Part 2. Love Makes a Family
Later Justin was not surprised to hear a determined rap on the door and see Emmeline enter. It was now obvious that she had put herself in the role of interlocutor, since he and Miss Selena seemed unable to address these issues face to face. It was also obvious that without her mediation, the situation would never progress towards any sort of conclusion.
In a business-like manner she informed him that Miss Selena planned to take Trelawney Rose and leave, the sooner the better. She needed to protect the child from any further stress and anxiety and the Harrington children needed to accept reality. The equivocating on all of their parts had to end.
Essentially, with such highly charged emotions in play, the children needed to be protected from each other. Trelawney Rose was too raw and the three Harringtons too confused. And they all needed to be protected from Willa and her poisonous tongue. Sooner or later, she was bound to return and exacerbate the presently tension-filled situation.
Emmeline would stay until he was settled with a new housekeeper. Dr. Harrington received the news with an air of resignation. There was nothing more to say. Emmeline was right. The sooner the children accepted reality the better. Despite her efficient manner, Emmeline's eyes were kind. At least, he thought, he would not have to cope with the worst of the transition alone.
While Selena and Emmeline cleaned up the kitchen, an utterly lost and bewildered Trelawney Rose wandered out into the backyard. There she saw Chester looking at her, cocking his head, and softly whimpering. She knew that he had witnessed the whole scene and was very sorry for her. He loved Selena very much, but knew that the sisters needed to be together. Ironically, the family dog was much more sensitive and caring than the family.
Scratching behind his ears, she said, "I know boy and I'm glad that you understand, but you see I can't make her leave now. I really and truly thought that she wanted to be with me, but now I see that she has to go with me. She made a vow, you know. But now I know that she really wants to stay here and that being with me would just make her unhappy. I don't want her to be unhappy. I guess that she has a new family now."
Chester tried to disagree, but Trelawney Rose sadly shook her head. Sighing she leaned against the soft, furry dog and buried her face in his long coat. She found comfort in his warm body and his steady panting. He reminded her a bit of Mummy's dog Elspeth. She suspected that he would also be a loyal and faithful guardian. In her mind echoed the same words that had run through Justin's. Her love for sister ran deep and she would let her go if it would make her happy.
Suddenly Chester looked up and gave a quick bark of greeting. Trelawney Rose looked up into Selena's clear blue eyes. But she was so overwhelmed by her own pain and sadness that she could not see into her mind.
"Thank you Chester for being such a good friend, but Trelawney Rose needs to go up to the apartment to pack her bag," said Selena firmly.
Trelawney Rose felt a wave of hurt and stubbornness well up. Once again, her highly variable emotions were churning. She was to pack her bag! What about Selena's bags? Perhaps Selena didn't need to pack. It would be she who would be sent away. Her emotions, unstable at the best of times, now shifted from sorrow to outrage. Chester whimpered in disagreement.
Shaking her head slowly Selena answered, "Trelawney Rose dear, we are leaving in the morning together. Emmeline will stay behind and settle things here. I'm going to pack too. We will take the first flight that we can get to London and if we have to wait then we will find some other place else to stay."
But it was too late to convince the child of her devotion. She had seen and heard too much tonight. She didn't want to be a burden.
"You are NOT a burden . . ." Selena didn't get to finish her sentence.
"Of course I am," she said fiercely. "You made a vow. Mummy forced you to make a vow. But if you no longer wish to keep it, then I won't force you. You can stay here with your new family."
"No one is forcing me to do anything," replied Selena, now bewildered by the sudden assault. "I love you more than anyone in the world. I held you in my arms when you were only minutes old. You are my only family."
"But you would leave me if you could," cried the child. "Just like you did before!"
"What are you talking about?" asked Selena, now even more confused. "You know that this is my job. This is what I do. I have always come home to you."
Trelawney Rose bit her tongue to keep from talking any further. She should not have mentioned that. But she was confused and hurt and when she was confused, sometimes she forgot where she was and when. She only knew of the previous abandonment such as it was because she was fey. If they knew at home that she could know such things it would be back to Uncle David or Grandfather Trelawney at once.
"I think that it would be better if Emmeline took me home. If she can't stay with me, I can always go to boarding school," declared Trelawney Rose with a bravado she really didn't feel. "I understand that that is the proper place for unwanted children."
"No! That is not what Mummy and Papa wanted. I will not allow you to be shipped off to boarding school," exclaimed Selena. "And nobody in the world wants you more than I."
The suggestion was ludicrous. If Trelawney Rose were to return to the village without Selena, there was no doubt that she would go to Uncle David or Grandfather Trelawney. No one in his right mind would ever send her to a boarding school. But both sisters were so hurt and irrational that neither was thinking clearly.
"I wasn't thinking about what Mummy and Papa wanted, I was thinking about what you really want. And you really want to stay here."
There she said it. Trelawney Rose did not wait for her sister's reaction. She fled back into the house, nearly running down Emmeline on the way.
Emmeline looked at Selena, who shook her head sadly, and then pursued Trelawney Rose. She had heard the entire exchange and it deeply saddened her to see the two sisters arguing in such a ridiculous manner. Someone needed to take the child in hand. As usual, her impulsive nature had won out and she had jumped to conclusions. Emmeline knew that a little sternness was needed before the child unwittingly did any more damage than she had already done.
Emmeline knew the depth of the grief that each sister felt and knew that more than anything they needed to be together. Em knew that Trelawney Rose's impulsive words had just deeply wounded her sister. Even if she had meant to do that when she spoke, no doubt she was already regretting them.
She didn't want to leave Selena alone either, but she had no choice. She couldn't be in two places at once and the child needed her more. If she couldn't calm her now then she would surely break. And a mental break out here in the larger world would be serious business. Selena would have to fend for herself for a while.
For what felt like a very long time, Selena sat by herself in the dark backyard looking at the stars. It was something that she had often done before. Looking at the stars gave her a deeper sense of the connection that she felt with the eternal cosmos. Tonight however she felt no tranquility, no peace in her soul.
Idly she wondered if she would ever feel peace again. The cool breeze carried on it the scent of the night stock in the garden. Lovely, but tonight it held no charm. The magic seemed to have dissipated, with the rejection of the child whom she had always and would always love best. Her mother had entrusted this innocent, long-prayed for child to her for life. She had always known that. And now she realized that she had failed them both.
The knife in her heart twisted more sharply as she realized that the situation was of her own devising. She knew how sensitive the child was, even if she were not coping with grief of this magnitude. The last time that she had been home, Mum had told her of how worried she was. She couldn't even imagine how upset Mum would be if she knew what had just happened.
If only she had quickly and firmly affirmed her love and devotion to her sister. If only she had bought their plane tickets this afternoon on her way home from the university. If only she hadn't hesitated. If only . . .
What had she been thinking? What had happened to her? How could she have put Jennie's feelings ahead of or even on par with Trelawney Rose's? Especially when she knew how strong Jennie was and how weak her sister was. Caught up in her reverie she failed to either sense Dr. Harrington's approach or his presence. Lost in thought, she started at his voice.
"Do you mind if I sit with you? Sometimes it helps to have a friend to lean on," he said gently, but firmly. His presence projected strength and Selena unconsciously responded.
Dr. Harrington knew about the scene with Trelawney Rose. Emmeline was presently doing her best to persuade the girl that she was mistaken and that Selena really didn't want to stay with the Harringtons. The child's emotions appeared to be wildly swinging in all directions. He had never seen anything like it, even at the height of his own children's trauma. He also had a vague notion that his own children were in the midst of an argument upstairs. He had come out here to escape the furor.
Without waiting for a reply he sat beside her on the bench, putting his arm across the back. He wasn't really hugging her. In fact he wasn't even touching her. Still, unconsciously she slightly shifted away. Somewhere deep in her subconscious, a warning bell sounded.
"You know it's really not a matter of wanting or not wanting to stay here," she reckoned, not wanting to hurt his feelings by admitting the truth. "It's a matter of degrees. Trelawney Rose doesn't realize that if I could set the clock back we would not have lost our parents, not so that I could stay here, but so that they would still be here. It's not just about her; it's about them as well.
"I love them and miss them. It will be very hard to return to an empty house and realize that I will never again see Mum in her kitchen or Papa in his favorite chair with the newspaper. The four of us will never sit down to dinner again. Going home means facing that, and perhaps that explains my reluctance. I know that I'm not saying this well. But how do I go back there, even with Trelawney Rose?"
Justin knew that this line of reasoning was only partly true. He had seen her face at the dinner table as clearly as Trelawney Rose. However it seemed to make her feel better to say it. He did however know the feeling of loss that one experiences when a loved one is suddenly absent from the home.
And he certainly knew that feeling that life was forever altered, changed in a fundamental way that disturbs the heart, mind, and soul. Out the corner of his eye he saw her gazing at the stars. In their soft light he saw the tears on her pale cheeks.
Acting on an unknown impulse he reached over and the gently brushed one away with his right thumb. She turned her head and gazed into his eyes, blue into soft grey, with deep gratitude. Cradling her head in his hand, he nestled it into his shoulder, held her close, almost rocking her like a child, and rested his cheek on the lovely golden mass of curls. He wanted to surround and protect her with . . .
The mood was abruptly broken by a gasp and they quickly turned to see Emmeline and Trelawney Rose on the back porch. Selena roughly pulled away, stood up, and held out her hand helplessly, but the child fled. The adults gave no thought to the response of the little girl to what she had just witnessed. Selena looked fearful and guilty, while Justin wore his usual mask of confusion. There was no hint of ambivalence in Emmeline's look.
Once again she had caught him with her cousin in a compromising position. This time, it was very clear to her that Dr. Justin Harrington was making his own appeal to Selena in her weakness in a most inappropriate way. He might not know about the betrothal, but he must have realized by now that the promise to her parents bound her firmly to her commitment to the child. She was furious.
Trelawney Rose rushed through the kitchen and to the foot of the stairs. A bit breathless from running and the shock of the scene she had just witnessed, she paused uncertain of what to do next. No matter what Emmeline said, Selena did not want to leave here.
Even more obvious to her now was that she wanted to be with Dr. Harrington. Concern for the children, especially motherless Jennie, were easily comprehensible to her. This frightened her. She might not know much about relations between men and women, but she had certainly heard lots of stories of falling and love and living happily ever after. And she knew what she had seen.
She remembered how angry Papa had been when Aunt Phyllis had gone on and on about how handsome Dr. Harrington was. And Mummy, who normally laughed at her foolishness, had looked worried. She could see for herself how good-looking he was.
He was so tall and tanned, and his eyes were a warm, soft grey. His hair was black, but greying at the temples, which made him look most dignified. Someday she knew that it would turn into a lovely silvery-grey. And for an old man, he had such a full head of hair. And he was so old.
Why he was certainly old enough to be her father and probably Selena's as well. But still, he seemed very kind. It worried her that such an old man had designs on her beautiful young sister, even if Aunt Phyllis had obviously approved. And she had mentioned many things, but never how old he was. Like everything else, it was quite a muddle.
She wasn't standing there long before she heard voices upstairs. Max and Jay were berating Jennie for starting the chaos that ended dinner. Upset as she was for her own sake, she could never bear to see an innocent person hurt. Her own kind heart felt the little girl's pain and without thinking she rushed to her aid.
Needing a place to direct her own anger, as she climbed up the stairs, she became more worked up. She was very nearly out of control by the time she got to the door. She entered the room, just as Jay was saying, "I don't see why you just couldn't let up. Didn't you see how upset you were making Miss Selena?"
"I didn't start it," repeated Jennie. "Max did. He yelled at Trelawney Rose and said mean things, not me."
"But you finished it," said Jay. "And the things that you said might not have been mean, but they sure were selfish."
"And how," chimed in Max. "You were totally selfish."
"The things that you told Miss Selena about not wanting to take care of her sister probably hurt Trelawney Rose a lot more than Max's idiocy. Now Miss Selena will go away and she'll probably never want to see us again," continued Jay.
"Yeah, probably never again," repeated Max.
"Your problem is that you just don't get it, you're such a baby that you never do. Everyone's feelings are important, not just yours," Jay began to lecture. "And Miss Emmeline told us that she had no one else in the world and that Miss Selena was going to take her home. And Miss Selena never said that she didn't want to go. You did!"
"You sure did," Max was starting to enjoy this. Usually he was on the business end of Jay's lectures.
Trelawney Rose rushed in just as Jennie was starting to cry and put a protective arm around her.
"I can speak for myself thank you very much and for how I feel," she asserted. Her vehemence made the boys step back in surprise.
"No Jay and Max Harrington, you two are the ones that don't get it!" she said severely. "You lot are so used to getting your own way all the time that you don't know that sometimes you can't. You act like no one has ever said no to you before in your lives. And it doesn't matter what anyone said down there. It doesn't change anything. And ganging up on Jennie doesn't help."
"Oh come on," said Jay. "You can't say that all of her questions didn't make you mad. And how do you think that Miss Selena felt?"
"My sister can speak for herself. As for me, mad, no." replied Trelawney Rose. "Sad, yes, very, very sad. It's not easy to face things such as they are. Since Jennie doesn't know any better, she just asks more honest questions than anyone else. She says what she feels, not what everyone tells her to feel. Just like you, Mr. Maximillian Harrington, for your information!"
Max made a face when she used his full name.
"Well these honest questions and honest feelings just made everything a whole lot worse," answered Jay, determined not to back down in front of his younger siblings.
He wasn't used to losing arguments. Being the eldest, he was used to winning. Losing to Willa didn't count. She didn't argue logically. She just threatened to smack them if they disagreed. However, he was doing battle with a girl who, for all intents and purposes, was an only child who had never deferred to an older sibling in an argument in her life. Despite the fact that her head spun with fury, her quick tongue retorted,
"Things couldn't have gotten any worse, could they? At least from my perspective, they couldn't have. Mummy always told me that no matter what my Selena would always be there for me. Selena promised her. Now she wants to stay here and I have no one.
"But now everything is at least out in the open! Everyone is angry. Everyone is upset. And no one even knows what to do. If you're such a bloody, brilliant scientist, then why don't you come up with a solution, Mr. Justinian Harrington?"
Jennie and even Max looked on with admiration. Neither of them even wondered how she knew Jay's full name. Trelawney Rose could clearly give as good as she got and then some. But even Jennie was beginning to feel sorry for her. She couldn't even imagine what it would be like to have no one in the world but your sister. But at least Trelawney Rose's sister loved her.
Still angry, Jay rolled his eyes,
"Girls!" he muttered under his breath.
Riled again, Trelawney Rose responded, "Boys! What do they know anyway?"
"A lot more than dumb old girls," answered Max with a huff. Unable to keep all the angry words straight in his head, he was completely confused. However, he felt that his manhood, such as it was, was being threatened now by the sharp-tongued girl.
But Jennie had begun to smile, looking up at Trelawney Rose she said shyly, "Thank you. I never have anyone on my side."
"Well we girls have to stick together then, don't we?" Trelawney Rose faintly smiled back. She was still mad at Jay and Max.
"I'm sorry that I made you so scared," she said repentantly. "I didn't realize. You can have Miss Selena back. I won't make any more fuss."
"That's a lovely gesture, but it's up to Selena then, isn't it?" replied Trelawney Rose in a calmer tone.
Her energy was spent. After one of these spells of ricocheting emotions, she was always exhausted. In fact, she was too tired to tell the other children what she had seen happening in the backyard between their father and Selena. While it not doubt would have encouraged them, it had just laid waste to her own hopes and dreams. It would have taken too much effort and she hurt too much.
Max was still confused. "Why are you sticking up for Jennie anyway? What do you care if we pick on her?"
"Now, Max," began Trelawney Rose with a sigh. "With everything all topsy-turvy you at least should be sticking together, not fighting with each other. I've never had any brothers, but my sister and I have always stuck together. We don't always agree, but we never forget that we love each other."
The three Harringtons looked at her intently and she sheepishly amended, "Well, almost never."
"You see Max and Jay," cried Jennie. "This is why I always wanted a sister!"
"You have a sister!" cried Max.
"Willa doesn't count," shot back Jennie. "She's not a real sister. She hates me."
"She does?" asked Trelawney Rose puzzled.
Just as Jennie had no model of two sisters loving one another, Trelawney Rose could never have imagined that one sister might actually hate another sister. In her world it was unthinkable.
"She hates all of us," nodded Max. "And she hates Miss Selena. But I think that she likes you because you are making Miss Selena go away."
"Does she then?" asked Trelawney Rose thoughtfully. "That is the most peculiar thing that I have ever heard. I am looking forward to meeting this Willa."
"No, you're not. She is the most horrid person in the world," said Jennie. "Before you came she was growing weeds in the garden."
"Growing weeds?" asked Trelawney Rose even more puzzled.
"Weed," corrected Max.
"What are you bloody talking about now? Nobody grows weeds in a garden, not on purpose anyway."
Seeing that Trelawney Rose had no idea what he meant, Max went back to his old argument with Jennie
"Well, if Willa's not your sister, then I suppose that you think that someday you can get one," he challenged her. "You know you can't just go and buy one in the store."
"I know that, stupid," replied Jennie. "But that doesn't mean that I can't wish for one."
"So then you would have someone to fight with you against us?" suggested Max.
Jennie stuck out her tongue and Trelawney Rose gently cuffed her ear, "You know that's not very lady-like and that is something that my sister has said to me on a few occasions."
Jay had stopped listening a while ago and was now watching the younger children. Jennie's remark about Trelawney Rose defending her just like she was her sister had started him thinking. His brain had kicked into overdrive with an idea. It was a brilliant idea, probably a bloody brilliant one, whatever that meant. In fact, it might just be the best idea that he had ever had.
"Hey, you guys!" he said conspiratorially. "Come over here."
Calling them into a huddle he began to talk rapidly. After a few seconds the others were nodding, Jennie was beaming from ear to ear.
The scene in the living room could not have been more different. Three adults, not looking directly at each other, were trying to discuss something that none of them really wanted to talk about. Emmeline refused to accept Selena's explanation of a moment of platonic comfort misunderstood. Where this was concerned, she had clearly lost all grip on reality. She had clearly forgotten how well both Em and Trelawney Rose knew her mind. In this case, it was quite obviously better than she knew it herself.
Meanwhile, Justin was doing his best to think of a way to escape. Whatever had happened outside, from his perspective anyway, it had not been entirely innocent. He was not entirely sure of what would have happened if Emmeline and Trelawney Rose had not interrupted when they did. Suddenly they all looked up.
Hearing the sound of feet on the stairs, they watched as the four children filed in and stood before them. No one could help but notice that Trelawney Rose had her arm around Jennie. Because he was the eldest, it had been decided that Jay would be the spokesman. He looked at the other three and opened his mouth but nothing came out.
Justin broke the silence, "Do you have something to say Jay?
Finding his voice Jay said, "Yeah, well, we've been talking and well, yeah, we uh, kind of had an idea."
He looked back for encouragement and Trelawney Rose gave him a nod.
"Well, we all sort of discussed it and we decided that since you guys, even though you're the adults and all, didn't know what to do, that we had to think of something," he replied and looked back again, as his courage failed him once more.
"Well sometimes it takes more than one person to find a solution to a complex problem," said Miss Selena slowly. "What were you, all of you, thinking?"
"Well you see, it seems like the problem is that we want Miss Selena to stay with us and Trelawney Rose wants Miss Selena to go with her. We talked it over and we thought that maybe Trelawney Rose could come and live here," he explained.
Then he took a deep breath and looked anxiously at the three stunned adults.
"Trelawney Rose can sleep in my room and I can have a real sister!" put in Jennie enthusiastically, before anyone else had a chance to respond. "And she can go to school with us and play with us and be a family with us."
Max finally found his voice also.
"Yeah well, Jennie is kind of right. If Miss Selena is our family and if she is Trelawney Rose's family, then that kind of makes Trelawney Rose our family too. You always said that family is the most important thing."
"And love," added Jennie, "I know that everyone says that Willa is my sister, but she doesn't love me and I don't love her. And I already love Trelawney Rose because she had a fight with Jay and Max because they were being mean to me and she won!"
Selena looked at Trelawney Rose and raised an eyebrow.
Looking a bit guilty, the girl said, "Well you see it wasn't a physical sort of a fight, it was more of a verbal quarrel. I mean nobody got hurt or anything."
But under her breathe, she added, "Except for Jay's pride."
"This is where I butt out," interjected Emmeline. "This is a decision for you all to make. After all, you are going to have to live with it."
"Coward!" muttered Justin. It was sure nice of her to decide to step out when things got really complicated.
"I know that you children are trying to be helpful," answered Miss Selena. "I am not sure that you realize all of the issues that could arise."
"Like what?" Max asked and all faces turned towards Miss Selena.
"Well for one thing, Trelawney Rose you have already started the year in another school."
"But kids switch schools all the time," said Jay. "In fact a new boy just moved here from Texas and he's in my class now in school."
"Yes, well, there are also immigration issues. Trelawney Rose can't just enter the country and stay like that. She needs a visa and a reason to stay longer than she would as a tourist."
"But Dad," said Jay. "Don't students come from other countries to the university to study? Why couldn't Trelawney Rose be a student? She'd be going to school here."
"Well yes, Jay, there are student visas," replied Justin.
"What about Willa?" asked Max, now starting to look around anxiously.
There was silence in the room. No one had even thought about Willa until that very moment. And while no one really cared what she thought, she could still be a problem.
"I think that we all know what Willa will say," replied Justin. "But you kids may have to stand up to her for Trelawney Rose."
"Yeah, and maybe you could stand up to her for once too," blurted out Max.
There was another period of silence. Nobody wanted to agree, but no one was able to disagree either. Finally Miss Selena decided to ignore the statement and move on.
"I'm sure that there could be other issues."
Miss Selena faltered as she searched her mind for another obstacle. The first one that had come to her mind, and the biggest one of all, was that Trelawney Rose was a little fey. But that was none of their business. She would need to try to get around it. She looked at Emmeline, who looked away and closed her mind. Trelawney Rose had also closed her mind to her.
"Yes, well, what Miss Tressidor?" answered Justin. A small seed of hope had started to root in his mind. He always tended to use her surname when challenging her. "If you think there will be problems then you must have an idea of what they are."
"Perhaps we aren't taking enough time to think things through. We don't want to make important decisions too hastily," began Miss Selena.
"You mean to think of problems," said Jay looking downcast.
"No that's not what I mean," replied Selena. "But you are all forgetting one thing, and that is that I have promised my parents to raise Trelawney Rose if anything ever happened to them. For that reason we need to return to the village."
"Did you promise to raise her in the village?" asked Jay.
"Well no, but we have always assumed that that is what was meant," she said. "And they have left me the house and an income so that we could be quite comfortable there."
"But there's no rule that you have to raise her in the village," said Jay a little mischievously, aware that he was mimicking his younger sister's rhetorical construct that had started the whole discussion in the first place.
"What did you really promise, Selena?" asked Trelawney Rose, curiously. "What words did you use?"
The two sisters stared at each other. Selena could see that Trelawney Rose had overheard her last vow that she made to Mum and Papa the last time she was home.
"The last time I was home, I promised Mum and Papa that wherever I was, my Trelawney Rose would have a home with me," she admitted.
"Then I offer to allow her to live here with you," said Justin kindly. "I offer to give you both a home."
"Um, well, but I know that we still have not considered everything," she answered.
The kids looked downhearted.
"I think that what Miss Selena means," said Justin. "Is that if this happens it is going mean that there could be some big changes in all of our lives. While right now you are all only looking at the good things that can change, there may be some bad as well. However, if we are all in agreement, you four children, Miss Selena and I, then we could give it a trial. There's always time for Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose to return to England if it doesn't work."
"Oh it will work," said Jennie confidently. "What about Willa? Does she have to agree too?"
"She forfeited the right to vote by not being home by curfew . . . again," he retorted.
"Okay, so let's take a vote," said Jay quickly pouncing on the idea. "All in favor of Trelawney Rose coming to live with us, raise your hand."
Four hands immediately popped up, followed by Justin's. Emmeline looked at Miss Selena and raised her hand.
"Emmeline, you don't get a vote," chided Trelawney Rose. "You copped out."
Her cousin shrugged as if she didn't really care much one way or the other, but at the same time did not lower her hand. Although she had her doubts, mostly about the little one's emotional stability, she had the strongest feeling that Jay's idea had been motivated by something other than selfishness.
There were larger forces at work. She would not interfere with the workings of fate, even if they were against her better judgment. And as Dr. Harrington had pointed out, they could always return home at a later date. They would need to anyway once Kenneth was found.
"Well," said Miss Selena, "I guess I am out-voted."
"Oh, no!" said Justin, "It's unanimous or it won't happen."
Six pairs of eyes looked at Miss Selena. Jennie was whispering, "Please, please, please." Trelawney Rose gave her a little smile and the Harrington men looked expectantly. Emmeline gave a little nod of the head. Relenting Miss Selena raised her hand.
Joy erupted with everyone yelling and hugging at the same time. Over the din Miss Selena called out, "I just hope that we all won't be sorry."
"Oh don't worry Miss Selena," burst out Jennie. "I can't be sorry! I'm going to have a real sister!"
As if on cue, a deadpan voice was heard over the ruckus.
"What the hell is going on here?" demanded a highly annoyed Willa who had just walked in.
"Oh, Willa!" cried Jennie. "The best thing in the world has happened! Miss Selena is going to stay and Trelawney Rose is going to live here too!"
"What's so great about that?" she asked with a sigh.
"Well, for one thing," said Jennie. "You don't have to pretend to be my sister any more. Trelawney Rose is going to be my real sister!"
But everyone just laughed. In a huff, Willa stomped upstairs. But no one cared. They all were too relieved and happy to let her tantrum spoil their good humor. Only Selena's eyes followed her up the stairs. Something in Dr. Harrington's glib response to the idea that she might have anything to say about this momentous decision had gotten under her skin. And despite Willa's prickly personality, she still felt sorry for her.
After the children had been sent to bed and Emmeline had taken a completely worn out Trelawney Rose back to the apartment, Justin finally was able to sit down to get to his paperwork. However, no sooner had he begun than Miss Selena was standing before his desk.
"Dr. Harrington," she said a bit anxiously. "Might I have a word?"
"Why not?" he asked, a bit annoyed at the interruption, but also afraid of what she might say. She had that intense look that she would get on her face whenever she was about to tell him something that he didn't want to hear.
"Nobody else may be, but I am most concerned about Willa," she said hesitantly.
"Don't worry about Willa," he said. "If she says or does anything to hurt your sister, she'll be one very sorry young lady."
"Dr. Harrington, that's not what I mean," she replied.
"Oh?" he looked up quickly.
"I have been worried about Willa, as you know, for a long time," she explained. "Yes, she is hostile. Yes, she is angry. And yes, most of the time she is extremely difficult. But she is also hurting, very much. Now, you have not told me much about her other than that she is a 'royal pain' to quote you, but Jay has."
"Really," said Justin, folding his arms across his chest and leaning back. "What has Jay said?"
Noting his body language, Selena thought, well at least he feels guilty or he wouldn't be so defensive.
"One day after the 'weed' incident," she said. "Which by the way you never disciplined her for. He told me that he thought that the only person that Willa had ever truly loved was her mother. He told me about how she acted out when you told them about her illness and that her grandmother struck her across the face. Then, when her other grandmother was trying to comfort her after she passed away, her Nana made her go and do chores."
"I didn't realize that Jay knew about the second incident or that he had such a good memory," he replied slowly. "He was very young at the time."
"He was old enough," she said simply. "He is also a very thoughtful and sensitive young man. He did not witness the scene with her Nana and her Grammy, but he told me that afterwards she was crying as she was cleaning the bathroom. He heard her talking to herself. She missed her mother and nobody cared. All they wanted her to do was work. Everyone felt sorry for the younger kids, but not for her."
Now Justin shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Why didn't Jay tell me?" he asked. "And why have you waited for a whole year?"
"I have been trying to reach out and help her since I have come," she said. "But after these recent storms of emotions that we haven't been able to control, I have been humbled. I can only help Willa so much. She really doesn't want my friendship anyway. She wants your love and attention."
"I love her as much as I love the other kids," replied Justin half-heartedly. "And it's not like I ignore her."
"Do you?" she asked. "Be honest. What was the very first thing you told me about her? You said that she was a hopeless cause, while she was standing there no less. And you can't ignore her because of her frequent and consistently bad behavior. Perhaps she is simply living up to your assessment of her. If you have given up on her, then it would also seem that she has given up on herself."
"She's just so impossible to talk to," he said, with a sigh. "And she was completely unwilling to help out when I needed her."
Miss Selena was now deep in thought. Justin waited for her answer.
"I believe that your wife loved Willa very much," she said quietly. "In her room, there is a beautiful hand embroidered picture with her name and date of birth. Someone spent many hours cross-stitching those lovely birds and flowers. I have done that kind of fancywork myself and know that such a piece is a labor of love.
"I am assuming that she made that for her. She also has other handmade items, including the patchwork quilt on her bed, and several photographs from when she was a baby and a small child. In many of them they are wearing matching mother-daughter outfits. There are quite a few pictures of your wife alone as well.
"Arguably, she probably spoiled her, but your wife clearly adored her first child. Please don't be angry with me for saying this, but she would probably not only be disappointed in Willa. She would probably also be disappointed in you. I know that you do not like confrontation, but I would like you to consider that to a certain extent, you have failed her, as much, if not more so, that she has failed you. You were the adult and it was for you to love her, comfort her, and protect her from her grandmother if necessary."
"Oh, but I . . ."
"But before you offered her comfort, you wanted her to care for her younger siblings," she said interrupting. "She was only fourteen. That is very young to be given so much responsibility at the same time that she was grieving. I know how she feels. I cannot imagine how I would have coped if I had not had Emmeline here with me to help with the house and Trelawney Rose. And I am an adult."
Justin stared into space. In his mind's eye, he could see Willa as a toddler, a little black-haired mop top always laughing. Helen had adored her. She had a special relationship with her, perhaps because she was her first child. Yet, perhaps when she needed him most, he had been so caught up in his own issues that he had ignored hers. Not only had he ignored her needs, he had ignored her bad behavior. He looked up at Miss Selena, now feeling humbled.
"The other children take their cues from you," she said quietly. "That remark of Jennie's hurt her very much. I went to her door to see if I could speak to her, but she was crying. And she wasn't crying because we are staying. She was crying because she feels more outside of the family than ever."
"What do you suggest that I do?" he asked.
"Reach out to her," she said. "Don't take no for an answer. Do your best to wear her down. And you need to exert some discipline over her. In many ways, you have missed out on helping her mature and develop her own moral compass during an important time of her life. Adolescents push boundaries, because they want boundaries. They complain like mad when their parents hold them accountable but they know it means that they love them.
"If Willa consistently exceeds the boundaries of appropriate behavior, it is because you have never shown them to her. And you have told me to 'let her do her own thing.' That is hurting her very much now. But I can't help her alone. We either face this together, or I will take Trelawney Rose and return home to the village."
"You feel that strongly about it?" he asked in surprise.
"Yes," she said quietly. "When my aunts were here in the fall, it was because my father had sent them to find out why I was here for so long. We discussed it and finally, I concluded that I was staying because I was worried about Willa. In the end, I have stayed primarily for Willa."
"The university chaplain told me that you had stayed because you had failed to marry me off," he remarked with an edge in his voice.
"That too," she admitted, ignoring his tone. "But Aunt Edith might have pried me loose if that was the only issue. By the way, Willa knows that she is the one keeping me here. She overheard us talking and made one of her sarcastic remarks about it. And yet, if she really wanted me to go, she could easily have pretended to fall in line. Jay also told me about the way she toyed with you during the revolving door of housekeepers. she is fully capable of playing the cooperative and dutiful daughter when it suits her purposes."
"But she didn't," said Justin shaking his head. "She continued to behave as badly as ever. I don't understand that child at all."
"Neither do I," she admitted. "Her problems are complex and they have been years in the making. But she is not hopeless. She is sad, confused, and lacks any trust in any of us. It is a recipe for disaster."
"Oh," he said and was silent for a moment.
"But if I agree to try and help you turn Willa around then you will stay?"
"Is that all that matters to you?" she asked bluntly.
"What?" he asked.
"I will rephrase my question," she said steadily. "Would you help Willa for her own sake or because you don't want me to leave?"
Justin found her forthrightness disturbing. She was openly questioning his motives. She seemed to be looking for evidence that he actually did still care enough about Willa to mend his ways. He could see by the set of her jaw that if he wasn't genuinely interested in helping her that she would, despite her earlier agreement to stay, take her sister and leave.
"Why have Willa and her feelings suddenly become so important?" he asked.
"Willa and her feelings have always been important," she replied. "My original goal, which has not changed, was to create a happy and healthy and environment for all the children including Willa."
"Oh," he said quietly.
"I will not bring my sister to live in a home where one of the children is on the outside looking in," she continued. "Now she may have put herself there, but I don't think that she is particularly happy there. I believe that it is we who are the adults to help her find her way back in. But you must take an active role."
"And you feel that you need my help in this?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "It is critical. And Trelawney Rose will help too."
"Why on earth would she do that?" he asked. "I'm sure that the other kids gave her an earful."
"Trelawney Rose, as you will see, is a very special child. She cannot bear to see anyone unhappy. And she recognized immediately that Willa was unhappy," she answered. "In fact, Trelawney Rose was always exceptionally close to Mum. No doubt she identifies with her feelings completely."
"Thank you for your honesty, Miss Selena," he said. "I promise that I will try harder with Willa. You are right. Helen would have been very disappointed in me. I guess that I just haven't wanted to face it."
"Sooner or later," she said sagely. "We must face up to everything in life. It's not too late for Willa."
Justin nodded and she left. He sat at his desk tapping his pencil on the page that he had been reading. Now that she had gotten him thinking about her, he could not get Willa out of his head. Nor could he erase from his mind the image of the joy on Helen's face when the nurse laid her newborn child in her arms for the first time. She had carried and loved that child for nine months before she had met her.
Unable to concentrate to do any more work, he went upstairs and quietly entered Willa's bedroom. She was sound asleep in her bed, curled up with her old teddy bear in her arms. Justin had never looked in on her before at night. In fact, he had not been in her room in years. Looking around, he realized that Miss Selena was right. Willa had surrounded herself with as many memories of her mother as she could find. And lying there such as she was, she looked very young and vulnerable.
Without disturbing her, he closed the door and returned to his own bedroom and looked around. It had a very masculine decor. A year after Helen died, Alice Spencer had helped him clear out her things and redecorate it. Other than a picture on his nightstand, he had erased all trace of her. It had been the only way that he had been able to get beyond his deepest grief.
He thought of the two sisters who had so recently lost both of their parents. He thought of Trelawney Rose, who wanted to reach out to his oldest child. The sensitive child had recognized in Willa the same pain and anguish that she herself felt.
And in those moments when she thought that she had lost "her Selena" forever, she knew the exact feelings that Willa had felt when she lost her mother, the utter desolation of being left alone. He realized that he had not looked into Willa's eyes when that had happened.
But now he knew that when he had looked into Trelawney Rose's, he had also been looking into hers. In the depths of those eyes, he had seen profound grief. He had a great task ahead of him. It was a task that Helen had entrusted to him, but that he had chosen to neglect. However, Miss Selena had assured him that it was not too late.
The next morning Emmeline prepared for her departure but first wanted a private interview with Justin. She looked him up and down sharply.
"I want you to realize that Selena is in a very fragile state now," she said crisply. "She has had a great loss, she has a grieving child to care for, and this household to run. Although she may seem invincible at times, she can have her low points just as anyone else.
"I have seen what is going on between you two, and I am not really sure of what I think of it. Don't say it is about the children, because it's about you too. And don't say that there is nothing going on, I see how you look at her."
Justin looked away from her.
"Before I leave, I want you to promise me that you will do nothing to take advantage of her," she finished.
"I would never do anything to hurt Miss Selena," replied Justin.
"Intentionally." added Emmeline. "It's the unintentional that I am more worried about. Those moments of weakness that catch us unawares, like last night. And besides, that's not exactly what I asked you to promise."
Justin was uncomfortable remembering. He knew that Emmeline was right.
"I promise to be more careful not to take advantage of Miss Selena or hurt her either intentionally or unintentionally," he declared sincerely, but not without mentally wincing. However Emmeline appeared satisfied and opened the door.
Trelawney Rose was waiting for her in the hall. She gave her cousin a long hug and thanked her for everything.
"I love you, Cousin Emmeline," she stated.
"Me too dear. Now take care of your sister," replied Emmeline.
Tugging at her hand, Trelawney Rose led her off into the living room.
"What are you going to tell Uncle David?" she asked seriously. "He was most emphatic when we left that we should return immediately."
"Dad has been very understanding up to this point," replied Emmeline. "We still haven't found Kenneth, but when we do, we will send him here straight off."
"I hope you never find him," she replied bitterly. "Maybe he's dead."
"Trelawney Rose Tressidor!" scolded Emmeline. "How could you say such a horrible thing?"
"Kenneth is a horrible person and I hope that I never see him again!" she retorted. "I hope that my Selena is never forced to marry him."
"Little one," answered Emmeline more gently. "We have been over this again and again. Selena will not be forced to marry him. She will marry him because it's what your Mummy and Papa wanted."
"Well they wouldn't have wanted it if they knew," she muttered darkly.
"Knew what?" asked Emmeline, frustrated because the girl had closed off her mind.
But Trelawney had already leapt to another topic.
"Em, you know I really do think that Selena likes him," she whispered conspiratorially. "And he most certainly likes her."
"Who would that be?" inquired Emmeline unnecessarily, bothered that the girl had so deftly changed the topic.
"Why Dr. Harrington of course," stated the girl matter-of-factly. "Wouldn't it be . . ."
". . . completely inappropriate and totally impossible," finished Emmeline with a fierce intensity.
Trelawney Rose was surprised by her forcefulness. She knew quite well there was one huge obstacle . . . but . . . Such nonsense, she thought, her sister had a right to her own life. She doubted that her parents would have stood in the way if Selena had found true love in an unlikely place, especially, if they knew what had happened to their little one.
"Well, I'm not going to stop her, if that is what you're thinking," she answered stubbornly.
"I don't expect you to, being a child and all. However, I do believe that you should not even think of helping things along, if you understand my meaning," Emmeline insisted.
Trelawney Rose shrugged. She had no intention of making any promises that she knew she couldn't keep. Despite her talent for walking into mischief, she was always truthful. Emmeline shook her head. She knew that she was wasting her breath. The child would do as she wished. She should probably worry more about Selena anyway. As usual, Trelawney Rose knew what she was thinking.
"We will take care of each other, Selena and I," promised the girl. Emmeline could see by the serious expression in her eyes that she truly meant that.
On the front porch, Emmeline turned to all and bid them a fond farewell. She took Jay by the chin and looked into his eyes.
"You have a fine future young man. There are many people who go all throughout life without ever realizing that families are more than people related to each other. Love makes a family. May you never forget that," she said warmly.
"I won't, "said Jay, and added shyly, "Cousin Emmeline."
"Well then, my work is done, for now. Don't think that you've seen the last of me, I'll be back to check up on you," she looked meaningfully at Justin Harrington one last time as she spoke.
"Goodbye Cousin Emmeline! Goodbye!" they all called as she walked out to the taxi with Selena. Before she got in she turned and pulled her cousin into her arms. Patting her back she reminded Selena, "Remember that all things . . ."
"Work out for the best for everyone concerned when given enough time," Selena knew the words by heart. "But what will you tell Uncle David? Won't you be in a world of trouble now?"
"The little one seems safe enough. Just be sure that she stays that way or I'll have Grandfather Trelawney to answer to," she replied. "Things such as they are, I'll tell Dad that Kenneth can come to collect you, if we ever find him. That's the real reason you need to come home at the moment, to marry and all that. But you can wait here the same as you can there."
Selena's face clouded over a bit at the mention of Kenneth's name. They had not spoken of him at all up to this point. Emmeline knew that she didn't love him, but as she had told Trelawney Rose, it wasn't about her loving him, it was about her marrying him.
Looking at her with compassion Emmeline advised, "Don't forget to take care of yourself. You are right to worry about . . . certain things. Try to keep your professional and personal relationships properly sorted out. You have enough to concern yourself just with taking care of the little one. She is a handful all by herself. Do you understand?"
"Yes dear, I know what you mean." As usual Selena's face was wide open and honest.
No you don't, thought Emmeline with a mental sigh, but I suppose that you will have to find out the hard way. And at some point, I am sure to be back here trying to mop up whatever mess that you've gotten yourself into.
Aloud she said, "Remember, if you ever need anything, just give a call."
"Right-o, now don't miss your plane," she told her. "And give my love to the family. Thank them all for taking such good care of my little Trelawney Rose."
As the cab drove away, Emmeline settled in for the beginning of her very long journey back to the village. No doubt Dad was going to be annoyed when she told him that the girls were staying in California. Grandfather Trelawney would be livid. But she knew that the argument for Kenneth coming to collect them would hold water. Of course no one even knew where he was.
She was still struggling with the notion that the little one had that he should have been to Selena already to claim her because it was time for them to marry. Was it because it was not time for them to marry? Or were there other forces at work.
The only way to figure it out was to find the bloody fool and send him out to California. And even if she had to find him herself, she would make sure that it happened. Besides, as long as he was missing and the betrothal contract was in place, Selena's life was on hold. And beyond that, it would give her and Dr. Harrington more time to . . .
She decided that she would rather not think about that.
That night, Justin looked up from his work as Miss Selena brought him his evening coffee. It was going to be a long night. The upset of the last two weeks had not failed to have an impact on his grading and there was a lot of catching up to do.
"Don't worry, Dr. Harrington, now that things are settling down you should be able to get back into your old routine," said Miss Selena. Typical, he could never think anything that she didn't know about.
"How did she take it?" he asked.
"Jennie?" she replied. "She was disappointed to learn that Trelawney Rose would not be sharing her bedroom but she did understand that Trelawney Rose was my sister first. And Trelawney Rose wants to stay with me. She just didn't want to hurt Jennie's feelings."
"She is a very thoughtful girl," he commented.
"Yes, she is," agreed Selena.
Among other things, she thought. Ever since she had come Trelawney Rose had been having nightmares about a white light. Emmeline had told her that she had been having the same sleep disturbances back in the village. At those times, she would wake up frightened and calling for her Mummy.
There was no way that she could knowingly subject Jennie, not to mention the rest of them, to that. At those times she needed to be close at hand. And often, she ended up sleeping with her in her bed. Only Emmeline had been able to give her the same comfort.
And she had her own selfish reasons were for wanting to keep her close. She looked so much like Mum that it made her heart stop sometimes. She always looked sad, but every once in a while she would tip her head up to her and a little smile would peek out. It was one of Mum's gestures.
"You know," he said. "If you two want to go away for a short time before she starts school, you know, to have some time alone, we can manage."
Selena looked thoughtful.
"That is very kind, Dr. Harrington," she said. "But Trelawney Rose needs time to settle in and adjust before she must start school. Perhaps we can take a short holiday later."
"It's your decision," he replied. "Just know that the offer stands, anytime you want to take it up."
"It is very thoughtful of you," she replied warmly. "I know what a challenge it would be for you to get along without me."
"Don't even consider that," he replied. "I believe that we have just adopted you and Trelawney Rose as family. It's never a hardship to take care of family."
"Love does indeed make a family."