Friday, March 28, 2014

Diebin' Orb's Year 941-944


Orb's Year 941
The twins crying woke Henna up from a deep slumber.  "I'm coming..." she said wearily.  It seemed every two hours they needed something.

Knowing she could trust no one, she chose to stay home with her babies and enjoy every moment of their childhood.



But sometimes, late at night, the doubt came creeping in.  Could she be a good mother?


After all, what kind of example had her mother been? she worried. Debbie Baker had been too caught up in pleasing herself to ever consider anyone else's needs.  Is that what she was doing?  So far, she'd pushed her childhood love, Stuart, away because she wasn't ready for marriage and babies - and yet here she was - mother to Prince Earl's love-children and a rusty sword waiting on the wall until she could wield it again...
Would she give everything to follow her dream?  Slowly she sank to her knees by the twins.  Was she as selfish as her mother?

Orb's Year 942
The delivery maiden looked around the woods and felt a shiver go down her spine.  She fervently sent a plea to the Celestial Orb and hurried away, leaving the basket where she'd been instructed.  Not for all the gold in the world would she ever come back here!
Henna stopped suddenly when she saw the basket in the snow bank so close to her home.  Worriedly, she glanced around, reaching down to grab her sword.

She didn't have it...
 She cursed as she bent down to inspect the basket.  It looked like it had food stuff packed into it.
She knew without the letter attached who it was from.  Stuart.
She supposed this meant that he hadn't given up hope for them, she thought sadly.  She'd told him to move on when she'd found out that she was pregnant by the Prince.  What kind of wife would she have been anyway? 

She scoffed.  Stuart just loved the idea of her - he didn't know the real Henna Diebin!
But that didn't stop her from sending him a note of thanks...
...and requesting an audience...

***

 "Stuart, I thought you understood when I asked you to move on.  You can't keep doing things like this - sending food or groceries!" Henna said impatiently.  "Move on! Find a good wife!"
 "I made the mistake of telling you that I wouldn't wait for you once before.  And I won't make that mistake again.  I will wait for you," Stuart promised as he lifted his hand to her cheek.

Henna gave herself a moment to enjoy the feel of his fingers against her skin before she steeled herself against him.
 She pulled his hand away with a frown.  "I can't, Stuart.  I can't be with you. Find another woman."
She turned around and paced away from him, distraught to feel all the old feelings spring alive.  She thought she'd buried them deep enough.

Stuart walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, resting his cheek against her own.  "I can't, Henna.  We belong together. I feel a connection with you that I haven't felt with any other woman." He scoffed, "And Cursed Orb, I've tried.  I've tried to get over you."

Henna leaned back against him, absorbing his strength.  Blasted Orb! Why did life have to be so complicated, she wondered.  Angrily, she spun in his arms, "You don't under..."

Stuart didn't give her a chance to argue, he leaned down and kissed her.  "This... This is how I know we belong together," he said, rubbing his lips against hers.  "Admit it! Admit you feel it, too!"
Henna almost lost herself in his kiss.  He was right.  She did feel the connection, but it wasn't meant to be!  She pulled from him, shoving him away.  "I will admit to no such thing, Stuart Forester!"

Stuart sighed.  "I meant what I said, Henna.  I'll wait for you.  In the meantime, I'll send groceries, and flowers, and anything else I think you might need."
 And then he walked away...


 ***

Henna hurried inside once he was gone.  "Up already!" she said with surprise when Jade and Jace came scurrying from the bedroom.  "What mischief have the two of you been up to?" she asked.
"Mama! Mama!" Jace called for attention as Jade giggled and darted between her mother's legs.  Henna sighed as she reached down to lift up her little prince.  Ever since they'd begun crawling, she'd had little time for herself because the little scamps got into everything!

But she wouldn't trade a moment of it....

Orb's Year 943
Caring for her growing children took all of Henna's attention.  She pushed thoughts of Stuart to the back of her mind, trying to bury her feelings deeper than before.
She spent every moment watching the children, making sure they weren't getting into mischief...
...teaching them to walk...
...and teaching them to talk...
But at night, when the lights were out and the little dears were asleep...
...that's when the doubts came creeping out...
Henna stepped outside and found a solitary rose waiting for her.  And just like that, it felt like the ice around her heart cracked...

"I was hoping you would like it," she heard from behind her.
Henna spun around and saw Stuart there, waiting nearby.   She rushed into his arms and sought his lips. 

Stuart groaned, "Blessed Orb, Henna.  Please don't send me away."

Henna traced her fingers over his face.  "I won't... I won't..." she promised.  "This way..."
Stuart hurried after Henna, careful not to lose her in the forest.  His nimble fairy darted through the woods gracefully and quietly. 
When he was closer, he stared at the cottage with amazement.  It was so well-hidden that it just blended into the scenery.  Lunging, he caught up with her and swept Henna into his arms.  He hoped she couldn't feel his shaking hands.
He carried her to the door before kissing her again.  Henna pulled and put her finger to her lips.  They crept into the house like sneaking thieves or eager teenagers trying not to waken their parents.
Stuart didn't have much time to look around her little cottage before she'd tumbled them back onto the couch.  Then he couldn't focus on anything other than Henna.
"It will be morning soon, it's time for you to leave," Henna said as they cuddled on the couch. 

Stuart got up slowly, then turned back to Henna.  Grabbing her hand, he kissed her palm.  "I... I'm not sure what changed your mind... but I want you to know... I love you Henna.  I want to be your husband and be a father to your child..."

"Children," Henna corrected automatically.

Stuart blinked. "Children? You... you have more than one... with him?" he asked lowly.

"No!" Henna said.  "No! I had twins... Jade and Jace..."

Stuart squeezed his eyes shut in relief.  "But you... you're not involved with him anymore?"

Henna shook her head. 
Stuart nodded, his throat working as though he had more to say.  Silently, he left, pinning her with his ardent gaze before he walked out the door.   He had offered for her twice now - this time it was up to her to grasp what she wanted...  if she wanted it...

Orb's Year 944
Henna gazed at the beautiful bouquet of roses that had appeared at her front door.  No longer did he leave things in the woods in their special spot - he brought them as close to her as he thought she would allow him. 

She had almost caved before he left and asked him to stay - but she still hadn't told him all about her past... 

She never should've given into the passion that swept through her! Hadn't she learned the hard way that recklessness was paid with folly!  She wiped a stray tear.  But, oh, how she wished things had been different between them...

***

"Now blow the candles out..."
"Happy birthday, babies!" Henna said excitedly. 
When the sun began it's descent from the sky, Henna kissed her children.  "Bar the door and don't let anyone in but me.  I will be back after you're asleep.
"Where do you think mama went?" Jade asked her brother.  "Why does she have to leave at night?"
"Don't worry, Jade. If there's any monsters, I'll smite them using that sword on the..."

Both children's gaze lifted to the place where the sword rested...

...it was gone...

Cook, Orb's Year 941-944

 

Orb's Year 941
"So, you couldn't make it out there in the world, could you?  You have to come running home!" Wilhelmina Cook snapped at the step-son she had raise, Keith Cook. "Well, just like when you were young, I have rules, young man that I expect you and your brood to follow!"
"Yes, step-mother," Keith said.  His papa, Hans, had married Wilhelmina when he was 14-years old.  Unfortunately, soon after, his papa had started wasting away.  Wilhelmina, a good 15-years younger than Hans, had tried her best to care for him, but it had not been enough.  Hans had died a little less than a year after marrying his young wife.  Soon after, Keith had met Fanny and within time, it just felt more comfortable to stay over at her house than his own...

But this was in rights his home... his heritage...
"Well, come in, come in! Don't leave the door open! I suppose you want me to make you breakfast!" she snorted with disdain.
"Keith? Are you sure we should have moved here?" Fanny asked quietly.  "She doesn't seem very happy to have us..."
"Don't worry, Fanny.  She'll adjust."

***

Wilhelmina watched as the children trudged to school and her useless step-son and his wife hurried to Taveryn's Kitchen.  A smile lit her face as she dashed off a note to her sister.
"We are in luck, sister," Wilhelmina said in a hushed voice.  "My step-son has returned home."

Claire scowled, "And why is that good luck? He'll be under-foot again..."
Wilhelmina interrupted her sister, "...And he brought his young son with him!"

Claire's eyes lit up.  "Will he suffice?"
Wilhelmina rubbed her hands together with glee.  "He will more than suffice!"
Once her sister left, Wilhelmina walked into her room..
...and opened her hidden door...
...and cackled with glee once more. She had things to prepare...

***


"Isn't it wonderful?" Gretel asked her cousin, Gene.  "It's so roomy and Hansel and I have our own room!"

Gene grinned. "I'm so happy for you! The house is so cheerful looking! It makes you want to just eat it up!"

Gretel laughed, "Well don't do that!"  She looked around.  "Do you really think it looks cheerful?" she asked.  "Because sometimes I think that it's... I don't know... cold..."

Gene raised her eyebrow.  "Cold? Maybe if you lit the fire?" she suggested.

Gretel waved her hand, "No, not like that. It's nothing anyway," she said with a shake of her head. 
"What is all this racket about?" Wilhelmina snapped, flinging open the door suddenly.

The girls froze and whirled to face Wilhelmina guiltily. 
"I'm sorry, Grandmama," Gretel said shakily as Gene slipped from the house.

"And don't call me Grandmama! I am not your grandmother!"

"Yes ma'am. I'm sorry ma'am!" Gretel said in a hurry.  It was on the tip of her tongue what the old witch wanted her to call her, but she didn't want to press her luck...

"You ungrateful, willful child! Don't you know I'm not to be bothered when I'm sleeping!"  How was she supposed to craft her spells if there was all the infernal laughing and giggling in the house?  "For your thoughtlessness, you will go without dinner tonight! You stay in your room!"
"I... I'm sorry gran... Oh!" Gretel cried, turning and running into her room and collapsing on her bed in tears.

***
"Oh dear, how was your day at school?" Wilhelmina asked when Hansel returned from school.  "Come give your Grandmama a hug!"

Hansel ran into her arms.  He didn't understand why Gretel didn't love living here!

"I made you a special treat," Wilhelmina said, tapping his nose with her finger.
"Oh goody!" Hansel cheered when he saw Grandmama's cherry pie on the table.  "I love cherries!"

"I know, dear.  Eat up!" she said fondly.

Hansel sat down and began shoveling the pastry into his mouth.  He heard Grandmama saying something under her breath, but didn't turn to see.
Then all of a sudden, his stomach rebelled.  He stood up and covered his mouth. "Oh, Grandmama. I think I'm full..." he said.  Hansel grabbed his stomach.  "I think I'm going to be sick..."
"Nonsense!" Wilhelmina said, reaching out and feeling his waist.  Nice and cushy.  Perfect.  "Now be a good boy and finish your treat.  I worked all morning in the kitchen to make you that!"

"But Grandmama, I'm full.."

"That's enough of that, Hansel. You will sit and finish your treat!" she said sharply.

Hansel quickly sat back down and began eating, slower this time.
"There now! That wasn't so difficult, was it?" Grandmama announced once he was finished.  When she grabbed the plate, she added, "Run along and go to bed now."
Everything was advancing according to plan, Wilhelmina thought with glee.  Soon...

 ***

"Do you think we should've come here?" Fanny asked quietly.  "Gretel seems so unhappy here."

Keith reached for his wife's hand.  "But Hansel loves it here.  He's really bonded with my step-mother."

"That's another thing," Fanny argued. "Why is she so kind to Hansel and so short with Gretel?"

"Maybe she likes boys better?" he suggested. "I don't know. She never had children of her own... maybe she just doesn't know how to relate to the children..."

"I suppose," Fanny said, unconvinced.

"She's not likely to live forever, you know," Keith said.  "Come now, let's not worry any more over it tonight.  Let's get some sleep."
Some time later Wilhelmina crept into their room.
She mumbled a few words, waving her wand...

 ***

"Come on sleepy-head, it's time to get up for school," Gretel said, pushing on Hansel's shoulders.

"No, five more minutes, Gretel," he pleaded.

"Oh, you goose. Get up!"

"I'm up... I'm up...  Why didn't mama wake us up, though?"

Gretel frowned. "I don't know..."
"Have you seen mama and papa this morning?" she asked Wilhelmina.  "Usually they wake us up in the morning. We almost overslept!"

"They're very sick, I'm afraid," Wilhelmina said with a clipped tone.

"Oh no!" Gretel said, starting to rise. "I must go check..."
"Sit down!" Wilhelmina snapped.  "There's no use getting everyone in the house sick!"

"But, if I could just..." Gretel stopped when she met Wilhelmina's cold gaze.  "Oh course."

Wilhelmina crossed her arms.  "The Kitchen keeper sent a message that he would need you this afternoon after school since your parents are unwell."

"Yes, ma'am," Gretel dutifully responded.  "Come on, Hansel. It's time for school," she announced.
Wilhelmina watched the children go and rubbed her hands in anticipation.  Soon....

 ***

"Oh there you are, dear boy!" Wilhelmina said when the boy came home.

"Hi Grandmama! How is mama and papa?" Hansel asked anxiously.

"Still very sick.  But, I'm sure they'll be fine soon.  Will you come over here and help me? I need help bringing the logs over to the fireplace?"

"Sure Grandmama!" Hansel said eagerly.  He liked helping Grandmama! She gave him sweet treats!
Hansel glanced up at his Grandmama.  Why was she acting so strangely today?  Maybe it was because mama and papa were so sick...  "Is there anything else I can help you with, Grandmama?" he asked.

"No, my dear, but soon you will help me quite a bit!" she said with a cackle.
"Grandmama?" Hansel asked in fear when he saw her begin mutter under her breath and green sparks shot off the stick she was holding.  "What's going on?" he asked with a wobbly voice.

"Don't worry, dear.  It won't hurt in the least bit.. at least I don't think it will!" Wilhelmina laughed giddily.
"Hansel! No!" Gretel called out, distracting the evil witch.  When she'd showed up at Taveryn's Kitchen after school, Uncle Connor had looked at her and asked where her parents were.  It was then that she had the sinking feeling that something bad was happening.
Not knowing what else to do, Gretel grabbed the glass of water sitting nearby and threw it at Wilhelmina. She'd heard somewhere that witches could be thwarted with water..
"You ungrateful, willful child!" Wilhelmina hissed as she slowly sank to her knees.  "Do you know what you've done?"
Gretel stared down at her Grandmama as she lay sprawled on the floor.

"Is she... is she dead, Gretel?" Hansel asked softly. 
"Blessed Orb... Blessed Orb..." Gretel softly keened as she dropped down by Wilhelmina's prone body.  She cautiously placed her fingers on her neck, worried that at any minute the witch would bolt upright and grab her.

Frowning, she glanced up at her brother. "I think she's dead..." she whispered.
"What do we do now?" Hansel asked nervously as Gretel stood up.

"Mama!" Gretel cried out in horror.
The children raced up the stairs.
Hansel hesitated at the doorway as Gretel hurried over to her parents. "Are they..." Hansel couldn't bring himself to ask the question.

"I don't know," Gretel admitted, reaching out to grasp her mother's hand. "Mama?" she whispered softly, shaking her mother.
Relief washed over the children as their parents started to sit up.
"They're okay!" Hansel cried out, pulling Gretel in for a hug.  "They're okay!"

"What are you talking about?" Fanny asked, feeling weak.  "What's going on?"
Gretel and Hansel spoke over each other as they told their parents about what had happened.

"Show me," Keith said tightly.

***

"I don't understand..." Gretel said quietly...
"...she was right here when we left..."

***

"Well, I've looked all through the house and I haven't seen any sign of her," Keith said.  "I think it's probably time to get to sleep."
It would be awhile before Gretel would feel safe enough to fall asleep without a struggle...

 Orb's Year 943
"She's not sleeping, Keith. I don't know what else to do for her.  She's scared Wilhelmina will come back, like some sort of boogey-man."
Keith shook his head.  "She just needs time, Fanny.  She'll come to realize that it's just a childish fear."

 ***

Gretel was jealous of how easily Hansel was able to drift off to sleep.  He was young enough that he didn't fully understand exactly what Wilhelmina had set in motion.  If Gretel hadn't returned when she did, she had a sinking feeling that she would've returned home to find her entire family dead.
And she didn't care what everyone else said.

She knew Wilhelmina was still out there...

***

The witching hours were the hardest for Gretel to stand.  Little creaks and moans had her glancing behind her at every turn.  And as her eyes twitched to close, Gretel would fight it tooth and nail.

She needed something to do.
She didn't read, but maybe she could find a book that had pictures in it...
Gretel looked at the covers of the books and tried to decide what she should read...
"This one looks pretty," she said, pulling the book from it's slot...
She hurried from the room, feeling unnerved, almost as if Wilhelmina could see her...
 She flipped through the pages, not really seeing anything interesting.
She returned back to the room and grabbed another book.  But, this one was stuck.  She pulled on it harder and...
 The wall began to open...
She gasped as she peered into the hidden room...
She'd found Wilhelmina's lair - proof that the cruel woman was a witch.
Along the wall a line of strange objects were lined up. 
She picked up the glowing object and then set it down.  It almost felt as though it was pulsing with energy.
A book stand held a book with strange pictures in it...
I wish I could read! she cursed.  Nothing in the book would help her until she could read!
Feeling unnerved, she hurried from the hidden room and breathed deeply. 
Much later, she sat staring into the fire as an idea started to take shape...

 Orb's Year 944

"Oh, I can't wait to go over to Fancy's! Little Bastian is having his birthday party tonight!" Fanny said excitedly.  "It's been some time since we've had a wee little baby in the house!"


"It will be nice to see the family again!" Keith agreed.
"Do you mind if I stay home, mama?" Gretel asked. "I'm not feeling very well," she smoothly lied.

Fanny glanced towards Keith quickly and saw him shrug.  "Sure," she said cautiously.  "I think that should be fine.  Would you like me to stay with you?"

"Oh no! I mean, I wouldn't want to keep you from Bastian's Orb's Year Celebration!" Gretel said quickly.
Besides, she had serious work ahead of her, Gretel thought some time later.  She studied the children's primer and practiced forming the same letters that were shown in the book.

***

A somber group returned from the Baker household.  In the middle of Bastian's celebration, Fancy's husband Sebastian had collapsed to the ground, shocking everyone around him.  Fancy had fallen to the ground, wailing for her husband. 
"It's just so sad," Fanny cried.  "To lose him like that."

Keith put his arm around his wife.  "I know, love.  It caught everyone by surprise.  Do you think Fancy will be okay?"

"I don't know how she could be," Fanny said.  "I don't know what I would do if I lost you!"

Keith pulled her into his arms tightly.

***
"...And then Uncle Sebastian just dropped to the ground! He died right there!" Hansel told his sister.  "You sure missed it!"
Gretel turned to find her mama.  "Oh, I'm so sorry, mama!" she said tearfully.   She had fond memories of her doting Uncle Sebastian.  "How is Gene and Gena?"

"Gene is helping her mother and Gena slipped out in the middle of the night.  It's just a shame Bastian will never know his father!" Fanny wiped a tear from her eye.  "Do you need anything before I go up to sleep?"

"Oh no, mama. I'm probably just going to head to bed," Gretel said softly.

***

"...And she said that she'd be going to sleep... on her own!" Fanny said with amazement.  "First, she stayed home alone without being scared and now she's gone to sleep on her own! I think she's really getting better!"
"I told you... she just needed time to realize it was childish fears," Keith said encouragingly.  "It was never anything to worry your head over."

 ***

Gretel laid in the bed with a half-smile on her face.  Soon....