Looking in the mirror quickly before she walked out the door, she saw a tiny wisp of gray just at the temple. Frowning, she tucked it under the darker strands. Her gaze was drawn to the small brooch on the lapel of her jacket that always made her smile. At least she knew that his love would never be affected by her changing looks. They'd both proven many times that their love was much more than just skin deep.
Touching the brooch gently, she remembered the day he'd given it to her. They were both older and more scarred than the first time he'd asked her to marry him. He had given her that curious half smile that she'd grown to love, his eye shining with love for her. She'd fastened it on her breast and worn it there almost every day, except when it had been pinned to little Charles' blankets, of course.
He'd come back from the war scarred in body and soul, bitter and angry at the world. She had had her own hurts to deal with and scars that were visible only to him. Somehow her hurt had touched his bitterness and anger, and they'd come to love each other. Not a youthful infatuation or convenient match, but a love that could withstand the worst that life could bring because it had already.
She started a little when he came up behind her and touched her gently on the shoulder, looking at their reflections in the mirror side by side. She glanced up at his hair and noticed that it was streaked with gray now. Turning to him, she straightened his tie and smoothed the loose, pinned up sleeve. He traced the two intertwined hearts on her breast tenderly with the tip of his finger and leaned down to kiss her softly.
Putting his arm around Mary, he drew her to him to hold her for a moment. He still dreaded these public events and the stares that he received, but with her strength he felt that he could face them. He was hardly the only man in the village with visible scars from the war, and Mary had long ago convinced him that his willingness to be seen probably was a comfort to the other men. Mentally, he again blessed Mrs. Hughes for the gift of the luckenbooth. She had told him that it was in thanks for preparing Mr. Carson's will. When he protested that he'd already been paid most generously by Mr. Carson, she explained that this was for the service he'd done her. She never would have known of Mr. Carson's love if it hadn't been for that will, and she was very grateful for that knowledge. As she'd explained the history and significance of the brooch, that it should be given not just to a woman that one wished to marry, but to the only woman one would want to marry, he'd known immediately who that woman was for him. He wondered if he would ever have had the courage to ask her if Mrs. Hughes' gift had not given him that push.
Laying her head on Matthew's shoulder, Mary thought of how happy Mr. Carson had been when he'd seen her wear the brooch for the first time. She'd seen him genuinely surprised for the first time in her life, and then he smiled more broadly than she'd thought he could. When she asked if he minded that Mrs. Hughes had given the brooch away, he'd told her that he was very happy to have been able to see the three women he had loved most wear that brooch. She loved him in that moment more than anyone except Matthew because she knew that they two loved her unconditionally.
Knowing that Mr. Carson had likely loved Mrs. Hughes as she loved Matthew had surprised her a little then. In her silly youth, she thought it strange that two people as old as them could love each other. She even remembered how she and her sisters had giggled over the supposed affair between the housekeeper and butler when they were children, trying their best to catch them together. Smiling to herself a little ruefully, she realized that she and Matthew were now approaching that age, and she certainly didn't think it silly that they loved each other. She was sure her own children probably did, however.
Shaking her head a little, she knew that she was spending her time on these thoughts so that she could avoid going to the church as long as possible. It was a sad day for her. Mrs. Hughes was the last fixture from her childhood to die. She knew though that it was not really a sad day. Matthew had been most insistent that her grave was to be beside Mr. Carson. They had spent their lives together and now they could be together again. Taking Matthew's offered arm she walked to the door and waiting car.
As they rode down to the village she reflected that her own Charles would probably soon be ready to give this brooch to his future wife. It was important that he should know its history and significance. She promised herself to write him a note explaining it when they returned.
Ok, I know that I said I couldn't do sad endings, but I don't think this is terribly sad. It would only be really sad if Charles and Elsie had never told each other of their love. I tried to be a little vague, but the series 2 spoilers do suggest that Matthew will not return unscarred from the war. As always, I greatly appreciate your reviews that feed my addiction.