If you're still reading, you've stayed with me until the bitter end.
The two parts of the story have converged and everyone has had their denouement. Or have they? Young Willi and the inner Petersholme family still need to come to terms with each other.
Please let me know what you think of FLIGHT at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would really like to hear your comments. If you really like my writing, you might like DARK PRINCE in the scifi folder.
Barry had watched the boy eat his way through four eggs and a rasher of bacon before going out into the bright winter sunlight that bathed Bellingham Hall. "What do you think of Willi, Aunt Jane?"
"I only saw him for a few hours last evening." The woman smiled. "And watched him eat a man's breakfast this morning. What should I think of him?"
"He's really learned English this past month and a half -- that tutor in London Robbie hired..."
"He speaks it funny."
"The Germans say things like `the boy who up the hill and around it ran'. It'll take Willi this next year to get English syntax right."
The woman relaxed slightly. "I guess the lad's doing right well learning to talk like us then." She wagged her head. "Is he too much for mum and dad to handle -- they're getting on in years, you know?"
"Gran loves him and doesn't hide it. Roger harumphs and makes out like he could care less, but I've seen him having Willi in his lap and telling him a story or two."
"Barry, what is his Lordship going to do with that boy?"
The American sat back and studied his aunt for a moment. "His friend in Germany -- this von Kys guy -- was Willi's father. The man was murdered but had already made Willi Robert's ward in his will." Barry shrugged. "Robbie is beginning to talk about adopting the boy, you know -- making him his heir."
"A German Petersholme! How very odd."
"Aunt Jane!" Barry groaned. "Children don't have much nationality at five years old. That boy will be every bit as English by the time he's ten as any boy born in this country."
"At least, he's a good-looking lad. He'll probably be the best looking Petersholme to come along these past three generations."
"Robbie's pretty nice."
Jane Murray laughed and began to gather up dishes from the table. "And you're right prejudiced, nephew."
Barry chuckled. "I guess I am at that."
"How do you feel about his Lordship adopting this lad?"
He looked up to see that she was studying him. "I don't want him adopting me, Aunt Jane -- and I sure don't want to share him with a wife." He chuckled. "Besides, I'm already more than just a little fond of Willi."
He turned to face her fully. "I'm probably more than a little naïve, Aunt Jane, but I don't want Robbie to do anything different from how he would normally do it. A member of his class -- with an estate like this and the holdings he has -- needs an heir." He shrugged. "I'd sort of figured I'd have to share him eventually with a wife. If he adopts Willi, he won't need that wife." He grinned. "That makes me pretty happy about him adopting the kid."
Miss Murray nodded. "I think I know the answer, Barry -- but I do have to ask."
"Go ahead. Ask away."
"You won't -- either of you I mean ... You won't try to make that boy like you, will you?"
For a moment, Barry didn't know whether to laugh or cry. This was his aunt asking him this, however. "Aunt Jane, I love Robert Adshead, the Baron Petersholme. I don't need anyone else that way. I sure don't need a five year old kid. And Robert has me -- he doesn't need a little boy, either."
* * *
Alice sat on a bench in the bright November sunshine. She felt the chill but the bushes kept the wind from her. She allowed herself to ponder how attending university was changing Elizabeth. It was almost as if the girl had established her home there in London, surrounded by classmates, Robert, and that young Barry who was so adorable. It was strange to have a household like the one in Mayfair, but Alice had to admit that she rather liked the woman Elizabeth had become. Had blossomed into being, actually.
Barry, too, had settled down there in London. He was a far more comfortable student than Robert had ever been. He and Elizabeth seemed to complement each other -- with Robert, of course.
It was Robert who most surprised her, though. The man had never been comfortable assuming his father's mantle. But this German child had somehow relaxed him. For the first time since his father died, Robert was taking time off from the workings of his holdings and enjoying himself with the boy.
She smiled. Of course, a child always brought out the best in a man. And, from what she had seen while still in London and had heard since, Robert was becoming a real father to the German boy.
Barry found Willi sitting on a bench at the far end of the garden. As he approached him, Barry heard the boy sob. He approached quietly and sat down beside him, pulling his handkerchief out of his trousers and giving it to the lad.
"Are you all right?" he asked as Willi blew his nose.
"Will Uncle Robert become my father if he adopts me, Barry?"
"Well -- legally yes. Why?"
"How can he be my Vati?" the boy wailed then, his voice rising and tears running down his cheeks. "I want my Vati, the one we left when we flew away from Schloß Kys."
"The Graf will always be your Vati, Willi," Barry told him, unsure what to do to stop him from crying.
"Why isn't he here then -- with me? Or me there -- with him?"
"He..." Barry knew he was on untrod ground and wished Robbie was with him to help him work his way through it. "The Graf von Kys, your real father, became an angel that night all of you left, Willi. There are bad people in power in Germany and some of them killed him. He was still able to make sure he had the very best man in the whole world willing to take care of you. He trusted your Uncle Robert more than anybody else, so he asked him to take care of you. His son was that important to him."
The boy sniffed. "I know Vati is dead. Mutti murdered him. I know that. I heard Alexis and Dagi talking as they carried me out to the car that night. It's just that..."
"Just that what, Willi? Your Uncle Robbie and I love you. Dagold loves you too. We all do."
"You do?" He looked up at Barry with surprise. "All of you really do love me?"
"Of course, we do," the American told him, ruffling his hair. "Now slip over here to me, I want to hold you and show you how much I love you."
"You talk funny," Willi told him, a grin growing wide across his face as he climbed into Barry's lap and faced him.
"Americans don't sound much like the English -- just like the Germans don't sound much like them."
The child threw his arms around Barry's neck and pressed his face against the American's chest. "I love you, Uncle Barry -- just like I love Uncle Robert. It's just that I miss Vati so much sometimes."
With Willi sitting in his lap and still hugging him tight, Barry told him: "Robbie knows he can never be your real father. He can try; he may even come close -- but he will never be the Graf von Kys. But the law demands that a little kid like you is taken care of. Robbie can do that best by adopting you."
"I'll be his son then?"
"And he'll be my Vati?"
"Only on paper -- before the law. You can keep calling him `Uncle Robert' if you want. I think he likes that."
"I like it too," the boy said and nuzzled Barry's chin with the top of his head. "But only if you become my Uncle Barry. Then, I'll know I have both of you all the time."
"You've had me ever since I saw you that first time," Barry told the boy.
Willi slid off Barry's lap and wiped his eyes with the back of his hands. "I'm getting cold, Uncle Barry. Let's go inside and find a puzzle to put together."
Barry chuckled and pushed himself to his feet. "That sounds like a plan. Maybe Miss Murray can fix us some hot cocoa too."