Maria could hear the sound of Arthur singing softly and pacing back and forth with their little baby in the other room. She chuckled to herself. Maria could not contain the happiness that she felt. She had a wonderful husband and a healthy baby. She had a successful coffeehouse as well. Truly, she had achieved a lot and she was grateful for it all. Just then, she heard a voice saying, “I didn’t do it. Believe me, I didn’t!”
Maria quickly wiped away the tears that flowed from her eyes when she heard Arthur coming into the room. He sat beside her and placed a tray on a bed table before putting over her legs. Arthur kissed her cheeks.
“Good morning, beautiful. Don’t worry about Arthur junior. He is already fast asleep, my love. Now, what you need is to get some food in your stomach,” he caressed her cheeks. Maria sniffed the air and grinned as she said.
“You baked bread. Hmm… you actually do know how to use the oven.”
Arthur kissed her on the lips and laughed, “How can I not? I have watched you for, wait how many years have we been married?”
Maria hit him playfully on the shoulder, “Arthur….”
“I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding, love. How can I ever forget that we have been married for ten beautiful years? They have been some of the best years of my life.” He stroked her cheek.
“Even if we did not have a little one crawling around?” Maria asked. They had gotten married in 1882 and she had just had their first baby, a couple of days ago.
“Maria dearie, do you want to know the truth?” Arthur took his wife’s hands and kissed them.
“What truth are you talking about, Arthur?”
“The truth is that I honestly wanted to spend more than enough time with my wife before we started having kids. I have absolutely enjoyed these past ten years of our marriage, you and I alone.” He leaned in and whispered. “Now, we can say goodbye to our solace and alone times as the little ones start to fall “
“Oh my goodness,” Maria laughed. “Arthur, you my dear are utterly silly.”
“It’s the sincere truth, my love. Now that Arthur junior has been born, he is the start of many. The next time that we are going to enjoy some alone time will be when we are old and grey. You are still going to love me when I am old and grey, right?” Arthur caressed her cheek.
“Always forever, my love. You are still going to love me when I am old and grey, right?” Maria smiled at her husband.
“Always my love. Go on eat your meal. Arthur junior is going to wake up soon and crave his mother and milking,” Arthur told her. Maria nodded and he started feeding her.
“You know that you don’t have to feed…” her protests were interrupted by the spoon of soup that went into her mouth.
“Stop complaining, love. I love taking care of you.”
Just when Arthur was clearing the dishes away, there was a knock at the door. He kissed her cheeks and hurried off to see who it was. He returned with a grin and a chattering group of four.
“Maria… for one who just went through the stress of giving birth, you look absolutely amazing,” Beatrix said as she walked into the room, followed closely behind by the triplets.
“Beatrix!” Maria squealed as soon as she heard the voice.
“In the flesh,” the woman hugged Maria. “And I am not alone.”
“You’re not, are the triplets here?”
“Uh huh,” the three of them said in unison as they hugged her tight. Maria’s heart was completely filled with joy. When she and Arthur have gotten married, the two of them had gone farther north. She had not seen Beatrix and the triplets for about three years now. She and Arthur usually went on annual trips to Europe and they always checked in on them. She had had no idea that they were back. When she got married, Beatrix had leased the shop and the house to a new family.
“When did you all get in?” Maria asked, still trying to absorb the surprise. She honestly could not believe that they were back.
“Two nights ago, and might I say, just in time.” Gracie replied as she sat beside Maria. She rubbed her hands with glee. “So, where is the newest addition to the family. I want to see him!”
Before Arthur or Maria could reply, Royal said, “Actually, it is your fiancée that is the newest addition to the family.”
“He is not. Arthur junior was just born two days ago. Sean and I have been together for six months now.”
“Exactly. Aunt Maria conceived Arthur junior last year, nine months ago, before you met Sean,” Royal argued.
“Okay, you are crazy,” Gracie said. They all broke into laughter.
“Well… I am just glad that I am no longer the youngest member of the family,” Anna grinned. “It feels good to be handing over to Arthur junior.”
Once again, they all laughed. Less than a minute later, they heard wailing.
Arthur chuckled and said, “The Prince calls. I will be right back.”
“I am so very happy for you both, Aunt Maria. I love this smile that has enshrouded your face. You both deserve all the happiness in the world because you are good people.” Anna held Maria’s hand.
“Thanks a lot, dear.” Just then, Arthur walked in, holding the little bundle of joy, but at that moment, he was a bundle of screams. Beatrix and the triplets left the room so Maria could breastfeed him. As soon as Arthur Junior started suckling, his wailing stopped.
A few minutes later, the room was filled once more just like it had been a while ago. Arthur sat beside his wife and held her why Beatrix and the triplets cooed and ahhed over Arthur junior.
They spent lunch with them and they finally left when it was just a little before eight pm.
“Are you happy?” Maria asked her husband. She caressed his cheek as she lay against his shoulder. Arthur junior was snug in his cot, fast asleep.
“Always my love. You have always made me happy and I cannot imagine my life without you.” Arthur kissed Maria’s lips.
“Me too Arthur. I never thought that I could ever be truly happy until I met you. You came into my life and you turned things around. You made me feel anew. I love you so very much, Arthur Folley.”
“I love you too. My love, I want you to be totally happy.”
“I am happy,” Maria said with a smile.
“I know but all the same, you still think of the past. Now and then, it still haunts you. Do not bother denying it, my love. You were crying this morning, I saw you,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“You are right, my love. I really should not deny it. I honestly cannot control it when the past starts luring up its head. I am haunted by the maid that was killed as well as my sibling and I could do nothing. All I did was lie in bed and do nothing. I know, I know that it is not my fault. I will try to push it all away, okay?”
“Okay.”He held his forehead to hers. “I love you, my love.”
“I love you, my love,” Maria replied with a smile.
The autumn leaves fell on the earth floor of the cemetery. It was a solemn day in the month of August. The little procession stood under the canopy as the brass coffin was being lowered into the grave. Sobs could be heard from afar as loved ones mourned the dead.
“Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, we return…” the priest’s voice droned on but Maria was already far away. She was thinking about her husband and as she did, tears flowed down her cheeks.
“I love you, my love. I always will. Never forget that, dear Maria. You and our son are the best thing that ever happened to me,” he had said as he held her hand tight, gasping for breath.
“And you are also the best thing that ever happened to me Arthur. Please stay with me. I cannot imagine life without you,” she pleaded as he kissed her hand.
“You are going to be fine, my love. You can do it. Please be strong, be strong for our son. He would need a mother.” Maria bent low and kissed her husband on the lips. “I love you so very much, Felicia Maria Folley.”
“I love you so very much, Arthur Folley.”
“Please, father. Stay with us, we still need you. You can’t leave us, father, you just can’t,” Arthur junior begged. He was on the other side of the stretcher. The carriage shook as it rushed down the road as fast as it could, heading to the county hospital. They could hear the loud neighing the horses as they were whipped. Arthur had suddenly fainted in the middle of the road when he was crossing it.
“I love you, my boy. Make sure you be a good boy. Take care of your mother, okay? Love her, my son. You are all she has, my boy,” Arthur raised his hand up to touch his son’s cheek.
“I love you too father. I will take care of mother, always. You don’t have to ask, papa,” Arthur cried.
“I love you both so very much, never forget that,” Arthur coughed. He looked from one person to the other. “You both should be happy. Make sure that you are happy.”
Maria and Arthur junior both hugged him, their eyes brimming with tears, not wanting to let go.
They arrived at the hospital just then and some nurses ran out with two doctors. Maria and her son followed them closely behind until the doors of the operating room was shut to them. They sat there, in each other’s arms, praying that he would be fine, that he would make it, but he didn’t make it. He never made it. They told them he died of a heart attack. There had been nothing they could have done to save him. Apparently, they had not caught it soon enough.
Maria felt a hand tugging on her and she stooped low. She felt her son’s hands on her face. He wiped away her tears and she hugged him.
“Don’t cry, momma. Please, don’t cry. Father never liked seeing you cry. He hated it.” Her son wiped her tears away with his thumbs, the same way her husband always did. She hugged him again. He was right; Arthur had hated seeing her cry. He had always said why was she getting her beautiful baby blues all wet, that they were better dry. Maria held her eight year old son close to her. He was all she had now.
The ceremony came to a close and everyone gave their sympathy. Beatrix held her close for very long.
“You can do this, Maria. You know that, right? You are a very strong woman. If anyone can pull through this…” Maria nodded as she hugged the woman. She was right. She would pull through this. She and her little boy would pull through. She stretched her cane and waved it around as she started to panic.
“Where is Arthur junior?” she asked in a panic. Beatrix placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Calm down, dear. He’s over there, he’s with Royal. You are not alone, my dear child.” Beatrix hugged her. “We will wait for you in the car.”
“Sure, thanks, Miss Beatrix. Thanks for everything,” Maria told the elderly woman.
Beatrix smiled at her as she said, “I told you to stop telling me thanks a long time ago but you are just too stubborn.”
Maria heard receding footsteps and then she heard light approaching ones. She knew that it was her eight year old son. She stretched out her hand to him and he took it and she held him close to her. They stood there, in front of Arthur’s grave, quietly and sadly.
Suddenly, Maria smiled through her tears. She had wanted so much to spend the rest of her days with her husband but life had other plans for her. But at that moment, she had suddenly realized something. She had spent twenty years of her life with Arthur, two years they had been betrothed and for eighteen years, they had been married. He had more than made up for the eighteen years of sadness she had had growing up before she had left home. And now, even though he was gone, he had left her a son. She loved him and would forever miss him but she would move on just like he had wanted. She would make sure that they were happy because that was what he wanted.
Maria kissed her son on the head and he led her out of the cemetery. It was time to go home. They had their lives ahead of them and they were going to truly be happy.