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23 December 2012

Hi everyone.

Only two days till Christmas! I would say woot woot and do a little dance, only L let me try a snowball, a fizzy, frothy, creamy alcoholic drink last night, and this morning I am feeling far too delicate to do anything but sit very still and be quiet. Life has been extremely hectic, and as I am feeling far too il to go home to the colony today I think I had better bring you up to date with my news.

Let’s see, I left off on December 4 didn’t I? Well, the rest of that week was lovely, quiet and uneventful. L’s parents came around and helped her with some things she needed doing, they also brought over a beautiful Christmas tree. Apparently L has never had one before. I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. L’s Mum put up some decorations, but L said I could do some more. For the rest of the time I took care of Tealy who went on improving, although she was still required by Kori to stay in bed. She was a very good patient, She loved to watch TV, read magazines on my phone or surf the web. I think I have said before that information is quite hard to come by in Elfhold, so Tealy was having a ball finding out about all kinds of things in the human world. I know if I have to stay in bed for any length of time, most notably when I was in hospital last Christmas, I get quickly bored and my temper becomes appalling, but Tealy never complained once, she was grateful for everything that was done for her and she always found a smile for me, even when she was obviously really tired.

Friday and Saturday of that week were their usual mad selves, and we got the shows out and I think everyone enjoyed them. I wasn’t going to go to the colony on Sunday, I really didn’t want to leave Tealy alone all day but L said she would take care of Tealy for me and Brian insisted I needed a break and a breath of air. Even Tealy told me I ought to go, and as things turned out it’s just as well I did!

I got up on Sunday, folded up the futon where I had been sleeping since Tealy was well enough to be left at nights, showered, got dressed, tidied things up, then I took Tealy a cup of the mint tea L has here and which she has grown to love. After that I got Nia booted up. She was being a complete horror and took ages to load Facebook. I curled up on the sofa while Tealy sipped her tea and brought up my family Facebook page. I zlendt nearly dropped my netbook.

There was the typhoon of a row going on! Apparently, Marni had gone out foraging yesterday and had taken some of the lings and the rest had gone down to see Andi. When she got back, the cube was full of council members. Apparently, my wonderful, noble brother had gone out into the thoroughfare, called the neighbours to help him and begged them to fetch the watchers. He told them that Minnimarni was starving and abusing him because he had contested her disolution hearing, he said she was unfit to look after him in his invalid state or to look after the lings. Apparently he had told such a convincing tale that the watchers believed him and called the council.

When Marni got back she defended herself, but they would not believe her. Barty was respected and well known, poor Marni was no one. The council members took the lings away, they sent them back to Andi’s, Marni was taken to Garder’s quarters overnight and Barty was taken to the head council member’s home until a special hearing could be convened the following day to decide what to do.

To say that I was furious would be an understatement. I could not believe that my brother would stoop so low. After everything he had put his family through he was receiving care and kindness from his wife but he just could not bear not to be in control, so rather than that he was prepared to break the whole family up. Of course, the rest of the family was in uproar. Mum was having a bird, Dad was furious, some were wondering if it was true but most didn’t believe it and thought Barty’s behaviour was despicable.

I was still elbow deep in the news feeds and had just found out that the special council hearing was set for that very day at noon, when a little voice from across the room said:

“Darling, what’s wrong? You never looked so angry before.”

I told Tealy everything that was happening and she went completely still for a few moments. Then her beautiful little face suddenly registered determination all over.

“I can stop it, Bert,” she said.

“Zaea, you can’t stop anything. You’re not allowed out of bed for at least another few days. There’s nothing you can do from here.”

Tealy wasn’t listening. She had fluttered her fingers and a neat pile of clothes had appeared on my desk chair.

“Bert, could you fetch L?” she said. “I need a shower, and I’m still wobbly on my feet in there. Could she help me?”

I started to argue, but Tealy turned to me, her huge eyes sparkling with emotion.

“Darling, Barty is not getting away with this while I can do anything to stop him! I am going to that hearing if you have to carry me there. Now come on, we don’t have much time.”

It took our combined efforts to get Tealy ready, but finally we had her dressed in a soft turquoise wool dress, long warm sheepskin boots, a matching sheepskin coat and a thick turquoise scarf. She had on her silver bangles with turquoise hearts on them and matching hair bobbles. She looked white and shaky but very beautiful. I put an arm around her, she leaned against me and we zapped to the colony.

WE had taken our time getting Tealy ready, so we had no time to go anywhere on arriving at the colony, we had to head straight for the council chambers. It was nearly noon when we got there and we were stopped at the door by a solid looking Guarder who did not look like letting me through in a hurry.

“Now then, sir,” he said. “This is a private hearing. You have no business here.”

“Indeed I have,” I answered. “I am Bertalius Alfardan. I have important evidence to give. With me is Tealy the elf. She has permission to speak in council in the matter of the dissolution of Bartle and Minimarni and she has evidence pertaining to this hearing that the council needs to hear.”

The guarder went away, and after a decent interval he returned. With him, to my surprise, was the elderly council member who had interrupted Barty’s speech at the hearing before.

“You are Bertalius, the brother of Bartle?” he said, looking at me hard.

“I am, sir,” I said.

“Yes, yes yes.” He looked at me hard through short-sighted eyes. “You were the one gave evidence about the tree bark and pine needles as I recall. And this is the elf who says she can prove once and for all the truth or the lie of it, is that not so?”

“It is, sir,” Tealy looked steadily at him. “I can give the council incontrovertible proof that Mr Bartle is a liar, as well as a bad Father.”

“Well well.” The old lep looked rather pleased. “Come in, but sit at the back, out of the line of sight. Let the acorns all fall so that he cannot go back, nor gainsay himself. Then we will prove him false once and for all.”

Tealy and I snuk in to the cube and seated ourselves in a corner right at the back where no one could see us. We could see Barty, he was at the front of the cube, sitting in a big chair, all swaddled up in blankets and looking completely pathetic. Marni was also there, she sat hunched between two Guarders. She was trembling, white and tearful. No one else had been allowed in.

The council clerk diclaired the hearing in session and the head council member cleared his throat.

“fellow members I am sorry to have had to convene this hearing at this short notice, but seldom have I seen a more distressing case, and we must decide what to do in a hurry. We have, as you can see, a case of shocking neglect and abuse before us and the good name of our whole colony is affected. Now, Mr Bartle, please to tell your story.”

Barty lifted his head weakly and began to speak in a thin whine. I will not write it all down here as he went on for a long time, and apart from anything else, the thought of what he said makes me sick to my stomach. Basically he told the council that Marni had been a bad wife since he had married her. He had cared for her and his family all their married life but she had done nothing but upbrade and abuse him and their leplings. Finally she had run away from home leaving the leplings behind. He said that he had taken the leplings straight to his eldest daughter’s house for their safekeeping, but that his wife had then, with the help of some of his disloyal family members, got up a story against him that he had abused and starved his lings and tried to take them away from him forever.

He said that, when the blight had struck he was so weakened by lack of food and proper care that he had been obliged to go into WillSleep from which he had been lucky to recover. At which point, Barty went on, his errant wife swept back, took possession of their marital home, brought his leplings out of the safe place he had taken them, and began to rule the cube with a rod of iron, no one was safe from her, least of all himself.

Now, when I am writing this down, I am aware of how ridiculous it sounds, but I swear, if you had heard him you would have believed him, Barty is not the best advocate in the colony for nothing. He is a fine actor. He had tears in his eyes at the end. If I had not known that everything he said was a complete pack of lies I would have believed it myself.

All this time, poor Marni sat with her head bowed, tears coursing down her face. When Barty had finished his story by begging the council to help him and his leplings, the head of the council turned sternly to Marni and glared at her.

“Fem, have you anything to say for yourself?”

Marni looked at him with red, swollen eyes.

“It ain’t true, your honour.” She said quietly. “Not one word of it is true. I’d swear it on the ‘and, only you still wouldn’t believe me.”

“Quiet, fem!” the head council member’s voice rose sharply. “We will have no sacrelige here! Now, fellow members, what can be done about this distressing case?”

I was expecting to be called then, but I was not. There was a bit of discussion, and the general consensus was that the best thing was to send Barty to the Old Country, there was nowhere in the colony where he could be properly cared for. Barty was beginning to look intolerably smug. The lings were to stay with Andi who was to be moved into Barty’s cube, and as for Marni? Well, she was going to be thrown out of the colony if I was any judge. It was all just about to be agreed when there was the sound of a dry cough.

“Fellow members.” The elderly council member had raised a hand. “I think we are all running on a little too fast here. Mr Bartle is an advocate. He has obviously convinced you that his tale is true. But convincing people is his job. Do you think you would not do well to consider the alternatives?”

“Oh come, Fredwald, you are wasting time! There is no evidence, not one shred, except this fem’s word.”

“Ah,” said the elderly lep, “But should you discount that so quickly? She says she would swear on the hand that she has not abused her husband nor her leplings. Mr Bartle, would you swear, swear upon the Helping Hand, that every word you have spoken in this cube today is the truth? The truth, as the Hand sees you?”

There was a long, long, long silence. Then Barty croaked.

“Yes.”

“You do not seem sure, Mr Bartle,” Fredwald, the elderly lep leaned forward, staring piercingly at Barty. “You are sure you would swear on the Hand that you are speaking every word of the truth? Remember, you carry a little of the Hand in you. If you are false to it, do you think it does not know?”

“I feel ill!” Barty’s head dropped. “Why am I being bullied like this?”

“I put it to you, Mr Bartle, that you cannot swear on the Hand because every word you have spoken in this cube has been a lie. I further put it to you that you requested a closed hearing today so that no one could give evidence contradicting those lies.”

“Rubbish! Your honour, let me go home. I feel faint.”

Barty had begun to tremble and look deathly white.

“Fredwald,” The head council member was looking uncertain.

“The fact that Mr Bartle will not swear on the Hand is much, I grant you, but we have no evidence that he is lying.”

“I can prove that he is lying, your honour.”

Tealy had stood up. She walked steadily to the front of the room.

“I am tealy the elf,” she said clearly. “Please, hold me excused that I came into a private hearing. I thought it very important, both for the sake of Minnimarni and the leplings, and also that your colony should not do a serious wrong and have its good name blotted forever.”

Everyone was staring at Tealy open-mouthed.

“Miss Tealy,” the head council member looked completely at sea. “You say you can incontrovertibly prove that Mr Bartle is lying. How can you do this? Surely you can only tell what you have seen, as can anyone else?”

“No, your honour. I am an elf. We have technology far superior to that of the lep culture, even superior to humans in some ways. I should explain that when I depart from Elfhold I am required to keep a log of all that I do. Also, since Bertalius and I have been close, I have taken to randomly looking at him to make sure he was safe and sound whenever he left his home. By merest chance my equipment picked up something which has relevance to this case. Please, do not be alarmed at what you are about to see.”

Tealy pushed back the sleeves of her coat and fiddled with her bangles. I wondered what on earth she was doing. She selected two of the bangles and touched two of the hearts together. Suddenly, there was a kind of luminescence in the air which grew brighter.

“This scene took place on December second, sir.” She said calmly.

Suddenly, right there in the middle of the council chamber, a three-dimensional picture of the inside of Barty and Marni’s cube came into being. With the picture came sound. We could hear the lings laughing and playing on the floor, or going about their various jobs. Marni was cooking. Barty was tucked up in his swinging chair, wrapped warmly, clean and well-cared-for. There was one particular moment when the very smallest boy fell down, Marni went and picked him up, held him to her for a second and kissed him. You got a close up of her face, the love shining out of her eyes just took your breath away.

Then there was the moment when she climbed up to the swinging chair.

“Would you like a cup of tea, Bartle?” she had asked kindly.

“Yes.” Came the whisper.

“Now, Bartle, I’ve told you about that before. Yes what?”

A pause.

“Yes please.” The real Barty looked murderous and croaked “You see?”

“Well Mr Bartle, that is really abusive behaviour, asking you to display good manners? Yes indeed, tut tut!” said Fredwald. The other council members laughed and Barty ground his teeth.

“Don’t you worry, our Bert,” Marni was saying, “I don’t bully ‘im, nor treat ‘im badly, but I won’t let ‘im be rude to me or the lings, not no more. ‘e’s got to learn ‘ow fings is done in this cube. WE wants to be ‘appy from now on.”

Soon after that the picture faded away with a pop. There was a silence.

“Now, your honours,” said Tealy, “I will show you something else, and I warn you this is much more disturbing. Bert and I paid a visit to Bartle’s cube about three days after Marni had been forcibly locked inside for the crime of asking to be allowed to visit her elder daughter. She managed to get out and ran away from fear of what he would do to her. Bert and I were worried about the leplings so we went to see if we could help.”

Again Tealy fiddled with her bangles. She touched two hearts together and once more the picture came up, in three D, sharp and clear. She and I were standing outside Barty’s cube, knocking at the white door.

“Someone’s out there.” That was Mick’s voice.

“Shut up, our Mick! Daddy told you not to open the door to no one!”

“Yeah but it might be granny or someone wiv food. If you ain’t powerful ‘ungry I am!”

We saw Mick open the door to us and tell us of their pitiful plight. “We ain’t ‘ad nuffink but tree bark an’ pine needles for days.” We heard Mick say it himself. I saw Barty’s head drop right down almost to his knees.

The picture followed us into the disgusting squallor of the cube, it panned around the pinched, starved little faces of the leplings. I felt again my rage when I had found those poor lings in that condition. When the picture finally faded Tealy was swaying on her feet and I rushed to hold her up.

“Honoured council members,” I said. “You have now seen ample proof that my brother has done nothing but waste your time for months. Please do not let him take up much more of it. I humbly ask that you will let Minnimarni have her leplings back, go back to her home and get on with making a new life for her family.”

There was a stunned silence. For at least a whole minute nothing moved in the cube except Tealy, who was swaying worse than ever.

“Come come, fellow members.” That was Fredwald. He was looking at Barty as if he was some disgusting fungal growth. “You have now seen beyond any shadow of doubt what this, ahem.” He put a load of sarcasm into the next word, “Respected leprechaun is. It is now time for you to do what should have been done long before. It is time to do what is just and right.”

There was a shifting among the members as they all tried to get as far away from Barty’s big chair as they could.

“Madam Minnimarni,” said the head council member. “WE owe you a sincere apology. You have leave to collect your family as soon as you wish and return to your cube and you will have no more trouble from anyone. But what do you wish to do about Mr Bartle? After everything he has put you through you will not wish to go on caring for him surely? If you wish it we will send him from here to the Old Country and you need never see him again.”

“I Fank you, your honour,” said Marni humbly. “Let me ‘ave a couple of hours to put fings straight at ‘ome, but then you can send Bartle back there. Our marriage is not dissolved, ‘e is sick an’ can’t take care of ‘imself. I know my duty an’ I will do it. The only fing I ask is that what’s ‘appened in this room is made public. I want everyone in this colony to know that I ain’t a bad wife, nor a bad mother an’ that what Bartle says ain’t true.”

The members of the council looked at Marni as if they had never seen her before. I have never seen such amazement in anyone’s faces!

“We owe you nothing less,” said Fredwald gravely. “Mr Bertalius, Miss Tealy, this colony owes you a debt of gratitude. A severe miscarriage of justice, not to mention a heavy monitary cost has been averted today. You have our sincere thanks.”

I would have answered, but at that moment Tealy crumpled to the floor. She had tried her strength too hard and had passed out cold.

Well, that was the end of the hearing as far as we were concerned. One of the younger and stronger council members and I lifted Tealy between us and carried her, with not a little difficulty, down to Mum and Dad’s cube. Dad went for Kori and by the time she came Tealy was lying in the swinging bed more or less conscious. Kori told her to stay put. I had a tot of Zair, which I badly needed, while I brought a very full cube up to date on what had happened at the council hearing.

The fuss and palava about Barty’s lies and Marni’s bravery and Tealy’s downright heroism went on all afternoon. Tealy layin bed, accepted sips of tea and bites of daisy cake and took it all in her stride.

Finally, just before Double, she felt well enough to head for home. We made it back by the skin of our teeth. I got her settled into bed while Brian and L started the show without me, then I helped them. After that I snuggled on the sofa with them and told them all about the amazing day.

“So that’s Barty’s hash settled for good and all?” said L. “Good, I am glad!”

“Why didn’t Marni have him shipped off to the Old Country? He’s going to be poison as long as he’s around her.”

“Oh, I know exactly why.” I said. “Marni’s not usually a vindictive soul, but if Barty was allowed to go off to some quiet colony in the Old Country he could spin some story about how he was a poor, ill-used lep who had got the worst of it from his awful wife. No, she wants him right where she can keep an eye on him, and where everyone knows exactly what he is and what he’s done. Barty has two choices now. He can mend his ways, bite on his punishment and live with it, or, he won’t.”

“Bert, that sounds terribly callous.” Tealy looked shocked.

“I’m sorry, Zaea. “But I find it hard to drum up much sympathy for a lep who would let his tiny lings starve and lie through his teeth just to save himself and make himself look good in the colony’s eyes. He is in a nice home, warm, well-fed, comfortable and well taken care of. If he chooses to turn his face to the wall rather than live with what he’s done, that’s his choice.”

I was not expecting a scroll on the Monday morning, so my heart lifted when the little scroll tied with pink ribbon was sitting perkily on my pillow. I ripped it open eagerly.

“Dear Uncle Bert.”

“I hope that you are in good health and that the helping hand is serving you well. I am much better and have received a good report this week.”

“Oh Uncle it is fabulously brilliant to be back here. Kryss was so happy to see me said she’d got in six fights since I been away and missed me terrible. I was scared I was behind but I soon caught up again. I been doing a few extra classes with Breat, Prim an old Fusty these last few evenings and now I’m totally up to speed. Only thing is now me uniform won’t fit cos I lost weight. Leanna’s that jealous cos she used to be the thinnest. She called me beanpole so I sort of smacked her nose an Madam Mauraine gave me a mark! I don’t care, love Shana_Sherin I does!

“May the sun shine on you that’s stupid that is, it’s zlenky winter! Love you Uncle Bert!”

“Babsy-Boo.”

That whole week was lovely, but slightly surreal. Brian had taken a week off work so that he and L could get the radio station Christmas work done. I had lots and lots to do myself. I was helping them with loads of audio production, I also had to make serious inroads into my Christmas shopping. I wanted really nice presents for Brian and L and also something extremely gorgeous for my beautiful girl, but that caused me no end of a problem! What on earth do you buy for the elf who seems to have everything? She does not wear jewelry except for the bangles, which now do not seem to be just for ornamentation. She wears lovely perfume so she does not need me to buy her that. She has clothes coming out of her ears. The elf technology way surpasses anything I could get her, so that is out. So what, what did I buy her?

The surreal part of the week was that Christmas was really taking up most of my time, but it was so strange to log on to my family Facebook and no one, no one was talking about it. You see, in the lep world we just do not have it. We have Saint Patrick’s day in March and then we exchange small gifts, but nothing like what gets exchanged at Christmas. On Saint Patrick’s all the family gathers for food, Zair and celebrations, but there is not all this build up. There are no decorations, there is no special music, no special story, it is just one day and then ping! It is over and apart from a few sore heads, life goes on.

I have always loved Christmas. I used to like it when I was living at the Merseyside tomb, but now, oh now it is just going to be the most fantastic Christmas in the history of the world! I am going to cook the dinner, well I always did before, but this year I am going to make it completely spectacular. The best thing is, Tealy will come over from elfhold very early on Christmas morning and stay with us for the whole day. She has managed to get the day off from work. She will have to go back last thing at night, worse luck, but at least we will get to spend the whole day together!

Another great thing is that there is going to be a Christmas evening entertainment and fireworks display at Caerphilly Castle. There will be a brass band, stalls, hot roast chestnuts, mulled wine, and of course fireworks at the end. There will be loads of people there so Tealy and I should be able to sneak in no worries. We will leave Brian and L to have some quiet time and I will take my girl out walking in the starlight.

Anyway, I am digressing. The weekend was its usual mad busy self. Tealy was much stronger by the end of the week and was allowed to get up at the weekend. She still spent a lot of her time in my closet when we were busy, but in the evenings when it came time for our nightly glass of wine, Brian and L sat on the sofa and Tealy and I would snuggle up on the futon, oh it was just total bliss. A tiny little voice inside me could not help wishing it could always be like this, but that is just a dream.

Last Sunday Tealy said she was feeling well enough to come with me to the colony and Kori said it was safe, so we went together. I was absolutely determined that she was not going to be overtaxed. No doing the rounds that day for her, I said sternly. It was a biting cold day, so I made sure she was dressed warmly in another of those soft sweater dresses that look so amazing on her, this one in a soft lilac colour, with long black boots and a pretty lilac, pink and black silk scarf at her throat. I helped her into her warm sheepskin coat and she laughed at me.

“Cluck cluck, Bert,” She giggled, as I wrapped a lilac woolly scarf around her neck. “You’re like a mother hen!”

“I don’t care!” I said. “Where’s your hat?”

The hat was a woefully inadequate thing, it was made of fur but it didn’t hide her ears at all. Hmmm, I thought, we would have to find one that did, or we would be resorting to NoSeeMe on Christmas night if we wanted to go out. Better ask L, she would know.

It was freezing in the zapping bushes. I hustled Tealy inside as soon as I could but it was not much warmer in there. Gosh, it did look bleak! No decorations, just plain and bare like it always was. I eased Tealy down the thoroughfare to Mum and Dad’s, letting her stop and rest when she needed to. I thought we would just have a nice quiet day, sitting in Mum’s swinging chairs, drinking tea and chatting.

I pulled open the curtain of the cube and my heart sank into my trainers. A huge cheer assaulted my ears. The place was packed to the rafters, the table was covered in food, the Zair barrel was out, the kettle was steaming and the four big teapots were being filled.

“Oh stars!” I whispered. Tealy swayed where she stood.

Dad came forward.

“Now then, young Tealy me girl,” he said. “Let’s ‘ave your fings off. We got a place all ready so you don’t get wore out. We ain’t ‘avin’ you fallin’ down again or our Bert’ll ‘ave our ears in the Zair barrel!”

I saw then that the cube looked fuller than usual because the swing bed was out. Mum helped Tealy off with her coat, hat and Scarf and she was helped, in spite of her protests, up into the swing bed. She did not get under the blankets, just on top. We propped her up with lots of pillows so she could see and take part in everything but not get tired, and if she needed to take a little doze she could.

Well the rest of that day was a complete joy! Once I knew my Tealy girl was safe I relaxed, entered into the spirit of things and totally enjoyed myself. Everyone was thrilled to bits that A, Tealy had recovered from her illness and B, that she had saved Marni and the family. She was treated like a queen all day. All the younglings swarmed over the bed, hugging her, kissing her, stroking her fluffy head and ears and her long, silky ear hair. Everyone else made a tremendous fuss of her, especially Mella who went to sit by her on the bed for a while and they had a nice long talk. I really had a hard time getting her out of there so that we could get back in time for Down for Double. We just made it back in time and I had to help Tealy get ready and into bed before I went to help Brian and L because she was completely out of it, tired to death!

After the show, which went really well, I snuggled in my old place with some food and a glass of wine. I told Brian and L about my day and also L and I got down to the serious business of discussing Tealy’s present! Of course, two heads are better than one, and L had a good idea. I cannot tell you what it was yet, nosy elves might be reading this, but the key was in the TV that my girl likes to watch most! Should have thought of it before! I was extremely tired and quite a lot poorer when I finally hit bed. Low country with that, she is worth every red penny!

Monday morning saw the usual little beribboned scroll. It gave me quite a start as it did not start in the usual way. How on earth did she get it passed?

“Uncle Bert, Humans. Is. Stupid!”

“I’ll never understand humans till I goes to high country! Why is they hanging all this green in their living places, don’t they know it’s bad luck if no one hasn’t gone to the high country? Why has they taked trees away from the ground, don’t they know that’s an awful bad thing to do! Why is they having parties an getting zaired squared an it’s not even Saint Patrickk’s! An what’s all that sparkly glittery stuff they hang all over an lights an I just don’t get it, and Uncle, we been watching them getting food an stuff, wrapping up things like Saint Patrick’s gifts only bigger an all the stuff they does, but I don’t understand. If it’s like Saint Patrick’s and they is all supposed to be happy, why does so many of them look so miserable an just freaked out an annoyed? Humans is mad, Uncle!”

“May the sun shine on you an all that stuff blah blah. Love you Uncle Bert.”

“Babsy.”

Stars in a pool! Where did I start explaining! I did the best I could in the limited space I had and went to get on with the day. It was a busy one, Brian was going to be a way for a good part of the week and he had a fair amount of work for me to do. I really wanted to stay with Tealy but I had to knuckle down to work. Tealy would be returning to Elfhold later in the week and I absolutely did not want her to go, but rules were rules and she lived by them the same way that I did.

That night I cooked us a lovely dinner and we had a nice evening together, the four of us in our now accustomed places in the den. The following morning we were all up early except for Tealy who lay in on my orders. L and I helped get Brian ready to leave. He set off for his business trip and then L, Tealy and I spent the day together on the sofa in the den, watching films, playing games, doing things on the computer and talking.

In the evening Tealy said to me that she thought, if I did not mind, she would go back to Elfhold the following day. She wanted to get back before the deadline set for her and make sure she was not in trouble of any kind.

“You won’t be in trouble, Zaea,” I said. “Why can’t you stay just one more day.”

“Zaeahaan,” Tealy put her hand on mine gently. “It really will look better if I am back early. You can’t know how grateful I am to you, Brian and you too, L for all you’ve done for me. I owe you more than I can ever ever repay, but I can’t stay here forever, no matter how much I want to.”

Gosh, I really do hate my eyes sometimes. I smiled at Tealy and said it was fine, but my eyes filled with tears. I knew, you see, that L was going to be out all the following day. She had long planned to go down to Staffordshire to visit the reborn artist who made her doll Leah, Leah’s head needed fixing and L was taking her down to get it done and to see some of Ellie’s other babies. I was going to have to say goodbye to Tealy in the morning and then be on my own all day. Yuk! My stupid eyes were getting the better of me, and I was just about to get up and run away till I stopped being such a complete wimp when L spoke.

“Hey, Bert, I’ve got an idea.” She said.

“What?” It came out in a kind of snuffle.

“Why don’t you come with me tomorrow? A day out will do you the world of good.”

“Thanks L,” I lifted my head from Tealy’s shoulder, “But I can do without a day of being a cute toddler. You’re very sweet to suggest it but…”

“Now hold on, sweetie,” said L, “Alan’s driving me, and he’s very trustworthy. We’re going straight to Ellie’s, and I don’t mind her knowing about you if you don’t. She won’t tell. You won’t have to play cute toddler unless we stop somewhere to eat. Come on, keep me company, you’d be doing me a favour, I hate long car journeys! Besides, an extra pair of hands would be useful.”

And so it was settled. The next morning we were up very early. Tealy made herself a very natty little suitcase and packed all the things she had accumulated since arriving here. I had to hide while she was packing because I could not bear to see it. When she was all packed she got the biggest hug ever.

“Bert, I can never ever thank you enough.” She said. “You and your family, and Brian and L. I’m so lucky to have you all.”

I kissed her ears and held her tighter.

“We’re lucky to have you. You’re so very special. Take it easy, Zaeahana, stay safe.”

“I will, I’ll be back very soon, and don’t forget, I’m only a phone call away.” She zapped out then and the world was suddenly a much darker, colder place. Gosh, I had got so used to having her around. I miss her still.

L and I set off for Staffordshire in pouring rain. It was a long journey but we made it convivial with lots of chatter and laughter. It was so great to be able to talk and act naturally whilst travelling. Usually if I travel in a car or train I have to be dead quiet which makes the long, slow, boring journey even longer, slower and more boring! L had a fierce headache and slept a bit of the way but I talked a lot to Alan and the journey soon passed.

Ellie’s house was a lovely and very interesting place. Leah’s head got fixed, L picked up a baby carrier for her, we ogled lots of babies, well I didn’t’ but L did, we had tea and mince pies, I chattered rather a lot, and then it was time to go home.

L slept for most of the way back and even I had a little doze. We were both tired during the evening and went to bed early.

On Thursday I was very busy. All the Christmas groceries arrived and had to be put away. I was also putting up more decorations, I wanted to have the house absolutely ready for Christmas when Brian came home that night. L had to go out in filthy weather, she had several last minute things to do and she had to go to her Grandma’s house.

By the time Brian got home on Thursday evening it was really beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Brian was totally exhausted, travelling in the cold and wet is never any fun. We all had some lovely food and L and I brought him up to date on our week. We had all spent such a mad day we were glad to hit our pillows!

I had, of course, been keeping up to date on my Facebook all this time. Nothing much had been going on with the family, they all seemed to be chugging along all right. On Friday morning I woke up to the news that Barty had wandered out of his cube in the middle of Thursday night. He had done the old trick of begging someone to call the Watchers. This time no one listened to him. They had all heard the story of the hearing, it had gone all around the colony like wild fire and lost nothing in the telling. Apparently he had wandered down the thoroughfare, asking for help until he could not wander anymore. He had been found by two night workers, sanitary leps they were, put into their barrow which was not very clean, and wheeled back to his cube. Apparently, Gwenice had needed to be called to him because he had completely exhausted himself. I shook my head when I heard the story. My brother really is an idiot. I felt sorry for Marni, she did not need this.

I saw Vee online on Friday morning. She was getting exhausted with carrying the twins, but she was happy as a lark. WE had a long chat and she asked me if I could come over on Sunday, that is today. I said I would if I could, I have had to text her and put her off, but I will go as soon as I can.

I had such a surprise on Friday afternoon. I was just sitting on the futon doing some texts when the door buzzer went. It was L’s parents. I thought L would make me run for the closet, only she did not. In they came and I was still sitting there.

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather! One more of my wishes was granted. Apparently L had told them all about me, my work for Brian and everything, well they knew a good bit anyway but they thought I was just a story L made up. Now they saw me sitting on the futon, large as life. WE had the best afternoon ever! We wrapped up presents and talked and had tea and mince pies, oh, it was fabulous!

In the evening I cooked a lovely dinner and we had our usual nice cosy time. L has bought these white frothy drinks called snowballs for Christmas. I wanted to try, Brian said it would be too strong for me, so we left it for that night.

On Saturday we are usually mad busy, but Brian and L had been scheduled to be away, so there were no shows planned. They had not been able to go away because of the awful bad weather which had caused terrible disruption on the railway lines, but they had decided to use the time to finish all the station Christmas work. I felt absolutely tired out for some reason. I suppose my hectic few weeks had finally caught up with me. I spent most of Saturday flopped on the sofa. When L had time she let me cuddle on her lap. It is really quite some time since I have been Bert the limpet, but I was yesterday. When you are feeling tired, L’s lap is a lovely place to curl up and rest.

I was feeling much more perky yesterday evening. Brian and L had lovely music on and L mixed some of that frothy white drink and I begged to be allowed to try some. I wasn’t allowed any of the one she had mixed, but she did open a bottle of the ready made, which she said was much weaker. Oh my word! It was so delicious! It tasted like a tangy, creamy kind of soda pop with a kick to it. I guzzled and gulped it all down. Then something weird happened. I was tweeting using my phone, and the screen started to go all fuzzy and blurry so that I could not see it properly. Then the sofa started spinning around and the room began playing at roundabouts. To be honest, I cannot quite remember anything much after that.

I awoke feeling like, as L would put it, sixteen different kinds of hell. I asked L to let me off cooking breakfast or there would be a very nasty accident. She brought me in some black coffee and half a paracetamol, which has helped quite a bit, but I am still feeling very delicate indeed. I have done nothing today except speak to Tealy briefly on the phone and then write this.

And there you are, finally up to date. I am actually coming back to life, feeling a little bit peckish. I think I will go and have a nice shower and hairwash, I am still in my pajamas, how bad is that? After that, maybe a glass of orange juice would be good, and I wonder if L has any of those croissants left?

Before I go, I want to wish you all the merriest of Christmases and a peaceful, happy and healthy new year. I will do my very best to write again before the end of the month because I want to tell you all about my Christmas, but I know I won’t get time to write before the big day, so do have a fantastic one!

Take care, Merry Christmas, thanks for reading! Big, big smiiles.

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