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Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
10:59 pm
I know I am the most irritating of women, especially now. I get insane fears, right now, that the baby will be born early, like the twins were. Rory has to remind me, with endless patience, that the twins were early because they were twins and there is no reason why the new baby should be.

I worry about the children we have and about the one to come and I worry about the house and the business and sometimes whether I am too old to be having another baby. Then Rory comes over, smiles that wonderful smile and makes my fears seem foolish without ever making me feel that way.

Ana helps too. She always reminds me that all previous fears were groundless. And when I worry that I'm not a good mother, she offers Bryony as evidence against the idea.

When I put Bryony to bed tonight, she was tired from playing with Ana's daughters and Jenny. With luck, she and the twins will all sleep soundly and maybe, now that I have a bit of energy again, Rory and I can snuggle a bit. The more I need his support and his love, the more devoted he becomes and he has no idea how attractive he is to me.

He may be surprised tonight, when I try to seduce him. I think he thinks I'm too tired, but he looked after the kids so I could have a nap and it's amazing what a nap can do for energy levels.

Whatever happens tonight, I don't think I can ever show him how much I love him. Even body language can't handle that many superlatives. Rory is everything to me and when I see him laughing under a heap of kids and dogs, his hair a mess and his eyes shining, my heart still leaps like it did the first time we kissed. I think Bryony is better than I am at summing up her father. She looked at me today and said, "Isn't Daddy just a big cuggle with a smile?" and then she ran over to hug him.

I used to worry that Rory would get sick of me, but if he hasn't by now, he probably never will. He's gorgeous and gentle and loving and kind and he looks at me as if I am some kind of miraculous beauty. I know this means that he needs an eye test and some strong glasses, but I'm prepared to fight anyone who tries to snap him out of this adoration. Yes, he's out of my league, but not, thank goodness, out of my life. He's mine for life and tonight I will make sure he knows how happy I am about that.
Saturday, October 2nd, 2010
10:32 pm
Last night, it took about an hour to get both twins to go to sleep. Patrick had suddenly decided he was hungry and Rory had to feed him a mashed banana while I had to sing about eight nursery rhymes to Frances to settle her down.

After they were both tucked in their cot in Bryony's room, I had the easier task of helping Bryony to get ready for bed. She doesn't need much help these days. Mostly, she just needs someone to talk to as she carefully makes her teeth "all shiny clean" and chooses which toys most need a cuddle. We sat on the bed together and I brushed her beautiful dark hair.

"You're my lovely little girl." I said, "You always look so pretty."

"It's geletics." she said, "Daddy says so."

When I finished brushing her hair, she got into bed and pulled the covers up to her neck. "I'm keeping warm." she said.

"Good." I said, "Are you going to be warm enough?"

She smiled and said, "I won't know because I'll be all asleep."

I kissed her and said, "Night night."

She held out a closed fist and then opened it in a sudden flourish. "I'm throwing you a lovely dream with horses." she said.

"Thankyou." I said, "I'll send you one too."

I went downstairs and found Rory in the drawing room. As I sat beside him, I saw his attempt to hide the worried look on his face. He worries a lot these days, usually that I might do too much, eat too little or not get enough sleep.

He put his arm around me and said, "All three in bed, and it's not even midnight. We're doing well."

"Bryony was good as gold." I said. I yawned slightly and he frowned. "Stop worrying." I said.

"Me? Worrying?" he said. He looked at me, all innocence, then smiled. "Well, just a bit. Say something reassuring."

"I'm fine." I said.

"Is that your idea of something reassuring?" he said.

"I love you." I said, "Now stop worrying. I don't want you going grey just yet."

He kissed me, and said, "Then relax and do nothing for the rest of the night."

"There are so many things I should be doing." I said.

"Are any of them more important than me?" he said.

I kissed him. "No, none of them." I said.

"Well, that's a relief." he said and I gave in and rested my head on his shoulder and let him look after me.
Monday, April 26th, 2010
9:52 pm
Today, I went out into the garden and saw Rory and Bryony peering into one of the smaller ponds near to the lake. I decided to see how close I could get without them noticing.

As I got within earshot, I heard Bryony say, "Are you sure, Daddy? They don't look like baby frogs to me."

"What do you think they are, then?" he said.

"Maybe baby slugs or woodlouses." she said.

"Frogs are special." he said, "They're a bit magic."

"I know," she said, "That's why Mummy says not to kiss them all, cos we'd be knee-deep in princes and then we'd have no cake left."

Rory turned to grin at her and the sunlight touched his hair and made his eyes sparkle. "Your Mummy," he said, "Is a rare treasure."

"Am I like Mummy?" she said.

I hurried over, before he could answer that. "What are baby frogs called?" I said.

"The Sean says they're taddies." said Bryony, "But that's potatoes."

"That's tatties." said Rory, "And baby frogs are called tadpoles."

Bryony looked at him sceptically and said, "Why? They don't look like poles and there's no such word as tad."

"Pole means head." I said, "And tad comes from toad."

"Toad-head?" she said, "That's a bit mean."

"It means a toad that's mostly head, I think." I said.

"But toads are a different animal." said Bryony, "So that really doesn't make much sense."

"What's the difference between frogs and toads?" said Rory, surprised, as I was, that she knew there was one.

"Toads are toadier and frogs are more froggy." she said, standing up, "And frogs jump, like this! And toads go walk-walk-walk, like this."

"Very good." said Rory.

"Baby toads are called tadpoles too." I said, "And the name just got used for both kinds because they all look the same."

"But we should call the baby frogs frogpoles."

"Sounds like a device for torturing Frenchmen." I said.

Rory laughed and said, "You adorable little European!"

"What's an ooropean?" said Bryony.

"Someone who lives in Europe." I said.

"We live in Woodhollow." said Bryony, "Whiteturrets, Foxton Road, Woodhollow."

"Yes!" I said.

Rory smiled at me. "Some say Woodhollow is in Europe."

"Are they a bit silly, Daddy?" said Bryony.

"You are exactly like your Mummy." said Rory.

She said, "Yay!" and ran towards the house.

"Is that good or bad?" I said, sitting on the grass beside him.

He put his arm around me and said, "I feel the same way about it as she does."

"She's a lot more like you." I said, "She's kind, clever, generous, loving ... "

"I married someone like that once." he said.

"Tell me where she lives and I'll fight her for you." I said.

He laughed.

"What?" I said.

"I was just remembering what Richard said once. He said giving you a compliment was like trying to give a lion a manicure."

"I hope Bryony meets a man as blind to her faults as you are to mine." I said.

"Bryony has faults?" he said.

"Only in as much as she takes after me." I said.

"Are you suggesting I married an imperfect woman?" he said.

"Not if it means you'll change your mind." I said.

He kissed me and said, "Never, never, never."
Thursday, January 7th, 2010
9:44 pm
When Donna came back from a ride saying there was a car in a ditch, Rory went straight out to help. I was left to explain to Bryony why she wasn't a necessary part of the rescue team. She hates being left out of anything he does.

Even if it does frustrate her at times, I love the relationship they have. She's always felt close to her father and he's always been very good at understanding how much of his attention she needs. He never resents his little shadow, constantly getting under his feet and finding a thousand different uses for the word "Why?" before breakfast.

I love him for always making her feel loved. I love the way he laughs when she attempts a joke, even if she's misunderstood how one works. Sometimes, when he knows she's nearby, he says something like, "We're so lucky to have Bryony. Such a clever girl!" and her face lights up.

When he came back, with a family who were very shaken and very cold, I felt so proud of the way he just made things better, offering them a place to stay and making them feel safe and welcome. Bryony is very like him. She offered them rooms before he had a chance. There is much more of him than me in her, which can only be a good thing.

To make her feel useful, Rory asked her to go ahead and open the two rooms they'll be using. She enjoyed doing that. As she enthusiastically pointed out the view, he and I waited outside.

"She's good." he said.

"She's practically you." I said.

He smiled. "I'd say she got the best of both of us and none of the bad."

"She sometimes shows a bit of my temper."

"And who says that's bad?"

"Most of the people I've left flat on their back with footprints on their face." I said.

He kissed me and said, "Well, not this one."
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
8:00 pm
Worried About Rory Worrying.
Something is bothering Rory and he won't tell me what. I think it's partly the horse and partly the difficulty in arranging the christening and, of course, his concern for Father Gill, who is still not at all well, but there's more to it.

I think he worries far too much about the children, and about me. He thinks I do too much, which is laughable when I have the staff to help and he does more than me anyway. Any time Bryony so much as bumps her head, he feels like a failure as a father. Patrick has started teething now and Rory never could stand to see his children crying when he has no way to make things better.

I just wish he knew how everyone talks about him. Other women point him out to their own husbands as an example of how to get it right. I hate seeing him so stressed. It's so unusual for him.

All I can do for now is try to make him feel better. So tonight, we're having colcannon and then, when the kids are all asleep, I'll lure him into his room and distract him properly.
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
5:02 am
Yesterday, Rory took Bryony, Emily, Jenny and Rhys to see the animals Will is looking after up in the wildlife hut. I was in the study pretending to work on a chapter when Alex knocked on the door. "Wanna stroke my ferret?" he said.

"Be very careful to whom you say that and under what circumstances." I said, "You'd better come in."

He came in and gave me Nugget to hold. "Sorry about the trouble on Sunday." he said, "I hope it wasn't Rhys that caused it. He hero-worships Bryony and I suspect she may have been trying not to disappoint him."

"None of them meant any harm." I said, "I just worry about what she'll do next. It's a miracle she's survived this long. She never listens."

"She listens to every word, she just doesn't always like what they're saying and she won't be told she can't do what she has set her heart on doing. Some relative of hers once bought a large country estate and then spent a fortune on making it viable."

"She's not like me. She's like Rory. She has this wild streak."

"Yes, like Callanish, or Connemara, or the Brecon Beacons."

"His family have told me all the crazy, dangerous things he did as a child."

"And you never did any?" said Alex.

"Shut up, Alex." I said.

"I seem to remember something you said about climbing trees."

"I'd never have gone near a horse that size."

"You're never going to be able to keep O'Connals away from horses. It's like trying to keep a Walker out of an argument."

"She'll probably never listen to me again. I was cross with her. I made her cry." I said, "Rory stays so calm and I just get angry."

"A few months ago, we were staying on a farm in France and Rhys somehow got in with the pigs. I yelled at him and told him they'd bite his fingers off. We can't be calm and rational, Emma. We're parents. We get through life in a kind of managed hysteria."

"Rory doesn't."

"Rory is eighty percent blarney. Do you think he was any less scared? He just hides it better."

"He never loses his temper." I said.

"I suspect he did his angry bit at the scene of the crime. By the time he told you, he was over it."

"Jenny said it was all her fault." I said.

"Did Bryony agree?"

"No. Bryony said it was just her."

"Well, when it comes to worthwhile things to instil in our children, integrity beats common sense. A lot of three year olds would have been telling you it was Jenny from the start." he said.

"Bryony has always been very honest." I said.

"She's a good kid. She just needs a bit more risk in her life."

"Less, you mean." I said.

"She's frustrated, because she's too little to do all the exciting things she sees bigger kids doing. Give her a few managed risks and she'll calm down a bit. You know, she wants to appear a good rider because she wants to be a proper O'Connal. She's just in a hurry to grow up and impress everyone."

"By the time she's ten, she'll hate her dragon mother." I said.

"She cried because she'd fallen short of what you expect from her." he said.

"I just don't know how to talk to kids. Rory is such a perfect father. He never makes mistakes."

"Must be hard, being married to a perfect man."

"I could never have married an imperfect one."

"At the risk of destroying your marriage, I have to point out that he's human too. He's just less worried about it." said Alex, "We're all fallible. It's good for the kids that we are. Imagine growing up with parents who never got anything wrong! You'd feel so totally inadequate and stupid. Human parents are the best people to bring up human children. Robots, however perfect, just don't have what it takes."

"I think Bryony might prefer a robot. I shout too much."

"Bryony loves you. That's why she gets upset when you're cross."

"She asked if she'd still get her party. I'd never cancel a party to punish her."

"A lot of parents would. I expect she's heard that kind of threat."

"I want her to have a great party."

"She will." said Alex, "And she's having a great childhood."
Sunday, July 26th, 2009
6:36 am
Last night, Rory raised the issue of playgroup again. The simple fact is that if we send Bryony to playgroup, she'll be out of our reach and at the mercy of all the dangers the world can offer. It also sets an unfortunate precedent. In a couple of years, Jenny and her other friends will be going to school and she will want to go too, especially if she enjoys playgroup. All our plans for educating her at home will fall apart if we fill her head with the idea that what her friends do is right for her.

Rory thinks I'm just afraid to let go, and in some ways he's right. I'm also well aware that she thinks I'm a good mother because she doesn't really know many others. I know there's going to come a time when she recognises my failings, but I don't want it to be yet. I told Rory that and he hugged me and said if I could see what everyone else can see I wouldn't be insecure. If he knew how often I'm just wildly guessing what to do, he wouldn't think so much of me.

I told him I need to think. Hopefully, she'll change her mind. She can change it daily these days. If she doesn't, I may have to let her go, but I feel like I'd lose her if I did. Things here would never be the same again.
Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
6:50 am
Last night, Patrick was very sulky and wouldn't go to sleep although he was very tired. I tried tickling his feet and singing to him and nothing seemed to help. Then Bryony came up with her arms full of cuddly toys and said, "I'm tired, Mummy."
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Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
5:44 am
Rory fell off his horse in the woods and I called him an idiot. Worse, I did it in front of Bryony.
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Thursday, June 4th, 2009
5:55 am
Last Night
I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing last night. Patrick looked so tiny and so helpless and I just felt like a terrible mother for even wanting a night away from them all. I kept checking that Ana had the numbers for the cottage and Gary and Ravensmoore and then I asked Bryony if she had everything and she showed me a case which did indeed seem to have everything in it. Ana put up with all my fussing but gently insisted that I should go and meet Rory in the cottage.
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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
6:29 am
Not Entirely Rational
Yesterday, I tried to change Frances twice, once before I changed Patrick and once after. I lose track sometimes of how many babies there are. Sometimes it seems like five.

Thankfully, Rory wasn't there to witness it. He was taking Bryony to ride her pony and didn't get back until the twins were changed, fed and being fussed over by their great grandmother.
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Monday, May 25th, 2009
10:49 am
I was worried about what Rory was going to say after our trip to Foxton. I knew what Richard would have said to his wife, he'd said a lot of it to me. I was expecting much the same from Rory.

When we got home, he asked how I was feeling and I said I was fine. "I was worried." he said.

"Sorry." I said, "I needed to get something for your birthday."

"Emma, under the circumstances, I'm amazed you remembered my birthday."
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Sunday, May 24th, 2009
8:23 am
It's Rory's birthday on Monday and I meant to buy him something a week ago, but then the twins arrived and shopping was out of the question. Yesterday, I decided to go into Foxton.

I hated the thought of leaving the twins behind, but I knew taking them with me would be impossible. Bryony was easier. She likes to go on the bus, especially on the double deckers where she can sit at the front and pretend to drive.

I knew telling Rory would be hopeless. He'd make me stay home by fair means or foul. I waited until he was changing the twins and then I left a note and took Bryony quickly to the bus stop.
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Friday, May 22nd, 2009
7:39 am
Not Sleeping
In the night, Patrick coughed and woke me. For a moment, there was panic, then I calmed down, when I saw that he was fine. Rory had woken too and we looked at each other's anxious faces and smiled. Patrick went back to sleep and I tried to sleep too, but I just lay there thinking of how foolish I'd been to worry so much.
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Thursday, May 21st, 2009
12:19 pm
Rory's grandmother has always been good to me. Long before Rory and I were officially a couple, she treated me as part of the family. Since she arrived here, she has been so kind and supportive, always telling me I'm doing the right thing with the children.
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Monday, May 18th, 2009
8:10 am
Romantic Interlude
Last night, I'd agreed to meet Rory in the ballroom after the babies and Bryony went to sleep. I was wearing my blue velvet dress. Thankfully, it still looks good even at my present size.

When I got to the ballroom, Rory had set up a little table and was sitting there in soft candlelight, dressed in a dinner suit. Usually, getting him to wear a tie is hard work.
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Friday, May 15th, 2009
6:18 pm
I've barely left my bed all week. I was worried Rory would get fed up with running around after me, but he's been very sweet about it and this morning, he surrounded me with vases of blossom from the hawthorn trees. Ana and the girls help so much too, taking care of Bryony when I am just too tired.
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Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
5:31 pm
On Sunday night, I barely slept and I don't think Rory slept at all. We were both watching Patrick and Frances, but especially Patrick, afraid he would stop breathing.

Any fears I had that I would not be able to love them as I love Bryony were groundless. I find I love each one as if they were the only one and the new twins are surprisingly definite and unique personalities already.

By Monday morning, my fears about Patrick had subsided considerably. He didn't look quite so frail and likely to die. The twins definitely want to be together. They cling to each other like monkeys and are only distressed when parted.

Everyone says Frances looks like me, but she is beautiful, so I don't think she does. She cries rather stridently when she wants to be fed, whereas Patrick merely whimpers. It's not easy, feeding both at once, but I think I'll get used to it.

There is still room in the bed for the whole family, which is good, because neither Rory nor Bryony can bear to be out of reach of the babies, so if space ran out, I'd be the one sleeping on the floor.

Last night, after Bryony fell asleep, Rory asked me how I felt. It's hard to say, right now. I feel as if I've stolen the two most beautiful stars from the heavens and found that they are as fragile as gossamer. I'm afraid to hold them and afraid to let them go and I just keep looking at my reassuringly robust elder daughter and reminding myself that she somehow survived those early days.
Friday, May 8th, 2009
9:24 pm
My Sleeping Husband
Last night, when my husband could finally tear himself away from his daughter's insatiable demand for more bedtime stories, we had a quiet supper together and then had an early night, more for my sake than for his, I suspect, although he pretended to be very tired.
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Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
7:16 am
Bryony is getting anxious about the birth. Someone told her babies had to be cut out and we had to reassure her. She keeps asking me if it will hurt me and if she hurt me. Rory thinks it's only natural for her to worry about it, now that she's reached an age when she's more aware of other people's capacity for suffering. I just hope she doesn't get too upset by all of this.

Ana is such a great help. We talk for hours and she makes me feel so calm about everything and she has a wonderful instinct for knowing when to take Bryony out for a while.

Rory's being wonderful too. Only he could make me feel beautiful and amazing now. He keeps flirting, even though I look like a whale. When I get nervous, he just kisses me and says all will be fine. Somehow, I end up believing him.

Last night, I woke in the night and felt the babies moving and I just lay there, enjoying the feeling of being so close to them. It won't last forever. Might as well enjoy it while I can.
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