‘Do you really want to marry me?’ Ann asked Anne for the second time. They were back at Shibden. Anne knew the answer and whispered it into Ann’s ear. ‘Yes, my love. I do want to marry you if you will still have me. Only we need to fix this pickle before then. I want you to move into Shibden and be able to go places without fear that your tribe will come after you and try to take you back to Crow Nest.’ Anne said fearful of what might happen if they weren’t able to solve this problem. ‘Anne, dearest, I hope there is a solution to our problem because if there isn’t we may need to move to another part of the country or overseas. Do you know what we can do?’ Then Ann’s phone buzzed in her pocket. They had been eating their sandwiches and talking through their problem. So, with a mouthful of food Ann answered her phone. ‘Hi Liz!’
‘Hi Annie. I called Aunt Ann to talk to her about your guardianship. It seems that we have a small problem. Yes, I am your guardian until you marry but Aunt Ann says I agreed to let Eliza and William be joint guardians for you because at the time we didn’t know what I would be doing in the future. Yes, there is a clause that you are our responsibility until you get married.’
‘Which means Anne and Ann need to get married soon. That isn’t what we want to do but if we don’t then they won’t leave us the fuck alone. Will they?’ Ann said.
‘You’ve got that in one package, Ann. Let me talk to Lister.’ Ann passed the phone to Anne. ‘She wants to talk to you, Anne.’
‘Hi Anne, I don’t know how you are going to get around this one. I know you are good at solving problems. At least, that’s what I have heard. Is it possible that you and Ann could get married. It would stop Ann’s tribe from interfering in her life the way they are trying to right now.’
‘I made a promise to Ann that we wouldn’t marry for a while because we don’t know each other that much and I have been in relationships that have gone pear shape because I have proposed too soon. Then they have left me and married a man.’
‘I think you know Ann would never do that to you. She is very loyal and from what she has said. She loves you so much. Now, do what you need to do to put this problem behind you. Okay!! she needs that now. Can you give Ann her phone back?’ Anne passed Ann her phone. ‘Hi again, Liz.’ Ann said.
‘Hi, Ann. I think you might need to propose to Anne because she is too afraid to propose to you because she thinks she will and you will say yes to marrying her and then leave her for a man.’ Ann looked at Anne and wondering why she thought that way. She finished the phone call with Elizabeth and disconnected the call. Then she took Anne by the hand and lead her into the kitchen. ‘Anne Lister, my sister tells me you are doubting my loyalty to you. Why?’ Ann said. She was feeling very sad that Anne would think that way.’Ann, I don’t know. My past keeps getting in the way of me having a life with someone like you. I am afraid that will happen this time.’ Anne said with tears rolling down her cheeks. Ann wiped them away with her fingers then pulled Anne in for a hug. When she pulled away she got Anne to sit down. She got down on one knee and smiled sweetly. ‘Liz says I should do this because she said you wouldn’t. So, will you marry me, Anne Lister? Will you make a life with me? Will you share your fears and worries. Your good times too with me. Will you?’
‘Ann Walker, yes, I will marry you and make a life with you. I love you, Ann.’
‘I love you too, dearest. I’m in love with you. I always have been.’
‘When and where and how?’ Anne said smiling at her very soon to be wife. She was still fighting with her demons to stop the barriers that they were trying to erect between her and her chance for happiness. ‘Anytime, Anywhere and anyway.’ Ann said. She still couldn’t believe it was happening. ‘Then we pack some gear and go on a honeymoon to Ireland. I know you would like to go there. Wouldn’t you, Anne?’
‘Yes, we can do that but I want to take Bertha.’ Anne said sounding disappointed. ‘There is probably a ferry we can take. Or we could go to Europe, ride around for a week and camp. Would you prefer to do that, dearest?’
‘Yes, what about last names? What do you want to do?’ Anne asked tentatively because she wanted Ann to take her last name. She had always wanted her wife to do that for as long as she could remember.
‘What about last names, Anne? Ann asked. She knew why Anne was asking her. She had figured Anne would like her to take her name. Only with them having the same first name it is going to be strange if they are both Anne Lister. With or without an E. ‘Ann.’ Anne said shyly. ‘I have always wanted my wife to take my last name but if you want to keep your last name that’s okay by me.’ Anne Lister, I can have a hyphenated name, Walker-Lister or Lister-Walker. What do you think?’ What do I think? Anne thought. Maybe it would work. I could be Walker Lister. And you could be Lister Walker. Yet, that may still get confusing. ‘Why don’t we just stay as we are? Then there would be no confusion. Okay!!’ Anne said. She always knew Ann would be her wife no matter what name she took. ‘That’s fine by me. Of course, you can call me Mrs Lister if you wish and I will always answer to that.’ Anne’s smile was so wide it nearly swallowed her face. ‘You look happy, dearest. I wonder why.’
‘Mrs Lister, I think you know why.’ Anne said shyly. She had wanted to call her wife that and now Ann had given her permission. ‘Do you like it when I call you Mrs Lister?’
‘Do I like it. Mrs Lister, I love it nearly as much as I love you.’
‘Come on, love birds. I think I am going to puke if you keep this up.’ Marian said as she made a puking sound. ‘Come on, Marian. Let them be. Leave them alone. They are happy and in love.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘It’s great to see Anne has finally found someone who will stand by her no matter what and Ann Walker is going to do that.’ Anne and Ann were hugging each other with their heads on each others’ shoulder as Aunt Anne spoke those words. It was true Anne had truly found her forever wife and so had Ann. They held each other tight and sobbed softly. Anne had never felt so connected to someone in her life. Ann was someone she could love for always.
Anne and Ann must have stayed like that for a long time. When they parted Anne could feel the lose immensely and she shivered. Ann could see that. She grabbed Anne’s hand and held it against her chest. Anne could feel Ann’s heart pounding. It was as though she had experienced a shock. She never thought Ann would feel this way. Then Anne moved her hand from Ann’s chest still holding Ann’s hand and said. ‘Feel this.’ As she placed Ann’s hand near her heart. They were beating as one in that moment. They smiled.
Aunt Anne had gone to the kitchen to make them a cup of coffee for Anne & Ann. She thought after all the excitement they would be thirsty and hungry. She smiled as she set their drinks on the coffee table along with ham and cheese sandwiches and chocolate crackles which it seemed they both like. They ate greedily. .Neither realised how hungry they were. When they were finished Aunt Anne had a few questions she wanted answered. ‘Where will you get married and when?’
‘We haven’t decided yet.’ Ann said shyly. She knew Aunt was just wondering. ‘Who will give you away, Ann?’
‘I was wondering if Anne’s father would. I would like that.’
‘Why don’t you ask him now?’ Aunt said as father walked into the sitting room. ‘Father, the brides were wondering if you would give Ann to Anne in marriage.’ Aunt asked. ‘Yes, I would be happy to do that, Ann.’ He sat down to read the newspaper and grab a chocolate crackle but he was soon distracted by the conversation going on around him.’Where will you live?’ Aunt asked tentatively. ‘Here, at Shibden. It will be lovely one day but for now. Ann loves it as it is.’ Anne said with trepidation in her voice. She really didn’t know if Ann wanted to live there even though she said she liked Shibden the way it was. ‘What about Ann’s tribe?’
‘What about Ann’s tribe?’ Anne said with more anger than she imagined she had in her. ‘Won’t they come to take her back home even though you will be married. ‘
‘Once we are married they have no claim to Ann. The guardianship becomes void after we have signed the marriage certificate.’
‘Good. One more question and this is for both of you. Is this what you really want? It seems as though you have both been pushed to make a decision to marry sooner than you wanted to.’
‘Yes, it does seem like that, Aunt Anne but, and I think I can speak for Anne, this is what we both desire. It would have happened one day but now this hand has been dealt and we need to play it. I know we will have a few hiccups along the way. All relationships do. Yet, I know we will do fine.’ Ann said hoping that what she was saying gave both of them the courage to continue on the path they were on. ‘Okay, If you say so. Who will be your bridesmaid and best man/woman?’
‘I thought Catherine since she was the one who brought me to the pub where I met Anne and I suppose Anne would like to ask one of her friends.’
‘I had thought of asking Tib but she is more often so drunk. I don’t think I would ask Mariana. She would have nose put out of joint. I might ask Marian.’ she said that as Marian walked into the room. ‘I heard my name. What might you ask me, sister dear?’
‘We were wondering.’ Ann said. If ….you would like to get gussied up and be in our wedding? We haven’t decide a date or time yet.’
‘I would love to as long as I don’t have to wear a dress.’ Marian said. She had always wanted to wear a suit and now was her chance. ‘No probs. Since you will be my best man. Well, in your case, woman. Catherine will be Ann’s bridesmaid. Is that okay?’
‘Yes!!; Marian said. ‘it is more than okay. Now, you need to decide when and where.’
‘Here at Shibden ASAP.’
‘ASAP.’ Marian said puzzled.
As soon as possible. When are you free?’ Anne asked.
‘Any day ending in Y.’ Marian said with a silly grin on her face.
‘Marian be serious for a minute or three.’ Anne said.
‘Sister, I am free anytime. Okay!!’