“A fine healthy boy” said the midwife, passing him to me to bathe and swaddle. I carefully focused on the baby, gently wiping him down, soothing him with a little humming and watching his face carefully. He quickly dropped off to sleep once he was swaddled in soft cotton and wool blankets.

I turned back to Telia, my daughter. The midwife was just finishing cleaning her up from the birth. She was lying with her eyes shut, looking exhausted. I sat down in the big chair, the baby in my arms. I woke a little later, the midwife had propped up the baby with some pillows and he was still sleeping. Telia was asleep too.  My daughter, my grandson. All I cherished in the world, in one room. The room was quiet. The midwife’s feet were visible sticking out if the blanket where she lay, probably dozing, on the long bench under the window. I had been awake for 24 hours up to the birth, so my falling asleep had not been a surprise. Telia had been in labour for 20 of those, and at work in the medical tent up until her waters broke.  Fortunately the bombers had gone away and we had had some peace.

The baby stirred, and looked up at me, seeming to focus, although I did know babies see blurrily at first. “Well my boy” I said, looking at him with feelings of love and a degree of fear, “welcome to the world”.  The baby opened his mouth and let out a wail, that amazing new-born mewl that makes every mother’s heart fill with love. Telia woke, stirred and half sat up. Then she put out her arms, and I gave him to her. “She’s beautiful mum” said Telia, looking at me with shining eyes.  “I think you need to open that nappy” I said, turning to go and make us some tea.

I came back with the tea, strong and with some of the precious sugar ration in the one cup for Telia as she was bound to need it. She was sitting with the baby on her lap, looking at him with tears in her eyes. “Oh how will we be able to keep him safe?” she asked. The midwife muttered, “The war will be over before he is big enough, don’t you be worrying about that.”

I gave the midwife my cup and went back to the kitchen to pour myself another one.

When we had all had our tea, she checked mother and baby, declared herself satisfied with them both and left, promising to drop in again the next day.

The baby quickly learned how to feed and I was sure I could see him growing by the hour. Telia laughed at me, she said he still doesn’t really fit into his clothes, he can’t be growing that fast. Both of us sitting looking at him more than we did anything. The medical tent people understood it would be a few days before I could come back to work there, and Telia’s leaving for as long as she needed with the baby was accepted. They had just been grateful that a doctor like her had stayed as long as she had.

The bomb fell on the house when we were out at the clinic, getting the baby weighed. It had seemed a good morning, misty clouds making it hard for bombers to know where to go so we had anticipated a bomb-free day. We had barely made it into the underground shelter when the first thuds started. The baby lay looking at us unconcerned. I knew Telia, was making the same effort I was, to keep the bombs from a direct hit.

However after the all clear, when we emerged, the devastation around seemed worse than ever. And when we got to our road, the gap where our house had been was only too obvious.

The only answer was my cousin in the country. A train trip, hard enough when planned, and extremely difficult completely unplanned with no luggage and we arrived at the station. A phone call to my cousin produced a delighted statement “Of course you have to come and stay with us”.

The next few days were hard, trying to get new ration books and clothing. Starting with nothing again is only to be recommended for those with a great deal of imagination, friends and of course – money. And it is obviously better not to do it in the middle of a war when everything is rationed. My one trip back to the city to deal with the authorities there quickly resolved much and I returned with two bundles of adult and baby clothing, most of which fit, sometimes with a little alteration needed. The bundle of nappies turned out to be the one thing that really eased our problems.

The baby still didn’t have a name. All the questions were just met with, “He hasn’t made his name clear yet”. Telia was adamant.

Then one morning Telia was calling the baby Peter, and he really seemed to be smiling. My cousin was delighted. She said, “I was afraid you would give him some outlandish name as your mother did with you children.”

Time in the country passed happily, we had a small plot to tend, some food for us, some for the central government to sell. I did some walking in the woods and untilled fields and came back with mushrooms and nuts quite often, so we were very well fed, able to create a nut-store to help us in the winter.

Telia and I took turns trying to keep an eye on young Peter all his waking hours, wondering if he had inherited our abilities.

The day his father walked through the gate, obviously tired, but so happy to see Telia and his baby was the day the baby first really smiled, or so I thought. The leave was too short, and he left, still looking tired. Two months later when we received the telegram informing us of his death, Telia said sadly “He knew he was going back to die”.

He had died in the early battles of the phase that finally ended the war, slow though it seemed at the time.  It became obvious that we needed to think about where we would live after the war. Telia was like me, she would only marry once, she would never love anyone else like that again.

Peter was crawling already, and the day I found him on the roof, confirmed our worst fears.  City living with a baby like him was out of the question. He would surely be discovered and made a freak, or kill himself as my son had.

On my ramblings I had found a rather tumbled down house in the wood, and on asking I discovered it belonged to the manor house, or rather to its owners. I visited and after a good conversation, the lady said it would be good to have tenant’s there.  I promised her we would keep it in good repair. All she asked was that we help out at harvest time, gathering hay. We knew we could take turns and it would only be for about a week each year. The two lost sheep I had found she said we could keep for the wool, and that gave me a start in building an income. Two hens and a rooster soon provided eggs, and more chicks until we had a thriving yard. Out little plot turned out more vegetables than we needed, and we gladly shared some with the main house, ensuring out living space.

The day we moved in, carrying our pitiful little supply of goods was a relief. My cousin had no idea of the long haul we would have keeping young Peter safe from his own wild abilities. Telia and I sat late that night talking about how my son, at the age of 2 had killed himself using his powers in an uncontrolled manner.

Thus began the years of watching and guarding Peter. We made sure he was never awake without one of us awake to guard and guide him. As he began to realise his abilities, we taught him carefully to use them, just as he used his physical strength that developed alongside his other strengths. He didn’t seem to realise there was much difference.

By the time he was 6 he was reading and writing, running, playing, swimming in the pond, and moving objects around with his mind, all as though everything he did was natural, but needed care at the same time. Slowly he began to learn that some abilities were best kept secret and developed a remarkable level of skill in doing so. He thrived on our praise.

Then we allowed him to attend school, once he was 7 and had proved his control. The headmaster was first very cross that Peter was starting so late, but when the teacher showed he was ahead of his age in reading, writing and arithmetic, he relented and Peter’s schooling went fairly smoothly.  Over the years there were few incidents, each of which was easy to attribute to someone not seeing properly. Each incident though was Peter protecting some child from harm.

His secondary schooling was a problem, so we moved to be near a town where he could catch a bus to a day school. We were still enough in the countryside to have a thriving egg business, and the sheep provided the wool for our yarn and knitted goods we sold.  We still didn’t want him unprotected from himself.  He finished school with flying colours and was granted a bursary for university. Telia and I could not stop him then, he had himself well under control, but we were worried about money as Telia had developed dreadful headaches and couldn’t really help much on the chicken business or with the spinning and knitting. I was becoming a little arthritic, so I needed to utilise my extra skills to turn out the fine wool and garments we sold.

Peter came home for the summer holidays (or so we thought). Beaming all over and with presents for us.  He had passed all his subjects well, and according to him he still had the extra time to earn money, enough for his keep, and to save.

We asked what he had been doing, worried he may be ‘not quite legal’ to earn so much.

He went to his room and returned with one of his suitcases. Opened it and took out a top hat, a red-lined cape and a ‘magic wand’. He spent an hour entertaining us with his tricks. Of course for us they were natural abilities, but for normal people they seemed like magic.

He took out one of the posters “Marvo the Magician” was our boy!

Over supper we talked and laughed, he saying, “they talk of illusions and I have been offered so much money to teach others. But I can’t, can I? How do I explain that it’s an illusion that my magic is JUST a trick?”


4 thoughts on “Illusion

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