Lucie walked along the shoreline, picking up seashells. This was her favorite place to come when she wanted to remember Charles. He had been taken away from her in the prime of life, suddenly gone in the wake of a devastating epidemic, leaving his heartbroken wife and children to go on without him.
Little Lucie - she could hardly be called 'Little' now - was sixteen, with her mother's light brown curls and brown eyes. At ten, young Sydney was the spitting image of his father; so much so, in fact, that right after it had happened, his mother could barely stand to look at him. As time had gone by, it had gradually gotten just a little bit easier, but Lucie knew that the ache would always be there for all three of them.
"Here's a nice one." Lucie looked up into a pair of friendly brown eyes. The man himself was rather ordinary looking, middle aged with the typical lines of care creased into his face, dark brown hair streaked with gray tied back in a ponytail. Yet Lucie knew that she had known those eyes well, at another time. She just couldn't quite place them.
"Why, thank you, Mr. - "
"Collins. Simon Collins." He smiled and took her hand, which he kissed.
"It's lovely to meet you, Mr. Collins. I'm Lucie Darnay."
He laughed amiably. "Please, call me Simon."
"So what do you do, Mr. - , Simon, I mean."
"By trade? I'm a barrister." He had fallen into step beside her and they chatted comfortably as they walked along, as if they had known one another for some time rather than having just now met.
"Have you always lived in London?" he asked pleasantly.
"No. I was born in Paris. My father was unjustly imprisoned for many years, and after he was finally released, I met my future husband, who helped us to escape the Revolution and move to England."
"You're married, then."
"Charles died two years ago."
"I'm very sorry to hear that. You must miss him very much."
"Yes, I do. What about you? Are you married?"
"I've never married. I loved someone once, a long time ago, but she married another."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Lucie felt very awkward.
"Oh, that's all right. I ended up becoming very good friends with them both."
"The sun is so pretty when it's shining on the water, isn't it?" she remarked.
"This is one of my favorite places to come back to. London was my home, once," he replied.
"So where do you live now?" she asked.
He evaded the question. "So do you have children, then?" he asked her.
She smiled proudly. "Little Lucie is sixteen and Sydney is ten."
"Sydney." He looked very pensive.
"He's named for a very dear friend who...passed away a few years ago."
He heard the catch in her voice and frowned in concern. "Are you all right?" They had stopped walking and just stood together, facing one another.
"Oh, yes. Quite all right," she said hastily, perhaps just a bit too hastily. "I just hope that he realized how grateful I am to him for...everything he did for me."
"Why, I'm sure he did." Lucie suddenly found that Simon was holding both her hands and gazing earnestly into her eyes. This is crazy, she thought. After all, I just met him. Didn't I?
"So, Lucie," he was saying. "Would it be all right if I called on you sometime?"
"Why, yes. Certainly. I think that would be lovely." As they began once again to walk along the shore, Lucie felt that a part of her past that had been missing had finally found its way back into her heart, and for the first time since losing Charles, she felt as if she could possibly be happy again. Eventually.