Yes, I do believe that right now at this very moment they are having their afternoon tea and looking down at us and smiling."
Trelawney Rose was if nothing else a whimsical child. Brought up on a combination of fairy tales and Sunday school stories of miraculous happenings in the Bible she had not yet quite sorted out the difference. Her imagination was as rich as either Max's or Jennie's, but as an older child she was able to express it far more articulately.
Even at her young age, she was beginning to develop that famous Tressidor talent for storytelling. Now she began to enthusiastically spin a yarn about their angel parents in heaven looking down on their children on earth and smiling. Not noticing that the boy beside her was silent from discomfort rather than keen interest she became lost in her own fantasy.
While this might have been soothing for her and perhaps even therapeutic, it was too much for pragmatic Jay. Feeling that he could not escape without hurting the little girl's feelings he sat and waited. Fortunately Miss Selena walked in and said to Trelawney Rose, "I wondered why you had stopped playing. I see you were getting to know Jay."
"Oh yes, Selena," replied the girl brightly. "We were just discussing how our mothers are both angels in heaven and smiling down on us."
One look at Jay's face told Miss Selena that the discussion had been one-sided.
She said, "Jay, why don't you go find Max? I think he needs your help with his homework."
With a sigh of relief and gratitude, Jay walked away from the piano. He turned back to see Miss Selena watching him. Her little smile told him that she was pleased that he had spoken to Trelawney Rose. The girl picked up her piano piece where she had left off, still talking to herself about angels. Jay thought that he had never met anyone who was both so odd and so sweet. She barely seemed human.
The Tea Party
Jennie walked down the hall from the kitchen towards the living room and stopped when she heard a voice coming from inside there. Realizing that it was Trelawney Rose she wondered to whom she was speaking. It was not long before she realized that it was someone named Tressa and that Tressa was not answering.
With logic that only five-year-old girl could understand, Jennie immediately knew that such a conversation could only mean one thing. She realized that Trelawney Rose must be talking to a doll. Then she had an idea. She went up to her own room and picked up Sally, one of her own favorite dolls.
As Jennie softly entered the room Trelawney Rose stopped talking and said, "Hello Jennie."
It was a very "Miss Selena-like" thing for her to do, and so Jennie was unfazed. With the simple reasoning of a child she just assumed it was something that all the Tressidors did. Having gotten use to it with Miss Selena she continued in and asked, "Would you and Tressa like to come to a tea party? Sally wants to meet Tressa."
Trelawney Rose turned to see Jennie standing in the door with her doll in hand. She smiled shyly and pondered for a moment and before asking Tressa, "What do you think?"
She looked at the doll and appeared to be listening intently. Although Jennie couldn't really hear anything she had the strongest feeling that Tressa was asking what would be served. Without thinking she replied, "I can go get some tea and cookies from the kitchen."
Trelawney Rose rewarded her with a broader, if still somewhat sad smile. Without skipping a beat she said, "Then we'll come. Tressa loves biscuits."
Jennie flew out of the room and was in the kitchen in an instant. Seeing Miss Selena and Miss Emmeline having tea there, she breathlessly asked, "Can I have a tea pot and four cups in my room please, and some biscuits too? Please?"
The two women looked at each other and smiled at the use of the English word "biscuits."
Miss Selena asked, "And what would that be for?"
"We're going to have a tea party, Trelawney Rose and Tressa and Sally and me. And Tressa loves biscuits." Then remembering that she really wasn't supposed to have food in her room Jennie added, "Just this once please."
Miss Emmeline stood up, but Miss Selena replied, "I'll get it. You can go upstairs, Jennie, and get organized for your tea."
Jennie ran out and Selena looked at Emmeline.
"First Jay and now Jennie," she said. "I believe that now the children are accepting that Trelawney Rose is my sister and that she needs me."
She quickly went over to the pantry to get the necessary items. But Emmeline was concerned about the contact between the children. The Harrington children were clearly accepting the idea of Selena having a sister but that did not mean that they were any closer to accepting that Selena would soon be leaving them. In fact, Selena planned to tell them later that night at dinner.
And if young Trelawney Rose was emerging from the greatest depths of her grief, she knew that anyone who met her would be charmed. But all the charm in the world would be no salve for the Harrington family's own grief at the coming parting. Not for the first time, a thought struck Emmeline that she made her distinctly uncomfortable. Given to premonitions, she was hoping for that for once her radar was off track.
As Selena approached Jennie's bedroom she could hear the girls talking about "inconsequentials." If one didn't know any better, they were simply two sweet little girls getting to know one another. As she walked into the room and saw them sitting across from one another, each with a doll seated beside her, she was struck by the similarity. It wasn't just the blonde hair and blue eyes.
No, their light chatter betrayed an understanding of a deeper nature. They hardly knew each other and yet they knew each other, almost as if they were long lost friends getting to know one another again.
Trelawney Rose saw her first and cried, "Oh Selena, you brought our tea."
With all the grandeur of a head-house parlor maid serving tea to her ladies, Selena placed the tray down on the table with a flourish and passed out the goodies. Picking up on the game, Trelawney Rose turned to Jennie and said, "Shall you pour or I, my dear Jennie?"
"Oh it would be splendid if you would, my good Trelawney Rose," Jennie replied, who couldn't have poured the tea anyway since she wasn't allowed. She wasn't exactly sure of what "my good" meant, but having heard it in some of the stories Miss Selena read her, she thought it was appropriate.
"Will that be all mi' ladies?"
"Thank you, Miss Selena," replied Jennie seriously, "You may go."
Smiling to herself, Selena turned. However she was barely outside the door as her smile faded and she held herself up.
"My dear Selena! I don't know what I would do without her," Trelawney Rose was saying.
"Well, Miss Selena is the best housekeeper in the world," answered Jennie. "I can't imagine having any other."
"Tressa would also be lost without her. She was just telling me the other day that Selena was the best sister in the world and that I was lucky to have her."
"Sally likes Miss Selena too!" piped up Jennie. "We can't go to sleep at night without a good night kiss."
Tears formed in Selena's eyes. She almost never kissed either Jennie or the doll good night. Unless he was out late, Dr. Harrington always put the little girl to bed. It became obvious that the girls were using their dolls to help them talk with one another about their hopes and fears; hopes and fears that they couldn't directly say to one another or to anyone else.
Selena felt something turn inside her, her heart? It was as if she were caught in a vise. There was no way to avoid deeply hurting one of those two precious children. She was struck by the fact that she wasn't really able to make a conscious choice to do either. Fate had dealt its card and she must play it. Suddenly she became aware of a presence behind her. She knew who it was before she turned. She set down the tray and allowed herself to be held in the pair of strong, waiting arms.
For Dr. Harrington, who had also heard every word, it was almost as if he were holding young Jennie after a disappointment. Aware of the softly falling tears, he stroked hair. Once again, the gesture was fatherly. Thus he convinced himself, and the highly intuitive woman in his arms that this was purely a gesture of human comfort, born from the sympathy of another soul who has known great grief and even greater turmoil. And so he focused his mind.
But from the edge of stairs, Emmeline saw the pair and recognized his actions for what they were. All of her warning bells sounded as she realized that if she didn't act soon, things would be very rough indeed. Like one of Jay's chemistry explosions, where all the right ingredients were mixed at the wrong time and in the wrong proportions, things were beginning to bubble and smoke.
However she also knew that interfering with the workings of fate that were clearly operating in the background also carried its own dangers. All involved must make their own choices using their own free will and the information they had available.
But, did fate decree that they be blind? How often did blindness, the failure to recognize all possibilities, lead to disaster? Overconfidence in self-knowledge was often at the root of a tragic flaw. Yet she did not doubt the evidence lay before her eyes and knew if action wasn't taken soon that even worse things could happen. But action should she take? That was impossible to know.
Saying a silent prayer, Emmeline quietly thought, "Help me to help them find their way. Help me put this right."
It didn't take long for Emmeline to act. Like her cousin, when she made up her mind to do something, she did it. Waiting at the bottom of the stairs, she intercepted Dr. Harrington on his way to the study. In a straightforward manner, she requested an interview.
Without preface she began, "Dr. Harrington, it is time for everyone involved to move on with their lives. Selena and Trelawney Rose need to return home and you need to find a new housekeeper."
Dr. Harrington's confusion was evident. It was clear that he was ignoring the situation to the same extent as his children. Emmeline wondered for a moment if he thought that things could go on as they were indefinitely. More likely, she thought grimly, he wasn't thinking at all. Most likely, he was in denial that things must change, not to mention the degree to which his own feelings were now coming into play.
"But isn't there still a lot to be arranged?" he began. "After all, one just doesn't pick up and move halfway around the world at the drop of a hat."
"You clearly don't know much about the Tressidors," said Emmeline with a wry smile. "'At the drop of a hat' is generally how they do move around the world."
"Oh, well, then I am sure that Miss Selena wouldn't leave until she knew that everything was taken care of here. A new housekeeper put in place and all that," began Dr. Harrington.
Ready for that argument, Emmeline replied, "I know that Selena would trust me to stay and take care of things until a permanent arrangement is made."
Clearly discomfited, Dr. Harrington sat down. Deep down he knew that Miss Selena's departure was really only a matter of purchasing a plane ticket. However, he also had his recent conversation with the university chaplain still fresh in his mind. He was unsure of where this sudden urgency to leave had come from.
He was unaware that Emmeline had just witnessed the scene upstairs in the hallway. He had no idea that she was capable of seeing through the pretense that he had just tried to create. He just simply couldn't imagine calling up Alice Spencer and beginning the search process for a new housekeeper again. In fact, he had not even made the call or hinted to Sy that he would. He had wanted to delay it for as long as possible.
Emmeline, recognizing that his male, scientific logic was impeding his more humanistic inclinations, softened her stance. Try as he might to explain things in a rational manner, he had yet to realize that it was time to put aside reason and feel. He needed to see that unless he could understand the pain that Selena was experiencing as something that he had the power to mitigate, by accepting circumstances as they were, he would only make things worse for her and all the children in the long run.
He was only now realizing that the two plus two he had added up really came out to six, but he couldn't see his way out with any known logarithm. His conundrum lay in his two-dimensional worldview. Well, she would give him some help. She sat before him and took his hands in hers. Looking into his eyes she gave him the benefit of wisdom acquired through the vagaries of her own existence.
"Dr. Harrington, you are seeing this only in the context of its logistical framework. If you would use your heart as you as aptly as you do your mind you would realize that there is a dimension to this problem that exceeds the boundaries of timelines, employment, and reconfiguring your household. Ultimately, in its most essential form, this is a matter of the heart, not the brain.
"Instead of looking for a good solution, look for good in the solution, whatever that might be. If you've been around Selena and paid attention to her for any length of time, then you know that often these things are not initially revealed. The nature of feelings and moral precepts is elusive, particularly goodness which is probably the most difficult of all to pin down.
"In the final analysis, so to speak, goodness is always the best course, but most often it is not the easiest. Throughout the ages, philosophers and theological scholars have been searching for empirical evidence of goodness. But it is the common folk who know best. One does not accept that goodness exists based on proof, but rather based on faith. And faith requires no empirical evidence.
"In the end there are three things that last: faith, hope and love," concluded Emmeline.
"And the greatest of these is love," finished Dr. Harrington thoughtfully. He realized that the young woman before him had a scholarly mind. By helping him to set the situation in a philosophical context, she was giving him a framework in which he could think more clearly.
"Yes, the greatest of these is love." Emmeline dropped his hands and stood up to walk out. Standing at the door she looked back at the still figure. She did not know if the seed that she had planted had taken root. One never knew when one planted a seed exactly what, if anything, would spring forth, she reflected. The seed must grow on its own, until it bursts forth from the earth so that it could be tended and nurtured. She had done what she could; she could do no more. Beyond this, he must find the answers on his own.
At dinner that night, the mood was tense. Even the children seemed to be aware of the undercurrents of conflicted feelings drifting aimlessly below the polite conversation. Selena had decided that she would need to make her announcement that they were leaving tonight.
However, she was finding it very difficult to work up the courage to say what she needed to. It was the first time that they were dining with the family, minus Willa, who was out somewhere. And as she often did when she was anxious, Trelawney Rose began to aimlessly chatter. The incessant rambling provided cover for her own avoidance of the issue.
She spoke of her own home, the village, the family, and the neighbors who were all there. There were too many to keep track of. It was clear that the people lived close to the earth, mostly as farmers and those who served the needs of the farmers: shopkeepers, school teachers, etc. Their lives were simple. They needed few motorcars since everything was within walking distance and there was not a lot of contact with the larger world beyond.
Jay would have been more curious from an anthropological perspective, if he didn't know where events were leading. Jennie listened with avid interest, as if it was a story in a book. She remained blithely unaware of the impending crisis. Max, on the other hand, was restless, shifting back and forth in his chair as he stared at his plate and picked at his food.
Thus Trelawney Rose continued her monologue, periodically questioning her sister about whether she recalled this person or that, or did she know this thing or that. The three adults looked at the other children and anxiously exchanged glances. Blissfully unaware of the effect that she was having on the boys, Trelawney Rose began to rhapsodize about the coming Mardi Gras party.
Would they be home in time? Or would there be a stop along the way to visit a cousin or someone? She wanted to know. The effect of her words was instantly electric. Unknowingly, she had uttered the forbidden statement. As of yet, Selena had not told the family that they would soon depart. Now all the Harringtons wanted to know. When were the Tressidor sisters leaving?
It was at this point that Max finally exploded. He had not had a one-to-one talk with her as his siblings had and his tolerance was at an end. He did not see the fragility of psyche that underlay the little girl's chatter. He only heard the words. He only knew his own situation.
He was a typical eight-year-old who couldn't see things from anyone's perspective other than his own. From his perspective, Trelawney Rose was gloating because without even trying she had won the battle (as he saw it) for Miss Selena's affections. Her gain was his loss and he was going to tell her what he thought about it.
"Oh will you just shut up! We don't care about your dumb old village and all the stupid people who live there. I don't see why you had to come here anyway. All you are doing is messing up our family. Why didn't you just stay where you were and leave us alone?"
A shocked silence fell over the table, broken only by Justin's stern, "Maximillian Harrington, go up to your room right now!"
Max looked around and shrugged, "I'm just saying what you all are thinking."
"MAX!" his father thundered.
But Max didn't back down easily. Showing no remorse whatsoever he stood up, neatly folded his napkin beside his plate, and pushed in his chair. As everyone watched, he calmly and casually walked out of the kitchen. The silence now drifted into a state of deep discomfort for all present. Unanswered questions hung in the air and no one wanted to talk.
Jennie was utterly confused by Max's outburst. She had convinced herself from the first that Miss Selena would never leave them. Daddy would fix it. After all, that would certainly not be everything working out for the best for all concerned, or at least as far as she was concerned. Having missed the allusions to the coming departure she only knew that he had yelled at her new friend. Too many events and conversations had gone over her head in the past few days for her to make sense of the present state of affairs.
In any case, Jennie had a very special relationship with Miss Selena. Since she had no memory of her own mother, the deepest connection that she had ever felt with an adult woman was with Miss Selena. It was Miss Selena cared for her when she was sick, helped her adjust to kindergarten, and comforted her when she was lonely. All of the love that she normally would have shared with her own mother was now heavily invested in Miss Selena.
It had never occurred to her that Trelawney Rose was a rival for Miss Selena's affections or that she might even have a prior claim. She could only imagine what she had understood and that was that Trelawney Rose was another little girl like herself who loved Miss Selena.
Even now she failed to see the vast difference between their relationships with Miss Selena. The only sister that she knew was Willa. And she and Willa hardly had a warm and loving relationship. In fact, most of the time Willa had no use for her. Why would things be any different for Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose? (Well, perhaps they could be but she didn't want to think about that.) Without any real paradigm to go by, she had failed to comprehend how deeply their sisterly devotion in fact might run, and the intense protective instinct that the elder had for the younger.
"Why is Max so mad?" she asked, directly addressing the issue. "Why doesn't he want to hear about Trelawney Rose's village? It all sounds so nice."
The adults looked helplessly at one another and Trelawney Rose was clearly puzzled and hurt by the onslaught of words. Jay took control of the conversation.
"Max is upset because very soon, Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose will be going home together," he explained. "Miss Selena can't be our housekeeper anymore because she has to take care of her sister."
He immediately regretted his choice of words. Jennie was a sharp little thing and had been known to play with words before. She widened her eyes and turned to Miss Selena, "You do? You have to take care of Trelawney Rose? But don't you want to stay with us?"
Selena closed her eyes, her lips moving silently perhaps beseeching an unseen force. There was no good way to put this. Both Trelawney Rose and Jennie were looking closely at her for her answer.
"It isn't a matter of want or have to," she replied as she tried to walk the delicate line. "It's a matter of how things are."
Still Jennie persisted, "But what do you want to do?"
Selena did not answer immediately. Too many emotions were engulfing her. Her own fragile state of mind was completely overwhelmed with the present situation. In an ideal world, everything would resolve itself. In fairy tales, despite the challenges, everyone lived happily ever after.
Selena's prolonged silence did not escape her sister. The answer seemed very plain to Trelawney Rose and she did not understand Selena's reticence. She looked back and forth from Jennie to her sister in confusion
At last, she spoke up. "Jennie you must understand that Selena is my sister, my only sister, and she will come and live with me so that we can be a family. That is what my Mummy and Papa wanted. You already have a sister and a family. Selena is my family."
"No!" declared the little girl emphatically, "Miss Selena is our family and I never want her to leave us. And Willa is not my real sister. She hates me. Miss Emmeline can be your family. She can take you home and then Miss Selena can stay home with us forever."
This was getting impossible. How could anyone explain to Jennie that the love between Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose tied the two more firmly together now than any other love either might have for any other?
Jennie's comparison with her relationship with Willa would have been funny if it were not so sadly true. But setting that aside, there had never been a question in Selena's mind of whether or not she would leave the Harringtons. It was just a matter of how and when.
Of course the tragedy of the situation was that it could not be easily explained to a child. Jennie and Trelawney Rose each saw only her own perspective and the inherent correctness of it. Looking at the two faces, Selena was torn. How could she navigate the gulf between both sides in a way that would not leave one girl deeply hurt?
Yet Jennie's failure to comprehend the situation as it was had now muddled it badly. It was now Trelawney Rose's turn to misread the events of the past few minutes. Taking her sister's silence as a tacit acknowledgment of Jennie's claim that Selena would have stayed with the Harringtons, if given a choice, she suddenly felt like a burden on her sister.
For the first time in her life she became aware that her sister's life was apart from her own. Seeing that Selena's relationship with the Harringtons, especially little Jennie, went beyond the boundaries of a normal employer-employee relationship she felt what little security she had begun to slip away.
Of course living in England, she was very much aware of domestic servants. She also knew that frequently such people as nannies and nursemaids were viewed as family and even served families for more than one generation. But no one saw them as real family. When they were too old to work, they were comfortably pensioned off and went their own way.
Living within her rather circumscribed existence, she had never seen Selena outside of the family home. In fact, she had never given much thought to where she was or what she did when she wasn't with them. She lived in the moment. When Selena came home to visit she lavished all of her attention on her younger sister.
This was the only Selena she knew, not this one sitting here before her to whom another family and other children seemed to belong. Jennie was now laying claim to her as more than a domestic. Among other things, it was very perplexing.
She also now remembered how disturbed Mummy and Papa had been that Selena had been with this family for so long. And Papa had been very cross after he had spoken with Aunts Edith and Phyllis about their visit, but she had paid no mind. Mummy had looked worried and held Trelawney Rose close.
But they had both closed their minds so that she wouldn't know why. Perhaps they had known then that Selena had wanted to stay here forever, just like Jennie said. Perhaps it was Trelawney Rise who didn't fully understand the situation, not Jennie. She was now terrified for the future. What had happened to her Selena who had always called her, her little lamb? The last time she had left, she had assured her that she would be home soon. But she hadn't been. Something was very wrong.
Since the moment that she had known that her parents were gone, Trelawney Rose had asked for nothing more than to go to her Selena. Her mother had raised her two daughters to be emotionally dependent upon one another. And Trelawney Rose was such a fragile child that Selena had always known that one day it would fall upon her to care for her, possibly through adulthood. As interconnected as they were, each sister felt the other's heart breaking. They were now both in tremendous pain.
Emmeline could feel the pain of each powerfully. She had always been close to Selena, but their recently shared ordeal had drawn her more closely to Trelawney Rose than she would have imagined that she could be. And Trelawney Rose had just been cut loose from her only sense of security throughout this nightmare. Just as she had back in the village, she knew that they were losing her.
There was a very good reason why the children of the village were kept at home until they reached a certain age. The external world was a threatening place for a child who was still not in full control of her psychic faculties. Emmeline was now aware that there had been more wisdom in Grandfather Trelawney's opinion than anyone had given him credit for.
It was not threat of physical injury, but emotional and spiritual damage that he had feared. And if he wasn't such an old blow hard, he might have tried explaining this rather than simply trying to exert his authority over the family. Even Mum, who had made her own vow to keep the child safe would have understood and agreed with that.
At the very least, she could have overruled the child and sent her sister Sylvia with them. Calm and gentle Sylvia certainly had the ability to work through this situation better than she could. Oh, why had Trelawney Rose said that she wasn't needed?
Outside of her own sheltered world, Trelawney Rose suddenly felt herself being swallowed up by the unfamiliar circumstances, events, and emotions. She felt desperately insecure. Throughout the weeks of the wake, the funeral, and now the visit, she had held onto the hope that she would someday return home and have a family again with her sister. Selena was too confused now to perceive it, but Emmeline could see that the child was close to mentally breaking.
Emmeline had not told Selena of the trauma that the girl had experienced before they had come. She knew that Grandfather Trelawney had not wanted her to leave the village, but she didn't know of the heartrending scene that had taken place when she had left Aunt Alma's house.
She had not been able to put into the words the awful agony of listening to the girl screaming for Selena as Dad had carried her from one house to the other on that dark, cold night. And she did not know of the child's threat to go to her Mummy and Papa if she could not go to her Selena. It was a threat that no one doubted that she would carry out if pushed too far.
Emmeline now worried that the child would lose control once again and that Selena would discover all that she had hidden from her. But the child just looked inconsolable once more. The one thing that she had thought that she could count on had been roughly pulled away. Emmeline was determined to put it back in place.
Too much power was being given to a small child to manipulate the feelings and events of a very complicated situation. And, although Max had been sent from the table, no thought was given to any sort of apology from him for being so downright rude and inconsiderate.
She now could see very clearly why Selena had not been able to set the family to rights. Dr. Harrington showed not the least ounce of willingness to restrain any of his children. Willa was not the only inmate running this asylum. For some reason Selena couldn't see it.
Like all Tressidors, Emmeline was very protective of Trelawney Rose. It was she who had told her of her parents' death. It was she who had slept with her and comforted her in the night when she woke up crying for them. It was she who had held her hand at the graveside, fearful that she might act out that dreadful scene from Hamlet at Ophelia's open grave. Whatever it took, Emmeline would get her out of the house with Selena and back to the safety of the village.
While the Harringtons might not be aware of everything going in their minds, it was obvious that Jennie's assumptions and demands had ripped something open in both Selena's and Trelawney Rose's hearts. Unable to bear the tension anymore, sensitive Jay got up and told Jennie to come with him.
The child threw herself into Miss Selena's arms and instinctively, Miss Selena patted her back to comfort her. Jay saw the look of despair on Trelawney Rose's face and gently but firmly pulled his sister away. Reluctantly, Jennie allowed herself to be led out of the kitchen and upstairs.
Trelawney Rose herself then got up and stood between her sister and her cousin. She was deeply wounded by her sister's apparent betrayal and wanted to hurt her back. Turning her back to Selena she hugged her cousin tightly. Emmeline looked past the golden head and into Selena's eyes. Selena reached out, but when she touched the child's back she felt it cringe and then tighten under her hand.
It was at that time that Justin Harrington saw the anguished look on Miss Selena's face and finally made a full realization of her feelings for this child. This was a pure and simple love, uncomplicated by tenuous and unsure feelings. He knew this kind of love. It was powerful. The two together were bound by that indefinable, mysterious connection that sharing a biological bond gives. He knew that it would never be broken.
He saw in her pain a mirror of that which he had felt at the loss of his wife and knowledge that he was suddenly alone with his children. Just as he had been, Miss Selena was the sole guardian of a grieving child. The protective love of a parent for a child was instinctual. He had no right to try to come between it, even with his own self-interest for the future of his own children. What was it he heard? If you love someone set them free . . .
Easier said than done. The poignancy of the situation was clear. This was not a romantic love to let go of or subordinate to the needs of the other. This was the love of a family, a family who had only just realized the power of their own connections with one another. Could the children, could he sustain these bonds without her, the quiet, integral center.
What would they do without the filter of Miss Selena's love to get them through the day-to-day issues and conflicts that arose? How long could they believe in the "rightness of things," and the ability of everything to work out for the best for all concerned when given enough time? And without Miss Selena, how could they all stand up to Willa and her bitterness? The university chaplain was right. Willa was a destructive force in the family. But at this point he had no idea of what to do about it.
Justin had often doubted of his own ability to parent ever since Helen had died. Miss Selena had given him a way to feel closer to his children and more useful in their upbringing. Just the fact that he was no longer locked in a battle of wills over the constant parade of housekeepers had done much to improve their relationship.
He could feel free to leave the family issues behind and attend to matters at the university knowing that the children were happy and well cared-for. He could come home at night and really enjoy them. But when all was said and done, Miss Selena was a paid staff member.
She was entitled to a personal life and to place the needs of her own family first. This child had been suddenly and cruelly orphaned. He could see that whatever his own needs were, he had not right to deny the little girl the comfort of her only sister.
He had seen the despair and sense of loss in the little girl's eyes. There was even a terror that she was now left alone, cut off from the one that she loved best. He was already regretting the pain that Max and Jennie had inadvertently created through their selfishness.
For all that Miss Selena had done for him, he at the very least owed her the chance to leave his home and employ without further pain or trauma to her sister. Leaving the cousins behind he retreated to his study. Once again it became a sanctuary against chaos of his home.