Frederick nodded in greeting at several of the other gentlemen as he exited the church for some fresh air, leaving Anne engrossed in conversation with several of their neighbours. He meandered slowly down the path, weaving in and out of the congregation gathered into small knots as they exchanged small tidbits of gossip.
“It's so nice to have an Elliot living back at Kellynch again. Especially Miss Anne.”
Frederick couldn't help but come to a halt when he heard Anne's name mentioned. Hiding behind a group of people so that he was out of view of the speakers, he carried on listening to the conversation, intrigued as to what else he might hear.
“She's not an Elliot though, not anymore. She's Mrs Wentworth now.”
“She's still the same Miss Anne though. Still as kind, generous and lovely as ever. Then again, she always was the sweetest natured out of all the Elliot girls. It's so nice to see her happy again.”
Even now, a whole six months after their marriage, hearing Anne referred to as Mrs Wentworth still sent a slight thrill through him and he didn't think that would change anytime soon. Frederick was also unsurprised that his wife was so well-thought of by the people who lived in the village. After all, his Anne was everything that they had said she was. It was just a shame that everybody else could see it, where her family couldn't.
“And why wouldn't she be happy? She has everything and that husband of hers absolutely dotes on her. It's so nice to see a couple so utterly in love.”
“Indeed. They're such a good-looking couple and so happy. Captain Wentworth is a lucky man.”
Frederick wasn't going to argue with that. He was well-aware of how lucky he was that Anne had consented to be his wife. He was just pleased that Anne's happiness was visible to others. It meant that hopefully he was doing something right!
“Frederick? Is everything well?”
Frederick spun around to see that Anne had finished her conversation and come up behind him on silent feet. Smiling at his wife, he offered her his arm and guided her down the path away from the church. “Of course, why would it not be? We should get home, Sophy and the Admiral will be arriving this afternoon.”
The following evening, Frederick looked on with amusement at the discordant noises and peals of giggles that sounded from where Anne and his sister sat at the pianoforte attempting to play through some Christmas carols while Margaret Harville looked on. Both women were more than competent players, Anne more so than Sophy, but when they were together any talent that they had seemed to disappear. Not that any of the women seemed to mind, considering the fits of mirth that they found themselves in.
Frederick's sister and her husband had arrived early in the afternoon the previous day to spend the festive season with Anne and Frederick and the party had been joined that day by the Harvilles. They had extended an invitation to Anne's family but had been unsurprised albeit a little hurt when their invitation had been refused. Or, at least Anne had been hurt. Frederick had simply been glad that Lady Russell wouldn't be there glaring at him for the duration of the season. The woman might have softened somewhat after seeing how happy her god-daughter was, but she still didn't feel as though Frederick was good enough for Anne. Not that it fazed him; Anne loved him and was happy and that was more than enough for him. Besides, they would see the Musgroves in several days time at the Christmas ball hosted by the elder Musgroves but Anne had been adamant that she wanted her first Christmas as a married woman to be at Kellynch and who was Frederick to argue with that?
Both he and Anne, but especially Anne, had thrown themselves into preparing for their first Christmas as husband and wife, not to mention their first Christmas at Kellynch. Anne had gone over the menus in painstaking detail and ensured that there were suitable gifts for each of their guests. Frederick had gone out and, with the help of a couple of men, had brought back copious boughs of evergreen along with holly and ivy, all of which had been used to garland the house. Anne had then gone around, decorating the boughs with ribbons and candles. The end result had been perfectly lovely and the whole house gave off a feeling of warmth, only contributed to by the snow that had started to fall earlier that day.
Frederick got to his feet as Sophy took control of the pianoforte, starting to play a piece far more suited to dancing than what she and Anne had previously been playing. Out of the corner of his eye, Frederick saw Harville take Margaret's hand and start to lead her in a slightly clumsy fashion, handicapped as he was by his injury, while Admiral Croft bowed genteelly to the delighted eldest daughter of the Harvilles, allowing her to climb onto his feet so that she could join in with the dancing. Frederick walked over to where his wife stood, her face wreathed in smiles, gathering her into his arms and leading her in the dance.
With his wife in his arms, Frederick lost track of the number of dances they partook in before they finally came to a breathless stop. Glancing around and feeling confident that they wouldn't be missed for a few minutes, Frederick took Anne by the hand and led her to the side-door where he had hidden a kissing bough for precisely this purpose.
Not caring who saw them, and rightly guessing that Anne didn't care either considering how willingly she came into his embrace, Frederick cupped his wife's face and kissed her ardently in the faint glow of the candlelight, snow falling all around them.