MaryEscaping a Marriage of Convenience
Zachary smiled. He was going to be an uncle, how exciting! Of course, he hated the thought of his dear, sweet sister going through what Mary was upstairs.
Edwina and Henry’s marriage had taken place six months after their own. It was good to hear that they’d had a child so quickly. Zachary took out his mother’s letter, a tiny piece of folded paper with no small amount of uncertainty.
His mother had accepted his marriage to Mary, but there had been something of a gap between them ever since. He settled down to read.
My Dear Zachary,
I know you are happy. I can hear the happiness in your letters. I am getting older and slower, and sometimes I think that my end cannot be too far away.
My point is, I want you to know just how much I love you. I am proud of you. I am proud that you stood up to me and married the woman you loved. I am proud of Mary for her kindness and integrity. I will never forget how she was willing to end your courtship simply because she loved you too much to condemn you to a loveless marriage.
I think about that often. I regret my part in it, of course, but it opened my eyes to the sort of woman you were marrying.
One who loves you. And that, my darling boy, is rarer than you might think.
So please, tell Mary that I wish her all happiness. I pray daily that her childbirth will go well, and I cannot wait to greet my new grandchild. I often think that I am blessed with the children that I have.
I love you, Zachary. Take your mother’s blessing wherever you go.
All my Love,
Octavia, Your Devoted Mother
Zachary set down the letter, fighting back a lump in his throat. “I love you too, Mama,” he whispered under his breath.
The door to the library slammed out. Timmins stood there, out of breath and looking slightly panicked.
“The midwife says you’re to come at once, sir.”
Pinpricks of fear ran up and down Zachary’s spine.
“Why? What’s wrong? What’s the matter?” Zachary demanded, leaping to his feet. The letters fluttered to the floor, forgotten.
“I don’t know! They won’t tell me! They just said that you’re to come.”
Zachary practically elbowed poor Timmins aside. He raced up the stairs, taking them two at a time. The midwife greeted him at the door to the bedroom, trying to put up a hand to stop him, but Zachary pushed past.
Felicity stood in the center of the room, looking exhausted.
Mary lay in the bed, propped up by cushions. She was slick with sweat, red in the face, and her hair stuck to her skin. The blankets near the bottom of the bed were blood-stained, and one of the maids was collecting them.
In her arms, she cradled a tiny bundle of cloth, and Zachary felt as though all of the energy were being drained out of his body.
“If you’d cared to wait, your lordship,” the midwife said snippily, “I was going to say that it was a very quick birth. All went well. You may greet your new baby now.”
Mary tore her eyes away from the baby, and her gaze met Zachary’s.
“Come and meet our new son, Zachary.” She whispered.
Zachary tiptoed up to the head of the bed, feeling as though he ought to whisper, for some reason.
“A little boy?” he murmured.
Mary nodded, and Zachary knelt next to her on the bed.
The baby was tiny, wrinkled, and red-faced. His eyes were closed, and his face screwed up as if he were already angry at the world. Zachary tentatively waved a finger before the little thing’s face, and a small, purple hand shot up from out of the blankets, seizing around Zachary’s finger with surprising strength.
“He’s beautiful,” Zachary whispered.
“I know,” Mary murmured, leaning against Zachary’s shoulder. “He’s our baby. Our baby, Zachary.”
“What shall we call him? I thought of Bartholomew.”
“Absolutely not. I gave birth to him, so I think I should have the final say in his name.”
Zachary chuckled. “It’s hard to argue with that.”
The baby wriggled in Mary’s arms, stretching out his arms above his head. His tiny, toothless mouth opened, showing an expanse of gums.
“He’s small for a baby of this age, but not too small,” the midwife spoke up. “He’ll either be a dainty little thing when he grows up or a giant. There’s no in-between.”
She moved over to supervise the removal of the bloody sheets, leaving Mary and Zachary to admire their new baby in peace. Felicity flopped down on a sofa on the other end of the room.
“I thought giving birth was exhausting, but delivering babies is every bit as panic-inducing,” Felicity declared. “I was very good at it, though.”
“How about Rufus?” Mary suddenly suggested. “I had a puppy called Rufus when I was young. I like the name.”
Zachary swallowed hard, glancing at Mary. “Rufus was my father’s name. Did you know?”
Mary went still. “Oh, Zachary, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. We don’t need to call him Rufus, of course not.”
“No, no, I love it. It’s a perfect name for the little one. And, judging by those little tufts on his head, our baby might be a redhead, too. Then, Rufus will be perfect.”
Mary chuckled. “Rufus it is, then. Rufus Sutton. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
Zachary pressed a kiss to her temple.
“It certainly does.”
I hope you enjoyed “Mary, Escaping a Marriage of Convenience”. I would love to know your opinion!