Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Sixteen

August 11, 2006

Okay, let's see. Dinner was served, Dessert under way...

Halfway through dessert, Gray and Olivia put their spoons down and leaned against their mother.

Soon, they were fast asleep.

Daniel and John picked them up gently and walked upstairs to put them down.

Soon, Andy and Nan's eyes were drooping, and they reluctantly excused themselves and followed their niece and nephew upstairs.

Doris yawned, and stood up, collecting the empty plates while Sebastian (only at his mother's urging) carried the left-over pies into the kitchen.

Helena, Gilly and Cathy stood up to go into the kitchen, but were laughingly refused entry by John, Paul, Daniel and Peter.

Adam stifled a yawn, not very well, and Ava kissed Paul and Peter. Cathy excused herself also, and Polly walked them home with a lantern.

Gilly, Helena and Anna sat outside on the porch, enjoying the cool breeze while Anna nursed Sarah to sleep.

Meg and Inga finished clearing the table, and Otto and Owain started to put the extra chairs and benches away.

Soon, Otto and Owain were yawning, and saying their goodbyes. They walked down the road toward their lodgings in town, singing loud enough to be heard over the frogs.

It wasn't long before Peter emerged from the house with Daniel, unrolling their sleeves and picking up their jackets.

Sebastian came around the side of the house with the wagon, leading the annoyed-looking horse by the bridle.

Polly came back at about that time, and held the lantern steady while her uncle's family got settled in.

Helena kissed Gilly and Paul, and promised to send over a side of the hog that was due to be butchered.

Paul shook Peter's hand and made arrangements to help with the haying when it was time.

Gilly and Paul stood at the edge of the road, watching them drive off away from town toward their side of the farm. Polly closed the gate and joined them.

Together, they walked inside. Polly extinguished the lantern and went upstairs with her sisters.

Anna came out briefly, having put the baby down to bid them good night.

Gilly and Paul put out the lamps in the front room and made sure the cat was in and the dog was out.

An owl hooted angrily at something, and a cat hissed --- probably going after the same mouse and both missed.

John came out of the kitchen with a small load of wood for the front room. He banked the coals and put the screen in front, then followed his parents back to the kitchen.

The kitchen was bright and warm. The curtains in front of the windows were cheery and the wind rattled the door and glazing off and on.

John and his parents sat down at the table.

"Father," he began, "Did you mean what you told Grampy? About your name, I mean."

Paul looked up in surprise.

"Of course, I did! They say it a little differently, but it's the same name."

Gilly looked interested.

"When I was a child, I remembered being called 'Paulo' --- turns out they write it differently than we would, but I just figured around here they didn't put the end on names."

John thought for a moment, his brow furrowed.

Paul laughed, "Careful son, you'll start to look like me!"

Gilly shook her head. "So, you didn't come from the harbor city after all, did you? Is that why you were gone so long?"

Paul nodded. "Turns out I come from a lot further away."

John yawned. "Sorry Mother -- I want to hear Father's tale, but I just can't keep my eyes open. Will you excuse me?"

Gilly patted his hand. "You go get some rest, son. There is time to hear this tomorrow -- and later."

Paul stood up and hugged his son. "I will tell you whatever you want to know. See you in the morning."

And Gilly and Paul were left alone.

Gilly put a kettle on the stove and Paul came up behind her and put his arms around her waist, burying his nose in her hair.

The cat scratched at the door, but they ignored it.

Gilly turned and leaned in to Paul, wrapping her arms around him with a contented sigh.

"How far, Paul -- how far did you journey?"

He pulled her away from the stove and pulled her onto his lap, cradling her in his strong arms.

"When I reached the harbor, I spent several weeks asking around to find out what I could of what little I remembered. I got a job in a tavern near the docks, where I could listen to the news and hear the different languages. I hoped something would be familiar."

"When I wasn't at the tavern, I wandered among the ships and talked to merchants and sailors."

"I had left the cart and donkey with a farmer near the harbor, and every once in a while I would stop by there to help with things. He didn't ask for pay, but I wanted to. It made the strangeness of the city a little more bearable."

Paul rested his head on Gilly's shoulder. "I missed you so much. I wanted to come home, and made plans to leave..."

Gilly stiffened, but stayed silent. She loved the way his voice rumbled . His face was getting a little scruffy, and she put her hand up and scritched at it."

The house shifted a little, and the chimney whooshed a bit.

Paul stifled a yawn and started to speak again.

Gilly shook her head, and stood up.

She grabbed his hand and pulled him along.

"No more for tonight. I want to hear everything, but not muffled by yawns."

They let the cat in and turned out the lamp.

Paul started to protest, but thought the better of it. He followed Gilly and the house grew silent.

Outside, the wind started to pick up, but inside it was warm with life and love.