“Aoife!” she said, standing up as she saw her husband’s cousin. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Aoife said. “But I’ll never be as pretty as you.”
“You always were. You have an inner glow that more than makes up for lack of stunning beauty, if you’ll excuse me to say. It overpowers the rest of you,” declared Lindy with faith in her sapphire-studded eyes. “Now, you must be very busy. Is there anything you particularly want me to help you with?”
Aoife stared a moment. “Oh, Lindy!” she cried, and hugged her. “What would I do without you?”
Lindy merely inclined her head in modest acquiescence. “I’ll find some cake for you to take. You have to leave in less than an hour, don’t you? Train to catch?”
“I just want to ask you if you really don’t mind keeping Nathaniel for a while. I can’t let him stay with you unless you really don’t mind. I can make other arrangements for him if…”
“Now, now. It’s really not the time for altering arrangements that have been made months ago with perfect satisfaction,” tutted Lindy with conclusive efficiency. “We’d love to keep Nat for as long as possible. He’s far too little to be playing around big children like Delia and Daniel, and Rob and Serena and I love him to bits. Now, you have a lot to do and I have to see about that cake. Shoo, Mrs Watersheen! Shoo!”
Aoife, blushing bright pink at the revelation of being addressed with her new title, found her feet taking herself to her parents Geoff and Mariel.
“Aoife, darling! How wonderful you look. We’re so glad you’re happy.”
“I am,” said Aoife simply. “Very happy.”
“We’ve always loved you, even though we haven’t been very clued up,” Mrs Thimble said. “We love you today more than any other time, though.”
“I knew you did, really,” Aoife said, her voice muffled by her mother’s shoulder. “I just had to fight with the facts.”
“Always trust instinct,” Mr Thimble laughed. “We’ve thought of you every day for ten years, but never got round to actually ringing up and having a chat. We’re really sorry.”
“It’s alright. I’ve been glad to be in Pentingdon helping Uncle Humph with the mob. If I hadn’t lived with them, I would never have met Vinzent. I suppose I should be grateful to you. And now I’m so very sorry, but I have a train and a husband waiting for me.”
“Of course. Let her go, Mariel. Goodbye, Aoife. Good hunting. We hope to be in Pentingdon for the New Year.”
Aoife granted her dad a grateful look as she escaped into the crowd. “We’re so proud of you, Aoife!” called her mum after her, and Aoife’s ears were ringing with the pleasant sensation of long overdue praise and love from her parents as she hurriedly changed into her going away kit and met Vinzent where he awaited her on the smooth threshold of the beautiful church.