"So you are certain there is nothing I can do?" Erik asked as we walked to the hall.
I smiled. "Well, there is one thing," I said. "Get her some sweets."
He frowned and held the door open. "What kind?"
"Any," I said. "Chocolates are best, though."
"Okay," he said seriously, pushing my chair in for me. "We will stop by on our way home."
I smiled as he sat back down.
"Is he all right?" Gertrude asked. "He looks paler than normal."
"He is experiencing having a... daughter who is going through the transition," I said and she giggled.
"I remember when our daughter, Sandra, went through her first monthly." She cleared her throat and lowered her voice. "Did you tell him?"
"Yes," I whispered. "He is as frightened as I am. Perhaps even more."
Howard cleared his throat and we all stopped talking.
"Erik, Camille, please stand before us," he said in a serious voice and we did so, me feeling nervous. Did they find out what we really are? "The council would like to extend our apologies."
"Apologies?" we repeated.
"There are many of us who have not given you the respect you deserve," he said, glancing at the woman's council table. "We wish to make amends and, with Christmas coming, we have made this token for your ward."
Two of the men brought out a large box and Erik opened it. I laughed. It was a dollhouse; a replica of our home.
"Thank you," Erik said.
"We accept it and your apologies," I added.
Erik put it down on the floor beside him and Howard cleared his throat again.
"We're planning the Christmas celebration today," he said. "The men will cover the heavy lifting parts," he added. "Ladies, there is a pile of gifts in the back if you would be so kind as to wrap them."
"Yes, of course," Gertrude said and we all went to the back. "This is so exciting! Do you like Christmas, Camille?"
I smiled. "Very much so. We have not had the opportunity to have a Christmas in many years, though. I am even more excited now that we have Kendra with us."
"What will you be getting her?" Carol asked.
"I have no idea," I laughed.
We each had two rolls of wrapping paper, tape, and scissors in front of us. I began wrapping as we all chattered away about Christmas. Now that I was open to them, I realized I enjoyed the company of my fellow females.
"Can you bake, Camille?" Barbara asked, avoiding my eyes.
"Yes. Do you need me to do some baking?"
"Just a few pies," Carol said. "Our husbands will do the tree and decorating of the outside of the hall. For the Christmas tree, I think the children should decorate it."
Maria frowned. "What if they drop the ornaments?"
"Their parents will be with them, of course," Carol said.
I frowned as I wrapped my gift. The way Carol said 'husband' was rather bitter. I bit my lip and looked at her. What I saw made me nearly drop the scissors. I quickly covered my mistake but my heart fell.
"Can I speak with you?" Carl asked and I nodded. She handed me a small box. "I made these for the three of you."
I opened it and gasped. "Oh, Carol, they are beautiful."
She made silk red handkerchiefs with our initials embroidered.
"I didn't know Kendra's last name so I put yours. I hope that was okay."
I hugged her. "Thank you very much," I said and was about to extend my condolences but stopped myself in time.
As Erik helped me with my cloak, I told him what I saw.
He stared at the couple who were discussing something with Howard.
"Are you certain?" he whispered.
I nodded. "Three children are illegitimate," I whispered. "Should we say something?"
"No," he said finally and picked up the box. "It is not our business and, frankly, the knowledge only disturbs me."
On our way back home, we stopped by the baker. I waited outside, holding the box for him. It was cold and I started to get impatient the longer he was in there. Just when I was about to go in, he came out. I laughed.
"I did not know what to get!" he said defensively.
I passed him the dollhouse and looked inside the bag.
"Well, it looks like you got a little bit of everything," I said. "Do you want to try and give them to her?" He nodded. "Then we will do so in the parlor; there is more open room for you."
"Okay," he said.
When we got back, I had Johanna summon Kendra downstairs. She avoided Erik's eyes.
"I got these for you," he muttered, thrusting the bag at her and I rolled my eyes.
"Oh, go upstairs," I said, taking the box and he did so quickly. "Come on." We went to her room and I have her first the bag. "He bought them today on our way home."
"Chocolates!" she said happily. "It's all I've been wanting!"
"This is from the council," I said and she lifted the box.
Her face radiated. "It's amazing! Can I play with it now?"
"One more thing," I said and gave her the handkerchief.
"Is it real silk?" she breathed.
"Yes." I ran a hand through my hair nervously. "We do not know your last name so... she put our initial. She hopes it was okay."
She beamed. "I love it."
I nodded. "You will come tomorrow to give your thanks."
"Yes, of course," she said.
"I will leave you to play. Dinner is in an hour."
She nodded. I left and went to our room. Erik was at his writing desk. He shook his head.
"You were right," he said sadly.
"Do not worry. It is only a week. Here; Carol made these for us."
I gave him his handkerchief and he folded it carefully, putting it in the pocket of his coat. He sighed and pulled me onto his right leg.
"This came from Ilya today," he whispered. "Apparently, he is no longer in Yorkshire. He hired someone to be his messenger." He sighed. "I think he is in constant correspondence with that fairy. He knows you are pregnant and my letter hasn't even gotten to him yet."
He passed me his letter and kissed my shoulder, wrapping his arms around me.
I am very happy to hear of the safe return of Camille. As for your decision with Kendra, I support it completely. The subject of Camille's pregnancy, though, is strange.
As you both know, we are not able to bear children. It is part of the curse of being a vampire. I am not sure how such a thing has occurred. No one else I have spoken with does, either. I have asked clan members and elders alike but there is no answer. The only person I can think of to ask is Richard the Fairy. I will put his address below or you can go visit him. He prefers face-to-face, though.
Regardless, congratulations on your baby! My urges to attack are going away so I would like to see you again soon; especially once the baby is born.
"Richard?" I said. "But he is a fairy."
Erik shrugged. "It could be that he is very old. If that is the case, then he knows more than most." He sighed. "I think my father would know if he were still with us."
I leaned into him and looked at my belly. "I wonder when I will begin to show."
He put his hands on my stomach. "Soon, I hope. I have always wondered what it would feel like."
"What?" I asked, yawning.
"Being a father," he whispered.
I smiled and kissed him gently.
"Well, you will find out in nine months," I said. "That is how long Gertrude was pregnant with her children for."
"Nine months?" he repeated. "That is a long time."
"What do you want?"
"A baby boy," he answered. "We will name him Colin."
"Why Colin?" I asked.
He smiled a little sadly. "It was my father's name."
"If we have a girl, I think her name should be Joy."
He nuzzled my neck. "Was that your mother's name?"
"No," I said. "It is the feeling I get whenever I think about the baby."
He chuckled and I smiled at the feeling of his vibrations through his chest.
"It would seem they have dinner ready."
"That reminds me, I will be baking pies for the Christmas celebration," I said. "I need you and Kendra to be the taste testers."
"I cannot wait," he said enthusiastically and I giggled, knocking on the door to get Kendra.