Epilogue

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 Winter, 1214

Evelyn felt Simon’s weight leaning against her, and she welcomed it. They walked in the garden together. Home, at Guillemot. The December air was cool, but not cold. The climate of southern France was a welcome change from the more northern weather of Paris, which had grown chilly with the onset of Autumn. It served well for the heart, the mind, and especially the body. Since their return, they had made a ritual of daily walks, and looking at Simon, Evelyn felt her heart swell with love and gratitude. His sickness had, at first, made him too weak for anything more than brief exertion. But with each passing day, he pushed himself to do more and more. Almost from the moment he began to improve, taking in solid foods again and standing for short periods of time, he declared that he wanted to go home and finish his recovery there. And Evelyn could not have been happier with his choice. He was thinner now, but he was nearly as strong as ever. She openly admired him as they walked along, and he smiled at her examination.

“You study me, wife. Are you still not convinced of my recovery?”

She pressed herself against his arm where it was linked with hers. A little smile came to her lips. “After last night, I am no longer in doubt of it.” He chuckled, obviously pleased with himself. It had been a long time since they had made love, but last night, they had at last shared the pleasure of returning to one another’s arms.

“Simon,” she said, hardly able to contain her joy. “There is something you should know.” She paused for a moment, looking for the right words.

“What is it?” he asked. “Come, tell me.”

There was a hint of excitement in his voice, as if he already suspected her news. At last, she spoke.

“While we were in Paris, I was unknowingly harboring a secret. A most wonderful, thrilling secret.”

Before she could say more, he stopped and threw his arms around her. She did not have to say more. Judging from the way he repeatedly kissed her lips, he knew.

“When will the babe be born?” he asked. She shook her head.

“I am not certain, but if I am to guess, I think it will be in late spring or early summer.”

 He embraced her again. But then, he pulled back, a worried look on his face. “I have not harmed you, have I? Or the child?”

Reaching up, she cupped his face in her hands. “My darling, I am perfectly fine. I am more than fine. And never fear to hold me in your arms. Your affection will only bring more joy to my life, and that joy will be felt by our child.”

 He smiled, relieved. And then he gathered her in his arms, and kissed her, joyfully...again and again.    

*****

Countess Sophia Cassia Jean-Carré was born, healthy and strong, just in time for the celebration of May Day. Her birth was long and arduous, but in the end, there were only tears of joy and sounds of laughter. When the midwife and priest had gone, and Evelyn and Simon were at last alone with their child, they could not keep their eyes from her. They gazed in admiration of her perfection. They gently touched her tiny pink feet and hands, marveling at their delicate smallness. And both of their hearts swelled with love.

 "Our daughter," Evelyn whispered, teary-eyed. She kissed Sophia’s head. "She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen." 

The baby was small but stout, a lovely little weight in her arms, with a full head of soft brown hair. Her little eyes were closed for a moment, and then she seemed to feel her mother’s gaze upon her, and slowly she opened them. Evelyn took in a small breath of joy and surprise, and she smiled as she turned to Simon.  Though he was overcome with happiness, he seemed nervous about the prospect of holding the babe himself.  But Evelyn reached over and gently placed the babe in her father's arms.  Looking down at his daughter, Simon's mouth opened slightly as he witnessed what Evelyn had seen.

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