Marion sat with Rodan on her knee. They were both dressed in blue velvet with red silk sashes. The young man who came to take their photographs and produce the portrait that she wanted to hang in the White Drawing Room actually commented on what a beautiful mother and daughter they were. He was a Caretaker, of course, one of the creative minded Caretakers who were held in rather higher regard than the ones who merely worked at ordinary jobs. But nonetheless he was probably not party to the gossip of Gallifreyan society. He didn’t know that Marion was not Gallifreyan by birth. He didn’t know that Rodan was her Caretaker class fosterling.

She was happy with that compliment, though. She thought they were a beautiful mother and daughter, and would be yet for another year. After that, she would be glad to have this portrait to remember this special day – Rodan’s first birthday.

“How long will it be before the finished portraits are ready?” she asked when the pictures were done.

“I will have them ready this afternoon,” he answered. “About five o’clock.”

“Wonderful,” Marion said. “Thank you very much for coming to the house. If you present your invoice to my butler on the way out, Lord de Lœngbærrow will see that you are paid in full when you return.”

“Thank you, madam,” he said as he put away his equipment and left. Marion, meanwhile, put Rodan in her hat and coat and gloves and put on a coat of her own. Caolin brought her the pushchair and helped her down the front steps with it so that she could walk in the gardens on what was a cool, but bright day early in the month of Melchus, corresponding roughly to March on Earth. It was not quite spring, but the harshness of winter was behind them now.

There were flowers starting to grow in the garden. Marion looked at the first of the Gallias. They grew almost anywhere, their bulbs deep in the soil of the flower beds and the edges of the lawns. They came up in the early spring like daffodils did in England. Gallias were more like a cross between a tulip and an orchid, though. They had long stems that pushed up towards the little sunshine there was and then huge flowers that seemed too big for the stem to support. Six petals, each about four inches long spread out from where the tulip like centre curved up, protecting the delicate stamen from any late frost. Gallias came in many different colours. When they grew wild, they were a riot of red, yellow, blue, purple, orange. Marion liked them like that, growing as they choose. But she was also pleased by the round bed that one of the gardeners had prepared, with white, orange and yellow Gallias repeating the pattern that was in the carpets of Mount Lœng House – the silvertrees of the House of Lœngbærrow sheltering a Liver Bird with its olive branch in its mouth.

“You were born on a beautiful day like this,” Marion said to Rodan. “A bright spring day full of hope and joy and promise.”

That promise had almost been destroyed a few months later when her mother died. But for Kristoph’s intervention who knew what kind of year it might have been for Rodan. What the future held for her was still not certain. But at least these first two years of her life could be filled with every happiness she and Kristoph could contrive.

She took a long walk around the pleasant gardens of the Lœngbærrow demesne. It was the first time she had been able to do so since the winter weather set in and she enjoyed discovering its loveliness afresh. Sometimes she caught herself forgetting that all that she could see was part of her own home. She kept thinking she was in a public park that belonged to everyone. But as incredible as it still seemed to her, more than two years since she became Lady de Lœngbærrow, this was her own property, through her marriage to Kristoph. It would be her home until her dying day. And even after that…

She glanced towards the stand of trees that were between the formal gardens and a quiet place that was the family memorial garden. All of Kristoph’s ancestors from his grandfather to the first Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow were represented by memorial stones in that place, and one wife, at least - Kierinia, wife of Chrístõ Dacœfire, Kristoph’s grandmother. Marion knew that, when her time came, Kristoph intended for her to lie within that peaceful glade. She would be a part of this place for eternity.

But she pushed away those thoughts and enjoyed the sunshine for more than an hour. Rodan enjoyed it, too. She pointed to flowers and trees, birds and small wild animals that scampered across the meadows and gave them names that might well have been accurate inside her Gallifreyan head, but came out of her young mouth much more like they would from a human child of her age – charmingly distorted.

Rodan dropped to sleep and Marion turned towards the house again, coming through the kitchen gardens, past the herbarium and the vegetable patches that were just being planted out now for the warmer weather that was coming. The gardeners all looked around at her as she walked along the path. They greeted her courteously and all went on with their work except for one young man who ran ahead to open the kitchen door when it was clear she intended to go that way.

In the huge kitchen there was a sudden silence as the staff realised that the mistress of the house had entered. Then Mistress Callitha, the housekeeper approached, bobbing a curtsey.

“Everything is in hand for the party later, madam,” she said. “Except for….” Mistress Callitha nodded towards a preparation table where one of the younger kitchen maids was puzzling over a small, coloured cardboard box. “Nobody is quite sure how to make… jelly.”

Marion was surprised. For two years she had been used to delicious and creative food coming out of this kitchen without question. But now the staff were puzzled by a jelly?

“I… can’t read the instructions, madam,” said the girl. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Of course, how silly of me,” Marion said. “I always forget that English is not a language that most ordinary Gallifreyans understand. Let me show you. I’ll do the tangerine one and you can copy me with the lime one.”

She called for hot water and broke up the pieces of jelly into a mixing bowl. The girl copied her and watched in surprise as the hot water melted the pieces and made a fruit flavoured liquid. Marion poured one jelly into a plastic mould she had bought in Tescos in Liverpool on the same shopping trip that she bought the jelly. The maid copied her and then put both carefully into the fridge to cool and set.

“There you are,” Marion said. “The children will enjoy those later. Meanwhile, may I have tea and a few sandwiches in my drawing room and some orange juice for Rodan.

Marion spent a quiet afternoon in her drawing room with Rodan. After their lunch Marion sat the child on her knee and read to her before it was time for both to wash and change into party dresses.

Again Marion’s gown matched Rodan’s. This time they were both in mint blue satin with lots of frills and flounces and Marion carried her fosterling down to the hall where Caolin was just opening the door to the party guests. Marion had employed every driver and every car in the garage to go out and collect all of the children from her infant class and their younger brothers and sisters to come to the party. They all looked a little bewildered and a bit frightened as they stepped into the hallway. They looked up at Caolin in his butler’s uniform in awe. But they knew Marion well enough and greeted her happily before Caolin and Rosanda, as well as two of the maids brought the whole crowd into the dining room.

Marion was getting ready to follow them when she heard the sound of the TARDIS materialising in Kristoph’s study. A few moments later Hillary was greeting her along with Cam and Kaye, her youngest children. Behind her came Kristoph with a man Marion didn’t recognise at first. Then she remembered him. He was Rodan’s grandfather who was supposed to be on one of Gallifrey’s deep space freight ships.

She must have looked worried, because Kristoph was quick to assure her that Mr Mielles was only here for a short visit, to see his granddaughter. His ship was docked in a distant port and he was on shore leave. Kristoph had caught up with him by TARDIS and brought him home for a visit on this special day.

“May I….” he asked, reaching his arms out to the child. Marion felt as if she didn’t want to give her to him, but that would be silly. She let him hold her. Rodan looked at him thoughtfully. Marion wondered if she was going to get upset because a stranger was holding her. But she didn’t. She smiled at him and reached out her baby hand to touch his cheek. He smiled at her and she guessed he was talking to her telepathically, the one thing she couldn’t do with her.

“That’s a very pretty dress, my little Rodan,” he said in words after a few minutes. “Just right for a birthday party.” He looked at Marion. “Matching gowns. She looks as if she belongs with you. Would you like to take her now?”

Marion did, very much. But what things looked like and what they were, were two different things.

“You’re only here for a little while,” she said. “You spend as much time as you can with her. But… let’s go on through to the party. There’s food and the children are going to play games.”

Rodan was the youngest of the children, and she was only just walking. Some of the games went on with her watching on her grandfather’s knee. But others she joined in with. She sat in the ring to play ‘pass the parcel’ joyfully. Marion had ensured that there was a small gift for every child and that the way the music stopped and started would ensure that each child had a gift. Nobody was left out. There were other simple games, too, including a treasure hunt for little boxes containing spun sugar flowers from Haolstrom that Hillary had brought with her.

Rodan’s birthday present that she unwrapped all by herself, was a tricycle. She looked at it quizzically. So did all the other Gallifreyan children. They had never seen such a thing before.

“Nobody ever rode a tricycle on this planet?” Marion wondered. She watched as Rodan’s grandfather helped her to sit on the seat and to put her hands on the handlebars and her little feet on the pedals.

“He knows what to do?” Marion asked Kristoph.

“He’s been offworld. Ours is probably the only society that didn’t invent the tricycle. It’s good for him to spend time with her like that. She needs to know him as somebody she can trust.”

“I feel a little jealous,” Marion admitted. “I’m… glad that he is going away again and we still have her for a year.”

“Yes,” Kristoph said. “But he should see her more often, especially now she’s old enough to understand about relationships. I will arrange for him to take shore leave of this sort again.”

Marion watched as Rodan managed to pedal about four yards before bumping into the table. Kristoph winced and remarked that it was a five thousand year old table and a family heirloom, but he was more concerned that Rodan was unhurt.

All the same, he held Marion back from running to her.

“Let him,” he said as Argis picked up the child and comforted her before putting her back on the tricycle and staying with her as she made a complete circuit of the table, applauded and cheered by her party guests. Then the tricycle was set aside and everyone came to the table for the party tea.

The table was, indeed, five thousand years old, and it had seen many a grand dinner party, the most recent being the one at which the President, Chancellor and Premier Cardinal were in attendance. Cuisine of the highest quality was served on crisp white linen on best china and eaten with silver cutlery.

But not today. The table was spread with a splashproof tablecloth depicting characters from Beatrix Potter. The plates and bowls and cups were made of paper and had the same designs. So were the disposable napkins. And the food was a mixture of Earth party nibbles like sausage rolls and vol au vents filled with cream cheese and Gallifreyan delicacies like pastry cones filled with savoury Cúl nut paste. There were sweet biscuits, chocolate sponges, and of course, two jellies, tangerine and lime, topped with whipped cream and slices of candied moon fruit.

And when all of that was eaten, there was the birthday cake. It was wide and tall, two layers, one on top of the other, in pink fondant icing. It had been made by the head cook, who was pleased to be given such a commission for the youngest member of the household. It had a long candle on top which was lit for Rodan to attempt to blow out. She managed it with her grandfather’s help.

The party went on after the tea, with more games and music, fun and laughter. Rodan joined in at first, then she curled up on her grandfather’s knee and slept. Marion watched her with him and felt happy, and yet, still, a tiny little bit jealous in a way. Rodan had taken to him so easily. She found herself wishing it had been harder. She wished that the child had screamed and begged to come back to her. She wanted her to be happy with her grandfather eventually, but for now, she really wished she could be her little girl for a bit longer.

“She is,” Kristoph told her quietly. “Come out to the hall for a few minutes. Everyone is fine here.”

She came with him. The young photographer was there with the finished portraits. Marion looked at the largest one, framed in glass. It had been treated to look like an oil painting and she and Rodan really did look, as he had said this morning, like a beautiful mother and daughter.

There were smaller pictures, too, for sitting on a bedside cabinet or a dresser. And some just of Rodan on her own.

“We’ll give those to Argis to take back with him tomorrow,” Kristoph said. “He should have a remembrance of her when he is working so far away.”

“Yes,” Marion agreed. “But this one is going in my drawing room. And I will have one on my dressing table in our bedroom.”

“Of course,” Kristoph told her. He thanked the photographer and paid him handsomely, including a generous tip for his prompt and splendid work.

“I understand the jealous feelings,” he told Marion when they were alone in the quiet hall. “I felt it too. Watching Argis with her on his knee… I wanted to be him. The child is his own blood kin. That’s something precious for Gallifreyans, even Caretakers. He was bound to love her and she was bound to take to him. She is telepathic enough even at her young age to feel the connection. And that’s good. It means when he returns for good and is ready to set up a home for her, she won’t feel the wrench so badly.”

When the party was over, Marion gave bags of sweets and small gifts from Liverpool market to all of the young guests and the limousine drivers took them home again. The house was quieter now. There was just Argis Mielles and Hillary and her children as guests now. They were all staying the night. Kristoph was going to take them all back in his TARDIS tomorrow. Meantime the sleepy children were put to bed, Kaye and Cam in a guest room with two big beds where Hillary would sleep alongside her little ones and Rodan in her cot in the nursery next to the master bedroom. Argis carried her to the room then gave her over to Marion as she washed her and put her in her nightdress and settled her down.

“She does look right with you,” Argis said to Marion.

“She looks right with you, too,” she answered.

“I’m glad she is in good hands,” Argis added. “My thanks to you, and his Lordship.”

“The least we could do,” Kristoph answered him. “Come, let us spend a quiet evening in more grown up pursuits. Do you play multi-dimensional chess, sir?”

Argis did, as Kristoph fully expected he would. What else would men do when off duty on long haul freighters. But it was exactly the kind of thing that would help him feel less out of his depth being entertained in the home of an Oldblood. He talked with him about the freight service and some of the planets that Gallifrey had trade links with. Marion, meanwhile, chatted with Hillary and they hardly noticed the time go by until the clock on the mantle struck thirteen, midnight. Then they went to their beds happily. Marion, of course, looked in on Rodan as she always did before coming to Kristoph’s arms.

“Even so, I’m glad she’s ours still,” she said as she settled down to sleep.