Anne smiled at herself in the mirror and carefully adjusted her hat. It was new, a gift from Morgan, and she loved it, probably all the more because Emmaline had helped pick it out. It had been five years since she had become Anne Harris, and not one day went by that she blessed her past self for being so smart as to say yes that night outside the hospital bazaar.
“Anne-mother?” called Emmaline, breaking Anne out of her reverie. “Anne-mother, where are you?”
“I’m here, dearest,” called Anne, stepping away from the mirror and to the door of the room. “What do you need?”
Emmaline was just coming up the hall when Anne stepped through the doorway, a soft white bundle cradled in her arms. “Matthew was fussing, Anne-mother, and I hadn’t the heart to let him.”
Anne smiled as her stepdaughter cradled her tiny brother. Matthew was a gift to them all, a blessing that Anne hasn’t been entirely sure she would ever receive. Morgan had been overjoyed the night Matthew was born, though he had spent nearly her entire confinement short tempered and snappish. Longer, if she was honest, but now, with Matthew almost eight months old, the house was full of laughter and delight.
At the time, Anne had forgiven him his words, as she knew they came from a place of deep love and fear. He had already lost one beloved wife through no fault of his own. His terror at losing Anne had been nearly palpable. The adoration he showered on their son, and on Anne, was no less than genuine, and Emmaline had followed her father’s lead.
It was clear that she adored Matthew, and Matthew, in his infant way, adored Emmaline. He quieted as soon as Emmaline picked him up, gave her his sweetest smiles, cooed whenever she spoke to him. Anne knew she was blessed twice over and more.
“Ahhh, he only knows that he will soon be spending time exploring the world and is ready to get started. Isn’t that right, my tiny little man?” Anne crooned, stepping close to Emmaline and smiling down at Matthew.
He cooed as if to say, “Yes, of course!” and both women laughed. Anne thrilled to the sound of Emmaline’s laughter, just as she had since she had first coaxed it from the sad, timid girl that sat in her English class. As Emmaline had blossomed into a young woman, her laughter had become richer and deeper, coming from her soul. She often gave Anne the credit, saying that her “Anne-mother” brought sunshine to everyone she touched. Anne knew it was simply that Emmaline knew love once more.
“Your father will be waiting,” Anne said, and she ducked back into her room to grab her reticule. “Are all the bags ready to go, Emmaline?”
Emmaline nodded, and turned to head down the steps. “They are. The last trunk, with all of Matthew’s clothing and things, was carried downstairs a few minutes ago. I’m so excited, Anne-mother. Are we really going to Italy?”
Anne laughed, the excitement and wonder in Emmaline’s voice reminding her of herself not so many years ago. “Yes, my darling daughter. We really are. We’re to explore all of the old places, wander across floors many hundreds of years old, see plays and operas…” She smiled as Emmaline’s eyes shone with delight. “And you, my darling, are to have as many lessons as you should desire. What better place to explore a love of theater than on the great stages of Europe?”
Emmaline couldn’t speak, only smiled her great delight at Anne. She was still doing so when Morgan stepped through the door, bringing a blast of cool spring air with him.
“What on earth is taking so long?” he demanded, but he was smiling. Morgan crossed to Anne and swooped down to kiss her. Emmaline’s laughter mingled with Anne’s, and she slipped out the front door with Matthew, still chuckling softly.
Anne let Morgan hold her close, smiling up at him. “We were coming, my love,” she told him. “I was finishing getting dressed, and Emmaline was worshiping her brother.”
Morgan chuckled. “They do love each other, don’t they? I’m pleased. I was worried for a while.”
Anne arched one fine eyebrow. “For a while? Morgan Harris, you spent nearly a year stalking around this place growling and snarling because of your worry.”
“You exaggerate, Anne.”
“I do not,” she replied pertly. “From the moment I told you of Matthew’s impending arrival until he was three months old, you grumbled and growled and snarled with short temper. “
Morgan’s arms tightened as he looked down at her. “You know very well why I was so worried,” he said, but his voice held no heat. In the five years since their marriage, his temper had not lessened, per se, but it had eased where Anne was concerned. They could still have some blazing rows, of course, with two such fiery personalities as theirs, but there was much love to temper it.
Anne stretched up on her toes and kissed Morgan very lightly. “I do,” she said simply. “I was merely stating that it was more than ‘a while.’ And now, Emmaline has her brother in the carriage, and if we are to catch the train to the docks so we may travel to the land from whence we came, we ought to join her.”
Morgan didn’t let Anne go, though, his eyes serious but brimming with love. “You did me a great honor that day, Anne Shirley Harris,” he said. “The day you agreed to become my wife. I will forever bless that day, and worship you.”
Anne didn’t say anything, only turned her face up for his kisses. They stayed like that in the hall for longer than they should, trading soft murmurs and even softer kisses. Their love was almost palpable, clear in every line of their entwined bodies.
“We really must go, Morgan,” Anne murmured as Morgan feathered kisses across her brow.
“Yes, we should,” he said reluctantly and let her go. He offered his arm with a flourish, and Anne couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her.
“You are quite ridiculous, Morgan Harris,” she said, but she accepted his arm, and together they headed for the carriage, their daughter, small son, and the adventure that awaited them in the beautiful Italian cities of their dreams.