They know, at first, that after they're married they'll settle into a farming life, because that's what their parents had done, and then their parents before that, far back enough that Frank and Helen couldn't be bothered to remember. Neither had accounted for the fact that perhaps agricultural prowess was a talent, not a skill lingering dormant in their blood.
"We're a bit rubbish at this," Frank says, ankle deep in a patch of wilting tomato plants.
"I can't even keep daffodils alive," laments Helen, leaning over the windowsill to frown at him more directly. "What would my mother say."
"You know," Frank muses, "we might not fetch a good sum at the market, but we've more than enough to make a good stew for supper." He hazards a hopeful glance in her direction. Helen rolls her eyes.
"You can set to that, then," she says, retreating deeper into the house.
"But where are you going?" he cries after her.
"To put the kettle on," she answers. "The good Lord knows we could both use a cup." She pauses but a moment, then leans back over the window as far as she can to press a kiss to Frank's forehead.
He watches her grinning on her way back to the kitchen and decides they may as well tend to what they've got, lets a contented flush spread over his cheeks as he picks vegetables for the stew.
"I've been thinking," he says at the table, affecting a tone he only uses for crude jokes and long tales.
"Hm," says Helen, arching an eloquent eyebrow.
"Perhaps," he continues, "we're not exactly cut out for country life."
"Well, that's a very large perhaps, seeing as how we've been living it up 'til now."
"You haven't even heard my idea," Frank protests around a spoonful of stew.
"I'm listening, of course, dear," Helen says fondly.
"Right. Well, what I mean is that maybe we'd be better suited someplace else."
"Someplace like where?" she asks, curiosity seeping into her voice.
"A fellow can make something of himself in the city nowadays. Could get a right nice job, even."
"London," Helen says slowly, lips curling at the end. "I always did fancy I'd find myself an adventure. What better place?"
"None that I can think of," Frank answers gleefully. "I'd wager I can find you at least one adventure in a city that size, Nellie-my-sweet."
Helen smiles and raises her spoon in a makeshift toast. "To adventures, then."
"To no more rotten tomatoes."
London is colder than they're used to, for some reason; Frank figures it should be the other way around, with all the buildings to barricade the winds, but perhaps it traps them instead, keeps them whistling and howling like a dog in a cage. He wishes his coat were just a bit heavier as he makes a show of leading Helen into the house, covering her eyes and gently shepherding her into the main room, but when she pulls his hands away she makes a delighted noise and holds him tightly about the waist.
"You like it, then?" he asks as her hands lock under his coat, worried she'll bring up the sparseness of the walls or that the bakery next door sends the smell of burnt bread wafting over.
"It's perfect, love," she says, kissing the underside of his chin.
"You're here, 'course it is," he murmurs, and knows it's worth it.
The thing is, he expects it to be a bit easier. He goes out looking for the jobs he'd thought would need a good, hard-working man like himself, but they don't seem to be hiring. Or if they are, they take a look at his honest face and his complacent smile and his patchwork coat and immediately change their minds. Helen takes a job as a laundress ("Just 'til we're on our feet again, alright?" Frank says when he finds out. Helen nods in acknowledgement but looks very much like she's not listening).
"You wait," he tells her jubilantly the day he brings Strawberry home. "Soon you'll be sitting pretty and won't have a care in the world."
"We'll need oats," she says matter-of-factly, patting Strawberry's neck and grabbing her hat.
"Where are you going, love?"
"To collect the washing, of course," she says easily.
"But Nellie—" Frank sputters. Helen gives him a Look.
"Don't start, young man. It's my house as well as yours." She kisses his cheek and Frank knows better than to make her see reason when she's right, anyhow.
They walk through the park one early morning, with Helen whistling a little bird-song and Frank holding tight to her hand as though she'll fly away. She presses her cheek to the rough material of his jacket, feeling light and breathless and the slightest bit chilled under the gray morning sky.
"Let's sit a tick, hm, dearest?" he says, and pulls her to a bench. She nods and sits down, slipping an arm through his and tipping her head onto his shoulder.
"I do love it here in the morning," she sighs happily.
"What, but not the other times?" Frank teases.
"Of course the other times, silly," she replies, scrunching her face up childishly.
"You don't miss the farm at all, then?" he asks carefully, for he loves it as well; loves the noise of traffic and the crisp air and the life he sees on every corner, loves it but couldn't bear it if she weren't as enamored as he.
Helen looks at him strangely. "Surely you're not homesick already, my dear," she chides him. "Besides, I was promised an adventure. Maybe two."
"So you were, little Nell. A perfectly spectacular adventure." He laughs the harsh, staccato laugh he's affected in the months they've spent in London and leans in to kiss the tip of her nose.
"Oh!" she cries before his lips touch her face, for wind has crept up behind them and stolen her hat from atop her head. They both leap to their feet and chase after it, watching it swoop and dance along the trees. They make it to the street corner and stop, looking forlorn as it climbs up, up, up, over a roof and out of sight.
"Bother," Helen says crossly. Frank winds an arm around her shoulder and squeezes.
Winter seeps into their bones like water in a sponge, and their cozy little home is wracked with Aeolian gusts. Helen takes to her bed with a dreadful cold, shivering and scowling under the covers. It's an awful bore, staying home all the time, when she's become so accustomed to traipsing about the city every day. She stares out her window all day, waiting for Frank to arrive and bring her news from the streets.
"And where have you been?" she asks when he walks in, shaking snow from his shoulders. There's a package in his arms and she eyes it skeptically.
"Am I that late? My apologies, missus." He bows regally and goes to toe off his boots.
"Not exceptionally, but it's so dull to be ill," she admits.
"I'll try not to keep you waiting long next time," he promises.
"I'm sure. Come to bed," she commands sweetly. "I'm awfully cold."
"Raise up for a bit, first, dear. I've brought you something." He sits gingerly on the corner of the bed, placing his parcel in her lap. She glances at him warily before opening it with a tiny little gasp.
"You like it?" Frank says as she lifts it out of the box. It's a fine hat, well-crafted and stylish, with little false cherries along the ribbon.
"It's lovely," she says, "but however did you pay for it?"
"Strawberry's a good lad, he offered to go without oats for a time."
"You're dreadful," Helen chastises him. "He'll hate me for it."
"I'll buy him a hat to match as soon as money allows," Frank says with a wave of his hand.
"Fool," she says fondly, placing the hat on her head. "How do I look?"
"Like a queen," he says and kisses her forehead. "It's only right, anyhow," he reasons and crawls underneath the bedclothes with her, "as I've promised you an adventure and all I've done is lost you a hat."
"Fool," she says again, stroking his hair. "You are an adventure."
He lays his head on her breast, her humming-bird breaths lulling him to sleep.