Epilogue: The Soldier's Return
Third Person POV

To say the theatre was packed would be an understatement. Isabella had wanted them to sit in a private booth along the side but Conor had insisted on their current seats: at the centre of the front row of the balcony, in prime view of the stage. Conor liked the bustle of all the people around him, the anonymity of being just another face in the crowd was comforting.

It had been under Isabella's persuasion that the opening night of Linus' opera was advertised so heavily both on the mainland and the islands. As a result almost the entire population of the Saltees were sitting in the room with them. The whole Broekhart family was present including little Sean (now six years old) squirming in his seat and tugging at the starched collar of his dress shirt.

Conor and Isabella were holding hands over the arm rest and, as he liked to do, Conor was twiddling and twisting the Saltee diamond wedding ring that adorned his wife's finger. Isabella was smiling at her prince, her other hand resting over her possibly-pregnant abdomen.

The royal wedding had become the biggest event of at least the past two decades and the increased wealth generated from the new diamond market and the lack of corruption in the mine made sure the celebrations were impressive. The news of a pregnancy would surely lead to yet more partying.

After returning from two years study at Glasgow University, Conor had lived in the tower at Forlorn Point for almost half a year before moving into the palace with Isabella for their marriage. This arrangement had given him the space away from his parents both parties needed. His relationship with his parents was once again strong and loving, it was different to before, not as close but that suited all just fine.

The conscious choice to leave for Glasgow, as well as living on his own whilst his parents new of his whereabouts gave Conor a type of independence different to previously. The letters they used to communicate through allowed Conor to reconnect with his parents and for his parents to accept this son's changes without them being crowded by each other.

The beautiful city had indeed welcomed the scientist and musician into its bosom, making the two years a very enjoyable experience. Conor would never admit this to Isabella or his parents, even Linus did not know that whilst away he had attempted courting two young Scottish ladies. Both were very lovely: pretty, intelligent, charming and would one day make perfect wives to two very lucky men. But something just wasn't…right. It was after the second failed relationship attempt that Conor realised what had been missing, quite simply they weren't Isabella. This revelation had come as a relief to him, an answer to his mind's torturous questioning on what he wanted. So, with his head buzzing full of information, Conor returned to the Saltee Islands after completing his studies and within two weeks he had bought a ring and proposed to his queen.

Conor still owned the laboratory to use for his experiments and the occasional day when he felt the need to escape from island life a little. He'd been spending more time than usual there 'playing with his toys' as Isabella put it, ready for the aeroplane convention in America which he was leaving for next month.

Conor peered over the railings into the stalls below out of curiosity. His eyes followed the rows, picking out inhabitants of the islands easily, he paused at the two massive figures squeezed into too small seats, turned away from each other to converse with the girls sitting at their sides. As if feeling his gaze, Zeb Malarkey looked up, smirked and nudged his brother. Conor gave the pair a mock salute and a rough grin which they returned in perfect synchronisation that didn't break as they shifted to face the front and then their dates.

Conor was inexplicably touched by their attendance to the event although with the extent of the advertising he shouldn't have been too surprised they'd heard of it. Isabella, who had watched the exchange, squeezed a pulse into her husbands hand; they smiled at each other as he squeezed back and winked.

The new electric lighting in the theatre was dim but more effective than the previous candlelight. The yellowish hue gave a warm ambience to the room, amplified by the warm, restless bodies crammed into the rows of seating. All the upholstery was fine red velvet, the floors were dark stained wood, the walls cream and gold painted granting the room a sophisticated almost regal atmosphere.

Shushing noises erupted from the audience and the burble of voices trailed off as all attention was drawn to the stage.

Music began to play and then, achingly slowly, the curtain began to lift on The Soldier's Return.

Conor grinned, utterly content.

FIN