“Do you remember anything I said earlier?”
Rose’s face grew stern, and her eyes filled with tears. “Enough to know you’re leaving us.”
“Not by choice. There is nowhere I would rather be, than here with you, raising our son. I love you more than my own life, Rose. I do this to protect you. Please, forgive me for lying with another.”
“I can scarcely condemn you for that. Before we met, I had more than my share. But you come back to me, while our child is still young, do you hear? I won’t have him grow up without his father, as I did.”
“As did I. Now kiss me, my beautiful Rose, and let me hold my son.”
“What shall we name him?”
“After your father?” he took the child in his arms.
“My mother has no idea who that was. After yours?”
Smiling, he gazed into his son’s disconcerting golden eyes. Louis Willoughby,” he made a sign of the cross on the small forehead. “You look a bit like my father, from the portrait I’ve seen.”
“In my eyes, he looks exactly like his own. See, even the honey colored eyes….” She sobbed, looking over Raven’s shoulder.
Without turning around, he knew that Osceola had appeared. He felt her presence like a surge of lightning in the room.
“This is the lad?” she stepped close, leaning over the baby.
Raven didn’t want her to touch his child, but knew he shouldn’t stop her.
“He is a fine, handsome boy.”
“Thank you,” Rose said faintly. “You won’t take him from us?”
Osceola shook her head. “I am ages old, set in my ways. What would I do with a child?”
“But you said—” Raven protested.
“My sweet Raven.” She touched his cheek tenderly. “What would I do with an infant? Though I’ve lived hundreds of years, I know nothing about raising a child. And honestly, my love, I am not the nurturing type.”
“You wanted to test him,” Rose said, a faint smile on her lips.
“Yes, gentle Rose. If he gave the child freely to me, he had no right to keep either of you. If he refused outright, then he was no better a man. But if he was willing to sacrifice, to save the two of you….”
“Then he was well and truly in love,” Rose said, her soft gaze focused on her husband.
“Yes. So, now, I give you a gift.”
“You’ve given the greatest gift of all, my dark and chaotic beauty,” Raven began.
“But I choose to give this one to your son. May I?” She held out her arms.
With a nod from Rose, he handed the child to the vampire witch. “His name?”
“Louis, after my father.”
“A second name, I think. We shall name him Louis Osceola Willoughby, and he shall be the greatest warlock the world has known. He has the blood of magical royalty in his veins, for I made you, and you gave him life. Don’t be afraid, precious Rose. Your son will use his powers for good.”
“Thank you,” Rose said. “This is quite a gift you bestow upon him. When it comes time for him to be trained, may we count on you to help him find his way?”
“Yes. It would be my greatest joy. And visit, if you would, from time to time?”
“As you wish.”
Osceola handed the baby back to Rose. Beckoning to Raven, she led him outside. “I know you think of me as evil.”
“Not entirely, but there is certainly chaos in your soul.”
Osceola laughed. “Yes, that’s true. But it is calmer now, since knowing you, and sharing your blood. You stand poised to do great things, Raven Willoughby. And if you ever have need of me, cast my name upon the wind, and I shall come. Now, one last kiss before I leave.”
He kissed both her cheeks before placing a chaste kiss on her lips. Osceola sighed, smiling.
“Your wife is a truly fortunate lady.”
“Thank you. And I am a fortunate man to have loved two such wonderful women in my life. If you have need of me, I shall come.”
“You must visit on his first birthday.”
The air parted and she was gone.
Louis grew quickly, able to do more as a toddler, than some children twice his age. As his first birthday approached, Raven took Louis and Rose on his ship, up to see Osceola. Her home had changed. No longer a blackened cove, it was ringed sunshine drenched beaches. A cozy cottage had been built near the beach, overlooking the cove.
Osceola greeted them, not dressed in a beautiful, ocean-blue gown. Her hair swept away from her face, held with combs made from seashells. Louis threw himself into her arms, and she carried him as she showed them around.
“This is your second home,” she said with a smile. “I ask that you visit at least once a year, on his birthday, until he is fifteen. When that time comes, he will stay with me, and I will begin his training. Can you do that for me, Rose?”
“Yes, Osceola. It will be hard to be parted from my son, but I can do that.”
“It is time for you to go now,” the witch said, giving each a kiss. “Raise him well.”
With that, she disappeared. They sailed back home, delighted, and surprised, to find that they hadn’t even been gone the full day. It was still Louis’ first birthday, and the town held a party in his honor.
Each year, they did as promised, taking Louis to see Osceola. As time passed, more children came along, and all were welcome in the sunny cove. When Louis reached fifteen, he stayed behind, and they sailed home without him. Though it was difficult to say goodbye, Rose had promised.
As they cuddled in their bed, Rose laid her head upon Raven’s chest. “He’ll be all right, won’t he?”
“Yes, my sweet. He’ll be home in no time. In the meantime, you can love and spoil the rest.”
“Will they go, too?”
“If you and Osceola want them to. That is not my decision.”
“If we had not met, where would you have gone?”
“In truth, I don’t know. I suppose I would have gone to Maine, and settled there. My place of birth held nothing for me. My aunt is long dead, my parents…. No one to care if I live or die.”
“I’d have stayed here, working until I was too old to be of interest.”
“My love, you may be assured, you will always be of interest to me.”
Kissing her goodnight, he settled to sleep. In his dreams, he saw his son, grown to a man, laughing in the ocean’s surf as he conjured water sprites. With a smile on his lips, he slept deeply, dreaming of summer winds and sunshine.
©2021 Dellani Oakes