It was a year after the fateful Christmas Eve ball. It had been the talk of the town for quite a few months afterwards. Felicity had written a sincere apology note to Lady Palinger, who visited her in person to insist that the party was not ruined by Lady Andrews' outburst. Secretly, Felicity knew that Lady Palinger liked the gossip so that she could draw out the wealthier couples of Virginia to her parties. And they did come out, so that parties were now more frequent on the Palinger estate.
It was the day after New Year's when a carriage rolled through the streets of Williamsburg, people watching it carefully. They were surprised when it raced past Lady Palinger's. Usually people in those carriages stopped there but this one kept rolling. It went past Merriman General Store, past the Merriman house as well as the neighboring Davidson house. It pulled slightly past the Michaels' house to the recently finished Cole household. A young footman stepped off the back and opened the door. A well-dressed woman stepped out and walked from the carriage to the front door. She tipped the footman and waved to the driver, who sped off.
The woman caused a stir in the area. It was Lady Annabelle Andrews, whom most believed would never show her face again in their city. Shortly after the baptism of her young nephew, James, Annabelle left Williamsburg. The Coles didn't say where she went, nor did any of their friends, so the people were left to speculate. Some believed she went back to England to stay with distant relatives in the countryside. Others said she went to Richmond, while there were others who would suggest the other main cities in their growing country. A few even suggested the Northwest Territories and other areas being settled. There were still scandalized at her behavior at Lady Palinger's behavior, but those closest to Annabelle knew the real reason.
After the Ladies Rockwell rushed their hysterical friend out of the house, they did not return her home. Instead, Annabelle bunked at Roger and Patrice's house for the night. Patrice sent a slave to fetch Rachel, who quickly packed some of her mistress' clothes. Annabelle never left her room at the Rockwells'. Concerned for their friend, Roger contacted a friend of the family in New York City. It was clear to the two that Annabelle needed to get away from Williamsburg and grieve. A few centuries later, it would be recognized that the woman had had a complete emotional breakdown and was also depressed. However, the Rockwells did not know this but felt that sometime in the busy city would help their friend.
And help, it did. Annabelle finally had the time to grieve and sort out all her feelings. She was quite ashamed of her behavior and irrational feelings. As soon as she came to the conclusion, she wrote a letter of apology to everyone involved. The Rockwells, all four of them, insisted an apology was not necessary. Lady Palinger, Miss Manderly, the older Michaels and her parents accepted it without question. Naturally, the younger Michaels, the Davidsons and the Merrimans were hesitant to forgive, but they came around eventually. It took Lord John Freeman longer. He received the note before a major expedition into the Virginia wilderness and used the time to contemplate everything. Upon his return, he made a trip to New York. When he came back, he did not speak of what had happened but it was believed the two had made their peace.
Lady Annabelle Andrews looked as though the New York air did wonders for her. She looked healthy and not as, well, crazy as she did the last time the others saw her. She rapped on the door, which was promptly opened by a young slave girl. The girl took the woman's cloak as her mistress rushed forward. "Anna, I am so delighted you were able to come!" she said, hugging her friend. Annabelle smiled as she returned the hug.
"One of my dearest friends gives birth and I do not attend the babe's baptism?" Annabelle asked, causing Patrice to laugh. "Oh, Patrice, motherhood is perfect for you."
"Aye, and it will be for you as well," Patrice responded. "Come and I'll introduce you to little Mary."
Annabelle followed her friend into the parlor where there was a bassinette set up. Patrice lifted up a little baby girl, who was still sound asleep. "I am sorry that she isn't awake, but this is how she normally is."
"I know. Little James slept a good deal when I stayed with my sister. At least I did not have to hear him crying or making noise or I may have needed to leave earlier than I did." Annabelle ran a finger along Mary's cheek. "Oh, but you and Roger are fortunate to have such a healthy baby girl."
"Roger is so proud I fear he may burst!" Patrice laid Mary back down and the baby just rolled over, yawning. "I think Lord Freeman will be the same when you two have a child of your own."
Annabelle began to blush. "Patrice, he just proposed last month and we have yet to set a date for our wedding. 'Tis too early to consider children," she explained, watching as Isabella poured her some tea. "I am staying with my parents for Mary's baptism because they wish to see the new house. My father knows about the wedding; John received his permission. However, the three of us have been keeping the secret from my mother and sister."
Patrice took a sip. "The entire city has been speculating on the state of your relationship with Lord John Freeman," she commented.
"All of Williamsburg? Don't these ladies have anything better to gossip about?"
"Frankly, no. This isn't England, Annabelle, we are the closest thing to royalty these people have. Of course we are going to be their favorite people to discuss," Patrice said.
"What do they believe John and my relationship is?"
"Most agree that you and he have reconciled, though they do not understand why."
"Why? Because John is an understanding man who realized that I am not the broken person sobbing on Lady Palinger's floor," Annabelle said. "It did take him a while to overlook the whole arranging to pair him with a married woman. I admitted I was a tad manipulative and I needed to work on that."
"He forgave you and then courted you even though no one knows that part," Patrice said.
"To which I am grateful though their ignorance will be short-lived as our engagement will be announced next month," Annabelle said. They finished their tea as the sun began to set. "I should leave. Roger shall be returning soon and my mother is expecting me home for dinner. Give your husband my love and tell him I shall see him soon."
"Aye, I will," Patrice said, hugging her. "Good day."
Another parlor was filled with a toddler's chattering a few days after Annabelle returned to Williamsburg. Little James Michaels sped around his Uncle Ben, who was getting quite dizzy following the energetic boy. "Lissie, darling," he called out to his wife, standing in the kitchen. She walked out and he continued, "Please tell me our child won't behave this way." He pointed to little James, who was babbling on about…something.
Felicity laughed and adjusted her own little boy on her hip. "I cannot promise you anything, Benjamin. Tom here is my son," she said, laughing. "He is also your son, so I believe he may go either way." She looked down into her son's wide green eyes. Thomas Davidson had been watching the world around him with fascination since the day he was born. Once he stopped crying long enough to view the world, he did it every waking moment. "I believe he may be a quiet child who watches the world and learns things we would never dream to think."
"Aye, I think you are correct," Ben replied. He reached out and silently Felicity placed Tom into his lap. "I predict our son is destined for great things."
As if to agree, little Tom grabbed his father's finger. "Da-da," he cooed, causing both of his parents to stop. "Dada," he babbled again.
"I think he just said his first word," Ben said, stunned. Too shocked to agree, Felicity could only nod.
"Dada!" Tom pointed at Ben. He repeated the word, pointing at Felicity and James. This caused the two older Davidsons to laugh, even harder when Elizabeth came to pick up James and Tom also greeted her as "dada."
Elizabeth stared at Tom, who had stopped his little rant of the only word he knew and fixed his gaze on his father's vest. "Tom said his first word," she said, slowly. "Good luck because once this one started talking, we haven't figured out to make him stop."
"I think my parents wondered the same thing when I was younger," Felicity replied, helping get James into warmer clothes.
"Then it is hopeless!" Ben stifled a laugh at Elizabeth's outburst when Felicity shot him a glance. "I do not know if you have heard but Annabelle is in town until the end of the week."
"Aye, I have heard. It is for Mary Rockwell's baptism, is it not?"
"Aye," Elizabeth replied. "She is staying with my parents before returning to New York."
"Is she happy in New York?" Ben asked, swatting his son's hand away from a loose button. "Lissie, you need to fix this button."
Felicity sighed as Elizabeth chuckled. "Aye, she is very happy. 'Tis all she talks about rather than England. I believe she and Lord Freeman will move there."
"Lord Freeman?" the Davidsons asked. Even Tom was staring at his Aunt Elizabeth now. She was blushing.
"It hasn't been announced yet…Annabelle just told my mother and I…Lord John Freeman has not only forgiven my sister, he wishes to marry her."
"Congratulations are in order for Annabelle, then," Ben responded. "I wish her all the happiness in the world. When will the marriage be announced?"
"Next month, both here and in New York," Elizabeth said.
Felicity smiled. "Ah, they will join Nan and Nathaniel's announcement," she said. "Nan will be so delighted to share the announcement with Lord John Freeman and Lady Annabelle Andrews."
"I am certain of that as well." Elizabeth adjusted her son, who was starting to get drowsy. "He is getting heavier everyday. I should get home. This little one needs to sleep and my husband must be worried." With some words of goodbye, Elizabeth and James left. It was now just the three Davidsons.
"Annabelle is getting married again," Felicity said, sitting down next to her husband. "I think both she and Lord Freemen will be happy. I think he will bring out the best of her."
"Well, Felicity Davidson, I believe marriage and motherhood has matured you," Ben said, handing their son back to his mother.
"Nay, I am just being optimistic as always."
"There is the spunk. I thought I was going to have to run a lost advert in the newspaper to find it," Ben teased. "I think if they are half as happy as we have been, then they will have a good marriage."
"Romantic," his wife shot back. He kissed her. When they broke away, Felicity had a devious smile. "Shall we invite ourselves for dinner at my parents' house? I so wish to see the looks on their faces when little Tom starts calling them all 'dada.'"
"I cannot deny you that as I wish it as well. I shall get our cloaks," Ben said, standing up. Felicity leaned back, sighing. Tom rested his head against her, starting up his 'dada' babbling again. She kissed her son's head, happy with how everything had turned out. Ben was right; they were blessed with an abundance of happiness and she hoped it never changed.
A/N: The End! tear Thanks to all my loyal reviewers and readers who made this story my most "hitted". I hope to write more and I hope you all check out my other stories! This is dedicated to my baby sister, who had her graduation party yesterday! Mac