Before we shook off the covers and stood up, Weasel looked at me and said sleepily, "I had a weird dream. The river spoke to me and she said how nice it was to have us home." Then Weasel yawned and stretched.
I sat up and smiled softly, still enjoying the comfort of the blanket, and replied, "That was very kind of her. Did she tell you who she is?"
Weasel sat up too, and began to slide out from under the blanket, answering, "She said her name is Zoe. And she said she hoped we'd come visit her. I know Zoe is the River that runs behind our sacred garden."
Then Weasel and I tossed the blanket aside and stood upon the Persian rug, now fully awake. "She is indeed the beautiful River that runs behind our sacred garden," I said, and continued, "and I learned not so long ago that she is also my sister...which means she's your beautiful aunt."
That caught Weasel's attention right away, as he was already off sifting through a stack of records next to the stereo system, and he turned to look at me, asking "So what you're saying is that Edwin the Bee is my grandpa?"
I laughed heartily, and placed my hand upon his shoulder, so as to start guiding us toward the garden gate, where we would surely find Butterfly and the others. "Yep, Edwin is your mostly crabby Grandpa, though I'm not sure if He'd like you calling Him that or not. Since you're a cute kid, He'd probably be okay with it. Maybe. I don't know. I know he doesn't like me to call him Dad," and I laughed again and Weasel smiled, and we made our way to the garden gate.
As I had suspected, the others were all gathered near the garden gate. Cousin Eddie was wearing a chef's hat and an apron (thankfully, NOT made out of beer cans), and was preoccupied at the oven (which WAS thankfully made out of beer cans). Edwin the Bee was upon His lotus flower, as would always be expected, and His eyes were closed tightly. Butterfly and my lovely gatekeeper were seated comfortably next to one another upon Achilles' Last Stand, and my lovely gatekeeper was apparently sharing some sort of wisdom with her, by way of her now famous laptop--teaching Butterfly about digital art, I had presumed. Butterfly was staring intently at Raven's laptop, and munching on what looked to me like a khaki-colored hockey puck.
Butterfly heard mine and Weasel's footsteps well before we could greet anyone, and she looked up and said, "Oh, hi Dad. Guess what? Cousin Eddie made us honey cakes, and they're super yummy. You should have one.' Then Butterfly took another bite, looked at Weasel, and said, "Cousin Eddie even showed me how to make them." Then Butterfly took another bite and looked at me again, continuing, "And guess what else, dad? Raven was showing me how she made a picture of Jimmy Page. And Jimi Hendrix. It's really cool. And she even made a picture of you, dad. You should see it."
Weasel wandered over to Cousin Eddie's beer can oven and stood next to him, and watched in wonder. I laughed, and told Butterfly, "Yes, Raven has made a few very cool pictures of me! She is very gifted." I walked up behind Butterfly and Raven, and Achilles' Last Stand, and put my hands on their respective shoulders, looking at the laptop screen. "Good morning, O loveliest of lovely gatekeepers," I said softly.
Raven continued plucking away on her laptop, losing not even a bit of focus, but did respond, "Good morning, Sleepyhead senior. And yes, I've already notified Madeleine that Captain Leo and your children arrived last night, so she knows not to expect you in the office for at least the next few days."
I smiled, and spoke to Raven, "And how do you know I wasn't actually planning on going in to work? The children are safe and well-provided for here." I noticed Weasel and Cousin Eddie engaged in some sort of deep conversation regarding the beer can oven. I imagined Weasel was trying to explain the science behind the beer can oven, attempting to convince himself it could really work.
That actually DID distract my lovely gatekeeper, and I believe she coughed up some honey cake crumbs when she turned to face me and laughed so hard and loud, "Now THAT's rich! You don't even go to work when your kids AREN'T here!" Butterfly looked at me and nodded, as if she were Raven's exclamation point.
Weasel brought me a warm and fresh honey cake, and stood by my side as I replied to my lovely gatekeeper, "Yeah, but that was before Madeleine and I had our thing. It's different now." Now that last statement of mine, of course, caught my kids off guard. Their eyes opened wider and they stared into my soul.
Never one to beat around the bush, Butterfly asked bluntly, "Your're dating your boss, dad?!!"
I began to respond, "Well no...I mean not really. But see, the other day--"
Then Weasel interrupted, and told Butterfly, "Geez, Butterfly, just because dad gets along with his boss doesn't mean they're dating."
Then my lovely gatekeeper, I'm sure trying to be helpful in some way or another, added, "Well, your dad does really like her." Then Raven acted as if she had said nothing, and went back to pecking away on her laptop.
I looked over at Edwin's lotus flower as I searched for the right words to say, and I do believe I caught Him snickering, though His eyes remained shut. And just then, so miraculously timed, Captain Leo appeared from the trees and shouted, "Good morning all!" He was carrying a clipboard and seemed to be heading over to speak with Cousin Eddie...but he stopped off and licked my lovely gatekeeper a few times on the way.
Butterfly hopped down off of Achilles' Last Stand and went to join Captain Leo and Cousin Eddie, who were now discussing the parts that would be needed to repair the rocket. I could feel that Weasel wanted more explanation regarding myself and my boss, Madeleine, and I was about to fill him in on recent events, when suddenly Mitzy the arctic fox showed up just outside the garden gate. Mitzy was propping up a dolly full of unmarked boxes.
Weasel and I approached Mitzy, and we all exchanged pleasantries. Mitzy seemed particularly happy to see that my children were here in my sacred garden with me, but he didn't mention it. Instead, he informed me the freezer had already been delivered to the Record Emporium, and assured me that Ptolemy the beautiful boxer was settling in just fine there. The dolly of unmarked boxes, he explained, were supplies for making ice cream, as Ptolemy himself had requested. Before I could thank Mitzy, Cousin Eddie, Captain Leo (and his clipboard), and Butterfly joined us at the garden gate, and a discussion about necessary rocket parts began to dominate the conversation. Butterfly and Weasel bickered quietly for a moment and pointed at Mitzy's unmarked boxes, then Butterfly flitted off and rejoined Raven upon Achilles' Last Stand.
I stood silently, looking round my lovely family, even as Butterfly and Weasel continued their gentle bickering from afar, and Mitzy assured Captain Leo and Cousin Eddie he'd be able to get hold of the necessary rocket parts. I am always grateful, but this was one of those moments where I was even more than grateful. Not a moment I would soon forget. It was comfort and peace in the midst of a multitude of business, and not a trace of anxiety could be felt. Beautiful almost chaos.
We all waved and wished Mitzy well, as he saluted, and turned his dolly toward the Record Emporium. Then we all huddled near the beer can oven and enjoyed another honey cake. Cousin Eddie took off his chef's hat and apron, suggested Raven and Captain Leo might enjoy a day alone together, and even offered to fulfill Raven's gatekeeping duties for the day. Raven seemed a bit hesitant, but ultimately acquiesced, once the rest of us decided it would be perfectly lovely if her and Captain Leo took a pleasant stroll to Lemmington. Butterfly, of course, remembered there was a fabulous market square in Lemmington, and blurted out, "Ooh, I wanna go!" I explained to Butterfly, of course, that it's not polite to invite yourself to other people's events, and, further, that Raven and Captain Leo hadn't seen each other in quite some time, so that it would be nice that they have their time alone together.
"Nonsense!" shouted my lovely gatekeeper, as she flew back over to Achilles' Last Stand and powered down her laptop. Then Raven smiled at Butterfly, and told her, "We are family, lovely Butterfly. Captain Leo and I would be honored if you'd come along with us to Lemmington."
Butterfly let out a very short "Yay!" and asked me for some acorns, just in case she might find something cool to buy in the market square, you know. I gave her both acorns, and pumpernickel, because one just never knows which currency they're wanting these days.
Shortly thereafter, my lovely daughter Butterfly, my lovely gatekeeper Raven, and starmapper extraordinaire Captain Leo, were off to Lemmington for the day. Weasel and I looked at each other and smiled. Cousin Eddie took his seat upon Achilles' Last Stand, and considered powering up Raven's laptop...then decided against it, and cracked open a beer instead. As Butterfly, Raven, and Captain Leo were about to exit our sacred garden gate, Edwin the Bee opened His eyes, and smiled, and blessed them.
*To be continued in Chapter 17b: Guys & Dolls & Fantabulous Paws Part II.*
Tonight I am more grateful than usual, though I am always grateful. True family is a beautiful thing. I love you. XX