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Standing behind Elli in the church, I couldn't see her face, but I didn't have to. I knew already that she looked amazing and Icould feel the huge smile on her face. The doctor was stood up straight and he looked proudly down at his new wife, her ring reflecting luminous colours from the stain glass window. I wanted to throw my arms around her, to scream and jump up and down but there was plenty of time for that later. The ceremony was not yet over.
"Thank you all for coming." The doctor said, a rare smile on his face "Thank you to my best man," He nodded admiringly at Doug. "To our maid of honour, Mary, and to the beautiful bridesmaid and pageboy, Stu and May."
May beamed in delight.
"The day is not yet over. Soon we would like you all to make your way to Rose Square, where there will be food, music and dancing. We look forward to seeing you all there, Doug and Ann have been tremendous about preparing everything. We give them thanks. Now my wife would like to say a few words." Another smile played gently with his lips as he said the word "wife" I smiled over at Jack and saw that he was looking reflective, perhaps he was thinking, like me, of our own wedding day and how happy it had made us to call each other husband and wife. I felt tears forming in my eyes. I was so pleased that Elli and the Doctor were experiencing that joy.
"It has been a tough year for the village." She said, in a slightly shaking voice. She had never been comfortable with public speaking. I clutched the flowing skirt of my bridesmaid dress, quietly dying for her. "But it has been a very special year for me, and for that reason alone I will always remember it. I'll remember the bad times as much as the good, because all of that, well, it just led to this day and it's all so perfect. I wouldn't want to change a thing. Except…" She paused, her lips quivering. "… If I could, I would want my parents to be here. I know they are, I can feel them but it's not the same as seeing my Mum smile. I don't know if any of you remember but my Mother had the most beautiful smile, she could silence anybody with it. And when she laughed there was no way you could stop yourself from giggling along with her. My Dad, he loved her so much. He loved me and Stu and he'd do anything for anybody. Stu never got to know them. I'm sad about that. And I hate that they died. I hate it every single day. I can't forget, I just go on hating. But all things happen for a reason, I know that now. I also know how important it is to live in the moment, to get to know people before it's too late, to take chances, to resolve arguments." She glanced at Sasha and Jeff, who had returned espeically for the wedding. "Today is about commiting to the man I love but it's also about taking chances. When you trust someone, you're taking a chance. People can hurt you easily. People can leave you easily. The hard thing is to keep going, to trust again, to love again. Everyone here who has married has taken a chance. Everyone here who is a parent has taken a chance. But you take that chance because you want to love, you need to love. I want to love Malcolm. I need to love him. It's because of him that I'm taking the chance." She laughed, "I'm taking a chance saying all this! But I hope you understand."
Malcolm took her hand, his eyes glowing like chocolate coals. The whole church errupted in applause. I rushed forward and hugged her tightly as I had been wanting to do since the service had started. She squeezed my waist.
"Did I do it right? Did I say it like I did when we practised?"
"Better." I assured her, squeezing back. "Just look, everyone is in tears. You were amazing!"
People began leaving their seats, making for rose square while chatting about the ceremony. Kano was the only one still in the church, attaching a new film to his camera. I made my way over to Jack and Charlie, my skirts rustling against the wooden pews as I moved.
"We should go up to Mother's Hill now." He said, decisively. "It won't take long. I hope not anyway."
"Okay. We better make an appearance at the party though, if only to drop off Charlie with Mother." We had never been party lovers, and I saw the grimace stiffen his features but he agreed and we walked to Rose Square a little way back from the rest of the crowd, Charlie gurgling in the pushchair that his Dad pushed. I reached down to smoothen his curls and brush away the biscuit crumbs on his outfit, He began to squeel and babble nonsense. In the midst of it I heard a word.
I gasped, and looked at Jack. He was open mouthed and red cheeked, he had heard too.
"Charlie! You clever little boy." I lifted him from his seat and smothered him in kisses. "Ohh, I'm so proud of you, you little angel. Clever, clever Charlie."
Jack ruffled Charlie's curls and grinned at me. "He's growing up fast, aint he? He'll be starting school before we know it."
"Oh don't say that." I frowned. "When he goes to school I'll be so lonely. And worried. I don't want him to face the horrors of the world."
"He won't have to 'cps he'll have his Mum spoiling him at every oppurtunity." He winked. "And don't you worry, you won't be lonely."
I wondered what that could possibly mean. Then I thought again of Mother's Hill and the talk he had mentioned. Another baby! I wouldn't be lonely because I would have another baby! I wanted to yell "Yes" straightaway but kept quiet instead, strapping Charlie back into his pushchair. Oh, wouldn't I love a daughter! I would buy her dolls and keep her hair tied in plaits. I was so excited, I couldn't pay a bit of attention to the party. I wanted to get home and start trying for a new baby immediately. To be pregnant again! To lie in bed and feel the weight of an unborn life underneath my skin! To have my body fiiz with excitement and tingle with nervousness as I waited for the day for the child to arrive, I loved my new child already, and he or she was yet to be created! When we climbed up to Mother's Hill, I thought what a perfect day it was to make such plans. It was late afternoon and the sun was just setting so that the gnats were fluttering under the shade of the trees. It was cooling a little, so the air was just warm enough ofr bare skin, but it did not have enough intensity for sunburn. From the square we could hear the festival music playing softly and closer, the twittering of birds preparing for nightfall. It was the sort of day that stuck easily in your memory, and as I settled down in the rocks with Jack's hand in mine, I wondered if I would one day tell Charlie about it and his little sister or brother.
"What a veiw." Jack looked down from our great height. "The fireworks will be starting soon. Do you think Elli will miss us at the party? They'll look so great from up here."
"I don't think so." I leant back, letting my hair loose from my plait, something I rarely did. Jack tangled his hands amongst it. "She'll be too busy with Malcolm no doubt." I giggled. "And besides, I told her where we were going to be and she seemed enough." Her eyes had sparkled knowingly, and she had told me to have a good time. I suspected she knew something. Jack had obviously confided in her and sworn her to secrecy. I knew better than to chide her into admitting the truth though.
"What did you think of the ceremony?"
"It was very beautiful." I sighed. "I liked how they gave speeches at the end."
"Yeah. It was nice." His fingers interlaced through mine, I could see his eyes growing dark with thought. I could tell he was wondering how to bring the subject up. I decided to help him out.
"I know what you're going to say."
"Really?" He looked shocked.
"Really. And before you ask, the answer is yes." A smile split his face. "I would love to have another baby with you."
The smile wavered and then disappeared altogether, He paled a little, blinked and then burst out laughing.
"What is it? What's funny?"
"Mary! You sausage, you can have as many kids as you want. You don't even have to ask. Jeez, I'd have a million of your little brats!"
'What? I don't understand…"
"I didn't bring you up here to ask for another kid. I leave it up to you. You know how much I love Charlie and how I want to have a houseful of little ones, but I know you've had a bad time and it's best you decide when you're ready."
"Then why did you bring me up here?"
"Because… You know what Elli was saying today about trusting people? Taking risks?"
"I want you to take a risk with me again."
"I already have! I took you back, didn't I? And we already got married? Or did you forget?" I laughed, feeling like I could laugh forever.
"I know that." He rolled his eyes and reached down into his pocket for something large and blue. He pulled out a feather and tucked it into my shaking hands. "I know I already asked you and I know we already did it once but I want us to get married again, Mary. I want to tell everyone how much I love you, and make you happy this time, look after you and our kids."
"Oh Jack." Tears poured down my cheeks, unchecked. "You don't have to marry me again."
"But I want to." He insisted, wrapping his hands around my fists. "We can stand up here, and ust have our friends and family there. We'll say it's gonna be forever this time… We'll say whatever you want to say, just marry me again Mary, please…"
I gulped, sobbing almost hysterically. Then I bit down on my lip and looked up into his inpatient eyes. "Yes." I whispered, then I shouted as loud as I could, so it travelled down into the land below. "YES!"
He laughed out loud with happiness then took me into his arms, kissing the top of his head. I fitted neatly into his warm chest and remained there, safe, until darkness settled and we knew we had to make a move. Walking back down to the square was like a dream. The moon reflected in the lake, and night animals scuttled along our path. Jack babbled on about everything and nothing and I joined in, laughing over the silliest things, acting like a kid. When we got back to Rose Square, we did not make any grand announcement, reluctant to steal the limelight away from Elli and Malcolm. Instead we tried to be unnoticable in a corner, every now and then our eyes meeting with delicous secrets. Elli said she did, however, notice our excitement and wanted to come over and congratulate us but was waylaid by the village gossips and did not get away until after we had returned to the farm. I think it was a good thing, it was Elli and Malcolm's night and we were happy it stayed that way. The next day we gathered our friends and family at the inn and announced the news to them. They were enthralled of course, and we were wrapped in hugs and drowned in congratulary drinks. Not that we minded at all.
As planned, we held the re-commitment ceremony on Mother's Hill. It was a quiet affair but it gave us memories to last a lifetime, and it makes me feel all warm just thinking of it. By that time I was quite heavily pregnant and our daughter, Elli-Rose, takes great delight in looking at the pictures from the day in which she was concealed beneath a large bump. After Elli Rose we had two more sons James, or Jimmy as we call him, and baby Jack. Karen gets out of prison in a few months although it is not something that fills me with fear. Karen and I no longer have anything between us, no hate, no love, nothing. So there is not one thing she can do to hurt me. I do not crave her respect anymore. I am happy with my life, my children, my husband. She will never take that away again.
There! Well I really hope you enjoyed reading this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it. I've always felt a special connection to Mary, that's why I felt I had to write this fic. Oh and just to let you know, there will be a sequel! Not sure when it will be up, or when I'll start writing it for that matter, but I have some firm ideas so watch this space. Thank you again to all my lovely readers. Hopefully you know how much I appreciate you by now!