She stood on her toes and kissed him, and this time she did hear the cheer that erupted around her. “I think this is the right time,” she whispered.

He must have agreed, because he kissed her again. In front of everyone.


One year later

“I‘m not sure the front row is the best vantage point,” Marcus said, casting a look of longing over the rest of the empty chairs. He and Honoria had arrived early at this year’s Smythe-Smith musicale; she had been most insistent that they do so in order to secure the “best” seats.

“It’s not about vantage points,” she said, looking up and down the front row with a discerning eye. “It’s about listening.”

“I know,” he said morosely.

“And anyway, it’s not even really about listening, it’s about showing our support.” She gave him a bright smile and lowered herself into her chosen seat – front row, dead center. With a sigh, Marcus took the seat on her right.

“Are you comfortable?” he asked. Honoria was with child, and far enough along that she really shouldn’t be making public appearances, but she had insisted that the musicale was an exception.

“It’s a family tradition,” she replied. And for her, that was explanation enough.

For him, it was why he loved her.

It was so strange, being a part of a family of his own. Not just the hordes of Smythe-Smiths, who were so legion in number that he still couldn’t keep track. Every night as he lay down next to his wife, he couldn’t quite believe that she belonged to him. And he to her. A family.

And soon they would be three.


“Sarah and Iris are still very disgruntled about performing,” Honoria whispered, even though there was no one else around.

“Who is taking your place?”

“Harriet,” she said, then added, “Sarah’s younger sister. She’s only fifteen, but there was no one else before her.”

Marcus thought about asking if Harriet was any good, then decided he didn’t want to know the answer.

“It is two sets of sisters in the quartet this year,” Honoria said, apparently only just then realizing it. “I wonder if that has ever happened before.”

“Your mother will know,” he said absently.

“Or Aunt Charlotte. She has become quite the family historian.”

Someone passed by them on their way to a seat in the corner, and Marcus glanced around, noticing that the room was slowly filling up.

“I’m so nervous,” Honoria said, giving him an excited grin. “This is my first time in the audience, you know.”

He blinked in confusion. “What about the years before you played?”

“It’s different,” she said, giving him a you-couldn’t-possibly-understand look. “Oh, here we are, here we are. It’s about to start.”

Marcus patted her on the hand, then settled into his seat to watch Iris, Sarah, Daisy, and Harriet take their positions. He thought he might have heard Sarah groan.

And then they started to play.

It was awful.

He’d known it would be awful, of course; it was always awful. But somehow his ears managed to forget just how awful it was. Or maybe they were even worse than usual this year. Harriet dropped her bow twice. That couldn’t be good.

He glanced over at Honoria, certain he’d see an expression of empathy on her face. She’d been there, after all. She knew exactly how it felt to be on that stage, creating that noise.

But Honoria didn’t look the least bit upset for her cousins. Instead, she gazed upon them with a radiant smile, almost like a proud mama basking in the glow of her magnificent charges.

He had to look twice to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.

“Aren’t they wonderful?” she murmured, tilting her head toward his.

His lips parted with shock. He had no idea how to answer.

“They’ve improved so much,” she whispered.

That might very well have been true. If so, he was ferociously glad that he had not sat in on any of their rehearsals.

He spent the rest of the concert watching Honoria. She beamed, she sighed; once she put a hand over her heart. And when her cousins set down their instruments (or in the case of Sarah, rolled her eyes as she lifted her fingers from the keys), Honoria was the first on her feet, clapping wildly.

“Won’t it be wonderful when we have daughters who can play in the quartet?” she said to him, giving him an impulsive kiss on the cheek.

He opened his mouth to speak, and in all honesty, he had no idea what he planned to say. But it certainly wasn’t what he did say, which was, “I cannot wait.”

But as he stood there, his hand resting gently at the small of his wife’s back, listening to her chatter with her cousins, his eyes drifted down to her belly, where a new life was taking shape. And he realized it was true. He couldn’t wait. For any of it.

He leaned down and whispered, “I love you,” in Honoria’s ear. Just because he wanted to.

She didn’t look up, but she smiled.

And he smiled, too.