Angels Among Us:
Part 1. Love Bears All Things
In the weeks following Miss Selena's birthday "party," Willa came to terms with her life. She occasionally saw Jerry Connelly, who bought her coffee, helped her smoke a pack of cigarettes, and encouraged her to "hang in there" for the last weeks of school. However, he could not convince her to ditch her crew. She recognized that staying with them was self-destructive. But she didn't care. She also recognized that if she accepted the offers of friendship from the two sisters, it would have been beneficial. Again, she just didn't care.
She surprised her teachers by finally trying to pass her classes. She actually read A Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace, and grudgingly admitted that she liked them. It helped that Jerry had already read them and was willing to talk about them. Her math class was a repeat of the previous year, so it would have been pretty hard for her to fail. Her only other classes were art, gym, and a kind of random social studies class called civics.
The civics class involved reading newspaper articles and then coming into class to debate them. True to her hippy status, she found a sort of perverse pleasure in arguing against the war and for the legalization of pot. One day she got into a big argument about how some employers were taking advantage of the illegal aliens. She also became interested in environmental causes, mostly because she thought that her mother would have been for them. And it gave her more ammunition for fighting against the establishment.
At home, she spent most of her time locked in her room. For her birthday she had gotten a record player with better speakers to replace the old one from her Harrington grandparents. Her uncles sent her checks which she used to buy record albums by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and, of course, The Grateful Dead. The best part about it was that the other kids hated that kind of music and it kept them away.
From her father, she had gotten several "edifying" books. From Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose, she received a copy of the Let It Be album. She knew who had chosen it and in her own way was grateful. But it didn't make her like them any more. Getting back with the crew meant that they once again became the target of her acid tongue. But it wasn't just Trelawney Rose who bugged her now. It was Miss Selena too.
She just knew that Miss Selena, despite being twenty-seven was still a virgin and holding out for the wedding night. She would never admit it, but she was jealous. The crew all knew of her escapade that night at the party and the other girls were all in admiration. Whoever he was, he had apparently been very good looking. But the party had been a huge problem for Pam in the end.
As often happens with house parties where no parents are present, the word got out and there were more than a few people who crashed. In addition to the alcohol, weed, and hash, a couple of guys showed up with heroin and acid. They were out to score some new customers.
Their aim was to distribute freebies and see who "took to" the stuff. They would then offer discounts until they were hooked and then, when the sucker needed it, charge full price. Some of the crew tried it, but didn't like it. Snake dropped a little acid and had a bad trip. Mel freaked out when they stuck a needle in her arm. But a couple of the other crashers turned into stoners. Nobody felt sorry them. They hadn't been invited anyway.
All around, it was a bad scene, but when Pam's parents arrived home earlier than expected the next morning all hell broke loose. Willa wasn't the only one they found passed out in the living room. And the house was totally trashed. Pam was supposedly grounded until graduation and the rest of them were kicked out for life. Willa, Snake, Barb, Mel, Wendy, and Brad left in Dirk's van to sleep it off at the park.
Willa was able to keep away from them for a week, but after the touching family moment that Sunday, she was back out behind the bush to share the highlights. Everyone agreed that her brothers and sister were total losers and that her Dad was a total sap. And the English sisters? The most scathing assessments were reserved for them. They all agreed that they were just pathetic.
So as she quasi-cruised through her last weeks of school, Willa grew more and more distant from the family. They had all started to ignore her and treat her as if she were invisible, except of course for Miss Selena and the kid. She was looking forward to the day when her Dad finally realized that he was making of fool of himself for a girl who saw him as a father-figure and not a potential lover. As far as she was concerned, that would be the ultimate revenge.
It had been three months since Trelawney Rose's disastrous first day at school, but things had definitely turned around for the better. Moving her into Georgina's class with Mrs. Griegan was a great success. Mrs. Griegan appreciated her unique talents and Georgina proved to be a more than adequate guardian. In fact, the girls had developed a fast friendship.
Georgina had signed up for a children's theatre program over at the community center for the summer. It did not take much begging on the part of both girls to convince Selena that Trelawney Rose should go as well. Dr. Harrington, as a birthday present for her, offered to pay the tuition. It was a very generous gift and a definite tip-off that he was still interested in her sister.
Meanwhile, Harrington children, minus Willa, were watchful of any romantic signs that Miss Selena and their father might be falling in love. Justin, busy with his work at the university, was aware that something was going on with the others, but as usual his divided focus was concentrated on university matters, not family. Trelawney Rose was frustrated. If something didn't happen soon, it might be too late.
It was only a matter of time before someone located Kenneth and he would arrive on their doorstep. When he did, the trouble would start. Then, without anyone telling her, she sensed that he had finally been located and was on his way. It was now or never. At last she went to Jay to sound him out with an idea that she had had. Jay was eager to do anything to further the case, even if it did seem like a wild scheme.
"Now Jay," she said in a low voice so that Max or Jennie couldn't hear if they entered the room. "This situation will very shortly be hopeless if we don't intervene. What we need to do is take a page out of Shakespeare and create a ruse to bring them together, alone, and somewhere that will force them to spend time with one another so that nature can take its course."
Her eyes were twinkling mischievously and in spite of himself, Jay grinned at the thought.
"I can handle Selena," she continued. "I am pretty good at hiding my thoughts from her when in conversation. Perhaps you can deal with your father."
Jay groaned, "Do you know how hard it is to distract him from his work?"
Trelawney Rose grimaced.
"It's about the only thing that's hard to distract him from," she replied. "Maybe you could approach him when he is practicing his putting."
Justin Harrington was an avid golfer and one of his favorite forms of relaxation when at home was to practice his putting. Selena, on the other hand, was always ready to drop everything at a moment's notice, if someone needed help.
The two looked at each other, the same thought popping into their heads.
"Tonight," they both said together.
Luck was with them. Around eight, Trelawney Rose invited her sister outside to watch the stars for a bit. She knew how restless Selena had been lately and how gazing at the stars calmed her. There was no moon, so it was a perfect night. The two sisters went out together and sat side by side on the bench in contemplation.
Meanwhile Jay went to see his father. He knew that his father had given tests to one of his classes that day because at dinner he had been complaining about grading them that weekend. Just as he predicted, Justin was tapping golf balls across his study into a cup as a means of procrastinating his grading. Jay casually walked in.
"Dad, do you want to come outside with me and check out the stars? I've set up my telescope in the backyard and it's a perfect night for it."
"Anything to avoid that pile of papers on my desk," he quipped, winking cheerfully.
Jay knew that Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose would already be out in the yard. They would be gazing at the stars intently (at least Miss Selena would). At the sound of the back door, Trelawney Rose would slip away and return to the apartment, locking the door as she went in. Jay meanwhile, once his Dad was outside, would lock the front and back doors, thus locking the two outside together. The kids would then shut off the lights in the back of the house so that it would be nice and dark.
The plan worked perfectly. Realizing that they were locked out and the kids were not going to let them in Justin chuckled, "Think that they're trying to tell us something?"
Looking around the pitch-black yard Selena answered, "I do believe that you are right. It would seem that at least two of them have taken up matchmaking in their spare time."
"How do you think that they figured it out?" asked Justin.
"Trelawney Rose misses nothing. She and Jay have been collaborating on some scheme for a bit. You just haven't noticed," she replied.
As his eyes became accustomed to the dark he could make out the bench that was in the backyard. He decided that as long as they were stuck out there he might as well make the most of it. Turning toward her, he held out his hand. With a conspiratorial smile of her own, she extended her own back. Taking it, he led her over to it. After he was seated, he pulled her down on his lap. He gazed up at her eyes, sparkling with love in the dim light.
"I don't know which are more beautiful, the stars or your eyes," he said softly.
She smiled, "That's quite poetic for a mathematician."
"I have my inspiration in my arms, my lovely Selena," he breathed, aware that he had broken is own rule. But, even if they were at home, how could he call her "Miss Selena" when he was holding her like this? She was too moved to answer but she lowered her lips for the inevitable kiss. There was magic in that kiss that he had never felt before. She was falling into him; she was a part of him.
She felt it too. Cradled in his arms like this she found herself able to forget everything but him. They were together in a place where time and space no longer mattered. Her name on his lips had fallen on her ears like music. He finally released her mouth so they both could breathe. She rested her head on his shoulder and he gently kissed her forehead. She could feel a peace, a genuine calm fall over her. He must have perceived her tranquility, because he slowly released her and they stood up.
Taking her hand, he said, "Let's walk."
She realized that she was trembling. Unsure of what would happen next, but trusting that his actions were guided by fate, she wordlessly followed. When they had reached a point where they could look up and see nothing but stars they lay down together side by side in the cool grass. As they gazed into the night sky, he pointed towards the heavens and spoke,
"Yes," she responded.
There was no need for any further words. Together as they took in the infinite majesty of the cosmos their hearts and souls joined. Selena knew that no physical connection could ever come close to the perfection of this union. Released from the temporal world she reached over to grasp his hand. Through his touch she felt his life's energy flowing into her as she knew hers was flowing into him. The quick intake of his breath told her that he felt it too.
As the minutes slipped by they lay there, side-by-side, seemly chastely holding hands. Looking at them, no one could know how deeply their souls had wrapped themselves around each other. No physical passion would ever be as heady. Yet deep inside her physical being, Selena began to feel a yearning within her womb. She tried to deny it, she tried to ignore it, she even tried to banish it from her thoughts.
But contemplating the vast and endless universe, she became fully aware that this deepest desire was not of her own making. Larger forces were at work and she was subject to them. She longed to feel his child growing within her. And for the first time in her life, she wanted to consummate her love with this man to make it happen. She did not know what had come over her.
For his part, these same feelings were once again stirring within Justin's conscious. In an odd twist of fate, he accepted them for what they were. For once he sought neither a rational explanation nor a psychological justification. Perhaps it was because he had been deeply in love and married before. He had already learned what a true marriage of mind and heart was. He knew that when man loves a woman as deeply as he loved this one, it was the most natural desire in the world to join with her in creating a new life.
In his mind's eye, he could see his first wife, heavily pregnant with Willa. He could still recall the feelings wonder and awe when he would look at her and know what they had done, what they had made together. But then a new vision began to emerge from the old before his eyes.
It was Selena now who was large with his child. She was more beautiful than he had ever seen her. Made more so by the miracle within, smiling with that special smile that all mothers have for their children as they carry them. He could see her reaching out to him and grasping his hand.
Thus his were feelings of recognition. He didn't need to question them. Without anyone to tell him (for once), he knew it was all a matter of faith. Because he took it all on faith, for him it was all very simple. Love such as this did not come around in life often. But when it presented itself, it must be accepted without question.
Leaning up on his elbow, he gazed down at the real Selena. The smile on her face told him that she was sharing in his vision. Tenderly he placed his hand on her stomach, in the place where he knew that their child would grow. She opened her eyes and looked up at him in wonder, like a newborn looks at her parents for the very first time. Lightly she laid her hand on his. Looking down at their hands joined together, he spoke a single word, "Mine."
Forgetful of the forces aligned against them, against this mystical vision that defied reality her face curved into a soft smile, "Ours."
He felt himself react. He wanted more than anything to make her his own. Her eyes glowed as she sensed his desire and he knew that she was ready to respond. She wanted to surrender herself to him completely. He bent down and kissed her deeply. Tonight her response seemed much more heightened then before.
As he rolled onto her he felt her need once again. He couldn't help himself. She was so soft and so beautiful as she yielded beneath him in the starlight. Any man would be crazy not to take advantage of the opportunity. She responded to his touch by whispering, "Please, please, make me yours."
As soon as the word "advantage" came into his mind, he became fully aware of the woman trembling in his arms with all of her weakness and vulnerability. Somewhere deep inside he couldn't do it. It was almost as if she was asking him to take possession of her. But he didn't want to.
He loved her free and soaring spirit. He would never own her. She would be his partner in life, his guide to the extremes of the universe. He was not ready to fulfill their love on a physical level and neither was she. Her frailty had never seemed more apparent than in the recent weeks since her birthday. Softly he turned over and reaching back, gently cradled her in his arms, covering her face with kisses as light as feathers.
"I love you," he said softly. "Whatever force is compelling you to ask me to possess you, I know that it is not from within you. I do not want to own or possess you. I simply want to love you."
As he gazed down at her, he heard her sigh of acceptance and then she looked at him with tears in her eyes. When she whispered it was barely audible, "I love you. No matter what happens I will always love you and you alone."
He heard the aching in her voice, but thought it came from disappointed desire and her words were assurances that his actions that night would not change her love. She knew that he was not rejecting, but protecting her.
Closing his eyes he laid back again. Still holding her in his arms, he could perceive her breathing as each breath matched the other's. She was now curled up beside him and resting her head on his chest. Knowing that they lay there because two children had dreamed a dream, he knew that this moment was not only the result of a child's prank, it was also the fulfillment of a higher plan. Selena knew his mind and wished that this time would never end. She wished that somehow their essence could escape the physical world whose duties and responsibilities threatened to destroy this lovely dream and all its promise.
Lost in their own thoughts, they were unaware of how much time actually elapsed. At length they stood and walked back to the apartment. Trelawney Rose had unlocked door and they smiled at each other as she turned the doorknob to enter. With a quick kiss good night they parted.
That night, after many nights of restless sleep they each slept soundly. When Selena woke up she looked out at the sunshine streaming through the window. In the light of day she remembered that the time of reckoning had come. This was the day when she lost control of her destiny as she was swept up by the winds of adversity, the winds of promises once made on her behalf that she must keep.
As had become their custom in the past few weeks, Selena and Trelawney Rose went over to the house for Saturday breakfast. Selena had begun cooking something special on these mornings, and this morning it was pancakes. Trelawney Rose went off to get Jennie, and Justin found Selena alone in the kitchen. Looking around he grabbed her around the waist and stole a quick kiss. It surprised her but she knew that she had to give him a warning,
"I'm feeling a bit unsettled this morning, out of control if you know what I mean," she said. "I feel like something momentous, possibly unpleasant, is about to happen."
But he laughed, "And what adverse event could occur on such a lovely morning?"
But she couldn't think of a good answer for that so she continued to mix the batter. She had tried to warn him.
Thankfully Emmeline had warned her. She had found Kenneth at last and he was coming to claim her. Although she had not been able to tell her the date, Selena knew intuitively that it was today. It was the day that Selena had been dreading from the first moment that she realized that she had fallen completely, irrevocably in love with Justin Harrington. The children were all eating breakfast in the kitchen, when she realized that he was at the door, she said, "I'll get it."
However Trelawney Rose also sensed that he was there, and said, "No, I will."
The sisters became locked in a stare that was far from loving. It was enough time for Jay, Max, and Jennie to get to the door first. They had no idea of who might be there, but since it had set off a contest of wills between the Tressidors they assumed that the "something" that Trelawney Rose had earlier warned of was about to happen.
Jay was relieved because after weeks of doing nothing, they were finally going to be able to take action. While Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose were having a showdown of some sort back in the kitchen, he opened the door to find a rather interesting man on the other side.
He was not very tall and had brown curly hair. A mischievous smile played on his lips, as though he knew some joke that they didn't. He wasn't very old, older than Miss Selena, but not as old as his Dad. The man wore a tweed jacket and a bow tie. His pants were held up by suspenders, not a belt. He looked like he had stepped out of another time period. Tipping his hat, a rather jaunty fedora, he handed over his card.
"Kenneth Kerwin Killigrew," read Jay slowly, rather mystified by the odd name. It did, however, sound like a name of someone who came from Miss Selena's home in England. But oddly enough, there was nothing else on the card, no profession or address or telephone number. It was kind of weird.
Looking at the card, Jennie wrinkled her nose, "That's a funny name. Can I call you Mr. Kenny?"
"Certainly Jennie," he answered airily, in a rather lilting accent that sounded like Trelawney Rose's.
"You must know Miss Selena," commented Max.
"Why do you say that Max?"
"Because she always says stuff like that," answered Jay. "You know, she knows who people are before they tell her.
Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose now came out to the door. Trelawney Rose was positively glowering at Mr. Kenny, while Miss Selena looked very calm and gracious.
"Selena darling, you look lovely as ever," he gushed and reached forward to pick up her hand and kiss it.
"You're looking very well yourself," she answered cordially.
The young man beamed with pleasure and turning to Trelawney Rose said, "Well if it isn't little Trel? How are you doing, my little love?"
Trelawney Rose quickly put both of her hands behind her back as he reached forward again. The look on her face became very disagreeable.
"Not as well as I was before you showed up, and I am NOT your little love!"
Miss Selena gave her little rap on the shoulder and she looked up mutinously.
Dad came bounding down the stairs, ready to go out for his morning golf game.
"Hello stranger," he said cheerfully. "I thought I heard someone at the door."
"Kenneth Killigrew at your service, old boy," answered Mr. Kenny with a little bow.
A bit nonplussed by the odd behavior, nevertheless Dad extended his hand and said, "Pleased to meet you!"
"Not for long," muttered Trelawney Rose.
That earned her, another, slightly harder rap from Miss Selena. Mr. Kenny gave her a look of sympathy.
Deciding to change his demeanor he knelt on one knee before her and said gently, "I'm very sorry about your parents, dear. I know that it must be very hard for you. Is there anything, anything at all that I can do for you?"
Trelawney Rose's temper finally exploded.
"Yes! Go away! Go away and never come back!"
Her vehemence shocked everyone but Mr. Kenny, who patted her head and said soothingly, "There, there now my little Trel, it will be alright."
"Unhand me!" she shouted. "I am not your little Trel and everything will NOT be alright."
To everyone's amazement, she stamped her foot and went running out of the house and down the block.
Dad was immediately worried. "I hope that she doesn't get lost again."
"No," said Miss Selena. "She's just gone over to Georgina's house."
"How can you be sure? The last time she disappeared overnight," he explained to Mr. Kenny.
"Oh dear! The poor child! What could have brought that on?" he asked with a seemingly genuine concern.
"The other kids in school were mean to her. We had no idea of where she was because after she ran away she got lost and then SHE didn't know where she was. But Chester found her and everything was alright," explained Jennie.
"Good man Chester," responded Mr. Kenny, looking down at the large Sheltie who had come to see what all the fuss was about.
Chester barked in agreement.
"I'll get it," said Miss Selena just before the phone rang. Justin threw up his hands in mock frustration, while Kenneth smiled fondly. They could hear Miss Selena talking on the phone to Mrs. Jennings who wanted to know why Trelawney Rose had come running into her house in tears. They listened to Miss Selena's side of the conversation.
"Yes I know Mrs. Jennings, it is quite disturbing . . . Yes I am sure that Georgina is doing her best to calm her down . . . Yes I cannot imagine what things would be like if she didn't have Georgina to come to . . . Thank you, Mrs. Jennings, but I am sure that she won't try running away again . . . Yes, thank you again, Mrs. Jennings, I appreciate your help."
They all heard the click of the phone being returned to the cradle. When Miss Selena returned, Max asked mischievously, "Was that Mrs. Jennings?"
"Max . . ." Dad began.
"Of course it was," interrupted Miss Selena quickly. "Why don't we all come into the living room and sit down?"
After they were seated, Dad opened the conversation by asking, "So are you . . . "
" . . . a relative of Selena's?" he finished. "No just a very dear old friend."
He looked at Miss Selena with a fondness that seemed to bother his Dad. Jay immediately picked up on the tension but didn't know what to think. He wished that Trelawney Rose were there. She clearly knew something about the stranger and whatever it was she didn't like it. Miss Selena was looking uncomfortable. She smiled at Mr. Kenny with what seemed to be warmth. Her discomfort set the others on edge, but Mr. Kenny seemed blithely unaware.
Then Willa walked in. Mr. Kenny politely stood up.
"Oh, hi," she said. "Don't go to any trouble, it's just the local riff-raff coming home from an evening out on the town. Don't worry, Dad. Miss Selena called to make sure that Dirk's parents actually were home and I really was sleeping over at Barb's. "
"I'm pleased to meet you, Willa," he replied with a glint in his eye.
But Willa just rolled her eyes in disgust. This guy was some kind of creep giving her "the look" like that. Nobody else seemed to notice except Jay. It baffled him even more.
"Okay, so someone told you my name," she said in a bored tone of voice. "Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?"
But his response was such, that neither Dad nor Miss Selena was able to scold her for her blatant rudeness.
"Why I am Kenneth, of course," he said grandly. "Kenneth Kerwin Killigrew, here to claim my bride, the beautiful Miss Selena Mary Tressidor."
"Your what?" asked Willa, in amazement. "I mean, your who?"
"Why Selena, darling," he said in a playfully scolding tone of voice. "Haven't you told the Harringtons of our betrothal? Your Uncle David made it quite clear, when he granted you extra time to stay, that you and dear Trelawney Rose would leave with me as soon as I came to collect you."
There was dead silence.
"Well, no," said Willa enthusiastically filling in the silence. "Miss Selena did not tell us that little tidbit. Congratulations on your future nuptials and I hope that you all have a safe trip back to England!"
Jay watched as father attempted to control his temper. He wondered who he was madder at, Miss Selena for failing to tell him, Willa for being so happy, or Mr. Kenny for starting this whole fuss. Fortunately Georgina walked in with a reluctant Trelawney Rose.
"Hi, Jay," she said out of habit, ignoring everyone else in the room. "Mother said that she thought Trelawney Rose should come back. She is afraid that she'll run away again and she knows how upset you all were the last time."
Trelawney Rose was looking like she wanted to kill someone, but Miss Selena said graciously, "Thank you Georgina, that was very thoughtful of her."
Georgina hung back for a minute, but realizing that she wasn't being invited to stay reluctantly left. Mr. Kenny moved a bit to the side and indicated that he wanted her beside him. However, Trelawney Rose sat down beside Dad with an air of defiance that seemed to covering some other emotion. Miss Selena looked sharply at her but didn't say anything.
If he was aware of the discomfort that he was creating, Mr. Kenny didn't show it. In fact from his pockets he began to pull out little gifts for everyone, including Willa who made a huge fuss over his thoughtfulness. The rest of them didn't know what to think.
From one of his pockets he then pulled out a small jewelry box and handed it to Trelawney Rose.
"For you, little one, to keep close to your heart."
Trelawney Rose's reaction was stunning. She held the box in her hands as if it was on fire. As if she knew what was in the box, she refused to open it. Seeing how deeply it disturbed her, Dad took it from her and put it in his pocket.
"Maybe you'd like to open it later," he said gently. "I'll keep it safe for you."
Mutely she nodded and then threw her arms around him. He patted her on the back and said, "There, there." Mr. Kenny looked at Miss Selena but didn't say anything. Then Jennie broke the awkward silence.
"What did you bring for Miss Selena?"
"Ah, I saved the best for last." Pulling another jewelry box from his pocket he handed it to Miss Selena with a flourish.
She looked at it with a very odd expression on her face.
"Open it dear, I think you know what it is," declared Kenneth.
Miss Selena opened the box slowly to reveal a beautiful engagement ring. All in the room were stunned, with the exception of Trelawney Rose who let out a sob. It was true. It was really true. Miss Selena was going to marry Mr. Kenny and leave them forever. Dad tightened his grip on her and looked down. Ignoring everyone else in the room Mr. Kenny got down on one knee before Miss Selena.
"On that magnificent day nearly twenty-three years ago, my darling, when our parents signed a betrothal contract, it was to insure the enduring alliance of our two families for generations to come. Now that your parents have sadly passed on, much too soon in all of our minds and hearts, I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to take over the care of you and Trelawney Rose, as they intended. Selena, my dear, will you marry me?"
Miss Selena answered calmly, "I will be honored, as any woman would, to join myself with you."
"Not me," said Trelawney Rose under her breath. Before she could say anything else, Miss Selena stared at her and for the first time Mr. Kenny looked puzzled.
Jay was confused, "What do you mean betrothed since she were a little girl?"
"Our families wanted to be joined as one through marriage. Each of us is the oldest child of a paterfamilias. It is an excellent match for both sides," he explained. "Our common business interests within the village will be strengthened by it, not to mention the social fabric of the community. Selena and I grew up together with the knowledge that at the appropriate time we would fulfill the contract."
"Where?" Max asked. "I mean, where would you fulfill it?"
"Why in a little kingdom by the sea," said Mr. Kenny who then quoted, "'I was a child and you were a child in a kingdom by the sea.'"
"Charming sentiment," said Trelawney Rose sarcastically. "You know that Annabel Lee was dead in that poem."
"Ah, you know what I mean. Such a lovely verse!"
"Oh yes, lovely, it was the last poem Poe wrote before he offed himself. Any chance of you following suit?" Trelawney Rose's voice was bitter.
Mr. Kenny simply looked sympathetic. "Poor little dear. Perhaps when we bring you home you will feel better."
"I am home!" cried the child.
As she ran out of the room she turned and cried, "And so is Selena!"
They could all hear the sound of her feet running through the house as she went out the backdoor, probably to the apartment. Miss Selena looked down. All the children except Willa were by now very confused and Dad looked as if he might explode. Only Mr. Kenny seemed completely at ease.
"Don't worry Selena, we'll take care of her," he said kindly. "There has been too much upset, too many changes. She'll be fine once things are settled. We really should not wait too long, you know. The sooner we return to the village, the sooner she will be safely among her family again. Your Aunt Annabel has already begun the preparations for the big day. And you must be there to help her. And poor Elspeth misses the little one dreadfully, I hear."
"Is Elspeth her friend?" asked Jennie.
"Why, dear, hasn't she told you about Elspeth?" asked Mr. Kenny. "Why she is her mother's little Corgi pup. She is supposed to look after her when Mrs. Tressidor isn't there to do it. A bit like a nanny, you know? The child has been gone for so long that I am sure that by now she is beside herself."
"A dog? Beside herself? Supposed to look after the child like a nanny? How does anyone know that?"
"Why she told them of course," he replied smoothly. "Chester, I would like to have a word with you before I go. I'm sure that you can tell me everything that I need to know."
Chester barked in agreement.
Dad looked at him scathingly and said, "Traitor!"
At that, Chester whimpered and left the room with his tail between his legs. Willa rolled her eyes.
"This place has turned into a nut house!" she said with a rather sardonic humor. "Talk about going to the dogs!"
Laughing, she stood up and sashayed over to the stairs, but before she went up she turned and looked at them all.
"Miss Selena," she said sweetly, if somewhat mockingly. "Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with your preparations for your impending departure. We wouldn't want to hold up your betrothed from assuming his duties now, would we?"
"Why how thoughtful of you, my dear!" answered Mr. Kenny with a brilliant smile. "What a lovely young woman you are! Dr. Harrington, you must be so proud to call such a charming girl your daughter."
Once again, Jay thought that if his father could have, he would have killed someone. He looked over at Miss Selena. Despite the fact that Mr. Kenny had picked up her hand and was admiring the ring, she did not look happy. In fact, for someone who had just gotten engaged, she looked absolutely miserable. And he had never seen Trelawney Rose be so rude and sarcastic to anyone before. She almost sounded a mean as Willa. Something was very wrong all the way around.
After Killigrew had returned to his hotel, Justin found Selena in the kitchen scrubbing the pancake griddle very hard. He noticed the ring was set on the windowsill although obviously she wouldn't wear it with her hands in the water. He stood beside her as she furiously rubbed away and then said quietly, "I think it's clean."
Rinsing it Selena replied, "It's been clean for the last five minutes."
"Please look at me," he said, not daring to touch her. She turned but bowed her head.
Still not touching her, he tilted his own head around so that he could catch her eye.
"If you don't look up at me, I am going to have a very stiff neck," he said softly. She turned her eyes towards him, but they were veiled.
"I understand now," he said gently.
"You do?" she asked. "Are you very angry with me? For deceiving you?"
"For loving me? How could I ever be angry with you for that? And you never tried to truly deceive me. What you felt, in fact what I know you still feel, has never been anything but genuine. Withholding information is not exactly the same as deception. I always knew that you were struggling with something. Perhaps I should have probed more deeply, but I didn't want to upset you further. You tried to tell me so many times, in so many ways. I felt your desperation, but I couldn't figure out the cause," he answered.
"And if you had?"
"Ever since I found out that man was here to marry you, I have asked myself that very question over and over. He has a claim and I suppose that my claim would have been greater if we had . . . But Selena, you are not an object to be claimed or bargained for. You are the woman that I love. What we share cannot be reduced to a contract or a claim."
He looked deeply into her eyes. "Selena, I made a promise never to hurt you. But had I taken you last night, even knowing now that it would have made you mine, it would have hurt you. You are not a possession. I shall not claim you as one. But I will always love you."
"But you might have . . ."
He interrupted her, "Have you considered that if we had . . . Then perhaps your Uncle David would have taken Trelawney Rose away from you once and for all? Selena, I know how much she means to you. I could never live with myself if they took her away from you on my account."
Tears in her eyes, Selena nodded. She ached for him to take her in his arms and comfort her, but she knew that he would never hold her in his arms again. And he was right. If she had broken her betrothal contract in this manner, Trelawney Rose would certainly have returned to England. Uncle David would have come to get her himself, or sent a trusted surrogate, certainly not Emmeline. It would have been a bitter blow.
She of course would have followed her, but then what? They couldn't take way the house from her, but Uncle David could decide that she was no longer morally fit to raise her sister. No other family would have offered him another betrothal contract for her, damaged as she was. There were many in the village, family and friend alike, who would have shunned her. In the end, Trelawney Rose was have been deeply wounded by her actions and shattered by their separation.
She looked deeply into his eyes. Kenneth might have the greater claim, but she knew in her heart which man loved her more. It was not Kenneth standing before her now, trying to comfort her, putting aside his own feelings to somehow sooth hers. It was Justin. He was keeping his promise not to hurt her, even if it meant that he himself was hurting deeply.
A part of her had wanted him to confront her, to be angry with her for what she was now putting him through. But once again, she knew. She knew that he really and truly loved her. All she wanted was to rush into his arms and beg him to take her away, somewhere, anywhere. But knowing her own duty to her parents and their wishes, she could not initiate such action on her own. She could not risk losing her sister. And he, being a man of such honor and decency would never do so.
In her heart she knew that she could never love any man again with this same depth and intensity. She knew that she would never be loved with more devotion and faithfulness. Although deeply hurt, rather than selfishly trying to encourage to break her betrothal, he was still thinking of the fragile little girl whose life she had sworn to protect. His love for her sister was more than proof of his devotion to her. She knew where her heart was bound. And it was not to the man that she was about to marry.
When she was done cleaning up the kitchen, Selena returned to the apartment. It was very still and at first she thought that Trelawney Rose had gone back to Georgina's. She went into the bedroom and looking around saw a lump on Trelawney Rose's bed. She walked over and could see that the child had curled herself up very tightly in a little ball as she hugged her doll. But she wasn't sleeping. Her eyes were wide open and staring straight ahead.
"Little lamb," she said softly. "Where is Selena's little lamb?"
But there was no response, no movement. Selena sat down on the bed beside her. She felt helpless. Wherever her sister had retreated, it was so far inside of herself that she would not even acknowledge her presence. Still unsure of what to do, she went over and sat in the rocking chair to keep a vigil.
She could not leave her alone in this state. Then from her vantage point, she could see the Trelawney Rose's face was wet with tears. She felt her own tears burning in her eyes and let them fall. It was as if reality had just fallen in on all of her hopes and dreams.
Later in the Day
Later that afternoon, after he had just shot the worst round of golf of his life, Justin was trying to grade the tests that he had put aside last night, when Trelawney Rose came into the study. She stood before his desk with her hands neatly folded before her.
"Excuse me, Dr. Harrington."
"Yes Trelawney Rose," he replied looking up. The child looked anxious. Her eyes were red and her cheeks were pale. He knew why she was there and he was sorry that he would not be able to ease her fears. "What can I do for you? That is, if it is something I can do for you."
"You can and you must," she said emphatically. "You must put a stop to this now."
Putting down his red pen, Justin leaned back in his chair. "Trelawney Rose, this is NOT something that is within my power to change. I know that you don't like this fellow. In fact I'm not too crazy about him myself. But this is Selena's decision. It is her life and she does get to make her own choices."
"But this is not her choice. She isn't choosing to marry Kenneth, she's doing it because she thinks that she has to . . ." answered the girl faltering towards the end. Justin knew that she still struggled to talk about her parents.
"Trelawney Rose, I know that technically the choice was made for her when she was a very small child, but it is obvious that she is choosing to carry out your parents' wishes. You can't deny her that, can you?" he explained gently. The child was nearly beside herself. Knowing how impulsive she could be, Justin became afraid that she might harm herself.
"I would never harm myself over the likes of Kenneth Killigrew," she said through gritted teeth. "But can't you understand that this is a terrible mistake? He calls her 'my dear,' but it's all talk of contracts and alliances. I can see that you . . ."
Justin stopped her before she could say another word. "I suspect that all you can see is what you want to see. I know that you don't like that man. But we get to pick our friends, not our relatives. I suggest that you mind your own business and accept that very soon your sister will be married to him."
"This IS my business!" she cried. "This is my life too! You don't understand. NONE of you understand. This is not right!"
"Trelawney Rose, listen to me . . ."
"No!" she cried. "You listen to me! Nobody ever listens to me! You must . . . save us . . . please."
"Trelawney Rose, DO NOT interrupt me again," he said sternly. "I am trying to save you. If your sister breaks her betrothal, do you realize that they will take you away from her? After all I have done to make it possible for you to stay together, I cannot let that happen."
"Then it really is all my fault," she said sadly as she processed this last bit of information. "I have ruined my sister's life."
"Please, child," he begged. "Let it go. It is no one's fault. It is simply the way that it is."
But Trelawney Rose looked at him wildly. He was stunned by how rapidly her mood shifted again.
"It is all his fault," she declared. "He has wrecked my life, our lives, don't make me . . ."
She stopped herself short. "Forget I said that."
Once again, Justin was amazed at her forcefulness, although her last words were a heartfelt plea. However the discussion was becoming too painful and he was not about to start confiding in or commiserating with an eleven-year-old.
More harshly than he intended, he said, "Trelawney Rose, my last word is stay OUT of it!"
Trelawney Rose knew that the conversation was over. She had seen Justin lose his temper often enough with his own children to know that if she tried to continue he would start yelling. Knowing how upset he was, she knew that his fury would be loud and only disturb her sister more. Deciding that a tactical retreat was in order, she went to the door but couldn't resist having the last word.
"I can't," she said firmly but in a low voice and ran from the room.
As she fled Justin returned to his papers. He shook his head. Poor child, he thought. No sooner had they got her settled then she would have to pick up and move again. No wonder she was distraught. After all that they had been through together, he knew how she felt. He had come to love her as his own child.
There was something about her sadness and vulnerability that spoke to him. When she was troubled, she just naturally reached out to him. She trusted him. He wanted to keep her safe. He knew that some of the anger she was feeling was from her grief. It had not been long since she had lost her parents. Perhaps like Selena, she couldn't bear to think of living in the family home again without them.
But there was another aspect to her emotions that he could not reconcile. More than disliking Killigrew, she feared him. There was some subtext that had not yet revealed itself, a subtext known only to her and Killigrew. When she had clung to him earlier he had sensed that it came from a desire from her that he indeed would keep her safe. Perhaps it was because in the brief period of time that she felt homeless he had offered her the security of his home and family. Sensitive as she was, she must know how he felt about her.
Perhaps he could convince Selena to allow her to stay until the end of the school year and then for part of summer vacation. She was registered for the summer theatre program and had been looking forward to it so much. After all he had done to make the child happy again, he couldn't bear to see her miserable. And she was genuinely disturbed. In spite of her claim that she would never harm herself, he suspected that pushed far enough anything was possible. She clearly did not want to go anywhere with Kenneth Killigrew and would do anything necessary to avoid it.
That night, Selena was awakened by the sound of her sister crying. It was another nightmare. Since she had come in January, she would sometimes dream that she saw the lights of the truck coming at her parents' car, the white light of her vision. Emmeline had told her of the white light and how she had seen it as she was saying goodbye to Mum.
"'Tis alright, little lamb. 'Tis all right," she said softly. "There's no white light here."
But Trelawney would not be comforted. Nor would she say anything. She had completely closed herself off from her. As Selena held her in her arms, she wept as though her heart would break. Eventually, she settled down, but she woke up two more times.
Each time, she refused to say anything, but wept uncontrollably. Selena tried to penetrate her mind to see what was bothering her but she was closed off. Whatever was bothering her sister, she was not going to reveal it. And someone, probably Mum, had taught her how to conceal her thoughts very well.
The next couple of days were tense. When she wasn't in school, Trelawney Rose spent as much time as possible at Georgina's. Now that Mrs. Jennings knew of the situation in the Harrington household she made it her duty to look after the poor child. Trelawney Rose had told her all about Selena's engagement and how she would have to go back to England with a man she hated. Even Mrs. Jennings, wrapped up in herself as she was, sensed the very real trepidation and fear. Trelawney Rose could see this and although she didn't confide in her, she begged her to let her stay there whenever Kenneth was at the house.
Knowing that it would manipulate her feelings in her favor she said, "Oh Mrs. Jennings, whatever would I do without Georgina?"
Yet the plaintive cry actually rang true. Georgina, more than anyone, had made her feel secure enough to return to school. Trelawney Rose was fast approaching that age when all little girls begin to lose their self-confidence and retreat. Oddly, this had not happened to Georgina. In spite of her mother's coddling, she was developing into a very solid and grounded individual. She had no illusions about her mother, but loved her for who she was. Her infatuation with Jay notwithstanding, she showed all the promise of evolving into a strong woman.
Therefore it was not really quite so surprising that Trelawney Rose was attracted to her. Despite her growing sisterly bond with Jennie, Georgina filled the need in her life for a best friend her own age. Georgina was a friend with whom she could share secrets and discuss life's matters to her heart's content.
Georgina also kept confidences. Trelawney Rose had sensed her loyalty from the first and was not afraid to tell her deepest fears. Thus even though the Harringtons thought that she went to Georgina's to avoid Mr. Kenny. She was also going because she needed to be with Georgina.
And it was in Georgina that she was able to confide her deepest fears about Kenneth. Being a child, Georgina did not know what to do about it, however she was ready to step in if she needed. Just as on the playground, she was not afraid to stand up to anyone.
She also sensed in Trelawney Rose what Justin had. If pushed too far where Kenneth was concerned, it was a very real possibility that she might injure herself. Knowing that she had once again found her guardian angel, Trelawney Rose sought out the safety and comfort of Georgina's friendship. She somehow knew that as long as she was with Georgina, she would be safe, not only from Kenneth, but also from herself.
Georgina tried to bring her concern for Trelawney Rose to her mother without breaking confidences. However while the incomplete information triggered Mrs. Jenning's own concern she could get no specifics from Georgina. But being herself, such as she was, she tried to talk to Selena.
"Now Miss Selena," she began in her somewhat officious voice, "I know that you are going to think that I'm sticking my nose where its not wanted, but Georgina is very worried about Trelawney Rose."
"In what way?" asked Selena curtly. She did think that Mrs. Jennings was butting in and that she was trying to stir up conflict.
"That child is desperately opposed to being dragged back to England by that man you are planning to marry and . . ."
Selena did not let her finish. Unfortunately, Mrs. Jennings' natural tactlessness made her stop listening. In her mind, she wasn't telling her anything that she didn't know anyway.
"Thank you for your concern Mrs. Jennings," she said with an edge in her voice, "but I know all about my sister's feelings regarding the impending move. I can deal with her on my own."
Something told Mrs. Jennings that she didn't know as much as she thought she did, but since the conversation was ended she returned home. Concerned once again about the child, she sought out the girls. She looked at the two curly heads whispering together in Georgina's room.
Georgina seemed to be comforting the younger girl. For once, Mrs. Jennings decided that it was best if she stayed out of it. She could see why the little girl no longer trusted the adults in her life to protect her. Heaven knows, she thought, what that poor child would do without Georgina.
For her part, Selena was very vexed at Mrs. Jenning's attempted interference in her business. She recognized Trelawney Rose's needs, but not their origins, and therefore did not try to prevent her from going next door, even if it meant that she might have to endure Mrs. Jennings' meddling. Justin once made a passing comment about her frequent absences, but Selena simply said that Georgina filled a need that no one in the Harrington household could. Besides, not having her around made things easier for everyone.
Justin spent most of his time at the university or buried in work in his study anyway. After his initial shock and anger, he could feel nothing but sorrow. He had decided to detach himself from the situation. There was nothing he could do about it anyway, so he returned to the place where he felt safest from the emotional turmoil around him: the university and academia.
The Harrington children went about their lives and tried to come to grips with the idea that there was no negotiating this time around. Only Willa was happy with the new turn of events. Without even trying, she was getting rid of the two biggest thorns in her side at the moment.
But even Willa was somewhat confused right now. She had forgotten that the sisters were also her only allies within the house. The other kids took advantage of Miss Selena's abstraction and Trelawney Rose's absence to bait her into sarcastic remarks and comments that earned her the rather loud scolding of her father. Because he couldn't vent his anger on its real object, Willa became a convenient target.
Jay and the other children were also confused because Trelawney Rose did not seem inclined to take any action to change things. This was very unusual for her. Jay wished that he could talk to her about it, but she was avoiding him as well. So all they could do was wait for the next "thing" to happen. Kenneth made it plain that he wished to depart for England as soon as possible so that they could be married among their own people. As the sister of the bride, she must go with them.
But Trelawney Rose was barely eating and sleeping. Selena tried tempting her with all her favorite foods, but she just picked at them and pushed her plate away. After a respectable amount of time, she asked to be excused. At night she would leave the bed and sit for hours staring out the window. The first time she woke up and found her missing from the bed, Selena was terrified that she had run away. But then she saw her huddled in the rocking chair that she had pulled over to the window.
"Where is my little lamb?" she called to her softly.
"I'm looking at the stars," replied the child quietly. "I do believe sometimes that I can see Mummy and Papa among them. They are quite bereft for their little one."
"Why are they bereft?" asked Selena carefully.
But the child didn't answer, nor did she move. At last exhausted. Selena fell asleep. Because her sister was disrupting her sleep, her nerves became even more frayed.
While upset was the order of the day at the house, Kenneth just seemed to come and go breezily, as the spirit moved him. He would talk to anyone who would talk to him and tell tales of his own journeys through the world. He had always been a charming, if somewhat vacuous, man and an amusing companion, but his incessant cheerfulness was starting to grate on her nerves.
He was the only one, other than Willa, who was unaffected by the tension. True to form, once she realized how much it irritated everyone, Willa always engaged him in conversation and encouraged his mindless chatter. While Kenneth seemed to be giving her time to get herself settled, Selena knew that he was getting anxious to move on. Her family must also be anxious for her to return home. She slowly began to accept her fate with resignation.
Luckily, the rigid moral rules of their culture dictated that it was improper for Kenneth to visit her at the apartment or the house "unchaperoned." It limited the time she had to spend with him and she was not permitted to spend it alone with him. The children quickly figured this out and always made a point of being present when they knew he was there. Ironically, Willa was her best buffer. But, like everything else, it didn't bother him. It became obvious that Selena really didn't know him at all.
She had not seen him in many years. Their travels kept them apart and, as she had quite honestly told her family, he made no attempts to seek her out, either at home or abroad. It was not her place to look for him, bit she doubted that she could have found him anyway.
Even after being reunited, it was clear that they had no feelings for each other. There was no physical attraction between them. He never did more than kiss her hand, and that was more playacting than genuine affection. He didn't even try to touch her as one would think that a fiancé might.
Their only bond was the contractual agreement that tied them together. She found his mind almost as simple as her sister's. He didn't seem to care much at all for what she felt or thought. He was really very shallow. Her cousin Liam, once when he had had a few too many, had declared that he was little more than a vain peacock. He was presently living up to that image.
Kenneth was incapable of reading her with any depth. He assumed that all of her sadness was rooted in the loss of her parents, but this was not entirely true. While he knew how much she cared about the Harringtons he seemed to think that this was because they had been so kind to her when she needed them. The idea that there could be something more never crossed his mind.
In his mind however, she no longer needed them. He was here, her knight in shining armor, to sweep her up and carry her off to the safety of his home (better put her home, which would only become his upon their marriage). Theatrical by nature, Kenneth was very taken with the image. He was looking forward to the moment when he would sweep into the village with them and become the center of attention.
However he seemed to be the only one. Except of course for Willa, who waxed eloquent about how lucky Selena was to have such a wonderful man to care for her. Her flattery only made things worse. He would preen at her supposed (since Willa truly admired no one) adulation and became even more impatient to return.
And so it seemed that the future had been decided. Selena was unwilling to go against the wishes of her parents. This was love of still another kind. It was a filial love, a debt paid to those had given her life and brought her up to believe in all those things she held dearest: love, family, devotion and faithfulness to others, a duty to fulfill one's commitments to family and community.
Without saying as much, Emmeline had reminded her of that when she had warned her that he was coming. Despite Trelawney Rose's insistence that her parents would have supported her if she wanted to break her betrothal, she had only the word of a child. And Trelawney Rose was utterly irrational when it came to Kenneth.
It would have been easier to understand if she were jealous that as her husband, Kenneth might come first in her affections and could possibly even come between the two sisters. However the girl had, only a few months ago, been willing to share her with five others. And she had also seemed to be actively encouraging her relationship with Justin. There was something else, but whatever it was, Selena had been unable to discern it from her thoughts.
Things can't go on like this, she thought wearily. Among other things, she was reaching the end of her own rope. Her heart ached with the pain of missing her parents, with unfilled desires, and with concern for her sister. In her deepest soul, she knew that she was not ready to marry anyone, let alone Kenneth, a man she was fond of but did not love.
Meanwhile, the man whom she truly loved had gallantly stepped aside. Not wanting to cause her any more pain, he did not even play the discarded lover. He was patient and kind and understanding.
Once again, the words of St. Paul were running through her mind,
"Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."
Dr. Justin Harrington was all these things and more. In her very soul, Selena knew that if her parents could only have known him, then they would have blessed their union and released her from the promise they had made on her behalf so many years ago.