Chapter Thirty Three ~ A New Beginning
It was a crisp summer morning and there was barely a breeze or a cloud in the sky. Gazing out across the valley from my window in the tower of Merryweather Manor, I felt my heart race wildly and I couldn't control the butterflies that were making good use of my stomach.
Three years I, Miss Maria Merryweather, had waited for this day. Three long years. It didn't seem real that today was the day.
The day that I, Miss Maria Merryweather, became Mrs Maria De Noir.
I remember the day Robin proposed to me like it was yesterday - a cliché phrase, I'm sure, but it fit's the situation. I was seventeen at the time, just returned back from my stay in London. I had been courting Robin for a year, though the prospect of a proposal had never registered ever during my time spent with him. After my acceptance to his proposal, Robin literally swept me off my feet as he tackled me with a hug - I was just thankful that I could hold him close again after such a long time without him. Upon returning back to Merryweather Manor, I was hardly surprised that we were greeted with the 'congratulations party' that was our family and we were sent to De Noir castle for a celebratory meal and we celebrated all the way into the night, our family around us. It was perfect.
The impact of what was actually happened didn't actually hit me until I retired for bed that evening. Lying in my De Noir bedroom, staring up at the ceiling, a thought occurred to me. Next door to me, right that very moment, lay my soon-to-be husband. And very soon I should become Mrs De Noir.
My turmoil of thoughts lingered with me as I giggled and grinned to myself, unable to control the overwhelming happiness within me. I felt as if I would wake up and it would all be just a dream. When I did wake up next though, I was greeted by a knock at my door and Robin De Noir, stood clad in his nightwear, giving me a swift kiss on the cheek before bounding back to his room, whistling and greeting me with a 'good morning, fiancé.' - I had not dreamed it after all.
As expected, Loveday, Mrs Heliotrope and Mrs Harper wanted to aid me with planning my wedding. I decided very soon that as long as I could pick my wedding dress, I did not mind if they took over all the plans completely - Robin didn't want anything to do with the planning and had stated that he would leave it to 'us ladies'. As soon as I told the three women this, plans were set into swing.
I felt pessimistic about my decision to let the three women take over the plans, but as I observed the fuss they made and the excitement they got out of their responsibility, I much preferred to just watch on the side lines.
The date was set pretty early on; three years to the day Robin proposed. This was a controversial decision. Robin wanted the date to be brought forward, stating he couldn't wait that long to be married to me - that made me blush heavily. Loveday argued with her brother, stating that I should be out of my teen years before I married him - allowing myself a few more years of freedom from married life. Robin was still not convinced.
Shortly after Loveday and Robin begun their argument about the wedding date, she announced that she was pregnant with hers and Uncle Benjamin's first born child. Her next excuse for wanting the wedding in three years was because she did not want Robin and my day to be ruined with a screaming infant and how she wanted her child to remember the day of it's aunt and uncle's wedding day. Robin's further arguments were overruled and the date was set. I was happy either way, though my excitement flared at the prospect of a baby and wedding plans were postponed until after the birth. Robin was disgruntled by this, though I convinced my husband-to-be that three years was such a minor wait to the time we would spend with each other afterwards - free from restraints. This satisfied him.
On March 23rd that next year, little Zachariah Merryweather was born. He was a handsome little infant, who possessed his mother's dazzling eyes and his father's dark locks. He was beyond perfect and I was in awe when Loveday first handed him to me, cradled in a blanket. I caught Robin's eye across the room and couldn't quite place the look in his eye as he watched me holding his nephew, though he cracked me a soft smile and I tried to contain my tears of joy as I handed baby Zachariah back to his exhausted mother.
After Zachariah's birth, surprisingly wedding plans are back in flow and Loveday is back in full swing of things as if she hadn't just given birth a mere few months previous. It dazzled me how completely devoted she was to making sure my wedding day was perfect, and at the same time how she managed to give her new born son all the care and love he needed. Loveday was a wonder.
It was not forgotten of Mr Gomez's health deteriation in London and whilst the wedding plans begun, the De Noirs had made sure their beloved shape-shifting tutor was cared for immediately.
There were a few painful months were his health completely faltered and there was a few scares when no one believed he would make it through the night. Robin was in agony over it all, I would comfort him frequently and let him cry himself to sleep with me watching over him or reading from a novel to him. I didn't begin to understand what he was going through, though I made sure I was there for him and made a point that he knew that.
Thankfully, when all hope was lost, Mr Gomez's health began to brighten. It took a few long months before he was back to fully working health, though he managed it and was fitter than ever. He stated once to me that he was determined to see Robin marry and that thought alone had raised his health and made him better.
When Zachariah was one and the wedding was a year away, Mr De Noir - my future father-in-law - received a letter from his 'beloved' brother-in-law George Cunningham sending his congratulations towards Robin and my joining. There was also a query as to whether he and his son, Henry, were invited to the wedding. After some consideration and frustration on Robin's part it was decided that they were in fact invited and Mr De Noir sent back a reply with confirmation. Mr Gomez reminded Robin that in allowing Henry to come, he would surely be overwhelmed with jealousy over Robin's marriage to me that he would have a very unpleasant day. Unnervingly, this brightened Robin's sprits on the matter.
It was agreed immediately that none of the Havershams bar Francesca would get an invite. Lord Haversham was a discussion point but it was soon realised that if we invited him, he would probably bring the rest of his nuisance of a family. So we let their invites get 'lost' and merely expressed to Francesca not to inform her family of the wedding.
As the days drew on and the wedding day got closer, Robin and I were given the tasks or choosing our best man and maid of honour. Now that was surely a troublesome task. Robin had the unfortunate misgivings of his two friends; Luke and Michael, fighting (verbally) over the title. Each posed a fair argument as to why they should be best man to Robin's wedding, though it was all in vain when Robin named his best man as his recently-on-his-death-bed tutor; Mr Gomez.
For the choice of my maid of honour, I pondered as to whether I should name Georgia or Claire as it. Though under speculation and after observing Michael and Luke squabbling, I realised that picking one of the two would be a fairly stupid decision and I decided against making one of them maid of honour and instead named them both bridesmaids. I also named Mrs Harper another of my bridesmaids and little Jude as she requested - the flower girl.
The decision lay between Loveday and Mrs Heliotrope and the choice was a truly daunting one. When I discussed the subject with them both, they were both adamant that the other take the title and I knew that neither of them minded which one I finally named my maid of honour. This left me little comfort and I spent long evenings pacing in Robin's room, verbally debating with myself about the matter whilst my future husband, his best man and occasionally Michael and Luke watched on. The boys were no help to the matter at all.
I tossed and turned over the decision until one day Loveday approached me. I was sat in the grounds, alone, going over my thoughts as she sat herself beside me with Zachariah asleep in her arms. We remained silent for a little while with only Zachariah's sleepy mumbling's between us. It was Loveday that broke the silent.
"Give it to Mrs Heliotrope." She stated suddenly. I turned to my aunt with a raised eyebrow and she smiled softly. "I understand that this decision is a hard one and you know whatever you make will not offend either of us. But I think making Mrs Heliotrope your maid of honour is the right decision. She has taken care of you your whole life, watched you grow and blossom into the wonderful young woman you are today. She's stood beside you through all the tough times with your parents and all the mad times in Moonacre."
"You've been there for me too." I pointed out. She smiled.
"Not like Mrs Heliotrope has." She countered. "And I know she says she doesn't care, but I know that she would be the happiest and proudest woman alive if you picked her. I think it's only fair that after all she's done for you."
"You're good at the guilt trip."
It was then official, Mrs Heliotrope was my maid of honour and I knew immediately that it was the right decision. Just seeing the tears well up in my batty tutor's eyes and being crushed against her bosom in a tight embrace was enough to show me how much my choice meant to her.
What wasn't a difficult decision to make was who was going to give me away. There was only one man in my life who had taken the place of my father and who it was only right that he gave me away. Uncle Benjamin smiled fondly at me when I asked him to give me away on my wedding day, before replying that "it would be my honour".
Plans for the future beyond the marriage were made also during those three years. As soon as Zachariah came into the world, it was official that when the infant grew up, he would take over Merryweather Estate when Loveday and Uncle Benjamin passed on. It was odd to think of the tiny baby as a grown man, ruling an estate. Though that vision had a while yet to come true.
Another plan that was enforced was the decision as to what was to become of De Noir Estate once Mr De Noir passed on. It was an easy decision, one already made long before the wedding and even myself came into context. Robin was the rightful heir and would inherit it all once his father was gone, though it was decided that as soon as Robin and I were married, it would be time that Robin would be prepped for his upcoming leadership. He would assist his father more in decisions of the land and play a bigger part in De Noir Estate than he did before. And I would stand beside him as his Mrs De Noir.
Where Robin and I would live once we were married was a topic that everyone wavered on. Whenever I brought it up, a half-hearted answer was given to me, usually just someone telling me that it wasn't important to be discussing that now and should be something to discuss after the wedding. According to Robin, everyone had been funny about this topic with him too. This left my fiancé and I in suspicion of our family, though knew better than to start prodding into whatever they were planning.
Back in the present, there was a knocking at my door. I did not need to let them in as whoever it was paused only briefly before opening my tiny door and coming in. Loveday entered with a radiant smile on her face, one I couldn't help but return.
"Today is the day." She beamed. "When you're ready come down to my room, Mrs Heliotrope and the girls are getting ready in there and are going to help me with you. Marmaduke has prepared some food for us that is set up in my room also, so there's no need to go downstairs."
"And Uncle?" I asked.
"He's gone to De Noir castle to help with the after service preparations for the castle. He will meet us by the cliff edge in time to give you away, don't worry. I've also made him in charge of getting the men ready, so there's no need to worry about that." She gave me one last wink before creeping back out the door and shutting it softly behind her.
I remained still for a moment, a sudden daze overwhelming me. The butterflies were fluttering dangerously and I swallowed down the nerves before getting to my feet and walking towards the door Loveday had just exited from. I gave my room one last glance, realising that the next time I lay my head down to rest, it will be beside another and I will be married. I smiled to myself once more before heeding to Loveday's wishes and making my way down to her room to get ready for my wedding day.
Getting ready was a task in itself. With the gathering of my aunt, my tutor and my two friends around me, I was overcome with their constant nattering and excitement for the day ahead.
"I can't believe you're getting married!" Claire gushed. I rolled my eyes at her as I sat in front of the mirror, Mrs Heliotrope doing my hair.
"Will Mrs Harper be coming over?" I asked, meeting Loveday's gaze as she helped Georgia into her bridesmaid's gown.
"She'll meet us at the cliff edge with your uncle. She was going to come but dealing with Jesse and Jude proved to be a difficult task so I said it would just be easier this way." She told me. I nodded and exhaled deeply, trying to calm my nerves down. "You getting cold feet?" Loveday asked, teasingly. I chuckled a little.
"Just nerves." I told her.
"I was just the same." Mrs Heliotrope hummed. "You'll be a bag of nerves right up until the 'I do' then it's all smooth sailing." Loveday snorted at this but did not contradict her.
The morning continued and soon the only job left to do was help me into my wedding dress, a job I suspiciously thought was left until last. Loveday and Mrs Heliotrope helped me into it and zipped up the back, whilst Claire and Georgia both observed from their seat on the bed. They were all dressed up in their gowns, their hair and make-up all done. It was undeniable that they all looked completely beautiful.
Once the zip went up and the pair stepped back, I tuned around and looked into the mirror at myself. What I saw shocked me.
A young woman stood before me, dressed in a long flowing, glowing white gown. The dress was simple but perfect nethertheless, tiny blue flowers were embodied down one side of the dress and a single silk blue ribbon was tied around my waist. It was then I noticed the same blue ribbon tied in a bow in my long ringlet hair which appeared to shine in the sunlight reflecting from the window. My face wasn't as pale as usual and had a healthy glow and I was happy to see that Loveday had not gone over the top with the make-up. For the first time in my life I felt more than just a plain girl. For once I felt beautiful. And I couldn't help but smile at what I saw.
"If the sight of you doesn't make Robin fall head over heels in love with you again, then the boy's a fool." Claire muttered, breaking the silence. I grinned at my friend.
"Well, we better not dilly-dally." Loveday exclaimed. "You have a wedding to attend!"
The wedding service was to be at the stone cliff theatre, over-looking the sea. The spot itself held so many memories, some fond, some not so much. Both Robin and myself had either jumped or fallen off the cliff and though to some it wouldn't have been the obvious choice for our wedding, to us it seemed perfect.
Digweed drove the carriage over there, dressed in a smart suit and tie that made him look oddly out of place. The carriage itself held us five women, thankfully the rest had already made their way over as even Marmaduke would have had to squeeze into the carriage with us ladies.
The carriage ride there was filled with excited chatter and my stomach fluttered dangerously when I glanced out of the carriage window and saw that we were almost there. It was a beautiful day, thankfully, the sun high in the sky and merely a gentle breeze. I could not have asked for a better day.
When the carriage came to a halt, the door was almost immediately opened by a beaming Uncle Benjamin who was smartly dressed for the occasion.
"A carriage of gorgeous ladies." He observed, grinning and helping us out one by one. Once we were all out I saw Mrs Heliotrope straightening out Digweed's tie, scolding him playfully for his untidiness. Loveday had rushed away to get Mrs Harper and her children, leaving me stood beside my Uncle. "You nervous?" He asked. I shrugged, feigning confidence. He saw through this and smirked. "You look beautiful Maria." I smiled, which he returned softly and offered his arm. I took it and leaned against him to steady myself. The nerves were most definitely over-whelming me now.
"Benjamin, where's Zachariah?" Loveday asked, frantically, Mrs Harper and the children following her. I saw Uncle roll his eyes.
"He's with his grandfather." Uncle told his wife, calming her down. She sighed and nodded, beaming down at me. "You worry too much, woman." He muttered. Loveday scowled once at her husband before turning back to me.
"Oh, I am so happy!" She cried. "Today is going to be perfect and you are going to be so happy!" I grinned in agreement. "And you're going to love Benjamin's wedding gift!" Gift? I frowned and turned to my uncle, who smirked.
"Gift?" I asked.
"You'll find out soon enough." He told me and I stared at him suspiciously.
"Are you ready?" Loveday interrupted, excitedly.
I looked around at the group before me. Georgia and Claire were in position to enter the cliff theatre, both holding hands with Jude and Jesse who were smartly dressed in a dress and suit - respectively. The order had been decided as so; Jude and Jesse to enter first, followed by Claire and Georgia, Mrs Harper and Loveday, Digweed and Mrs Heliotrope then Uncle and myself. Their expressions were all bright and excited and I smiled fondly at them all before nodding. This was it.
"Yes." I breathed after a deep breath. Loveday planted a kiss on my forehead before getting into position. Mrs Heliotrope and Mrs Harper did the same before doing the same. I could hear the music playing for our entrance and had to exhale deeply to calm myself down. Jesse and Jude left first.
"You've made me so proud, Maria." Uncle said suddenly. I looked up at him and saw a soft smile on his face. "Before you came to Moonacre I was a miserable man and just the idea of your coming to live with me made my stomach churn." Claire and Georgia left. "But you have made me realise the true importance of family and love. For I believe looking after you has made me a better father than I ever could be to Zachariah." I rolled my eyes and Mrs Harper and Loveday left, Loveday giving me one last smile over her shoulder.
"You would have been a great father with or without me, Uncle." I told him, earnestly.
"That I do not believe." Uncle chuckled, smiling down at me fondly. "Look at you, all grown up." His voice hitched at the end and suddenly tears filled my uncle's eyes. "You're hardly the thirteen year old who first came to Moonacre." I swallowed back my own tears and smiled at my uncle. "You've grown up to be a wonderful, beautiful young woman who I am lucky enough to call my niece." Mrs Heliotrope and Digweed left, leaving just Uncle and myself. I shook my head once.
"You're more than just my uncle." I told him, truthfully. "You've been like a father to me." Uncle chuckled and wiped away his tears.
"We mustn't cry, it's time to go in." He pointed out. I nodded, wiping my own face and taking a deep breath. "Robin is a very lucky man who I think is most deserving of you." A pause. "Though I more than happy to put him in his place if need be." I giggled and hit Uncle's arm playfully. He chuckled. I smiled again once I stopped laughing and felt Uncle squeeze my hand before leading me forward and into the stone theatre.
I was over-whelmed by the number of people in attendance, though I felt happiness at seeing everyone I cared about and loved all together. Familiar face dotted the crowd, some unfamiliar but I knew were Robin's loved ones and who I was bound to meet throughout the course of the day. I held Uncle's arms tightly in fear of tripping and turned my attention at the end of the make-shift aisle between the seats and the boy - man - waiting at the end of it.
Never before had I seen Robin look so smart. He was wearing a suit, and shockingly a tie! Though it was undeniable that he was remarkable handsome and I beamed at the sight of him. Loveday had had a good go at taming his hair before the wedding and it wasn't so unusual to see the bird-boy without his hat on anymore. Beside him stood Mr Gomez and the pair of them had turned to face us, smiles on their faces. Though I only focused on Robin's dazzling smile.
When we reached the end of the aisle, I turned to Uncle Benjamin and smiled one last time at him. He returned it with his own before kissing me on the forehead and moving away to take his place beside Mr De Noir - my very soon-to-be father-in-law. I in turn took my place beside Robin and felt his hand take mine and squeeze it tightly.
It was then that my nerves left me and it was then I knew everything was going to be alright.
I had come to Moonacre seven years ago, merely a pride-ridden thirteen year old girl who was too foolish for her own good. And over those seven years that had followed I had achieved so much, much more than I ever could have imagined. In my twenty years on this earth I had seen and done things that others would not have imagined. It was safe to say that I was exhausted with all the drama that my story had within it.
Though today was my happy ending.
I turned and looked up at Robin, who was already staring at me, before smiling and mouthing I love you. He smirked that same familiar smirk that I adored before returning the gesture.
And with Robin stood beside me, I knew I would achieve my happily ever after. For Love conquerors all and Robin was everything to me.
My past. My present. My future.
THIRD PERSON'S POV
The cottage stood proudly beside the gushing waterfall, quaint and a perfect picture of happiness. The walls were stone and roof was thatched. Flowers crawled up the walls, various colours and shapes - all imaginably beautiful. The cottage itself was quite big - big enough for a small family to live happily enough in. It held a certain character, that was most definitely certain. The walls were crafted with love and intention. The intention of giving Robin and Maria De Noir their own home.
"It's very-" Robin paused, frowning suddenly. His new wife stood beside him, a breath-taking smile on her face as she stared at the house in awe.
"Very what?" She questioned him, raising an eyebrow. Robin swallowed, struggling to find the right words for his opinion on the house, their house.
"Girly." He finally managed, causing Maria to giggle.
"I love it." She beamed. "I think it's perfect! And Uncle built it for us!" Robin snorted and folded his arms across his chest.
"I have a feeling Mr Gomez had a hand in this plan, if only in the architecture. I feel like I'm losing my masculinity just looking at the thing." Maria rolled her eyes at her husband's moans and grinned up at him.
"You barely had any to begin with, dear."She retorted mischievously and Robin narrowed his eyes.
"Oh really, darling?"Without letting her have a moment to judge his suddenly smirking expression, Robin and lifted his wife off her feet and held her in the appropriate bridal stance. Maria squealed with surprised but giggled and held onto Robin in fear of falling. "Shall we go inside?" Maria giggled again and nodded.
"Pray don't let me go!" She gushed, quickly. Robin smiled and looked down at his wife, wondering how on earth he had wound up in this situation and what he had done to deserve such a wonderful creature as her.
"Never could and never will." He replied, opening the front door with his foot and crossing the threshold into their new home with his newly-wed wife in his arms.
To begin their life together.
(A/N): Well here we are! The end of the road, I'm afraid. What a journey it has been!
My intentions were to add a little bit more, perhaps include children etc, but I prefer the ambiguity to this ending. Feel free to imagine the pitter-patter of tiny De Noir feet if you wish or to moan and cry at me about the ending (if you don't like it).
Wow it's been a very long time since I started these stories and never did I believe that I would take it this far! This fandom has been a very big part of my life for a while now and whilst I still adore it, I think it's time to retire. But who knows; maybe later down the line inspiration hits me again and I shall write more? Though for now, these stories will be laid to rest.
I hope that you have enjoyed my babbling and I am truly grateful to you all for reading/reviewing/favouriting this story and the one before. Your support has kept me going and you have really been great! Thank you ever so much to you all (if I could, I would hug each and everyone of you!)
And to s a mcauley (no, I did not forget about you!) I dedicate this chapter to! I hope this was what you envisioned when you gave me those ideas a while back and if it isn't, I hope you have enjoyed it even so. You are wonderful and helped me a lot. Again, I say thank you to you, Stephanie! :)
So my friends, one last thank you! This is where I finish. I hope very much that you have enjoyed my stories and perhaps I shall return in the future! ;)