Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Fourteen

August 8, 2006

Input from Babble Community members in brackets...

How many children should Peter (Gilly's eldest brother) and his wife have? And how old is their eldest and how old will their youngest be?

[lbdawger: Stid, how old is Peter? how long have they been married?]

[inge: I suggest three children, youngest is 3]

Well, I figure Gilly must be at least 42, since her eldest is 25. and she was the youngest of the 7 children in her family... Peter was the second eldest boy.

Three children is a good number -- maybe youngest is 13... otherwise poor Helena (Peter's wife)!

[lbdawger: and he got married when he was???]

I think men in this village married when they were AT LEAST 20 usually...

Peter's eldest could be 21. How old will the middle child be?

[lbdawger: 18?]

18 is a good number, lbd. thanks.

Peter and Helena have three children, ages 21, 18 and 13...

[inge: Good family size]

Okay, and let's say Peter is about 49 years old, Helena is younger, about 44?

[Jacula: lbd - ages are kinda important when you're working out storylines.]

[inge: This family is too big for me to remember their names and ages, will you publish a family tree?]

*yes, I will put a family tree up at BabAnon*

Adam and Ava know that Paul is home. They haven't seen him yet. Peter and his family are coming to dinner --- they know something is "up" but not exactly what.

The sun sank a little lower in the sky, and a swallow cut through the air above the well. A breeze rippled through the hollyhocks along the fence and the tops of the fruit trees swayed.

Peter pulled up to the gate, and helped Helena out while his children piled out the back of the wagon.

Andy ran up and gave his uncle a hug, practically bursting with excitement. Adam was right behind him, and hushed him as he greeted his daughter-in-law with a kiss.

Ava waited on the porch, Sarah (the baby) in her lap and Olivia caught fast by her skirts.

Helena straightened her skirt and shawl, and put a hand out to Ava as she came up the steps, a tight smile on her face and a question in her eyes.

Ava met her gaze steadily and returned the smile with equanimity.

Peter and Helena's brood dutifully trooped up the steps and kissed their grandmother, the eldest picking up Olivia and swinging her around. She giggled delightedly and grabbed on to his hair as he set her on his shoulders.

In the back, Paul heard the commotion and grew quiet. Otto and John headed up the lane to the road to get the horse and wagon, while Paul and Owain walked toward the back of the house.

Owain looked at his father and smiled, "Surely you are not afraid to have dinner, Father?"

Paul glanced at his hands and adjusted the buttons on his shirt. "Well, no," he replied, "But I am nervous about seeing your uncle and grandparents after all these years."

He stopped and turned to Owain, "You weren't old enough for me to have left when I did -- and everyone knew it except me. I put you, your mother -- everyone through so much. And I am concerned that some will find it hard to forgive me."

The cat dashed up the back steps and waited impatiently at the door.

The sounds of family greetings echoed around the side of the house.

Owain considered for a moment, then held open the door.

"Father, I know things are going to be difficult. But you are home now, and that is what is important."

Cathy and Anna stepped out onto the front porch as Helena came up the steps, giving her hugs and exclaiming over her beautiful shawl.

Helena turned slowly so they could admire it, and said, "Inga made this for my last birthday. Isn't it lovely?"

Anna looked at her husband's 18-year old cousin appreciatively. Inga smiled self-consciously.

Inga's collar and cuffs had lovely embroidery on them as well, done in the style of Helena's people. It was clear she had inherited her mother's talent as well as her features.

Gilly looked around the front room, resetting a flower in the vase. She hesitated, and Paul and Owain entered the room. Owain winked at his father and smiled at his mother before stepping out to join the others.

Gilly and Paul could hear the horse and wagon being led into the back, and listened a moment to the small talk.

Peter came up the steps, greeting his mother with a flourish and a bouquet. They burst into laughter -- it was a family joke, that flowers were for the living, so Peter made a point of bringing them to his mother every time he saw her.

Gilly and Paul stepped through the front door while the laughter was strong.

Helena noticed him first, and took a step back in surprise.

Peter stood up and took a step forward, and look between shock and exultation in his eyes.

"OHO!" he bellowed, "So this is the surprise!"

He grabbed Paul in a bear hug and lifted him off the porch. No easy matter, for Paul was several inches taller!

Peter set Paul back down and reached up to muss his hair, "Didn't Mother ever tell you not to be late for dinner?" he teased.

Paul grimaced crookedly and pushed his hair back down. He stepped to Ava and gave her a kiss and a hug, then turned and held out his hand to Adam.

Everyone stood and watched carefully -- Even Sarah was still for a moment.

Adam slowly looked Paul up and down, a serious expression on his face, his arms folded in front.

Paul's hand dropped to his side, and Gilly came up behind him.

Adam cleared his throat. Andy stepped in between his father and grandfather.

He put his head on its side and looked at his grandfather, then protectively stood next to Paul.

"Grampy, this is my Father. Didn't you know him already?"

John, Otto and Owain, coming through from the back laughed uproariously, but stopped when no one else even cracked a smile.

Adam growled, "I thought I knew him. But that was a long time ago."

Nan stood up and carefully found her way to her grandfather's side. Her usually bright face was solemn and a bit drawn.

Inga moved closer to her mother and Cathy as Nan spoke quietly.

"Grampy, why are you so sad?"

Polly started to hush her, but Ava put her hand to her lips for silence.

Meg and Doris exchanged glances and shrugged...

Adam looked startled, and his expression softened a bit. He slowly got down on his knee and hugged his youngest grandchild.

"Nan, you are right, he whispered, "I am sad. I tried to feel better by being mad, but it didn't fool you one bit, did it?"

He looked again at Paul, "You've been gone a long time, young man. You had better have a good explanation."

The dog came up on the porch with a stick in his mouth, wagging his tail hopefully.

Peter's youngest, Sebastian, tugged at it and tossed it into the yard. Doris rolled her eyes and primly brushed dog hair off her skirt.

Paul relaxed, and helped Adam up. "Sorry Father, it won't happen again."

Gilly clapped her hands together and opened the door. "Let's go inside now before everything is cold."

Ava handed the baby to her mother and walked into the front room, followed by her daughters, her grandchildren and her son.

Paul and Adam looked at each other, the years between them keeping them apart, but a bridge starting to span the gap. Adam let a small smile almost break out and held out a hand to his son-in-law, "I am glad you are home."