Luka obtained permission from Child Welfare Services for John and
himself to write letters that would be kept in Katerina's file. These
letters would remain unopened until Katerina was of age and only if
she began asking questions regarding her origins. There were other
conditions. John and Luka could only identify themselves as two
physicians who had cared for her when she was brought to their
hospital for emergency treatment. Also, they would have to use false
names with the understanding that the child they loved would be told
they'd left the city with no forwarding addresses. In addition,
County's HR staff would have to provide "dummy" records for these
aliases which would also be entered into Katerina's earliest medical
Luka accepted these provisos and gave the news to John who at first
seemed reluctant to take advantage of this generous gesture on the
part of an extremely paranoid county government agency. "Luka, your
letters to me were beautiful. Why don't you write and sign both
names?" Not wanting to press his husband, Luka agreed. His letter was
completed during an afternoon at work. He gave it to his husband to
look over. Late one night, unable to sleep, John took the letter into
It had been almost three months since their child was taken from
them. Her things were still in place. Neither John nor Luka could
bear the idea of putting them away. Sitting in one of the chairs,
John opened the paper.
"Dear Little One,
You won't remember me, but I was one of the doctors who treated you
for awhile when you were brought to our hospital. You were a
beautiful baby girl and for a short period of time, I was glad to be
able to care for you as if you were my own daughter. If circumstances
had permitted, I would have been very glad to be given permission to
raise you as my own child. However, it was decided that you really
needed the love of a mamma and papa. Since you left my care, not a
day has gone by that I haven't thought of you and wished you all the
blessings this life has to give. I pray that you will always know
even from the very beginning, you were deeply loved.
I shall never stop missing the happy little baby who always smiled at
me, and I hope one day, you will be able to know the joy of loving
smiles from your own children. Your parents were exceptionally lucky
to be given the opportunity to watch you grow up and I must confess
that I will always be more than a little jealous of their good
fortune. I thank God for the brief and wonderful time we shared and
my prayers for your continued happiness and safety will be with you,
as will always be my ...
Dr. Alan Richards."
Two weeks later, John gave Luka several type-written pages and a
short hand-written note. "I couldn't compose a letter as beautiful as
yours, so I decided to write her a story instead. If they leave my
name off, maybe she'll get to hear it before she grows up." John said
simply. They'd finished dinner and while John cleared the table, Luka
put on his glasses and began to read.
I was another of the doctors who examined and treated you when you
were brought to our hospital. During your brief stay with us, I used
to make up bed-time stories so you could fall asleep to the sound of
a loving voice. I hope you always remember that your sweet smile made
it impossible for people not to love you. I love you very much, will
miss you always, and I hope you are are well. Perhaps you can read
the enclosed story to your own children someday. I wrote it just for
Dr. Benjamin Cross"
Luka looked up and smiled at John who shrugged. "I had to write
something to explain the story."
Nodding, Luka started reading again.
"Once upon a time, a baby princess was born in a kingdom far away.
Her parents loved their infant daughter very much but when she was
still a baby, they both died. A wicked grandfather wanted no
reminders of his dead son and daughter-in-law so he left the little
baby deep in the woods; hoping that wild animals would come and eat
The little baby's guardian angel was watching so, less than one hour
after the castle guards had left her wrapped in rags, the little
princess was found by two knights riding through the forest. They
marvelled at the beautiful child and wondered who could have been so
cruel as to abandon her to the cold night air and freezing snow. Sir
Luke took the little girl and covered her with his cloak and rode
with his friend to their small home on the edge of the forest.
The other knight, Sir John, went in search of milk for the little
girl and was given the loan of a cow by some farmers. It was still
snowing very hard and he almost didn't find his way to the house he
shared with his friend. When he reached home, the little girl was
crying. She was very hungry. Carefully, Sir Luke spooned warm milk
into her mouth and instead of loud crying, the baby princess began to
make soft noises that sounded almost like a cat purring.
"What shall we call her?" Sir Luke asked his friend.
"Well, she's beautiful enough to be a princess and those sounds she's
making remind me of a pet kitten my little sister once had. We can
call her Princess Kitten."
Sir Luke agreed at once and the two men had a very interesting time
learning to take care of a little baby. They didn't have a lot of
money so they ended up sewing diapers out of old cloaks and making
clothes for their small guest out of soft cloth woven by an old lady
who lived not too far away. Her own children had grown up and left
her so she was able to teach the two young knights about caring for
babies. Sometimes she would stay with Princess Kitten when the two
men had duties to perform.
As winter turned to spring, the little princess grew. Her two fathers
loved her very much and spent all of their free time with her. They
went on picnics in the woods and the animals that lived there also
fell in love with Princess Kitten. A wise fox, named Kerry, with
lovely red hair and a soft voice would sit beside the baby on the
blanket fanning her with her wonderful tail. This way, she said, the
baby girl would always be calm and comfortable. A mama bear called
Haleh, and her two cubs, Connie and Chuny, would also come by. They
shared the honey they found so the little girl would always be sweet-
A pert sparrow and her mate, called Lydia and Albert, would sing
Princess Kitten to sleep with sweet lullabies. This way, she will
always have nice dreams they explained in their clear piping voices.
A handsome black wildcat, called Peter, was charmed by Kitten's
purring sounds and he would lick her soft dark curls. This way, she
would grow up to be strong and able to defend herself from other
animals who were not as tame as he.
At night, when Kitten was asleep in her home-made cradle, two owls
called Mark and Elizabeth would sit on the window sill and hoot
softly. She'll grow up to be very wise and capable they promised. But
Kitten's favorite playmate, apart from the two knights, was a sharp-
tempered red bird named Robert. He would tease her by pecking gently
at her tiny fingers and would tickle her with his beak and Kitten
would laugh and laugh. She'll always be able to laugh at herself and
others, he said.
Things could have gone on that way, but one day, the two knights took
their little baby into the city. "She must be christened." Sir John
said. "Our friends have bestowed their best gifts to our princess, we
must give God a chance to do the same. Sir Luke agreed with his
friend and off to town they went. Kitten loved riding in a little
pack on Sir Luke's chest. She could look out and see his big strong
horse, Gerald who'd given his gift to her on the night she was
found. "She'll always go smoothly through life.", he whinnied. Malik,
Sir John's horse had a cheerful disposition. He would almost dance
when he trotted along. "She will be graceful.", he nickered.
The people were leaving the big church as the two men rode up. Gerald
and Malik waited patiently outside as their two human friends went
inside with the baby. A merry young priest eagerly agreed to bless
and anoint the infant princess. All during the brief ceremony, Sir
John thought he could hear the sound of someone weeping. When the
rites were finished, the poor but pious knights gave sacks of grain
to priest telling him to distribute them to the needy who would
otherwise have no bread to eat.
Just as they were preparing to leave, a beautiful woman appeared. She
had red hair like Kerry, brown eyes like Haleh, a merry voice like
Lydia and Albert, and was as wise as Elizabeth and Mark. She wore a
beautiful gown that changed color when she moved or gestured and a
pair of magnificent wings with all the colors of the rainbow.
"It is God's turn to bestow a gift on this child." She pointed to the
rear of the church and suddenly a soft light revealed a man and woman
sitting in one of the pews. The woman was weeping and her husband was
trying to comfort her but his own face was sorrowful. "I am your
daughter's guardian angel. I led you to her and helped you and your
friends to care for her. Now you must prove to God how much you love
"That's easy." Sir John said smiling after he knelt before the
heavenly messenger. "We want to keep her with us and raise her to be
a good person who is loving and kind.
"Yes." Sir Luke also knelt. "We will defend her with our lives and
see that she is always safe and protected from harm."
"And what of your vows when you became knights?" The angel asked
gently. "Have you forgotten your promises?"
"No." Sir John said earnestly. "We promised to defend the weak and
"To care for the sick and injured.", Sir Luke added.
"To right wrongs and see justice is done."
"To live and serve all people for all of our lives."
"Yes.", the angel nodded solemnly. "To serve *all* people... not just
one little girl, not matter how much you may want to. You cannot
raise your little one and fufill your vows. Don't forget, your first
promise was to God."
"What must we do?" Sir Luke asked.
"That grieving couple have no children of their own. God wants you to
give your daughter to them. They will love and cherish her and will
be with her always. She will be well fed and clothed and will know
the joy and contentment of a real home with a mother and father. You
will be able to fulfill your vows and earn an even greater reward in
"I don't think I could give her up." Sir John's face was troubled.
We'll miss her very much and all of her friends will miss her as
"Yes, John, We will both miss her but the angel is right. We cannot
ignore God's wishes in this matter. That would be terribly wrong. If
we sacrifice some of our happiness, a woman will know the joy of
having a baby in her arms. Her husband will rejoice with her and our
little princess will live as the royal child she was destined to be.
Let us give her to them with cheerful hearts and trust God to ease
our sorrows later."
Sir John nodded as the angel smiled at them both. The two knights
rose to their feet and went over to the melancholy pair.
"Forgive us, my lady. Excuse us, kind sir. We found this little girl
in the forest last winter and cared for her until the spring. Our
knightly vows will not permit us to keep her, would you do us the
honor and great favor of taking her into your home and hearts?" Sir
The weeping woman looked up. Her hair was the same color as Peter's
fur and her beautiful dark eyes tilted up at the corners. She smiled
through her tears and reached for the lovely child. The expression on
her face was like the sun coming through the clouds after a storm.
Sir John nodded to her husband. "We did not give the priest a name
for her, perhaps you would like to, sir."
"You really wish to give her to us?"
"No. We would like nothing better than to be with her always, but she
needs a real home with a mother and father. As long as you tell her
about us one day and make sure she knows we will always love her, we
will give her to you."
"Oh thank you." The wife said and took the baby girl into her arms.
When she saw the lovely face bent close to her own, Kitten smiled and
made her contented little purring noises. Sir John kissed the little
girl and backed away so his tears would not fall on her and bring bad
luck. Sir Luke also kissed the child and sighed as if his heart would
"Good bye, princess." Sir John whispered.
"We'll always remember and love you." Sir Luke said softly.
"You will always have our gratitude." The young husband said gravely.
"I will call her, Katerina." The young wife smiled as she gently
rocked the happy baby. She stood and extended her hand. I am the
Duchess Jing-Mei and this is my husband David. Your precious one will
indeed be a princess one day. When the old king dies, my husband will
inherit this kingdom. We promise that the example of loving
generosity you've given us today will always be held before her as a
guiding principle: to place the needs of others ahead of her own. She
will be a just and honorable queen in time and will rule wisely and
The two knights bowed deeply and took their leave as the angel, now
unseen, smiled and blessed them.
Princess Katerina went to her new home and was very happy. The gifts
bestowed on her by the animals and the two knights remained with her
always. And although they were very sad for a time, Sir John and Sir
Luke renewed their vows to God. Every orphan they found a home for,
every beggar they found work for, every individual who was falsely
accused and brought justice by their efforts... in short, all of
their good deeds were dedicated to the young princess who had given
them a mighty gift of her own: the gift of love shared which is loved
When they were very old men, they knelt before their new Queen who
made them her most favored advisors. And so they lived happily ever
after until the angel came, in turn, for each of them and they became
When he finished reading. Luka stood up and embraced John. "It's the
most beautiful story I've ever read. I know you wrote it for our
daughter, but could I please keep a copy?"
"Do you think she will like it?"
"Without a doubt."
Luka sealed their letters and mailed them to Child Welfare Services.
Each night before he slept, he re-read John's little fairy tale. It
was a shame that no one else would be able to enjoy it, or would
they? Snuggling closer to his husband's sleeping form, Luka decided
to make a few phone calls in the morning. If all went well, he'd have
a nice surprise for John for the anniversary of their first night
* * * * *
An unusually busy ER proved to be a blessing for both men. For
whatever reason, it was non-stop traumas and a major flu season.
Chairs was full to overflowing. Patients were lined up in the
hallways. All of the staff were working overtime to cope with this
inundation of "customers". The hectic pace suited John and Luka just
fine. Neither of them had enough energy at the end of their shifts to
brood overmuch. It was all they could do to stagger home, bathe, and
collapse into bed. John admitted he was too tired to dream, or if he
did, remember them.
Luka had phoned Cyril and Charles and told them about Kitten. He
apologized for John, explaining that his husband felt the loss very
deeply and would talk with them later. The two younger men offered
what support they could but felt badly about not being able to visit.
So, Luka's request that they read John's story was welcomed. Luka
faxed the pages from County and, in the rush, forgot all about it.
He was pleasantly surprised when a largish envelope was delivered by
Federal Express to County Hospital. On his break, he opened it and
found beautiful watercolor illustrations for the little story. The
faces of the two knights were always turned away or hidden by cloaks
but all of their friends were gently caricatured. Kerry the fox had
eyeglasses and an alert expression. Peter the panther had wise eyes
and a regal demeanor. Each of their co-workers had been captured by
Charles's talent from images in their wedding video, his note
As he lifted the last illustration from the envelope, Luka's eyes
watered. The full page painting featured the two knights kneeling
before Queen Kitten, their heads bowed. The face of the queen was a
lovely blending of features that had graced the visages of Anja and
Solje. The face of the softly shimmering translucent guardian angel
standing near the throne was that of Marije. Charles had worked from
the close-up of their photographs from the commemorative table in
Luka called Roland who sent his driver to pick up the text and the
illustrations. He hoped this would begin to cheer John.
* * * * *.
"Mother, you must read this." Roland entered Millicent's large
office. She was reviewing notes for an upcoming board meeting.
Millicent took the envelope and adjusted her glasses. Half-way
through, she looked up with tears in her eyes.
"Who wrote this?"
"No. His husband." Roland said quietly.
"Roland, this is a beautiful story. I didn't know John could write."
"Apparently, neither did he.", Roland explained how the story came
"Those people were fools for taking that child away from them. This
would prove to anyone how much they love that little girl."
"That's my mother the genius." Roland grinned. "I called Richard.
He's going to obtain permission from their friends and Charles for
their likenesses and work to be used. Once that's done, I'm going to
have the story published privately. Luka wants to give it to John for
a anniversary gift, so that doesn't leave us much time."
"What about John's permission?"
"I'll have to fudge that a bit. Luka has power of attorney for him,
"Well, don't waste any more time hanging around here. Get going."
Cooke County General, or Gossip Central, kept a still tongue. None of
John's friends revealed their participation in the surprise. Less
than two weeks later, John came home to a darkened apartment.
Frowning, he went to turn on the lights. Luka should have been home.
It had been his week-day off.
"Surprise!" Kerry, Chuny, Malik, Jing-Mei, Peter, and Lydia came out
of the kitchen with a small cake. Luka followed them, wearing his
"What's the occasion?" John was confused.
"Happy Anniversary, beloved." Luka embraced his husband whose face
was a mirth-provoking mixture of shock, joy, and embarrasment.
Holding John around the shoulders, he faced their friends. "Seven
years ago this evening, I invited myself over to John's old apartment
for coffee and never left. Let this be a warning to all of you. When
I want something, I generally get it and once I get it, I never let
go." Luka kissed John's cheek. "Husband, you have brought joy
unimaginable into my life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart
for loving me and putting up with my quirks and foibles. If God
grants my prayers, I hope to celebrate at least seventy more of these
anniversaries, loving you a little more each year." Luka brought a
small package from behind his back. "Please accept this small gift in
recognition of the day.
John's fingers trembled as he unwrapped the present revealing a small
book bound in pink moire silk. The words "Kitten's Tale" were
embossed in dark green on the cover. Opening it to the title page, he
found a small copy of Charles's portrait of Katerina and himself over
his own name as author and Charles's as illustrator."
"Luka, you shouldn't have done this.", his voice was thick.
"It's not much, I know..."
"No. I mean you should not have done this at all!" John thrust the
book back into Luka's hands and ran from the room.
"Excuse me." Luka said and followed. He found John curled up on their
bed, his arms over his head. "What's wrong, Janaskja?" Luka sat down
and tentatively touched John's shoulder. "Please tell me what I did
to upset you."
"It was supposed to be private.", came the muffled reply. "Now,
she'll never get the chance to read it. Those people will rip it up
when they see this. How could you do this without asking me?"
"I'm sorry, beloved. I should have asked you, but I was afraid you
would refuse. I never meant to hurt you or jeopardize Kitten's
chances of reading your beautiful story. Only one copy with your
portrait was made; the one I gave to you. The others only have your
initials and Charles's name. Your father asked them to make enough
copies for our friends who are in the story, your family, and Mrs.
Riordan. I told everyone that to protect our girl..." Luka's voice
caught. "...to protect her, they can't talk about this to anyone who
doesn't already know about it."
"That's still too many people." John sat up. His eyes were red and
swollen. "You know how they are. They mean well, but soon the whole
city will know about it."
"Did you know we were planning this?" Luka asked softly. "Kerry and
all of the others had to sign releases allowing their likenesses to
be used. The release contained a clause that will allow both of us to
prosecute if they tell anyone about this. Trust me, beloved. Our
friends know how much is at stake. Nevertheless, I was wrong to do
this without informing you and I apologize. I only wanted our friends
to know how talented you are. I got carried away. I thought their
praise, and believe me, they all love the story; would make you
"I acted like an idiot, huh?" John wiped his eyes.
"No. You were honest with me and our friends. Our connection to
Kitten is very thin: your story and my letter. You have every right
to be concerned. If word of this gets out, she will never know how
much she was loved before being given to her new family."
"I'm sorry I yelled at you in front of our guests." John said softly.
"I'm not. You promised to tell me when I did something to hurt or
upset you. We're a married couple. We're allowed to embarass our
friends with the occasional spat. You had good cause, Janaskja." Luka
smiled and took John's face in his hands. They headed back to the
"Sorry guys." John said simply. "I guess you know we've both been
under a lot of strain lately.", he smiled. "Thank you for coming and
for keeping our secret. Sascha? Please forgive me for embarassing you
in front of our friends. I..."
Whatever else John was going to say was muffled by a group hug.