As soon as Lily Harrison makes her way into the world, her nursemaid, Shannon, notices something is different about the beautiful baby. After she hands Lily to her happy parents, Shannon wrestles with how to tell them that Lily has Child Mind, a disability that is not accepted in her land ruled by a king determined to kill any baby born with a handicap.
After Shannon reveals Lily’s condition to her parents, they must decide whether to secretly care for her or send her to the king where she will almost certainly meet her demise. Shannon, who is certain Lily is going to do something special in her life, is relieved when Lily’s parents decide to care for her until she is two and then tell the authorities she has died in a horrible accident, before sending her away to live in an Elven monastery. But when they discover the authorities are closing in sooner than expected, they must immediately put their plan into place. But little do they know that sometimes even the best plans do not go as expected.
In this captivating tale, a special little girl who embarks on an adventurous quest to live is eventually led to a final showdown with a king—and to her true destiny.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)|
About the Author
KEVIN O’MALLEY is the co-author and illustrator of the popular Miss Malarkey series as well as the award-winning Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude and the national bestseller Gimme Cracked Corn and I Will Share. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Read an Excerpt
Queen of Us All
By Kevin O'Malley
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Kevin O'Malley
All rights reserved.
A Child Is Born
She was born with a handicap, which did not bode well for her in this day and age, but she was somehow able to come into this world and stay when others could not. The king's grandfather had declared that any baby born with a handicap should be put to death, no exceptions, because he wanted his kingdom to be pure and strong. He felt that having people with handicaps living in his world would create a weak spot, giving others who may want to invade and take over his kingdom a place to aim. The king's son followed him as did the current king, his grandson, King Fargal. This rule had been in effect for the past one hundred years, and no baby with a handicap of any sort had survived—until her birth.
People were required to bring their children to the nearest sheriff's office if they suspected any sort of handicap. Many families had carried out the ritual over the years. Not complying with the law could potentially bring death to the whole family, depending on the severity of the handicap.
Although the queen had discussed the rule many times with the king, he would not change his mind. He was sure that this was the right thing to do to preserve his kingdom.
Lily was a sweet little girl; she had all her fingers and toes, but a trained eye could see the markings of her handicap. Her eyes were as wide as could be, but the oval shape gave them away. Her limbs were slightly smaller than usual, and she had an extra-large space between her first and second toes. The nurse maid, Shannon, a woman in her late thirties, knew right off that something was different. She had helped bring many babies into the world, and she had always done her duty when something like this happened. But this was different; something told her not to report what she knew to be true. Shannon looked at the mom with confusion in her eyes, not knowing what to say or what to do. Should she take the baby and hand her over to the authorities? Should she tell the mom and dad and let them do what they thought was right? Or should she take the baby and figure something out later?
The family's last name was Harrison. The mother's name was Isabel; she was petite and thin, with red hair that fell below her shoulders. As Shannon examined her, she looked to be a bit weak from giving birth. She had lost a lot of blood and was starting to panic more and more as time went by.
The nursemaid said, "You have a new little girl, and she's so beautiful. Let me clean her up a little, and I'll give her right to you."
Just then, while the nursemaid was talking, Isabel could hear the first words out of her little baby's mouth. They were screams, of course, but they were welcome screams. Just after the screams, the door opened, and in came the little girl's father, Evan. He was taller than most, built sturdily, and one could tell he was a farmer by his appearance. With all the problems they have had during the past few weeks, with Isabel falling and being confined to her bed and the lack of rain for their crops, they didn't know what would happen next. As he approached his wife, her pale complexion met his.
"How do you feel?" he asked his wife. "Are you all right?"
Isabel responded, "I'm tired but starting to feel better. We have a new little girl. I can't wait to see her. And she's healthy ... she's healthy Evan. She's healthy."
"That's great, honey, just great," Evan said. "You always wanted a little girl."
Both were so happy to have this little treasure enter their lives.
The nursemaid brought the baby back to Isabel and Evan all wrapped up in a warm blanket, all snug as could be. She laid the baby to the side of Isabel, into her arms. Isabel was simply glowing; the pale shade had left her face, and a nice rosy pink had appeared. Evan also was happy as could be, smiling from ear to ear. This was their first baby, and they looked so proud to have her. Shannon could see how happy they were by the beams of light coming from their faces; their smiles alone lit up the room.
Shannon was caught up in the moment of joy as she watched the mother and baby, but the reality of the situation started to come back to her. She had to decide what to do. Should she tell the couple now, or wait till they noticed that their little girl had issues?
Shannon decided to head home after making sure that both the baby and the mother were clean, fed, and resting quietly. The mother's bleeding had stopped, and she seemed to be regaining her strength, so Shannon felt it was okay to leave them for the night. She didn't live that far from the Harrisons' home, so she could get back quickly if needed. Plus, she would be back in the morning to help out and relieve the father from his overnight chores. As she prepared to leave, Evan couldn't thank her enough for all the work she had done taking care of both Isabel and Lily.
"Is that the little girl's name? Lily?" Shannon asked.
Evan replied, "Yes, we decided on that name weeks ago if it was a girl. Thank you again. We're so happy."
As she was walking home, Shannon was constantly playing her dilemma over and over in her head. Should I tell the parents tomorrow and remind them what to do, or should I keep quiet and let them find out on their own? Or maybe I should do something else with the baby. Maybe I could hide it from the authorities and raise her myself—somehow.
All the thoughts flying around Shannon's head were making her sick to her stomach. Why am I doing this to myself? It shouldn't be this hard; I should just do what I've always done. Why is this time so different? Why am I feeling like I need to protect this baby—this baby named Lily?
Shannon couldn't seem to grasp why, but she knew she needed to protect this baby, so she would have to come up with a plan.
Shannon tossed and turned all night but couldn't get any sleep. She was too busy worrying about what she was going to do in the morning with that family, that little girl—Lily. How strange it was that the little girl shared a name with Shannon's great-grandmother, the woman who had been put to death for trying to save a child who shared the same fate as the little girl Shannon had helped yesterday. Shannon wondered if this was some sort of an intervention from her grandmother. Perhaps that was why she felt so strongly about helping the little girl. It was all so strange to her, so spooky, thinking that somehow she was being directed by her dead great-grandmother. It just didn't make sense. But here she was, and she was about to do something that she'd never imagined being a part of—something that could cost her her life.
On the way to back to the Harrisons' home, Shannon devised her plan. She would talk with the couple and see what their thoughts were. If they wanted her to take the baby to the authorities, then she would take the baby home with her and decide from there what to do next. If the couple wanted to save Lily, then they would work together to make it look like Lily had died at birth and then plan the next steps after that. Shannon knew the couple's families, and although they were law-abiding, she felt the couple would be more willing to save the baby. The look in their eyes when she'd brought Lily to them said everything to her.
Shannon knocked on the front door of the home; she could hear someone moving around, so she knew she wasn't waking anyone. Evan answered the door and greeted her with a big smile. "Good morning," he said. "How are you this fine morning?" Evan looked like he'd stayed up all night—eyes bloodshot, hair a mess—but he was still smiling.
"How did the night go?" Shannon asked.
Evan answered, "Isabel slept well, and the baby woke up a few times looking for food. I gave her what you had told me to, and she went right back to sleep. She's a great baby, just great. I was just getting ready to make some breakfast for Isabel. Would you like some?"
Shannon replied, "No thank you, but maybe some tea if you're making some."
"Sure enough—tea it is. We have plenty," Evan said.
As Shannon started to get ready to check both the baby and the mother, she continued to struggle with how to start the conversation. Evan didn't seem to notice anything unusual about little Lily, and she didn't know if Isabel had. Mothers seem to be able to pick up on these things much quicker and easier than fathers, especially when it involves their own children. Shannon realized that she would have to see how well Isabel was doing before bringing anything up. If Isabel wasn't ready for the news, it could threaten her life, so she would have to be careful.
From the back room, Shannon could hear Isabel calling out to Evan, saying she needed some help to get up. Both Evan and Shannon went into the room together.
"Good morning, Mom," said Shannon. "How are you feeling today?"
Isabel replied, "I feel good—a little sore, but much better than yesterday. I'm starting to feel like my old self again. Evan, could you help me up? I need to go to the bathroom, and I want to see my sweet little Lily. How is she? Has she been eating? Has she been good?"
"Lily is doing fine," Evan assured her. "She's eating well, sleeping well, doing just great."
As the couple went into the other room, Shannon walked over to the baby and started to check her out, making sure everything was fine. As she lifted the baby, Lily looked right at her and smiled, almost like she knew what was going on in her head. It was if she were saying, Everything is all good. It kind of gave Shannon the chills, but in a good way; it also confirmed her inner feelings about what needed to be done.
Isabel and Evan returned to the bedroom where the baby and Shannon were. Isabel couldn't wait to hold her baby and almost ran all the way to her.
Shannon said, "Why don't you sit down on the chair, and I'll hand little Lily to you. We don't want to strain you or the baby so early."
Isabel complied. All she wanted was to hold her baby and love her. Evan, in the meantime, grabbed a blanket for Isabel to use on her lap to give the baby added support. Both parents couldn't stop looking at and fawning over their new little girl. The family looked so perfect together. It was hard to think that Shannon would have to tell them about the baby's condition. But it had to be done. If the baby didn't grow at the same speed as other children, that would raise questions with the authorities. When they found out the truth of Lily's condition, they would have the baby killed. The time to deal with this was now. Shannon prayed that the couple would want to help instead of turning away.
As the couple was busy playing with and caring for the child, Shannon came closer and started to talk. "She's a lovely little girl and so beautiful—almost perfect."
Isabel looked up with a big smile and agreed, but Evan caught a slight change in Shannon's tone.
He looked at Shannon with a questionable expression. "Almost perfect?" he questioned.
Shannon saw the look on Evan's face and decided that she had to continue. "Folks, I have something to say about Lily, and I need to know what your feelings are on such things."
Both Isabel and Evan turned and looked intently at Shannon, waiting for the next words out of her mouth.
"I've been doing this for many years now, and I'm very good at this. I know when a baby is fine and when it is not." Shannon took a deep breath and continued. "You know the laws of this kingdom when it involves a birth. If a child is deemed to have a handicap, that child has to be delivered to the king's doctors for proper designation."
Evan looked at Shannon and then at Isabel, not really grasping what was being said.
Isabel started to cry. "What are you saying? What are you saying?"
Evan held Isabel to comfort her and then turned to address Shannon. "Please stop and just tell us what you're getting to. Is there something wrong with our little girl?"
Shannon replied, "Yes, your little girl has all the markings of a handicap known as Child Mind. This condition will prevent her from developing into a normal woman in the eyes of the king. It will keep her mind as a child ... forever."
Evan replied, "How can you be so sure that our baby is handicapped and won't be able to be normal like other children? What signs do you see that tell you this?"
Shannon replied, "Look at her ears—they are bent over at the top. Her feet—the spaces between the toes are larger. Also, her eyes—oval shaped with certain angles to the eyelids. These are all signs that this baby has Child Mind and is handicapped. I am sure that this finding is correct for your baby. I wouldn't say this unless I knew it to be true."
"Are you sure? Couldn't you be wrong?" Evan asked.
"I don't believe so, but that would be up to the king's doctors to say. That is ... if we bring Lily to them," Shannon said.
"What do you mean if we bring her to them? Are you saying we don't have to?" Evan questioned.
Isabel interrupted. "What's going on? What does she mean? My poor little baby ... what does she mean?"
Evan continued to try to calm Isabel down while also trying to understand what Shannon was saying. How could she not bring the baby to the authorities if she knows she is handicapped? How does she know that Lily is handicapped? How can she see that in only seeing Lily for a few hours? None of this made any sense to him. He couldn't help but wonder how all of this could be happening to them right now.
Shannon could see that the parents were upset and not really hearing what she was saying. Of course, Shannon realized that any parents would be upset having just heard their new baby was going to be taken from them and possibly be killed for being born different.
"I know this is a major shock to you both, but I want to talk to you about options for Lily," Shannon continued. "I want you to listen very carefully to what I have to say. This will affect us all—you, me, and Lily—all of us, so please listen.
"I know you are good people, and you've always done what was right by the law, but we're at a time here that you may need to change that. It's up to you. Here are the options as I see them: One, you can decide to have me take Lily to the king's doctors and let them decide her fate. Two, you can decide to leave this kingdom and find another home where you all can live without being hunted down. Or three, you can let me help you find a place for Lily when the time comes so that she can live and do her best.
"This is a very important decision, and you will need some time to think this over. I have always followed the law on this, but for some reason, this is different. This little girl needs our help to survive. I don't know why or how, but I believe this little girl is very special. So I'll stay and help out today and the next few days, but I'll need an answer by the time I leave."
Evan and Isabel could only nod their heads in agreement. They were clearly shocked and confused by what had just happened.
After their discussion, Shannon, Evan, and Isabel went about the chores of taking care of the new baby and the home. Not much noise was made except for the baby's usual cooing and crying. Isabel was in rough shape. She was lying in bed crying most of the time. Evan went about the home chores, while Shannon took care of the baby. Evan was trying to keep everything else normal while this decision was hanging over their heads. He wanted to calm the situation down so he could get Isabel back from her current state. He was going to need her help in deciding what to do. He didn't want to make the final decision by himself—not something like this. The whole day and night went that way with nothing said between them.
The next morning came with rain. It started during the early-morning hours and hit pretty hard. One of the rooms had a leak in the roof, and rain was coming in pretty steadily. Evan went to the back storage area and found a bucket to place under the leak. The baby slept well during the night, only waking once for something to eat.
"She'll be hungry this morning," Shannon noted.
Evan replied, "I'll get some milk so we're ready."
"That would be great. Thank you," Shannon said.
Excerpted from Queen of Us All by Kevin O'Malley. Copyright © 2014 Kevin O'Malley. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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