Three years had passed since Licia’s wedding, but it felt so similar to that day as she helped Juliet get ready for her wedding. Rather than letting Juliet help Licia pin the pearls in her hair, it was Licia’s turn to put little ruby-studded pins throughout Juliet’s hair.
It was a stunning autumn day, with a gentle breeze and leaves outside just beginning to change colour. Licia thought her sister looked absolutely beautiful in her cream-colored gown with ruby-red flowers stitched along the hem.
“Can you believe it? I am to be married! I honestly still feel confounded by the fact that I have spent three years waiting for this day and now it is here. Horace is finally going to be my husband,” Juliet said, pining for the man she adored.
“Yes, he is. And I know it has been hard for you to wait, but you mustn’t begrudge the time that it has taken you to get here. You had to wait a year before entering society, and then he was taken abroad for his father’s business. I think the devotion and commitment you both have shown is a testament to the fact that you truly do belong together,” Licia said.
“Yes, I suppose so. Anyway, it hardly matters. All that comes to an end today, and I get to be his wife. Did it feel like this for you when you got married? Were you this full of happiness?” Juliet asked.
Licia sighed, dreamily. She still thought about that day all the time. She still loved to think about the first time she heard herself called ‘Mrs’ and the kiss from Clive in the coach after they were wed.
“You will not believe it, Juliet, but although your wedding day is wonderful, it means nothing in the end. You will think back to it and dream about it and how special you feel, but then, you will find so much magic in the ordinary,” Licia said.
“Whatever do you mean by that?” Juliet scoffed.
“I mean that these ruby pins will be like the sand as compared with the wilting flowers your husband bought you in the morning and handed you in the afternoon. And the flattering gown will look like a sack as compared with the nightshirt you wear while lying in and awaiting the birth of your first child. And although you may have done all you could to make your folds look pretty today, you will never feel more beautiful than when your husband rubs them even though they are swollen and quite hideous as you near that day of birthing,” Licia said, thinking of all the times that had passed since her wedding day.
“To be honest, Juliet, you will relish this day. But it is only a day. It is the marriage that will linger. So I urge you to be wise and to invest your excitement in something that will last far beyond this one, joyous day,” she concluded.
Juliet looked at her wistfully.
“Very well. I know you probably think that what you said was poetic, but you have forgotten that my feet are quite a bit nicer than yours, and I shall have no swelling at all when I am with child,” Juliet insisted.
Licia burst out laughing, admiring her sister’s optimism.
“Very well,” she said. “I hope you are right.”
All the talk of childbirth made Licia miss Abigail. But she was grateful that her father and Sylvia had agreed to take care of the little one that morning while Licia helped Juliet get ready.
Licia had become pregnant only a few months after she married Clive, and they had been so excited about becoming parents. Certainly, it was not always easy, but Licia loved every minute of being with her little girl.
She could hardly wait to have another.
“All right,” Juliet said. “Am I ready? I feel quite ready.”
Licia looked her over once more and gave a confirming nod.
“Indeed, I believe you are. You look stunning, Juliet. I am so happy to see you ready to marry the man you love,” Licia said.
They departed from the estate and made their way to the church, and for Licia, it felt like remembering a dream. So much was similar to her own wedding day, but it was still remarkable to see her little sister finally getting married.
The ceremony took a mere half an hour and then Juliet and Horace departed together to make their way to the gardens behind the church. It was still warm enough that they could have their reception outside, something Licia had wished she’d had.
But Licia found her husband and looped her arm in his.
“Care to walk with me?” she asked.
“I should be delighted,” Clive replied.
They made their way together past the tables brought out for the refreshments and found a place to sit among all the other guests. Licia’s father emerged from the crowd with Abigail in his arms, and Licia jumped up to her little girl.
“Oh, my little darling!” she exclaimed.
“Mama!” Abigail cried with delight, reaching for Licia in return.
“Was she good for you?” Licia asked her father.
“A little angel as always. But she asked for you more than once. William entertained her as best he could, and I think that was the only reason she was not angrier at not having you present,” her father said.
Sylvia came over and greeted Licia and Clive.
“It was such a lovely ceremony,” she said.
“Indeed, it was. I know that Juliet is happier than she has ever been,” Licia said.
William rushed over and hugged Clive and then Licia, sitting with them while they all chatted away with Licia’s father and Sylvia. It was so nice to be together as a family, even if Juliet could not spend the whole time with them. They were filled with joy at being able to celebrate her.
“Oh, forgive me for a moment. I must go and say hello to Daniel,” Clive said, standing and making his way from the others.
Licia watched him go, smiling as Daniel and Catherine stood together. Catherine was just beginning to show, her belly rounding slightly with the promise of new life. They had not told many people, but soon enough, they would be unable to hide it. Licia was so happy for them, and she knew that Clive could hardly wait to see his friend experience the joy of being a father.
There were so many people around, and Licia wanted to greet them all. So many of their friends were present, and she went to see Matilda, who was holding her youngest son. He had been born just weeks after Abigail, who remained firmly in Licia’s arms.
“Well, you look absolutely lovely,” Licia said, greeting her.
“As do you. And your sister is quite beautiful. I cannot believe that I was ever that young once, but I do not think I was ever so lovely,” Matilda remarked, smiling.
“Nor was I. But it hardly matters. This morning I told her how this day is a wonderful day, but just a day,” Licia said.
“Ah, yes. You gave her the speech of wisdom that all young ladies must hear. We all dream of our weddings, having no awareness that it is the days following that we must look forward to most. And it is by holding these little ones that we may delight in the joy that our husbands were just the first of many loves,” Matilda said.
“I am not sure that Juliet will want quite as many loves as you have,” Licia teased.
“Five is not so bad. And you want many children as well, do you not?” Matilda asked.
Licia smiled and nodded, not wanting to discuss it beyond that. She didn’t like having the conversation about when she would have another child and needed to quickly deflect before Matilda asked.
“Horace seems like he will be a good father. I am so glad that he is home and able to stay for a while so they can enjoy their marriage for a bit,” Licia said.
“Indeed. I have already spoken with Juliet about these brothers we have married and that it is rather unfortunate when they have to go away and travel for their father’s business, but she knows she may always come to see me if she is lonely. And I know that she has you as well, and that I would only be someone to stand in your stead,” Matilda remarked.
“Oh, I do think she enjoyed being around you more than you might know. There was a time just a couple of weeks ago that I asked if she wanted to come and have dinner with myself and Clive, but she said that she was visiting you instead,” Licia said.
“I beg your forgiveness if I stole her away from you that evening,” Matilda said.
“Not at all. I am glad for it, honestly. Juliet has always been more sociable than I have, and it is good that she has so many people she may go to. You are an excellent woman to support her, you know,” Licia said, meaning it with all her heart.
She looked around at all the children running about and knew that Matilda had been a support for Licia as well. It was not only Juliet who had benefitted from this friendship.
But Licia turned and saw that Clive was coming back towards her, and she said her farewell to Matilda and met Clive halfway.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” she asked.
“I am indeed. And you?” he asked in reply.
“I am, of course. But I am rather tired, to be honest. I know the reception is likely to last for another hour or so, but I cannot imagine anyone would notice if we slipped away,” Licia said.
“You wish to leave? I am surprised. But if that is what you want, I will not force you to stay,” Clive said.
“Do you mind? If you wish to remain, we may,” she said.
“Hush, my love. If you would like to go, and if you are tired, it is best that we depart. Besides, I would be happy to spend some time with you and Abigail this afternoon,” Clive said.
They made their way back to their friends and said a few quick goodbyes. As it happened, a few other people were departing as well, and Licia didn’t feel so bad about going before the reception had ended. They had already stayed for three hours, and she was truly exhausted after having rushed around all morning.
She said goodbye to Juliet last, wishing her sister all the best for the future that lay ahead. At last, she and Clive took Abigail and made their way to the coach.
“Are you all right?” Clive asked her.
“Yes, of course. But it was such a busy morning, and I did not sleep well last evening,” she said.
“All right, then,” Clive replied, still appearing worried.
Licia grinned to herself, not wanting him to worry but biding her time. She would tell him soon enough, but she wanted to wait until after dinner and after they had got Abigail down for the night.
When they arrived back at the estate, Licia changed into a more comfortable dress and then sat with Clive and Abigail in the parlour, just resting for a little while until the maid came and told them that dinner was ready.
“Are you hungry, little one?” Licia asked Abigail.
“Yes, Mama. I hungry,” Abigail replied, nodding enthusiastically.
“Very well, my dear. Come,” she said, following Clive and carrying Abigail.
They chatted all about the day over dinner, happily remembering every moment.
“And Daniel said that Catherine’s cousin cannot keep a secret, so the entire family knows that she is with child, even though they had wanted to keep it in confidence for a while longer,” Clive said, sharing about his conversation with Daniel at the wedding.
“Such a shame. They should be allowed to keep it a secret for as long as they wish,” Licia remarked.
“Yes, they should. But this is England, and we know how unlikely it is for anyone to be allowed privacy,” Clive said.
“Quite true,” Licia agreed.
They ate their dinner and spent some time reading to Abigail in her room before they kissed her goodnight and left her to sleep.
Sneaking out quietly, Clive took Licia’s hand down the hall towards the parlour once more.
“Would you prefer to go to bed? I know you are tired,” he said.
“No, it is quite all right. I should like to sit with you a while longer. It is so nice to just have time for the two of us,” Licia said.
He beamed, proudly. Licia loved to see that smile, and she loved to be with the man who had always been so bright and refreshing. Even through her heaviest, darkest days, he was with her. She couldn’t imagine ever having such a wonderful life as this, but Clive brought her all the best the world had to offer every day.
“Here, have a seat,” he said, allowing her to lean into him. Licia curled up on the settee and rested her head on his chest.
“You are so comfortable,” she noted.
“You think so? I hope I am. I love having you in my arms,” he said.
“And I love to be in your arms. There is nothing better than being with you,” Licia said.
“Given what we fought through to have these times together, I am glad you still think so,” he said.
“I would go through it all again if it meant being your wife. It is funny to think back to those times, when we were shocked that my father and Sylvia fell in love. Now, it seems as though it was always meant to be. They are ideal for one another and so happy together. And I know that Sylvia is hopeful that they will have a child soon,” Licia said.
“How do you feel about that?” Clive asked, looking at her curiously.
“It is quite strange, I admit. To think I would have a sibling so much younger than I am? But Sylvia has only recently passed thirty years of age, and she wants to be a mother. I cannot fault her for that. My father is still a young man, barely ten years her senior. He still has fatherhood left in him, I think. I know he would be frightened of losing her, but I think he finally has hope for the future,” Licia said.
“Well, it would be nice for them, I expect,” Clive said.
“And what about for us?” Licia asked him.
“What do you mean? You having another sibling? Yes, I think that would be nice for us as well. I mean, I cannot see why it would not be. You love Juliet and William. You would love another as well,” he said.
Licia laughed and shook her head, sitting up and looking at Clive with a grin.
“That is not what I meant,” she said.
“Oh, I am sorry, love. What did you mean then?” he asked.
“Would it be nice for us to have another child?” she asked, her voice full of hope.
Clive leaned in and pressed his forehead to hers.
“You know that I would love nothing more than to have another child with you, my dear. And if you wish to try for another one, I am absolutely happy to do so,” he said.
“Well, that is not exactly necessary,” Licia said.
Clive pulled back and looked at her in confusion.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean that it is hardly necessary for us to try when we are already expecting,” she said, letting the silence follow so he could understand what she meant.
Clive’s face brightened, and he took in a deep breath. It was clear to Licia that he was every bit as excited as she was by the news.
“You mean … you are with child? We are already expecting another?” he asked, tears in his eyes.
“Yes, my love. We have another child on the way, and soon enough, you and I will have the joy of being parents yet again. Abigail is going to have a little brother or sister,” she said, thrilled by the prospect of another member of the family.
Clive embraced Licia, and she leaned into him, inhaling the scent of vanilla and cinnamon to which she had grown accustomed.
She loved this man more than anything, and it was a wonder to Licia that she should be so fortunate as to live this great life. Never before had she thought that things would be so good, but life had only grown better and better since fighting for this love.
Day after day, they saw the fruit of their commitment, they saw how wonderful life could be. And despite all the challenges they had faced in the past, Licia knew she had found the man with whom she belonged, and there was no force that could keep them apart.
She leaned her forehead against his once more, and Clive bridged the gap between them, sealing their love with a kiss.