That first week back at Lakeside Gardens would almost have been too perfect had it not been for one little sting. Even though Mrs. Kane had kept up with the dusting and such, Jane was thrilled to be able to go through and give it a thorough cleaning, to be followed next week by an orgy of Christmas decorating. Mother and Lyssa spent most of their time sitting by the big windows in the front room, receiving visitors who came to adore. The Westins were one and all smitten with Lyssa, and even Eden was heard to remark that she wouldn't mind another sibling if it could be like Lyssa.
Mrs. Ford came over with Anna and Ally, and even Jane emerged from the kitchen long enough to talk with them. The girls were smitten with Lyssa's big eyes and fair curls.
"She is just precious, Robin," Mrs. Ford said. "Have I ever told you about the first baby I ever 'had?'"
"Why, wasn't it Gilly?" Mother asked.
Mrs. Ford laughed. "Dear me, no. Gilly has had the inestimable advantage of being a firstborn to a woman who already raised one baby. Little Jims Anderson … not so little now … he was my 'war-baby,' and oh, how I thought he would be the death of me at first! Then I grew to love him, and now sometimes I even still forget he's not really flesh of my flesh."
"Do tell us all about him," Jane begged, and Mrs. Ford, who loved a good story (especially on herself), happily complied.
Yes, everything was lovely, except for that one sting: Mr. Kendall was conspicuous by his absence, as Dad would say. Jane took time out of every day that week to walk over and see him, and either he was gone travelling (though he had once told Jane that he hated to travel), or he had locked himself inside and was refusing to show any signs of life.
The final day of the week, the day of Mrs. Kane's party, Jane took her usual journey to his house after she had cleaned up the breakfast dishes. She had just finished cleaning the last room that morning before breakfast, rising before the sun to get it done, and she was tired but satisfied, looking forward to the party at Elysium that night. Mrs. Kane had said it wasn't anything too fancy, so Jane planned to wear her navy skirt of lovely soft wool, and that pretty cream blouse Mother had bought her recently, the one with the jaunty bow that tied at her neck, and little tiny bows at her cuffs. With a plaid tam and her navy wool dress coat, Jane felt just like a working girl in one of the popular movies … Katharine Hepburn, or Myrna Loy … secretary or typist, out for a day off!
She was distracted from her thoughts about clothing and movies by seeing Mr. Kendall's bleak house … still dark and shuttered. She sighed.
"Oh me! What a mess I made when I tried to matchmake." As much as she liked everyone in her circle of friends, Mr. Kendall had a … tang … to him that no one else did, and her life seemed somehow flatter and more stale without him.
"Well," she said, resting one elbow on the gatepost, "I tried my best to make amends. And I certainly have learned my lesson. Never again will I try to bring two people together … unless they are already wanting to come together and just need a helpful nudge," thinking of Colby and Jody, and the judicious, minimal organization she had indulged in to leave the two of them alone together during the wedding preparations.
She stayed there and mused on romance, lessons, and life for a while before remembering there were duties at home still, before she could justly escape for the party with a clear conscience. She roused herself, cast one last sorrowful glance at Mr. Kendall's forlorn house, and wended her way back to her house, full of life, laughter, light, and love.
Baby Lyssa was full of smiles and delight to see her already-adored big sister, and Mother was busy fretting that Abby was going to do something dreadfully wrong when she came over to watch Lyssa that evening.
"Mummy," Jane explained patiently, "Abby has five younger siblings. I'm sure she'll be fine. Besides, we'll be right around the corner if anything happens. Elysium isn't that far from here."
Mother smiled and sighed. "I know, Jane. I'm just being a wee bit foolish."
Jane hugged her. "I think we're all at least a little foolish over Lyssa."
"That," Dad said, popping his head out of his study unexpectedly, "Sounds like a very good start to a poem, my Jane - At Least a Little Foolish for Lyssa." His head withdrew as quickly as it had emerged, and Jane and Mother soon heard the sound of a typewriter clacking away.
By the time twilight fell and Abby had arrived, Lyssa was asleep in her bassinet, with two bottles of milk in the icebox for later, and Mother looked resplendent in a frosted green dress … the first time she had been able to wear something pretty in almost a year. Dad was also looking very distinguished in his suit, and Jane felt very proud of her handsome parents.
Abby cheerfully bid them all goodbye, with an odd twinkle in her eye as though she knew something they didn't, and they set off through the chilly night.
Elysium was lit from top to bottom, blazing like a beacon through the night. "Did she invite all of Toronto?" Dad grumbled.
"She said it was going to be a small party," Jane said.
"I'm sure she just wanted to make it look as welcoming as possible," Mother said cheerfully. Now that the painful first leaving of Lyssa had happened, Mother was positively enjoying the break.
Mrs. Kane herself greeted them at the door. "Welcome! Welcome!" she cried. "I'm so glad you're here. Come, let me take your wraps." She drew them inside, where Jane stood blinking in confusion.
Standing before the fireplace was … yes, unmistakably, it was a minister, holding his prayer book. And there next to him … Jane couldn't believe her eyes.
It was Mr. Kendall!
She swung her head around to stare at Mrs. Kane, who was smiling from ear to ear.
"Yes, Jane Stuart, this is a wedding, between myself and … at last … Edward. After your … ahem … rather interesting birthday party last year, I found myself thinking about him more and more, and finally, this past summer, I worked up enough courage to confront him and apologize. To make a long story short, after many, many conversations, he was able to forgive me, and we decided to get married. Edward wanted to write and tell you at once, but I convinced him it would be more fun to keep it as a surprise for everyone."
Jane turned her gaze back on Mr. Kendall. "Then you haven't been avoiding me all week!"
He looked quite different now from before … positively genial. He was smiling merrily. "Oh, I have been avoiding you, but not because I was still bitter. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep it a secret, so I had to lock myself away until tonight."
Jane was amazed, but she couldn't do anything but laugh in delight. "Oh Mrs. Kane … Mr. Kendall … oh, I am so glad."
As her wonderment started to calm, she noticed that the room was full of people. "Did everyone know but us?"
Mrs. Kane shook her head. "Oh no. The only other person who knew was Abby Westin. I felt it only fair to let her know what she would be missing by watching your little sister tonight. She was so tickled at the romance of it all, at the thought of helping the plot, that she said she didn't mind missing the actual wedding at all."
That did sound like Abby.
"Now then, Jane, you will be my bridesmaid, won't you?" Mrs. Kane pleaded. "Colby Westin has already agreed to stand up with Edward, and once you agree, the wedding can begin."
Still smiling, Jane nodded enthusiastically. "Of course I'll be your bridesmaid!"
She eagerly took her place beside her friend, and listened dreamily as the reverend began the ceremony that would at long last unite these two long-parted lovers.
Oh, it was like a storybook! Someday she would tell Lyssa all about this, and maybe, just maybe, one day she would be standing before a minister herself, with her sister by her side, and say these same vows to the man she loved. Her eyes flickered to Colby, holding himself straight and tall.
It wouldn't be Colby, she knew that much, but maybe someday she would find a man that she could love enough to marry.
For now, though, her family and friends were enough. She had a lifetime ahead of her to think about her future. Now, she was content to enjoy the goodness of life as it was.
She had her parents, together forever. She had a baby sister who was the light of her world. She had two beloved homes, with friends so dear to her in each place. She had an understanding with the aunt she thought would always be a thorn in her side.
She was free to be whomever and whatever she wanted, no restrictions placed on her by anyone outside herself. Life, in all its complexities and interesting twists, was good.
At that moment, Jane's cup was not merely full; it ran over.