She found herself remembering her days at the glove factory, when Ben had been such a support, taking her back and forth to Stockwood and letting her spill out the day’s frustrations. She’d made the wrong decision in taking that job, and he’d known it.
This, too, could be a mistake. It could all go wrong for him, and then he’d have burned his bridges.
“You don’t sound very excited,” he said.
“It’s your decision,” she said coolly. “I thought you loved what you do here. It’s a big step to take.”
“You don’t think I’m ready to strike out on my own, do you?” His face darkened. “Well, Mr Mott does.”
Jenny felt tears pricking her eyes. Suddenly the beauty of the glasshouse turned cold; the glinting light that had been so magical was now harsh as the sun flooded in, making her head ache. Without him, she would never want to come in here again, nor the garden.
“It’s not that, Ben. It’s just I can’t help but worry. I never used to, but now there’s so much to worry about. What if the Farringtons never come back? What if Emily ”
The tears began to stream down her cheeks, and she turned away from him.
“Jenny, please, I’m so sorry.”
He put his hands on her shoulders and gently turned her towards him. He pulled her close and she let herself melt into his embrace. If they weren’t to see each other again for a long time, then at least she would have this moment.
“I know what a terrible time this is for you and your family, and of course I feel the same. But, Jenny, I want to make a success of my life, and for your family to know they can depend on me, especially after all they’ve done for me.” His hands gently brushed the tears away with his fingertips. “Most of all, I want you to be proud of me.”
Forgetting her own pride, she spoke softly.
“But you’ll be so far away.”
“So far away?” He froze, then exploded. “How could I be such a fool? I’ve been saying everything wrong. Don’t you see, Jenny? I want a new life for us both – a new adventure, for me and for you!”
She looked up in amazement. Then he stood back, his hands grasping hers.
“Jenny, I love you with all my heart. I always have, from the first moment I saw you.” His hands trembled but his voice was strong and sure. “Will you make me the happiest man on earth? I’ve told your father I’ll work harder for us than I’ve ever worked in my life. Will you marry me, Jenny?”
Questions whirled and darted through her mind. Could she bear to move away from her family? Was she ready to give up her own job, which had begun to give her a new sense of herself? What sort of life would they be headed for, with Ben taking such a chance?
Then it all flitted past like quicksilver. She didn’t know the answers to any of her questions, but she did know the answer to Ben’s. Whatever the future held, she could not contemplate a life without him.
“Oh, yes, Ben! I will marry you!”