Angels Among Us:
The Archangel Uriel
Part 1. Consequences
Life in the world of the Tressidors and the Harringtons was moving into a new phase now that Selena's betrothal was officially broken. The time of the greatest stress and anxiety about whether Selena and Trelawney Rose would stay with the Harrington family permanently or leave forever had finally passed. Kenneth Killigrew left a few hours after he discovered that his betrothal was nothing more than a slip of paper that had no real power to bind him to his intended. In addition to the legal reality, there was a cosmic reality in which greater forces were at play.
Of course, Trelawney Rose was correct when she had said that he was a bit dim in that regard. But in addition to being dim, he was also self-indulgent and lacking in any real ambition (unless one counted self-indulgence as ambition). He masked his weakness with a rather cheerful and off-beat demeanor, but to anyone who looked closely enough, there was something rather strange going on with him. The match had been an excellent one and there was no reason why it should not have been fulfilled years before. At least there was no reason that anyone knew of.
Quixotic and eccentric as he might be, he still had his pride and dignity. Selena had made it eminently clear that she was in love with Dr. Justin Harrington. Although he himself was not really in love her, he had resigned himself to his fate as his father had planned it. His romantic nature had certainly been in love with the idea of being in love and playing the hero come to rescue the fair damsel from her grief and distress. He had pictured them returning to the village in an odd sort of triumph, although very odd it would have been. Each, for their own reasons, would have been somewhat reluctant.
He had really done his best to avoid fulfilling the betrothal contract for all these years. He was always on the move, in out of the way places. He had been clever enough to stay one step ahead of his family in their search for him. He had been most annoyed when Emmeline had finally located him in a geisha bar in Tokyo. And he was very unhappy to learn of the tragic accident, but not for any of the usual reasons.
The news of the deaths of Selena's parents had been troubling on a number of levels, but none more so (from his point of view) than the fact that David Tressidor was now head of the family. The betrothal had essentially been a business deal orchestrated by him all those years ago. He would make sure that it happened. The present turn of events was actually quite fortuitous, once he got used the the idea that he was jilted. It gave him the perfect excuse to rid himself of his betrothed, not to mention her tiresome little sister, once and for all.
With not too many regrets, because now he would be able to indulge in his wanderlust once again as he searched for his "true bride," he made his goodbyes and departed. He was not yet ready to settle down and envisioned himself on a sort of quest throughout the world for his own "star-crossed love."
It was an image that pleased him. No one was sorry to see him go. His romantic and boyish charm had worn thin on all of them. Although Trelawney Rose and Justin had initially been the first two to be bothered by him, after a few days everyone had had enough. It had been more than his threat to the security of the family. He essentially was a jerk.
Emmeline volunteered to stay a bit longer to help set everything in the house back in order. Since school would soon let out for the summer and all the kids were going to be home the household would be very busy until everyone was settled into a summer routine. And as of yet, only Trelawney Rose had a plan for the summer. Selena gratefully accepted her offer.
Once the crisis point had passed, while she felt great relief, she was exhausted. Her grief for parents had drained her of many of her emotional reserves. Just as she was catching up, so to speak, Trelawney Rose was traumatized by her first day of school and she ha spent a long, anxious night waiting for her to be found. Then Kenneth showed up. If the fact that she would now have to leave and marry him were not bad enough, Trelawney Rose went into another tailspin.
Her mother had warned her that she had taken a sudden dislike to her betrothed a couple of years ago, but the child was positively irrational. No amount of questioning would get her to explain why, but her deep sadness and almost fearful behavior was very worrying. Selena herself had eaten and slept poorly throughout the whole ordeal.
This in turn meant that her physical resources had also been spent. She still slept poorly and ate with little appetite. Often she found her mind drifting purposelessly along. Although ever present and solicitous of the family's needs, it took more energy than ever to meet them.
They didn't realize that she was not as strong as she had been six months ago, before the initial tragedy, and the kids' behavior continued along its contentious and selfish pathway. Trelawney Rose needed her but would sometimes feel guilty when she could see how thinly stretched her sister was. Sadly, she was the only child in the house that did.
Justin was aware that, despite her quiet joy and the security of knowing (or rather, appearing to know) that there were no longer any obstacles to the fulfillment of their love, she also needed rest and was still grieving deeply. Emmeline had the strength to cope with the demanding physical needs of the family, as well as providing a buffer for Selena when it came to some of the emotional issues with the kids. He still had not acknowledged the fact that much of their behavior was due to his own lax and ineffective discipline.
He had wished that he could convince her to step back a little from her responsibilities with them and take more time for herself and her sister. Emmeline's presence allowed her to do that. It seemed that no sooner had an issue been resolved with one child, than another one cropped with one of the others. And he wasn't thinking with his own interests in mind. If she needed it, he would happily give her space to pull herself back together. Not surprisingly, the first problem was with Willa. And was this problem that would most desperately need Emmeline's strength and intervention.
And so it goes, thought Willa Harrington, and so it goes. Just when she thought that she had achieved victory in her quest to get rid of Miss Selena and her sister Trelawney Rose from her life for good, the kid found a loophole in the betrothal agreement. The bottom line was, that despite a signed, sealed, and delivered contract, no one in her family was going to force Miss Selena into a loveless marriage.
Now Willa knew why Trelawney Rose was so crazy. Wherever it is that she had come from was definitely a crazy place. There was no love lost between Miss Selena and herself, but the idea that anyone could be forced to marry anyone else was ridiculous. She might not be a history scholar or anything, but that went out even before the nineteenth century, at least in the western world.
And it wasn't like she couldn't understand why Miss Selena didn't want to marry this guy, Mr. Kenny or whatever his name was, no two ways about it, a creep. From the minute that he had first seen her, Willa could tell that he was checking her out with a speculative look in his eye, as if he were appraising her. And Trelawney Rose was not only scared of him. She was rude to him. She had never seen her be rude to anyone before, not even herself.
She had thought that she would have a little fun by chatting him up because she very quickly saw that it bugged the rest of the family. But when he talked to her, he sat a little too close and would touch her hand or arm in a way that was just a little too chummy for comfort. He was kind of funny to listen to however.
He had certainly traveled all over the world and lived in lots of weird places such as Borneo, Ceylon, and Rhodesia. But he also commented that he liked these rather "warm" locations because of the dress (or lack thereof) of the natives. He enjoyed their more "laid back" approach to life. He even encouraged her to loosen up and explore the world since he "could see that she was another free spirit" like himself. Not where you are concerned, she had thought.
By the end of the week, even she had been avoiding him and she was really looking forward to his departure. And it was not just because it meant that the Tressidors were leaving with him. Still, the whole little drama that the kid had orchestrated in the kitchen and the basement had been too much. It had actually been kind of funny to see her father caught with Miss Selena in his arms by her fiancé. It had been a lot less amusing when it became obvious that the engagement was finished.
And no two ways about it, even before she had fled the house to escape from it, she had realized where things were headed between them. Even though he was obviously controlling himself, she could tell that her Dad was a total goner. But the reaction of the other kids made her sick. Even Jay had completely forgotten about Mom. It was like they couldn't wait for Miss Selena to take her place.
But she reserved her greatest anger for Trelawney Rose. She had almost tricked her into believing that she understood her and was on her side. But it was clear that her plan all along had been to get her sister together with Dad. She couldn't have it both ways. Willa would have accepted Miss Selena as the housekeeper and maybe even let her help her out a little, just to make her feel better. But she could never accept her as her stepmother.
She had run down a couple of blocks to the local convenience store where she was able to drop a dime and call up Dirk. He was planning to pick her up in the van for a party that night anyway, so she told him to meet her there instead of home. As soon as she told him why, he came and got her and they drove over to Snake's house to get him. As soon as the word got out, Willa's west campus buddies were out in full force.
The university faculty brats like Snake and Barb were amazed. Everyone up at the school had known that Miss Selena would be going back to England to be married. But the idea that the kids had figured out a way to bust up her betrothal so that she could stay with them was a shock.
Snake's Dad was on the phone before she had even finished the story. And the first person he called was Driscoll. It was cold comfort for Willa that word was all over the campus before her Dad had even left the house and could tell anyone himself. The rumor mill was in high gear and the insinuations were flying thick and fast.
The situation was dissected and analyzed from all sides by the crew. But the bottom line was that Miss Selena and Dad were in love and it was only a matter of time before they got married. Everyone sympathized with her, but no one knew what to do. The most logical answer was to bust them up, but no one knew how.
Eventually, Willa just wanted to get out and be alone. Dirk drove her back to the house and it was on her way in that she found the lovebirds sitting on the couch together. She wanted to gag. She knew that Dad couldn't care less about what she thought. Miss Selena did, but she wasn't going to give up her star-crossed lover or whatever she thought that he was to make her happy. The only immediate revenge that she could think of was to threaten that she would leave home again and watch her look sad.
Of course her father was only too happy. She knew it by the way that he wouldn't even look at her while Miss Selena was trying to make peace with her. She was pretty sure that Dad would help her pack and buy her a bus ticket out of town if she wanted. However, she knew that she had spoiled their tender, little moment when about ten minutes later he came upstairs and knocked on her door.
"What?" she called.
"May I speak with you?" he asked.
"Go away!" she replied forcefully.
But the door opened anyway (Damn, she thought, I was so upset that I forgot to lock it.) and he walked in. She could tell by the look on his face that he was going to try to make nice with her. She was lying in bed, but she turned on her side and faced the wall. Whatever he had to say, she didn't want to hear it. And whatever it was that he was saying, it wasn't about her anyway. It was about Miss Selena.
"Willa," he said in his "I'm trying to be reasonable voice." "I think that we have a few things to discuss."
She decided that he would be most bothered if she completely ignored him. If she fought with him or even made snide remarks, it would give him an excuse to blame her when he failed to make peace with her. And she really didn't have anything to say to him anyway. She was still trying to get over the shock of actually seeing Miss Selena curled up so contentedly in his arms. She had liked her a lot better when she was being standoffish.
"I can see that you are going to be uncooperative," he said.
She still refused to speak. He was only stating the obvious. So he tried a different approach.
"Listen, Willa," he said, attempting to sound kindly. "I didn't mean to hurt you by telling you that Mom wanted me to remarry, but it is true. All of you children were so young when she . . . left. She knew that I was incapable of raising you all alone. And she knew that there was no one else in the family to help. Don't you think that if she had known Miss Selena that she would have liked her?"
Willa could feel the tears forming in her eyes. Of course Mom would have liked Miss Selena. But that was not the point. She would have liked Miss Selena if Mom was still alive and they were like, friends or something. She wanted her Mom and no one was going to take her place. Maybe Dad wanted someone to take her place. Maybe all of the other kids wanted someone to take her place. But Willa only wanted her Mom.
"Willa, why don't you look at me so that we can have a real conversation?" he asked.
But she couldn't look at him. And if she did look at him then they certainly wouldn't have any kind of conversation, real or otherwise. They would have a huge argument. And she was too sad and too tired to fight. She just wanted him to leave her alone. At last, he gave up.
"I can see that I expected too much when I thought that we could actually come to terms with this," he said, laying the blame squarely on her. "Maybe you'll feel differently in the morning."
Not likely, thought Willa. She heard him leave and close the door. It occurred to her that he wasn't really trying very hard. No doubt he and Miss Selena would ask her to sit down with them tomorrow. She would try to look understanding, despite being hurt. He would only care about making Miss Selena happy. And who knew? They might even drag Miss Emmeline into it.
She had seen the look on her face when she had told the kid, "You win." And she could see right away that no matter what, she was there to protect her. But Willa would never really hurt her, except for maybe her feelings. She didn't even know why she had said that to her. If she should have said it to anyone, it was Jay. Jay was the one who wanted Miss Selena to be his new Mom and the other two were just following along. And she could almost forgive them. Max didn't remember her and Jennie had never even known her.
Willa was more perceptive than any of them gave her credit for. Trelawney Rose wasn't really looking to marry off Miss Selena to Dad for her sister's sake, or even because she liked Dad very much. In fact, she had always been critical of him whenever he treated her badly and laid down some unreasonable punishment.
All the kid cared about was getting rid of Mr. Kenny from their lives for good. Willa had noticed how she looked whenever he was near. And she noticed that he was a total creep. If she had to put a bet on it, she would say that the guy had messed with her. And somehow, it had escaped the notice of her Mummy and her Papa and her whole overprotective family.
Maybe that was why she was so weird about everything else. Maybe she didn't understand what had happened to her. That wouldn't surprise her at all. It was actually a pretty good joke on Miss Emmeline. Here she was all worried about her hurting the girl,when she had tried to marry off Miss Selena to someone who was a real threat to the kid. Not for the first time, she realized that Trelawney Rose wasn't so bad after all and that maybe she was right when she said that they were a lot alike.
Determined to maintain her privacy, she got up and locked the door that she had forgotten to lock when she came in. She didn't need any more visitors. She took out the Grateful Dead album that she had bought, American Beauty. She put on the record player to listen to it again. Then she lit up a joint and decided that it was time to stop thinking and just get stoned.
On Monday morning, she made a visit to west campus before going into school. The talk was all about her father of course. There were more faculty brats among the residents than just her close friends and everyone was eager to get the low down. But there wasn't much that she could tell them.
"Miss Selena's cousin is going to be staying to help her out," she said. "Miss Emmeline is the chaperone for now. There won't be any hanky-panky while she's there. And she doesn't live in the house anyway."
"According to my Mom," said one of the younger kids. "She doesn't need to. Where there's a will there's a way."
"At the moment there's not much will," shot back Willa. "We didn't see them, Miss Selena and the little weirdo all weekend. Miss Emmeline did her Saturday chores and then Miss Selena is always off on Sundays, except for making everyone go to church. Miss Emmeline said that they were both exhausted."
"Sounds pretty boring," said Pam sighing.
"And you sound disappointed," she replied. "It's never been interesting."
"Well, it's going to be interesting for your Dad at work today," answered Snake. "Thanks to you, phone lines were burning up all over town this weekend. Driscoll plans to start whistling Rule Britannia when he sees him this morning."
"Driscoll is an idiot," she said as she rolled her eyes. "Doesn't he have, like, classes to teach or something?"
"Driscoll's not such a bad guy," commented Dirk. "My Dad says that he's really jealous of your Dad. Apparently, your Dad is the world famous rocket scientist, research for NASA and stuff while Driscoll is just a hack who got his job because someone knew someone."
"What's a hack?" asked one of the girls.
"I'm not sure," said Dirk. "But I think that it has something to do with being a lame researcher."
"Oh, brother," sighed Willa as the bell rang.
Then, figuring that because it was the last week of classes, she changed her mind about going inside. She decided to celebrate by blowing off the day and hit the diner. She needed to talk to Jerry. He wasn't there when she walked in, but he showed up a few minutes later.
"I thought that you were going to stay in school this week," he said.
"Yeah, well, things have taken a turn for the worse at home," she answered.
"Explain please," he said.
"Well, the whole thing is just insane," she said. "Somehow, the little weirdo has figured out a way to break the betrothal contact. Mr. Kenny has taken off and now Miss Selena is free to marry my Dad. She even dragged Miss Emmeline into it. Friday night was a bad scene."
Jerry didn't answer right away, but looked as shocked as any of them had been, in fact even more so.
"Breaking a betrothal like that is almost impossible in their world," he finally said. "How did she do it?"
"I don't understand it really," admitted Willa. "But it had something to do with them not knowing each other's minds and the fact that they weren't in love with each other. Oh, and if they didn't love each other, they couldn't have any kids. Listen, all that matters to me is that Mr. Kenny is gone, Miss Selena is here, and it looks like I'm going to have a new stepmother."
"Probably no time soon," commented Jerry.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, these betrothals can't just be broken up like that," he replied. "There are legal contracts and all that to be considered. It's the men in the family who control all this stuff really. Now if Mr. Kenny, or whatever his name is, bugged off that isn't the most important thing. Miss Selena isn't really free to just marry whomever she likes. An uncle or someone is going to have to give their permission for her to marry your Dad."
"How do you know so much about it?" she asked suspiciously.
"Oh, all these little villages are the same," he said carelessly. "They're full of old traditions that no one has ever bothered to change. But from everything that you've told me about the guy, it sounds like it was a lucky escape for her. Especially since he gave up so easily. He'll be in just as much trouble as she'll be when his father finds out. These families take these things mighty serious."
"Yeah well, it was a lucky escape for her in more ways than one," she replied.
"Why is that?" he asked.
"That guy is a creep if there ever was one," she stated emphatically. "After a while he made my skin crawl. And the kid was half-scared to death of him. I think that he messed with her."
"Highly doubtful," he said dismissively. "That child, if everything that you tell me about her is true, has been very well-guarded all of her life. There is no way that he could have had the opportunity. No, it's just a big bloody mess of another kind."
"Any chance they'll be forced to marry?" she asked hopefully.
"Not a one," he said. "They've rejected each other. But neither one of them is free."
"So there's still hope?" she asked.
"That she won't marry your father?" he answered. "Of course there is. I would not want to have to sort out a muddle like this one for all the tea in China. And there's the little weirdo to consider. No doubt the family will threaten to take her away if Miss Selena marries your Dad. Even if I had a crystal ball I couldn't tell you what would happen."
That comment made Willa feel well enough to return to school. Jerry forged a note from her Dad saying that she was late because she had a dentist appointment and she went back. What a crazy culture!
Jay Harrington was feeling mighty good about things. It wasn't that he had really had anything against Mr. Kenny other than the fact that he had come to take Miss Selena away and marry her. Of course that was a pretty big thing. But it was Trelawney Rose who had the real beef with him. By the time he left, no one could really figure out why, but he also knew that nobody could figure out Trelawney Rose anyway.
Other than Miss Selena and Miss Emmeline, the only one who sort of understood her was Georgina Jennings. But now that he knew her better, he figured that Willa was right about her. She was a little weirdo too. The only benefit that he could see to having her live next-door was that she made a great best friend for Trelawney Rose. Even he had to admit that she was very kind to the little girl. She had even helped her get into an activity for the summer. For someone with her imagination, acting was perfect.
One of his buddies in school, Kurt Jackson, had a brother named Ernie who was in their class at school. Ernie told him all about how Georgina had managed to become old Griegan's teacher's pet by being so nice to Trelawney Rose. Jay knew that that was a pretty big deal. In all the time that he had known Mrs. Griegan she had never had a teacher's pet before.
Ernie said that she was always at Trelawney Rose's side. Jay had always known that she was shy so that was good. At first the other kids were confused about why she was so protective but then even they realized that Trelawney Rose could not manage in school without help. At lunchtime, Georgina always sat next to her. Since all of the other girls wanted to sit with her, it meant that Trelawney Rose was never alone at a lunch table. Then on the playground they walked around arm in arm talking.
In the classroom, Georgina helped her keep up with the social studies and science lessons when she was confused. And she helped her keep track of the things in her desk. American school was very different from English school and there were just some things that confused her.
But one thing that made her happy was that Griegan was so strict. She had trouble working if an aide was watching the class and the kids got disruptive. Luckily Georgina was able to stop her before she could complain about it. That would have been a surefire way to make a lot of enemies real fast.
When Mr. Kenny had been there, Georgina was also there to save the day. Jay wasn't sure that he would ever know why Trelawney Rose hated Mr. Kenny so much, but he was glad that Georgina had let her come over to her house so much. It made things easier on everyone else.
A couple of days after Mr. Kenny left, Jay got the best news of his life. He had been selected for the school district's special summer science program. And he was the only seventh grader who made the cut. He couldn't wait to get home so that he could tell his Dad.
The first person that he saw when he got home was Miss Emmeline. He was bummed out because he had really wanted to tell Miss Selena first, since she had helped him with his application essay. But he was bursting to tell someone at home, so he told her.
"Where is Miss Selena?" he asked when he saw that she wasn't home.
"She's at work at the university," explained Miss Emmeline. "She didn't go to work at all last week and Dr. Wallace really needed for her to come in and catch up."
"Oh," said Jay. "Is she going to keep working there, when, you know?"
Miss Emmeline smiled at him.
"That decision has not yet been made," she replied knowingly. "But Dr. Wallace is very busy and she can't just quit like that. Especially since at the moment there is no 'you know.'"
"Yeah, I guess so," he said.
"So what are you so excited about?" she asked. "You came in here bursting about something and were very down when you saw that Selena wasn't here."
"It's a pretty big deal," he said. "But first you have to promise to let me tell everyone else."
"You have my solemn oath," answered Miss Emmeline with a little smile.
"A couple of months ago I applied for this summer program for really smart math and science students in the school district," he said eagerly. "And I got in! I'm the only one in my grade in the whole district who got in!"
"Well, isn't that lovely!" she said. "How splendid! Congratulations!"
"Thanks," he said beaming and went off to his room.
Later when he heard Miss Selena come in, he ran downstairs to tell her. Jennie and Trelawney Rose were with her.
"Well done, Jay!" cried Trelawney Rose, clapping her hands. "Oh, Selena, we must do something special for dinner!"
"Yes, indeed we must," agreed Miss Selena.
But Jay noticed that even though they were both happy for him, they still looked very tired. Miss Emmeline asked him what his favorite meal was so that she could cook it. Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose were going over to the apartment so that they could rest and Trelawney Rose could do her homework quietly. That meant that she could do it without Jennie bugging her. Georgina was in some kind of a dance recital coming up and had all kinds of practices to go to this week. That meant that Jennie would try to spend every minute that she could with her.
Jay went back upstairs to finish his work, but a couple of hours later, he was interrupted by a huge commotion downstairs.
"I made it! I made it!" Max was hollering. He could also hear his feet pounding on the floor as he ran in.
For a minute Jay had forgotten that today was the tryout for the summer Little League team in town. Only the best kids from all the local teams would make it. Max was trying out as a relief pitcher. Excited, he ran downstairs to share his own good news.
"I made it, Jay!" shouted Max as soon as he saw him. "I made the team!"
"That's groovy, Max," replied Jay. "Now we both have good news today."
"Huh?" said Max.
Jay looked proudly at his father.
"It was kind of a secret, Dad," he said, trying to sound modest. "A while back I applied for a special summer science program at school. It's only for the best students in the district. I just found out today that I got in. And I'm the youngest one in the program!"
"Slow down, Jay!" said his Dad, smiling. "Is this the program that the National Science Foundation is funding? Do you know if they got a grant for it?"
"Yeah, that's sounds right," said Jay.
"Excellent, son!" he replied. "I'm very proud of you! Dr. Spencer helped the district write the proposal for the grant. In fact, he's going to be supervising the teachers."
"Cool!" said Jay.
"Very cool!" agreed his Dad, sounding a little awkward using slang. "You're going to have the opportunity to study a lot of things that you wouldn't be able to in school."
"I know," said Jay happily. "That's what I wrote my essay about. I talked about Galileo and String Theory and I said that I wanted to rewrite the textbooks someday."
"You'll probably make them so hard that no one will understand them," said Max jealously.
While Jay and his Dad had been talking, Max had been standing off to the side listening. Suddenly Jay realized that the minute that he heard his news, his Dad had lost all interest in Max's big news. He felt a little guilty. It was a big deal for both of them, but his Dad wasn't really too interested in baseball. But Dad didn't notice. He put his arm around Jay's shoulders.
"Come into my study, son," he said. "There's an article about String Theory that was just published that I want you to look at. Now, it may be a little difficult for you to understand, but we can discuss it later."
As they walked away, Jay could hear Max stomping as loudly up the stairs as Willa usually did. He looked back and noticed that Miss Emmeline had been quietly watching the whole exchange from the kitchen door. She looked kind of worried.
At dinner, Miss Selena made a big deal out of both of their accomplishments.
"Tomorrow night," she said. "We will have your favorite dinner, Max."
"Yeah, right," he said, but he didn't sound very happy about it.
Trelawney Rose looked at him in concern.
"Excuse me, please, Max," she said. "But what is a relief pitcher?"
Max rolled his eyes.
"Don't you know anything?" he asked rudely.
"We don't have baseball in England," she said. "Our lads play cricket."
"Cricket?" he asked.
"Yes, it's played with a bat and a ball, but it's a very different game," she explained. "They don't have pitchers, so I have never really heard of a relief pitcher."
She looked at Max with her big blue eyes. Jay noticed that Miss Selena and Miss Emmeline were giving each other looks. He had a feeling that she really knew more about baseball than she was letting on.
"The pitcher throws the ball so that batter can hit it," he explained. "If the batter hits it, he gets to run around the bases. If he gets all the way around, he scores a run."
"A pitcher is like a bowler," added Miss Selena.
"A relief pitcher comes in when the starting pitcher can't finish the game for some reason," he answered, somewhat mollified by her interest.
"Why can't he finish the game?" she asked. "Is he hurt?"
"That's the only way to get in a substitute bowler," explained Miss Selena to Max.
"Not usually," replied Max, looking more relaxed. "Sometimes the reliever comes in at the end of the game, if his team is winning, to save it if the starting pitcher gets tired. Or a relief pitcher comes in if the starting pitcher messes up and the other team scores a lot of runs. You know, if he's having a bad day or something."
"Oh," she said thoughtfully. "It sounds like the relief pitcher has a very important job."
"Sometimes," said Max honestly. "But he spends most of the game sitting on the bench waiting to go in."
"But if you don't have a relief pitcher then you could lose the game?" she asked.
"Yeah," he admitted. "You have to have someone who is good in the clutch."
"Well," she said firmly. "I'm sure that whatever that is, you're very good at it."
"How do you know?"
"Well, if you weren't then they wouldn't have picked you," she answered logically. "I bet that you beat out a lot of other lads for the job."
"Yeah," he said. "There are a lot of other guys who didn't make the team at all."
"Well, there you are!" she said. "I do believe that your summer program is every bit as wonderful as Jay's! And you wouldn't want to sit in a classroom now all summer, would you?"
Max smiled at her and so did Miss Selena. Jay noticed that Dad had stopped paying attention about halfway through the conversation. Now he looked at him.
"Jay," he said. "I have a lot of work to do tonight. I'm afraid that we are going to have to put off our discussion of String Theory until tomorrow. Excuse me, everyone."
After Dad got up and left the table, Jay noticed that Max and Trelawney Rose both looked disappointed. He knew that she had been trying to point out to Dad how important Max's accomplishment was, but Dad hadn't been paying attention. All the sudden, Jay didn't feel so great about his own big news. In fact, he felt kind of bad that he had upstaged his brother.
A week after the wild scene with Mr. Kenny, Willa was waiting for Dirk to pick her up to go to their anti-Prom party at the Wendells. Snake's parents were away at some loser conference in Las Vegas for experts in Medieval History. They had wanted him to go with them because his old man was getting some obscure award that only medieval historians cared about.
But Snake virtuously claimed that he had to study for finals next week. It was a lucky break for them all. As usual, none of their parents called to see if there would be any parents at the house. No parents meant no hassles and they promised Snake that they would get the house cleaned up before his folks got home on Sunday.
His Dad "understood" and told him that he was proud that he was taking his academic responsibilities so seriously. He didn't even think to tell him that he couldn't have any other kids over. Dr. Wendell had pulled some strings and gotten Snake an "upgrade" from UCLA to Berkeley. It went down well with the old man to let him think that he was turning over a new leaf. The change of schools didn't bother him at all. He might be living closer to home, but the parties were better and campus was more rebellious.
Willa was standing by the window in the living room when Trelawney Rose walked in and started crying.
"No, Willa, no!" she hollered. "You can't leave the house! You have to stay home!"
"What the hell are you talking about?" she asked angrily. She had been waiting for this party for months and now the little weirdo was out to wreck it for her.
But before she could answer, Miss Emmeline came rushing in. She grabbed the girl by the shoulders and stared into her eyes.
"What is it, Trelawney Rose?" she asked anxiously. "What do you see?"
The kid didn't answer, but she started sobbing. Miss Emmeline looked up at Willa intently and then shook her head.
"Trelawney Rose!" she said giving her a little shake. "There's nothing there."
Confused, Willa look around her. Oh great, she thought, now they're all going crazy. But the kid shook her head crying.
"No, I can see it," she insisted. "Really and truly I can, like Mummy."
"Selena!" called Miss Emmeline. "Come here!"
"What is it?" she asked as she walked in. "Oh, darling, what's wrong?"
Her face was filled with concern for her sobbing sister. Then Miss Emmeline looked at her directly in the eyes and they both turned back towards Willa.
"What the hell is going on?" she asked. "My ride is going to be here any minute."
Trelawney Rose's reaction was stunning. She broke away from Miss Emmeline and hurled herself into Willa's arms. Willa could feel a powerful, warm sensation in her grip. It was as if she was trying to project something like, love? She seemed to be protecting her from something. What the hell? It was totally bizarre.
"Don't go out!" the girl begged. "Don't leave us. You can't leave us now. Please! Your mother is frightened."
"Oh, my God," said Miss Selena turning white.
Miss Emmeline was a pretty tough cookie, but even she looked upset. Then Dad walked in.
"What the hell is going on in here?" he asked angrily. "What have you done now, Willa?"
"Nothing, for once," she said smartly. "The kid just went nuts out of nowhere. I told you that she was crazy."
Of course Dad was more concerned because Miss Selena looked so upset.
"Selena, what is it?" he asked. He no longer bothered with the "Miss."
"Justin," said Miss Emmeline, taking control like she always did. "I think that it would be best if you grounded Willa for the night."
He sighed in annoyance.
"Look, Emmeline," he said impatiently. "This is none of your business. Butt out! Willa is eighteen and for once hasn't committed any crime worthy of grounding. If she wants to go out, it's her own choice."
"Well, I'm sure that she has committed many sins in the past that she got away with," she replied forcefully. "Ground her!"
The scene was pretty rich. Even though Dirk had pulled up outside, Willa didn't leave because she wanted to see how it turned out. She knew that her Dad was only too happy to let her leave for the night. She was even going to stay over at Barb's again so he wouldn't have to see how wasted she was. All the girls were staying there over night. Her parents weren't home either. But this was too much. She figured that when her friends heard the story, they wouldn't mind waiting.
"Emmeline," he said tensely. "This is my house and as long as it is, I still get to make the rules."
Then Trelawney Rose entered the fray. She let go of Willa and walked over to Dad and stood before him with her hands neatly folded in front of her.
"Please, Dr. Harrington," she said quietly. "It is of vital importance that Willa stay home tonight."
As always, her face was open and honest. Whatever it was that she thought that she saw, she really believed it. After all, she never lied. But now that that Willa was free of her, she decided to make her move. She could see her father hesitating.
"See you all tomorrow," she said quickly. "Try not to miss me too much."
"Wait!" said Miss Selena. "Don't leave! Justin, please. Don't let her leave."
Willa rolled her eyes as she could see her Dad about to cave in. She opened the door, but Miss Emmeline was too quick for her.
"You're not going anywhere!" she said sharply. "Justin, for once in your life be a father where this child is concerned."
Dad looked really mad now. Miss Emmeline sure could hit below the belt. But he could also see that both Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose were holding on to each other and crying. Willa tried to get past her, but for a small woman, Miss Emmeline was pretty strong. She knew that Dad didn't want to give in to Miss Emmeline, but he was more concerned with Miss Selena's feelings.
"Willa," he said at last. "You are grounded. You may be eighteen, but as long as you live here, then I call the shots."
Willa was shocked. If she could have gotten by her, she would have pushed past Miss Emmeline anyway. Dirk honked the horn and the Englishwoman stuck her head out the door.
"Willa is sick and she can't come," she called out. "Carry on!"
Willa heard the squeal of the tires as he pulled away. He knew that she wasn't sick. But it occurred to her that if she played along and went to her room, she could lock the door and be out the window in no time. She could get to the convenience store and call Snake's house from there. But Miss Emmeline seemed to have read her thoughts.
"I believe that Miss Willa should be kept under constant surveillance," she said. "At least until you can remove that trellis."
Dad threw up his hands and walked out. Miss Emmeline walked her over to the couch and sat her down. Miss Selena was holding Trelawney Rose in her arms and was comforting her.
"Is Willa's mother still frightened?" she asked so softly that Willa could hardly hear her.
Trelawney Rose shook her head and then cuddled into her sister's arms. Then Max and Jennie came running in.
"Is fight over?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes," said Miss Emmeline curtly.
"Oh, man!" he complained. "How come I always miss the good stuff?"
"Be quiet, Max!" said Miss Emmeline sharply. "Or you'll be grounded too!"
Max and Jennie looked at each other in surprise. Who did Miss Emmeline think she was telling them what to do?
"Max and Jennie," said Miss Selena more kindly. "Please go upstairs. Trelawney Rose, you and I need to have a talk."
Willa noticed that the little girl looked like she was going to fall asleep. It was as if she had suddenly lost all of her energy. Miss Selena walked her out of the room. Then Miss Emmeline sat down in a chair across from her.
"Are you my jailor?" she asked her.
"Until your father takes down that trellis I am," she said. "This time you will not be defying his orders."
"You mean your orders," she snapped back.
"Whatever you say," shrugged the young woman. "You will not be going anywhere tonight."
The White Light Again
By the time Emmeline returned to the apartment, she had a splitting headache. She did not know who was worse, the father or the daughter. She expected that kind of behavior from Willa, but she was beginning to wonder what in God's name Selena saw in Justin Harrington. Of course to be fair, he had absolutely no idea of what had actually just transpired. And she could see that as much as Selena loved him, she had trusted him with no information about the little one.
It had taken her over an hour to convince him that the trellis had to come down. Finally, it was Jay who convinced him to do it by volunteering to help. He spent the whole time grumbling. He didn't seem to care in the least about Willa. But he was mostly furious with her for interfering. She couldn't care less.
Selena needed her help right now and she was going to give it. He had only been too happy when she had offered to stay a week ago and help Selena until she was fully recovered. He hadn't realized that she was there to help her with more than the housework. And if they had let the older girl go, she was sure that the little one would have gone mad once and for all.
When she entered the apartment, she found Selena sitting in the little kitchen/living room theoretically reading but she seemed to really be staring off into space. She knew that Trelawney Rose was sleeping in the bedroom. These emotional outbursts and episodes completely exhausted her. And her fear for Willa's safety had been extraordinary.
"Did she talk about it?" she asked Selena once she had sat down.
"Only a bit," she replied. "It was as we suspected. She saw the same white light in Willa's aura that she had seen Mum's the last time she said goodbye. At that time, she had known that there was nothing she could do. This time she knew that she could prevent it. Wherever Willa was going and whatever she planned to do, she would not have . . . returned. It's odd that we couldn't see it."
"Not really," said Emmeline. "Auntie Alma couldn't see anything in your Mum's aura before she left. Trelawney Rose has a powerful prescience for one so young."
"It's no wonder that her emotions are so unstable," Selena replied. "I can't imagine what it must be like to know so much about what may happen in the future."
"Neither can I," agreed Emmeline. "The little one bears a heavy burden."
"Made heavier when others refuse to believe her," she reluctantly observed.
"Well, your intended was quite angry when he realized that I meant it when I said that he had to take that trellis down," she said. "The alternative was that he babysit the girl for the night. I had not realized how much he dislikes her. And she knows it."
"Yes," said Selena. "We all know it. It is really quite sad."
"To put it mildly," replied Emmeline. "I am not sure of what you see in someone who has such harsh feelings about his oldest child."
"I don't know," said Selena staring ahead. "I suppose that I shall never give up hope that they will be reconciled. And in all fairness, he was acting on incomplete information. He has no idea that Trelawney Rose is capable of seeing the potential for death in someone's aura. I did not quite believe it myself until I saw her tonight."
"Be careful not to make too many excuses for him," warned Emmeline. "In all likelihood, he bears primary responsibility for that girl's pain and anguish. She's like a wounded animal, biting and scratching at anyone who tries to help her. I have never seen anyone like her."
"Neither have I," admitted Selena. "And I have known many wounded souls in my day. The drugs and the drink are slowly destroying her. I really fear for what will happen to her after she graduates."
"She will leave home," said Emmeline definitively. "You cannot stop that. And it is better for all concerned, including herself, if she does. She cannot remain in a place where she is the constant target of anger from her father and torment from her siblings."
"They don't torment her," objected Selena. "Really."
"Well maybe torment is too strong a word, but the incessant sniping and teasing is unhealthy for all of them," she replied bluntly. "And it's slowly eating away at the little one. I'm afraid that you have not been paying close enough attention to her because you've been so wrapped up in your own concerns for the past few weeks. I have decided that I am going to stay until you have recovered enough to be more vigilant. But don't think that I am being overly harsh on you.
"Over the past four months you have had three great shocks, the loss of your parents, the near loss of your sister, and the visit by Kenneth where you thought that you would lose Justin. One person can only bear so much. You and Trelawney Rose both need help and support from someone who understands you. And no matter how long he knows you, Justin Harrington will never fully understand you."
"Are you sure that it is not a hardship for you to stay?" she asked.
"Positive," she replied. "But if I couldn't stay then I would send for Sylvia. Mum wanted her to come here with us back in January, but the little one objected. There have been times when I have been sorry that she did not. Syl has a lighter touch and would probably be less confrontational with Justin."
"But probably not as well able to stand up to him," remarked Selena.
Emmeline shook her head.
"Our Sylvia is gentle, but she's firm," she replied. "Justin's first reaction to any hint of trouble is confusion, followed by ambivalence. In a match up, I'd put my money on her over him any day of the week."
Selena looked very unhappy at her analysis, but she couldn't refute any of it. Emmeline realized that she was just as fragile as the little girl sleeping in the bedroom. Her emotions were still very raw from all of the traumas. And there was another fact that she was going to have to face. If she made the choice to settle out here and marry Justin, there was no doubt in her mind that Dad would demand that Trelawney Rose return to the village.
Emmeline knew that he had been furious after the situation where she had run away from school. It had been all he could do to keep Grandfather Trelawney off of a plane so that he could come in person to demand her return to the village. And despite the fact that they had colluded on the plan to bring Selena and his father together, she was frequently squabbling with Jay. At her young age, she could barely control her impulses.
The reality was that she might never. And living in this household was very stressful for a child who had been so sheltered from the many real worries of family life. And this family, despite Selena's best efforts, was still struggling.
It was obvious to her that all of them, even the very stable Jay, had unfinished emotional business. Jennie was very needy and her jealousy of Trelawney Rose, unless it was curbed soon, would create enormous conflict for Selena. Max was aching for more attention also. The girls demanded attention by acting out and Jay got it by being the superstar science student. Max was an easygoing kid, but he lacked for a male role model and someone to appreciate his talents. It was no wonder that he acted out in school.
If Selena became stepmother to these children there was no doubt in her mind that Trelawney Rose would move further down the priority list. And what would happen when Selena began to have children of her own? Once her work was done here, Emmeline planned to go straight home to see Mum when she left because she needed to ask her if Auntie Meg had ever envisioned this kind of scenario for the little one.
Or maybe it had been a secret fear. It was no wonder that she had fretted because Kenneth had failed in his duty. She knew that both Uncle Owen and Auntie Meg had been disturbed by the report of the aunties last fall. And the timing of the codicil was suspiciously close to their visit. She did not think that Selena fully understood that.
Someone else would have to come out here from the family to evaluate the present circumstances. She had to admit that she was now too close to both cousins to be objective. No, this needed a cooler head. She would leave it up to Dad. He would know best. When she got home they could sort it all out. Long distance communication on delicate matters such as these led to all sorts of misunderstandings. They still did not know what his reaction was to the broken betrothal, although he must certainly know by now.
Then they heard crying from the bedroom. Once again Trelawney Rose was calling for her Mummy. Selena had told her that she always did when she had these episodes. It was almost as if she would forget that she was gone. Emmeline could see that Selena was nearly distraught, but there was nothing that she could do to help her. The child would accept no one but Selena for comfort.
Trelawney Rose was sitting up in her bed and crying loudly about the white lights coming at her. Selena sat beside her and surrounded her with her arms. She was crying for both her Mummy and Papa now. She was begging them to come home to her. She seemed to have forgotten where she was. She began asking for Auntie Alma and Elspeth. There was no comforting her in this state.
Selena clutched her, her face wet with tears. She could feel the child's pain and could see in her mind the horror of the impending doom. Emmeline had seen and felt it all before, but there was an immediacy to this that was new. But her own perceptions were now muddled. Selena and Trelawney Rose were very deeply interconnected in their minds. It was nearly impossible to distinguish between what each was thinking.
Eventually, with her help, Selena was able to calm the child again. They moved her to the larger bed and both quickly changed into their nightclothes.
"This is how she was before the funeral," said Emmeline, tensely, although it made Selena flinch. "We must each sleep on either side of her, and hold onto her. She was able to get away from Syl and I one night back in the village."
Selena nodded in agreement. After they lay down, she picked up her sister's hand. Knowing who it was, even though she was asleep, Trelawney Rose huddled close to her. Emmeline turned on her side so that she could face her and lay her hand on the girl's back. None of them were going to sleep well tonight. But if she thought that things could not get any worse, the following day she discovered that she was wrong.
Early in the morning, when it was not yet dawn, Trelawney Rose woke up again. Emmeline was awake in an instant but Selena already was holding the child in her arms. Once again she was crying about the white lights, but suddenly she screamed, "No!" and fell shuddering back onto the bed.
"What is it, little one?" asked Emmeline. "What did you see?"
The girl was lying back, breathing heavily, and staring into the empty space. But she still saw something.
"Uriel," she whispered. "Uriel, your work is not done."
"Where are the white lights?" asked Selena.
Trelawney Rose looked up at her, but she didn't seem to see her.
"The white lights are gone," she said, now more calmly. "Uriel has come. And Raphael is near as well. But even Raphael cannot help. The lights have all gone out."
She allowed Selena to cuddle her and snuggled into her arms. Selena softly murmured, "Little lamb, little lamb, Selena's on her way. Little lamb, little lamb, she's finally here to stay."
When she had soothed the girl to sleep with her lullaby, she rested her back on the pillows and picked up her hand. Then she looked into Emmeline's eyes.
"Who is Uriel?" asked Emmeline softly. "And who is Raphael?"
"Raphael is the archangel of healing. He comes to comfort. Uriel is also an archangel," replied Selena. "He leads humans to their destinies. He comes when they have . . . It is a bit odd though. Samael is the angel of death and she didn't even mention him. Fate has been altered somehow. Someone has died before his time."
She didn't finish. Emmeline realized that something dreadful had happened to someone somewhere. The fact that the little one had perceived it was very frightening indeed. And then there was her final statement, proving that she could see angels on earth.
"Uriel has come. Raphael is near, but he cannot help. The lights have all gone out."
Emmeline could only wonder as to how she recognized them. They were celestial beings, not even earthly angels. There was no way that she could have seen them before.
One of the things that Max liked to do every Saturday morning was lie awake and listen to the radio. Jay got up early for his Junior Scientists meeting and so he had the room to himself. Usually, he got to listen to the latest Top 40 hits, but this morning all that was on was some big news story about some crazy accident on the freeway. Some guy was driving a van full of kids somewhere when he took the exit going the wrong way and they hit a truck head on. The guy and the other kids were all high.
Frustrated when he realized that all they were going to do was talk about that, he decided to go down to breakfast early. Miss Selena and Miss Emmeline were already up and drinking coffee. They both looked really tired. Max was kind of surprised that Trelawney Rose wasn't there since Miss Selena never left her alone in the apartment.
"Good morning, Max," said Miss Selena. "You're up early. I won't be making French toast for another hour or so. Don't you usually listen to the radio?"
"Yeah," he answered. "But this morning they're not playing any music. All they're talking about is some wild accident out on the freeway."
"Wild accident?" asked Miss Selena, looking worried.
"Yeah," he said. "Some guy in a van went down the wrong exit and smashed into a truck. He was high on something."
Miss Selena and Miss Emmeline looked at each other.
"Do you know anything else?" asked Miss Selena.
"There was a bunch of kids in the van," he replied. "From the high school. They're all dead."
Miss Selena was very quiet and stared into her coffee cup. Miss Emmeline left the room.
"She's asleep in her bed," said Miss Emmeline when she returned. "But I think that we should listen to the news before she wakes up."
"Is there anything that I can eat now?" asked Max.
"There's some cereal in the pantry," said Miss Selena absentmindedly, as Miss Emmeline flipped on the radio.
Max got out the cereal and began making himself a bowl as the report came on.
"This is a real tragedy," said the reporter. "Five young people, in the prime of their lives, only one week from graduation have been killed in a senseless accident. It is obvious that the driver Dirk Thompson was high on something and drove his van onto the freeway via the exit ramp. A semi that was exiting ran into it head on and the van burst into flames. The driver of the truck was injured, but no one survived in the van. In addition to Thompson, Pamela Morris, Bradley Finch, Barbara Christian, and Melanie Wilson were all killed instantly."
"They never even knew what hit them," said a voice from the backdoor. "But I did. It was just like Mummy and Papa, but with fire."
Max looked up from his cereal bowl to see Trelawney Rose standing there in her nightgown. She was always pale, but this morning she looked white as a ghost. She was barefoot and her long, golden hair flowed down her back. She was standing straight with hands folded in front of her. Her blue eyes were staring at nothing. Max saw Miss Emmeline stand up immediately.
"What did you see, little one?" asked Miss Selena softly. She seemed to have forgotten that Max was there.
"The white lights were coming at them," she replied. "It was not their time to go to the light. Foolish choices had been made. Fate changed course. But Uriel was there and carried them away. He is rather good at that you know."
Miss Emmeline looked quickly at Miss Selena who said, "The angel of destiny, I told you so."
But the radio was not finished talking.
"I'm getting another report in," said the voice of the reporter. "A young man, Simon Wendell, has been found dead in his home after neighbors heard shots fired. Apparently there had been a party that night that had gotten out of control. The neighbors called the police who chased all the kids out, including, it is suspected, the kids in the van."
"Including," echoed Trelawney Rose definitely. "The kids in the van. Simon Wendell is Willa's friend Snake. Raphael failed. Uriel had more work to do."
Now Miss Emmeline walked over to Trelawney Rose and put her arm around her.
"Would Willa . . . " asked Miss Selena.
"Yes," the girl said with a sob and then breaking away, she threw herself into Miss Selena's arms.
Max was still trying to figure out what was going on. Who were these guys that Trelawney Rose was talking about? He had never heard of anyone named Uriel or Raphael before. It sounded like Willa's friends were high and got killed in the accident. And then another one shot himself. This was really bad. But he knew that Willa was upstairs because last night she was grounded. Miss Emmeline looked at him strangely and then turned off the radio.
"Max, I am going to go upstairs and get Willa," she said. "When I bring her down, I don't want you to say a word. We will tell her. Do you understand?"
Her voice was so severe that all Max could do was nod. After hearing her tone of voice, there was no way that he was going to say anything. She left the room and returned in a few minutes with a very tired and cranky Willa.
"Why the hell did you wake me up at this ungodly hour?" she asked defiantly. "Haven't you punished me enough for one night?"
"Please sit down, Willa," said Miss Selena gently. "We have something very important to tell you."
Willa looked around suspiciously at the two cousins, Max, and Trelawney Rose. However, she sat down and put a bored expression on her face. Max stopped eating his cereal. He had a feeling that this was about to turn into a real bad scene.
"Willa, you were going to a party at Snake's house last night, weren't you?" asked Miss Selena.
"So what?" she asked. "I'm eighteen and I don't have to tell you every detail of my life anymore."
"And Dirk was going to be driving you?"
Willa rolled her eyes.
"What do you think?" she replied. "He was waiting outside when Miss Emmeline decided that because Miss Crazy over here went nuts and said that I should not be allowed out for the night. For once she even made Dad mad because he had to take down the trellis."
Miss Selena took a deep breath and then looked pleadingly at Miss Emmeline. Max didn't blame her. She wouldn't have wanted to tell Willa either. He might just be a kid, but he was smart enough to realize that if Willa had gone out last night then she would have died in that van. No wonder Miss Emmeline had told him to keep his mouth shut. But he wouldn't have wanted to tell Willa that all her friends were dead either.
"Willa," said Miss Emmeline. "What I am about to tell you is very difficult. But I want you to know that we are all here for you."
Trelawney Rose looked up and nodded through her tears. Miss Selena looked like she was going to start crying. Max was real glad that Miss Emmeline had decided to stay last weekend. He felt like they really needed her. Seeing their faces, Willa became very still.
"There was an accident on the freeway very early this morning," she said quietly. "Your friend Dirk's van was struck by a truck."
"Who else was in the van?" asked Willa.
"There were four others," she replied. "I don't recall the names. None of them survived."
Willa was very still. Max could not remember her ever looking so serious.
"Was he drunk?" she finally asked.
"They think that he was high," answered Miss Emmeline. "They were all high. He tried to drive onto the freeway using the exit ramp. But there's more."
"Em . . ." started Miss Selena.
"No, Selena," she said. "It's better not to prolong it. She will find out anyway. Willa, your friend Snake is also dead."
"He is?" she asked, stunned.
"When word reached him, he shot himself," she replied.
"With his Dad's gun," she said almost robotically. "His Mom was always yelling at him to lock it up. But he kept it loaded and ready to fire in his nightstand for protection. He even taught Snake how to use it in case he needed it when he wasn't home. There were a couple of burglaries in his neighborhood and he was paranoid about getting robbed."
Max thought that she looked like she was trying to figure it all out. Six of her best friends were dead because they went to a party and got high. It was all so stupid. He swore that he was never going to drink or do drugs. All of the sudden his jokes about her partying and getting high didn't sound so funny anymore. Looking at his sister, he realized that he didn't even recognize her. If he didn't know that she was sober, he would have thought that she was stoned. She looked like a zombie. Then Jennie came bouncing into the room.
"Where's the French toast?" she asked brightly.
Miss Emmeline put a hand on her shoulder and seeing Willa she stopped short. But she still had to make a smart remark.
"Why are you all looking so glum?" she asked in the same tone that Willa had used months ago. "Who kicked the bucket?"
Then Willa started crying. To his surprise, Trelawney Rose went over and put her arms around her. Stroking her hair, she whispered, "There, there" in a comforting tone of voice. Then he saw Willa put her arms around the little girl and hug her back. It was at that moment that Max knew that something was definitely wrong with his sister. But Trelawney Rose was the only one that she would allow to touch her.
Eventually, they walked into the living room and Trelawney Rose started started playing Beatles songs on the piano. Max couldn't believe that she knew so many. They were all the sad songs. Miss Selena sat with Willa on the couch and she let her hold her hand. It was the weirdest thing that Max had ever seen.
It was a strange and quiet day in the Harrington house. When Dad got home from his round of golf, he went straight into his study. He had taken a look into the living room when he walked in and seen Willa sitting with Miss Selena while Trelawney Rose played the piano. Now Willa's head was resting on her shoulder and Miss Selena was stroking her hair. They both had tears in their eyes. As usual, he looked totally confused.
Since Dad had forgotten to pick up Jay, Miss Emmeline went out to get him. Jay came into the kitchen, but he wasn't hungry. He already knew about the accident. As usual, he was able to explain everything in detail. For once Max was actually interested in what he had to say. But listening to him made him feel sick all over again.
"Dan's sister Barb was in the van," he explained. "Everybody in town knows. They were having some kind of an anti-Prom party because they couldn't have alcohol and weed at the real Prom. There were lots of other kids there too, all the kids that hung out on the west campus. They got real loud and rowdy so the neighbors called the cops."
"That's why they were driving out in the van," he explained. "They had trashed the house and the police called Snake's parents. The cops kicked all the kids out, but Snake's parents made him stay home. Otherwise he would have been with them."
"Do you think that's why he shot himself?" asked Max.
"That's what the cops think," said Jay authoritatively because he was the only one who knew the story. "He was pretty wasted when they left. Then they came back because the neighbors called again because they heard the gunfire. The radio was on and so was the news report."
"Willa said that his Dad left the loaded gun around for protection," added Max.
"Yeah," said Jay. "That's what the neighbors told the cops."
"Daddy has a gun," said Jennie in her tattletale voice.
"He does?" asked Miss Emmeline in surprise.
"It's a hunting rifle," explained Miss Selena. "It's stored in a locked case out in the garage. And the bullets are locked up in the safe in the study. But the trigger lock is on so even if someone found it, they couldn't do anything with it."
"Dad hasn't been hunting in years," he said. "He used to try and shoot birds and stuff to eat."
"Oh, how awful!" cried Jennie. "How could he hurt the poor birdies?"
But no one paid attention to her. Jay and Max were starting to get worried about Dad. He hadn't been out of his study in hours. Finally when it was near dinnertime he came out. Miss Selena made him some tea and he sat down in the kitchen. Trelawney Rose and Miss Emmeline weren't around because she had taken her back to the apartment. Max knew that she and Miss Selena were real worried about her. She had taken the news almost as hard as Willa.
"Four of my colleagues up at the university lost children," Dad said. "They all assumed that the kids were just having one of their harmless house parties. They would get a little drunk. Maybe smoke a little something. You know. Kids will be kids. But no one has ever gotten hurt before. None of them thought that the neighbors would call the police on them. Dr. Wendell is in the worst shape."
"But none of them are in very good shape I am sure," said Miss Selena.
"No," he said. "But Wendell feels the most guilt. It was his house and he had taken for granted that his son wouldn't have friends over while he was away. Then of course, the boy took his own life with his gun. I don't think that his wife will ever forgive him. She didn't want the gun in the house in the first place. And she was always after him to store it properly."
"That makes sense," replied Miss Selena.
"You know, Willa might have been in that van," he finally said.
"Willa would have been in that van," said Max. "She said so."
"Where is she now?" asked Dad.
"She's in her room listening to music," said Miss Selena. "I told her not to lock the door so that I could check on her every once in a while. But after I make dinner, I'm going to go back to stay with Trelawney Rose. Emmeline is going to cook for us over there. Technically speaking, after I make dinner I am off work until Monday morning when the kids leave for school. So you'll have to keep a watch on her tonight and tomorrow."
"Do you really think that she's going to try to sneak out?" he asked.
Then Miss Selena lost it. Max and Jay had seen the pressure building all day, as if she knew this moment was coming. Now she let loose.
"I have no idea of what she will do," she said angrily. "Six of her best friends are dead and if it had been left up to you last night, then she would have been among them. You should thank your lucky stars that Emmeline was here to stand up to you."
"Willa is old enough . . ."
"Willa is a child," she interrupted him harshly. "Think about how Helen would have felt if anything like that ever happened to her. If you can't love her for her own sake, then at least love her for Helen's sake. But don't pretend to love her for my sake, I can tell the difference, and so can she."
Miss Selena stood up.
"I think that you should make dinner tonight," she said sharply and left.
Max saw his Dad watch her walk out. He looked completely stunned. Miss Selena had never spoken to him like that before. Jay was starting to shift in his seat, like he wanted to say something but didn't know what to say, and Jennie started to cry. Dad looked around the table and Max realized that he was staring at them the same way that he did after Mom died.