He hated that he'd been roped into this stupid party, but such was life in the village. Martin glanced around, trying to hide in the corner of the community town hall and made a face as he spotted some of the villagers going for another pint of ale. They had all had too much to drink this evening; that was certain, but they kept on drinking, almost as if they'd forgotten how they might feel the next morning. He continued to watch them, a look of disgust on his face before he turned his attention back to James.
"Evening, Doc, can I get you a pint?" Martin heard. He sighed and turned toward possibly the biggest village idiot, Penhale, who stood there, a ridiculous grin on his face, clad in his police uniform, and sipping on something himself.
"Are you on duty?" Martin asked, tilting his head as he looked to the man.
"Always, Doc, but you know what that's like," he chuckled. "The Dynamic Duo," he said in his thick accent, "together, saving the people of Portwenn in their time of need. Yes, Doc, I'm on duty, but I'll gladly get you a pint so you can stay with the little one there. Still can't believe my best friend kept that from me."
Martin scowled as he narrowed his gaze at Penhale, "We are not best friends; I don't drink. You know that, or should know that, especially if you claim to be so close to me. You shouldn't be drinking either, especially on duty."
"Ahh, Doc," he said, flashing a grin and gesturing with his glass, "non-alcoholic. You know that I am the upmost of a professional."
"Hello, Joe," Louisa said as she walked up to join Martin there with James in his pram. James was awake and just looking around from where he was lying down. They were hopeful he would behave, or Louisa was, but Martin was perfectly fine taking him home for the evening if James didn't settle. Sadly, at least for Martin, James seemed to be enjoying himself.
"Louisa, ahh, the talk of the town," Penhale beamed as he gestured between them. Louisa handed Martin a cup of water; she'd gone for that for both of them here for this village New Year's Eve party. Martin had balked at the idea of going, but in the many things he was learning to compromise, he'd agreed this evening.
"You look wonderful, Louisa. Still can't believe as a detective I didn't pick up on what you two have been up to this last year," Joe grinned as he sipped his drink.
Martin made a face and shook his head as he looked to Joe, "You're not a detective. You're barely a policeman."
"Martin," Louisa patted his arm. He glanced to her, and she offered him a small smile and a nod toward Joe. He refused to look back at him and just gave a scowl even toward Louisa. He only looked back to Joe as Louisa spoke to him.
"We've had a lot to work out on our own, Joe, and you as well as anyone know how this village is. It's hard to even think sometimes. It's been for the best," she said with a single nod. "Besides, it's New Year's Eve, so let's discuss something else. Are you enjoying yourself?"
"As much as one can while keeping the citizens of Portwenn safe. You never know when a thief might strike. Doc, Louisa," he nodded to them and then to the baby, "keep an eye on him. You never know when someone-"
"What?" Martin cut in, rolling his eyes. "Are you about to infer that someone in this small community center, one of the local, local," he fumbled with his hand, "villagers," he finally spit out, even though he almost said something worse, "would harm a baby?"
"Oh, Joe," Louisa sighed, rolling her eyes too as she tried to catch Martin's eye, "let's try to enjoy ourselves for one evening, hmm? I think the worst we have to worry about with James is someone wanting to hold him and wake him."
"He's awake," Martin nodded, and Louisa peered over him to smile down at the baby. She moved to the side, leaving Martin there to talk more with Joe.
"I kept a keen eye on the surgery when you two, or excuse me, you three," he winked and grinned, "were up in London. Now, I'm sure you don't have that kind of dedicated protection in London."
"Thank you, Joe," Louisa looked over, cutting off anything Martin might add. "Did you do anything yourself for Christmas?"
"No, just taking care of the streets, keeping crime out of Portwenn," he said with a nod. "Maybe we can all have supper together soon?"
"No," Martin scowled, turning to Louisa. He rolled his eyes at her. She nodded toward the door, trying to get him away from Joe.
"Ruth has arrived, Martin. Why don't you escort her over here, yes?" Louisa looked to him, encouragingly.
"Yes," he said, and with a nod to both Louisa and Joe, he departed.
"I'll make my rounds," Joe nodded and started to walk away himself. Martin returned shortly, though, without Ruth.
"Where's Ruth?" Louisa asked, looking for her. Martin nodded toward the table with the drinks.
"Getting a pint herself. Why do these people not learn from one drunken night to another? They know how they are going to feel tomorrow! Then, they will all be calling on the surgery for something to cure their hangovers! Unbelievable idiots."
"Oh, hush, Martin," she patted his arm. "Even I enjoy a good ale when I'm not well," she patted her stomach, "expecting one of your children." She grinned up at him, "It's New Year's Eve. Mark my words-next year, I'll have a pint myself to cheer in the new year."
"A pint," he spit out, "might be tolerable. Most here are on their fifth or sixth. I don't know why we had to come down here and watch people stagger around."
"Martin," Louisa looped her arm through his, and she looked up at him while drowning out anyone else in the room. She smiled at him when he glanced her way, and while he did not return the smile, his eyes softened at the sight of her. Louisa's ponytail hung to the side as she tilted her head, "It's New Year's Eve. We are together with our son, here in Portwenn. Now, think back to even a year ago, and none of this would have seemed possible. We have just returned from a few days in London to enjoy Christmas at our flat. We are here, trying to settle things with Joan's house and decide on our future. You, yourself, proclaimed that staying here was the best for our family, and as a compromise tonight, you agreed to come to this. Now, we cannot begin to discuss staying here permanently if you refuse to be among the same villagers you claim to wish to live among, now, can you?"
He pursed his lips and considered what she said, "We discussed living in Portwenn, but," he put his finger up, "living in a new home on Joan's property. That would keep us away from the village most of the time. I'd only have to see patients during the day, but in the evening, we would be home, away from the village."
"Yes, yes," she nodded as if that made perfect sense, "I see. Yes, we'd seclude ourselves away, and we'd never be part of the village or attend anything here, hmm? What happens when James goes to school, hmm? We don't attend any of his concerts or events? Martin, tonight, we are trying this out," she gestured between them, "trying to see if this life here fits. We were creating a life in London, but we are discussing returning to the lives we had here, now as a family. Please try to enjoy this evening, or at least not to have a scowl on your face all night."
He looked to her hopeful smile, and he scowled slightly. He saw her run her hand over her stomach. She was now 16 weeks along, having seen her doctor in London right before Christmas at 15 weeks. It was too early for any of their big scans, but they were going to have that scan at her next appointment now at the end of January. This time, they had agreed to find out the gender of the baby together; Martin would not know and have to keep the agonizing secret.
"Yes, yes," she waved at him. "I'm fine, just feeling some pressure. I suppose he's kicking away. It's just me trying to remember all of these firsts being pregnant, you know, feeling him move for the first time really."
Martin raised an eyebrow, "You seem certain it's a boy."
Louisa gave a small shrug, "Well, things are much like they were with James. I suppose I just see a boy. We will have to discuss names."
"Martin, good evening," they both heard and turned to the sound, their conversation put on hold. Not many called him Martin, and Louisa raised her eyebrows as she eyed the woman who had that nerve.
"Louisa Ellingham," she said, putting her hand out to shake the woman's hand. She tilted her head slightly, almost wanting to put herself between Martin and this woman. She narrowed her gaze, trying to place the person.
"Liz Newton," she said with a large smile as she shook Louisa's hand. "I have been visiting family over the holidays and haven't had the chance to meet you." She glanced over to Martin, "I must admit, Martin, that it was a slight relief to hear you were married. I had thought we might be good for one another, and when you weren't interested, I worried it was something I did. Turns out you had good reason."
"Ahh, yes, Liz Newton," Louisa nodded with a small smile now. She glanced to Martin and back to Liz, "I was trying to place your voice."
Liz gave her an odd look, not knowing that Louisa had been on the other end of at least one video chat in which Martin had answered the door to Liz waiting there with food for him. Louisa continued.
"I hope you understand that Martin and I have had a very well, complex time with things here in the village. Thank you for checking on him when he's been here, and I've been in our home in London. Now," she crossed her hands in front of her and smiled to Liz, "I hear you are the new Head, yes? I hope you are enjoying the school. It's a lovely school, and I was once the Head myself."
"Yes, yes," she nodded. "You left very detailed information for me. I appreciate that. I also hear that you might be interested in teaching mathematics this winter term? I do hope we can discuss that. You'd be helping me tremendously."
"Louisa is pregnant," Martin blurted out, and that had both women look to him. He shrugged, as if that was needed information. Louisa sighed and shook her head. Liz looked between them, trying to find the right words to say. It was quiet for several moments.
"My manners," Liz shook her head. She looked to Martin, "First, my condolences to you upon the passing of your aunt." She gave Martin a sad smile, and he just nodded and looked to James. She then looked to Louisa, "I had heard you were expecting," as she gestured around. "Small place, as you know. Word travels. It's only a part-time position if you would like to discuss it."
"Martin and I are still trying to figure out a few things," Louisa said, giving her a warm smile. "I would be interested in discussing it, at least knowing my options. I do have James here," she gestured to the pram.
"Of course, of course," she nodded. "Let's talk, say after the holiday, yes? Will you still be in town?"
Louisa glanced to Martin and back to Liz with a nod, "Yes, it seems as if I will. We just made a trip to London over Christmas, and I will be here at least a few more days."
"Excellent, well, I know where to find you. I will set up a time to meet with you say in a couple days?" Liz asked. Louisa nodded in agreement.
"That would be fine, yes, thank you," she told her.
The two parted ways with Liz Newton, and Martin nodded to James, "I'd like to get him home."
Louisa bit her lip, glanced around, and when she saw that most people were preoccupied with each other and their different ales, she nodded in agreement.
Louisa put her hand on his, "Let's get James back to the surgery, put him to bed, and then, Martin," she said with a nod, "we do need to sit down and hash out our future. I think it's time, yes?"
Martin looked around the room and when his eyes landed back to Louisa, he met her gaze, "Yes, yes, let's certainly sit down and discuss all options. We've managed to avoid the topic as best we can over the holidays, but it's high time to end this nonsense."
Louisa took a look around the room, eyeing people she had known her entire life. She looked back to Martin who was focused on James there in his pram. He looked up, saw she seemed to be ready to leave, and with that, he reached for her coat to help her put it on. As he did, she spoke again.
"You've already spoken to an architect, haven't you?" Louisa pulled her hair out of her coat as she glanced to Martin. He met her gaze and gave a single nod.
"I have, but I did want to get all of the information necessary. I also wanted an idea of the cost. If we sold the London flat, we would have more than enough to build a home to satisfy our needs."
He moved to the pram and started to move it around the small building, trying to avoid eye contact with the other villagers. Louisa gave a nod to many and waved to a few as they made their way to the side door, hoping to get out of the room before they attracted more attention.
Once they stepped outside, Louisa looped her arm through his. She looked up, and even in the dark sky, she could see his eyes, "I'd like to hear of those plans, Martin. Maybe you are winning me over here once again." She leaned up and kissed his cheek.
Martin didn't say anything right away, but he continued to push the pram, finally saying, "James, we might be building a new house for you, that is, if your mother and I can come to an agreement on where you will grow up, young man."