Hello, everyone! This is just a little Christmas story that was in my head. It takes place before the birth of the Gisborne children. I hope you like it!
Something curious was going on.
Guy closely observed his wife, who was helping her sister-in-law hang boughs of holly and evergreen. Every now and then, he saw the unusual way in which Cassia smiled. Not that the expression itself was an odd thing. Indeed, she was one of the most cheerful people he knew, with a mischievous sense of humor, and a laugh that tingled his senses and set his heart to fluttering. One of his greatest pleasures was kissing her while she laughed. When their lips met during a moment of glee, he always felt such a great rush of giddy pleasure.
But looking at her now, he sensed there was something else there besides her usual gaiety. There was a light of childish delight written in her eyes, and he began to suspect that it was more than the yuletide activities that had her in such spirits. She had a secret, it seemed. And the way she occasionally glanced in his direction, only to avert her eyes while trying to hide her beaming expression, it made him deduce that her secret had something to do with him.
It was too hard to resist such a look. Approaching her, he saw the way that both she and Rosalyn looked at him, each with a little grin. If there was one thing he could figure right away, it was the clear fact that they were in this conspiracy together. He wore his own little smile as he spoke to them.
“Ladies,” he greeted them. “Are you enjoying your festive chores?”
Cassia’s eyes twinkled as she replied. “Very much, my lord husband. Our first Christmas together will be an occasion to remember.”
He nodded in accord with her observation. “Indeed,” he said, while his curiosity ran wild about what was going on in her mind. Unable to delay a moment longer, he reached out to grasp her hand. “If you please, I wish to have a private word with you, wife. It is most urgent.”
Without waiting for a reply, he tugged her along as he left the room, seeking the outdoors as a more private place for conversation. Her expression grew concerned.
“What is it, Guy? Is something wrong?”
“Not to my knowledge,” he replied, moving down the front gravel walk. “But indeed, there is something of a mystery to be solved between us. Come, now. Out with it!”
“Out with what?” she asked, a note of faux innocence in her words. Looking at her, he saw the little smirk forming on her lips. But he was not fooled. He scolded her, but with a teasing note in his voice.
“Do not be coy with me, woman. You are harboring a secret, and you do a poor job of disguising the fact. Indeed, it is written in your lineaments at this very moment. Speak, or I shall find my own way of prying the information from you.”
He saw the way she smiled at his challenge. It was a game they often played. She would deny him in some way, and a chase would often ensue, in which he would eventually catch her and tickle her until she relented. But in this case, she relented sooner than usual.
“Very well, Guy. If you insist. But first, let us find a comfortable place to sit.”
They walked towards the beach, and she talked as they moved along.
“This Yuletide has been most delightful. I have not found such cause for celebration since I was a child, when Stephen and I would gather with the other children in Nottingham. After Christmas Mass, we would make merry in the square and play games. I enjoyed building animals made of snow.”
Guy scoffed. “I have no fond memories of Nottingham, or of Yuletides gone by. All were spent in various work related duties. But I have no wish to think of the past. I live only for the present.” They came to the shore, and he gestured to a log that served as a favorite resting place. “At present,” he said, “I wish to know the secret you keep from me. Here we are. Now, sit. And do not make further delay.”
They sat together, and he searched her expression, which took on a more serious note.
“Guy, have you noticed changes in me? I mean, besides my state of happiness.”
He thought for a moment, but shook his head in denial. “Nothing extraordinary.”
Her eyes grew slightly larger, as though she was trying to speak with them. “Have you not noticed the increase in my appetite? Or the slight thickening of my waistline?”
A slight smile lifted the corners of his mouth. He had noticed a bit of a change, but had attributed it to the blessings of their new life together. She was no longer a peasant, struggling to scrape together an existence. He was happy to see her with a healthy appetite.
“I confess,” he replied, “I thought there was indeed a minor difference. But I had no desire to make comment on such a change, for fear of causing offense.”
“Both are parts of a larger picture, Guy.”
He sighed. “Cassia, I still do not understand…”
Before he could finish, she took his hand and placed it on her abdomen. In an instant he understood. His mouth fell slightly open, words failing him. Her words grew soft.
“I am with child, Guy.”
For several long moments, he lacked the ability to respond. He had waited so long for this moment. They both had. But the reality of it was staggering, and he was thankful to be sitting down. As the initial shock subsided, he took her free hand and brought it to his lips. His desire was to envelop her in a fierce embrace, but his limbs seemed incapable of great movement. As he pressed a kiss into her palm, she looked at him with curious and smiling eyes.
“Are you happy, Guy?”
Overwhelmed, he struggled to express his feelings. “I am more happy than I can tell you. I hardly know what to say. You know I have no gift for words.”
“Well then,” she said, holding out her arms, “Express your happiness as you do best.”
Without hesitation, encouraged by her welcoming gesture, he gathered her to him in a firm embrace, kissing her repeatedly. She responded with little sounds of contentment and joy, and loving kisses of her own. But after a moment, he pulled back, a concerned look on his face.
“Perhaps I should not be so careless in my enthusiasm. I have no wish to cause you harm.”
With a small laugh, she reassured him. “My darling, I am not made of glass. I promise you, I will not break.”
She returned herself to the closeness of his arms, and he was too elated to refuse her, despite his reservations. Tucking her head under his chin, he held her just so as questions began to form in his mind. There was so much he wished to know.
“When will the child be born?”
“The exact date cannot be certain, of course. But Rosalyn seems to think it will be in late spring or early summer.”
There was relief in knowing his child would be born during such a pleasant time of the year. The thought made him smile, and he began to think of all the preparations they would have to make.
“We must celebrate such a momentous occasion. Stephen will certainly arrange a feast to honor this blessing.”
“I am certain he will,” she replied. “But I am more eager to share this happiness with you.” As she snuggled closer to him, he sighed with great contentment, and a note of amusement played in his words.
“I can hardly believe this news. To think there will soon be more Gisbornes in the world. Some might consider it a frightening prospect.”
She giggled at his self-deprecating sense of humor. Leaning back in his arms, she raised loving eyes to him.
“Oh no,” she said. “There is nothing frightening about the prospect of a Gisborne family. It is a wonderful, joyous thought.”
He kissed her again, and then again. “That it is, my love. That it is indeed.”
Later that night, while Cassia was bathing, Guy sat on their bed with his legs outstretched, leaning back against the pillows. Staring at the fire in the hearth, he was lost in thought. Questions flooded his mind, ranging from the imperative to the mundane.
Father, he asked himself, Or Pappa? Which would they call him, and how would it sound? It was difficult to imagine a child addressing him as such. He had grown accustomed to being called Uncle Guy, as Stephen’s son called him. But to be called father. It was a bewildering prospect.
He was so far into his thoughts that he did not at first see Cassia returning from the bathing chamber. It wasn’t until she called his name that he broke his reverie and looked at her. She always looked so lovely when she was fresh from a bath, dressed in her white nightgown, with her dark hair hanging down and curled slightly from being damp. But tonight, she had a special glow about her. She was lit from within, and it showed in her smile. His eyes looked her over as she came to her side of the bed, and when she crawled to her place beside him, he gathered her close. She leaned her head against him.
“What are you thinking of while you sit here all alone?”
She gave him a curious look. “Such as?”
“What our child will look like, among other things. I hope the bairn favors you and not I.”
She took a playful swipe at him, hitting him lightly on the shoulder. “Oh Guy, why must you always debase yourself? I would be most pleased to have a child who looks like you.”
His mouth curled in a tiny grin. “Because you are in a fragile state, I will not spend energy fighting you.”
“A wise decision,” she replied, with a teasing inflection, “Because you must know I would argue my point until the bitter end.”
They shared a soft sound of laughter, and a few moments of quiet contemplation, before her words became more subdued.
“What more is in your thoughts, husband? I wish to know.”
There were too many thoughts to list. Even as they sat there, warm and content with each other and the happiness of the situation, his mind swirled with all manner of curiosity. But fearing that he might be a burden to her, he shook his head at her question. “It is nothing. Let us sleep. Good night, beloved.” He attempted to kiss her, in the hopes of drawing her attention away from him. But she pushed him back, and a familiar look of stubbornness came to her eyes.
“I do not wish to sleep,” she said. “Not yet.”
It was a losing game, but still he tried to be firm. “I think I must insist. You must rest well, for the sake of the babe.”
She responded with a stern expression, one he knew very well. She was determined, and when she had her mind set on something, she did not give up.
“Guy, you are being evasive. I cannot sleep until I know what you are thinking of.”
He let out a breath as he answered. “I was thinking of the many changes that will soon take place. Our lives will be forever altered by this event.”
“Yes, that is most certain.”
It was his hope that the vague reply he had given would satisfy her, and as a few moments passed in silence, he thought he had escaped her inquisition.
“Guy, if I ask you something, will you answer truthfully?”
She was gently relentless, as she had always been, and he knew there would be no rest until she discovered what thoughts were nagging at him. Reluctantly, he answered.
“I will try.”
Rising to her knees beside him, she turned so that her chest was pressing to his. They were looking at one another, their faces close. There was no escaping her now. He looked into her dark eyes as she posed, in that very candid way of hers, a most bold question.
“Do you fear the loss of your husbandly rights? Is that a concern that weighs on your mind?”
All at once he felt the need to laugh and to hang his head in disgrace. He wished to laugh in amazement at her ability to read him so well. What kind of powerful intuition had God given her that she would think to ask such a question? But his amusement was brief as he felt a terrible sense of guilt come over him. It was no secret that they enjoyed a very active love life. At times, he had wondered if he was too eager in expressing his desires for her. But she was always quick to remind him that he had not married a shy little violet. Her wants and needs matched his own with equal intensity, and he had always felt blessed to have such a union. But how could he now think of such a thing?
“I am a selfish brute,” he muttered, turning his head away. But she instantly forced his eyes back to hers, reassuring him.
“No, no. You are not a brute. We share an equal desire for one another. It is one of the greatest pleasures of our marriage. And I do not see why it should cease simply because I am with child.”
He loved and adored her so, and not just for the many blessing she gave him, but for the bold way in which she claimed him for herself. When she made such demands of him, it was quite the aphrodisiac. But they had another to think of now besides themselves, and it gave him concern.
“Is there not a danger in it?” he asked.
She shrugged. “I do not know for certain. Perhaps I will consult with Rosalyn on the matter.”
“Until then, for the sake of the child, I will refrain.”
A smile came to her lips, and she lovingly tweaked his chin. “You are quite charming when you attempt to be noble.”
“If I am to be a parent,” he replied, “I must commence becoming a more civilized man, and I think it wise to begin sooner rather than later. Next year at this time, I will be a fine example of a noble father.”
As she put her arms around his neck, his hands moved up and down her back, delighting in her warmth and softness. She looked at him in that wonderfully playful manner of hers, answering in a teasing way.
“That is a lovely gesture. But please, do not become entirely decent. That would not do for me. It would not do for me at all.”
They laughed together, celebrating their happiness with the warmth of hands, the strength of embraces, and the tenderness of sweet kisses.
Guy and Cassia stood in the nursery, watching their two children crawl around the room. At eight months old, the twins were in constant motion, sometimes to the dismay of their nurse. Claudia was vigilant, but at times it was difficult to keep up with two babies who were curious about anything and everything. While William went after a toy, Thea pursued Gideon, who was one of the family Mastiffs. He was a huge dog, but experienced enough with children not to be bothered by their actions. Still, when Thea tried to crawl on him, Cassia came and lifted her away. And as Thea was known to do, she began to fuss at being denied what she wanted. Cassia tried to soothe her.
“Forgive me, my darling. But we must make haste. We do not wish to be late for Wassailing.”
With a smile, and a kiss to the baby’s cheek, Cassia handed her over to Guy.
“Cast your spell, Guy. While I see how our son fares.”
While she fetched William, Guy held Thea close to himself. Seeing him, she became calm. There was something about his face that she seemed to like, particularly his nose, which she was always reaching for. He smiled at the feeling of her two tiny hands, thinking what an exquisite little gem she was. He had ordered an assortment of expensive clothing made for both of the children, but he especially liked to see Thea dressed in ornate garments, as she was now. The green velvet dress, embroidered with gold thread, seemed especially perfect for the festive season. And there was so much to be festive about. As Cassia came back, holding William, Guy smiled at her.
“Let us to church,” he said. “We must give thanks for our many Christmas blessings..."
Not sure if I will continue with this. We'll see what the muse decides. :)
Not sure if I will continue with this. We'll see what the muse decides. :)