I'm feeling a bit down today, with a crick in my neck and a chill starting up my back. I jump as the doorbell rings, then a sharp series of knocks begins on my door, and I pry myself out of the chair to answer it. Forgetting that I've hung a map on the inside of it and can't peep out, I start to get annoyed as I scramble around to find the knob to unbolt the door.
Me (opening the door and speaking in an annoyed voice): Yes? What is it?
(I see a young woman on my step. She's wearing a long dark dress, and is hugging herself and bobbing up and down. I move my computer glasses around until I can focus, and recognize Marie Owen.)
Marie (squealing): Mom!
Me: Come in! It's chilly out there.
(I open the screen door, and she enters, then flings her arms around me.)
Marie: Oh Mom, Mom, you can't believe how happy I am.
Me (Trying to breathe within her tight grasp): I'm glad. Come sit down. What has you all excited?
Marie: I'm free of that brutish man! (She loosens her hold on me, then smiles brilliantly and sits on the chair I point to, bouncing a bit) You did that. You got your book about me to the readers, and now I'm out of his clutches.
Me: Mr. Thorne?
Marie (scoffing) Mister? He doesn't deserve the title. But it doesn't matter. He's gone now.
Me: I believe I know about that ending.
Marie: Yes. (She looks away briefly, then meets my gaze again.) My man is helping me forget that.
Me (starting to get over being grumpy as I feel the peace and joy radiating from her): Your man, huh?
Marie (suddenly shy): He's, he's the most wonderful man I ever met!
Me: You've changed your opinion, then?
Marie (giggling): Mom! He loves me. He suffered a mighty hard journey in order to find me. He never gave up, Mom. He came for me, and when he did, I was so frightened for him. (She starts to bite a nail.) He suffered more than the journey!
Me: He does care deeply for you.
Marie (her eyes lighting up): Yes. Thank you.
Me: For what?
Marie: For publishing the book at last.
Me: I'm sorry it took so long. You were in such distress when last you visited.
Marie: All that is over now, thanks to you.
Me: Do you love him?
Me: Do you love him, or are you merely beholden to him?
Marie (She closes her eyes and takes in a slow, deep breath. I watch her, and when she lets out the air, she is smiling.) I love him.
Me (I nod)
Marie: At first, before I agreed to marry him, I worried that I didn't care for him, that he would smother me. Then it came to me, like a ray of sunshine through a cloud, that he was precisely the man I wanted. The man I wanted all along.
Me: Where is he?
Marie: He's out holdin' the horses. He's more shy than you know, considering.
Me: Considering what?
Marie: Considering we rousted a priest out of bed to have us a ceremony.
Me: A what? You don't mean--
Marie: Yes! The priest agreed that since we're not of his Catholic faith, we didn't need any delays to read banns or the like.
Me: How long ago did this happen?
Marie (suddenly very shy): Just now.
Marie: A few hours ago.
Me: You're kidding me! (I grin at her, maybe a bit too broadly) No wonder he's standing out in the cold.
Marie: Don't be a-teasin', Mom.
Me: I'm sorry. (I pause and look at this glowing creature I created.) I reckon you'd best be on your way. It's cruel to keep the man waiting.
Marie (standing): It was his idea to come here. He thanks you for publishin' the book.
Me (smiling as I rise to my feet): You go give him my love.
Marie (trying to keep her smile in check as she inches toward the door): I reckon not. At least, not tonight. He's only gettin' my love tonight. (She giggles.) I'll give him your love on another occasion.
Marie (stepping outside and turning to gaze at me): Exactly so.
And she's gone. I close the door slowly, feeling some of her glow myself. "Butter. Melting butter."
Spinster's Folly, Book 4 of "The Owen Family Saga," is available as an ebook and in print at online book sellers. Autographed copies available at http://marshaward.com.