Part 2. Let It Be
Dr. Harrington returned to his study downstairs while Miss Selena shooed the girls out of the boys' room to get ready for bed. Jennie was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow. She brought her sister back over to the apartment to settle her in, but Trelawney Rose was wide-awake. Everything that she had seen and heard had excited her. And not all of it was about the stars.
"Selena, may I stay up and read, please?" asked the girl.
"I don't see why not. Don't stay up too late."
After kissing her sister good night and tucking her in, she closed the door and she heaved great sigh. The days were long and managing the dynamic between the children was challenging. It was a pity that Jay and Trelawney Rose couldn't see eye-to-eye more often. They were both very bright but neither liked to be proved wrong.
If either were any less intelligent they probably wouldn't disagree so much. However if they were both older, they might actually have rational discussions rather than arguments. How to resolve the perspectives of a scientist and a romantic? Weary as she was, she missed the irony of her own observations about the children.
She sighed once again to herself and went into the backyard to do a little stargazing of her own. However the full moon made the sky so light that there weren't many stars visible. So she closed her eyes and believed that she could hear the music of the spheres herself.
Losing herself in her contemplation of the heavens she found the inner peace that she had longed for throughout her busy day. Clearing her mind of all the "nitter-natter" of daily life in the constantly moving household she felt herself relax. Escape, even for this brief span of time, was a welcome respite.
Dr. Harrington had finished his work for the night and thought that maybe he would do a little stargazing himself. Following a hunch, he looked out the backdoor to see the still figure in the moonlight. There was something about the moonlight that made him feel daring. They had so few opportunities to spend time alone and that time was usually spent discussing the children
But there had been a subtle change in their relationship since she had lost her parents. They had drawn closer as he sought to console her. There didn't seem to be anyone else. She had no close friends and after Emmeline had left, no family except Trelawney Rose. She was so wrapped up in the children's lives that she never seemed to think of herself. Hoping that he wouldn't disturb her, he opened the door.
"Good evening, Dr. Harrington." She always seemed to be able to sense his presence before he made himself apparent. Tonight however, it didn't take any real powers of deduction to figure it was he.
"Do you mind if I join you?"
"Not at all." she answered. He sat beside her. She seemed to be listening intently.
"Listening to the music of the spheres?"
She turned to look at him quickly, and realizing that he wasn't teasing, smiled at him. "It's beautiful concert tonight."
It was at this moment that he wished that he had her imaginative powers so that he could share the moment with her.
"Oh but you can," she said reading his mind. "Clear your head of all thoughts and worries. Let go of everything. Close your eyes and become one with the cosmos."
Her voice was sweet and soothing. He did his best, but he was clearly not as practiced in this form of meditation as she was. His brain was too cluttered with scientific information about compositions of stars and planets, rates of velocity, measurements and all those other numbers that make up the modern knowledge of the universe.
So he opened his eyes and took in the full visual experience of the night sky. Having the beauty of the late night sky as a focal point, he found it easier to put aside the mathematical abstractions that crowded his mind.
Despite her proximity he kept his breathing steady. In fact he found that if he matched her rate of breathing he could begin to relax and, as she had encouraged, let go. And so they sat side by side, each experiencing the heavens in his and her own way. He looked at her seated beside him. Her eyes were closed and her face was in such a peaceful repose that he could have sworn she was sleeping. But she was not.
Realizing that he was looking at her she opened eyes and gazed back into his. Was there magic in the moonlight? He wasn't sure but he believed that he heard her soul calling to his. Fearful that she might see too much in his eyes, he drew her close and held her in his arms. She came willingly into his embrace and rested her head on his shoulder, face turned away. It seemed like the most natural gesture in the world.
Selena felt his yearning within the depths of her soul. Likewise, she was afraid to look at him, for fear that he might see too much. Although there was much in her heart and mind she could conceal from him she suddenly didn't want to. Although at the same time she did.
It was apuzzlement, but like everything else she let go of it. She felt safe in his arms. She knew what he wanted and with all her heart she wanted it too. Unwittingly she found herself projecting her own desire. As he held her closer and stroked her hair she felt she was helpless to resist.
She had never felt this way before. She knew of the deepest relations between men and women but had never reached those depths herself. This was a place that her wanderlust had never ventured. What would happen if she ventured into this unknown land? She, who never been afraid to travel to any strange place before was suddenly hesitating. She was afraid but she didn't even know why. Was it of his desire or her own?
Looking up at him she must have betrayed her fear. His eyes were filled with kindness and understanding. She saw in their depths a feeling that transcended physical passion. She knew that this was no ordinary man. He had let go of his logic and scientific reasoning, not to mention his physical desires, to explore the metaphysical boundaries of the universe with her. It was as if they were caught up within the motions of the stars and the music of the spheres. Their spirits soared together through the night.
Justin had read the fear in her eyes but knew instinctively that it was really not of him. She seemed to be flying somewhere beyond the boundaries of planet earth. He would not constrain her with earthborn desires. She was free and he knew that the only way to become a part of her was to follow. Letting go of his physical being he set his mind on a course to the stars. He had not guessed that it would be like this. Then, as suddenly as the feeling had come upon him, it released him.
They were once again sitting in the backyard wrapped in each other's arms. Once again she turned her face from his and rested easily against his shoulder. He wanted to say something, but he didn't know what. No words were adequate to express the feelings she had stirred in him. She must have felt the same, because she was silent also. But her silence spoke volumes. Tonight they had shared the eternity of the stars and the infinity of space.
At some point they must let go of each other and return inside to the world of housework and schoolwork and children demanding their attention. But until then, nothing existed but themselves and the depths of space. As always, Selena knew his mind. If at one time the intensity of his feelings had frightened her, it no longer did. She knew instinctively that she could trust his better angels.
Together they had probed the boundaries of her world, where time and space were mutable. She was deeply moved to discover that it was a place that he could not only reach, but where he belonged. It had welcomed him when he had taken the leap of faith necessary to enter it.
She found herself as reluctant as he was to let go of the moment. It was as if forever had opened itself up to them and all they had to do was enter. It was too awesome to contemplate. So she let go of forever and returned to now. Like tomorrow, forever would take care of itself.
The Lost Child
Ever since the scene between Trelawney Rose and Willa at the piano that afternoon, Selena had been very careful to guard her sister diligently each day after school let out. Willa didn't always come in early. In fact sometimes she came in quite late at night.
Although Dr. Harrington had promised to try harder with her, he really had not made much improvement. His excuse was that he was busy and had fallen behind in his work a little bit. But Selena noted that he always had time for Jay or one of the other children. At the very least, he should be enforcing her curfew and making sure that she was doing her schoolwork. When she was home, she locked herself in her room and refused to come out unless she felt like it.
As a rule, she didn't want Selena in there, but occasionally she gave Willa ultimatum of cleaning it herself or letting her clean it. It was then that Selena was welcome. Each time she went in, Selena had to air it out from the smell of cigarettes and the faint smell of cannabis. Whenever she did her laundry, the same odors clung to her clothes. She tried to discuss it with Dr. Harrington.
"You realize," she said. "That all of this smoking is ruining her health. And smoking cannabis is illegal. You really don't want to have to go and bail her out of jail if she gets caught for possession, do you?"
"I probably wouldn't," he quipped. "A couple of nights in the lock up might do her some good."
"You don't really believe that!" she answered shocked.
"No, I guess not," he sighed. "But something has to get through to her."
"When was the last time that you discussed it with her?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't know," he replied. "But as you can see, it didn't do much good."
"When was the last time that you tried to enforce her curfew?" she then asked.
"Oh, it was a while back," he admitted.
"When I insisted," she added.
"Yes, when you insisted," he replied getting annoyed at her persistence. "Look, in a couple of months she turns eighteen which means that legally she is an adult. There's not much that I can do then."
"No?" she asked. "Whose house is this?"
"It's mine of course," he replied.
"Then as long as she lives here then you get to make the rules," she replied.
"And what if she ignores them?" he said. "I can't just kick her out. Not that it would bother her anyway. She is always threatening to leave."
"And what makes you think that she would?"
"Of course she would . . . " he began and then stopped.
"Hey! What do you mean?"
"Willa is constantly promising to do things that she never does," replied Selena logically. "What makes you think that she would follow through with this issue, this time around?"
Selena could see that she had hit a nerve. He didn't want to admit it, but he would be just as happy if she left. Having made her point, she decided to let it go for now. She didn't want to start an argument. She only wanted to open his eyes to the reality of the situation such as it was, with his oldest daughter. For someone who was such a brilliant scientist, he was surprisingly dense when it came to human relations.
It was rather surprising to her that he could be so kind where she and her sister were concerned, but so careless with his oldest child. He liked a harmonious home and he seemed to be willing to pay for peace at any price. He was trying to hold his tongue around the younger children and not encourage their smart remarks about her, but his actions indicated that he saw the girl as more of a nuisance than anything else.
Sensitive as she was, Trelawney Rose noticed and was very bothered by it.
"Selena," she asked one day. "Why do all of the other Harringtons dislike Willa so much? I don't understand it."
"Well, dear," she explained. "Not all brothers and sisters love each other the way that we do. You are too young to remember, but your cousins fought with each other something fierce when they were growing up."
"But Uncle David was very strict with them," she said. "They would not have dared to act towards him the way that Willa acts towards Dr. Harrington. And they certainly would not have spoken to him as she does."
"That is quite true," she agreed. "But this American culture is very different from home. The families just aren't as close and the children are much less respectful. And remember that this family has lived through a lot of turmoil in the past few years."
"I know," she said. "By why don't they try harder?"
"I don't know, dear," she said. "But if they weren't in such difficulties, then I would not have come here in the first place. It's families like this that I have been traveling all over the world to set to rights."
"Yes, of course," she said. "Yes, that does make sense. But you never have stayed with a family so long before. Why is this one different?"
Selena stared straight ahead.
"I really don't know," she replied quietly.
And she didn't. But she did recall that in her conversation with Aunts Edith and Phyllis, she had ultimately cited Willa as the reason for her feeling of failure. But now that Trelawney Rose was living here, she realized that Willa would never be reconciled with the family until they were reconciled with her. The situation wasn't just about her and her issues. They were responsible too. And that was something that they were very uncooperative about fixing.
She also realized that the insults often flew thick and fast on both sides, but as the older child and the one with the harsher tongue, Willa ended up taking the blame. And none of them were ever really disciplined about it. No doubt Dr. Harrington viewed it as normal sibling rivalry, but she knew that there was really nothing normal about it.
One Saturday night when she was returning late to the apartment with Trelawney Rose, they ran into Willa in the driveway. Dr. Harrington had been out late at a faculty function and she had had to babysit for the children. When they came upon her, she was heaving into the bushes.
Immediately concerned, Selena grasped her by the shoulders to try to hold her up so that she wouldn't hurt herself. Trelawney Rose ran up to the apartment and quickly returned with a damp towel. Together they helped her to walk over to the bench in the backyard and sat her down. Willa was too weak to protest. Trelawney Rose gently wiped her face and arms with the towel, all the while murmuring, "There, there."
Then Selena took the towel and pulled back her long, thick black hair and tried to wipe it clean as well. When she realized that she was being tenderly ministered to by the two sisters, she began to sob. Without thinking, Selena drew her into her arms and began to rock her and stroke her head gently, all the while murmuring words of comfort. It was familiar gesture for her. After all, she had tended to so many sad and hurting children in her career.
Willa was about as emotionally devastated as any child that she had ever held. Because she didn't know of Selena's ability to see into her thoughts, she made no effort to conceal them. It was then that Selena became fully aware of the trauma that the girl had been through.
The death of her mother had been the seminal event of her life. Her Nana's treatment of her throughout Helen's illness and then later when she died had cut deeply into her psyche. While she was alive, her mother was too sick to fight it and her father, as usual, didn't know what to do. Her Papa, Helen's father, had his hands full with the boys.
No one understood her pain and she had completely lost touch with everyone when her father, rather than trying to help her, had wanted help from her. Suddenly, she was not only motherless, she had also acquired the status of "almost adult."
But no one had prepared her for this. Her mother had never expected her to help with the younger children, even though she was certainly old enough. She had never even had chores to do. Her Mom had simply told her to do well in school and on her sports teams and she would be happy.
Her Nana had demanded that she do chores in a manner that made them feel punitive to the young girl. Her Dad was helpless when left alone with the kids and tried to place a huge responsibility on her. Grief-stricken and confused, something inside of her snapped and she emotionally detached herself from the family. She became defensive and bitter.
Her friends at school had been "there for her," but their answer had been to smoke marijuana, drink alcohol, and forget her pain. This wasn't the first time that she had been sick after a night out with them. It was also not the first time that her friends had dropped her off at the house and left her to fend for herself. But she always went back to them because they were all she had. Her feelings about them were ambiguous at best. She could really count none of them as a true friend.
Selena knew that her tears were a cry for help. Trelawney Rose was kneeling before her on the ground, the tears streaming down her little face as well. It was then that Selena realized how empathic the child was. She felt every bit of Willa's pain. She recognized her feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Willa's pain was stirring Trelawney Rose's pain and she could feel the child suffering. But Selena knew that she could not send her away.
Finally, Willa's weeping slowly ceased.
"Breathe deeply," said Selena softly. "It will help to clear your head."
Willa looked up at her in confusion and then directly into Trelawney Rose's sympathetic eyes. Selena could see that she was struggling to formulate a response to this unexpected kindness. In the end, her lack of trust won out. She reflexively went on the defensive.
"Well," she said sarcastically. "I'm sure that you're both shocked by my behavior."
"Not really," answered Trelawney Rose matter-of-factly. "It's not like we don't have a few in the family who don't enjoy their drink a bit too much on occasion. Why at Cousin Cristabel's wedding, there was quite a mess of lads who had a bit more than was good for them. My, oh my! Didn't our Auntie Anna lay them out in lavender?"
"She certainly did," agreed Selena.
"Really?" asked Willa skeptically.
"Oh, yes," Selena assured her. "And many of them were your age or younger. They don't pay much mind to drinking ages back in the village. There's many a teenager who will slip down to the local pub for a pint when he's in need of it."
"Oh," said Willa. "I suppose you'll have a lot of fun telling my Dad about this."
"Actually, I won't," said Selena. "And I'm not even sure if I'll tell him."
"It won't make a difference if she does," said Trelawney Rose candidly.
"You don't think so?" asked Willa.
"He never yells at you about anything else," she shrugged. "Drinking yourself silly is really nothing at all as long as you don't land yourself up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. I hear it's not much fun to have your stomach pumped so that you won't die. It's more than enough punishment that you've been so sick already."
"He would probably say that it serves me right," commented Willa.
"Probably," agreed Trelawney Rose. "That's what Uncle David said to Cousin Jimmie after he passed out at Christy's wedding and hit his head. He needed ten stitches, he did. And Dr. Tweedy was most unhappy that he had to interrupt his own good time to sew him up."
"So then your family is not really so perfect as they always sound," said Willa thoughtfully.
"Perfect?" said Trelawney Rose, with a little laugh. "Well, that's a mighty funny thought. No family is perfect you know."
"That's what my friends say," replied Willa. "Everyone else has perfect families but us."
"Who are these bloody friends of yours who leave you by yourself to get sick? You really could have hurt yourself or worse," asked Trelawney Rose. "We may not be perfect, but we do clean up our own messes back in the village."
Willa was silent. Selena could see that although her head was cleared, now it was starting to hurt.
"Willa," she said. "I suggest that I get you some aspirin for that headache and then you can go to bed."
"How do you know that I have a headache?"
"Oh, those that drink like you just did always have a headache," replied Trelawney Rose, wisely. "But drinking lots of water will help you tomorrow with the hangover."
When Selena returned with the aspirin, she found the two girls sitting together on the bench. Trelawney Rose had her arm around Willa and the older girl had her head on her shoulder. She had never seen anywhere near that kind of affection between Willa and any of her siblings. It was touching to look at her sister's delicate green aura. She was trying to heal the older girl's broken heart. But Selena could also see in Willa's aura that she was not responding.
Willa had been too hurt too many times to give into her vulnerability now. She had no trust in any of them and Dr. Harrington's feeble attempts at making peace had not made a lick of difference. She was going to have to travel a very long road if she was going to return to a healthy state of mind and body. It was a journey that she had not yet even begun. But for now, she had a moment of respite from her bitterness.
Selena and Trelawney Rose decided that they would not tell Dr. Harrington of Willa's escapade. From their perspective, it wasn't a great enough crime and it would only reinforce to Willa how little he cared about her when he didn't do anything about it. Willa herself barely acknowledged the incident. Instead, the next morning she grudgingly thanked Selena for helping her out.
"But I won't promise not to do it again," she said testily.
"I would not even waste my breath asking you," answered Selena. "But I will always be here to pick you up whenever you fall. And if you ever need someone, I will be there for you."
"I've never been more serious," she replied. "And I promise not to judge you."
Willa looked at her oddly and then walked out.
"What was that about?" asked a concerned Dr. Harrington, who entered as soon as she left.
"Oh, just a little girl talk," replied Selena.
"Girl talk? With Willa?" he asked incredulously.
"Why not?" responded Selena lightly. "She's a girl. I'm a girl. We talked."
"Oh," he said. "Well, I just wanted to let you know that we have Trelawney Rose's school records. The word from lawyer is that the immigration paperwork is complete, so we can bring her over to Franklin this week."
"That's splendid!" said Selena. "She will be so pleased."
"Why will I be pleased?" asked Trelawney Rose coming in from the backyard.
"Next week we will be able to take you over to the school and get you registered and in your classes."
"Oh, yes!" she replied with sparkling eyes. "That is splendid indeed!"
When Willa returned to school on Monday, she wasted no time going out to west campus so that she could give her friends hell about dropping her off at the house after she had nearly passed out. But none of them had any sympathy.
"Hey, man, we've all been there," said Pam. "It's part of the old code of silence. If we stick around then we might get in trouble too. Next time, don't get so wasted."
"Yeah, well, how would you like it if St. Selena and the little weirdo picked you up off the lawn?" she asked.
"Hey!" said Snake. "That sounds like a new band, 'St. Selena and the Little Weirdos.'"
That ridiculous comment drew a smile from the cranky teen.
"Yeah, well, it's a good thing that there's only one of them," she said.
"So did you get in trouble, Willa?" asked Pam.
"Actually, no," admitted Willa. "It was pretty bizarre though. Here I was puking my guts out and the kid is patting me on the back and saying 'there, there' while Miss Selena was holding my head. And they weren't shocked at all."
"Kind of takes half the fun out of it," replied Snake.
"Yeah, they just started talking about some crazy wedding where half their relatives got plastered," she said. "For a square, Miss Selena sure has seen a lot."
"Yeah, well, drunk family members aren't such big deal," said Dirk. "Over at my house, my Dad and my uncles tie one on just about very weekend watching football."
"My family spends cocktail hour knocking them back," added Pam. "And then dinner arguing about politics."
"Yeah, well, we're a little thin on the family if you know what I mean," commented Willa. "We haven't seen much of my Mom's folks since she . . . left. Not that I miss them. Dad's folks show up every once in a while and then the uncles drop by. It's pretty cool when they show up. They always bring presents. Last time Uncle Ben forgot how old I was. Jennie got the doll. Then he apologized for writing me a check. I told him, no sweat. Cash is always the best gift."
"And what did your Dad say to that?" asked Snake.
"Nothing, as usual, nothing," said Willa bitterly. "That's why Miss Selena didn't tell him about Saturday night. She said that it wouldn't matter. It's kind of rich, you know?"
"Why?" Wendy asked.
"Well, old Miss Selena is determined not to give up on me," she said. "But she seems to have given up on Dad, at least where I'm concerned."
"The question is," said Snake with a smirk. "Has your Dad given up on her?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you may not like her," said Snake. "But let's face it. She's quite the babe if you go for that blonde, blue-eyed, innocent type. And she's pretty nicely stacked."
"Snake! She's like, young enough to be his daughter or something!" exclaimed Willa.
"Like that ever stopped anyone before. From what I hear, he's going after the 'or something,' if you catch my drift," he said. "Look, I'm just saying that word on the street up at the university is that he's got a thing for her. That's why he's letting the kid live with her. He didn't want her to go back to England."
"Who said that?" she asked.
"Driscoll, in the math department," answered Snake. "That's why my Dad believes it. He said that your Dad was in a really bad mood when he found out that she had to go back to England. But he came into the office whistling the day she decided to stay."
"Really?" she drawled. "Did it ever occur to any of these chumps that maybe he didn't want to have to hire housekeeper number thirteen?"
"And did you know that your old man hasn't had a date in a month?" asked Snake.
Willa was silent. Now that he had said it, Willa realized that she had always been suspicious. But what could the old man be thinking? It was pretty normal for a guy his age to have a midlife crisis and start going after the younger chicks. But, man! Miss Selena wasn't just some chick that he met in a bar. She was practically living in the house.
She reviewed in her mind the events that had led to the kid living with them. Miss Selena hears that her folks have bought it and that she has to move back to England to take care of her kid sister. They don't see her for about a week, because she's in mourning and her cousin is running the show.
Then she comes home one night and finds out that Miss Selena and the kid are staying. But she really hadn't asked for the details. She was too busy being mad at Jennie for basically kicking her out of the family. Like Miss Selena's little sister was going to be her real sister in her twisted little mind.
"Boy, Willa!" said Dirk, interrupting her thoughts. "I never figured your Dad for a swinger! What a set up!"
"Neither did I," she said slowly. "He's so, you know, boring. But you guys don't know Miss Selena. She's Miss 'Sweet Polly Purebred' if there ever was one. Man! She works for the university chaplain, for crying out loud!"
"I don't know," shrugged Snake. "I'm just saying what people are saying. But, Dirk, it's not like Dr. Harrington has been living like a monk. My Dad said that he's dated just about all the best looking women on campus. Apparently he has a pretty short attention span."
"Yeah," said Willa. "And guess who has been encouraging him to find a new Mommy for his kids? None other than Miss Selena herself."
"Maybe she changed her mind," suggested Pam. "I know he's your Dad and all, but for an old guy, he's a pretty good-looking man. And no man is going to want to sleep alone forever."
Willa had heard enough. The idea of her father going to bed with any woman was downright disgusting. For supposedly brilliant professors, these guys sure sounded like a couple of old yentas. But then Dr. Driscoll had always been a pig. It didn't surprise her that he would lower her Dad down to his own level.
It took her no time at all to decide to ditch school for the day and head for the diner down the block. Snake offered to keep her company but she told him to get lost. She had heard enough rumors about her father and St. Selena for one day. Sitting down in a booth by herself, she ordered black coffee and pulled out a pack of Marlboros.
As she was searching for her lighter a voice overhead said, "I've got it."
Standing before her was a young guy holding out a lighter. She gratefully accepted and motioned for him to sit down. When the waitress brought her coffee, he ordered a cup for himself.
Willa looked at him with interest. By her calculation, he was in his twenties, with curly blonde hair and brown eyes. He looked pretty normal, not too tall, not to short. He was dressed like some kind of a day worker or mechanic, in jeans, work boots, brown leather jacket and white tee shirt. As he lit his own cigarette, he looked up at her quizzically.
"I don't usually see you in here," he commented.
"I hang out here after school with my crew," she replied. "Today I decided that I was too sick to go to school."
"High school kid?"
"Senior," she said. "What's it to you? Are you the truant officer or something?"
"Do I look like the truant officer?" he asked, clearly amused. "I'm Jerry Connelly. What's your name?"
"Willa," she said. "Willa Harrington."
"Pleased to meet you, Willa," he said. "What made you sick?"
Willa noticed that he had an accent. It was kind of like an Irish accent, not much different from Trelawney Rose's. She wondered where he was from.
"Oh, it was nothing I guess," she said with a sigh. "One of my friends suggested that my Dad was playing house with the housekeeper and it kind of threw me."
"Explain," he said. "Does your Mom know?"
"My Mom is dead," she replied flatly. "And if you have this image in your mind of Hazel or something, get it out. This housekeeper is a sexy, little blonde number who I had mistaken for the Virgin Mary."
"Sounds intense," he said. "What makes you think that he's doing her?"
"I didn't say that I thought that," she said. "I said that one of my friends thought that. Both our Dads work at the university and that's what everyone is saying up there."
"Bummer," he said. "How long has your Mom been gone?"
"About three years," she said.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I bet it still hurts. But you know that most men can't last that long without . . . you know."
"Yeah, I know," she said. "But I just never figured him for the type to bring her to the house to live. Come to think of it, that was where he found her, up at the university."
"Well," said Jerry. "No offense to your friend, but who says that he really has? You must know that gossip isn't usually true."
"Yeah, I guess," she said. "But I'm just sick of him and her and the rest of the family. And I'm sick of school. Today I'm even sick of my crew."
"You've got it tough," said Jerry. "So far you've told me a lot about what you don't like, but nothing about what you do. I thought that I might be able to cheer you up. You know, you looked so forlorn sitting over here. But I guess not."
"Well," she admitted. "Cheering me up is just about impossible, but enough about me. Where are you from and where did you get that far out accent?
"Oh, here and there," he said. "But to answer your second question, I grew up in Donegal in Ireland. The accent is not quite what it once was. Whenever I go home my people say that I sound like an American."
"Cool," she replied. "I guess they don't know many Americans. But what are you doing here in the good old USA?"
"Oh, a bit of this and a bit of that," he shrugged. "I can't get a regular job, so I work by the day, mostly construction."
"What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing," he said with a laugh. "I just don't have a green card."
"A what?" she asked.
"Working papers, you know," he said. "I'm what they call an illegal alien."
"Did you, like, swim the Rio Grande or something?" she asked curiously.
"Of course not!" he laughed. "I flew into JFK on Aer Lingus. At the immigration desk the man asks, 'Why are you here?' So I says, 'I'm a tourist." Then he asks, 'How long are you staying?' And I says, 'Two weeks.' Then he gives me back my passport and says, 'Have a good vacation.'"
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Then I could see that there was more work here than back home. I traveled west and settled in the bay area for the climate. A bit like home, you know?"
"Aren't you afraid that you'll get caught?"
"Are you going to turn me in?" he asked.
She gave him the hair flip and rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, right," she said. "But couldn't you, like, get arrested or something?"
"Maybe," he admitted. "But that's not too big a deal."
"Why is that?"
"Well, immigration picks me up, probably with a whole lot of other fellows," he explained. "They ask for my passport, but I don't have one. So they take my name, whatever I tell them, and put me on the next Aer Lingus flight home, free of charge if you know what I mean. Then, after I've had myself a little break, I hop on another plane and do it again."
"What happened to your passport?" she asked curiously.
"I mailed home a week after I got here," he replied. "After I decided to stay. It's a mighty fine scam even if I do say so myself."
"Don't you need a social security number to work?"
"Not in the business that I'm in," he said with a grin. "Hired by the day and paid in cash. No questions asked. No benefits other than your freedom."
"Wow," she said. "I always thought of illegal aliens as like Mexicans or something. And I thought that they picked grapes or lettuce, you know, like Cesar Chavez. But hey, at least it's easy for you to pass as an American."
"It would be easier in Boston or New York, owing to the accent" he replied. "But I prefer it out here."
"Me too," she replied. "I'd like to stick around here."
"Will you go to university here?" he asked.
"Me? Go to college?" she hooted. "As soon as school is out, for the summer that is, then I'm taking off."
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"San Francisco," she replied. "You know, it's a pretty cool scene. I figure that if I leave home then maybe I can find myself."
"Or lose yourself," he answered thoughtfully.
"Yeah, right, whatever," she shrugged. "As long as I am out of the house, then I'll be good."
"Look, I know people up in the bay area," he said. "Here's my phone number. Give me a call if you decide to hit the road."
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "Maybe I can help you get established."
"Why would you want to help me, Jerry Connelly?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't know, Willa Harrington," he said. "Maybe I think that I can. And don't bother messing with immigration. My real name isn't Jerry Connelly anyway."
Willa flipped her hair back and took the card. Without another word, Jerry left her, but not before throwing a few bucks on the table for the coffees. It was thoughtful of him. It was a pretty sweet tip for the waitress so that she wouldn't bug Willa to leave too quickly. The idea that he was in the country and working illegally appealed to her. He was a rebel too.
That night after dinner, Dad called her into his study.
"What do you want?" she asked, going on the offensive right away.
"I understand that you cut school today," he said.
"Why would you think that?" she challenged him.
"Miss Selena got a phone call this morning from the school," he said. "They were looking for you. She covered for you by saying that you were sick and that I must have forgotten to call you in . . . again. Apparently I do that a lot."
"Thank Miss Selena for me," she said as she headed for the door.
"Not so fast," said Dad. "This isn't the first time that she has covered for you, but she said that it's the last. She and I have been talking and we've decided that we need to exert a little more discipline over you."
"Oh, you and Miss Selena have been discussing me," she said outraged. "And what else is Miss Selena suggesting?"
"That I begin to address your alcohol and marijuana use," he said uncomfortably.
"Yes, well," he said. "When I learned of your little gardening project last year, I didn't do anything. And I have not been keeping very good tabs on you on the weekends. She's worried about you."
"But you're obviously not!"
Willa watched as her father flinched at the veiled accusation. She decided to go in for the kill.
"Well, I can see that I am very lucky to have Miss Selena to look out for me," she said sarcastically. "I can see that you could not care less about my bad habits. If Miss Selena had not insisted that you talk to me, I bet that I wouldn't even be standing here right now. What happened? Did she give you some kind of an ultimatum that she'd leave if you didn't pay more attention to me?"
Her father looked very uncomfortable. It immediately dawned on Willa that her sarcastic, ridiculous supposition was actually true. The only reason why he was saying anything was that Miss Selena was forcing him to. Suddenly, Snake's insinuations began to ring true. He really could not care less about her. This was all about Miss Selena. He must have realized that she'd caught him.
"Willa, of course I care about you," he said a little too late, a little too quickly, not to mention more than a little too insincerely. "I just thought that it would make you happy if I let you do your own thing. And Miss Selena isn't forcing me to pay attention to you."
"Oh, no! Of course not!" she replied. "Miss Selena just wants everything to be full of sunshine and rainbows. If I know her, she's been on your back since she came to straighten me out. But now she has decided to use her leverage. And you can't bear the thought of her leaving, but it's not because of the other kids. Admit it, Dad. She's a pretty hot little number. You'd like to get her into your bed."
Justin Harrington turned beet red with fury. Willa decided to stand her ground. She wasn't exactly sure of why she had said that, but now that she had, she wasn't sorry. Her Dad did have the hots for her. If he didn't he would have denied the accusation right away. She waited as he worked to control his temper.
"Willa," he said tensely. "Go up to your room and stay there. For the next week, you are grounded. You may leave your room to go to school and that is it. I do not want to see you before then."
Willa looked at him to try to measure how seriously she should take him. It wouldn't be the first time that he had pronounced some ridiculous punishment, but then backed off fifteen minutes later. But this time he meant it.
He went to the office door, opened it, and hollered, "Miss Selena."
"Yes, Dr. Harrington?" she asked coming from the kitchen.
Tensely he told her of Willa's punishment and ordered her to enforce it, or else. She looked at Willa sympathetically, which would have been funny if she knew what Willa had just accused her father of. But Willa had her pride and holding her head high, she went up the stairs to her room. As she went up, she barely noticed the little English girl peering fearfully out of the living room.
Willa wondered if her father had the nerve to tell Miss Selena what she had accused him of. She doubted it. One thing that she knew about him was that he was real uptight when it came to sex. No matter what anyone said at the university or what normal impulses he might have in that direction, there was no way that he was going enjoy any of the fringe benefits that there might be to having Miss Selena in the house. Not that he would be offered any. No doubt about it, Miss Selena was a very old-fashioned girl and as pure as the driven snow.
Willa was surprised when she heard a knock on the door, but she figured that it had to be Miss Selena offering tea and sympathy. Preparing a smart remark in her head, she opened it to find Trelawney Rose standing shyly outside with her hands neatly folded in front of her.
"May I please come in?" she asked so softly that Willa could hardly hear her.
"Sure," she said, completely knocked back by the surprise of seeing the shy little girl out there. It was certainly proof of her assessment that she was crazy.
The child walked in quietly and Willa closed the door behind her. Trelawney Rose began to look around at everything. Her eyes finally rested on a picture of her mother.
"She is a very beautiful woman," said the girl softly. "Do you know that's the first picture that I have seen of her? I always wondered why there are no pictures of her in the house. But it looks like you have all of them in here."
Willa didn't know what to say. They had never had a lot of pictures around the house, even when Mom was alive. She felt like the girl was trying to manipulate her.
"What do you want?" she asked bluntly.
"I wanted to say," she replied quietly. "That I am most sad that you have been so harshly punished. I most sincerely am. Is there anything that I can do to make you feel better?"
The child's honesty was shocking. Any of her other siblings would have been in her room gloating, but this kid wanted to comfort her. Then she realized something.
"My mother was beautiful," she corrected. "She was. She no longer is."
But Trelawney Rose just looked back at her with her large blue eyes and shook her head.
"You are very wrong," she replied. "Your mother is an angel in heaven. She is with my Mummy and Papa. She is presently weeping quite sadly. Did you know that angels can weep? My Mummy is quite trying to comfort her right now."
"You are definitely crazy," answered Willa. "The next thing that you are going to tell me is that my mother is very disappointed in me."
"Oh, no, not at all," said the girl, shaking her head. "Your mother is quite beside herself with sorrow for you. She loves you so much and can't bear to see you in so much pain. I am afraid however that she is most disappointed in Dr. Harrington."
"What the hell are you talking about?" she asked incredulously.
"Oh, dear," she said. "This is not about hell at all! It is about heaven. And even in heaven people can be sad. Our parents are presently sad in heaven together."
"And why are your parents sad?" she asked.
But Trelawney Rose just shook her head.
"This is not about us," she replied cryptically. "Your mother is sorrowing for you. She feels that she has let you down."
"And why is that?" she asked.
"Because you feel like nobody loves you," said the girl. "Children are a most sacred trust given by God to their parents. Your father has broken that trust and she blames herself. Mummy is trying to assure her that she bears no responsibility for your father or his actions."
Willa looked searchingly at the little girl standing before her. Her clear blue eyes seemed to be looking through her. Behind her she could see one of the many pictures of her mother. The two of them seemed to be looking at her with great honesty. Willa wanted to reach out to the little girl. Her gentle words, her definite belief that her mother was an angel in heaven who was watching her, were comforting.
Without thinking, she took a step closer.
"I do understand you," explained the little girl, as if she had just read her thoughts. "When my Mummy died I wanted to go to her in heaven. There will never be another who will ever understand me as well as my Mummy did. My Papa didn't and even my poor Selena doesn't. They all say that I am a most difficult child. But Mummy always loved me anyway.
"They say the same about me," said Willa slowly. "And my mother. But you are not a difficult child."
"Oh, I am a most difficult child," she corrected. "I can have terrible moods. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. And I say things that upset people, but that's usually because they are true. Did you know that people are more disturbed by the truth than anything else?"
"I believe that I just found that out," she said ironically.
"I believe that you did also," she nodded. "And I used to run away. Sometimes I still want to run away, just like you do."
"Why do you want to run away?" asked Willa. "Everyone loves you."
"I get so confused sometimes," said the child. "I feel one way, but everyone tells me that I should feel another. Everyone around me is upset, but they don't know why. My head gets so muddled with what everyone is saying about me that I can't stand it anymore."
Willa nodded involuntarily.
"I feel that way too," she said. "Sometimes I feel very alone, even if I'm in a crowd of people."
"Yes, I know that feeling," said Trelawney Rose. "But none of us are alone. Truly we aren't."
"How do you know?" asked Willa.
"I don't know how I know," replied the girl. "But I know. Now I must leave before Selena looks for me. We must return to the apartment soon. Dr. Harrington has told us that you are to be kept in solitary confinement for the week."
"But you disobeyed him?" she asked surprised.
Trelawney Rose nodded.
"Do you see now why I am such a difficult child?" she asked. "I always do what I know is right. But sometimes other people don't know that it is right. But that doesn't matter. I do it anyway."
"I guess that it was nice of you to come and see me," admitted Willa. "But I still think that you are crazy."
The girl shrugged.
"That's all right," she said. "So does everyone else."
Willa smiled a little at that.
"Of course they are right you know," added the child.
Willa watched as she slipped out of the room as stealthily as she slipped in. She went over to her dresser and picked up her favorite picture of her mother. It was the one where they were sitting together in a sailboat in San Diego harbor when she was about two. They were wearing matching yellow sundresses and straw hats. Her Mom was holding her on her lap and looking at her as if she were the best thing on earth.
She thought of the little girl who just left who said that her mother was the person who had understood her the best. She was such a funny little kid. It figured that the only person in the house who understood her was a little weirdo who had just admitted that she was crazy. Then she heard voices in the hallway.
It was her brothers going on and on about how great it was to be able to go outside and do stuff. How juvenile! She rolled her eyes. Leave it to them to try to make her jealous or something. Of course they had no idea that she was perfectly capable of climbing out of her window onto the porch roof, and down the trellis to get out, not to mention back in. She had done it a million times before.
Justin Harrington was still fuming an hour after he had laid down the law with Willa. When Selena came in to say goodnight, he barely looked up and grunted. She hesitated, but before she could speak, he went on the attack.
"Are you satisfied now?" he asked harshly.
She looked back at him calmly.
"Hardly," she replied. "I am thinking that perhaps we don't wish to be too hasty about enrolling Trelawney Rose in school."
Angrily, he slammed his fist on the desk and she jumped back startled. She knew he had a temper. In fact, he had even yelled at her on occasion, but the physical reaction was new.
"You wanted me to exert more discipline over her," he said through gritted teeth. "You wanted me to take the time to speak with her."
"And now you have told her not to come near you for a week," she said quietly. "That is not what I intended. And you know it."
He stood up and walked around the desk. She involuntarily took another step backwards. Neither of them noticed the little girl in the hallway.
"That girl is impossible," he replied. "Do you know what she insinuated?"
Selena turned pink. Even if she couldn't perceive what she had said in his mind, the word "insinuate" was enough of a hint. But she also didn't intend to back down.
"I told you that she would do her best to upset you," she answered. "And I told you that no matter what, you needed to keeping reaching out to her. But now you have shut her out."
"And what would you suggest that I do?" he asked testily.
"Let me bring her down now," she said. "Let's speak to her together. Perhaps we can find out what is really eating away at her."
"And let her go unpunished?" he asked.
"No," she said. "But you should devise a punishment that we can enforce."
"What do you mean by that?"
"She will be out the window and down the trellis before you know it," she said.
"At least I won't have to see her," he muttered.
Selena looked at him sadly. She had not made an idle threat. She could not keep Trelawney Rose in a home with so much tension and stress. She could not risk the possibility that she could run away. It was far too dangerous here. But she didn't get the opportunity to say another word. Trelawney Rose, who was in the hallway, knew exactly what she was thinking and came rushing in.
"Selena, please don't buy the plane tickets!" she cried as she threw herself into her arms. "Please enroll me in school! We just can't leave!"
Selena held her sister, who was now weeping violently, closely. She wanted to get her out of the room and away from Dr. Harrington before she could say another word. She knew that Trelawney Rose had spoken to Willa and was there to advocate for her. But she couldn't risk exposing her to any further anger.
Of course what she did not know was the full brutality of the scene with Grandfather Trelawney. Emmeline had not told her that he had physically threatened Auntie Anna and that Trelawney Rose had willingly stepped forward and offered to take the beating herself. And she did not know how courageously she had stood up to him and refused to back down.
Dr. Harrington was watching them closely as she gently comforted the girl and stroked her hair. Trelawney Rose turned to face him. She was suddenly very still and calm and stood apart from her with her hands were neatly folded in front of her.
"We must stay for Willa," she said.
Selena grasped her by the shoulders and turned her to look into her eyes. She realized that Trelawney Rose was speaking from another place. If she didn't get her out quickly, Dr. Harrington might learn the truth.
"Come along, dear," she said quickly. "We will discuss this in the morning after everyone has slept and we are all in a better frame of mind."
"Except Willa," she said softly. "Willa will not be in a better frame of mind."
"Why do you care the least about Willa?" asked Dr. Harrington in exasperation.
"Because I am Willa and Willa is me," she answered simply. "We have both lost our mothers. And our mothers knew each of us best. And we loved our mothers best."
She then turned to Selena.
"The last time that I said goodbye to Mummy," she explained. "I told her that I loved her more than anyone in the whole world, but only a wee bit more than you and Papa."
"Yes," she nodded solemnly. "It was right after I saw the white light. I knew that it was our last goodbye."
Selena was now silent. She couldn't even look at Dr. Harrington. Of course she had also forgotten how obtuse he could be in human relations. But at least he had a vague idea now that Trelawney Rose did indeed identify with Willa. And he still didn't want Selena to leave.
"Trelawney Rose," he finally said. "Suppose I promise that we will all sit down together tomorrow, Miss Selena, Willa, and myself. Would that make things better?"
The girl sighed.
"Probably not," she said candidly. "But it's a start, as long as you don't lose your temper. You quite frightened my poor Selena just now."
"I am sorry, Miss Selena," he said sincerely. The sarcasm had left his voice.
Trelawney Rose nodded.
"May you please take me to bed now, Selena?" she asked her sister. "I am quite worn out."
"Yes, dear," she said softly and then hustled her out of the room without even glancing back at Dr. Harrington.
When they returned to the apartment, Trelawney Rose did not even make a pretense of sleeping in her own bed. Instead, she climbed directly into Selena's and fell asleep instantly. Selena sat beside her and softly stroked her soft hair. She had no idea of what the child's farewell to their mother had been, although Emmeline had told her of the white light after it was clear that it was haunting her dreams.
Looking at the fragile little being curled up with her doll, she wondered once more if Grandfather Trelawney had not been right. This sweet and gentle child was too good for this world. Even now she wanted to stay for Willa. It was almost as if she was able to reach the girl where the rest of them had failed. Selena stood up and walked over to the window to look out at the clear night sky. The words came into her mind from an unknown source, but the music was from the music of the spheres.
"Let it be."