John’s birthday went by quietly with no celebration. He didn’t want one. He looks well with grey hair. It becomes him.
Lukan visited me. He is now a councillor – doing well in his political career after such a short time. He seemed to earn more than John, Jah and Donna put together. I could not think why.
“Mother.” We kissed.
“I have a question.”
“Of course. Sit down.”
“Rebecca is pregnant.”
“So soon? That is wonderful! Congratulations, Lukan…. But that is not a question.”
“Thank you…. No.”
“You seem unhappy. Do you not want children?”
“I am hesitant about children, especially so soon. I am not ready to be a father.”
“Many feel that way.” I waited.
“Rebecca would like three children. And she wants them to graduate. I came to ask if it is permitted.”
“Three?” I pondered and sighed. “I will have to think on it. But graduation? No. Only the heir can graduate, you know that.”
He nodded. “I had to check…. Will you let me know your decision about the number?”
“Yes, perhaps tomorrow. Tell me, there are some new neighbours I understand. Have you met them?”
“I have met one. They appear to be brothers, although they do not look alike. I am guessing they each had different mothers.”
“What makes you say that?”
“One of them is called Garcia, one is dark, one is blond.”
“I see, yes. What do they do?”
“I know nothing about them, but I can find out their intentions. They are good-looking.”
I smiled. Already he was thinking of his sister’s future. “Yes, but are they of good stock?”
“Their surname is Jarl, which I’m told means earl where they are from.”
My smile widened. “Very good. Find out more, will you?”
He nodded, hugged me and left for work.
The next day he came to see me again. I had been thinking overnight, remembering the land from which I came. I had made my decision.
Lukan sat and looked up at me. I sat near him and took my time answering his unasked question.
“You’ve decided.” he said.
“Yes. I’m afraid the answer is no. The maximum number of children permitted is two.”
Lukan sat quietly, nodding. He didn’t ask the obvious question, so I continued.
“You must understand. The land I came from… there was no limit to the number of children people had. Everyone was selfish and it was their undoing. We soon became overpopulated and it led to our destruction. I was lucky to escape with my life.”
“I understand. I will tell Rebecca.”
“Are you upset?” I could not gauge his feeling, his expression unreadable as he looked down.
He looked up. “Me? No. It will be a disappointment to Rebecca, that’s all. Mother, what is to become of my children? What do they do? Do they take Rebecca’s name.. or…?”
“The male takes the wife’s name. The girl, should you have one, keeps the name you now have – her mother’s. She is your heir.”
“And if I only have sons?”
“Then one of them must go to the monastery. Only one is permitted to breed. It is the law.”
“I don’t understand. If that is the law, why did your homeland get overpopulated?”
“The laws were broken by unscrupulous people. Promise me you will see these laws are kept.”
“How is Rebecca’s pregnancy. Is she ill?”
“No! I expected her to be. We did not know she was pregnant until she started showing. She seems as well as normal.”
“Interesting. What will you call the child?”
“I have no idea. Can you give us ideas?”
“I’ll think on it.” And then Lukan left me to my thoughts.