Chapter 1. Dawn of a New Life
It was midnight on the night before her high school graduation when Willa Harrington walked out of her house "forever." It was a threat that she had been making for the last two years, and one that her father, despite the fact that he might have often wished that she would carry out, never expected that she actually would follow through on. Having many broken promises over the years, this was the one promise that she kept. As far as he knew, she had no money and no place to go. And she had no one left to help her.
A tragic accident the weekend before had stolen the lives of five of her best friends, or her "crew," as she liked to call them. A sixth friend then took his own life when he learned of the freeway wreck that had been caused by the fact that the driver was high on marijuana and alcohol after a attending an "anti-prom" party at his house.
Alone when he heard the news on the radio, he took out his father's gun, and shot himself. Willa had only escaped this fate because the housekeeper's younger sister, Trelawney Rose, had refused to let her leave the house to go to the party. No one knew how she could possibly have known what would happen if she left, but the odd little girl had saved her life.
The past week had been hell. Willa had attended all six wakes and funerals. She had gone to school every day and her father, Justin, had assumed that she was taking her finals and getting ready to walk with her class on Saturday. She had even conceived a simple tribute to her friends at the ceremony.
Six empty chairs would be placed in the spots where they would have sat alphabetically with their caps on them. Their names would be read aloud in the correct places. One of the pianists from the orchestra, a talented young woman going to the Oberlin in the fall would play Let It Be on piano.
The Beatles had been the favorite music group of the kids for most of their high school years. Ironically, they had recently been displaced by the Grateful Dead and the crew had relished their new nickname "deadheads." But no one was crass enough to even allude to that.
Justin had watched all week as Willa had evolved from his spoiled, sullen, and rebellious daughter into a thoughtful and mature young adult. She handled herself beautifully at the wakes, speaking to each set of parents with kindness and sensitivity. At home, she isolated herself in her room, staying away from him and her three younger siblings. The only ones that she would speak with were their housekeeper Selena, her younger sister Trelawney Rose, and their cousin Emmeline.
Selena had been working for over a year to try to establish a trusting relationship with her and pull her back from the path of self-destruction that, he now admitted, he himself had allowed herself to follow. The night before, he had tried to make peace with her, but it had been too little, too late. She might have given her trust to Selena, but she was not ready to give it to him. And when he looked at the situation honestly, he didn't blame her.
Not knowing what else to do, despite the late hour, Justin called his parents, his deceased wife Helen's parents, and his older, twin brothers to let them know that the small graduation party set for tomorrow was off. His parents were staying at a local hotel, having flown up earlier in the day from their home in San Diego.
He was glad that he got his father on the phone. He did not doubt that Mother would have had more than a few choice words regarding her granddaughter. Dad simply sounded regretful and promised to bring Mother home without seeing them. Right now Justin was in no mood for hearing her say, "I told you so."
He was not so lucky with his in-laws. His mother-in-law Bernice picked up the phone. After he told her, she treated him to a torrent of abuse about his neglect of his wife's favorite child. All he could do was listen. While he could have reminded her of how harshly she had treated the girl when Helen got sick and then after she died, he didn't have the heart for it. All he wanted to do was get off of the phone as quickly as possible.
Neither of his brothers was surprised by the news. Like everyone else, they assumed that she would pull some kind of stunt like this. They viewed it all as completely within character. But none of them had seen Willa in months, let alone in the last week. He was too weary to recount the story for them. At some point, they would all learn it, but by the time he made his final call to Ben, he felt depressed. However, his brother Bob had earlier spoken the thought that they all must have had.
"I'm surprised she didn't stick around for the checks."
It was only later the next day that they discovered the real (or so they thought) reason that she took off. When Selena's cousin Emmeline was cleaning up the mess that she left in her bedroom, she found a several letters addressed to him that she must have intercepted in the mail.
She had blown off almost all of her classwork for the last few of months of school and her final exams. She would not be getting her diploma. If she ever wanted to return and take the exams, the school would happily issue one. No one would have been giving her any checks anyway.
The next morning, he steeled himself before going to breakfast. He had slept very poorly and felt wiped out. He was also dreading telling Selena that Willa was gone. But when he came downstairs, he discovered that Selena was not in the kitchen. Emmeline was there cooking breakfast. He looked at her questioningly.
"She knows," she said simply. "She's very upset of course, but it's more than just that. She cannot bear to see the reaction of the younger children when they hear the news."
Justin had forgotten about that. This was going to be a most unpleasant morning. The thought of it disturbed him so much that he did not even think to ask how Selena already knew. Suddenly, he was wishing that he had a golf date. But because of the graduation, he had not scheduled a tee time. He immediately began to consider his options for escaping before the kids came down to the kitchen looking for breakfast.
Reading his thoughts, Emmeline said, "Sorry, Justin. You'll have to tell them yourself. The only advice that I will give you is to shut down the smart remarks right away. The tone that you set now is the one that you will have to live with for the next few months. But I will stay for moral support."
He nodded. When all three children were at the table griping because rather than cooking something like pancakes or waffles, Emmeline had made scrambled eggs and toast, he took a deep breath. He quieted them down.
"Kids," he said. "I have some very bad news. Your sister Willa left the house last night to go to San Francisco."
"What's the bad news, Dad?" asked Max, his nine-year old son, sarcastically.
Holding his temper, he replied, "That is the bad news. Your sister has left home for good."
"Can I have her room?" asked thirteen-year old Jay, now the oldest in the house, immediately.
"No," said Justin patiently. "We are going to keep her room ready for her whenever she decides to return home."
He thought that he would be ill, but then Jennie put the icing on the proverbial cake.
"That's the bad news, Max," said Jennie, his spoiled six-year old daughter. "She might be back someday."
Justin looked at Emmeline and gritted his teeth. He was caught between feeling heartsick and furious. She looked back at him without sympathy. He knew that he had created this situation and she wasn't going to help him out of it. However the sternness of her gaze reminded him that Selena was greatly upset by this turn of events and if he didn't bring the children to a modicum of civility, it might just be the last straw for her. He modulated his voice and prepared to speak.
"Jennie," he said patiently. "I know how you all feel about your sister. You have been making that clear for the past few years, ever since Mom died. Now I know that you don't remember Mom at all and so you don't remember how Willa was before she died. But she loved Mom very much and Mom loved her. She wasn't always so angry and hostile all the time."
"I don't remember Willa then either," said Max. "Except for the time that Nana slapped her across the face. You kind of can't forget something like that. Nana hates her."
"I think that hate is a very strong word to use, Max," replied Justin, ignoring the attempt to shift the focus to someone else. "But before your Mom got sick, Willa was a great student in school. And she was so tall that she was a terrific volleyball and basketball player."
"I remember going to her basketball games," said Jay, thoughtfully. "She was a really good center. She was so tall that she could make lay ups look easy. And she wasn't very fast, but man, you didn't want her to get between you and the basket. And she was a good student. Mom used to put both of our honor roll certificates on the refrigerator next to each other."
"Yes," said Justin, starting to relax. "She was the MVP of the varsity volleyball team that fall. And she was only a freshman. And when she graduated from middle school that spring she won the English prize."
"I didn't know that," said Jennie.
"There are a lot of things that you don't know about your sister," replied Justin. "And that's mostly my fault. After Mom died, I expected her to behave like an adult. But she wasn't an adult. She was a sad and scared girl who just happened to be very tall for her age. I was not very fair to her."
"That's what Trelawney Rose says," replied Jay. "She told me that we are all spoiled and that you let us get away with a lot. And she said that if you had let Willa feel sad and comforted her when Mom died, then she might have helped you out later."
"I am afraid that Trelawney Rose is right," he answered honestly. "She is a very sweet and kind person, and other than Miss Selena, she is the only person in this house who has shown Willa any respect in recent years. And I include myself in that group."
"But Willa . . . " started Jennie.
"We are not here to talk about Willa's attitude," he interrupted sharply. "We are here to talk about yours and yours and yours."
He pointed to each of the three children.
"Dad, why isn't Miss Selena here?" asked Jay uncomfortably. "At breakfast, I mean."
Justin looked at Emmeline. She nodded. This was something that she was willing to address.
"Selena is very upset that Willa has left," she said. "But the real reason that both she and Trelawney Rose have not come over for breakfast this morning is that they don't want to see you three gloating and making fresh remarks about your sister. They both love her and will miss her."
The children all looked at each other. Jennie pouted.
"You know, I think that they love her more than us," she said. "Even though Willa was really mean to them."
"Well, Jennie," said Emmeline. "You have been pretty mean to Trelawney Rose yourself, by always trying to make her feel guilty for playing her friend, Georgina, and wanting time alone with Selena. And Jay, I believe that you still tell her that she is crazy, not to mention the fact that you call her a weirdo. Don't think that Selena and I haven't noticed. And Max you are only too happy to jump on the bandwagon as well.
"None of you are perfect, you know. But if anything happened to any one of you, they would also be sad. They truly do love you all. But because of who they are, they don't expect anything in return. That's the way that families love each other. And somehow that lesson seems to have eluded you."
"Things have to change, gang," said Justin. "We can't go on like this. You must all show more respect for your sister and each other. And not just because that's what Selena wants. It's not even because that's what Mom would have wanted. It is because it is the right thing to do."
"Yes, sir," said Jay guiltily. "I guess we can all try harder."
"I don't think that you have a choice," replied Justin. "Like it or not, we are all one family. Now if you want Selena and Trelawney Rose to become a part of this family, then we all need to come together as one. I, for one, am hoping that Willa will come home and give us a second chance."
"Don't you mean that we'll give her a second chance?" asked Max, bothered that he was being made out to be the bad guy.
"No, I meant what I said," answered Justin. "You have not been paying attention if you haven't noticed that your sister has changed a lot since last weekend. But we haven't. And we need to change as well."
"As an outsider," added Emmeline. "I can tell you that if I had to stab a guess at why Willa chose to leave now, it was because she has changed. On Thursday night when we came home, it was obvious to me that she was having a nice conversation with your father and Selena. But your rude and thoughtless remark ruined it for them, Jennie."
"After all the times that Willa was mean to me," replied Jennie defensively. "I don't see why all of the sudden I have to be nice to her."
"Then that's more the pity for you than it is for her," said Emmeline almost heartlessly, shaking her head. "True love and kindness occur without an expectation of the return of those feelings. I suspect that Willa did not want to get caught in this vortex of negative emotions again. Her progress is too fragile."
"Huh?" asked Max.
"She doesn't want to be mean anymore," explained Jay. "But if we are mean to her then she'll just start being mean again. I guess that I can't blame her for that."
"I certainly don't blame her," said Justin. "I blame myself. I have failed her as a father. And to be perfectly honest, I have failed you all as well. Right now I am feeling very guilty about how things have turned out. I feel like I have really let your Mom down."
"Trelawney says that Mom can see us from heaven," said Jay. "She says that when she watches us sometimes she is very sad."
Justin did not know how to answer that other than to say, "She's probably right."
The kids were silent. Emmeline got up to start the clean up. The kids would finish as a part of their Saturday chores. Justin went to his study to try and get some work done. The Apollo 13 report was still sitting open on his desk where he had left it last night when Willa stopped in to say goodbye. He picked up, but rather then reading, he pondered his own cataclysmic disaster. He could only hope that, like the three astronauts on board, they would make it through safely.
After his discussion with his other three children, he knew that Emmeline was probably right about Willa. She was rebelling, but it was a rebellion against his failure to maintain the loving family that Helen had created. He only hoped that she was not putting herself in any danger or falling in among the wrong people. She was hurting and likely to respond to any offers of aid and comfort. But there was no longer anything that he could do about it.
Feelings of Failure
Selena was back in her little garage apartment wallowing in her own feelings of failure. She was truly devastated by the news that Willa had followed through on her threat to leave. No amount of consoling by Emmeline and Trelawney Rose could sooth her. They brought up all the arguments and tried to lay the blame with the family, but she took it hard. In her career of caring for broken families, this was the first child that she had ever lost. Finally, there was no choice. She had to know that Trelawney Rose had seen her leave.
"Tell her," said Emmeline to her little cousin.
"Selena," said Trelawney Rose quietly. "I saw Willa as she was leaving. I was asleep and I sensed that she was in the driveway, so I ran out. She was getting into a car with a man. He is one of us. He is a traveler. He promised me that he would take care of her."
"How do you know that he is one of us?" asked Selena.
"I saw it in the aura and I read it in his mind. He was so startled to see me that he didn't have time to guard his thoughts," she replied. "He is a child of light. He saves lost souls, young people, like Willa. I knew that someone has been helping her for the past two months. But I only learned that it was him last night. His name is Jerry. He seems like a nice chap."
"I saw him too," added Emmeline. "I woke up and found the little one out of bed and ran after her. He is indeed one of us. He is a good man. But he did recognize Trelawney Rose as well, although I'm not sure that he knew me. But I don't think that he will say anything to anyone about her."
"He won't," said Trelawney Rose confidently. "It was raise too many questions about himself. We all have to be very careful, you know, out here in the larger world. He has an Irish accent. I think that he comes from one of the northern villages. He has kind brown eyes."
"A bit of Spanish blood, no doubt," said Emmeline, thinking aloud. "After the Armada wrecked, some of the survivors intermarried with the locals. I guess that a few even wandered into our villages. But he is a strong lad. You can see it in the turquoise aura. And it was best for Willa to leave."
"Yes," nodded Trelawney Rose. "Now the other children won't torment her. Helen is now hopeful. She no longer weeps for Willa."
"Does she weep for someone else?" asked Selena.
"Yes," said Trelawney Rose. "But it is not my place to say for whom."
"Anyone that we know?" asked Emmeline with an edge.
"No," Trelawney Rose shook her head. She was so emphatic that she was definitely telling the whole truth and not dissembling by omission.
"Trelawney Rose," said Selena. "Willa told me that you promised someone that you would take care of her. But I know that you didn't promise me. Who did you promise?"
The girl looked down and then away. Emmeline and Selena looked at each other. She closed her mind and they realized that she did not want to answer them. Then she looked up.
"It is not the time for me to reveal that," she said looking at them with her big blue eyes. "Please do not ask again."
"Trelawney Rose," said Selena. "I will not ask again. But you must realize that you are a very powerful child of light and that can be dangerous. This world is a difficult place for one such as you."
"I have learned that," she said quietly.
"Darling, I made a promise when you were born and I will keep it," she said. "If it is no longer safe for you here, then I will return home with you."
"You would leave Justin?" she asked. "I know how much you love him. And how much he loves you. You know each other's minds. You were born to be together. Don't ask me how I know. I simply know."
"You are now my child," she replied. "I promised to raise you as my own. I act not out of duty, but out of love. Mum once told me that there is no love like the love of a sister. No matter how much she loved Papa, Auntie Anna always had a very special place in her heart that was hers, and hers alone. You have that same place in my heart."
Trelawney Rose was thoughtful.
"Mummy never had to choose between the man she loved and her sister," she said slowly.
"Mum did," replied Emmeline. "Back in the village, she kept her promise to Auntie Meg to keep you and Selena together, even though it meant disagreeing with Dad. It could have caused a very great rift between them. You know that was a very brave thing for her to do. And he respected the vow between sisters. He even put it ahead of his vow to your father, a vow between brothers. But there are no promises or vows between Selena and Justin."
"There are not?" asked Trelawney Rose in surprise. "I thought there was at least an understanding."
Selena shook her head.
"There cannot be yet," she said. "I am not free to make any promises to any man unless Uncle David approves. There will not even be an understanding unless that happens."
"Oh," she said quietly. "But Justin thinks . . . "
"I know what he thinks," Selena interrupted. "But he does not truly understand our world. I have tried to explain it to him, but it goes against everything that he believes and understands as a scientist. I cannot make any promises, nor can I control any assumptions that he might make. I am free to love him, but nothing more."
Trelawney Rose looked at her oddly. Selena had a feeling that her prescience had already told her what she herself had suspected. She and Justin were fated to marry and have children together. If that were true then circumstances would take matters from her hands to make it happen.
Emmeline looked at her sympathetically. Selena knew that Em hoped that it wasn't true. But even if the little one felt it, perhaps destiny was still swirling about them unsettled. And she had even less control over hers, than she thought that she did.
The Safe House
Willa and Jerry pulled up to the home of Reginald and Fiona Stewart in the early hours of Saturday morning. Despite the fact that Willa was at peace with her decision, she still felt tense. Jerry had not been pleased that Trelawney Rose had come out to say good-bye. And he couldn't have gotten away from Emmeline any faster. He didn't speak of it, but looked behind them as they drove out of town, as if he was afraid that someone might follow. However no one did.
The house was large and set back from the street. The neighborhood was obviously very affluent. Jerry led her up to the door, which was opened by a woman who looked like she was in her early thirties. She had curly, dark auburn hair, hazel eyes, and fair skin. She was shorter than Willa, but that wasn't too surprising since most women were. Behind her was a tall, dark-haired man with wire-rimmed glasses. They were both casually dressed in jeans and tee shirts. Jerry introduced them.
"Fiona, Reg," he said. "This is Willa Harrington. I've told you a bit of her story. She knows the rules and is ready to try to make a go of it here."
"We're pleased to meet you, love," replied Fiona, extending her hand. "I'm afraid that I'll have to ask you to turn your bags over to me so that I can go through them."
Willa was surprised, but handed them over willingly.
"Sorry," said Reg. "But every time that you come in and out of the house, we'll ask you, at least for the first few weeks. It's for the safety of all of us."
"I understand," she said quietly. "I want to thank you for helping me. I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for you guys and Jerry."
"We will do everything that we can to help you," he said. "But it's you that will have to do the real hard work for yourself."
"I know," she replied. "I'm just glad to get away from my family and all the negative vibes. I need to clear my head."
Reg nodded and Fiona returned her bags.
"You're clean," she said. "I'm always glad when we can start off on the right foot. Will you stay for a spot of tea, Jerry?"
Jerry looked at Willa and she nodded.
They went back to the kitchen where Fiona had a kettle already on.
"I'll show you around tomorrow," said Fiona. "You look pretty worn out. I'll make up a pot of chamomile tea for you. It will help you to sleep better."
"I don't usually drink tea," said Willa. "But I'll try it. I usually drink coffee."
"It's better for you than coffee," she replied. "That caffeine is no good for you at all. You buy all your own food, but we do encourage you to have a healthy diet. It will make you feel better in the long run. We can't force you into a healthier lifestyle, but we'll try to teach you better eating and sleeping habits, not to mention to exercise."
"How do you know that I'm not healthy?" she asked.
"Do you want the truth?" asked Fiona.
"Why not?" she said. "I've been facing up to reality all week long. I might as well keep up the streak."
Fiona smiled at her expression.
"You've got bloodshot eyes with dark circles under them," she said. "Your hair and skin are overly dried out, but not from the sun, which means that you are dehydrated and have been for a while. You look exhausted and move slowly, like your bones ache. But you're young and if you give up the drink and the drugs for good, you'll slowly feel the improvement. You will have to eat right if you're going to get your energy back. And you need your energy and physical strength to cope with your emotions. It's all interrelated, you know."
"Oh," said Willa.
"You'll need a week or so before you're ready to look for a job," said Reg. "Right now you look like hell and no one will hire you. I hope you brought some decent clothes with you. Those will never do for an interview. Without a high school diploma your options are very limited, but we can help you to find something. If won't be anything fancy, but it will give you a bit of money to spend for food and other necessities, and some to put aside. I hope you brought some with you."
"I have some that I saved up," she said. "I kind of thought that this would happen."
"If you run out before you get your first paycheck," added Jerry. "I'll lend you some. But I expect to be paid back. I won't have you becoming dependent on me."
Fiona brought her the tea and Willa took a sip. She was right. It was very soothing. Willa felt herself relax. Jerry talked with his friends for a while. They both had lilting Scottish accents, although Fiona's was stronger than Reg's. Eventually it was time for him to leave.
"Now you take care of yourself," he told her.
"Are you going back to town?" she asked.
"No," he said. "I'm got a little construction job over in Fremont that I'll be working on now. I do promise to come by and visit you now and again."
After he left, Fiona brought her upstairs to her bedroom, which was small and neat. She dropped her bags on the floor and lay down on the bed. It was then that she realized that she was entirely alone. But she also knew something else. She was safe.
She got up and rummaged around in her knapsack until she found the pictures that she had brought of her mother. She set them on the small nightstand so that she could look at them while she was lying in bed. She kind of wished that she had a picture of Trelawney Rose. It was almost like she had been some sort of a little guardian angel while she was at home. She realized that she had enjoyed her surreptitious visits whenever she was grounded. She missed her.
Jerry and Reg stood outside the house smoking before he left.
"The girl's been through hell," said Jerry. "She'll need some tender care before she's ready to face the world."
"I can see that," said Reg. "She must have kept you pretty busy."
"I had some help," he replied. "She'll tell you about them, I'm sure. Selena and Trelawney Rose Tressidor are children of light if there ever were two. And the little girl is amazing. I wouldn't have believed it if I had not seen it for myself. The aura was glowing golden, with silver stars in it."
"Are you sure that's all she is?" asked Reg.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "She's too young to be anything else. And from what Willa has told me, she's a little fey. I still can't figure why she's out here."
"She was out here to save Willa," said Fiona coming outside to join them. "I don't see why you have to smoke those nasty things. But now that she's saved her, she may go back home to England."
"How do you know?" asked Jerry.
"Something I picked up from her thoughts when I was helping her to settle in," she said. "Willa doesn't think that her family is worthy of the two sisters, that they are too kind and loving. She is hoping that they will get away before they get sucked into the emotional morass."
"Well," said Jerry. "A lot of that comes from Willa's own feelings about her family. She may be projecting them onto the girls. But the little one was a sight to see tonight. I've never seen an aura so glow bright. She was out there in her long white nightgown with the golden curls flowing down her back. She looked like a little angel, she did. The child is pure light and goodness. And all of her concern was for Willa."
"Well," said Fiona. "It's impossible to see what will happen in the future. In the long run it will be better for Willa if they stay. Right now they are the best things in her life. They care about her and love her more than her own family."
Jerry nodded. It was time for him to get moving. Now that he had set up young Willa with Fee and Reg, he would be on his way to his next lost soul. But he quite definitely could not return to Willa's hometown. He could not risk running into Trelawney Rose again. And the woman who came out after her was another such as himself. She would not be wanting to see him either.
Following the drama of the accident and then Willa's departure, Justin could see that Selena was even more strung out than before. When she woke up and found Willa gone, according to Emmeline, she was at first distraught. She stayed away from the family until Sunday, when she joined them to go to church. The kids were cranky because of their conversation with their father the day before and the fact that they just plain didn't want to go. Selena could see it in their faces and their minds. It was then that she broke down.
The Harrington children were surprised to see her cry. Even after her parents had died she had not cried in front of them. She had cried when they had found Trelawney after she was lost overnight, but those were "happy tears." She felt that she had failed the girl. It nearly impossible for Justin to convince her that she had not failed Willa. She refused to accept the fact that for once she was in a situation that might be beyond her help.
She refused comfort from any of them. The girls returned to the apartment to go back to bed. Trelawney was also exhausted, having finally finished up her first term of American school. She was not as upset that Willa had left. In fact she tried to comfort Selena by telling her that perhaps Willa needed to get away.
When Emmeline discovered that she would not have graduated if she had stayed, she thought that it was mean of the high school not to give her the diploma for not taking her finals after she had lost all of her friends. As usual, Trelawney could always be counted on for an unexpected response. But even he felt that the school was being unnecessarily hardhearted.
He suggested and Emmeline agreed that it would be a good idea for Selena to take Trelawney away for a while. When they approached her with the plan that the two sisters have several days alone together in San Francisco, they presented a united front.
"Selena," said Emmeline. "I did not know that Justin had offered to give you time off after Trelawney Rose came to stay."
"That's because I didn't want to take her away so quickly," replied Selena. "I wanted her to settle in."
"Well now she is settled in," said Emmeline. "I am staying with you until you can manage on your own. I feel that you will heal more quickly if you take some time off now."
"I do not need to heal," said Selena tensely.
"I beg to differ," replied Emmeline. "You are exhausted and so is the little one. The two of you will not get the proper rest you need if you both have to continue to negotiate all of these relationships. And Trelawney Rose needs your undivided attention. Admit it. The other children are very difficult for both of you to live with right now. And there is still something going on with her."
"Selena," said Justin kindly. "It is time for you to have a break from us. We love you, but we have been selfish. Let me give you these days off. There are lots of things to see and do in the city. I know that you love to travel and I know that your sister needs you all to herself."
"Justin . . . "
"And Selena, please," he added with a smile. "You know that you need the time off."
"Yes, love, you do," said Emmeline. "And you need some time to think on things for yourself as well."
"I hope that some of those things will involve me," added Justin. "Now that I have finally convinced you to call me Justin. I am hoping that we will be able to take another step forward in our new relationship."
"May I call you Justin also?" asked a voice from the doorway.
"Trelawney Rose, when did you come in?" asked Selena. "I thought that you were with Georgina."
"She had an extra dance rehearsal," replied Trelawney. "But you haven't answered my question. May I please call you Justin?"
"Just out of curiosity, why would you want to do that?" he asked as if he already knew the answer.
"Well, you are going to be my brother, aren't you?" she asked. "I don't see why I have to wait."
"Neither do I," replied Justin.
"Justin . . ." said Selena.
"Come on, Selena," he said. "I know that Trelawney will always be respectful. There is no reason why she cannot address me by my first name, now or at any other time. Besides, before she left, you had given Willa permission to call you by your first name."
"Willa is much older," she said.
But Justin didn't care. He was hopeful that if Trelawney was calling him by his first name, it would subtly reinforce for Selena the change in their relationship. Despite the words that had passed between them, he was afraid that Willa's leaving meant that she was reconsidering her future with him. The girl seemed to understand.
"Thank you, Justin," said Trelawney. "I do like your name very much. It is quite well-suited to our gallant knight."
"Trelawney Rose . . ." began Emmeline. But Justin interrupted her.
"Your gallant knight?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," she replied. "You are the gallant knight who has saved the fair maidens from the . . . You are the gallant knight who has saved the two fair maidens."
"From the what?" Emmeline sharply asked.
Trelawney suddenly changed her affect, as if she had said something wrong. She looked around at them all a little nervously and then recovered herself.
"Jennie is home," she said brightly. "I would like to play with her. May I, please?"
"Of course," replied Justin.
"And Selena," she added as she left. "I would like to go to San Francisco with you. I have bit a wee bit jealous lately and would like to spend some time alone with you."
The three adults were silent.
"She must have overheard us," said Emmeline quickly. "Now Selena, we are not taking no for an answer. I'll make the arrangements."
Selena still seemed to be contemplating what her sister had just said. Abstractedly, she nodded and left.
"Poor Selena is quite definitely in need of a holiday," said Emmeline, after she had left the room.
"How do you know that?" asked Justin.
"She seems to have forgotten how whimsical the little one can be," she replied affectionately. "The gallant knight indeed."
"Yes, I suppose so," said Justin. "Well, why don't you make the arrangements? I would be happy to pay."
"No," Emmeline shook her head. "That would be most improper. It is much too lavish a gift for an employee. Why Justin, you haven't even officially asked her to marry you."
"I guess you're right," he replied. "I need to fix that, won't I? But first I'm going to need to get a ring for her."
"Of course you will," agreed Emmeline, glad to have won the point so easily. "Do you have anything in mind?"
"No," he said slowly. "It wasn't something that I had to worry about with my first wife. I gave her my grandmother's engagement ring. Aside from the fact that I would never have given her that ring, Helen was buried wearing it. That angered my mother because it was her mother's."
"Oh," she said. "What would she have done with it?"
"It would have been Jay's," he replied. "But Jay overheard our disagreement. He was only nine-years old at the time, but he very emphatically stated that he wanted his mother to have the ring."
"He is a very loyal son," she said.
"Very," agreed Justin. "But now he seems to have given his heart to Selena. He certainly worked hard enough with Trelawney to bring us together."
"Your son Jay is a very special young man," replied Emmeline seriously. "You should be very proud of him. There are not many boys his age who are so thoughtful and generous."
"Yes," agreed Justin. "He is quite definitely Helen's son in that regard."
"Well, it's a pity that your older daughter didn't take to the same lessons," she commented. "It would have saved everyone, including herself, a great deal of heartache."
"Yes," sighed Justin. "It is difficult to believe that two kids raised in the same environment by the same loving mother could have turned it so differently."
"Perhaps," said Emmeline. "But each child is always unique. Willa is very troubled. She needs help, but is presently doing her best to reject all offers. Now that she is gone, perhaps she will find what she needs."
"I hope so," answered Justin. "But I've never understood her. Now I feel like I've failed her. And I have no idea of how to fix it."
Neither did Emmeline, but she could not concern herself with the older girl. She had seen for herself that she was in good hands. Whoever the lad was who helped her escape, he was a good one. But she was here for Selena and Trelawney Rose. She then realized that she needed to warn him about Dad.
"Justin," she said hesitantly. "I don't think that you should rush out and buy that ring too quickly."
"And why is that?" he asked sharply.
"Well, it's the matter of the betrothal," she said. "Things are not completely settled back home and, well, Selena is not really free to just marry whoever she wishes."
"But Killigrew has set her free," he said, not understanding.
"Perhaps," she replied. "But there are certain legalities that still must be tied up. You wouldn't understand because you've got nothing like it here in the States. And once that is done, Selena can still only marry someone with Dad's permission. It's the way that we do things at home. And there is the issue of the little one's custody."
"I can't believe that at Selena's age, your father has that kind of control over her life," he said.
"Well, it's not legal control if that's what you're inferring," she said. "And technically speaking if she marries out here, she can do so as she pleases. But if she openly defies him, then most assuredly he will take Trelawney Rose away."
"Technically speaking," he said. "I have custody."
"The custody that she granted you was the nominal custody that was given to her under her father's will," she said. "But Dad will have the real control over the little one until she marries. Of course, no one expects that to happen. It's the way that their Papa wrote the will. And if Selena can't raise her properly, then she's to go back to Mum and Dad. Her Papa wrote a codicil to that effect a couple of months before they passed away."
"What is meant by properly?" he asked.
"Nobody knows really," replied Emmeline. "But I have no doubt that the British courts, knowing how things are with our people, will let Dad say what is proper and what is not. I doubt that the American courts would overturn it. My brother, who wrote the will, is an excellent lawyer. I am sure that there are no loopholes. Things are not as simple as you may think with Trelawney Rose."
"What do you mean by that?" he asked.
"That is not for me to tell you that," she replied. "It is for Selena to entrust you with that information."
Emmeline could see that he was frustrated, but he had to know that Selena did not trust him as much as he thought that she did. He had oversimplified the situation because he had no idea of what they were really all about. But there was no explaining it to him at the moment. Presently, Selena was in no emotional or physical condition to have that conversation with him and she told him so.
"You need to let them both recover," she said finally. "At the moment, neither one is ready to face that bit of reality. If you really love her, you won't force her to begin to face up to what may be some very painful choices."
"Then what can I do?"
"Love her," she said quietly. "You are rather good at that you know."
After she left, Justin considered everything that she had just told him. He realized that at some point Selena might have to choose between Trelawney and himself. It was no wonder that she was so emotionally wrung out. He did not think that it was fair that she be placed in such a difficult position. But then again, as Emmeline had said, he really did not understand their world at all.
The three days in San Francisco did both sisters a world of good, at least for the time that they were in San Francisco. Thankfully, it seemed to help calm Selena. Trelawney Rose returned happier, but her emotions were still erratic. However, just having all of that individual time with her beloved sister seemed to set her mind at rest for a while. Selena did not like to admit, but getting away from the contentious and confusing Harrington household didn't hurt either.
Trelawney Rose had only ever traveled from the village to California before. This was her first experience as a tourist and Selena enjoyed exploring the city and the sights with her. She was delighted by her first cable car ride and the view from Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. The Golden Gate Bridge fascinated her. Because she was so easily distracted and essentially lived in the moment, she spent their time there very happily. By the time they left, she was very sad.
Her response to returning home, gave Selena pause to think. She was very quiet on the drive back and was almost a different child when they pulled into the driveway. Her anxiety seemed to have returned twofold. She didn't say a word, but Selena could tell that she was not looking forward to returning to the house. She confirmed this suspicion when she asked if they might eat dinner by themselves. But there was no food in the apartment, so she had to face the family almost immediately. Thus, her mood instantly switched back to exactly where it had been before their holiday.
The other children had all bounced back quickly. As far as they knew, they were now secure in the family's future, so for all intents and purposes, their worries were over. They were convinced that having run off Selena's fiancé and causing the engagement to break up, everything would end happily ever after. There was a sense of relief now that Willa was gone and Jay had asked again if he could have her bedroom. But Justin refused. He said that he wanted to keep it ready for her if she ever wanted to return. The look on his face was so sad that Jay didn't argue.
After Willa left, Trelawney seemed to grow as anxious as ever again. Considering how poorly she had treated her, it was difficult to see why she was so bothered. Justin had thought that once Killigrew was gone that she would regain her former spirit, but that didn't happen. Once the excitement of her meddling and scheming had died down she retreated into herself again.
She enjoyed her holiday with her sister, but she was subdued when they returned. Whatever was going on in that little head, it seemed that neither Emmeline nor Selena could discern it. Not for the first time he wondered if she wasn't depressed. Knowing how much it would upset Selena if he brought it up, he brought his concerns to Emmeline. He thought that it might be helpful if she saw a counselor.
"Hmm," she said thoughtfully. "I guess it's possible that she is depressed. Or it's growing pains. I'm pretty sure it would be useless to take her to a counselor. She always be thinking two steps ahead of him or her."
"I thought of that," answered Justin. "No way to turn it off, is there?"
"Well it's not like 'it' has an on-off switch," explained Emmeline sharply. "But of course, it really takes a conscious choice on your part if you want know want to know what someone else is thinking or be aware of whether the phone or doorbell will ring. Could you imagine the constant chatter inside your head if you couldn't maintain some kind of control? No, you actually have to focus on the other person, but sitting alone with a counselor, under protest I'm sure, she would not be cooperative and probably do her best to drive him, or her, mad."
"That's what I was afraid of," said Justin with a grimace. "Is there any other family member that you could call in to help?"
"I'll think about it. The person that she was always closest to was her Mum," replied Emmeline thoughtfully. "For the past couple of years she has become a much more private person. We had put it down to being like Selena, who as you know is very private. However Selena has lived much more in the outside world. Surrounded by family as she has been, Trelawney Rose has not had the same motivation for keeping to herself so much."
That answer had to satisfy Justin. As soon as the girl read his suspicions, she even withdrew from him. Yet having known him to be an ally in her campaign against Killigrew, this break in trust meant that she lost what little balance she had achieved. Her emotions began to swing even more wildly. She was sad one minute and angry the next. Almost always she ended up in tears. Even the ever patient Georgina began to find her trying. It didn't take much to set her off and one day Justin inadvertently entered into a minefield with her.
He was looking through his desk and came upon the small box that Killigrew had given Trelawney when he first came to claim Selena as his bride. He was tempted to open it up himself and see what was inside, but he suspected that even if he did that, he wouldn't know what he was looking at. So he called the girl into his study. The minute she saw it in his hand she reacted. She looked as if he had shocked her with a highly charged electric volt.
"Would you like to open it now?" he said gently.
Her eyes were large and she shook her head.
"What would you like me to do with it?"
"Get rid of it! Burn it! Destroy it! I don't care!" she cried.
Seeing her upset, he quickly threw it back in the desk and reached out for her, but she was gone. As always, she ran off to Georgina's and within a short time the phone rang. Knowing that it was her mother, Mrs. Jennings, he tried to answer it before Selena could, but of course she got there first. Mrs. Jennings went on a tear about the hysterical child, something about a box, and the need to get her some kind of help.
"That child needs some kind of counseling before she does harm to herself!"
On the other extension, Justin told her to mind her own business, slammed the phone down, and went to find Selena. She was standing in the kitchen still holding the phone. He took the phone from her hand and took her in his arms. She began to sob. Walking in, Emmeline, knowing that her cousin was very upset, took one look at them and said that she would keep the children out.
He knew now that much of her stress about Trelawney originated from the very real possibility that she could lose her. The only way that she could insure keeping her was to return to the village with her. But she didn't want to leave him. He also knew that the other children were creating tension for her with their occasional foolish remarks about how glad they were that Willa was gone. Despite their promises to behave otherwise, the old behaviors were very deeply ingrained.
During the time that the sisters were away, the kids had stopped censoring their comments. And he knew that when they were alone they said plenty about her. Emmeline had refused to eat with them any longer because of the unpleasantness that occasionally crept into the conversation. Not all of it was about Willa. They were also mean to each other. At one point she suggested that they were the ones who needed counseling.
The remarks about Willa made both sisters sad. Among other things, Emmeline confided in him that the household was not the healthiest place for Trelawney to be right now. She was sensitive to all of the emotional tension. If her emotions continued on their present trajectory, then she must return to the security of her home and family. The whole situation made his head hurt.
Emmeline saw him struggling and tried to help him. He tried to explain to her how helpless he was beginning to feel when it came to Selena. He was also beginning to have his own fears that she might have to leave with her sister. But all of this did not change the fact that they were deeply in love.
Being the man that he was, nothing less than marriage would satisfy him. He did not do things in half measures and his heart was committed to her. But the love that he bore for her ran so deep that he refused to encourage her to take any steps that might separate her permanently from her sister. Emmeline admired his loyalty and pitied him that his devotion was to a woman who he might never have. And Selena was even more confused, torn between the sister she had sworn to raise and the future father of her children.
"Give her time, Justin," she said soothingly. "All this is new. But one way that you could make things easier for both of them would be to try and get your other children under control. Selena is really feeling like a failure with them because of the constant bickering and nasty remarks, she feels as though all of her hard has come to naught."
"Why do you think that I can do something?" he asked.
"Because they are your children," she said testily. "Unless you want them all to end up like Willa you should do something now. I do not plan on staying here forever. But with things as they presently stand. I will insist that Selena and Trelawney Rose leave with me when I go. It's time for you to act."
He knew of course that she was right, but it didn't make him feel any better. He kept hoping for a change, something that would somehow set things to rights again. But then he realized that he was going to have to make the change happen. The dynamic of the family must change but he had no idea of how to fix it.
A New Challenge
Justin was working the study one afternoon when he heard Jay come in the front door. Selena was nearby in the living room doing her own work. She liked to work at her knitting and mending if she had time during the day in the house. She did not like carrying the mending basket back and forth to the apartment.
"Miss Selena!" he said. "Do you remember old Mrs. Gilbert?"
"Yes of course. She's the lovely old woman who lives on Maple Street near your clubhouse," she answered. Today she was sitting in the living room knitting. As had become his custom when she was there, Justin had the dividers open to the study so he was able to hear the conversation.
"Yeah," said Jay. "But she won't be able to live there much longer. Today a couple of us guys went to see her because she hadn't been outside in while. A strange lady came to the door and said that she was her niece. She said that Mrs. Gilbert had a stroke and she couldn't take care of herself any more."
Justin could hear the catch in Selena's voice. He knew how fond she and Mrs. Gilbert were of each other. Since she had come, Selena went over frequently for tea. The upset at home had meant that she hadn't been over in a while. He was concerned that this might be another worry for her.
"I can't believe it," said Jay. "Her niece told us that she was going to have to move into a nursing home."
Hearing no response from Selena, Justin decided to see for himself what was happening. Entering the living room, he could see that she was sitting lost in thought. Jay didn't seem to know what to say. Sitting beside her, Justin put his arm around her shoulders and almost involuntarily she rested her head on his shoulder.
He asked Jay, "How bad was the stroke?"
"I'm not sure," said Jay. "We couldn't go in and talk to her, but her niece said that it was mostly her right side. She has trouble walking and using her right arm."
Turning to Selena, Justin said, "Why don't you walk over yourself, Selena? I'm sure that she would like to see you. If you want, I'll go with you."
"I think I'd like that very much," said Selena. "I feel bad now that I haven't seen her in so long. I would like it if you would come with me too."
"Of course," he said soothingly. Almost forgetting that Jay was there, he stroked her hair and kissed her softly on the forehead. It was intended to be a sweet gesture. She looked up at him with gratitude and smiled a little.
"I'd call first," suggested Jay, fidgeting uncomfortably at the adult demonstration of affection.
"That way you know that the niece will let you see her," he added.
"I'll call right away," said his father getting. As he stood up, Selena held his hand and for another second a gaze passed between them. Jay realized that some private communication was taking place that only they knew of. He knew that it meant that they were very much in love, and that made him feel better.
Jay followed his father over to his study. Before he picked up the phone, Justin looked back into the living room at Selena who had picked up her knitting. He went back and closed the doors. Jay saw the concern in his eyes. His father said quietly,
"Thanks for telling us, Jay. It will be good to have a reason to get Selena out of the house and think about something new."
"I figured that she'd want to know anyway," answered Jay. "But I also had kind of the same idea. She's just seemed so sad lately."
"Yes, she feels sad," replied Justin. "But she is also feeling tired after that whole incident with Killigrew. And don't forget that she is still grieving for her parents."
"Well," said Jay with a little smile, "You know, maybe she would be a little happier if you, like, got her an engagement ring or something."
Justin thought for a moment and then answered, "I think that you're ready to understand this, Jay. Selena has been through a lot. She needs some time to recover. The fact that Emmeline is still here should tell you that much. She's planning to stay until Selena is ready to manage things herself. I just don't want to push her."
"I understand, Dad," said Jay. "But you know, it would be kind of cool."
"Well," he said, changing the tricky subject. "It might also be kind of cool if you kids could ease up on all the bickering. I know that you and Max will be out of the house for your summer activities starting next week. But when you're all home there's no reason for the constant baiting and teasing. It is stressful for both Miss Selena and Trelawney."
"Well at least Willa's not here," he said defensively.
"And that's another thing," replied Justin. "How many times do I have to remind you that both of them are very sad about Willa leaving? They tried very hard to help her after the tragedy, but they couldn't. I don't know why you all have to act like it's been great since she left. Quite frankly, as far as you being mean to one another, nothing much has changed."
Jay shifted between his feet uncomfortably.
"I know Dad," he said. "But it's really hard not to be glad that's she's gone."
"And it's so hard to restrain yourselves from making the same snide remarks over and over again?" he asked. "You may not realize this, but if you three don't shape up then Miss Emmeline is going to insist they return to England. She wants to leave but she doesn't think that they are ready to cope with us alone. And if they go, they won't be back."
"But Dad," objected Jay. "I thought that you and Miss Selena were in love."
"We are," he replied. "And if it were just about the two of us, we would probably just run off and elope or something. But it's about you children too, as well as Trelawney. You know how sensitive she is."
"Oh, come on," said Jay. "She does her share of teasing too."
"When was the last time she teased or squabbled with any of you?" he asked.
Jay was silent.
"Jay," he said. "It's time for you to man up. You just turned thirteen. Now that your sister is out of the house, you are the oldest and you have to set a good example for Max and Jennie. And I just don't mean when you are around us. I mean when the three of you are alone."
"Dad . . . "
"No, Jay," he said. "Listen up. I made a lot of mistakes with your sister. The biggest one was not holding her accountable for her words and actions. And I know that it was her example that taught you all to treat each other with almost no respect."
"But Dad . . . "
Justin shook his head.
"Hear me out son," he continued. "Your mother worked very hard to teach you all to be good and loving people. I let that fall apart after she died and now I'm very sorry for that. I can't change the past. Miss Selena came into this home a year and a half ago and she has been working hard ever since to teach you all those same lessons of love and kindness. Now that things are rough for her, you've stopped responding.
"She and Trelawney lost both their parents less than five months ago. That little girl agreed to come and live in a foreign country so that Miss Selena could stay with us. And you know very well how hard that has been for her. Then just as things seemed to be getting better, Killigrew showed up and made them worse all over again."
"I'm sorry, Dad," said Jay contritely. "I forgot about that. I guess that Trelawney is kind of right when she says that we are spoiled and selfish."
"She is right," said Justin. "And I take a large part of the blame. You all need to start paying more attention to your own behavior and the effect that it has on other people."
"Yeah, I guess so," he said. "I'll talk to the kids, but I think that you should too. Even Jennie is old enough to understand. If she figures out that Miss Selena will leave if she doesn't try harder then maybe she will."
"Jay," he said. "She has to change because it is the right thing to do. You all do. Miss Selena will know the difference if you don't. And don't you think that your Mom would want you to be good people because that's the way she raised you?"
"I guess so," he said. "It's kind of hard when you make it sound like we're disappointing Mom. It's kind of a low blow."
"I know, Jay," he said more kindly. "But recently I've had to face the fact that I've probably disappointed Mom too, and probably much more than you three. I'm the reason that Willa left home and if you think that that would have made her happy then you didn't know Mom at all."
Justin could see that his son was looking at him very closely. This was the first time that they had ever had this kind of man-to-man talk. But he was ready for it. In fact, it was probably long overdue.
"Well," he said. "It would still be cool if you got Miss Selena a ring. Then maybe she might want to stay more."
Jay walked out a little stiffly. It must have gotten him that he had been accused of disappointing not only the mother he revered, but the mother he hoped to have. Justin shook his head and picked up the phone. And it would be even cooler if Uncle David would just give his approval so that they could move on with their lives, he thought. He was glad that kids did not know about that whole mess.
There was no doubt in his mind that if they did know, the comments would be both pointed and disrespectful. He knew that none of them was mature enough to accept the fact that the Tressidors came from a different culture and that the mores of that culture must be respected. After all, they couldn't even respect the rules of their own culture.