Mary had allowed the children to play for a short time before giving them a bath and putting them to bed. Feeling a little tired herself she had just said her goodnights when the doorbell rang.
“We’ve come to see you,” boomed Henry, in a hearty voice.
Spying Mary in the hall doorway, he said, “We wondered where you’d disappeared to. I’m curious, how did you ever find Angelia, or did she find you?”
Myrtle looked at her son and smiled, “I thought something was up when you asked Beth to transfer all your patients and appointments to Dr. Allen until further notice. Very suspicious behavior for a man that never takes a day off and never refers his patients to another doctor unless they’re a specialist.”
Grinning Michael ambled across the room to Mary. Gently resting his hands lightly upon her expanding stomach, he pulled her to him.
“We had a little emergency right here Mom,” Michael said.
“Mary’s children were awful sick and are just now feeling well enough to be out of bed for short periods of time. I must confess though, that for a while there, we didn’t know whether they would make it or not. They are not totally out of the woods yet and are still on the mend.”
Henry, unable to control his temper any longer roared at Michael, “How dare you keep their where-abouts from me. You knew they were here, and never told your mother or me! Why would you do that? You knew half the country was looking for them and you never said a word. Don’t you think you owe me an explanation, son!”
Michael glancing down at Mary saw that she had turned deathly pale and was trembling so badly she would have fallen, if he hadn’t been holding her.
“No Dad, I don’t! This young lady happens to be under my care. Her life and her children’s lives depend on their whereabouts being kept secret. I didn’t report them, because of the privileged information act, dad, and I’m not required, by law to inform you of their whereabouts if doing so could in anyway endanger my patients.” He said shrugging his shoulders as he gave Mary a gentle reassuring hug.
“Why, you little whippersnapper,” thundered Henry. “How dare you - - -,”
“Now Henry, just calm down!” said Angelia. “That is unless you’re trying to scare this poor girl to death!”
“Why don’t you join Michael and me in the kitchen for some coffee while we discuss this like adults? You don’t want to wake up or frighten the children do you?” Asked Angelia, taking a firm hold onto Henry’s arm as if to drag him into the kitchen, if need be!
“You and your children must have been very brave to have escaped that monster!” said Myrtle, studying the girl Michael was protecting as he fiercely defended her. “No wonder Michael kept you a secret!” she said smiling at Mary.
“That is no excuse for not informing me that you knew their where-a- bouts!” roared Henry, “You could have put everyone here in danger!”
Angelia, saw the fear in Mary’s eyes and quickly intervened, “Don’t you think you should meet this young lady before you descend on her like a ravenous wolf, Sheriff?” she said.
This young lady is, Mary Snippet, my houseguest,” stated Angelia, in her no-nonsense, don’t argue with me, tone of voice. “She and her children have an open invitation to live in this house for as long as they want to stay. Caroline has given Mary, her two-year-old son Billy, and her four-year-old daughter Kimmey, an exclusive invitation to do so. Now, if you want to take this up with Caroline, feel free. Please do so. There’s the phone. Go ahead. Call her. Confirm the invitation. What are you waiting for, Sheriff?”
“Mommy! Mommy!” said Kimmey, running into the room and interrupting Angelia. “You forgot - - - ,”
“Kimmey,” said Mary, surprised to see her daughter out of bed, “What are you doing up? Are you sick?”
“No Mommy. Am I five today?” asked a sleepy, tousle headed Kimmey. “You said when the box on the calendar says twenty-four and there are three pages left, I could go to school, because I’d be this many.” She said holding up five fingers.
“Did you forget today is twenty-four, Mommy? Remember the man on TV, said today is twenty four and sunny, is it my birthday? Can I go to school now?”
“Happy Birthday, Kimmey,” said Michael, holding his arms out to her.
Surprised by his gesture, Kimmey ran to Michael, climbed onto his lap and gave him a big hug, then astonished everyone by burying her head in her hands and bursting into tears.
Michael, surprised and confused at her reaction, wrapped his arms securely around the child and in a surprisingly good voice started to sing the birthday song to her, but Michael’s singing only made Kimmey cry harder.
The sight of Michael holding Kimmey and singing at the top of his lungs and Kimmey bawling at the top of hers, was so hilarious that soon everyone was howling with laughter.
“What?” Asked Michael. “Is my singing that bad? I was only trying to wish our little princess a happy birthday.”
“Why are you crying, Kimmey,” asked Mary bewildered by her tears.
“Cause Mommy, no one ever wished me happy birthday, gave me birthday hugs, or sang happy birthday to me ’cept you Mommy and you forgot!” said Kimmey. “It’s so beautiful, a happy birthday song and a hug just for me!”
“Well, birthday girl, let’s get you back to bed,” said Michael, as he proclaimed princess Kimmey’s birthday should be postponed until the next day due to the lateness of the hour.
“Why has the child never been wished a happy birthday by anyone except you before?” asked Henry puzzling over the child’s statement.
“Because, all celebrations including birthdays were a punishable offence and according to Zachariah a frivolous waste of time. He considered anything that didn’t profit him as wasteful. Anyone caught slaking was always punished and that included children three and older.”
“Why, I’ve never heard anything so outrageous in my whole life!” roared Henry.
“We’ll just see about that.” It was half past ten by the time they finished making their plans. Much to Mary’s amazement, Angelia’s guests had decided that Zachariah be hanged, Kimmey would have her birthday and a celebration to boot! They had immediately started planning a birthday extravaganza the likes of which she could hardly fathom.
The next day after an early supper, Mary swiftly cleaned the kitchen, while Angelia worked in the pantry. They had just finished their tasks when they heard someone knocking persistently at the door.
Billy and Kimmey gasped in surprise when the door opened and they saw Myrtle, Henry, and Michael standing in the doorway their arms loaded down with numerous gaily-wrapped packages.
“Hello there,” said Michael, grinning at the two children staring open-mouthed at him.
“Come in, come in,” said Angelia hurrying to the door, “Here let me help you with those.” she said.
“We’ve got these, but there’s more in the car,” said Myrtle, smiling at the two children.
As if in a trance, Billy and Kimmey slowly backed away from the door. “Are all those for us?” they asked awed by the pile of packages that seemed to get bigger and bigger by the minute.
“Why would you think these are for you?” asked Henry grinning impishly at them.
Kimmey looked questioningly at Henry, not realizing that he was teasing her. “Because they have our name on them,” she replied.
“Are they presents? We’ve never had presents before, are they ours?” asked Kimmey. Turning she looked questioningly at her mother, who was staring in astonishment at Michael.
After everyone was seated at the table, Michael said, “Kimmey, do you remember what I told you last night?”
“You mean about my birthday being today? That’s silly, my birthday can’t be today, my birthday is the twenty-four and today is not the twenty-four, Michael,” Kimmey said so seriously that everyone laughed.
“She’s got you there, my boy,” said Henry, “now try and wiggle out of that one.”
Michael looked thoughtfully at his father and then he grinned. “Technically you’re right, Kimmey. But, on very special occasions and only for very special people, can you change a birthday from one day to the next. But, to change it from yesterday to today, you have to close your eyes and wish really hard. The magic only last an hour or two and only on your fifth birthday, so we’d better not waste a single moment celebrating yours.”
At Michael’s words, Kimmey looked at him with such hope and wonder, he had to look away. “Oh Mommy,” said Kimmey, “it really can be my birthday can’t it? Michael said it could, so it must be true! Oh thank you Michael,” she said, jumping down, and running straight into Michael’s open arms.
“Please don’t sing,” said Henry, as everyone laughed.
“Billy want birthday too,” he said, as he reached out trusting arms.
Going to the highchair Myrtle picked Billy up and held him close. ”It feels so good to hold a child in my arms again.” She said, smiling at Mary, before giving Billy a big hug.
“Yes Billy,” she said giving him another hug, your birthday too.”
“Humph, it’ll be too late for anything, but bed for the young’uns, if we don’t get this party moving,” said Angelia as she walked out of the pantry carrying a huge chocolate cake.
The cake had little boy angels dressed in blue and little girl angels dressed in pink scattered across it. The angels were swinging, riding bikes, and other forms of play.
A road with the words, Happy Birthday Billy and Kimmey written on it ran across the cake. The side of the cake that had Billy’s name held two lit candles, and the side that had Kimmey’s name had five lit candles. Angelia set the cake in the middle of the table as Michael retrieved silverware, special paper plates with Happy Birthday written across them, and a gallon of chocolate marshmallow ice cream.
Mary, Billy, and Kimmey had gushed their OH’s and AH’s of Pure delight. The cake was the most beautiful masterpiece they had ever seen. “Is it real?” asked Mary, staring at the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life with pure wonderment written all over her face.
“Mommy, it says Kimmey and Billy, is it Billy’s birthday too,” she asked.
“My birthday too,” said Billy looking at the woman holding him, as if seeking confirmation to his statement.
“Yes Billy,” said Myrtle, “it most certainly is your birthday, too. Did you know everyone gets to be one day older every day? So yes, Billy this day also belongs to you.”
“I can see why Michael loves you and the children, Mary.” Said Myrtle, smiling at her. “I only met you and your lovely family last night and I love you all, already!”
“Me too,” said Henry grinning broadly. “Now how about letting these young’uns open their presents before morning gets here.”
“Good idea,” said Michael, glad to have the subject changed as he handed each of them a gift from the huge pile on the kitchen counter.
““Mommy, can we!” They asked eagerly awaiting her permission.
“You sure can,” said Mary, watching the children as they excitedly ripped the paper off their gift.
Michael seeing Mary’s excitement rummaged through the pile, picked up a gaily-wrapped gift, and handed it to her. “For you,” he said, with a grin.
“For me,” she said excitedly, “I can only remember receiving one other gift before, and I lost it the day after coming here!”
“Oh, Michael,” she said, pulling the paper from the top of the little box. Inside the box nestled in tissue paper was a beautiful crystal angel on a long silver chain. It was the most beautiful thing, besides the cake, that Mary had ever seen.
“An angel, for an angel,” he said, taking it from the box and fastening it around her neck.
“Mommy, Mommy look!” cried an excited Kimmey, holding up two angel dolls dressed in pink princess dresses. “Can I keep them, Mommy, can I?”
Mary only had time to say a quick yes, before Billy’s excited “Mommy, see my fire truck!” drew her attention, as another gift was placed in her children’s arms . . . ,”