If anyone had told Harold Hill that night in July when he first laid eyes on Marian Paroo that he was going to fall head over heels in love with her and forsake his career as a fraudulent traveling salesman, he would have laughed and wondered at the state of their mental health. But here it was, one year later, and he was waiting outside Madison Library to escort his wife home.
Harold would have been lying if he denied he had occasionally wondered if small-town life would eventually lose its allure, or if he and Marian would grow tired of each other. But to his delight, he found now that he fully had his Madam Librarian, a wonderful sense of peace and contentment had settled into his soul. Certainly, it wasn't all roses and moonlight – they had had a few magnificent fights. But they made up just as intensely, which Harold always enjoyed. Life with Marian was never boring: She remained the same charming, tenacious, sometimes impossible but always fascinating woman.
Promptly as always, Marian exited the front doors at eight o'clock and locked them behind her. Then she turned to greet her husband with a smile.
"Good evening, darling," Harold said warmly, dropping a quick kiss on her forehead. But she was not the only one whom he greeted: "And good evening to you, little one," he said, placing a gentle hand on Marian's curved stomach.
Since Marian had revealed they would be having a child sometime in October, Harold had taken to including the little one in their conversations. He did this quite often, as it never failed to make Marian's eyes glow with happiness.
"Well, where do you want to go tonight, my dear?" Harold asked, once she had taken his arm. "Perhaps to the Candy Kitchen for a strawberry phosphate?"
Marian had always enjoyed strawberry phosphates, and her cravings for them had only intensified during pregnancy. Harold liked to joke that her need for all that sugar meant they were going to have a daughter – with his wife's beautiful face, delicate honey-blonde ringlets and determined spirit, he always added with a grin. When Marian retorted they could very well have a son with his father's gregarious nature and magnetic personality, he told her he sincerely hoped not. The world didn't need another charming charlatan.
But Marian shook her head at Harold's suggestion of the Candy Kitchen. "I'm definitely not in the mood for a strawberry phosphate," she laughed. "In fact, I don't know if I'll ever want one again, especially after October!"
Harold laughed as well. "You say that now – but I wouldn't be surprised if you changed your mind in an hour."
"Are you saying I'm fickle?" she asked in mock outrage.
"No – you just have the charmingly capricious moods of the pregnant female," he teased.
Marian swatted his arm. "Carrying a child isn't as easy as it looks, I'll have you know, darling."
"I don't doubt that!" he said sincerely, recalling a few sleepless nights he had spent doing everything he could think of to restore his ailing wife's comfort. "But you do it beautifully, as you do everything else." For this piece of heartfelt flattery, he was rewarded with another warm smile from his beloved.
"So where do you want to go then, my dear?" Harold went on. "To your mother's? Or perhaps straight home?" he asked, noting with some concern that she looked a bit paler than usual.
Marian shook her head again. "I was actually thinking I might want to go on a stroll," she suggested, giving him a sideways glance that never failed to make his heart beat faster, even after eight months of marriage.
He broke into a grin. "Your wish is my command – the footbridge, it is."
As Harold embraced his wife, he felt something hit him in the gut. He pulled back from Marian a little and lightly patted her stomach. "Oh dear, am I squeezing you too much, little one?"
Marian gave a weary laugh. "The baby's been doing that all day – I think he or she is getting a little restless."
"Perhaps we will have a son, after all," he marveled, touching the spot where he had felt the impact. "That was quite a kick! We might just have a future college football star on our hands."
"Or perhaps it's just all the sugar I've been feeding the little one," Marian said ruefully. "Speaking of which, I could go for another strawberry phosphate… "
"See? I knew it!" Harold said triumphantly. "And it's not even an hour later."
"Well, I should at least have a proper dinner first," she sighed.
"Darling, if you really want a strawberry phosphate, don't let my teasing stop you," he said seriously. "I didn't mean to make you feel guilty about it! Why don't we head to the Candy Kitchen, then?"
For a moment, Marian seemed to consider it, but then she shook her head. "We can't go spoiling our child before it's even born! We'll go home and have dinner, and then treat ourselves to that strawberry phosphate. Is that a deal, little one?" she cooed, patting her stomach.
Harold gave his wife a fond smile. Sensible and indulgent in equal measure, Marian was going to make a wonderful mother. He put his arm around her and said three words he never thought he'd ever say with such happy sincerity: "Let's go home."
And there you have it! I think we'll leave these two River City-ziens to their happily ever after. I would like to thank my lovely reviewers Araminta18 and Piratekid11, who have given me so much motivation and support – it's been great to write for such an enthusiastic audience!