Martin had been updating some patient notes from the last few days; it had been a long, trying few days. Joan had been buried, a proper burial as many had told him, whatever that meant. The day had been long, and he had remained stoic and had done his duty to the village during the service. He'd delivered Joan's eulogy and had also left the village with important medical information. What happened to Joan didn't have to happen to others. He'd warned and lectured her about her health over the years. She hadn't listened, and truthfully, he believed Joan could still be here had he listened more to her recent complaints. Others in the village need not meet the same fate as his beloved Auntie Joan, at least he believed that with his eulogy about proper health.
After the service, people had flooded Burt's restaurant to pay their respects, but honestly, he was sure they had wanted 1-free food and 2-to get a look at Louisa and this family he'd created with her. It had irritated him to no end, and he'd not stayed for more than an hour. He'd have skipped it all together, but the women in his life-Louisa and Ruth-had basically dragged him there. As he tidied up his office area now, he shook his head thinking about how similar, yet how different the two women were. They were both incredibly stubborn, but when he'd suggested that, both had laughed at him and rolled their eyes, Ruth even commenting he needed to look in a mirror before offering up that description. It was as if the two women were united in hovering over Martin, and all he wanted was to be alone with his medical journals and notes. Of course, he wanted Louisa at the house, where she now was, but he needed and craved his alone time and space. Ruth was back at the pub, no doubt on her second or third glass of whiskey for the night. As he thought about his only remaining aunt, he sighed. She wasn't Joan. No, she was different, vastly different, almost so different it was hard to believe the two women were sisters. Auntie Joan had a way about her. Ruth was scholarly and formal, everything Auntie Joan was not. As he pondered the two women, he realized he thought of Joan as "Auntie" all the time and did not do so as much, really if at all, for Ruth. She was Aunt Ruth, but mostly, he called her Ruth. Perhaps the "Auntie" part came from the time he'd spent with Joan as a child. It didn't matter now; sadly, she was gone and just left memories.
Martin finished with his notes for the evening, and after glancing at his watch, decided it was well past time to turn in for the evening. He was tired, a kind of tired that came from carrying a heavy burden as he had the last several days, since he'd heard the words that Joan was ill and then eventually that she had died. He would sleep, yes, but he knew that he would be tired for awhile. One did not just rebound quickly from a grave turn of events. Even Martin knew that, although, not wanting to verbalize it with anyone.
As he stepped out of the surgery office, he heard voices in the kitchen. He sighed, loudly, but not to be heard by others and paused in his steps before continuing. The last thing he wanted to do was to greet mourners or discuss anything about his own family. He listened carefully and very quickly deciphered the voices-Louisa and Bert. He should have known Bert Large would be lurking; the man had a special spot in his heart for Louisa, and from what Martin could tell from earlier today, Bert was too busy serving food to interrogate Louisa. Now, it seemed, Bert had come for that chat. Martin listened and didn't move.
"Louisa, it's just that the whole village, well, we love ya, and we feel hurt that you didn't tell us everything that has gone on the last year or so," Bert explained.
"Bert, I'm sorry you feel hurt by this, and as much as you feel you have a right to know anything and everything, my life is my life. Martin and I have started to build our life, and to be honest, it's been refreshing without the drama of Portwenn," she sighed.
"My dear, we all love you, and well, we tolerate the doc. I mean, he's a good doc-don't get me wrong, best doc to ever happen to Portwenn, but we tolerate his behavior. It's just Doc. We loved Joan, all of us, and of course, we love you. Now, this is your home. You need to be here with that baby, rather those babies, seeing as how you sprung on all of us you are having another," he chuckled. "That Doc, always surprising us all. Two babies right in a row."
"Bert, really, thank you for stopping by-" Louisa started to say, and Martin decided that it was time for him to jump in as well. He could almost hear the pleading in her voice, and she didn't even know he was listening to the conversation. He knew she was tired. She'd fallen asleep earlier rocking James in the rocking chair Martin had brought over from Joan's place. It was one of the only things he'd removed from the house, well, aside from the gift he saw wrapped for James with his name on it. It had turned out to be a new outfit, and Louisa had put James in it today."
"Louisa, I'm finished with my notes," he said as he stepped into the kitchen. He tried to act as if he hadn't heard anything, and for him that was a relatively easy task. He glanced to Louisa and then put his eyes on Bert, giving him a nod.
"Oh, evening Doc," Bert smiled and nodded to him. He gestured to the table, "I just brought up another cake for you and Louisa. Still getting used to that, that the two of you are a couple."
"We were to have been married some time ago," Martin told him with a confused look. "Why is it such an odd thought now?"
"Martin," Louisa stood and put her hand out to his arm, giving him a small smile and nod to end things. "I told Bert we appreciated his kindness."
Martin grimaced and made a face at the chocolate cake now on his kitchen table, but Louisa's eyes suggested to him he not say anything about it. He looked to Bert again.
"Ahh, the bill for the day, for the reception-" Martin started.
"Oh, no, no, no, Doc," Bert put his hand up in defense. "I didn't come here tonight about that. First thing, we can settle up then," he nodded, smiled and winked at Martin. Martin grunted and turned to his wife.
"You should be getting to bed. I'm sure you are exhausted," Martin said to her, trying to move along the evening.
"Yes, quite," she patted her stomach. "This one has me knackered from the day. To be honest, I'm surprised I'm still awake."
"You did fall asleep rocking James earlier," Martin pointed out to her. He turned when Bert chuckled again. "What?" Martin asked Bert.
Bert gestured between the two, "It's just interesting, Doc, to see you two act like a married couple, talking back and forth."
"We are," Martin frowned sighing.
"To you, yes, but to the rest of us, as I've been saying, well, it's a surprise. Sure, we all knew you were to be married before, but Louisa played that runaway bride act, and you were the grumpy ogre for ages." He snapped his fingers, "That's why your mood improved! You two lovebirds reunited."
"Bert, thanks," Louisa said with a nod and put her hand on Bert's shoulder to encourage him. "The cake looks lovely, and we will enjoy it."
"No we won't," Martin started to say, but he closed his mouth when Louisa looked to him. He narrowed his eyes. "Ahh, yes, I'll settle the bill in the morning," he told Bert.
"Great, Doc, no charge on this here cake, and maybe we can talk about this pain in my shoulder then," Bert grabbed it as Louisa almost ushered him to the door. Martin groaned, and Louisa opened the back door.
"Night, Bert. Thank you for everything today-the reception and even holding James for some time. It was appreciated," Louisa called out to him.
"Well, don't have grandkids of my own, and I think of you like one of my own, Louiser, so it was my pleasure," he stated. Louisa closed the door, and she turned back to Martin, closing her eyes as she leaned against the door.
He watched for a moment, heard her let out her breath, and then he locked eyes with her as she spoke.
"I suppose we need to talk about my returning to London," she said quietly, glancing up to him as she spoke. He grunted and looked away; as much as he hated people like Bert chatting it up with them, he had quickly grown used to having Louisa here at home with him. Yes, he liked his alone time, but the long-time bachelor was surprised that he very much enjoyed having his wife and son in the next room or upstairs. It was as if he didn't know how much he wanted her here until she'd just dropped the hammer talking about returning to London.
"Ahh, yes," he nodded and held out his hand, "come to bed. You need your rest. James will be up with the first light."
She chuckled quietly, nodding, "Yes, that's the one thing-the sunlight awakens him here. It doesn't do that in London, but I suppose it just seems brighter here, maybe reflecting off the ocean. We do need to talk about London, Martin," she said, as she walked toward him. He dropped his arms and shoulders, looking to the floor as he nodded. On top of just enjoying her company, talking about London meant that he had to talk about his phobia, something that even he didn't want to admit wasn't improving. She stopped in front of him and grabbed onto his suit jacket, the black newer one he'd had on all day from Joan's funeral.
Her soft eyes looked up at him as she stood so closely to him. In a way, it almost surprised Martin he allowed anyone this close-in so many ways. He could smell the faint scent of her Kenzo Flower, even after she was showered and ready for bed. Her growing baby bump was now very evident and putting the slightest bit of additional distance between them as to not make either of them in a tight space.
Martin reached to her hair to brush it out of her eyes, "Is it wrong of me to ask you to stay and help Ruth and myself with Joan's things?"
"No," she said quickly and quietly, shaking her head, "although, it feels a bit intrusive."
"Intrusive?" Martin asked quietly, raising his eyebrows as she locked eyes with him. He shook his head, "I'd like your help, as would Ruth. In many ways, you were just as close to Joan. You lived around her the longest."
"It's not my house-" Louisa said, and Martin shushed her as she did.
"It's Ruth's home now, even if she doesn't want it. You are the sentimental one, and as you said when I retrieved the rocking chair, you believe there are thing there you would want for James."
"Not as much for James," she said, her hands still tight on his suit coat, as she looked up at him again. "I know Joan has albums there of you as a child. I'd like those type of things, nothing monetary. Oh dear," she said, biting her lip as she looked away and back to Martin. "I hope Ruth isn't worried I want to take things of value from the home."
"Not at all," Martin said, the soft side of him relaxing around Louisa as he put his hands loosely on her shoulders and dropped his head almost to her level. "Take anything you like, although any books or photographs of me as a child will be useless. I was an awkward looking boy and didn't photograph well at all."
"Martin Ellingham," she said with a smile and a wink as she leaned up to kiss his cheek, "You most certainly are not telling the truth on that. I've seen photographs of you as a child. You were quite adorable, that blonde hair just like I envision our son having. You had wide, curious eyes, and I still see those eyes. My, I even caught a glimpse of your photograph from what, medical school graduation, that sits on Joan's bedside. I saw that when we went out there for the chair, and you were, still are," she shrugged and grinned, "incredibly handsome."
He grunted, and the two were quite for several moments. Louisa flinched, made a hissing sound, and grabbed at her lower abdominal area. Martin instantly went into doctor mode.
"What's wrong?" Martin asked. She waved at him.
"Nothing, really, nothing," she shook her head and looked up to him, leaning up to kiss his cheek again. "It's sweet you are so worried. Ligament stretching just as with James. I promise. I'm 14 and a half weeks, Martin. Everything is stretching," she frowned.
His eyes searched hers for any sign of distress, and he lowered his head again, "You're sure you are alright?"
"Promise," she squeezed his shoulders. "If you remember back with James, I had some of this, although I'd already gone through most of this phase by the time you and I reconnected. I promise I'm fine."
He nodded, and the two stood in an embrace, "Tis almost Christmas," Martin said quietly again. "It was never a big day, but Joan-"
"Yes, Joan," Louisa nodded. "Joan loved Christmas."
Martin nodded, dropping his head again as he spoke this time, "I remember speaking to you on the telephone last Christmas at Joan's place."
"Right," Louisa reached to squeeze his hand. "That was our first step back to where we are today. I suppose not the first step by you, but by me at least," she frowned. She reached up to cup his cheek, and that surprised him and almost made him jump. He looked to her, and she gave him a small, warm smile.
"It's been quite the year. I'm so very happy with the life we are building. I am so very sorry Joan won't be around to see it. I'm glad she saw us marry and met James. I hate she won't know this little one at all," she said patting her stomach with her free hand.
"You are sure you are not in pain?" Martin asked, gesturing to her. She tried to reassure him by taking his hand and putting it over her rounding stomach.
"Too early to feel much, but I promise I'm fine," she said her eyes sparkling as she talked about their second child. "We're fine."
Martin had trouble sleeping that night, tossing and turning. Louisa didn't seem to have the same issue, snoring lightly each time Martin woke and turned to a different side. He fed James around 4:00 AM. James was mostly sleeping through the night, but he'd been off his normal schedule with the funeral. Martin had not wanted to awaken Louisa and had quietly fed his son who had drifted off to sleep as he was finishing his bottle. The late night in the rocking chair must have helped Martin's sleep too because after putting James back to bed, he'd climbed into bed and had fallen into a deep sleep. When he finally did awaken, he noted the sunlight coming through the curtain and also noted Louisa must still be soundly sleeping by the warm body next to his. He reached over behind him, as he was on his side, to squeeze her arm, and instantly he sprang from the bed, grumbling loudly.
"That stupid mut! What is he doing here?" Martin exclaimed, and at that, Buddy moved his head, almost irritated he'd been awakened from his sleep. Louisa came rushing into the room, James half-dressed in her arms.
"Martin, what is it?" Louisa asked, dumbfounded and looked to the bed. She put her hand up to her mouth and started to chuckle as Martin started gesturing and complaining.
"That dog! Filthy animal, and now, he's been in our bed. Louisa, do you know the diseases dogs can carry?"
"Martin, I think we can calm down," she chuckled and moved toward the bed. Martin was now by the window. She put James down on the bed where Martin had been sleeping to finish dressing him. "James, Daddy isn't fond of dogs like you and I are," she chuckled. She turned her head toward Martin, "I apologize, Martin. Buddy must have slipped into he house when I walked outside with James to show him the snow coming down. We just stepped out for a minute. Buddy seems to have found the warm spot in the house. I had no idea he'd run up here."
"Stupid dog," he made a face at Buddy who was now up and standing in the doorway.
"Wasn't he Joan's dog? He's got to be hungry, Martin. I suppose we inherit the dog too."
"No, not our dog," he shook his head. "Ruth got the house. She can have the dog. I saw Bert feeding that thing yesterday, so I doubt he lacks for food."
"Still," Louisa gestured and continued, "he's cold and hungry. We should get his bowls and food when we go to Joan's house today."
"Louisa, I can't believe you are letting James just lie there in that filth!" Martin exclaimed. He stepped quickly to scoop up James, which scared James and caused him to start to fuss. Louisa rolled her eyes and made a face.
"Lovely, Martin, scare the baby, and it's not filth. While I can agree the dog doesn't need to be on the bed, he's not that bad. Sure, he could probably use a bath, but I had James where you were lying."
Martin started to almost swat at himself, as if he was getting rid of invisible bugs. Louisa reached out for James and rolled her eyes again. Martin scowled.
"Go and shower. I'll fix some breakfast, just not eggs if that is okay?" Martin looked to her with an odd expression, and she made a face. "I can't take the smell of them the last week or so. We've barely had time to discuss that with Joan's funeral. I couldn't keep them down two days ago, but you had enough going on with the funeral. I know morning sickness usually starts earlier, but lucky me," she sighed. "I seemed to have developed that now. So, no eggs."
"Tea and toast is fine," he nodded. "If you are sure you are okay, Louisa?"
"Fine," she stepped toward him, James in her arms. She patted his arm, leaned up, and kissed his cheek. "Good morning, and I'm fine, just pregnant again. I'm sure my body is in some sort of shock, preggers right away. It will do odd things. Funny," she paused to think a moment. "I'll be pregnant two Christmases in a row. Come on, James. Let's make some toast."
She started out of the room, and Martin grumbled quietly toward her, "Let's not go for three Christmases in a row."
He heard Louisa chuckle. She turned at the door and pointed to him, "That's on you as much as me, Dr. Ellingham. If you are not interested in more children after this one, then I suppose we should discuss options for you."
"Options?" Martin made a face and looked to her. She put her hand on her hip when James in the crook of her other arm.
"Hmm, yes, suppose you should find a urologist friend, hmm? I've put my body through plenty for you these last couple of years. I'm not complaining about children, but I'm okay with you doing something."
"A vasectomy?" Martin made a horrified face and shook his head. "Louisa, I don't-"
"You're the doctor. You know it's perfectly safe. Now, seeing as how neither of us woke up intending for this conversation, maybe we should table it until later, at least until this one is born. You as a brilliant physician know you can't get me pregnant when I am pregnant," she grinned and winked at him. "I'll see you downstairs for tea and toast."
Half an hour later after Martin had showered, shaved, dressed, and changed the bedding because of Buddy, he found Louisa and James contentedly sitting in the kitchen. Louisa was feeding James again, and she had breakfast on the table. She turned her head as he walked through the living room.
"Martin, it's almost Christmas. We had planned to spend it in the city at our home, but with everything you need to do for Joan, what do you want to do now?" Louisa asked him.
Martin stopped by her side and touched the back of his hand to James' head. That had James squirm to look up at his father, and Louisa got him situated to feed him his bottle again. Martin leaned down to kiss Louisa's head; she'd told him she enjoyed his showing affection, and if he really thought about it, he tried. He then sat down across from her and pondered her question.
"Ahh, my preference would be to be near to my patients and yes, settle things with Joan. I'm not happy with the idea of moving James around so much at this early age. However," he glanced to her, "asking you to stay in Portwenn is more than you want."
Louisa frowned and nodded, "Yes, I do miss our flat because it's home. As frustrating as it is to be here, though, I've spent many Christmases here. If it is easier for you to finish things here this Christmas, then James and I can stay. He's sleeping well in his travel cot and-"
A knock at the back door had both turning their heads. Martin stood, but before he could reach it, Ruth opened it and stepped inside, her coat pulled tightly toward her.
"Good, you are up," she nodded to them. "Louisa, feeling better?"
Martin glanced between the two women, and he tilted his head at Louisa, "You'd told Ruth about your not feeling well?"
Louisa nodded, "Hmm, yes, well, she was nearby after I'd lost my breakfast."
Martin nodded and turned his attention back to his aunt who put some paperwork down on the kitchen table, pointing to it, "I've already spoken to the agent handling Joan's estate. I'm deeding the farm to you. Joan would really want you to have it. The agent said she hadn't updated her will in ages, before you were back here again. She loved you as her own son, and she hadn't left it to you because she never thought she'd get you out of London," Ruth said quickly, rolling her eyes. "I'm ready to retire. Coming down here has been a good reminder there are places in this country I can slow down. Now, I don't want a large farmhouse to do so. There is plenty of paperwork to be done, but I'm dropping this by now so you can see that it's in the works; the farmhouse, or at least the land because the house is in shambles, is yours. I'll take whatever financial hit I must. I want you to have it and now."
Martin frowned and looked to Ruth and then to Louisa, who sat there with her mouth open. James whimpered, and she shifted him to her shoulder. Louisa shook her head.
"Ruth, we live in London, at least, we have our home and plans to move Martin there permanently," she said.
Martin picked up the paperwork, and as he did, Ruth spoke before Martin could say more. She addressed both of them, but looked at Louisa, "That, my dear, is precisely it. Perhaps you should seriously consider all options. The farm, or the land, is yours. Martin, you grew up spending your only happy childhood days there. The land is the same. Much could be done there. To start, you could tear down that shamble of a house and build something to fit your family. I know you can barely fit in the doorframes, Martin. I didn't do much for you as a child. That's on me. I'm going to do better now. I'm your only living relative you can tolerate, and at least I have your best interests at heart. Now then, I'll leave you two here to discuss and will see you at the farm later to start clearing things out. Keep it, sell it-do whatever you want. It's not mine anymore, or it won't be mine. I don't need the money. I'll give it to the village before I'd let your father have it, but that's beside the point. Maybe you two need to consider a new option for your future. Martin, I didn't speak up when you were little to your parents, so consider this my speaking up now. I think your family belongs here."