"Oh my, it certainly looks like you could use some help, dearie."
I'm quite sure I was never so glad to see anyone, as I was to see Aunt Aster as she breezed into my nursery a few days after my little wolf girl was born. It had been another sleepless night; her cries of hunger had awakened me every hour.
"Now, let me have a look at your little Atsana. What did you name her?"
"Uh.. Atsana?" I mumbled, deep in the throes of sleep deprivation. "Um. Name her? I haven't thought of a name yet."
Aster grinned at my incoherence.
"That's what Rudy always called our girls when they were little. He says it was his mother's pet name for her little wolf girls."
"Now you just go lie down and rest, sweetie. I'll take care of everything. Cinnamon dear, what would you like for breakfast?"
I fleeting contemplated protesting this blatant takeover of my household, but after making a few incoherent gestures accompanied by mumbled sounds that even I didn't recognize as words, I obediently slunk off to my bed. It was heaven. And then some.
Even with Aunt Aster's help, Atsana was a difficult baby, so different from Cinny when she was an infant. (Yes, I never did think of a name, and my aunt's nickname for her eventually stuck.) In those early weeks after her birth, I was too tired to even think about attempting the spell that might free Silvanus. I don't know what I would have done without my herbs. The coffee certainly helped, but it couldn't keep me awake forever.
And as she grew, it got no better. Every night, several time a night, I'd be awakened to ear-splitting wailing coming from the nursery. I stumbled to her crib to be met by cries of 'Hungwy, Mama!' punctuated by tiny feet stomping up and down in rhythm with her cries.
Daytime was not much better. I couldn't turn my back on her for a second without her getting into something she wasn't supposed to. Scratching on the furniture was the worst.
"Atsana! Attsaaannnaaaa!" Stop that this instant!"
"What did you say? Look at me, Atsana."
"We don't scratch the furniture, baby girl. Okay?"
"Otay. Uv Oo Mama."
I sighed in defeat. She was just too adorable when she wanted to be.
"I love you too, sweetie."
And then five minutes later, it would be the same thing, all over again. Only this time it would be pulling all the books off the bookshelf, or trying to bite the head off one of Cinnamon's dolls.
I was always happy to see Cinnamon walk in the door after school each day. She loved playing with Atsana, and it would give me a short respite to tend my sadly neglected herbs, and throw some dinner together.
She seemed to be friends with everyone, and always had gossip to share. And I was sadly out of touch with the world at this point.
"Guess what Mama? You remember the big explosion at the Garden Grove that I told you about a few months ago?"
I nodded tentatively. My still sleep-deprived mind vaguely recalled her telling me about my Aunt Lily attempting some sort of spell that had backfired horribly and caused a huge explosion.
"Well, guess what? It made everybody pregan..prenant.. it put babies in everybody's tummies!"
"Are you sure, sweetheart? Everybody?"
I knew that Lily had been working on a fertility spell for years now, to assist in the re-population of the island, but I never thought she'd actually come up with something that worked. And I sincerely hoped that it hadn't affected everybody, as in me too. I could not handle another baby at this point.
"Yes! Everybody that was at the Garden Grove that day!"
I breathed a long sigh of relief.
"Do you know who was there?" I questioned.
"Sure! Uncle Ezra's new girlfriend, and Auntie Reva.."
I shook my head sadly at the mention of Jenna, Ezra's newest conquest. He had wanted nothing to do with Atsana, and now the master of non-commitment was going to be a father again.
and .. oh Mama, you're not gonna believe it.. Uncle Gerry! And Aunt Lily too, and she's old!"
When I heard Cinny mention my brother Gerry, I didn't really believe her, so the next morning after Cinny left for school, Atsana and I walked over to the house that he shared with his boyfriend Judd. I was startled to see a nursery already set up in one of the downstairs rooms.
And I was even more startled to see Gerry's bulging belly.
"Cinny told me, but I really didn't believe her. How..um.." my voice trailed off in confusion.
"Nobody is quite sure," Judd replied with an excited grin. "Lily isn't even sure what she did. All we know, is that something happened, and Gerry is one of the lucky ones!"
I wasn't quite so sure about the lucky part, but they seemed so excited, I had to be happy for them.
"I still can hardly believe it," I giggled at Gerry's huge tummy. "I guess I better get going, though. Atsana is bound to start acting up soon, and I'm sure you don't want to see that."
"Actually, that sounds like a great idea!" Judd exclaimed. "We need to learn what fatherhood is really going to be like. Why don't you leave her with us for the day? I'm sure you could use a break."
I was dumbfounded. No one, and I mean no one, every offered to watch Atsana if they could possible help it. She was just that difficult.
"Deal!" I agreed quickly, before they could back out.
And so I found myself at home, alone, with nothing to do, for the first time since Atsana had been welcomed into the world.
"It's time, Silvy. I think I'm ready. Are you ready?"
"I am ready when you are, Freya."
He sounded so calm! I, on the other hand, was almost freaking out with apprehension. What if the spell backfired on me? What if it cursed me instead of freeing Silvanus? What if...
"Don't worry Freya. Everything will be fine. You are a better witch than your Aunt Lily. And you have the charm. I have faith in you."
I nodded, only remembering afterward that he couldn't see it, and then took a deep calming breath.
I concentrated on the charm, then hesitantly began the spell, channeling it through the clear amber stone. I continued with more confidence as I saw it taking shape as it was supposed to. It was a long, difficult spell, but I had practiced it so often it came easily now.
I finished with a shower of sparks that drifted slowly down over the spot of earth where Silvanus had manifested in vine form. At first nothing happened that I could see. There was no word from Silvy, and the air around me was quiet. A sea gull called in the distance, and I could hear the waves slapping against the sand. Time seemed to stand still.
Then the ground around my feet began to tremble. The trembling soon turned to real shaking, and I was sure the spell had backfired and I had caused an earthquake that would swallow the entire island.
But just as the ground seemed about to dump me on my backside, the shaking subsided and a leafy green head burst forth, followed by leafy green shoulders.
And then, with a triumphant cry, Silvanus himself leapt up into the air, free for the first time in millennia.
I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but certainly not this gorgeous green leafy man.
"I did it! We did it! You're free!"
He was not as excited as I was, however. He kept staring down at himself in what could only be described as extreme dismay.
"Are.. are you alright?" I had to ask. "What's wrong?"
He held up both his hands as if to show me..something. I wasn't sure what.
"Is something wrong with your hands?" I asked hesitantly.
"Yes. Can't you see it? They are green! And what is this?"
He picked disconsolately at the leafy layers covering his skin.
"Oh." I was beginning to understand. "You mean you didn't used to look like this?"
"I used to be a normal man - tan skin, blonde hair - you know, a human."
"Oh. Hmm. Like a witch, you mean?"
I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about.
"No. Just a man," came his reply. "With no magical powers whatsoever."
"Really? There are no such men on our island anymore. And I think you look fine the way you are."
For the rest of the day we talked. He assured me that I hadn't done anything wrong with the spell, which was my worry. Perhaps he had just been confined for too long. Perhaps the antidote spell wasn't configured properly in the first place. Anyway, there was nothing to be done about it now. And then it was time for me to go and collect Atsana. I hated to leave him in the mood he was in, but I had no choice.
As if I hadn't had enough surprises in one day, another one awaited me at Gerry and Judd's. Their baby had been born that afternoon!
"How was Atsana? Didn't she throw a fit during all the excitement?"
"She was as good as gold. Judd gave her a doll to play with and she's been talking and singing to it all day. I'm not sure what you mean by difficult. We didn't see that side of her at all."
I was grateful for that, at least. Maybe they could be convinced to watch her again sometime soon.
I lifted little Dax from his crib. He was adorable, with Judd's blue-tinged Djin skin. I sincerely hoped he would be a good baby, for Gerry's sake.
Then Gerry asked if I'd had a nice day off, which was my cue to tell him all about Silvy. I stopped when I saw that he really didn't believe me. But he would see. Now that Silvy was un-cursed they all would see how wrong they were, and that I was right all this time. I picked up Atsana and practically ran all the way home.
When we arrived back home, Silvanus was still wandering around in a daze, but he hurried over to me when he saw us.
"Listen, Freya. I'm sorry about earlier. I truly am grateful for what you have done. It was just such a shock. Will you forgive me?"
"There's nothing to forgive," I murmured, pulling him into a hug.
Oh dear. A sudden thought sprang unbidden into my mind. My whole life had been focused on this day. Now that it was done, what would I do now? And what would I do with this confused and shocked plant man I had just freed?