The Extended Epilogue
Six Years Later
The table in the Somersby house was laden with dishes that took their beleaguered cook most of the day to prepare, and Anna had helped her as best she could when she was not running around seeing to other preparations.
Samuel had come out from the city, and he brought with him several of the landowners and producers who had slowly built their businesses back up after the effects of the Corn Laws had been relaxed a little.
They were hosting a dinner to celebrate the recovery, and to celebrate the opening of the Somersby Academy. They had built a long building on the southern end of the property which had a library, a classroom, and several small rooms for students to sleep in, if they had nowhere else to go.
Anna’s reputation as a teacher had spread through the upper circles in recent years, but she had never lost her passion for helping those who were less fortunate.
Tommy had taken on the role of helping place children from the streets in likely apprenticeships, having worked himself up from a newsboy to a typesetter, and was familiar with many local shops who requested to have ‘Help Wanted’ advertisements printed, and he also sent Anna students who he knew needed extra attention before they could make it on their own.
The guest rooms of Somersby house had quickly filled up with these children sleeping two or three to a bed, and they knew they had to come up with another solution, thus, the Academy was born.
Several of the noble families from both London and the surrounding countryside wanted their children to study with Anna, too. They had to institute a waiting list for spaces to be taught, as Anna only had so much time to devote to each student.
Samuel’s guests dribbled in over the course of approximately an hour, and Anna made sure that all the last details were in place to make their home presentable for the festivities. Their two young boys had been wrestled into appropriate clothing, and Lucas’s hair—their older son— was tamed into something resembling order.
They gathered around the table and toasted old friends and new opportunities. The room was filled with the sound of crystal glasses clinking against one another and then a moment of silence as they all drank their toast. Anna looked at Matthew over the top of her glass as she sipped and found him looking back at her. He flashed a quick wink, and she smiled as she lowered her goblet.
It was a good year, and full of promise. Their sons were finally to an age where their questions had gone from an endless string of ‘why?’ and began to take steps into ‘how?’ and she devoted a great deal of time to explaining as much of the world as she could to their voracious minds.
Samuel was even smiling; he had lost much of the rabid-dog intensity he had during the days when the protests were at their height. He still arranged a meeting here or there, but they were far more focused on using the connections between the gentry and the common folk to improve conditions for everyone.
The hardships they endured were finally turning into prosperity, and Anna was happy with their out-of-the-way estate and the lack of pressure to be involved in the society events of London. Christine was far better suited to that role, and it was one she executed with alacrity.
“Mommy? May I sit with you?” Lucas asked, standing beside her chair as the conversation around the table carried on in low tones.
“Of course, dear.” She set her glass down and slid her chair back, making room for him to climb up onto her lap.
He leaned his head against her shoulder, and she rested her head against the top of his, closing her eyes for a brief moment. For possibly the thousandth time in motherhood, she wished she could freeze her child in amber, and have him always be as sweet and perfect as he was in that moment. As much as she wanted to protect him, to ensure he would never know pain or suffering, she knew there was beauty in maturing and understanding the world.
He lifted his head and turned his face to hers. His eyes were wide and green, like his father’s, but she could see herself in the shape of his nose and lips. He settled back down against her shoulder and murmured, “I love you, mommy,”
She was grateful that he was not looking directly at her, because she felt tears start in her eyes. Children always grew concerned when an adult, particularly their parent, started to cry.
It was all worth it. All the struggle, with the Somersbys doing everything short of disowning Matthew to distance themselves from his involvement in the affairs of the lower classes. She had a husband she loved and two beautiful sons. It was enough good fortune to break her heart.
“I love you too, dear,” she said with as level a voice as she could manage. She looked across the table at Matthew, who smiled at the two of them as he held Nathan, their younger son.
She had her family around her, with a purpose and a future, and it was everything she had ever wanted.