Theo took Rosalie’s hand and brought it to his lips. The carriage taking them home bumped about on the cobblestone roads, but Theo didn’t mind. It gave him the opportunity to pull his wife closer to his side. She snuggled into him with a contented sigh.
“Tonight was lovely.” She tipped her head up to look at him, her glossy brown hair framing her beloved face, glowing silver in the moonlight. He gave into the urge to kiss the tip of her nose, and his heart warmed with her returning smile.
Though they’d been married ten years, Theo couldn’t get enough of his wife. She was his home, in a way he’d never had a home before. It was difficult to contemplate his childhood and early adult years, especially now that he had children of his own. He hadn’t realized how lonely he was until his days and nights were filled with people, joy, and love.
“Christina Rossetti’s poem was delightful. ‘The Goblin Market.’ I’d love to share it with William and Rosie,” Rosalie said. “I’m so glad Mr. Hartley invited the poetess to his dinner.”
“Hartley has a great affinity for poetry,” Theo said. “That poem did make me quite hungry, though.”
Rosalie laughed. “All that talk of fruits. I didn’t think I could eat another bite until then! But what I wouldn’t give for a bowl of fresh cherries, strawberries, and peaches.”
Theo chuckled. “In a few more months. In the meantime, we’ll have to make due with dried apples.”
She wrinkled her nose. Rosalie did not like dried fruit of any sort. He loved that he knew this about her. He also knew that her feet were cold every morning. That she loved to lean her head to the right when they kissed. That she sometimes spoke in her sleep, though he never had been able to engage her in sleepy conversation, try as he might.
“Were you able to get your mind off everything, then?” he asked, regretting the words as soon as they were out of his mouth. If she had been able to find distraction in the evening’s activities, he’d surely just reminded her of the letter they’d received that morning.
“For a time,” she said. “At least we know where Uriah is, even if he’s still causing trouble.” Her father had written from Surrey to say that Uriah had gone to America with a group of uncouth men. Rosalie still had hopes for her brother’s redemption, but as for Theo, he couldn’t be sad that Uriah was on another continent. Perhaps he could let his guard down now.
The carriage driver pulled around to the front of Aunt Celia’s house. Though Rosalie and Theo had been living there for five years now, Theo still thought of it as Celia’s. When her health began to decline, Rosalie and Theo, along with their two tiny children, had moved in to help her with taking in women and children in need. Rosalie, along with Harriet, who had stayed on to help manage the affairs of the home and care for Aunt Celia, had made it her life’s mission to continue the work of her great aunt.
To the women who came, it was now called The Spark Home. It came from his wife’s favorite quote in James: “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth.” Rosalie had certainly turned their home into the kind of fire that provided warmth to countless people, including Theo. Sometimes he had to pause and absorb the overwhelming gratitude he felt for his life. How grateful he was that he’d been working that day in the Crystal Palace when Prince had escaped Rosalie’s reticule and wound up in his arms.
“I want to check on the kids,” she whispered when they came inside. He walked up the stairs with her. They cracked open William’s door. Their eight-year-old son was flung across his bed horizontally, his blankets strewn along the floor.
“He takes after his mother’s sleeping habits,” Theo said with a smirk. Rosalie let out an indignant sound, and lightly smacked his stomach, though he could see the hint of a smile she was fighting in the upturned corners of her mouth. Rosalie was a restless sleeper—her creative, nighttime mind full of dreams and adventures he could only imagine.
They went to Rosie’s room next. Prince always slept in Rosie’s room, tucked under her arm. Their five year old slept like an angel, her dark hair spread along her pillow, and her body curled into Prince’s. The dog lifted his head to look at Theo and Rosalie, his tail wagging sleepily, before he settled back into Rosie’s loving arms.
Prince and Rosie had been an unbreakable pair, from the moment she’d been born.
Rosalie shut the door quietly, and they headed to their own bedroom. Before they got there, Theo gave in to the urge to lift Rosalie off of her feet and into his arms. She let out a surprised, delighted cry and threw her arms around his neck, bringing their faces close together.
“What’s this for?” she asked.
“I just love you.”
“I love you too.”
She brought her lips to his in a tender kiss that would never get old. “You know, I’m suddenly not that tired,” she said between kisses.
“I’m also feeling wide awake myself,” Theo replied, a devilish smile spreading across his face.
“Then what are we waiting for?” Rosalie whispered, tilting her head toward their bedroom door with a raised eyebrow.
Theo didn’t need to be told twice. He carried his wife into their bedroom and shut the door behind them, his heart fuller than he ever knew it could be.