FATHER'S DAY by Lynette Combs "What are you doing, Geoffrey?" Naomi, restless after her afternoon nap, came over to where several of the children were pounding clay into decidedly peculiar shapes. Geoffrey looked up at the five-year-old, his brown eyes shining. "I'm making a present for Father's Day." "Father's Day? What's that?" "Haven't you ever heard of Father's Day? It's a holiday -- like Winterfest." Her eyes widened. "Father has his very own holiday?" "No, silly." Kipper, nearby, laughed at her. "It's a holiday for everybody's father." "Do we get presents?" "No," Samantha answered. "We give presents -- " " -- To our fathers," a boy named Julio finished for her. "I'm making my father an ash-tray." "And I," eight-year-old Jannie announced, gaily waving her leather-punch, "am making mine a belt." Naomi regarded them all rather forlornly. "I don't got a father to give a present to." Jannie, who had been born Below and was lucky enough to still have both her parents, made a sympathetic face. "Did he die?" "No." Naomi frowned. "I just never had one." "Everybody's got a father," Julio told the little girl flatly. " -- Don't worry, Naomi," Geoffrey reassured her quickly. "You don't have to have a real father, to celebrate Father's Day." "But then who am I supposed to give a present to?" It occurred to her, suddenly, that Geoffrey was an orphan too. "Who are you giving yours to?" "Father." He held up a still rather lopsided lump of clay. "I'm making him a pen-holder. See," he explained, "you can give a present to the person who acts like your father. Somebody who takes care of you, and keeps you safe --" " -- And makes you eat your vegetables," Kipper added playfully. " -- And scolds you when you're bad," Samantha put in, primly. "Oh." Naomi looked relieved. " -- So Mouse is making something for Father," Kipper joked, "'cause Father scolds him all the time!" In the ensuing laughter, Jannie asked, "What is he making?" "Nobody knows," Kipper shrugged. "Nobody can tell -- but he's been soldering it for days and days." Naomi looked at him enquiringly. "Sodd... sodd...?" "Soldering," he repeated. "It means, um... he's been sticking metal stuff together with blue fire." Her eyes widened. "Really? Can we do that?" She looked around expectantly, as though hoping to see one of them using such a tool. "No, 'course we can't... but Mouse can." "You can make something with clay," Geoffrey offered. "I'll help you." "Okay... but what do you think I can -- " "Wow!" Zach interrupted, bursting into the chamber and startling them all into silence. "You should see the storm that just started, up in the Park." "Thunder and lightning?" Samantha asked. "Thunder and lightning to the max," he agreed. He shook a few droplets of water from his sleeves for emphasis. "What were you doing up there?" one of the other children asked him. "It'll be suppertime soon." "I was looking at the sunflowers." "Sunflowers?" Naomi turned to him wide-eyed. "What are sunflowers?" "Big ol' yellow flowers," Kipper answered, pleased to share his knowledge of the world Above. "Taller than me. The tops are as big as your head, just about. Haven't you ever seen one before?" Awed at the idea of flowers "as big as your head," Naomi said, "Why do they call them that? Do they really have the sun in 'em?" He shrugged, his dark eyes twinkling playfully. "I don't know. I bet they could have, though. Any flower that big is probably part magic, anyways." Samantha turned to Zach. "Where are they?" "They're up by the Columbus Circle end," he said. "You know? By that tall metal latticework, like a fence?" "I know where that is!" said Naomi, excitedly. "Can we go see them?" "What now?" He flopped down in the nearest chair. "Are you kidding? I told you, it's raining cats 'n' dogs outside. We'd get soaked." "But I want to see them!" "It's too late," he said firmly. "By the time I got you back, we'd probably miss supper, and then we'd both be in trouble." "Here, Naomi," Geoffrey said, trying to avoid the threat of tears or a tantrum. "Take some clay. Make something for Father's Day." "Is that tonight?" Zach looked startled. "I forgot all about it." "Well, you better get started on your present, then," Samantha warned him. "See, Naomi, I really can't take you topside now," he said. "I've got to rush to finish making what I was thinking of." "I'll help you make something, Naomi," Eric said. "But I don't know what to give!" she wailed. "C'mon, Naomi," Kipper groaned, "don't be such a baby. You'll think of something." "No, I can't" she said stubbornly. "Besides, I want to go up in the -- " "No," Zach told her firmly. "I said maybe we'll go tomorrow, and that's that. Okay?" The children went on with their work, talking amongst themselves as they did so. And the next time Geoffrey looked up, Naomi had gone. * * * * It was Vincent later who, walking toward his own chamber, heard the sound of sneezing coming from the doorway he'd just passed. He stopped in his tracks; did a thoughtful about-face, and stepped through the little doorway. "Naomi?" The little girl looked up at him guilty, caught in the act of wiping her nose upon her sleeve. Her blonde hair was plastered wetly to her head, her clothes soaked through and dripping. "Naomi," he said severely, "have you been Above?" At his tone she burst into tears. "All right," he said, his brow furrowing with concern as he came forward. "It's all right. Did you get caught in a storm?" She came to him, nodding and gulping; and with a sigh and a shake of his leonine head he peeled her out of her wet, chilled clothes, scolding her gently and sincerely all the while; and after toweling her briskly dry he put her into a warm nightgown. "All right," he said finally, taking her by her small shoulders and standing her away from him. "If there was a storm, why did you go out? I thought you didn't like thunder and lightning." In fact he knew that she did not, for before her rescue to the tunnel-world she had spent too many nights Above exposed to such storms. "Naomi?" She hung her head (from which the yellow hair now stuck up damply in all directions), unable or unwilling to answer. "Not to mention," he went on rather more severely, "that you know you're not allowed go go Above all by yourself." She began sniffling all over again. "All right," he said softly, "we'll talk about that later. Right now we're missing supper, and we're going to miss the Father's Day celebration if we don't hurry. Are you hungry?" She shook her head. "Well... perhaps some hot soup a little later, then. Are you ready to go?" She put up her arms to be carried. In the dining-hall, supper was already being cleared away. The children present were talking amongst themselves with an air of suppressed excitement. Then, as Vincent settled Naomi between himself and Catherine at Father's table, Eric walked up to place the present he'd made, and wrapped in rags, on the polished wood before the patriarch. The others rushed to follow his example and soon there was quite a pile before the old man. "Well, thank you, thank you, children," he said to all, his faded blue eyes twinkling. Elsewhere in the large chamber, other fathers were being similarly honored. Father began opening his gifts, exclaiming over every misshapen ash-tray and pen-holder as though each was the first ofits kind he had ever seen. As he did so, Vincent glanced down and was surprised to discover the seat beside him empty. He glanced around and then leaned over to ask Catherine, "Have you seen Naomi?" Her green eyes widened. "She was here a minute ago." At that moment Mouse came in bearing his gift for Father. It was huge -- fully six feet tall -- and studded all over with candles. "Dear God," Father whispered to Vincent, as the young man set the thing ablaze, "what is that, do you suppose?" "It's a candle-holder," Mouse announced proudly to everyone present. "Well," Father replied, looking properly impressed, "I must say, it is, er, magnificent, Mouse. Really." The young man beamed. Cullen, leaning over to Jamie, whispered, "Good thing we don't have a sprinkler-system in here. Can you feel the heat coming off that thing?" -- causing the people around him to cough and snort with suppressed laughter. Kipper looked past them all toward the door. "Hey, here comes Naomi. Where you been, Naomi?" -- But in truth, as she walked back toward them not much of her could be seen. She was carrying something; something large and unwieldy, something covered by a large and tattered cloth. "What have you got there, Naomi?" Pascal called out as she passed. "It's a Father's Day present," she replied. "Well, well," Father said as she came toward him; and "Well, well," he said again as she went by, balancing the thing -- whatever it was -- carefully before her, so that she couldn't see where to put her feet. She stopped in front of Vincent, whose eyebrows were rising up into his wild hair with surprise. "It's for you," she whispered shyly. "For me?" He could see only her eyes, which were shining up at him over the top of the thing. "What is it?" "Look and see," she said. The other children picked up the chant at once, clamoring, "Look and see! Look and see, Vincent!" Reaching out, he plucked delicately at the cover-cloth with sharp nails; and as it came free he heard Catherine, at his side, gasp with surprise. "A sunflower!" she exclaimed. "A magnificent sunflower," he announced to the group, in the ensuing hush. In truth it was huge, even among its kind; and he thought, taking it gently from the child so that all could see, that it surely must have been the largest in the Park. "Is this why you went Above?" She nodded her bright head. "Zach told me they were there," she said. Catherine leaned forward. "What made you think of it?" Naomi looked to Vincent, her face alight with love. "Because Kipper said it was magic. It might have some sun in it, and... and you can't go out in the sun." "Oh," Catherine breathed, tears in her eyes. "I see." "But Naomi," Eric said, frowning and oblivious to the adults' finer sentiments, "this is Father's Day. Why are you giving Vincent something?" "You all said I could give something to the one who takes care of me," she said, frowning back at him. "The one who scolds me, and makes me eat my vegetables. Vincent is the one who does that -- mostly -- so I'm giving this to him." She looked up at him worriedly. "Did I do it wrong? 'Cause you're the one who makes me safe." "No." And he reached out with his free hand to sweep her up into his lap. "No," he said, "you didn't do it wrong." "Happy Father's Day, Vincent," she piped, from the depths of his great hug. And, "Happy Father's Day," whispered Catherine, at his side. The End ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ About the Author Lynette Combs is VERY well known in fandom for her fiction, poetry and art. Lynette is busy working on making everything perfect for us at the 1996 Beauty and the Beast convention, A Kingdom By The Sea. We'll be reading more of Lynette's work in future issues of Father's Online Library and a proper "about the author" will be in those editions.