The Extended Epilogue
Three Years Later
“Are you ready?” Joshua asked, looking first at nine-year-old Winston, and then at little Marina, now three.
“I’ve been ready for months,” Winston said with a huff. “Why does it always take so long?”
“I hope it’s a girl,” Marina said with a giggle. “Boys are smelly.”
“No,” Winston said firmly. “Girls are the smelly ones.”
“All right, you two,” Joshua said, chuckling at their bickering. They were just like the grandmas—as close as close could be, but forever arguing. “Come on, then, take my hand.”
He held his hands out and each of them took one. Joshua took a deep breath, and then stepped into the room, where his beautiful wife and the newest addition to the family were.
Selina looked up when they entered, a broad smile on her face. The baby was swaddled in her arms, suckling on the very tip of her little finger.
“Good morning,” she said in a quiet voice.
“Mama!” Marina said, toddling over to Selina.
“It’s a boy,” Selina said, and Joshua could see the pride written across her face. “A beautiful baby boy.”
Joshua perched on the edge of the bed, putting a gentle hand on the baby’s chest as Selina shifted for him to get a better look.
“Heavens, he’s perfect,” Joshua said.
“I wanted a girl,” Marina said, but she shrugged. “But he’s sweet enough, I suppose. He’ll do.”
Selina chuckled. “Yes, he’ll do. What do you think, Winston?”
Winston hadn’t said a word, merely stood there wide-eyed, a look of sheer excitement on his face, though he seemed frozen to the spot.
“Winston?” Joshua asked, brow creased with concern. “What is it?”
“A boy! A little brother, just like I’ve always wanted!”
“Girls are better,” Marina said with a huff.
“Oh, you’re acceptable, Marina,” he replied matter-of-factly, even though Joshua knew how much he adored his sister. “But a boy!”
“You can come over here and offer a proper welcome, if you want,” Selina said, urging him on.
Winston took a few tentative steps forward, staring eagerly at the baby.
“I cannot wait to play all sorts of games with him. And go for walks, and chase each other, and do all those things Joshua told me he used to do with Brandon.”
Joshua chuckled. “He might be a bit young, yet.”
“You’ll probably have to wait a little while before you can do anything like that,” Selina said. “He’s still so small and fragile.”
“But there are other things you can do,” she explained. “Like love him and hold him. And you can tell him all about our lives, and maybe teach him things, too.”
“Well, that will do for starters,” Winston said, very officially.
“Would you like to hold him?” Selina asked, looking up at Joshua.
His breath caught, but he nodded mutely, his eyes wide. He reached down and slowly slipped his arms under the baby, just as Selina slid hers away. He sat back on the bed, and he looked down at his new son in perfect awe.
“He’s…” He cleared his throat.
He couldn’t get the words out; he was so choked up with emotion. He knew in that moment, just as he had when Marina was born, that he loved this child more than anything in the world, and that he would do everything in his power to keep him safe and happy.
Marina approached them and stood on tiptoes, stretching her neck to get a better view of her new brother. She wrinkled up her nose.
“Babies are strange,” she said, tilting her head this way and that as if trying to understand the small creature in front of her.
“You were a baby once,” Winston protested. “And you were the strangest of them all.”
“Maybe,” Marina shrugged. “But I’m glad I’m not a baby anymore.”
“Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself to remind myself all this is real,” Joshua said, brushing his finger over his son’s chubby little cheek. “It was so close to all being a dream.”
“But it worked out for the best, in the end,” Selina said.
“And the journey was at least exciting,” Joshua chuckled. “I really thought I’d lost you, all those years ago.”
“I was foolish to even think I could have carried on without you. And married that man, do you remember?”
“He was a brute. No mistake in saying that,” Joshua said, pulling a face.
“He was the worst,” Winston said firmly. “But luckily for you, I found a way of bringing you together.”
Selina chuckled. “You did?”
“Why, yes. If I hadn’t run away, you would have married smelly Gerard and life would have been positively awful.”
Smelly Gerard had become something of a nickname, and Selina had found it necessary to remind Winston several times not to call him that in public. She couldn’t properly reprimand him, though, and neither could Joshua, because they found it too funny.
“Let’s look to the future now,” Selina said. “If ever there was a reason to do that, a new baby in the family is it.”
“Do you think there’ll be many more babies, Mama?” Marina asked.
“Let me recover from this one first,” Selina replied with a chuckle.
“I hope there are at least one hundred more,” Joshua said.
“One hundred! Daddy, that’s far too many!”
Joshua looked up to see Laura poking her head around the door.
“Can we come in?” Beatrice asked, peering over Laura’s shoulder.
“Of course,” he said. “Grandmas are always welcome.”
Joshua had insisted, from the moment she was born, that Marina thought of Beatrice as her grandmother, too. He had told her that one of her grandmothers—his own mother—was in heaven, and that she had sent Beatrice to take her place and help look after them all.
And in turn, Beatrice treated Marina as though she was a blood relation, the two of them as close as Beatrice and Winston ever were.
“Oh, he’s adorable,” Laura said.
Joshua felt the bed shift beneath him as Laura sat down beside him, leaning forward to see the baby.
“Isn’t he just. Like a little angel.”
“Come and look, Beatrice,” Laura urged, ushering her over with her hand.
Beatrice hovered awkwardly in the doorway, smiling uncertainly, but she didn’t move.
“He is indeed a beauty,” she said.
“Why are you standing there?” Laura asked irritably. “For goodness sake, Beatrice.”
Selina put her hand on her mother’s arm to quiet her.
“Beatrice, are you all right?”
“Of course,” Beatrice said, throwing her a weak smile.
Joshua got up from the bed, slowly so as not to disturb the baby, and he walked over to her, talking gently to the little one as he did so.
“This is your Grandma Griffiths,” he said. “And I just know you two will become the best of friends.”
Beatrice smiled gratefully at him, then looked down at the baby, her eyes filling with tears.
“He’s beautiful,” she said.
“And you’ll be this baby’s grandmother as well,” Joshua said. “Just as you are to Winston and to Marina. Here, take him.”
Beatrice gasped with delight, then took the baby from Joshua and wandered into the room. Joshua went to sit on the couch next to his other two children.
“Have you thought of a name yet?” Beatrice asked.
“No, not yet,” Selina admitted.
“You’ll have to do so soon,” Laura said, shocked that the poor child didn’t have a name.
Joshua cleared his throat. He had an idea—one he had been toying with for months, now. He had been waiting for the right moment to suggest it, but it had never seemed to come up. Until now.
“I have an idea for a name,” he said. “But only if everyone here likes it.”
He looked at each of them in turn, and they stared back in eager anticipation.
“Well?” Selina asked.
Joshua cleared his throat again, and then said, “I’d like to call the baby Gabriel.”
Beatrice let out a happy sob, still clutching the baby, and Laura got up to put a comforting arm around her. Selina, too, had tears running down her face, but they were happy tears, at least.
“What do you think?” Joshua asked, still feeling nervous about their reaction.
“I think it’s perfect, Joshua,” Selina said, reaching out to take his hand. “It’s absolutely perfect.”