Part 6:

"I believe you have something to ask me, Ezra," I say.

The two of them exchange glances and nod to each other. This is the moment of truth.

"As you are aware, I am a married man, but God and fate decree that it may not be for much longer. After a respectful period of mourning, I should be honoured if you would consent to share my life. Miss Amy Trevelyne, please will you marry me?"

Both Dorothea and Ezra look at me expectantly. I don't keep them waiting long.

"Thank you Ezra. I accept your proposal."

The three of us continued to meet almost daily for the next two months. My friendship with Dorothea returned to the close bond we once enjoyed, and I would like to think I helped ease the considerable pain she suffered in her final weeks.

As fate decreed, Dorothea passed away in her sleep one Friday night, with her loving husband and her closest school friend by her side. The funeral was a quiet family affair and I respectfully remained on the periphery of the gathering.

Afterwards I returned to my lodgings and busied myself in my work for the following three months. I completed my stories of Jacky's adventures and my publisher begged me to continue writing. But I haven't seen Jacky for quite some time, and her letters are very infrequent.

I met Ezra from time to time, always in a public setting, and he encouraged me to write more stories.

Then one day Ezra announced to the world, or at least that part of it willing to listen, that he was in love with his former sweetheart and that he and Miss Amy Trevelyne would soon be married. Although I had known for months, the suddenness of the actual wedding caught me unprepared and a frantic few weeks followed.

Then before I knew it I was walking down the aisle next to papa, with Ezra waiting expectantly at the altar. His eyes lit up at the sight of my beautiful white wedding dress. Behind me walked Rebecca Adams, my chief bridesmaid. All the panic during the preparations faded to nothing and this was truly my big day.

It was a large gathering, even Dorothea's parents were there. I had been pleased, and a little relieved, when they blessed our union. I now feel more comfortable accepting the memory of Dorothea as part of our mutual past. As much as Ezra loves me, I know Dorothea will always have a place in his heart. The two scientific books she wrote take pride of place on his bookshelf. And I too have fond memories of her during our school days.

We speak our vows and in a matter of minutes we are married and walking down the aisle arm in arm. I lose count of the number of people who congratulate us, and by the time we finish dinner and depart for our honeymoon I'm feeling quite exhausted. Well, not too exhausted. This is my wedding night after all.

Ezra has kept our honeymoon arrangements secret from me and I've no idea what he's planned. Our journey takes us to the harbour and he escorts me aboard a Faber Shipping vessel; one I recognise at once; the Nancy B Alsop. I know most of the crew by name and we receive a warm welcome as we are shown to our cabin.

Within half an hour our baggage is stowed and we are underway.

"Where are we heading?" I ask of Ezra.

"I though a Caribbean cruise might be nice at this time of year. Would that please you?"

"Yes it would. That would be very nice indeed."

"I have one more surprise for you."

He leaves me in the cabin and returns with one of the crew a few minutes later. In the half lit corridor I have difficulty in recognising who it is. Then it dawns on me who it might be …

"Jacky? Is that you?"

[The End]