"When I Saw His Face"
by
Nancy Moser
The carriage pulled away from the church. The wedding guests waved and cheered as the bride and groom began
their new lives together.

Esther Horton raised her hand to wave, but returned it to her side before the action could be completed. “Petunia
didn’t even say goodbye.”

The words were said for her own benefit, but overheard by her brother-in-law. “You expected otherwise?”

“Hoped otherwise.”

Clarence put an arm around her shoulders. “You’ve done well with her since Stephen died.”

“Well enough?”

He shrugged.  “Petunia has always owned her own mind.”

“Which she does not hesitate to share with others.”

“Often and vociferously.”

They shared a resigned smile and looked in the direction the carriage had gone.

“Will they be happy?” Clarence asked.

“I pray it will be so,” Esther said.

“But?”

Esther fingered the fringe on her shawl. “I expect Petunia will make her husband quite…” she didn’t wish to say the
word.

“Miserable?”

There was a disconcerting satisfaction in having someone else understand the situation. “We both know if making
people miserable is a talent, Petunia can easily be considered a girl with unparalleled expertise.”

Clarence chuckled.  “’For better or worse’, she is John’s problem now.”

“If it goes badly it’s your fault. You introduced them when she visited you last spring.”

He sighed. “May she become his blessing.”

They watched as the wedding guests dispersed and Pastor Wilkins closed the doors of the church. The wedding was
over. The task fully accomplished.

Esther sighed. “Now what?”

“What, you say?” Clarence asked.

She hadn’t realized she’d spoken the words aloud. “Nothing.” She took his arm. “Walk me home.”

After a dozen steps he said, “You should move back to Manchester with Sarah and I. Your parents have passed, and
with Petunia moving to London, there’s nothing to keep you here in tiny Chancebury. It was Stephen’s choice to
move here. I never understood why the countryside was always a lure to him.”

“It’s a fine village. We were happy here. I am happy here.”

“So you say, but it’s not like you were born here.”

“I believe living in a village for eighteen years provides even the most grudging resident the opinion that I am a full
citizen of Chancebury in body, loyalty, and emotional connection.”

“But with your step-daughter gone, this is your chance to start over. Elsewhere. Fresh and new.”

The simple notion of it made her shake her head vehemently. The action made her think of another ‘fresh and
new” beginning, instituted after Stephen died. “If I left, what of my pies?” she asked. “People have grown to
depend on them.”

“People depend on meat and milk and even a pint of ale. They do not depend on pies.”

“You offend me.”

“I mean no offense. I simply speak facts, Esther. If you shutter your pie shop, the world would not shudder.”

She stopped their progress to face him. “You offend me again.”

He studied her face a moment, then offered her a bow. “Forgive me. I merely want you to be happy. Losing
Stephen, bringing up Petunia on your own, then having her leave…”

She took his arm and they resumed their walk. “I appreciate your kind hopes. But what you are not considering is
how important the pies are to me. The shop saved me these past six years. Beyond earning a living, they gave me a
purpose. The shop is more than something to do, it is something to be.”

“I misspoke.” He patted her hand. “I have tasted your pies. There are none to rival them.”

She had a new thought that might make her point. “Did the eating of my pies make you happy?”

He nodded. “And quite contented.”

“The baking of those pies has the same effect on me, Clarence. They make me happy and content. Therefore, I will
not give them up and risk some possible betterment of life elsewhere for what is already good right here.”

“Your point is duly taken.”

Finally.

They reached the garden gate of her cottage. “Would you like to come in for some tea?”

“Do you desire the company?”

She considered this a moment.  “Actually, I am quite done-in.”

“Then I will be on my way. Sarah will not sleep well until I am snoring beside her.”

Esther kissed his cheek. “Tell her I hope she feels better soon.”

“I will.” He turned to leave, then stopped. “Remember, Esther. We are always here for you.”

“I know, and I thank you for it. Good evening, Clarence, and safe travel home.”

He tipped his hat and walked back to the church where his carriage waited.

Esther closed the garden gate, and took a moment to look upon her home. For the first time in her life she would
live here alone. No Stephen. And now, no Petunia.

Just me.

The day had brought a crucial change that could not be undone. From this moment forward everything would be
different.

She paused to let the thought settle, for surely such a monumental change demanded a monumental response. She
took a breath in and let it out, willing for despair or regret to fall upon her and demand release.

But suddenly, another emotion stepped forward, one that was so foreign yet so insistent, it would not be denied.
Rather than let its release be public, she quickly stepped inside and latched the door behind her. Assured in her
privacy that she would not be the next subject of village gossip, Esther bent her knees low and then jumped into
the air, her arms skimming the low ceiling, her shawl flying toward the rungs of the rocking chair...(continued)



    Copyright 2017 Nancy Moser
    Barbour Publishing
Excerpt from
The Regency Brides
Collection