It was rude to eavesdrop and Jonavon knew that. He should turn and find Arabella; help her trim the flowers they picked. Nonetheless, he kept his feet planted and his ear against the door frame.
His mother had not yet responded to Mrs. Radcliffe’s comment. There was the delicate clatter of china as Ms. Collins bought time to formulate an answer. Eventually, she said, slowly, “It has crossed my mind.”
“Then why have you not done anything about it?” Mrs. Philips cried. “Time is not on your side any longer, Victoria,” she continued, “and no longer on Jonavon’s. There are plenty of eligible young women out there. Certainly one of them fits Jonavon’s fancy?”
“Jonavon must choose his own path,” Ms. Collins said strongly. “I cannot make his decisions for him –“
“But you are his mother –“
“This I know,” Ms. Collins replied. “And as his mother it is my job to guide him and give him the tools he’ll need to live his life. It is not my place to live vicariously through him to fix mistakes I once made. It is my duty to help him grow so that he doesn’t make those mistakes. Jonavon is his own person; he’ll live as he sees fit. If he wishes never to marry then so be it!”
There was a heavy silence after Ms. Collins finished; even Jonavon himself had stopped breathing. For his mother to say something so radical… well, it was one of the reasons he looked up to her.
“That was very bold, Victoria,” Anna said. “I won’t try to change what you said; Lord knows how pointless a battle that would be. I just hope you’re happy with your choice. And I hope Jonavon won’t disappoint you.”
She gently set down her tea and stood. “It’s been a pleasure, ladies, but I must return home. I’m sure the children are all wondering where their mother has gone. Thank you for the tea, Victoria, it was delicious.” She bent and kissed her sister on her cheek before leaving the parlor. The other women sat up quickly, and with similar comments, followed suit. Mrs. Philips was the last to leave, giving Victoria a strange look before doing so. When the front door closed, Victoria sighed in relief.
“It’s alright, Jonavon,” she said. “You can come out of hiding now.”
Knowing it would be useless to pretend otherwise, Jonavon entered the parlor. “How did you know I was there?”
Ms. Collins smiled warmly. “A mother always knows where her son is.”