A Scottish Romance
Spring of 1965
It was six o’clock in the morning and there I was off to work. If I would have stayed home on my families farm I’d still be waking up at the same time, only now I was working in a market instead. It was only two years since I moved into the town of Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland leaving behind the comfort of home and family. After finishing school I thought it best to try life on my own for awhile. To learn who I really was and how to rely on myself instead of using my parents as a crutch the rest of my life. Even though the distance between the farm and Campbelltown was only fifteen miles I had to beg and plead with my parents to get their permission. What would they have said then if what I really wanted was to go to University and study to become a writer?
Becoming a writer was my lives ambition at the age of twenty. Along with finding someone to share my life and love with. I thought I would become the next Sir Walter Scott telling the tales of the Scottish people. Little did I know back then that I would be writing this story at the age of 58 of my own life in Scotland and how I became the person I am today. A woman that has the jealousy of other women who would love to be in my position.
In the end I must have worn my parents out because late one night after a long talk they gave in to my idea of living in town. They had always tried to stay out of my life and let me make my own decisions but, their overwhelming love and concern for me sometimes got the best of them.. I was lucky in so many ways to have such a loving and caring family.
The next morning after the long talk I went into town with my mother to Sullivan’s Shop on High Street. For as long as I can remember mum always went to market on Monday mornings and only to Mary Sullivans. Mary and my mother had been quite good friends for some time. It just so happened that day that Mary was putting a help wanted sign in the window as we walked up to the shop. At the very same moment my mother and I looked at each other and smiled. My mother went straight in and told Mary she could take the sign down because she just found herself a full-time helper. I have to say it was the perfect job for me then; I had a caring boss who was also my friend and I got my groceries at a discount. My parents knew that I would be well looked after by Mary. Personally I think sometimes they would call upon Mary to make sure I hadn’t been doing anything I shouldn’t be.
With my parents approval and a new found job behind me, the next and last obstruction that was standing in my way was to find a flat that I could afford and my parents would be happy with. My best friend Megan and I came up with a plan. She would convince her parents that it was best for her to get a flat of her own and once they said yes we would find a flat to share. Three weeks later we were moving into a two bedroom, second floor flat in Woodland Place on High Street.
I start my story in the year of 1965. It was the onset of spring, still my favorite time of the year when the land comes alive. The mighty sun sends it’s rays of heat to melt away the snow and ice that has covered the earth. Birds sing out love songs for all to hear. I have to admit I did and still do love getting up at dawn. My husband just groans and rolls over when I get up to watch the sun rise from it’s nocturnal resting place. Occasionally I have persuaded him to abandon our warm bed to come with me to watch the sun make it’s appearance. Back in Campbelltown I got to see the town before it was spoiled by crowds of people.
From my flat it was only a five minute walk to work. Just enough time to breath in the salty ocean air that was only blocks away. That day as I walked down the empty sidewalk I had no idea my life would be changed by serendipity.
Through the shop window I saw Mary unlocking the door to let me inside out of the cold.
“ ‘Ello Kathy, how are you this fine morn?” Mary smiled as she held open the door. Everyone called me Kathy even though my given name is Kathleen Grace Caldwell.
“I’m great. You seem chipper this morning.”
“I am. A lovely day it will be, Kathy. I can feel it in me bones.”
I couldn’t help but smile at the 55 year old woman standing in front of me who was acting like a teenager.
“Would you mind making the tea, Kathy? I need to restock a couple of the shelves.”
Mary always had a fresh pot of tea for her customers. Sometimes regular customers wouldn’t come in to buy, only for a bit of tea and conversation. After depositing my coat behind the counter I moved to the opposite corner where stood an iron stove used to heat the store and the kettle. While the kettle heated up I watched the sun make it’s arrival in the bright orange and salmon-colored sky. I’ve always imagined God to be allot like the sunrise, bright, warm and most of all peaceful.
The sound of the kettle whistling broke the trance I was in. Carefully I poured the boiling water into the tea pot along with a tea bag. The smell of fresh tea is something I’ll never forget. With that task over I searched my mind for what I should be doing next. I turned around taking a survey of the store when I saw Mary having trouble putting cans on a lower level shelf.
“Let me finish that, Mary,” I said as I walked over to where she was standing taking the cans of greenbeans she held.
“Ta, me back just isn’t what it used to be. I’ll have a cup of tea and wait for our first customer.”
She didn’t have to wait long. At seven o’clock sharp like every other day Mr. Parson came in. “ ‘Ello, Mary. “ Tis a grand day.”
“Yes it is, Mr. Parson. Kathy and I were just discussing that very thing earlier.” I see Mary move over to make a cup of tea for Mr. Parson.
“Where is our Kathy this morning?” I heard the older man say.
“I’m over here, Mr. Parson.” I stood up from my crouched position so he could see me.
“Is she working you already, henny? Come here and give us a hug.”
Mr. Parson is an older man is his eighties. He and his wife, who died five years earlier, never had children of their own. When my grandfather died he took it upon himself to fill that empty role. He treated me as his own ever since. His shaky arms pulled me into his frail, thin body. Once again he smelled of cheap aftershave and bacon.
“Come have a tea with an old man,” he said while pulling me along as he moved. For the next thirty minutes we talked about what the summer would bring while Mary helped out the two customers that came. At eight o’clock Ann, the town busy body, comes in. This woman knew everything about everyone and was glad to share.
“ ‘Ello all,” she called out.
“ ‘Ello, Ann,” Mr. Parson replied. “Anything new happening around the village?” Mr. Parson and I smiled at each other. We both knew why she came in. She had new gossip to tell.
“Well since you did ask, I’ve heard of a newcomer. A Mr. McGregor bought the old McLean farm, High Park.”
That news surprised me because I knew the farm well. It wasn’t to far from my parents own farm. It had been years since anyone lived there. The house had holes in the walls and roof, the barn wasn’t even standing anymore. I had always thought about owning that farm someday, fixing the house up and making it into a cozy wee home. Having sheep and horses grazing in the fields with my children running and playing games as my brother, sister and I had.
“I can’t believe anyone would buy it,” I say.
Ann continued on not paying attention to my statement. “He’s said to be a young lad, not married.” Her eyes moved over to me. Sure now she noticed I’m in the room. Ever since I had moved to town all my friends and family had been trying to get me married. . I had been looking, just hadn’t found anyone that tickled my fancy. My father and mother wanted me to marry a local farmers son. I think they just wanted me to stay around and not move far away. Megan, my best friend, had tried unsuccessfully to fix me up many times. I have to give her credit. Most of the lads she sent my way were very polite and safe. But that’s just it. They were to safe. There was no mystery about them. I wanted someone who would keep surprising me. Just when I think I knew them I wanted something else pop out and make me fall in love all over again.
For the rest of that morning I helped customers in-between hearing the latest on Mr. McGregor. Not to much was known. He was staying at the B&B by the sea along with another man and had employed a construction company before he came to fix up the house . Carol Higgins who ran the B&B along with her husband Henry said he mostly kept to himself, not talking about where he was from or what he did for a living. She thought he might be from London but said he had an accent from the northern part of England.
By the time lunch time came I was curious to see this stranger in person. All of the women who had a glimpse of him said he was a most handsome man. By now Mr. Parson, Ann and the others had left. Everyday Mary and I would take turns walking down to the pub on the corner to get our lunch. This day being Mary’s turn I gave her my order and off she went humming a happy tune. I now had a few minutes to relax from the busy morning and to have a cup of tea. The warmth of the cup heated my chilly hands. Behind me I heard the bell over the door ring signaling the entrance of someone. Assuming it was Mary I said over my shoulder, “Back already, Mary?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, luv, but I’m not Mary.”
Turning around I don’t see Mary but a man probably a couple years older than I. He had on a black peacoat over a gray turtleneck sweater and worn, rather tight blue jeans. I had no idea then that this stranger would disrupt my life causing it take a different turn that I had never imaged. At this point in my life I didn’t believe in love at first sight, but looking back now I do believe that is what happened this day. Although I didn’t want to admit it to myself then.
“You certainly are not Mary.” I turned my attention up to his face. He spoke to me in an accent I had heard somewhere before. A beard covered his mouth and most of his face. His hair, brown, is combed forward and almost into his eyes in a style that became popular with the youth in the early sixties.
“No, are you disappointed?”
“I must say a bit. She went to get our lunch and I’m ravenous.” To be truthful I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Here stood before me the most dashing, beautiful fellow I had ever laid eyes upon.
He now moved closer holding out a piece of paper. “I have a list of some things I need. Could you find them for me? I have another stop to make before heading back home.”
I was still studying his face as he spoke. He looked at me as if waiting for a response. “It would be no problem,” I said before taking the list he held. As I took it the tips of our fingers touched slightly. They were smooth not rough and dry as my fathers. I could tell he wasn’t used to doing hard labor. He definitely wasn’t a farmers son.
“I’ll be back later to pick them up. No more than two hours it should take me.”
“I shall have it all ready for you.”
The man said a polite “thank you” before turning to leave. He held the door open for Mary whom was returning with our lunches. He then got back into his car to leave. I stood at the door watching him drive out of view. His manly smell lingered in the air. I breathed in deeply not wanting it to leave. A warmness grew in my heart filling my body with anticipate of seeing him again.
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