don't know what i thought i would find

Chapter V: We Got Things We Gotta Catch Up On

February 9, 1957

Danny walked along a path beside his uncle, their boots leaving blurry prints in the slush and pine needles on the ground. The branches of the trees above were heavy with snow, but birds resting in the branches chirped merrily all the same. Danny enjoyed their noisy calls as he and Regan made their way toward Mr. Maypenny's cabin.

As they walked, Danny told Regan about life in the Jewish home on Brighton Beach, about what he was doing in school, and about his job at the dry goods store. Regan talked about the Wheelers and some of the other people in the area, although he focused mainly on their horses. The conversation flowed easily, but neither brought up the events of the past. Danny wanted to ask Regan about his time at Saratoga, but couldn’t seem to find the right opening. He also hoped he could talk to his uncle just as easily about the past four years someday soon. Give it time to sink in, he reminded himself. Maybe his uncle's avoidance of their earlier conversation was more for his own sake than for Danny's.

They soon came to a clearing, and Danny could already smell what must be Mr. Maypenny's legendary, according to his uncle, venison stew. A white-haired man wearing odd-looking knickers and a turtleneck sweater stepped out from behind a small cabin. He smiled when he saw Regan and walked up to them. "Hi there, neighbor! Who's this with you?"

"Mr. Maypenny, I'd like you to meet my nephew, Danny." Reagan beamed at the old man.

Danny stepped forward and shook the man's hand. The sack he had slung over his arm rattled as the jars of food from the Belden household shifted inside it, but Danny had momentarily forgotten them. "Nice to meet you, sir," Danny said.

"Likewise, Daniel," Mr. Maypenny answered, bafflement evident in his eyes.

Danny winced at the use of his full name, but didn't correct him.

Mr. Maypenny stared from Regan to Danny and back again, peering from underneath bushy gray eyebrows. Danny glanced over at Regan, an eyebrow raised in question. When he saw his uncle's amused grin, he relaxed.

"Well, I'll be danged!" Mr. Maypenny finally exclaimed. "Nephew, huh?"

Regan grinned widely. "Yep."

Danny grinned as well, and Mr. Maypenny returned the grins. "Well, I'll be danged," he said again.

Danny finally remembered the jellies and chutneys in his sack and handed it over to Mr. Maypenny. "These are from Mrs. Belden," he stated.

Mr. Maypenny took the bag from Danny and peeked inside. "Thank you, son. And thank Helen, too, when you see her again. That woman keeps me well fed."

"Say," Regan asked, starting to look worried, "where are the rest of the kids? They should've been here by now."

"Can't say, as they haven't got here yet." Mr. Maypenny's sky-blue eyes peered around the clearing at the trail heads.

Regan fretted. "We're late. They should've shown up before us." He glanced down at his watch.

"Listen," Mr. Maypenny said calmly.

At first, Danny didn't hear anything but the noisy chirp of a nearby bird. Then he heard what Mr. Maypenny must have been referring to. The faint sounds of laughter and chatter became slightly clearer with each passing second.

Regan relaxed, but his look of concern returned as Brian led a limping horse through the trees. Danny recognized the large brown gelding as Thunderer.

"What happened here?" Regan demanded, rushing to meet horse and rider.

The other teens came up behind Brian, almost as if supporting him, Danny noted. In instinctive support of his uncle, he went over to stand behind Regan.

"We were riding along one of the trails when Thunderer stepped into a hole and almost went down," Brian explained. "I was going to lead him back to the stables, but this was closer and we figured you would be here, anyway."

Regan was already crouched down next to Thunderer, one hand raised to touch the horse's haunch. He examined the left rear ankle and cannon area carefully.

"Anything I can do to help?" Danny asked.

Regan shook his head. "I think he'll be okay. Nothing looks or feels broken; might just be a sprain." He stood up. "How about you, Brian?"

"I'm fine," Brian said. "And I'm really sorry. We were careful to keep to only the paths that had been cleared."

"We really are sorry, Regan," Honey chimed in. Her words came out in a whoosh as if she had been holding her breath.

"Don't worry. I'm sure it was an accident." Regan smiled at the group, and Danny noticed the Sleepyside teens all seemed surprised. They just stood there, staring slack-jawed at the red-headed groom.

"Aren't you mad?" Honey asked meekly.

"Why would I be mad? Accidents happen." Regan's russet eyebrows creased in question. "Come on, kids. I'm not that bad, am I?"

"Well, sometimes," Jim pointed out after a brief pause.

"Usually," Trixie added with an impish grin. "Especially when it comes to the horses."

"Although we know you never stay mad," Honey added with a wink.

Regan shook his head and threw up his hands. "How did I get this reputation?"

Danny smirked. "If you're anything like my mother was, it's a well-deserved reputation."

Neil quirked an eyebrow at Danny's statement, but no one else had noticed. They were all focused on the injured horse.

Mr. Maypenny walked up behind them and held out a basket of bandaging supplies. "For the horse," Mr. Maypenny said quietly.

Regan took the bandages. "Thanks. It'll help to wrap that up; it'll give Thunderer some better support."

Jim handed over his reins to Mart and helped Regan quickly wrap the sprained ankle while the other teens led their horses over to a long hitching post near the small stable where Mr. Maypenny's own horse was boarded. They returned soon after and the crowd gathered in Mr. Maypenny's yard near a large fire pit. A huge pot was positioned over the small fire, its cover rattling as the stew inside simmered gently.

"Hey, Harvey!" Neil called to his brother from far across the yard.

Danny looked up as well and saw that Neil had wandered around the corner of the house. Curious, he followed Harvey to see what held Neil's interest.

As he and Harvey rounded the corner, Danny saw that Neil was standing by the remains of a dead deer hanging from its antlers. He was examining it closely. Harvey stopped walking and wrinkled his nose in disgust.

Behind him, Danny noticed most of the other people had also arrived to see what the visitors from the city were doing.

"Look at this," Neil called again, a little less loudly, pointing to the butchered carcass.

"It's a deer. Or, at least, it was," Harvey remarked. "What of it?"

"Don't tell me we spent all those years living above a butcher shop for nothing?" Neil sounded exasperated. He left the deer and walked over to talk to Harvey without shouting.

Harvey shrugged his shoulders. "So, it's a butchered deer. What of it?" he asked again.

"I know it's probably not kosher, but that's a clean butchering job." Neil sounded excited.

Mart snickered. "It's too bad Tom's not here."

"Why?" Danny asked, confused, while the rest of the Sleepyside teens nodded in agreement, some also giggling at the comment.

"Tom and Mr. Maypenny argue all the time about the proper way to kill and butcher a deer," Trixie answered, her cheeks rosy from the cold.

"Everything from how to hunt it to how to hang it to how to skin it," Brian added. "They can't ever seem to agree."

Harvey just rolled his eyes, but Neil raised a dark brow inquisitively. "There's more than one way to butcher a deer? I mean, I know there's the kosher way, but I thought that just meant there was a rabbi there to make sure the deer itself was clean and that its organs were intact."

"Don't tell me you went over and inspected the organs?" Danny asked, clutching his stomach at the very thought.

Neil shook his head. "No, you goober. The organs have all been removed already. I have no way of knowing if the lung was punctured or if the heart had any cuts."

Danny breathed a sigh of relief. Harvey was still clutching his stomach, but possibly more out of hunger. Danny heard the loud rumble, and wondered briefly how Harvey could still have an appetite while in sight of the hanging carcass.

"Are you allowed to eat venison?" Mart asked. "I know pork is out of the question, but I'm curious what meats you can eat."

"Any mammal that chews its cud and is cloven-hoofed," Danny answered. It had been one of the first things he had learned in the Diamond household.

"Which includes antelope, bison, and deer." Neil stared at Harvey pointedly.

"It was hunted, therefore it's treif." Harvey sounded somewhat annoyed that he had to remind his brother of this simple fact.

"Hunting isn't always forbidden," Neil reminded him patiently. "Hunting for sport is against the laws, but hunting to eat is allowed."

Harvey looked almost hopeful but still shook his head. "Still, like you said, it's not kosher. There's no way this meat went through the process of shechita."

"Well, no, but if the organs were okay and the butchering knife was clean and the blood was all drained, wouldn't that be close enough?" Neil looked around for support and his eyes rested on Mr. Maypenny.

Danny noticed Mr. Maypenny following the two boys' conversation with interest. "Mr. Maypenny, have you even been introduced to my two oddball brothers yet?" Danny asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "That's Neil there over by the dead deer, and the other one wearing the dark green jacket is Harvey. Harvey is trying to keep kosher."

"More relations to you, Regan?" Mr. Maypenny asked, clearly confused. "And Jewish relations to boot?"

Regan shook his head. "I can't claim them, I don't think." His green eyes glimmered teasingly as he saw the look of perplexity in Mr. Maypenny's eyes deepen.

Neil grinned widely. "Nah," he answered. "We're no relation to Regan, just to Danny." He took off his gloves to shake hands with Mr. Maypenny.

"Relation to Regan?" Trixie asked.

The other Sleepyside teenagers echoed her confusion. Each of them stared from Regan to the three New York City boys, and then back at each other, as if someone could clarify the murky details of kinship.

Mr. Maypenny shook his head. "You youngsters will drive me crazy someday. Let me get this stew served, and then you can explain everything to this confused old man."

"But who's going to explain it to us?" Di asked, her violet eyes wide with bewilderment.

Regan waggled his eyebrows in amusement. "You'll have to wait until Mr. Maypenny gets that stew served. Then I guess I'll let my nephew decide how much he wants to share. That okay with you, Danny?"

"Sure, Uncle Bill," Danny replied.

Honey jumped up from the bench she'd been sitting on. "Well, then, I'm going to help Mr. Maypenny get those dishes, because this is a story I can't wait to hear."

Trixie nodded. "I'd go with you, Honey, but I think I'd better stay here and question these two." Her blue eyes twinkled merrily as she pointed first to Regan and then to Danny.

"I'm not saying a word," Regan responded. His tone was teasing, but the look in his eyes was serious.

"I'll help with those dishes, too," Danny told the others, as he started to follow Honey. He did not want to stay and be questioned by Trixie. "Just make sure Neil stays quiet."

Neil didn't even look up at the mention of his name. He had wandered back to the drying carcass and, with his gloves back on, was examining it much as Danny imagined a coroner would examine a corpse. Harvey had joined him, but still stood a good foot away.

"No fair." Trixie pouted. Then she smiled. "Uncle Bill. So that means you must have a brother or sister, right Regan?"

Danny didn't hear any answer from Regan as he shoved his hands in his pockets and followed the path that would lead them back to the front door. There was no wind but the chill in the air was still noticeable.

In front of him, Honey wrapped her scarf over her ears as they rounded the corner. She waited for him to catch up. "I feel silly asking this, but what does 'chew its cud' mean anyway? I've heard that before but never understood it."

"Don't feel silly. I asked the same thing when Harvey first told me." Danny flashed her a comforting smile. "It just means they regurgitate their food and chew it twice."

The two of them walked into the house and Danny took a quick look at the rustic cabin. The home was simple and cozy. A square room was on the left, holding two home-made chairs and a small table; a bookshelf stood in the corner and a braided rug decorated the floor.

"Sounds kind of, um, grotesque." Honey had stepped into the kitchen which opened up on the right, a wood-burning stove stood in one corner of the small room.

Brian caught the front door as Danny entered right behind her. "I'll lend a hand, too," he offered.

Danny nodded at Brian, hiding the bit of surprise he felt at him being there. He hadn't even noticed him behind them as they were walking.

"It's kind of interesting, really," Brian commented.

"What's interesting?" Honey asked, opening a cupboard to find the large-rimmed bowls. "How Danny and Regan are related, and why no one mentioned it sooner?"

"I meant cud," Brian answered. "And rumination. But yeah, that's interesting, too."

Danny quirked an eyebrow. Ignoring the curious looks from the two teens, he went back to the topic of cud. "Yeah, Neil gave me the rundown of the whole rumination process. All in anatomical terminology. I didn't quite follow, but I think grotesque about covers it."

Honey shook her head at both boys. "I don't particularly want to hear how it all happens." She handed a large stack of bowls to Danny. Moving over to a drawer, she opened it and pulled out a couple handfuls of spoons.

Brian winked as he took them from her. "It's not as bad as it sounds, but I'll spare you the details and the 'anatomical terminology'."

The three of them soon returned to the crowd still outside. Most of them had moved back to the front of the cabin, away from the gruesome sight of the remains of the deer. The pot of stew had been moved over to the long table, and fresh logs had been added to the fire to get it going strong again. It provided enough heat that the visitors could comfortably remove their gloves and scarves and enjoy their meal without feeling too cold.

"Harvey, are you going to be able to join us?" Mr. Maypenny regarded the boy kindly.

"He wouldn't want you to starve," Neil reminded Harvey, pointing upward.

"I think my brother's trying to convince me to go against my better judgment. And that stew smells so good." Harvey's stomach rumbled again and he looked longingly at the stew pot. "I do have some questions, first. Can you tell me exactly how you killed the deer?" Harvey asked the question matter-of-factly, and Mr. Maypenny answered likewise.

"I hunt with a cross-bow," he started. He sat down on one end of the wood bench and pulled out a pipe.

Neil smiled and put his thumb up to indicate his approval. "Good, no bullets."

Mr. Maypenny glanced at Neil before returning his focus to the pipe. Once it was lit and he had taken a puff, he turned back to Harvey. "Once I've shot the deer, I follow the trail to find it. Usually takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour before the deer will go down." His eyes lit up as he spoke.

Danny listened, somewhat fascinated by the conversation. He had never been hunting, had never killed an animal before. He didn't think it sounded all that fun and wondered if the other boys had ever been hunting, including Neil and Harvey.

"Do you cut its throat to drain the blood?" Harvey asked, as he helped arrange some large round pieces from a tree stump to use as chairs.

Mr. Maypenny raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Well, yes, son, I do. My father and my grandfather both told me that was the fastest way to get the blood to drain completely." He looked pointedly over at Brian and Mart. "I know some folks here-abouts think it's not necessary to cut the throat, say it's a bad idea even, but I've been doing it that way for so many years now, I can't imagine another."

Regan snorted. "I don't think you need to cut the throat, either. I heard field-dressing the deer pretty much takes care of making sure the blood drains."

"Oh?" Harvey contemplated this bit of information thoughtfully. "According to kashrut, the meat isn't kosher unless the animal was killed by cutting its throat. It's also considered the proper way to drain the blood. I don't suppose it's easy to catch a live deer and then kill it that way though."

Mr. Maypenny chuckled. He took a few more puffs from the pipe, the smoke rising gently in the cold air. "I guess my grandpa and his pa before him had their reasons for doing it that-a-way."

Regan shook his head. "I'm not much of a hunter, so I wouldn't know for sure. Just seems like it's unnecessary to me."

Harvey unbuttoned his coat, and sat on one of his log chairs near Mr. Maypenny. "What kind of knife do you use when you cut the throat and eviscerate the animal?"

Mr. Maypenny got up and walked over to a small shed just next to the cabin. He came back carrying a knife, about 14 inches long. Pulling it out of its leather sheath, he handed it to Harvey, handle first.

Mr. Maypenny started going into more details, but Danny didn't stay to hear any more. He really didn't want to know. Besides, he still had almost a dozen earthenware bowls in his hand. He maneuvered them into one arm, and then coughed lightly to get Honey's attention. She seemed rooted to the spot, almost spellbound, by the conversation.

Honey looked pale when she turned to him, but also grateful. She gestured with the ladle in her hand and attempted a smile. "Let's start serving everyone. I don't really want to stay and hear more about Butchering 101." She looked over to where most of the others had gone, away from the conversation on hunting practices.

"Me neither," Danny agreed. "It's ruining my appetite."

Honey nodded. "Besides, I'm anxious to find out about you and Regan," she added.

"There's not much to find out. He's my uncle." Danny winked at her to show he knew that wouldn't satisfy her curiosity.

Trixie made a small grunting noise, having heard him as they approached the rest of the group. "That much we've figured out. Please, Honey, do get that food served. I'm just dying to know more about this relationship. And whether or not you knew your uncle was here before you came to visit." She added the last bit with a suggestive raise of her eyebrow, her blue eyes sparkling with interest.

Danny grinned but did not answer. Instead, he turned around and followed Honey over to where the large pot had been placed a few feet away. Brian followed him, still holding the soup spoons. Some of the other teens also gathered around them, and the three of them started serving everyone else, leaving Mr. Maypenny and Harvey to work out the details of the kill and whether or not Harvey would even consider eating.

A short time later, all the dishes had been served, including one for Harvey. Everyone seemed grateful for the nourishment. Everyone, that is, except Harvey. He poked at the goulash with his spoon a few times. "You're a horrible big brother." He glared at Neil, who grinned back from across the table.

"Maybe. But this stew is delicious. You really should just try it." Neil took another bite. "See, I haven't been struck by lightning yet."

"Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, she-hakol nih'ye bidvaro." Harvey recited the blessing quietly, almost reluctantly. He tentatively took a small bite of the stew. Danny noted with satisfaction that after the first taste, he dug in with gusto. Apparently while the deer wasn't kosher, it didn't stop him from eating this time. For a few minutes, the sounds of spoons hitting the sides of bowls and the occasional slurping of the soupy sauce were all that was heard around the table.

"So, when exactly are we going to hear this story of how Regan and Danny are uncle and nephew?" Trixie asked from the other end of the table. She looked from Danny to Regan and back to Danny.

Jim nodded enthusiastically. "I was surprised this morning to find out you weren't a Diamond. I'd like to hear the whole story, being adopted myself."

Danny took one of the red-and-white checkered napkins that had been placed on the table and wiped his chin. "I'm not even sure where to start."

"The beginning's always good," Di suggested with a smile.

All eyes around the table were on Danny, and while he knew they were curious, he could sense the friendliness emanating from all of them as well. Trixie looked like she really wanted to say something but was holding herself back. That actually helped Danny relax. He figured he'd put it off long enough. "I won't go into all the details," he started.

Hesitating briefly, he thought about how much he should say and decided to stick with the basics of how he got to Sleepyside to find Regan. He tried consciously to mask his emotions, not wanting to share anything but the facts. "My mother was Regan's older sister. They lost touch long ago. But I remembered she would sometimes talk about her younger brother."

"But when did you realize Regan was your uncle?" Trixie asked. "Did you recognize his name when we mentioned the Wheeler staff last night?"

Mart held up a hand to stop his sister's barrage of questions. "Let him just tell the story, Trix. I'm sure we'll find out at the end."

"Go on, Danny," Regan prompted in a soft voice. His smile still couldn't reach his eyes.

Danny found a lump forming in his own throat. It was still difficult for him to talk about his mother. He didn't know if he'd ever come to terms with her death. Swallowing past the lump, he continued his story. "I have a clear memory of this one day, almost six years ago, when my mom found a newspaper article that mentioned Regan—"

This statement evoked a mixture of surprised and curious looks from the Sleepyside teens. Danny wondered if they knew anything about Regan's past, and he guessed they probably didn't. "The article was about some horse race, and Regan was mentioned as being the groom for the favored horse."

Regan's cheeks flushed a deep red, and the teens all looked at him admiringly, not guessing the real gist of the news story.

"Anyway, after my mom ... died, well ... at the time, I wasn't focused on finding family; I was more focused on surviving." Danny frowned, remembering some of the things he had done in the name of survival.

Jim coughed lightly when he didn't continue. "Sometimes, focusing on survival is all we can do."

Danny looked up and saw something dark in Jim's eyes. For the first time since meeting him, he wondered about Jim's story. He knew the older boy had been adopted by the Wheelers, but he hadn't really thought about why. Now, he was curious, certain there was much more to Jim's past.

Nodding at Jim, he acknowledged a shared pain, even without knowing the circumstances. "Yeah." He took another breath to funnel his emotions back into hiding, and then jumped quickly to the next part of his story.

"Neil found me, and that got me to thinking about family again. I remembered the newspaper article, and with Neil and Harvey's help, we found a copy of it at the library." Danny glanced over at his uncle. "Those articles gave Ju—a friend of ours—the lead he needed to find Regan here in Sleepyside."

"So you did know about Regan being here before yesterday! I knew it." Trixie grinned triumphantly.

Di gave her friend a look that Danny couldn't catch. "I'm sorry. Go on, please," Trixie said contritely.

Danny shrugged, and then looked at Neil, his mouth twitched into a half-smile. "When Neil heard that my uncle was here, he immediately called Brian to make good on that invitation to visit. I was hoping to be able to find the Wheelers, and therefore Regan, and by coincidence," Danny looked over at Brian, "they happen to be your neighbors and friends."

"That's great." Brian's words sounded sincere, but he frowned a bit as he said them. "You could've said something, Neil."

Neil looked over at his friend. "And what exactly would I have said? 'I want to come visit so I can find my brother's uncle?'"

Harvey made a snorting sound. "I just wish you would've thought about the whole food issue." He pushed his now empty bowl away from him and pulled his jacket around him, folding his arms to keep it closed instead of just buttoning it.

"Yes." Brian started to put his spoon down but somehow lost hold of it and it fell to the table. The dull thunk of metal on wood sounded overly loud in one of those odd moments of silence. Everyone turned to look at Brian and Brian grinned back, his cheeks lightly flushed. "That's exactly what you should've said. You know I'd still have invited you. Heck, I'd have been happy to help you, even if it wasn't Regan you were looking for."

"For whom you were looking," Mart corrected automatically, winking at his brother.

Neil nodded his head thoughtfully. "Yeah, all right. I guess I could've said something more. But I felt like it was Danny's story, not mine."

Danny nodded in agreement. "I didn't want to say anything."

"But why not?" Honey asked.

Danny felt his cheeks warm a bit. "I didn't know what kind of person my uncle was. All I had to go on ...." Danny didn't complete the sentence.

"Was the newspaper article." Mart looked at Danny for confirmation, one sandy eyebrow raised in question.

"So, are you going to tell us about this article?" Trixie asked, her blue eyes gleaming with curiosity as she turned in her chair to look at Regan. When he didn't answer, she looked back at Danny.

Danny shook his head and looked down at his empty bowl. He looked up again in surprise at the sound of his uncle's voice.

"Let's just say I was accused of something that I did not do. And, being young and scared, I ran away instead of confronting the issue." Regan frowned, the features in his face hardening, and no one questioned him any further.

"I don't care what those newspapers could possibly have said; Regan is one of the best people I know." Jim looked intently at Regan.

Regan squared his shoulders and met Jim's gaze with a level stare of his own. "You kids are some of the best people I know. Thank you for having faith in me."

"I told you," Harvey piped up. "Didn't I say, in the library—?"

Danny cut him off. "Yeah, you called it right."

Mart grinned widely. "Although, I must admit, if you had mentioned the reason for your visit," he pointed at Trixie with his thumb, "Trixie wouldn't have been going kookie here trying to figure things out. And we would've been able to tell you up front that Regan is our neighbor."

Regan guffawed. "I knew something this big couldn't happen without Trixie being involved somehow."

Trixie blushed, but she sat up a bit straighter from her slouching position. "Well, I did figure out there must've been something else going on before this."

"Really?" Harvey asked. "What made you think that?"

"I thought it rather odd the way Danny reacted last night to the mention of the staff at the Wheeler house," Trixie divulged. "And then, when he was gone this morning with Mart, well, that may have been innocent, but it just seemed strange."

Mart rolled his eyes. "Unsurprisingly, you would opine that bequeathing nourishment to the banties and pullets is a mysterious occurrence."

Jim shook his head, his green eyes sparkling with humor. "I thought it was the skating so early in the morning that she found odd."

Danny shrugged. "I dunno. It's not like I normally feed the, uh, banties and pullets? Does that mean chickens or something?" Now that he'd told enough of the story to satisfy the others' curiosity, he was able to relax again.

Trixie stuck her tongue out at her critics. Ignoring them, she continued her answer to Harvey. "And then I overheard Brian tell Jim that Danny seemed hesitant to join us at breakfast, and he was acting a bit anxious all morning ... well, I just didn't know why Danny was acting that way, but I was determined to find out."

Jim gave Trixie an admiring look. "And now we know."

"I still have one more question," Trixie stated.

"Only one more?" Brian snorted. "That will be the day."

"Okay, I have lots more. But one pressing one." Trixie turned back to Regan. "Did you know you had a nephew?"

Regan shook his head in the negative, opposite of his answer. "Yeah, I knew. But I still thought of him as a little kid, like Bobby's age, maybe. And I had no idea that my sister had died." Regan frowned. "I had no idea," he repeated.

"That must have been a shock to find out," Honey said kindly, her hazel eyes conveying more sympathy than any words possibly could.

Regan nodded, quietly accepting her condolences. He looked at Danny curiously, but Danny only shook his head in response. By unspoken agreement, they knew that was a conversation they would have to continue in private.

Di stood up from the table, acknowledging that nothing more would be said. "Danny, Regan, whatever the circumstances, I'm happy for you both. I think it's a fabulous thing that you've found each other." She picked up her empty bowl from the table. "Anyone else up for seconds?"

A chorus of "me"'s answered her. While most of the people got up from the table, Danny remained seated along with Regan and Mr. Maypenny. Danny wasn't sure if she had done it on purpose or not, but he was grateful for the distraction Di had caused with the mention of more food.

Mr. Maypenny had been silently listening the whole time. He reached for his pipe but didn't relight it, instead just holding it in his hands. "So, what does that mean for you two, now?" he asked.

Danny and Regan looked at each other before Regan responded. "We still have a lot to talk about. But whatever you need, Danny, whatever you need, I'm here."

chapter Vi: dum-dum-ee-doowee-doo-wop