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That Green Book

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Janet sat in her father's study. Her belly had started to show back in February, and as the spring turned to summer it was swelling like a pumpkin. She read over his chapter about the Fourth Ericsson ghost, she had almost convinced him to publish his book on local folklore, and had offered to proof read it. If she was honest with herself, it was really an excuse to get some time to herself, as Thomas and her mother could not seem to talk about anything but the baby.

Thankfully, Thomas was about to start his finals. "His final finals, before he finally graduates." Molly had quipped. Originally Janet had planned to take her comprehensives this term, but her doctor had pointed out that her due date was right in the middle of the exam period, so she had reluctantly agreed to suspend her final term until after the baby was born.

Being out of school, even more than being pregnant, made her feel out of sorts, and distanced from her friends and their concerns. She'd moved back in with her parents, as they'd all agreed that it made more sense for Thomas to stay and graduate than to try to look for a job without his degree. He was still officially living on campus, but in practice he was staying with Janet and her family most nights. It had felt strange at first, but he got along well with her parents, and with Andrew. Lily still made a show of feeling it was unfair, but even she was slowly coming around. Janet’s parents had even organized an apartment, not far from campus, which a friend of her mother's was going to let to them while she took her sabbatical. But for now Janet felt that life was going on for everyone else, while she, like the creature that grew and wriggled inside her, was in stasis, not unlike the space traveller in one of her beloved science fiction novels.

Janet sighed. She'd let her mind wander off from the text, thinking about her own situation when she should be paying attention to sentences and typing errors. She turned back to the previous page, and started again at the list of books her father had compiled. She recognized some, some she had even picked up herself that stormy day outside Melinda Woolf's office. But this time her attention snagged on one title, a collection of English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Janet remembered picking it up, a small green volume which seemed inconsequential at the time. Now, with everything she had learned since, she realized that the ghost must have included it for a reason.

She picked up the phone to call Thomas’s residence, but hesitated. He had been through so much, and now that he was alive and to be a father, he was happier not dwelling on Medeous or any of that strange company. Instead, Janet called Elliott, and asked to speak to Molly or Tina. She doodled on her notepad as she waited for someone to come back to the phone, and only when she heard footsteps approaching dud she realize she had written lines from Donne's famous song "get thee a child with a mandrake root" and illustrated it with a bulging belly full of strange tendrils. She shuddered and scrunched the page into a ball.

Molly was on the line. "Hello? Janet? It's the middle of the day, is everything all right?" Just hearing Molly's familiar voice with her east coast vowels made Janet feel better.

Hi, yes it's me. Sorry, were you busy?"

“Only studying for the most important tests of my life. What's up?"

"I need a favour. Can you go to the library and get a book for me? If you bring it over tonight I can promise you a home cooked meal." Janet paused, Medeous had affected Molly, too. "I'd ask Thomas, but it's something to do with her"

"Far out!" Molly exclaimed. "Jan, are you sure you want to do this? Thomas and Robin seem to think everything is over."

"I have to. You were there. You heard what she said. Next time she will take two and 'more beloved'. I can't risk not knowing."

"Okay, I believe you. I'll be there at seven. And Jan, there had better be a good dessert."

After hanging up the phone, Janet went to find her mother to tell her there would be one more for dinner, and that Janet was planning to make a peach cobbler for dessert. She ended up staying in the kitchen to help chop vegetables as well, which gave her something to do instead of watching the clock. At six thirty her father came home and passed on the message that Thomas would be studying until late, but he would come home when the library closed. A knot unfurled in Janet's stomach, as she realized she could talk to Molly alone without needing to make excuses.

Molly arrived just as they were setting the table. "Every time I see you, you get bigger!" She announced.

Janet laughed. "You're the biologist, I shouldn't have to explain pregnancy to you. Did you find...?"

Molly cut her off. "After dinner. We'll talk after dinner. Okay?”

Janet acknowledged that this made sense, and managed to have a perfectly pleasant dinner. Even Lily was making polite conversation, talking to Molly about the new bands she liked. As she served up the cobbler, Janet casually asked her father if he would mind if she and Molly ate dessert in his study. "I want to show her my new poem," she said disingenuously, knowing that he respected the right of budding poets to select their audience.

Once she had shut the door behind them, Janet could barely contain her nervousness. Molly, sensing this, drew the green book out of her pack, but rather than hand it over, she sat down, still clasping it to her chest.

“I want to go on the record and state that this was your idea," she said solemnly. Janet nodded at her to go ahead. "Okay, so I found the book, in the special collection just where you said I would. But before I checked it out, it fell open at this page." Molly paused, and opened the book to a page she had marked with a library request slip. "I've read it, and I'm a bit freaked out. But you said you needed to know, so here it is, and I'm just going to sit here and eat my cobbler until you're done." So saying, she passed the book over, open at the right page, and picked up the bowl of cobbler from the desk.

Janet sank into the armchair and read:

O I FORBID you, maidens a’,
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.

Several minutes later she looked up. "It's all there. Janet. Carterhaugh. Tam Lin. Tom Lane. Molly, how can it all be in a 400 year old poem?"

Molly shugged. "If we can accept that she is queen of the fairies, surely anything is possible. Maybe some time traveller from the future will hear about you and Thomas and take the story back to the fifteenth century. I mean, that makes about as much sense as any of this."

Janet blinked back a tear. "But Molly, he told me someone had done it before. A lover pregnant with child. Do you think he knew that this..." before she could ask what Thomas knew, the door opened and there he was.

“Your parents said Molly was visiting” he started, before seeing Janet's stricken face. “Love, what's wrong? Who knew what?”

Janet stared. She wasn't ready to have this conversation. Not when the shock was still fresh. Luckily, Molly was there to pick up the book which had slipped from Janet's lap. "She's afraid that you knew about this. That you knew before you two, uh, you know, got in the family way.”

Thomas took the book from her and as he skimmed down the page his eyes grew wide and he started to mutter, first in surprise, and then curses. He turned back to Janet. "I swear to you I have never seen this before. Robin told me, he told me that once someone had been saved by his pregnant lover, but he never told me that anyone had written it down.” He put his hand on her belly, as if he was swearing on a bible in a courtroom. “I swear to you, I loved you even when I had no hope, no thought that I would live to see this summer and to feel our child kick inside you. Please, you must believe me.”

“ I want to believe you, I truly do,” Janet replied. “I'm just so afraid of losing you.” She placed her hand over his for emphasis. “Both of you”

“You held me fast while I was transformed. Nothing will keep us apart anymore.”

“Ahem.” Molly cleared her throat conspicuously. “This is very touching, but I don't think I'm needed here any more.”

“Oh, Molly!” Janet rose unsteadily to clasp Molly into a hug. “I know you have to study. Thank you. Knowing is always better than not knowing.”

Molly hugged her tight. “No problem. Thanks for dinner.” Then she turned to Thomas and kissed his cheek before he could claim a hug from her. “Whatever happens, you call me. We're all in this together.” She opened the door but didn't go through it. “And Janet, don't you dare have that baby without calling me first.” With that, she turned and walked down the hall before they could say anything to make her stay.

***

The next morning, Janet cornered her father before he left for campus. "Why didn't we know?" She asked. "Why wasn't this on the syllabus?" He made his usual excuses about it being one of the periods he'd managed to avoid, but promised to look into it.

That night he came home earlier than usual and drew her into his study. “It won't come as any great surprise to learn that it was due to Medeous,” he told her. “Not your Medeous, her grandmother.” He paused, Janet, with Thomas and Molly, had decided to tell him the truth about the events of last Halloween. “Well, you know who I mean. It seems that there was an argument about whether to include her translation of Roman de la Rose or whether the survey course should focus exclusively on works originally from the English, modern or otherwise. I don't need to tell you that Medeous usually gets what she wants.”

“No, you don't. Thank you, daddy.”

“Nothing is to much for my girl.” He grinned, “Not when you managed to solve the eternal mystery of why the Blackstock Classics department has a reputation for making people crazy.”