Ian woke early on Christmas morning, admiring his beautiful wife still sleeping in his arms. He couldn't wait until she opened her eyes so he could give her his present… but he didn't want to wake her. He knew that the last few weeks had been a strain, and he didn't want to deprive her of any sleep. They had made wonderful, passionate love to each other the previous evening, and he was so happy he thought he would burst.
Lucy must have felt his eyes upon her, because she opened hers and looked directly at him, "Good morning. Have you been awake long?"
"No, I just woke up. I was admiring the view, love," Ian whispered in reply as he leaned down and gave her a kiss.
"Do you know what day it is?" Lucy asked him.
"Saturday, I believe," Ian answered with a twinkle in his eye. "And I believe that on Saturday, the 25th of December it is the custom in this country to exchange presents."
Lucy giggled and said, "I know you got me something from Ireland, and I can't wait to open it… but you have to open mine first."
"You already gave me my present… the trust fund for the children… that's more than enough…" Ian answered her in confusion.
"But I got you something special, just from me to you. It has nothing to do with the children. I hope you like it," she said as she reached over to the night table and pulled it out of a drawer. "I found it in Ireland, and it seemed so familiar…"
Ian opened the handsomely wrapped package. Inside he found an antique gold pocket watch of fine workmanship. He opened the face and it was working, showing exactly the right time. He looked at Lucy with a question in his eyes, "It's lovely, but I've never seen it before… but you're right… it does feel familiar…"
"Read the inscription… it was there when I found it…in Dublin—the shop where I found Caroline's christening gown," Lucy urged him.
On the back of the watch were the words, I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. Inside the case, in lavish script was inscribed, To my husband, with all my love, your Lucy. Ian looked at his wife in wonder, "Do you think… maybe that was us… once upon a time?"
"Oh, yes, I think maybe it was," she answered throwing herself into his arms. The moment she had seen the watch, she had a sense that it had been waiting in the shop for her to find it—that it belonged to them and no other.
"Now for your present, love," Ian said with a grin as he reached down beside the bed. "It's not an antique—in fact it's unique and just for you." He handed her a velvet jeweler's box and asked her to open it.
Lucy opened the box and saw a beautiful, delicate necklace. It was made of white gold and the strands were delicately wrought, meeting in the middle to form a Celtic trinity knot. In the center of the knot was a single perfect emerald.
"It's beautiful Ian—you had this made just for me?"
"Aye, Patrick arranged it, and brought it with him when they came to visit. I picked that design because it represents so many things. It's called a trinity knot, and in Celtic lore the number three is divine. Of course, there are three things that the Celtic trinity represents—and they all represent us. The first are the phases of life, representing us—birth, death and rebirth. Then the parts of a person that need healing—you know me, the doctor," Ian said with a laugh. "Anyway—mind, body and spirit. And last but not least, the three phases of being a woman—that would be you—maid, mother, and crone," Ian said.
"Oh, so you think I'm going to become a crone, huh?" Lucy laughed at him with tears in her eyes. His gift was so thoughtful, and so perfect—she was touched beyond words that so much thought had gone into it.
"Don't worry, I'll be getting old and crotchety myself… thanks to you and your love… and the we can drive the wee ones batty… together," Ian replied with a laugh. "The emerald, it stands for Ireland and for the eternity of our love," Ian finished his explanation.
Lucy threw her arms around Ian's neck and kissed him long and passionately, "Never in my life has anyone given me such a wonderful gift. Not just the gift—but the thought and effort you put into it. You could have just gone out and bought a necklace—but no, you had one made in Ireland to be perfect just for me. No wonder I love you so much."
Ian pulled her into his embrace once again, and kissed her, "I have one more surprise… this was Patrick's idea, but I agreed to it. Remember me telling you once that words were my brother's department? Well, we both have a love of fine literature, and he suggested this sonnet, from Shakespeare – number one hundred sixteen – and told me to read it to you—actually he said recite it, but I haven't quite got it memorized. Anyway, he thought that it complimented the gift – and it does make me think of us…
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love 's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.
Lucy sat quietly as Ian read the beautiful sonnet, entranced by the cadence of his deep and melodic voice. When he had finished they stayed silent for a moment longer, each basking in the love surrounding them. Ian gently drew her back into his arms and kissed her deeply. It was much later in the morning before Ian and Lucy decided to get up—their sweet baby had been very accommodating and slept late so that they could enjoy a languid Christmas morning.
While Lucy took care of Caroline, Ian went to check on the children. Serena had been kind enough to watch the kids when they woke up—and made sure that Ian knew it was a Christmas present from her. Although she couldn't wait to open her presents, she was trying to act very mature and not let anyone know just how badly she wanted to rip into them. Christina had been the only one giving her a hard time about opening presents—Aisling, being from Ireland, was used to presents on Boxing Day, and Danny wasn't quite old enough to understand about Christmas yet. Serena was tired of arguing with Christina, so she told Ian that he and Lucy needed to hurry up and to get Marty, Patrick and Seamus over from the guesthouse.
A short time later, Lucy came out of the bathroom, dressed and ready to greet the day. She picked up the jeweler's box and asked Ian to fasten the necklace for her. He had cleaned up and thrown on jeans and a sweater while Lucy took care of Caroline, but had his new watch in the pocket of his pants. He picked up the baby and went to join the rest of the children in the living room—where Christina was checking out all the packages under the tree.
"I smell bacon…mmm-mmm," said Ian to Serena. "Somebody must be cooking breakfast."
"Merry Christmas," Patrick said as he entered the living room from the kitchen. He was carrying Seamus and put him into the baby swing before giving Aisling a big hug. "Good morning, little dreamer, did you have visions of sugar plums?"
"Oh, Da! You're so funny!" Aisling giggled back at him.
Patrick sat down on the sofa and was attacked by Aisling, Danny and Christina as they had a tickle fight. Ian stood and laughed at his brother with the kids climbing all over him, "They may sleep in my house, but they like to play with you more!"
"Merry Christmas, Patrick," Lucy said with a smile as she entered the room. "Thank you for helping Ian with my present, it's lovely," she said touching her hand to the necklace.
"I'm very glad you like it, Lucy," Patrick answered with a smile. "And the sonnet…did you like that as well?"
"Of course, it was beautiful. And nothing does a sonnet justice like a deep, Irish voice reciting it. Oh…and he loved the watch, too."
"Of course he did—you said he would and I'm guessin' you know what he likes pretty well."
"I'm going to help Marty with breakfast, she shouldn't be doing all the work while the rest of us are in here playing around," Lucy said as she headed toward the kitchen.
Patrick jumped up and ran ahead of Lucy into the kitchen, and Ian immediately wondered what his brother was up to. He followed Lucy into the kitchen, still carrying Caroline in his arms—leaving the other children to continue playing in the living room.
When they entered the kitchen, Marty was just starting to scramble some eggs. The bacon had been finished and the kettle was whistling for tea—and she'd even made a pot of coffee for Lucy. The table had been set already, so there really wasn't any work left to do.
"Marty! You shouldn't have done this all by yourself! Why didn't you wait and let us help?" Lucy exclaimed at her sister-in-law.
"I've got an ulterior motive, Lucy. If I make breakfast, then I'm off the hook for the rest of the day—no more cooking or cleaning up for me!" Marty answered with a smile.
Lucy notice that Marty had a new necklace, and it looked very familiar, "Marty—your necklace, it's beautiful. It's…it's almost like mine!"
Patrick turned a little red when Ian rounded on him, "So—no wonder you were so anxious to help design the necklace—you had another one made for your own wife!"
"Well, this one's different…it's got a pearl in the center instead of an emerald," Patrick explained. "… because Margaret means 'Pearl'; so they're really not the same at all!"
Lucy and Ian both laughed as Marty reached up to touch her necklace, "It's beautiful, isn't it? I always said that the Thornhart men had good taste! Did you enjoy the sonnet, Lucy?"
"The SONNET, Patrick?" Ian said to his brother.
"Aye, the sonnet, Seamus! That was my contribution, so that you couldn't say I stole your present completely—it was a little bit of you and a little bit of me—and a whole lot of love, I'd say!" Patrick answered.
"Well…you got me there, Paddy! Merry Christmas to both of you!" Ian answered with a laugh.
Patrick took Caroline out of Ian's arms, "Here we go, Grainne, come to your Uncle Patrick for a Christmas kiss." He gave the baby a kiss on the cheek before dancing with her back into the living room to round up the children for breakfast.
As they sat at breakfast, Ian and Lucy looked at each other, and then long and lovingly at their family surrounding the table—they realized that all the treasure they could ever want was sitting with them at that table and they were filled with peace and contentment.THE END