FIVE YEARS LATER
The boy squealed as he spun around in the open sun.
“Careful, Michael,” Georgina chided, but she was more amused than upset by her son’s antics.
Across from her, Peter dipped his hand into one of the fruit baskets sprawled on the lush fur blanket beneath them. His mind was attuned to hers, for his gaze lifted and her eyes caught her own. They shook their heads and smiled at each other.
“Come, Michael,” said Peter, and their son spun until he was staggering in front of his father. Peter scooped Michael up, and spun him some more.
“Careful now,” said Amelia as her daughter tugged at Gareth’s sleeves. “Spin me like that, Papa,” she cried, “spin me too!”
Gareth shook his head as he heaved off the blanket. “You give these children ideas,” he said to Peter mock sternly, but he scooped little Ada up on his shoulders.
“Oh, it keeps them agile,” said Peter.
Anthonia squealed delightfully, her giggles filling the air as Gareth spun her in the air. “Look Mama!” she cried. “Look!”
Amelia rolled her eyes, but she lifted her gaze to her daughter, splayed across her husband’s shoulders, her arms swinging in the air as she spun by the strength of her father. “If by agile you mean full of mischief, then right you are,” muttered Amelia as she bit into a pear. She rolled her eyes at Georgina, but they were smiling at each other.
Georgina sighed, sated. She had come to love these little picnics with Amelia’s family in Hyde Park, where they caught up on each other’slives as they ate and teased and basked in the open sun and spun their mischievous children around.
Amelia reached for a glass of water, then pulled back as she gave a little wince.
Georgina’s heart skipped with worry. “Are you alright?”
Amelia smiled as she patted the soft bulge of her belly. “I’m alright,” she assured her. “We both are.”
Georgina nodded, giving her sister in-law one last inspection before returning to her son on Peter’s shoulders. It occurred to her that now might be the perfect time to tell the news to Amelia, but Georgina thought better of it. It was only right that the father should learn of the news first.
Amelia angled her face to the sun. “All right,” she said, squinting up as she sighed. “That is enough spinning for one day, unless you wish them a night full of wicked headaches. And we pay the price for it, by the way, not you two.” She wagged her fingers at her brother and her husband, then she turned to Georgina. “Georgina, stand with me, why don’t you?”
Georgina laughed, but she supported her sister in-law. “If you would be so kind as to put the children down and come have some apples, we would be most indebted to your kindness,” she added.
It took more than a moment, and a fit of resistance from both Michael and Anthonia before Peter and Gareth could successfully put them down.
They ate their fruits and wine and bickered about whose turn it was to host the next picnic. All the while Peter’s eyes did not leave Georgina’s. Even after six years of marriage, she had not grown immune to him. She felt like magic under the heat of his gaze, and she was still learning to return that intensity although she was no match for it.
He turned to herlower his mouth to her ear. His breath was hot, his voice just like the first time he had asked her for a dance – cool and sweet as he asked, “I’d like to take a walk. Would you come with me?”
It amused Georgina that after all these years, this man whom she loved as much as her heart would allow, was still polite enough not to assume that she would want to come along for a walk.
Even though she always said yes. She would always say yes to Peter.
“I would love nothing more,” Georgina answered him. He extended his hand, helping her to her feet. Peter turned to Gareth and told them they were taking a walk. “We won’t be long,” added Georgina quickly, for a mild look of worry had crossed Amelia’s face.
Gareth made an allowing gesture. “Take your time.”
“Well, do not take all of your time,” said Amelia, her hands resting gently on her belly.
Georgina smiled as she joined in step beside Peter. He reached for her hand, his fingers lightly brushing against hers. A thrill ran down her spine as they wound their fingers together. Would she ever get used to this spark that she felt down to the tips of her toes when this man was close? To the way that every inch of her lit up with burning when he held her?
She hoped it would always be like this, even after ten years. Even after twenty.
Their stroll was slow-paced, the atmosphere peacefully quiet save for quacking ducks in the pond many feet across from them. The sun shone upon their faces, the breeze soft on her skin.. Everything about this moment felt precious to her.
Then she paused, her eyes taking in the scene before her. It took her a moment for the memories to return to her, for her to realize that this was the moment everything changed. It was here, close to this exact spot that Peter had first opened up about his past love and grief; here that he had begun to open his heart to her.
Georgina’s heart lifted in wonder. She could not believe how time had flown since they first laid eyes upon each other. Beside her, Peter let go of her hand to pick at a shrub of lavenders. When he returned to her, he tucked a flower in her hair.
“You know me too well,” she said, unable to contain the glee in her voice if she tried. She struck a pose, her hands on her hip. Peter’s eyes shone down on her. Even after five years, he still made her feel lovely and cherished.
She hoped that would never change too.
“How do I look?” she asked, patting her flower, tucking away the loose curl that had slipped from her ponytail.
Peter’s laugh was husky and open. “You look lovely,” he answered, his tone admiring, near reverent. He brushed a hand over her cheek. She saw her heart reflected in his gaze as he added, “You are lovely.”
Georgina expected the words, but still her heart glowed with joy. Everything had turned out better than she had imagined. And now, their lives were about to grow even more hopeful. “That is correct,” she said in response to his compliment. Georgina felt as if she might burst from the happiness that overwhelmed her. “We are a family of lovely parents and lovely children, aren’t we?”
Peter paused, his eyes turned up in slow surprise as he stared at her. Georgina was too eager; she could not wait for her words to sink in Peter’s mind. She palmed a hand over her belly, not yet round with her growing child but about to be, and Peter’s mouth curved around a small, perfect o.
“No,” he said, his voice hoarse, heavy with hope.
Georgina clapped her hands over her mouth. Her heart ached but it was a delicious kind of ache, the ache of having in one’s grasp what one could have only dreamed of.
Peter looked as stricken as he surely felt, his words failing him as he tried to express himself. “I thought – Mr. Geoffrey – “
“He said after Michael it would be near impossible that you conceive again – “
“I know!” exclaimed Georgina excitedly. Tears pooled in her eyes as Peter drew her close. She thought he would pull her in a kiss, and he did.
But first he scooped her in his arms, and he spun her. “Peter!” Georgina happily cried, clutching at his arm. But she enjoyed every second of it. She was burning with happy fire, dizzy with glee; she did not wish for her husband to put her down.
Peter kissed her after he set back on the ground, a kiss as certain and powerful as what she felt for him. She parted her lips for him, and he adored her with his mouth.
“I have never loved you more,” he said to her as they walked back to their picnic, their steps slow, almost reluctant as if they would rather remain here together, forever.
“I do hope to hear that tomorrow and the day after that,” said Georgina teasingly.
Peter laced his fingers through hers. A glint of sunlight caught his hair, glinting off the bridge of his nose. He had never looked more majestic. “Every day,” Peter assured her smilingly. “And the day after that too.”
She believed him, because she loved him. And as they returned to their picnic, the sound of Michael and Anthonia squabbling pettily greeting her ears, Georgina knew that nothing would ever change her love for him.