Dear Diary, when I recently mentioned to my brother that Theo Fournier was staying with us because he had no parents, he decided to get to know the little fellow. Well, he won’t be little for much longer as he’s growing by leaps and bounds and will be a teen before we know it.
Anyway, Leo Jr. became quite enchanted by Theo and began taking the boy everywhere with him. They went fishing, worked Leo’s horses together and Leo even taught Theo how to ride. I just now only realized their names rhyme. What a funny coincidence.
Wilda didn’t seem to mind the attention Leo was giving the boy, but she kept her distance, too. The real trouble began one night at our house when the couple came to dinner. Leo was clearly taken by the child and even read him a story and tucked him in at bedtime.
Matthieu and I were clearing the table and washing up the dishes when we heard the two arguing in the living room.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Leo! You know this will never work.”
“But it could if you would just have an open mind.”
“So now I’m closed minded because I want a baby? This boy is almost a teenager! What good would we be to him at this stage in his life?”
Matthieu and I exchanged timid glances. Should we interrupt them? Ask them to go home? After all, it wouldn’t do to have Theo overhear any of this. I didn’t know if he could hear them or not.
As if reading my mind, Matthieu stepped into the room and said, “You’re getting a little loud, guys.”
Leo’s face flushed and he apologized. Within minutes, they’d made their departure.
As Matt washed and I dried, we discussed the situation. In the end, we decided we only wanted what was best for everyone, but especially for Theo since he was still a child and so taken with Leo.
Over the next few weeks, I began to suspect that Theo knew what was up because he began to trail behind Wilda, following her everywhere she went. At first, she couldn’t hide her annoyance and eventually turned to face him.
This was all told to me second… or third hand, actually, by my brother.
“Why do you insist on following me?”
“Because I like you!” the boy said brightly, with a wide smile.
Even in her irritation, this brought a small smile to Wilda’s face. “But I’ve been nothing but rude to you. Why would you ever like me?”
“Because we’re just the same,” Theo declared.
“And how do you figure that?”
“We’re both of us lonely. I’m not a baby, that’s true. But you need a child and I need a momma. Mrs. Larochette is real nice and I love her, but she didn’t even notice at first that I was there. They’ve got loads of kids, but you don’t have any so I think we need each other.”
This, of course, even pulled at Wilda’s stubborn heart. (Leo’s words, not mine! Personally, I know what it’s like to have your heart set on something only to find out you can never have it. But this isn’t about me.)
All at once, she was overcome with the opportunity that was right in front of her. As she embraced him, she said, “If you think you could stand me, I would love for you to be a part of our family.”
And a handsome family they are.
Perhaps their answer wasn’t the one they imagined it would be. I’m sure Theo would have loved to have permanent parents years before now, and I know Wilda and Leo would have been thrilled to have a baby instead of a child. But, it was an answer just the same and I’m so glad they grabbed onto it.
Several months later, it became clear that Matthieu would have to travel to the mainland to do some business. We decided it would be the perfect time to take the children there for the first time.
The children were beside themselves with excitement as we boarded the ferry. I was glad for the boat ride because it gave me a little extra time to review the rules with them.
“Stay together, don’t wander off, be respectful,” I said for the millionth time.
” – and listen to Charles and Laurent,” Carrie finished for me.
“Yes.” My brow was so furrowed on our way there that I’m certain I’ll have premature wrinkling in that spot.
“Relax,” Matthieu said easily, “just have fun.”
“I just don’t want to lose anyone.”
“It will be fine,” he assured me. Then he turned to Charles and Laurent and gave them more instructions about keeping the group together. And here, I thought he wasn’t worried!
While Matthieu attended to his business, I took the children to the public library. As soon as Susan saw all the books, her eyes lit up. Clearly, she and Laurent were in their element.
I gave the children instructions to keep their voices low and allowed them to explore the second floor at will since the books up there were more along their age groups. Everyone was able to find something to read except for Elisabeth.
“What’s wrong, Lissie?”
With a troubled expression, she turned toward Laurent to complain. “I don’t like to read.”
He knew this about her already, but he couldn’t really identify with her on this point. “Well, maybe you just never found the right book for you. What do you like? Sword fights? Princesses? Pirates?”
Wrinkling her nose, she shook her head. “No. Yuck.”
“Hmmm….” he said, then suddenly, he snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it!”
“Yep.” He turned toward the shelves, running his finger along the titles until he came to a particular one. “I think this is the one.” Pulling it out, he handed it to her.
“What’s it about?”
“It’s a ghost story, but it’s funny sometimes, too. It’s about a girl named Blossom Culp and her friend Alexander Armsworth. She always gets into trouble and one day, she realizes she can see ghosts. It’s not too scary and I think you’ll like it.”
With a small smile curling the corners of her mouth, she looked the book over then said, “Thank you, Laurent!”
“Anytime, kiddo,” he said. Finally, it was his turn to find something to read.
Carrie, Susan and Marty were all engrossed in books. It was good to see them enjoying something that would enrich their lives.
As I turned to look out the window, Charles joined me.
After watching me for a few minutes, he said, “What’re you doing, Momma?”
“Oh, just watching all of the people down below and how they bustle here and there, doing important things.”
“Do you miss living in town?” he asked. All the children knew I wasn’t originally from Winchester.
“Sometimes…. but not very often. I really love my life on the island.” Then I smiled softly at my handsome son. “With all of you. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.”
Walking through the second floor, I found Lissie in a quiet cubby reading her book. She even laughed out loud a few times.
Later that afternoon, we met Matthieu at the theater. I was so excited because my dad had started working with Uncle Josh again and they had scored this one. I must’ve told the children a hundred times that their grandpa had written the music.
“What’s the movie called again?” Carrie asked.
“The Silvery Sword,” all the other children groaned because she’d asked more than a few times.
“Susan!” I exclaimed. “Where are your shoes?”
“I took them off, Momma.”
“I can see that. Put them back on, please. I told you, no going barefoot today.”
“All right,” she sighed.
Looking them all over briefly, I nodded. “All right, now, when we get in there, sit down in an orderly fashion, and remember that if you speak during the movie, other people will become annoyed. So, don’t do that.”
They all agreed and filed in with minimal noise. Matthieu took my hand and squeezed it.
“I can’t wait to hear your dad’s music.”
I had to admit that this was a pretty proud moment.
Three weeks later, it was time to celebrate Theo and Marty’s birthdays. Alice and I baked two cakes and Wilda brought party favors and homemade ice cream.
As we hooted and hollered like crazy people, Theo took a deep breath and blew his candles out in one try.
“Yay!” we all exclaimed, clapping.
I was amazed at what a handsome teen Theo was with his crystal blue eyes and brown hair.
Wilda began to cut the cake and I nodded at Marty. “It’s your turn now.”
Slowly, she moved to the other end of the table where her cake was and after a moment, closed her eyes tightly to make a wish.
“Wish for something good, honey,” Matthieu grinned.
As before when it was Theo’s turn, we went nuts with the party favors as she blew the candles out.
I held my breath as she looked up from the cake. She was even more pretty than I’d imagined she would be. Yet, she looked a little disappointed as she looked down at her body.
Was she upset because she had a bustline, perhaps? Or was she upset that she wasn’t as curvy as she thought she would be? I couldn’t tell, but I could remember how awkward I’d felt at my teen birthday. All of my feelings were a jumble and I’d acted horribly.
Oh, help me with this one, I silently said to the sky.
Abruptly, she turned and went out to the back porch, staring out at the night. I was tempted to follow her, however, I stopped myself when I saw Theo go outside and stand next to her.
Maybe, now that they were older, they had things to discuss.
But only a minute or two later, he left the porch and walked off into the night.
Maybe Marty needed me. I took that moment to go to her. She looked sad and uncertain.
“Marty, what is it?”
“I don’t understand it.” She bit her lower lip, then continued, “I told Theo about the new soccer ball you got me for my birthday but all he said was, ‘that’s nice.’ So, I asked him if he wanted to kick it around with me and he said he was going to Selina Roche’s house. Then he just left.”
“Selina Roche?” I asked aloud. “Isn’t she the girl that had a birthday a few weeks ago?”
“Yes,” Marty said, her face crestfallen. “And she couldn’t score a goal if her life depended on it.”
“No, she sure couldn’t,” I agreed. “I’ve seen her play.”
“Why would he go to her house on his birthday instead of being here at the party?”
“Maybe she has a gift for him?”
She shrugged and kicked at the floor boards.
Then, it all occurred to me and made me angry at the same time. Boys. “Honey, has he paid any attention to her before?”
“Yeah, but he always said I was his best friend.”
“Selina is what you might call a girly-girl,” I began.
“For sure,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“And some boys like that.”
All of a sudden, her eyes grew big and her cheeks flooded with crimson. “You mean he likes her?”
Again, she looked down at her own body. “I’m so ugly and I know I act like a boy sometimes. But I thought someday he’d like me like that.” Biting her fingernail, she mumbled, “Maybe if I started wearing dresses?”
Pulling her into my arms, I took a deep breath of her hair which smelled like the wind. “You are not ugly. And don’t ever change yourself for any boy. I mean it. You are exactly the person you are supposed to be and a boy should like you for who you truly are or he isn’t worth giving a second thought to. Promise me.”
With tears in her eyes, she said, “I promise, Momma.”
Author’s Note: The book that Laurent recommended to Elisabeth is a favorite from my childhood called “Ghosts I Have Been” by Richard Peck. It’s the second in a series, the first book being, “The Ghost Belonged to Me.” I put links to the books in their titles. They are for younger readers, but worth the time regardless.
The other thing I want to bring to your attention is the lovely painting that Dax did of Blue and how it is hanging on the wall in the living room. You can see it in the pics where Leo Jr. and Wilda are arguing in the living room. I have that lovely painting on my wall thanks to Jowita (neverdoitagain) who made it for me. It’s been there all along, but I never had a chance to feature it until now. Thank you, Jowita!