Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Fifteen

August 10, 2006

So now everyone knows that Paul is home. They have all gone in to dinner...

Gilly happily bustled about, helping Nan to her seat between Otto and Owain, moving a chair closer to the door, and another further from window. Adam and Ava sat nearest the fire.

Paul brought in the roast from the kitchen as Anna squeaked, putting a napkin on the spill Gray caused as he reached for a muffin.

Cathy held Sarah who was happily gumming a piece of hard crust.

The dog tried to hide under the table, but was soon discovered and chased back out to the porch.

Sebastian, Peter's youngest sat next to Doris, neither of them looking very happy to be there, but both piling their plates as the platters were passed around.

Finally, everyone was served, and Paul took his place next to Gilly.

Adam got to his feet, and looked around the table. From his son Peter and his family, to his daughter Gilly and her family, to his daughter Cathy. He paused as he looked at his great-grandchildren and smiled.

He raised his glass to Ava, who returned his gaze lovingly.

Andy's feet were kicking the table leg, and Polly hushed him.

"Here's to our family -- all of us -- home, together at last."

A happy cheer went round the table, and the sounds of knives and forks and spoons and conversation filled the room.

Gilly and Helena talked about a new vendor at the market they had seen -- fancy ribbons and fabrics. Meg and Inga and Polly had a conference on the most attractive young men -- and rated them on dancing ability, sound of their voices and general swoon factor.

Owain and Otto shared news of an exciting tool they had seen on a wagon train master's belt the other day, and Adam, Peter and Paul listened intently.

Daniel entertained the younger children with a story about a small bear who had climbed a tree and forgotten how to climb down.

Finally, the plates were cleared, the women headed to the kitchen to do a few dishes and put the kettle on for tea.

The children and teens went across to the park -- it was getting dark, but the field would leave enough light for a few games.

The older menfolk sat on the front porch -- Adam, Peter and Paul; John sat at a distance, holding Sarah and watching the children playing across the road.

Paul jumped in, feet first, "Father, I know it's hard for you to understand, but I really did need to go."

Adam harrumphed and pulled a small pipe out of his vest pocket.

Peter said, "What I don't understand is where you went -- you were so young when you arrived. How did you know where to start?"

Adam tugged on the strings of a leather bag and pulled out a pinch of pipe filler.

Paul sighed. He waved at Andy, who was hiding in full view at the base of a large tree.

Adam lit a straw from the lamp and held it to the pipe.

"I remembered, when I came here, that we came up the river. I didn't know the names of the people who brought me, but I remembered my name."

Adam pulled on his pipe and got it to draw. He puffed and a ribbon of smoke caught the air and moved away from the porch.

"I couldn't remember the name of the place I came from, or my parents, or how long I had traveled. I just knew it had been a long distance, and I was alone."

"Something inside me just HAD to know how I got here -- and why. So I started with what I could remember."

"I followed the river to the sea."

A breeze caught a leaf in the middle of the road and tossed it back and forth. The children's laughter rang out.

Nan's voice could be heard asking for the others, and Meg's voice answered back, "I see you, I'll come get you."

"I wrote to Gilly when I reached the town, and again when I reached the harbor at the sea. I gave the letters to a merchant who had just come back..."

Peter nodded. He remembered the excitement the day a traveler had brought the tattered letter, and the disappointment on Gilly's face when she realized how long it had taken to arrive.

Adam was silent, remembering the months afterward that Gilly had watched the road for any newcomer; and the years when she had avoided watching carts and wagons pass...

Paul swallowed, cleared his throat and swallowed again.

It was getting dark, and John stood up to walk across the road with Sarah. He whistled cheerfully, and the baby chattered as they passed the gate.

The dog came up to Peter and leaned on his legs heavily.

Cathy stepped out on the porch, "The tea is nearly ready, do you want your pie out here?"

Adam finally spoke, "No dear, we'll come inside before the bugs start to show up. Please ask Gilly and your mother to step out for a moment though -- you come too."

Paul watched the shadows in the trees get darker until the only color was on the edges of the leaves at the top.

John and the children came back, heading around the house to wash up outside. The dog trotted off with them and Peter stretched his legs.

Cathy returned, her mother and sister in tow.

Gilly sat next to Paul, holding his hand. Ava and Cathy stood near the door.

John and the children piled into the kitchen, and the people on the front porch heard Helena and Anna shooing them into the front room.

Adam looked away for a moment, then straight at Paul.

"I thought I understood, when you left, Paul, that you would be gone only a short time. And I know that is what was in your heart."

Cathy and Ava put their hands to their throats simultaneously.

"I do want to know where you went, and what took you from us for so long. But not tonight. And not this week. For now, I want to have you here, and enjoy the family being complete again."

Gilly smiled at her father, tears in her eyes.

Adam continued, "But I do want to know why you never told us your name when you first arrived... It has bothered me all these years."

Paul looked surprised.

"Father, I thought you knew -- my name is just what you have always called me."

Ava drew in her breath sharply and caught Adam's eye.

Peter stood up.

"Well, now that question is settled, did I hear my sister mention pie?"

He caught Cathy's arm as he went in, "I'll consider saving you a piece, Paul -- if you get there fast enough!"

Ava looked at Paul, and touched his cheek gently. "You are clever, and always have been. I am glad your kindness is even more," she whispered.

Adam knocked out the ashes from his pipe onto a tile in the walkway, then gallantly offered his arm to Ava.

Gilly and Paul followed them into the warmth and light of the family.

okay, storytime is done, I am heading out until tomorrow. See you then!