Many thanks to LaLa for all her help with this chapter!
Chapter 52 Acceptance
Rose studied the results of the tests she had done on both Beth and Lani. Definitely, they were related, but how? It was hard to get accurate DNA results from just testing the two of them, without other family members involved that is. They had approximately a 15% commonality in their DNA epithelials, so they were related but how far back on the family tree was anyone’s guess. Cousins, of some type to be sure, but first, second? Impossible to tell.
She needed to test Dorothy and Lani’s parents in order to have a more complete picture of the situation. Was it from Dorothy’s side of the family or Beth’s father’s? Beth knew nothing about her father at all, not even his name, and her mother wouldn’t talk about it, she said. So, what was Dorothy hiding? Was she hiding anything?
She didn’t want to force Dorothy to talk about something that could be hurtful, that wasn’t her purpose, but she’d like to have a few answers. How could she go about it without causing Dorothy to panic though? She had been invited to the baby shower on Sunday so maybe she could set up a time to test Dorothy. That would be a start, at least.
Lani took a deep breath, awareness washing over her. She was at the beach house and Josef was next to her in the bed. She could hear the waves pounding the shore outside and it was cloudy too, she’d bet. She’d have to open her eyes to tell for sure, though.
First one eye opened and then the other and she found Josef on his side, facing her, his elbow bent as his chin rested in his palm. He was staring at her, a silly grin on his face.
“Do you watch me sleep every morning? It’s rather disconcerting actually.”
“No, not every morning. But you’re just so beautiful I couldn’t help myself this morning.”
She rolled her eyes and realized she hadn’t washed her makeup off last night and she knew her face must be a mess. Well, she’d actually cried a lot of the mascara off but still, it couldn’t be an attractive sight.
“You look fine,” he said, continuing to grin at her. “If fact, I have rarely seen you look more beautiful, Sweetness.”
She laughed and it sounded skeptical even to her. “Whatever. I hope you’ll always be this easy to please.”
He moved down the bed and kissed her tummy and said, “Good morning, baby. I love you and your mommy very much.” Another kiss brought him back up and he kissed her lips, a soft and lingering kiss that melted her.
“You’re not going to be a big ole mushball while I’m pregnant are you?” she teased. Actually, she loved seeing this side of him.
“What’s wrong with mushballs?”
Her arms crept around his neck and she kissed him this time and then smiled against his mouth. “Absolutely nothing, my love. You’d better enjoy the flat tummy while it lasts though because it won’t stay that way much longer.”
His long fingers had continued to stroke her stomach, almost protectively. “I think I can deal with that,” he murmured against her lips.
“And diapers, too?”
“I think we’ll have to hire someone to do that!”
“Not on your life! I don’t want someone else taking care of our child!”
“Okay, okay. Whatever you want.” He pulled his head back and looked at her again and licked his lips for a moment. He was scared actually and he was afraid she’d think he was a fool if he told her.
She watched as some emotion darkened his eyes and knew something was on his mind. “What, Josef?”
“I’m kind of scared actually. Lani, I don’t have a clue how to be a father.”
“What do you mean? You had one, shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Father’s were very much different in my time, Lani.” He told her how boys were raised in his youth and watched as she frowned as she listened.
“How very sad for the children, Josef. Did the girls go away as well?”
“No, ma taught the girls what they would need to know to keep a house running. It was all very complicated actually.”
“The class distinctions were very clearly drawn and depending on where you fell in them dictated where you sat, what you ate, what you wore, everything.”
“Sounds…complicated,” she laughed.
“It was, but my ma kept track of it all. My da was a member of the nobility, so our estate and keep was very large and took a lot of skill to manage.”
“Nobility? Like a duke or something?”
“No, that’s royalty. Nobility were lords and ladies, members of the ruling classes. We owned land and had a village and people that worked it.”
“Your family owned a village? And the people too?”
“No, not the people, Lani. They worked the land and for that they were granted a share of the product. They had houses provided for them, once a week they were allowed to hunt the forest, they could fish the lake at anytime they choose or even fish in the ocean, because our keep and village was next to it.”
“The keep? A forest and a lake? You must have been wealthy.”
“Hm, by those standards as they applied to that time I guess so. Compared to what is considered wealthy now, no, not really.”
“Was it a large village? Were the people there happy?”
He smiled at her curiosity as he looked down at her. He had never in all his years talked about this to anyone before. It was bittersweet to him but in some ways it felt good to talk.
“Yes, I think for the most part they were happy. My da was a good conservator, our villagers had plenty to eat, a day off each week and well-kept houses. That certainly wasn’t true of all villages.”
“Whatever happened to them all? Do you know? Your family I mean.”
She watched a shadow creep across his face for a moment and knew that whatever he was thinking was painful to him. Her fingers traced his jaw for a moment and combed through his hair as she waited for him to speak.
“I don’t know for sure. When Lola came to the village I went with her without looking back. My parents had been pressuring me to marry and I just wasn’t ready. I knew that there had to be more to life. I would have better been suited to a soldier’s life, like my younger brother Ewan, but as the eldest I didn’t have a choice. So I ran. It was over two hundred years before I got back there and of course none of my family was left, not even any descendants as far as I could tell. I actually bought the property around 1910 and visited. The keep is still standing, or parts of it anyway. The small town that was near it has grown and is actually a small city now. I had 5 brothers to keep the family name going but I couldn’t find a single person who was related.”
“You know, nowadays it can sometimes be easier with genealogy programs. You never know, Josef, there could be some out there. Maybe we should do some searching.”
“Hm, I don’t know, Lani. We’ll see. But right now I think we need to search for some breakfast for you and my child because I hear your stomach rumbling!”
She laughed in acknowledgment of his words. “Yes, I think that is a good idea.”
“Do you have anything here to eat?”
“Yep, I stopped and bought a few things on my way here last night.” She hopped out of the bed and shivered. “Yikes, its cold in here!” She pulled on her sweatpants and tee shirt from the night before along with thick socks and slippers.
Josef laughed, not bothered by the chill at all. “Okay, one fire coming up, Sweetness.”
“Does it ever bother you? The cold I mean? Did you get cold before?”
“No, vampires like the cold, Lani,” he laughed. Again the faraway look swept over his face and he added, “I think I probably got cold. Trust me, the keep was built of stone and mortar, not very good for insulation from the cold.”
While Josef started the fire (still without any clothes on and it made it hard for her to concentrate) she toasted bread and made some hot tea, Red Raspberry Pregnancy tea she’d found at the market. It was supposed to taste good and be good for her pregnancy and she hoped so. She was scheduled to see the dietician at the clinic next week to find out more about what she should be eating and so in the meantime she was trying to be cautious.
As she spread chocolate hazelnut spread over her toast, Josef grabbed his breakfast out of the fridge and sat down to drink it. His eyebrows rose as he watched her spread the goo over her bread and couldn’t help remarking, “What is that? It looks like mud!”
“It’s chocolate hazelnut spread, sort of like, um, peanut butter, without the peanuts.”
“So how would that make it like peanut butter?”
“It, oh, forget it,” she laughed. She peeled her banana and took a bite of it, sighing in contentment.
Bananas certainly made her happy, he noted. She rarely went a day without eating one he’d noticed and the chef at the house knew to always have them on hand. They smelled good he had to admit and wondered briefly what they might taste like. He saw her tongue creep out and lick a bit of the muddy goo off of the side of her mouth and decided that she could keep that.
“Lani, how long do you suppose it will take for you to find a dress so we can get married?”
She stopped chewing as her eyebrows rose sharply. Another lick of her lips and she swallowed the bite and said, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you, me, in front of a priest to get married, Lani.”
“Josef, I’m not marrying you while I’m pregnant!”
“No child of mine is going to be born out of wedlock, Lani!”
She sighed and pushed the not quite empty plate away from her. “Josef, while I don’t want a huge society wedding, I do want a memorable one. Me, the dress of my dreams and you waiting at the end of the aisle for me. A couple of bridesmaids, you know! It takes time to put that together and I’m not walking down that aisle in a maternity wedding gown!”
“Then it’s us and the justice of the peace, but we’re not waiting. It’s important to me, Lani.”
“I get that, Josef, but I’m not giving in on this one.”
“Are you afraid to marry me?”
“No, I’m not but I want to look good in that dress, not waddle down the aisle. I am completely committed to you, Josef but you have to admit, we still need a bit more time to get to know one another.”
“So you can decide that we’re not right for one another?” His insecurities were rising rapidly and he was suddenly very scared he’d lose her by doing something very stupid, like last night’s whopper. “Lani, if you’re afraid after that stupid stunt I did last night, it won’t happen again, I promise.”
She smiled at him and reached for his hand. “No, I’m not, not really. We’re learning how to understand one another. Even as angry as I was last night I knew we’d work it out. We just need to make sure we listen to one another and give the other a chance to respond instead of running away. I’m willing to make a couple of concessions, okay?”
He heard her, and while his part in all of the fiasco stung his conscious a bit he knew she was right. Still, he gritted his teeth at the word concessions because it meant he wasn’t going to get his way.
“Okay, what are they?”
“I’ll give up my place. I practically live with you anyway so there is no reason to keep it. And I’ll set a date for the wedding, today, if you want. Right now even.”
Both ideas made him happy briefly but then the thought of his child being born without him officially on paper as its parent stabbed at his heart. His eyes stung suddenly with tears and he blinked hard to hold them back.
She watched him and saw his pain and suddenly it clicked into place for her, what he was feeling. “Josef, the baby will have your name, on the birth certificate, it will be your child officially and when we get married it won’t matter anymore.”
She was wrong, it would always matter to him but she was trying to ease the situation for him and he finally nodded, swallowing down a lump the size of a baseball. “Alright then. Ten months from today? Will that give you enough time? September 22, 2009?”
“Okay, sounds wonderful.” He didn’t understand, and he was certainly hurting she knew, but he too was trying.
Their future looked wonderful and they had both learned a lesson from it all. The most important thing was that their love and connection got them through it. Love will always find a way.
Friday morning Beth felt at odds. She wanted to go to Buzzwire but she wasn’t quite ready to face everyone yet. She’d have to pretend and convince them all that it had been routine, that her mom had needed a bit of help and she just wasn’t sure she could pull it off yet.
She drove a bit, through the city and finally found what she was looking for, the shelter where Henry worked. She saw the neighborhood was fairly run down and wondered if her car would be safe but at that point she didn’t really care. She parked it and headed into the old brick building and looked around, wondering if Henry was there. It only took her a moment to find him, talking to some people and he smiled when he looked up and saw her standing in the entryway, an unsure look on her face.
“Beth!” he said, wearing a smile as he walked towards her. He offered her his hand and she took it, their eyes meeting in the chilly interior that was dimly lit at best.
“Hi, I uh, I just wanted to see how you are, Henry.”
He sort of shrugged and said, “I just think it’s going to take some time before it fades away, you know? And I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the dark again.”
Beth looked around the dim interior again, a silent question in her eyes.
“We have a pretty limited budget here so we conserve energy every way we can and that includes keeping some of the lights off when not absolutely needed. Would you like to come into my office and have a cup of coffee, Beth? Can you drink coffee?”
“Yes, Henry. Yes, I would.” Beth followed him down a hallway and into a small space not much bigger than a closet. He squeezed in around a file cabinet and settled into a chair behind the desk, indicating a straight-backed wooden chair across from him.
“Tight fit I know, sorry about that.” Next to him on a shelf sat a small coffee maker and he filled two mugs with the steaming black brew and asked if she wanted milk or sugar.
“No, black is perfect, thank you, Henry.”
“So what brings you by, Beth? I know it can’t be avid curiosity.”
“Well, only partly, if I’m honest. I - I just can’t seem to get back into step, you know?”
“I do. Look, I can quote you lots of scripture, Beth, that are meant to be comforting in times like these, but that isn’t what you're here for. Talk to me.”
She nodded, but really wasn’t sure what to say. There was something comforting about seeing him, after all they’d been through, and yet she still didn’t understand her need to be here. “How do we put it behind us, Henry?”
“A good question, and one that Luka asked me just this morning. Would you accept the answer of faith?”
She thought about it for a moment before speaking. “Faith as in what?”
“Faith that we’re okay, that we have the chance to live our lives while others didn’t, horrible as that was. Faith that we can overcome it all, that we can be better people because of our understanding of what happened and who we are. How our strength got us through it all, with a little help from our friends.”
“Didn’t know you were a Beatles fan, Henry,” she told him, smiling for the first time.
He shrugged and said, “Sometimes, Beth you just gotta let it be!”
“You're awful, you know it?”
“I do my best. Time, Beth. It’s going to take time but you have an amazing husband and family. Lean on them a bit and give it a bit of time.”
She wiped a tear away from her face and tried to smile. She wanted to believe him, needed to believe him. “One day at a time, then?”
“One day at a time.” He stood up and so did she. He led her back to the outside door and hugged her briefly before she stepped outside. It was raining lightly and she waved as she made a dash for her car. Henry watched and said a small prayer for her, that she would heal. She’d been so brave and the truth is that more lives would likely have been lost without her. To him she was a genuine heroine and he felt blessed to know her.
Time, they all just needed a bit of time.
To be continued…
“Really, Mick! Why do I have to wear this blindfold? I hate it and it’s messing up my mascara!” Beth said with a laugh.
“So you’re worried about your mascara?”
“Every girl worries about her mascara, Mick. Honestly,” she giggled. She could imagine him rolling his eyes at her statement and giggled a bit more.
“Well, just relax because it will be worth it, promise!”
Actually, she was enjoying the ride. It would be more fun if they were riding the Pacific Coast Highway, the wind brushing against her face and her hair a waving blond curtain as the CD player played some of Mick’s favorite big band sounds.
She’d come to love them actually, although try as hard as she could, she just couldn’t appreciate the jazz he liked. It didn’t make sense to her; there was no anticipation for the next note that would pull it all together because with jazz that rarely happened. Still, he loved it and she did her best to accept it.
Moonlight Serenade was playing right now, the very first song they had danced to after they were married in Las Vegas. What a day that had been, all their family and friends there to celebrate what turned out to be a surprise fairy tale wedding for her, all coordinated by Josef with the help of her mother, Lani and Robbi.
Tonight they weren’t on the highway though. There were stopping at traffic lights and she wondered what people thought of the woman sitting in his car with a blindfold on? She laughed because she knew that it had to startle at least a few people.
The old Mercedes Benz slowed down and they made a turn and before too long they pulled to a stop and he turned the engine off.
“So we’re here? May I take the blindfold off now?”
“Nope! You and your mascara are just going to have to wait a bit longer.”
She heard his car door open and close and before she knew it he was opening hers and taking her hand, guiding her out of the car. Ever the gentleman her Mick was, one of the best things about him.
She loved him so much, this man who was her husband, her mate. They’d been through so much together and their family was strong and secure because of his loving and protective vigilance. No woman could be any luckier than she was. That night at the fountain had been a magical beginning for them. And the magic hadn’t stopped there she noted.
She was soon swept up in his arms and felt his lips move briefly, gently against hers as he chuckled at her surprise. “I can’t let you stumble here so I’ll carry you to our destination.”
The sound of water grew louder with every step he took and she lifted her head, trying to scent the breeze. They were near water, a fountain she was sure judging by the chlorinated scent of it. The breeze was cool and moist against her skin and she smiled, suddenly sure she knew where they were.
“Well, Mr. St. John, we’re at the fountain I believe!”
“You do? Couldn’t fool you! Beth, do you know what day this is?”
“Yes, it’s Friday, September 28th, silly man.”
“And does that date mean anything to you?”
She thought for a moment and then suddenly she knew. It was their anniversary, of sorts. “Five years ago tonight we met, met again, whatever,” she told him in a hushed voice, awed because he’d remembered. Her lips found his and kissed him deeply, longing and desire filling her with an urge to leave this place, no matter how wonderful the memories were. “Mick, take me home. I want to make love to you, NOW!”
In the distance she thought she heard a rustle or twitter of words, she wasn’t sure which and then Mick was chuckling again. “Not the time, baby.” He sat her down on the pavement and whispered, “Beth, take your blindfold off now.”
Off it came and she blinked at the sudden brightness of the lights around them. Standing carefully downwind of her were all their family and friends and tears sprang to her eyes at the joy of sharing this precious moment with them.
“Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed as everyone came forward to hug her. Her parents, Logan and Audrey, Josef and Lani, Robbi and Kev, Ben and Jackie, Luka, Colleen, Cami and Carl, Max and Mark, Guillermo and Glenda, Heroku and Rose and a few of the other 13, Brody, Ishaq, Eochiadh and Shinji. Steve was taking video of the moment with some of the others from Buzzwire, catching every breathless moment. Catherine and Maeve stood off to the side, near Rodney and Paula. The children were all that were missing and she later found out they were at Josef's, being watched over by Ryan and Franklin.
Eight children had been born to them all during the last 5 years, two more were one the way and one of them due any day now from the looks of Lani’s burgeoning belly. And who knew, in two days another full moon would grace them with her fruitful glow and maybe there’d be another St. John child soon. The two sets of twins and 4 other children had added the enchanting sound of childhood laughter to this group who were gathered here. Six more people had joined the ‘tribe’ with more likely to in the future.
Life was magical, life was precious, no matter what form it took. Looking at all the people who shared her world she remembered the words she had told Mick once. “Family isn’t only about blood.”
That was truer now than ever before. These people, who gathered in Moonlight were a family. They shared their lives, their love, their pain and they all walked the shimmering moonlit path together. It was clear to her she knew...
There is magic in Moonlight.
Thank you so much Trevor Munson for giving us Moonlight and thank you to all my faithful readers and commentators who make it all worthwhile.
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