Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chapter 5, Betrothed

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

Being reunited with my mother was a dream come true. Over the months, I imagined how it might be, but never did I imagine it coming about through a handsome man who made things happen to my heart every time he was near. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of how it happened.

"If I am dreaming, I do not wish to awaken," I said, hugging my mother tight.

"Me too, darling, but it's not a dream. I'm here and I'll never be far from you from here on out. It fills my heart with such joy to see that you are well," Mother said.

"I am blessed," I said, pulling away slightly to just look upon her. "Living without you these past months was difficult, but I can scarcely imagine the greater pain you must have felt. You searched for centuries for me to no avail until now. Our separation lasted infinitely longer for you than for me, Mother. I am fortunate."

"No matter," said Mother, framing my face with her slender hands. "We are together now, and we can thank Robin for that."

Robin smiled softly at me as I turned my gaze toward him. "I am forever beholden to thee," I said, then gave him a curtsy.

"You owe me nothing, Alina. I was all to happy to help," Robin said.

The remainder of the evening passed as though in a dream. Mother and I had so much to discuss. I thought it would take another century just to catch up. Sandi was so gracious about letting us do some of that in her home. I offered to serve dessert and coffee, but Sandi and Robin said my work was done and that I should just relax. Och, times have changed, for this courtesy would not have been extended to someone of my class by someone of Robin and Sandi's ilk during my time.

My mother visited often over the next few weeks, and I learned much. She was ever always the wise teacher, and I soaked up the knowledge quickly. I was so pleased with myself the day I learned to dematerialize and materialize in another place at will. This ability made it much easier for me to visit my mother in Aurora Skies so she did not always need to come to me.

The day arrived when I was to meet Lenora Landgraab and her husband, Tyrone. I was happy for my mother that she had such a close relationship with Lenora during my absence. "She is so beautiful!" I said to Mother when she showed me photographs of Lenora. Tyrone was a very handsome man, and I loved how he stood so protectively and courageously next to Lenora.

I smiled rather tentatively as I escorted them inside my small house upon their arrival. Tyrone was even more handsome in person, and Lenora was so lovely. These were people of wealth, and I felt rather dowdy in my dress and my hair tied back and covered. I did not wish to put on airs or pretend to be something I was not, but I was still plenty unnerved. I need not have worried though. Tyrone gave me a warm smile and a courtly bow. Then, he kissed my hand and said what a pleasure it was to meet me.

I was taken aback for a moment but very pleased when Lenora immediately wrapped me in a warm, sisterly hug. "Tis such a joyous occasion to finally meet ye, Alina! Och, how I hoped Mathilda would find ye. Ye are even more beautiful than she described."

I found myself embracing her in return and loving her soft, lilting Irish tones. I could see why my mother loved her so much. Lenora was warmth and compassion itself, and I was immediately put at ease in her presence.

"I am so elated to finally meet you...both of you. Mother has spoken so highly of you both. Er...may I offer you some refreshment?"

We chatted amiably over cake and coffee. I smiled quite soppily at seeing how Lenora and Tyrone interacted with each other. They truly were in love, and it was plain to see how protective he was of her. She did not seem to mind, which puzzled me. Over the months I dwelt in this time, women became vexed, even very angry if a man so much as opened a door for her. In my time, ladies were protected and were expected to keep the home and raise the children. Women were treated like a possession many times. If she was truly fortunate, she was treasured and listened to by her husband.

When I voiced my puzzlement to Lenora and Tyrone, they looked at each other and chuckled. "Och! How strange and unsettling this time must seem to ye, Alina. I am all for women being respected and heard, but I enjoy being treated like a lady." She smiled at her husband. "Tyrone never belittles me for being a woman, nor does he treat me like an inferior person. He respects and loves me, and yes, he is very protective of me which I don't mind at all. Tis just the way of it with us."

"Nobody could ever hold a candle to my Lenora," Tyrone said, then leaned down to kiss her tenderly. I smiled rather wistfully, wondering if I would ever be loved that way.

We had a lovely visit which came to an end much too quickly. We promised to visit one another often, and I was given warm departing hugs by both Lenora and Tyrone. I had always wanted a sister and now I had one. Not to mention, I felt I had a great friend in Tyrone, who was so easy to converse with.

My life was never the same after that. Mother and Lenora phoned almost every day, and we visited as often as we could. Over the next few months, the friendship between Robin and me blossomed. He came to my house almost every night after his workday was done. We talked about anything and everything over dinner and then would read together on the sofa. He did not seem to mind that I owned no television. I reckon I am rather odd in that way, as television frightens me for some strange reason. I am intimidated quite frequently by what people in this time call electronics. I am content with my cell phone and a little stereo to listen to music on.

Sometimes Robin and I talked late into the night. I felt I could tell him anything, and he was always such a kind and thoughtful listener. I was falling in love with him but never imagined he would ever feel the same for me. We came from two different worlds, and my class was so very beneath that of his wealthy status. I knew he would drift from me someday and marry, and och, how that would hurt my heart! I cherished each day I possessed his friendship and would have to be content with that.

One night, however, he surprised me. "Alina, would you have dinner with me tonight?"

"Och, Robin! Of course. I have dinner with you every night you are here," I said. "Forgive me for paying such little attention to the time. I shall serve something right away."

I turned to go to the kitchen, but Robin took my elbow to stop me. "That's not what I mean, Alina. Your cooking is wonderful. It's the best, in fact, but I want to take you out to dinner tonight. I want us to have a date. That is, I want to court you if you are agreeable, Alina."

I goggled at him, knowing it was unseemly of me to have my mouth hanging wide open. His words shocked me speechless for a moment. I finally slapped myself to attention and blinked as I recovered somewhat. " want to But...but why?"

Robin folded me into his arms and I could not bring myself to pull away. It felt right, and I longed to stay there forever. "Yes, I want to court you, Alina. As to why...well, there are at least a hundred reasons. You're beautiful and smart. You're warm and caring...and you're beautiful. You look at the world with such wonder and that adds so much to your inner beauty. I have very, very strong feelings for you, Alina, and I think we should explore that. I believe you feel the same. Am I right?"

I buried my face against his shoulder, basking in the feel of his arms around me. "I do. Och, Robin, I do! You said such lovely things to me just now that it makes mine eyes want to weep. I am just bewildered as to why someone of your class should feel such things for someone such as me. It would be unseemly for us to pursue a courtship knowing this."

Robin's lips were on mine the next instant. I had never received such a sweet kiss in all my years. "Things aren't done like that anymore, Alina. During this time...well, in this part of the world, class systems don't exist. People are allowed to court who they wish and are not governed by arranged marriages, dowries, or clans needing to form an alliance to one another by marriage." His hands squeezed my shoulders gently, and he grinned into my eyes. "Technically, if we're talking classes, I would actually be far beneath you. After all, your mother is in a class all her own. It is I who should be on bended knee and groveling before her."

A great explosion of laughter came from me. "Sometimes I forget how far my mother has come. Even so, my mother's accomplishments are hers and I have no part in that. I am still just a bumbling girl who still struggles with basic concepts of this time."

"You are far from a bumbling girl, Alina, that I promise you," Robin said, brushing his fingers lightly over my cheek. "Things will come more naturally to you over time. I'll help all I can with that. I want you in my life, Alina. Will you come to dinner with me tonight and be agreeable to allowing me to court you?"

"Aye, Robin," I said, smiling eagerly and nodding. "Och, aye, with all my heart."

Robin and I grew closer day by day. As time went on, I knew I was hopelessly and irrevocably in love with him. He opened my world to things I never thought possible. He was my sunrise and sunset. He became such a vital fixture to my world that I could ne'er imagine my existence without his gentle presence. We spent most evenings together. Robin often took me to dinner and a movie. Sometimes we went to a concert or to the symphony. He accompanied me on visits to my mother or Lenora and Tyrone and then took me along to visit his parents and other family members. Wherever I was, there Robin often was. My life was so filled with joy and blessings and I was never lonely.

Robin seemed quite nervous one night when he came over. It puzzled me because he was always so self-assured and confident. "Robin, is something amiss?" I asked him.

" Everything is fine, Alina," he said, giving me a wobbly smile.

My inside grew cold as a horrible thought came to me. "You would tell me if you wished to end our courtship, would you not?" I asked, aghast at how my voice shook with the words.

"Oh, Alina!" Robin said, sounding completely bewildered. He pulled me into his embrace and leaned his cheek atop my head. "Never has it occurred to me to ever want to end our courtship. That is the farthest thing from my mind, I swear. In fact, it's just the opposite and I'm..." He blew out a long breath. "I want to say just the right words to tell you how I feel but everything is just so...inadequate."

"Lenora always says to speak straight from the heart," I said.

Robin chuckled and kissed the top of my head. "That's good advice. Alina..." He cleared his throat. "Dammit! I wanted this to come at just the right moment, but I...I think I'd better do it now."

I gasped when he went down on one knee. Robin reached in his pocket and brought out a jewel box. "Alina, from the first moment I saw you, I knew there was something special about you. It wasn't the fact that you were from another time and place although that was truly fascinating to me. Your warmth, curiosity, and beauty intrigued me. Since I met you, my life has never been the same. I'm in love with you, Alina Blankenship, but more importantly, I LOVE you. You brought color and life to my world. You gave me a reason to live and hope for a wonderful future. Alina, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"

Tears spilled down my cheeks and I wept unashamedly. "Och, Robin! I...I...och!"

Robin smiled a little lopsidedly, his gaze looking at me with such tenderness and hope. "Well?" he prodded gently.

"Och! I...Och, aye, Robin! I will marry thee," I said through bouts of weeping.

Robin pulled me into his arms and kissed me with such passion and love that my knees gave way. He held me tightly against his chest and then wiped my tears. "I can't express enough how happy you just made me, Alina mine."

"My heart soars to the heavens at hearing such words, Robin. I never dreamt you would feel this way about the likes of me."

Robin brushed his fingers along my cheek. "I love the likes of you with all my heart, Alina, my love."

"Och, Robin, I love you so!" I said, tightening my arms about him.

We announced our betrothal at a massive family dinner the next night. Lenora insisted on cooking. When I offered to help her, she just laughed and said that no way was the guest of honor setting foot near the kitchen. "This dinner is for you and Robin. This means you just sit back and relax and let us handle things," she said, a big, joyous grin lighting up her face.

Our relatives were ecstatic and I was never so happy in all my life. Robin and I wanted a traditional wedding, and we asked Lenora and Tyrone to stand up with us. .Wedding plans were in full gallop and there was never a happier bride-to-be than me.
Author's Note - Alina is still at level 5 (Line Cook) in the Culinary Career. She is now at level 9 of the cooking skill.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Chapter 4, Reunited

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

The next day was a whirlwind of shopping for ingredients, consulting my recipes, and putting the final plans together for Mrs. McIntyre's gourmet dinner. As I would be doing much of the preparatory work in my own kitchen, I called upon some magic to enchant my stove. I wanted this dinner to be perfect. Robin was counting on it, and he'd given so much to me already with his friendship. I did not want to disappoint him or his mother, so I called upon every resource I could.

I hummed to myself as I cooked, losing myself as I often did when preparing food. I was in my natural element. Everything was flowing nicely. I was so lost in my work that I was startled when my phone buzzed in my pocket. When I glanced at the screen, I smiled to see a message from Robin.

Robin: How's it going, my time traveling friend?
Alina: All is well, Constable. I am thinking your mother will be pleased with dinner this night. Are you well?
Robin: Very well, thanks. It's been a little rough with all the car accidents happening. I wish people would be more careful when driving. These are dangerous weather conditions.
Alina: I would be sore afraid to drive in such conditions, not that I know of driving these strange beasts you call cars.
Robin: I'll teach you once this snow lets up and melts.
Alina: I would like that very much.
Robin: Good. Say, Alina, since this weather is so crappy, how about if I pick you up and help you bring the stuff for dinner tonight? I don't think you should take a cab.
Alina: Och, Robin! It is tempting, but it would not be right for you to fetch me for a dinner you are paying me to prepare.
Robin: It wouldn't be right for you to be stranded in a cab in the middle of a snowdrift while my mother waits for her dinner. My mother can be quite the beast when she's hungry. :)
Alina: Well then, we cannot let your mother starve. I shall have everything ready by half past five and can finish everything within half an hour in your kitchen.
Robin: I'll pick you up at five fifteen then in case you get done a little early. See you then, Time Traveler.

I grinned giddily as I slipped the device back into my pocket. I could not believe my good fortune to have Robin enter my life as he did. He was such a handsome man with a good, warm heart and kind nature. It is astonishing to me that he is unmarried, for I reckoned that many a fine lady would fancy him.

The thought of Robin being married or betrothed to anyone brought a heaviness to my heart that I could not explain. Of course Robin would marry one day. His wife would be a beautiful, fine lady who would give him many babes to love. The heaviness in my heart grew, for I knew it would not be me who would marry Robin. I was too plain and ungifted for the likes of him. Robin would want a lady of the court on his arm, not a bumbling, misplaced girl or a servant he employed to prepare dinner for his much cherished mother.

He did call you beautiful, Blankenship. Have you forgotten? I frowned at hearing the thought enter my head. Robin was only being kind. We would share friendship and nothing more.

I put those thoughts to rest as I returned to my food preparation. Futile thoughts were just that; futile. There was no purpose in giving in to musings of my being married to Robin one day, for it would never happen.

Time passed quickly, and it was five fifteen before I realized it. My doorbell rang, signaling Robin's arrival. "Wow! It smells great in here!" he said as he walked into the kitchen and kissed my cheek.

I smiled and felt warm color arise to my cheeks. It seemed I always blushed when Robin complimented me. "Thank you kindly. I do hope you and your mother will be well pleased."

"If it tastes as good as it smells, I'd say you're a miracle worker," Robin said.

"You are much too kind, but I would not be averse to more such kind words." I smiled shyly and felt my cheeks color again. Och! I could not believe I had said something so brazen.

Robin smiled at me, his twinkling eyes making my pulse accelerate. "Why Ms. Blankenship, I do believe you are wooing me."

I gulped and backed away. "Och...nay. I was...oh, please forgive"

Robin took my hands and pulled me closer, his warm smile widening. "Hey, it's okay if you are. I don't believe I have ever been wooed by such a beautiful woman."

I looked down at our joined hands, blushing yet again. "I am not beautiful, but I be thanking you for such sweet words. 'Tis my mother who is beautiful and much more poised than I."

"You are beautiful, Alina. One thing you'll figure out about me is that I say what I mean and mean what I say. I find you very beautiful and enchanting. Plus, ,you can cook circles around any of those audacious chefs with big egos who flaunt themselves on TV. You're beautiful, enchanting, and very gifted. I'm sure your mother would be very proud of you."

"Th-thank you kindly," I said, unable to think of anything else to say. Tears stung my eyes then as my mind formed an image of my mother.

I tried to turn away to hide my emotions from Robin, but he pulled me into his arms. "Hey, what is it? Why the tears, Alina?"

I found I could not hold the words back. "My mother. I long for her with such intensity that my heart cries out in pain." I wept unashamedly against Robin's shoulder, feeling his soothing hand rub my back.

"I'm sorry, Alina. I'm sure it had to be hard leaving your time knowing your mother would be hundreds of years dead," Robin said softly.

"Och! No. I do not believe she is dead. You see, she..." I explained about my mother being an immortal, thinking that this time Robin would think me truly addled.

Robin pulled away and studied me intently. Mounting dread filled my soul as his eyes narrowed in what looked to be deep thought. "Alina, what is your mother's name?" he asked me.

"M-Mathilda. Mathilda Blankenship is her name," I said.

Robin took me by the shoulders, his eyes alight with something I could not read. "Why didn't I put it together sooner? I'd been meaning to ask you if you were related to Mathilda but never got around to it. Blankenship is not really a common last name although it's been around a while. Alina...I know your mother very well."

I felt a rise of euphoria enter my chest, but it died as quickly as it came. "I am afraid she might not be the one. You see, there are hundreds, mayhap thousands of parallel worlds, alternate universes as my mother calls them. Mayhap a counterpart of my mother is on this world somewhere. If she were truly my mother, she would have found me before now. I am afraid this Mathilda you say you know would have no recollection of me." More tears fell down my cheeks as I spoke these words.

Robin, however, was unfazed. "I'm sure we could find out easily. Even if the Mathilda I know isn't your mother, I'm sure she could locate your mother in a heartbeat. Mathilda is the most powerful witch I know, perhaps the most powerful in the universe. It won't hurt to try, right?"

"Aye. I would like to try. I would like to know one way or another. Dost thou knowest where she is?" I asked, slipping into the pattern of speech known in my time. That always seemed to happen when I was feeling intense emotions.

"She lives in Aurora Skies where most of my family are," Robin said.

"I attempted to find her there but could not. The people I spoke to over the telephone were of no help. Directory Assistance was not very...assisting."

Robin's arms were still about me as his deep laughter filled the room. "Directory Assistance! Oh, Alina, the Internet is where it's at now. Well, more about that later. I know exactly how to get in touch with her." He pulled away to fetch his phone.

I could hardly breathe as Robin engaged the speaker so I could hear too. However, the phone rang and rang until a voicemail greeting picked up. My breath caught on a sob as I heard the beloved familiar voice of my mother. "This is Mahilda. I'm unable to take your call at this time, so please leave a detailed message and I'll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you and have a blessed day."

"Mother!" I breathed through a constricted throat when the message beep signaled.

"Hey, Mathilda. It's Robin here. Would you give me a buzz as soon as you can? I have someone here who is very anxious to speak with you." He ended the call and grinned at me. I, however, was shaking and sobbing uncontrollably. Once again, he pulled me into his arms. "It's okay. It's okay, Alina. Go ahead and cry it out. I have a very, very good feeling about this."

"But...but...dinner," I sobbed.

"It'll keep a while. This is important to you, which means it's important to me," said Robin.

I gave in to the pent-up emotions I had been carrying around so long. I had kept them inside for such a long time and did not realize how much they had built up over time. I wept for everything I had lost; my home, my time, my father, my second father and baby brother, but most of all for my mother.

When the torrent of weeping ceased, Robin continued to hold me. The weeping had given way to soft sniffing and abdominal spasms that people in this time called hiccups. Robin retrieved a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped at my wet cheeks. "I must look a sight. I beg your forgiveness for my outburst."

"No forgiveness needed," Robin said. "I think this has been coming on for a long time now. It's good to have it out. As to how you look, you are beautiful no matter what."

My cheeks flushed and I cast my eyes downward for a moment. "I should freshen up. Your mother will be waiting for her dinner and I should not wish to spoil your evening."

Mrs. McIntyre's dinner was well received. I served each course, explaining each dish to Mrs. McIntyre and her son. In deference to her station as the mother of a fine, wealthy gentleman, I bowed, spoke respectfully, and served her according to the customs of my own time. As I tidied up in the kitchen afterward, I could not help but overhear their conversation.

"Robin, I don't recall the last time I had such a fine feast. I couldn't believe you went to such trouble. That girl is a wonderful chef. My word! She treated me like a queen," said Mrs. McIntyre.

"She's pretty amazing. I know she worked her tail off to make it perfect. She...well...she's pretty terrific," said Robin.

"You're quite taken with her, aren't you?" his mother asked.

"" He cleared his throat.

"Ah yes, quite taken," said Mrs. McIntyre. Was that a smile I heard in her voice? My heart began to thump madly in my chest.

"I...I guess I am. I've never met anyone like her, Mom. She's different," Robin said.

"Yes, I think you're right. I sense something about her that's..." Her words trailed off for a moment. "I can't put my finger on it, Robin, but something about her is very different."

"You don't know the half of it, Mom," Robin said.

"I sense a story," Mrs. McIntyre said, her voice laced with excitement.

"Oh, there is. It's a fascinating one, but I don't want to reveal it without Alina's permission. I'll just say she's been through a lot," Robin said.

"Well, get her in here," his mother said. "You know I can't pass up a good story. Besides, I want to get to know this enchanting creature you've become so besotted with."

When Robin entered the kitchen, he found me with my face hidden from embarrassment, buried in a stack of dish towels. "Alina? You okay?"

"!" I stammered.

"You heard us talking," Robin said simply.

"I beseech thy pardon. I did not intend to permit my ears to wander such a far distance," I said in a small voice.

Robin just laughed and gently took the towels from my hands. "No pardon needed. I would have told you the very same thing face to face."

I gazed at him, my mouth ajar. " mean that you are...besotted...with me? for me?"

"Guilty as charged," Robin grinned. "Now, let's go back into the dining room so my mother can personally thank you for such a fine dinner."


"Don't worry. My mother will love you," Robin said, sliding his arm about my waist.

"'Tis uncustomary for a servant to socialize with the upper crust. I--"

"You are not a servant," Robin said, interrupting me. "Times are different now. My mother and I don't judge people by wealth. There are other more important qualities by which we judge who we like. Come on now. It'll be okay."

I smiled shyly as I entered the dining room with Robin. I prepared to bow and address Mrs. McIntyre formally but never got the chance. She pushed back her chair and was before me before I could even blink. Taking my hands in hers, she smiled a warm smile at me. "I don't recall the last time I enjoyed such a delicious dinner. My compliments to the chef. Let's sit down and have a chat, shall we?"

"I am thanking you kindly, Mrs. McIntyre," I said.

"It's Sandi and it's I who should be thanking you. Come now. Let's dispense with the formalities,"

I could not help but like Sandi McIntyre. She was warm and friendly, but her eyes were that of an eagle; sharp and observant. It was as if she could look into my soul and read my every thought.

"Tell me about yourself, Alina?" Sandi said.

"It's okay, Alina. My mother knows of time travel herself," Robin said.

And so, I told Sandi my story. Again, I was met with kindness and understanding as Sandi nodded and patted my arm. I could see why Robin loved his mother so much.

"You've had quite a time of it," Sandi said compassionately. "I can't imagine having to leave my own time and live in a strange new world. I admire your courage, Alina."

"I have been plenty frightened and still am, I confess," I said, feeling my face flush with pleasure at her compliment.

"Naturally so," Sandi said. Then, her phone rang. "Excuse me a moment."

She put the phone to her ear, smiling and nodding as she talked. "Yes, Lenora, I'm fine. The flight was uneventful. No problems at all...I promise. Wolf's honor, Lenora...Robin is settling in well. In fact, he hired a wonderful chef to cook for us personally...Yes, I will have to spend thirty hours straight on the treadmill to work it off." Laughter followed. "Sure, Lenora. I'll tell him...Oh...hang on." She raised an eyebrow when Robin waved his hand at her.

"Ask Aunt Lenora if Mathilda is around," he said.

Sandi put the phone to her ear. "Lenora, is Mathilda around? Yes, Robin wishes to speak with her...Okay, Lenora, no problem. I'll be back in a couple days. Give Tyrone and the kids my love."

Sandi gave the phone to Robin, who engaged the speaker. I gasped when I heard someone speak on the other end. "Hello, Robin. It's Mathida. Is everything all right?"

"Oh, I'd say it's more than all right. Listen, Mathilda, I don't want to shock you or anything, but I don't know how else to do this. Did you have a daughter named Alina?"

There was a gasp of surprise on the other end. "Why...yes I did. Robin, how did you know? The only ones I ever spoke of Alina to were Lenora and Liam."

"I know because she's sitting here next to me," Robin said.

"Mother!" I breathed.

"Can this really be?" my mother's voice shook with emotion.

"I think so," Robin said. "She mentioned something about you maybe not being the Mathilda she's looking for because of so many parallel worlds, but I told her you'd be able to locate her mother in some other dimension if that were the case. I thought you should know. Ah...I don't know how you would know if this is the Alina that's your daughter, but..." Robin shrugged and frowned, seemingly at a loss as to how to continue.

"I have been looking for my daughter for centuries. I have looked in this world and others but have not been able to locate her. Did she tell you how she got here?" Mother's voice asked.

"She did. Alina, maybe you should tell her," Robin said.

I quickly retold my story to the disembodied voice of my mother, who remained silent for a long moment. When she spoke, her voice seemed thoughtful and still a bit shaky. "Your story matches my recollections exactly," she said to me. Then, she addressed Robin. "Something went wrong when Alina entered the time portal. The authorities were hot on our trail, so I had to work very quickly to get Alina to safety. It would have been more favorable to have more time to prepare and open the portal, but we didn't have that luxury. The portal hadn't yet closed by the time my door was busted down. They tried to arrest me, but naturally, I protected myself. Unfortunately, one of my spells went wide and hit the still open portal. It caused me to lose the fix I had on Alina. I was certain she'd gotten to the era in time I'd sent her to, but I could not discern which universe she entered. Over the centuries, I scryed for her, hoping to uncover which world she was in but have not succeeded. Sometimes I'd feel as though I were close, but nothing ever came of it."

She heaved a long sigh. "Because Alina was ill, I had to temper the magic I used because I didn't want it to tax her any more than she already was."

"Would you like me to bring Alina to you so you can see if she's your daughter?" Robin asked.

"That isn't necessary. There is, in fact, a very simple test that will prove it one way or another. Once we know for certain, we will go from there." She was silent another moment. "Alina, can you hear me?"

"Y-yes, Mother," I said.

"All right. Alina...index," she said.

I felt the world fall away in an instant. When I became aware of my surroundings again, Robin was holding me against his chest. I blinked at him in confusion.

"Alina?" Robin's voice penetrated my bewilderment. "You okay? Mathilda, what was that all about?"

"As I said, it was a simple test and now I know for certain. You see, while Alina was ill, I was making plans to send her through time. I implanted a recipe for one of my secret elixirs inside her brain, burying it in a section that is only accessible through either deep mediation or through an entrancement placed there by another witch. The only person who is aware of knowing this particular recipe is Lenora. Alina was not aware that her brain carried this knowledge. The only ones to know the keyword to trigger Alina to recite this recipe while she was entranced is myself and Lenora. I know for certain that this, indeed, is my daughter."

Tears flooded my eyes and my cheeks were soon wet as I wept. "Oh, Mother! How I have missed thee!"

"I've missed you too, child," my mother said. I could tell that she, too, was weeping.

"I wish to come to thee. Mother...I..."

"I'll come to you. Robin, would you mind if I popped in?" Mother asked.

"Not at all," Robin said.

"I'll be there in five minutes," Mother said.

Before Robin ended the call, I heard another voice in the background. "Ye found her! Mathilda, ye found her! Och! May there be rejoicing even in Heaven." Whoever the voice belonged to was also weeping.

"Who...?" I managed.

"That's Aunt Lenora. You'll be meeting her very soon, I imagine," Robin smiled.

As promised, Mother arrived five minutes later. I knew it was her the instant I saw her and flung myself into her arms, weeping afresh. She looked different, much like the image of her on the back cover of her books. The black dress she wore made her look formidable. Her hair was styled attractively to frame her face flatteringly. She had my mother's smile and eyes, but they looked different than I remember. They had an ancient quality that was no present when I last saw her. Even so, she was my beautiful mother whom I loved so dearly.

I clutched her as though I never wanted to let her go. "Oh, Mother...Mother! I thought I may never see you again."

She held me close, her embrace as loving as I remembered. "It's all right now. Mother is here. I will never lose track of you again, child. Ah, how I have missed you, my darling girl."

"I shall never wish to part from thee again. Oh, Mother!"

I clung to her and felt a piece of my soul slide back into place. My mother was back in my life and in my arms...and it came about through the kindness and generosity of a gentle man who possessed the key to my heart.
Author's Note - I'd like to thank PiazzaGirl and Shafer249 for presents! Aliina got some Essence of Magic and some nifty cash.

I would also like to thank PiazzaGirl for permission to feature Sandi McIntyre in my story and for giving me Robin. If you have not read her story, I'd highly recommend it. You can find it here.