‘Our family has always had a bit of magic running through its veins. Your ancestors were once witches who could foretell certain events, Evie.’
How many evenings had Evelyn listened to her grandmother make that outlandish claim while knitting in her rocking chair by the fire? More than she could count. She had never believed her grandmother until recently.
The insistent feeling that something momentous would soon occur overcame Evelyn as she walked toward the crumbling cottage tucked away in its overgrown meadow. The premonition had been pulling her back to this location often for several weeks. Her hope strengthened with every visit.
Is Ian coming home? Is he still alive?
She and Ian had played together near the cottage as children. As teenagers, they had shared their hopes and dreams with each other, using its stone walls as cover from prying eyes and ears. Seven years ago, they had married in a small, private ceremony near what remained of its structure. After their families and friends had left, they had made love for the first time in the meadow under the stars on a warm summer night.
‘I’m going to save up enough money to buy this land and cottage for us, Evie. We’ll rebuild the place and raise our family here. Grow old together here. What do you say, Evie?’’
Ian left a week later to travel to the coast where he could learn a trade in the city and earn some money, promising to write as soon as he was settled. But then war had broken out soon after, catching everybody off guard. Ian had planned to return in six months but it had been seven years since she had last seen him. Evelyn had received no word from him; no mail was getting through. Not even after the war had ended six months ago.
How badly she wished she could write to him! Ian had taken her heart with him but he had unknowingly left behind a most precious gift, one she longed to share with him.
“Mommy!” There was an impatient tug on Evelyn’s skirt. “Not this place again. Can we go? It’s boring here.”
Evelyn smiled and crouched down, smoothing her palm over her daughter’s auburn curls, so different from her own blonde hair. Lily looked so much like her father. “I know, Lily. Let’s search for some wildflowers in the meadow. I’ll make you a flower necklace. Would you like that?”
“Yay!” Evelyn received a boisterous nod and a lopsided smile with a missing front tooth. “Can we look now?”
“Yes,” she answered, standing.
Lily grabbed her hand and tried to pull her forward before letting go to run ahead. Evelyn laughed at her daughter’s antics but the sound cut off when a man stepped out from the shadows cast by the cottage. A horse snorted and Evelyn jumped, looking around.
The chestnut gelding was grazing under the shade of an old oak tree, a saddle placed on the ground nearby. There was a sword propped against it. Evelyn frowned. How had she missed seeing this?
The man started toward Evelyn, pulling her attention back to him. She couldn’t look away. Her heart skipped a beat as hope gained even more traction there.
Could it be? She stared, motionless, as he approached.
The man walked with a limp and his left arm was missing below the elbow, the empty sleeve of his linen shirt folded and pinned into place. He wore buckskin breeches tucked into scuffed leather boots. Shaggy auburn hair grew to his shoulders; his face unshaven. A jagged scar cut across one cheek.
Their eyes met and Evelyn recognized his warm hazel gaze. He had returned to her.
“Ian,” she whispered, tears trickling down her cheeks.
“I’m home, Evie.”
Crying joyfully, Evelyn closed the remaining distance between them and threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her back, his one-armed embrace no less familiar or comforting.
“I’m sorry, Evie. I tried to make it back home before the fighting broke out but the army was conscripting every eligible man in the city when I arrived. I tried to send word but all the mail routes were cut off other than the ones used for the war effort. They’re still not up and running yet. All I could do was hope the rumors saying the fighting hadn’t moved inland towards our village were true. Then I needed time to recover before I could travel again.”
“Oh Ian! I’m just happy you’re home. I missed you so much! I feared I had lost you.”
“I’ll always come back to you,” Ian whispered, caressing her face with his fingers. “I never wanted to stay away for so long.” He kissed her forehead gently. “I saved as much of my army salary as I could. I have enough to buy this place for us now. I’m home for good.”
Evelyn stood on her toes, pressing her lips against his, savoring the feel of Ian’s body close to hers once again. Their kiss was sweet and passionate, reminding her of the love they had always shared while promising brighter things for their future.
Ian broke off the kiss at the sound of Lily’s shy voice. He looked down at their daughter with amazed wonder. There were tears in his eyes now when he glanced back at Evelyn.
“Yes,” Evelyn answered.
A huge grin spread across Ian’s mouth as he awkwardly crouched down to Lily’s level.
“This is Lily, Ian. Lily, say hi to your…”
“Daddy?” Lily asked.
Surprise crossed Ian’s face. He nodded, seemingly at a loss for words.
“Daddy!” Lily jumped with excitement before hugging him tightly, knocking Ian back onto his bottom. Evelyn laughed as she sat down to join them. Her small family was finally whole. She had wished it to be so for a long time while fearing the odds were against it. Maybe there was a bit of magic out there after all.
“I love you both,” Ian murmured, wrapping his good arm around them for a tight hug. “It’s so good to be home.”
A heartfelt, romantic moment exquisitely captured. Hmm, I sense a novella ❤.
Thank you. Your senses would be correct. When I have time to focus more on original work, I plan to revisit Evie and Ian’s story in more detail. I think there are a lot of interesting aspects of their relationship to explore.
Heartwarming homecoming in their beautiful place where God’s special gift was been created, Lily. Sounds promising love story.
Thank you! Evelyn and Ian’s story is one I would like to explore further in the future when I have the time.