Friday, March 28, 2014

Carpenter, Orb's Year 941-944


 Orb's Year 941
These days, it seemed to Robin Carpenter that his wife, Fiona, was either angry or crying.  She argued that he worked all day and left her to care for the house and the children.  She sobbed when she accused him of using her as a brood-mare. It seemed that nothing made her happy any more... least of all him!

The laughing, care-free girl that he married was gone, he thought sadly.
Little did he know how right he was...
The baby wailing in the other room pulled him from his sleep.  He glanced to the empty spot next to him.

"Fiona?" he called out groggily.  Perhaps Fiona had already gotten up to care for little Curtis.  No, he shook his head.  It sounded like the poor baby had been crying quite awhile.  Perhaps Fiona needed help, he thought, throwing the covers off to rise.

It happened more and more lately. Robin would come home and find Curtis wailing, the children hiding in their rooms and poor Fiona sobbing.
"Here, here," Robin said as he lifted Curtis up into his arms and comforted the baby.  He glanced around and didn't see Fiona anywhere.  "Let's go find your mother, shall we," he said.
 But by the time Robin had looked in all the rooms, he realized that Fiona was nowhere to be found.

***

"Papa? Where's mama?" Amber asked in confusion when they returned home from school to find their papa caring for their baby brother Curtis.  Usually papa was in the woodshop at this time of day...

Robin pasted a smile on his face.  "I decided to take a little holiday! I don't get to spend nearly enough time with my family! Let me go put Curtis to sleep and we'll have dinner when I come back."
"Something's wrong," Amber told her brother Bryan after their father left the room.  "Mama's gone," she speculated.

Bryan worriedly clasped his hands.  "Why would she have left us?"

Amber shrugged, but was secretly terrified that she knew.  Mama always yelled that they were such naughty children.  Perhaps she left because of them...  Looking at her brother with wide eyes, she told him, "Whatever we do, we can't let papa know how naughty we were! Okay?"

Bryan's eyes widened at his sisters words and he nodded hastily.  He hadn't even thought about what would happen if their papa left, too!
Robin came back into the room whistling.  "So what do the two of you want for dinner?" he asked.  "I'm not as good a cook as your mother, but I think I can whip something up!"

"Anything you like!" Amber said quickly, elbowing her brother.

Bryan startled and added, "Oh yes, anything you make will be wonderful!"

Robin opened the ice box and glanced in.  Empty.  Of course it was, he thought sourly.  He glanced back at his waiting children and felt a lump in his throat.

"I'm sorry, it appears I need to get groceries tomorrow.  Can you wait for breakfast tomorrow morning?"
Amber quickly hurried over to her papa.  "Of course, we just ate a very big meal," she lied smoothly.
"We'll just head to bed now."

Robin kissed the top of his daughter's head.  "Isn't a little earlier than usual for bed?" he asked.

Bryan fidgeted nearby.  "But Amber, I am alittle hungry," he whined.
Amber elbowed him quickly.  "Don't forget. We can't be naughty!" she whispered for his ears only.
"I'm actually not that hungry at all..." Bryan said as he launched himself into his papa's arms, hugging him.  "Good night, papa!"
Robin watched his children hustle from the room, feeling as though he was missing something.  The children were acting awfully strange tonight...
Slowly, he sank down onto the bench and buried his head in his hands.  What was he going to do?  His wife had gone and left him to care for three little ones all on his own and somehow find the time and energy to put food on their table... literally!

Shaking his head, he got up.  He didn't have time to fall apart...
...perhaps he could get a little work done while the children slept...

Orb's Year 942
"Uppsey-daisy," Robin said as he hoisted Curtis up from his palette.  "Time for breakfast!"
"Robin, Blessed Orb, what's going on?" he heard a feminine voice say from behind him.

He turned quickly around.  It was his wife's twin. "Farrah!" he exclaimed with surprise.  "What are you doing here? Did you hear from Fiona?"

"No! I got a message from Amber saying that you needed help.  Where is my sister? What is going on?" Farrah asked with concern.
"I was hoping you would have the answers," Robin said sadly.  "Fiona's left me and the children."

Farrah shook her head.  "No! She wouldn't!"

Robin felt a prick of annoyance at her staunch defense of her sister.  "Well, I can guarantee you that she has! I've been doing the best I can... but..." he trailed off and lowered his head. 
With tears in her eyes, Farrah pulled Robin into her arms. "Oh, Robin.  I never expected her to do such a thing! To leave her own children behind!"

Robin buried his face in Farrah's shoulder, taking her comfort in like a sponge.  It still hurt that Fiona had just left him without a word.  Had he really been that bad?

Briskly, Farrah pulled back and tried to reassure her brother-by-marriage.  "Well, now that I'm here, I'll see what I can do to help.  First things first, you should go get dressed," she said, blushing. 

Robin couldn't help it.  He hurried from the room with a laugh, probably the first time since Fiona had left.  But Farrah looked so embarrassed to notice that he was in his drawers alone.
Farrah felt her cheeks burning as she picked up Curtis and snuggled her dear nephew close.  How could Fiona have left her children behind? And her husband... she squeezed her eyes shut at he traitorous thoughts.  She had merely been trying to comfort Robin, but when she'd put her arms around him, she'd been very aware of his skin against her her and his strong hands holding her close. 

She shook her head.  The poor man needed comfort - not lecherous thoughts from an Abbess!

***

"Are you sure about this?" Abbess Belinda asked doubtfully.  "We have never had one of our own leave the Abbey."

Farrah felt guilty.  "I'm not leaving.  I just need some time to help my family.  Robin doesn't have anyone else to care for my niece and nephews!" she implored Abbess Belinda to understand.  "They need me."

Abbess Belinda crossed her arms impatiently.  "The Abbey is not a revolving door.  We would like truly committed individuals, devoted to..."

"I am devoted! Just give me time to deal with my family's crisis," Farrah pleaded.  "Since childhood I have dreamed of being an Abbess!" 

Abbess Belinda nodded thoughtfully.  "I'll have to give this some consideration." 
Farrah gazed back at her reflection, going over the conversation with the Head Abbess.  It was true.  Since childhood, Farrah had always longed to be an Abbess and seek the Path of Enlightenment.

But was that still true?
Her train of thoughts was interrupted when Curtis crawled into the room demanding attention.  With a smile, Farrah stroked the little boy's precious head before whisking him up into her arms.
Curtis laughed merely as she tossed him in the air. The joy of a child was such a wondrous thing, she thought with a smile.
"Auntie Farrah! You're still here!" Bryan cried out as he ran up and hugged her.

Farrah kissed the top of his forehead.  "I am! And I'll be here as long as I'm needed. I promise to let you know before I leave so you can wave me off!"  As usual, Amber hung back.  Farrah was beginning to think she would needed for much longer than she'd planned.  Curse her sister for leaving her dear children.  They tried to hide it, but Amber and Bryan were scared they would lose her or their father.
Farrah was just setting out dessert when Robin came in, sweaty and dusty from the hard work.  "Oh, Blessed Orb, that smells delicious, Farrah!" he said when he smelled the cherry pie.  "I might be too sore and tired to eat it, though!"
"Well, if I need to, I can feed you like little Curtis," Farrah teased.

Robin laughed and pretended to grab his heart.  "You're too cruel to my manly pride, Farrah!"

Farrah blushed.  Unfortunately she noticed how very manly he was.  "Yes, well, I was only teasing."
"I know," Robin said in a more subdued voice, leaning back and closing his eyes.  "Cursed Orb, I'm so weary, Farrah. I never thought my marriage would come to this..."

Farrah's heart broke to see Robin in pain.  "Who can know what paths we might walk in life? Perhaps one day she'll return..."

Robin scowled.  "I should hope not! She's hurt this family enough than to come blithely back.." he cut his tirade short and scrubbed a weary hand over his face.  "She's your sister. Of course you miss her and want to see her again."

"I do, but I am also so mad at her! How could she do such a thing? I love her still, but I don't know if I'll ever understand her!"

Robin blinked at Farrah as she spoke passionately against her sister. 
Seeing how tired he was, she came over and picked up his plate.  "I think it's time for bed," she said.  You take the bench tonight." 

Sleeping arrangements were tight in the house right now.  The children had taken over their papa's bed as neither adult wanted to deprive the children of a good night's rest.  That left the lovely wooden bench Robin had carved long ago and a small palette of pillows that they used. Most nights Robin insisted that she sleep on the bench since she was the guest.. but not tonight...

Robin frowned.  "No, I'll be fine on the palette again."  He started to get up, his muscles protesting in agony.

Farrah pursed her lips.  "Robin Carpenter. You are near to collapsing. You take the bench tonight.  One night on the palette will not kill me!"
Farrah hustled Robin over to the bench and then threw a blanket over his shoulders.  "Sleep well," she said, resisting the urge to tuck him in as she did with the children. 
And then she walked across the room and tried to make herself comfortable on the palette.  Finally she fell asleep, as well.

***

Robin awoke to the sound of quiet voices. "Shhh..." he said, glancing across the room at Farrah.  He swore silently under his breath.  Cursed Orb, she looked so uncomfortable sleeping like that!  But now that the children were awake...
Robin quietly walked over to her and lifted her into his arms.
Although how she could sleep with the noise the children were making amazed him. 
Gently he laid her down on the bed and lightly brushed her hair back from her face. A feeling of tenderness shocked him - did he have feelings for her?  No, he thought, it was just a feeling of friendship!  After all, she'd lived with them for well over a year now and he'd grown so used to her gentle touch around the house. 

But, soon the children would be older and she would return to the Abbey.  He frowned fiercely down at her.  What were they going to do when she left?

Orb's Year 943
As Curtis grew older, Farrah took the opportunity to begin his early learning.  They sang nursery songs and practiced his letters.
She even helped Amber and Bryan with their school work that had been piling up. 
Even if they weren't as excited about their lessons as Curtis had been...

***

And no matter the weather, Robin was outside working in his workshop.  In fact, he seemed to be spending more time out there as of late.  Some days he didn't even stop for dinner before heading over to the palette to collapse in exhaustion. 

***

"I have something I want to show you," Robin announced with a twinkle in his eye over their dinner. 

"What is it?" she asked, glancing up.

Robin shook his head.  "Nuh uh, I'm not going to tell you! You'll have to see it!"

Farrah laughed and started to get up. "Well, let's go see it, then!"

Robin tsked and shook his head at her eagerness.  "No, no, missy.  You must finish all your salad before you get your present."

"A present, Robin? For me?!" Farrah asked with wonder.  "Oh please, let's go see it now!"

Robin took in the delight lighting up her face and relented. 
"I made it for you," Robin announced, showing her the bed he'd spent all the time working on.  "I hope you like it!"
Tears pricked Farrah's eyes.  "I love it, Robin! I've never received such a beautiful present before!  Thank you!"  She threw herself into his arms and hugged him tight.
Robin lifted his arms in shock as her body burrowed against his and awkwardly he lowered them... lightly holding her in his arms.  Clearing his throat, he stepped away.  "Well, I'm glad you like it," he said gruffly.  "I'll just see about moving it into the nursery for you."

***

Farrah stretched as she got out of bed.  She still couldn't believe Robin had spent all that time making a bed for her.  Shaking her head, she pushed the thought from her head.  And if not for her, he would've made one for his children.  It wasn't because you're anything special to him, she ruthlessly told herself.
"Mama! Mama!" Curtis cried, waving his arms to be picked up.
A tear pricked her eyes.  "Oh, sweet Curtis.  I'm not your mama.  But I love you so dearly!"  She rocked him in her arms.  How she would love to have been his mama...

***

Robin came in from the workshop and saw Farrah waiting at the table for him.  His plate was already laid.  Oh, how he wished the children were with him to act as a buffer between them.  He'd been feeling inappropriate thoughts... ever since she'd pressed her body against his.

Of course it did, he told himself ruthlessly, you've been without a woman for neigh two years! Any body would have caused such a reaction! 
Farrah pleasantly chatted about the children, telling him about the things they'd done during the day.  Under her watchful eye, he'd watched his children prosper and grow, becoming less timid and quiet and more boisterous and happy. 
Without thinking, Robin reached across the table and held her hand, stopping her speech mid-sentence.  "Thank you, Farrah. For all you've done for us," he said, squeezing her hand in his own.

Farrah's eyes widened and a blush stole across her cheeks.
Oh, Cursed Orb, he thought when he realized what he was doing.  Abruptly he snatched his hand back as though it had been scalded and jumped up from the chair, knocking it over in his haste. 

"What is it?" Farrah asked.  "What's the matter?"

"I just forgot I have more work to be done today," he mumbled quickly, praying he could get out of there before he lost all caution.
Farrah watched him go with her heart beating in her chest.  What was that about?

Orb's Year 944
Curtis woke up and sat waiting impatiently for morning to come.
"Mama? Mama?" he said quietly.  "It's morning!"
Farrah woke up slowly and got out of bed, wiping the sleep from her eyes.  "So it is," she said tiredly.
She ruffled Curtis' hair and kissed his cheek.  "Go run along and play with your brother and sister.  I'll be out to make breakfast shortly."
"Mama said to come play!" Curtis said eagerly.  Perhaps they would play with him this time!

Amber glanced over at her pesky little brother.  "She's not our mama!" she said stubbornly.  "Mama's coming back!"

Bryan rolled his eyes as he swung the pillow at Amber.  "Well, I like her more than mama.  I don't mind it if she lets us call her mama!"

Amber glared at her twin brother for that traitorous thought.  He used to always agree with her, but not anymore...
As Curtis ran over eagerly and started pummeling Bryan with the pillow she dropped, Amber felt tears well in her eyes.  She didn't care what they said!  Mama loved them and was coming back!  She ran from the room before either of her brothers could see her cry.
"What'd I say?" Curtis asked in surprise.

 ***

"I was looking for you," Robin said when he found Farrah straightening the bed.  Cursed Orb, of all the rooms to have this conversation...
"What is it?" Farrah asked, surprised Robin wasn't in the workshop.  "Is everything okay?"
Robin wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into his arms.  "I can't stop thinking about you, Farrah.  Cursed Orb, I've tried! I know it's wrong... I know you probably don't think of me that way..." 
Farrah didn't wait to hear anything else. Not want him?! She'd never wanted anything more with every fiber of her being! Not even the Abbey...

She pulled his head down to hers and sought his lips, burying her fingers in his hair.
Tumbling back onto the newly made bed, they gave in to the desires they'd been fighting...

***

"...and over the years, your Aunt Farrah and I have grown close..." Robin finished off lamely.  "I'd like it if you might consider her your mama..."

Amber scowled.  Why did everyone want to replace mama?
"She's not my mother!" Amber yelled, leaping up and running to the nursery and slamming the door.  She'd tried so hard to be good so that her mama came back and then Aunt Farrah had to sneak in and steal her papa! Furiously she scrubbed at her eyes.  It was probably because Aunt Farrah couldn't find her own husband - she had to steal her sister's!
Farrah shook her head when Robin moved towards the nursery.  "Give her time," she cautioned.  "It's a big change..."

Curtis ran to Farrah and threw his arms around her.  "I always knew you were my mama!" he said. 

Farrah ruffled his hair.  "I'm still your aunt, Curtis, but Orb's Truth, I think of you as my son, as well!"


  ***


"I've never been happier," Robin said as he swayed with Farrah in the livingroom. 

"Well this is cozy, isn't it?" came a voice from behind them.
Farrah dropped Robin's hand in horror as she turned and stared at her sister..
With a sinking heart, she ran into the room she shared with Robin as her sister, his true wife, began screaming...

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