He stood there overlooking the bluff, his memory taking him back now 40 years. Martin put his hands in his coat pocket, even in his heavy winter gloves, his hands were still cold. He heard the snow crunch and turned, surprised to see she'd followed him.
"It's too cold out here for you," he frowned, taking her hand the last few steps so she didn't fall. He looked down, at least glad to see she had on some sensible shoes, Joan's old pair of outdoor boots. Coming from London, Louisa hadn't brought a lot of clothing with her, but as he took in her appearance, he noted she was properly bundled, even for this cold late afternoon. Hat, warm gloves, heavy coat, and the boots-she dressed sensibly most of the time, except for those heels she loved to wear. Martin looked at her and then back out over the bluff. The sun was almost completely down; they would need to head back to the house soon.
"You've been here almost an hour, staring off. I wanted to make sure you were alright," she said snuggling to his side. He put his arm around her, pulling her to his side for warmth, hissing slightly to himself, irritated he hadn't thought to do that initially. She'd had to almost prod him. Martin was working on his demeanor around Louisa. It was better, but as a husband, he had a long way to go.
"I'm fine," he told her bluntly and pulled her tightly.
"I'm sure you have a lot of memories going through your head," she said, reaching to pat his chest.
"Yes," he simply stated, his most common answer. Nothing more was said as the two stood there looking out over the harbor.
"Must be desperate for a fisherman to be out in this," she pointed out to a lone boat coming into the harbor. Martin just hummed and nodded. The two settled into silence again.
"Did Ruth-" Louisa started to say, and at the same moment, Martin spoke too.
"We need to discuss my employment future," he stated, a surprise to Louisa as she pulled away slightly to look up at him before settling back into his side. She could see the almost strained expression on his face, and she sighed.
"Alright," she nodded. "I take it you have some news. It's been a rather chaotic few days, hasn't it? No time for us to discuss jobs for you."
Martin, reluctant to pull away from her, but wanting to look at her face, turned slightly, "As much as I've tried and as much as I want to will it away, my hemophobia isn't better. In fact," he frowned, "it's maybe worse."
Louisa studied his face before she answered, and when she did, she simply nodded, "Oh, I see."
"I haven't known how to tell you," Martin said quietly, feeling defeated. He looked to the ground and felt her hand reach for his.
"Martin," she said, and with that sound, he looked up, knowing she was disappointed. His facial expression must have given him away because she squeezed his hand and shook her head while she tried to prod him to look back at her, "You should have told me. The few times we have discussed it, or I should say you were willing to share anything, you said it was getting better. I can see the anguish on your face. Alright," she nodded, switching gears. "It's not getting better. So, what does that mean?"
Martin swallowed hard and nodded with his head, "As much as I've told her she's been ridiculous, it seems we have inherited a house, this land. Ruth and her grand ideas," he said shaking his head.
"Come home to Portwenn?" Louisa asked, closing her eyes briefly.
"Yes, come home," Martin squeezed her hand. "Louisa, in my wildest dreams, just a few years ago, I would have never imagined leaving London. Fate brought me here because I developed some unexplained medical reaction to taking care of my own surgery patients. That brought me here and even to you. It seemed logical to return to London. Most would have thought I would have been the one going, dragging you, the longtime village sweetheart to London with me. The tables were turned; somewhere, people are having a good laugh at that one. You now love London. You want to be there. London only reminds me I'm a failure-"
"You're not a failure," Louisa stopped him, dropping his hands and taking his face in her hands as she stepped closer. She looked him directly in the eyes and repeated, "You're not a failure. Martin, you are not a failure. You are loved. You are a wonderful, caring, brilliant man. I would like to think of it as almost a disability. You've developed one that keeps you from doing one type of medicine, but it certainly does not limit you from being a wonderful doctor. You are no failure, Martin Ellingham."
He swallowed hard again, fighting back the tears, and he turned his head to look out to sea again. Louisa let out her breath, still visible in the cold air, but with the sun going down, it was getting harder and harder to see.
"It's quiet out here," Louisa offered, the tension subsiding from Martin's confessions. Martin hummed again and looked at her finally, his face still fighting his emotions.
"If we sell the London flat, we would have the money to do anything. I'll build you a grand house here if you like," he told her. "I can barely fit through the doorways of Joan's place, and it's falling apart. Even Joan has said that for years."
Louisa looked back toward the old farmhouse and spoke without turning to him, "I don't need a grand house. I suppose we would avoid a lot of the local gossip. Work, though, Martin. I do love to work. I mean," she looked to her stomach and patted it, "I can't know what it will be like to be a mum to two, but I still think I would miss teaching."
"There are always openings at the school. There's a mathematics one now," he offered quickly. "That blubbering idiot, Chippy Miller, even asked me at Joan's funeral if you were taking the position, that is after he had to give me some idiotic pat on the back for marrying you, as if you are a trophy. Idiot. The whole lot of them, but deep down, this is your home, and this is where I seem to be my best, at work, I mean. "We could still ride into the village each day and then home. I could keep the house there as a surgery, its intended use, just no one actually living there. I suppose down the line if Pauline or whoever," he rolled his eyes, "works there needs a place to live-"
"The surgery?" Louisa asked, searching his face. "Seems like I know what you spent your hour out here thinking."
"I am aware it's too small for four of us," he told her quietly. "It could work temporarily," he held up his hand to let him finish before she spoke again. "You are welcome to stay in London as long as you like, but for the time, we would fit with the children. The room James is in now would work as a nursery, and we have until the summer before the new baby arrives. I believe there is room in our bedroom for a small cot, all the while, we move forward taking down the farmhouse and building the home you want. There's plenty of land here. We hire someone, well someone like Al Large to take care of things. He's about the only one in the village I can tolerate because he doesn't talk one to death. He's always looking for work and for getting out from under the bad investments of his father."
She shook her head, as if trying to shake in all of the information Martin had just given her. She nodded finally, accepting the information into her brain, and looked to him, "What about work for you? You aren't happy with the villagers, idiot villagers as you often call them."
"Hmm," he said, moving to pull her to his side again, looking to the darkening waters, "perhaps that is where we compromise? You remind me often a marriage is compromise. Seems as if we both have some reservations about staying in Portwenn, but at the same time, this is the place we met and maybe can be most happy."
Louisa looked up at him and pursed her lips, "Martin Ellingham, did you just talk about being happy? If I didn't know better, you used to wonder why people were focused on being happy. You saw no need for happiness."
"Perhaps I want you to be happy, you and the children, but at the same time, I know that I cannot function properly in my role as a physician outside of general medicine anymore. I need to be a GP, and starting over somewhere as one seems ridiculous when this is here and familiar. Surgery is not an option. I suppose I'm suggesting that yes, maybe I am at least content here. I know I need you and James with me, rather you and both of our children. I need to be able to work, and we've spent all this time looking for somewhere to go, somewhere for a fresh start, but perhaps it is here. Perhaps we start here again, our family, on this property, outside the village, but close to the people and places that are important. I saw the way you lit up when you noticed Portwenn all lit up for Christmas. As much as you are worried about gossip, it has been to a minimum, even if I have to admit it. The bloody village will gossip about anyone's new car, new anything, so let them get us out of their system. Maybe we have both been too stubborn, trying to run from this and reinvent ourselves, but maybe we find ourselves here."
Louisa studied his face and gave him a small smile. She leaned up to peck his lips, "My very own Doctor Ellingham is very insightful this evening. You've really been thinking."
"I ran away from London once, to start over in my profession. I suppose that with nothing changing in my own medical status now regarding changing my job once again, it is rather absurd to run from another place again."
"You would rather stay here in Portwenn and continue as a GP than to start somewhere new?" Louisa stepped back to make sure she'd heard him right. She seemed to want to study his face.
"Ruth pointed out my only happy times were here. I suppose she was right, and that might be a good way to build on a future. You, Louisa, make me happy. I know I don't tell you."
"It warms my heart to hear that, Martin," she said, giving him a warm smile. "Truly, it does. You've given me a lot to consider. I'm not saying no at all, but maybe we could get out of the cold. It's almost dark."
"Yes, yes," he said, as if snapping out of his thoughts. He offered her his arm, "Careful. You must not fall. Precious cargo," he added. Louisa chuckled and squeezed his arm.
"If I didn't know better, Martin, I might say you sound happy about the baby."
"I am happy," he nodded. "I worry with the children so close that I won't be a good enough father. Children that small demand attention, and what if I can't provide what they need? I worry that I will overlook one. I've never had a sibling. I don't know what to do with two of them."
"You'll learn, and you are forgetting I'm new at this too," she smiled. "As a teacher, I can say that there is love for both children. You love them the same but in different ways. You love them for what they offer and bring out in you. I see that in my students, even the difficult ones. You're a wonderful father to James Henry already, and you will be equally wonderful with this one too. I'm glad you are happy about the baby. I was a bit nervous two children would be too much for you. As you know," she bumped his shoulder, "you are a bit different, a bit of an oddity, but I love you for that."
"Hmm, yes, I suppose I hadn't thought if it like your students," he nodded. "I would not want to be away from you and the children. Staying here does give me more of a regular schedule. You are always welcome to work, but I make enough to keep our family comfortable if you decide to stay home with the children."
"I appreciate that, Martin," she nodded as they walked. "I am very much missing my students right now, though. I love being around James, but I think I would be a better mum to him with a break, working a bit."
Martin cleared his throat, "The opening at the school, mathematics, is for the winter term," he told her. "That idiot, Chippy, told me it's part-time, that opening at least."
"Part-time math after the Christmas holiday?" Louisa stopped and looked to Martin, biting her lip. "Dear, that is tempting, but James-"
Martin turned, and in the dim light shining from the house porch light, and tilted his head at her, "I am certain that in this village you hold dear to you and grew up in we could find someone to help with James for now until we make decisions about the future here."
She nodded, considering things. The two were quiet just a few feet from the house.
Finally, Martin pointed toward the house, "James?"
Louisa chuckled and patted his chest, "He's inside with Ruth. I didn't leave him alone to fend for himself. He's sleeping, and she's still going through things. Why don't I make us some tea and see if we can find anything to eat."
"I didn't get fish today," Martin just realized as they walked.
Louisa, now just a step ahead of him, turned back, "Good. If we are going to move back here, we are going to have a few ground rules. Not having fish every night will be one of them."
He eyed her as they approached the house. With the porch lights on, he could see her better, "You will consider it then?"
She gave him a small shrug and nod, "I'll consider it. I know what effort it took for you to open up to me. Let's have that tea and a chat with Ruth, hmm?"
"Yes," he stated and nodded. He stepped ahead of Louisa to open the door for her and offered, "We'll need to get James home after that. He needs his sleep; we all do, and then, first thing in the morning, I'll let you get some rest and take James down to the village to make sure and get fish for dinner."
She eyed him and pointed to him, "If you are going to be stubborn about insisting we eat fish so much, then, just watch. I'll insist things of my own."
He made a face, pondering what she said, as she stepped into the house. He called to her, "I can't imagine what you'd insist upon. I already agreed that you working wasn't an issue."
As Ruth stepped into the room ahead of them with James in her arms, she turned back and lowered her head, whispering to him, "Maybe two children isn't enough for me."
Martin could be heard grumbling under his breath, but nothing more was said, and they both turned their attention to James and Ruth.