Today was Marcus Thayer Centowski's birthday.
For some reason, the boy was adamant about not having a party.
This surprised his parents, because Marcus had always been the happiest and most sociable child, but Meadow and Orlando figured that their son just wanted to spend his special day with the people he loved most, including his younger adopted sister, Ophelia.
Meadow and Orlando had had a lot of work done on their old farmhouse during the summer. In addition to their new kitchen,
they had had a stone fireplace installed,
and this faced a cozy seating area.
The '40s-era bathroom had been demolished (none of the antiquated plumbing fixtures had been salvageable) and had now become a hallway.
The existing door still led to Marcus's room, in which--in anticipation of his birthday--his mother had just that morning replaced his crib with a twin bed,
and added a small desk and chair.
The new second door in the hallway led to Ophelia's brand-new room (the toddler's crib had previously been set up in an unused corner of the living room), which Meadow had spent a lot of time decorating--
including sewing pink gingham curtains for her young daughter.
Each bedroom led to a new bathroom.
Orlando was now making good money as an artist, which was fortunate since the renovations had been fairly expensive. The farmhouse was 150 years old and, whenever a workman tried to alter any of the existing walls or roof, a part of the structure invariably crumbled or collapsed at least to some extent.
Orlando came home from work just after 6:00 p.m. Meadow met him at the door with a kiss.
"How was your day, honey?" she asked.
"Pretty good," he answered, "but all I've been able to think of was rushing home for Marcus's birthday!"
The couple picked up their toddlers,
and carried them over to the dining table, where Meadow had placed the birthday cake she had baked for their son. Meadow tooted on a noisemaker, and Ophelia looked on in wonder,
as Marcus squealed in delight over his cake,
blew out his candles,
and grew into a child as perfectly as his devoted parents had expected he would.
Marcus ducked into his new bathroom to fix his hair, and quickly rejoined his little sister.
Ophelia gazed up at her big brother. She had not yet learned to talk, but she wondered to herself whether Marcus would consider that he was now too grown up to be still playing with a little kid like her.
"Don't fret, Ophelia," Marcus assured her, sensing her worry. "I'll always be your best friend. Come on, let's sing a nursery rhyme together."
Orlando quietly regarded his son from the dining table, where he and his wife were having some birthday cake.
"'Marcus the Good'," Meadow whispered to her husband, her eyes shining with pride and love, as she used the nickname she and Orlando had recently come up with for their son.
The next morning, Orlando--who had the day off--dressed Ophelia in one of the many outfits that her godmother, Calista Gothier London, had brought the girl from Paris, and resumed teaching the child to talk.
He had let his wife sleep an extra half hour, knowing that she had a demanding day ahead of her.
The end of the summer and beginning of fall comprised the harvest season, and Meadow--who over the past few years had become an excellent gardener, and one whose efforts contributed quite a bit of money to the young family's finances--needed both to pick fruit from her backyard orchard and to work a long day at her farmstand downtown.
While Orlando tended to Ophelia and Meadow tended to her trees,
Marcus quietly occupied himself by drawing at the activity table.
After a while, Orlando gave Ophelia a break from learning to talk, and gave the girl her lunch.
While Ophelia ate,
and while Meadow--after harvesting the orchard--took a much needed shower prior to facing her farmstand customers,
Orlando grabbed himself some leftovers,
and Marcus quietly studied Creativity.
Orlando put Ophelia down for a nap,
and Marcus got himself some lunch,
and cleaned up afterward,
while his mother went out to her community lot.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next time, when we see how Meadow's Farmstand did for the summer, and when Meadow and Orlando finally tell Marcus that Ophelia is adopted.