A Scottish Romance
On Friday morning the alarm clock rang at 5:30 waking me up from a confusing dream about Mr. McGregor. In the beginning he held me in his gentle arms affectionately caressing my body. We danced together under a blanket of twinkling stars. Soft music played out of the midnight mist, James sang a beautiful tune as we held each other tight. The words blended into the night making it hard for me to decipher their meaning. Then the music stopped and suddenly we were standing in the middle of a darkened om lit by candles scattered around. His brown eyes stared right through me. I yelled and did everything I could to get his attention, but no matter what I did I couldn’t touch him nor would he respond to me.
I sat up in bed feeling drained of energy. I had no idea why my dream turned nasty. Part of me hoped I wouldn’t see James that day for I feared to see the piercing eyes from the dream.
Mary let me work half a day so I could get to the farm before dark. The next day, Saturday, my brother Jeff was bringing his girlfriend Margaret for lunch to meet the family. When I talked to my mother Wednesday night she said that he had been actin quite odd. He was keeping a secret from dad and herself.
Jeff stayed on at the farm after his schooling was over. Dad promised him at an early age that some day the farm would be his. Jeff took great pride in learning all there was in running a farm. He had grand plans of how he would make the farm even be er including expanding the farm to grow crops. Jeff had been dating Margaret for five months now although he had never brought her home for the family to met.
I was helping Mary by making sure all of the shelves were stocked for the weekend. I was bringing in a box of cottonballs when Megan came in holding a bouquet of assorted roses. “Who are those for,” I asked setting down the box.
“They’re for Mary.”
“Who are they from?”
“Never you mind, Miss nosy. Where’s Mary?”
“Here I am, Megan.” Mary walked out from the storeroom. “What pretty flowers you have.”
“They’re for you, Mary. There’s a card, come read it.”
Mary walked over taking the card, opened the envelope and read what it said. I tried to think who it could be from. It wasn’t her birthday so they weren’t from her sister. There wasn’t a man in her life, at least none that I knew of. Who else?
“He could have done this in person instead of spending all this money.”
“Who and do what in person?” I asked of Mary feeling hurt that I was out of the loop.
“He thought this would mean more to you.” Meg said
“Who?” I asked again losing my patience.
Mary stuffed the card back into its envelope placing it back onto its holder and walked over to help a customer. I, not being able to help myself any longer, snatched the envelope from Meg and opened it. The card inside read:
I hope you will accept this apology and will forgive me.
“How sweet of him.” I replaced the card and set the flowers where everyone could see them.
“You told me he was cute, but oh my if I didn’t have my Henry. . . “
“Hey now, I saw him first. Did you notice anything familiar about him?”
“What do you mean?”
“I have a feeling that I’ve seen him somewhere before. I just don’t know how or where.”
“Maybe you saw him around town, before he bought High Park Farm.”
“Maybe. You’d think I’d remember.”
“You will. I have to go now, mum’s all by herself in the shop.”
Driving up to my parents house I saw my little sister Shelly come running out yelling ”Our Kathys’ home!” Her mane of black hair waving behind her. I wrapped both my arms around her. “I’ve missed you so much, Shell.”
“Hey little sis.” My older brother Jeff walked up behind us. I let go of Shelly to hug him. He gave me one of his famous bear hugs lifting my feet all the way off the ground.
Jeff was five years old when I was born. He always protected me growing up. Once in grade school an older girl would pick on me everyday after school, tugging on my plats, making fun of how I dressed. After a month and a half of her relentless bully g I confessed to Jeff when he found me in tears after one of her more meaner episodes. He promised not to tell mum and dad. He met me after school the next day and had a few words with the girl. Never again did she bother me.
“Mum says you’ve been all smiles this week. Any special reason?” I whispered into his ear.
“I have big news for the family tomorrow.” He whispered back.
I held him out in front of me looking into his eyes, there seemed to be a special glint in them and that’s when I knew what the news was all about. He was in love.
“Where is Mum and Dad?” I asked them both.
“Mums in the kitchen.” Shelly answered me.
“Dads still in the fields with the sheep. I’ll go tell him your here.” Jeff proceeded in the direction of the fields.
“Can we go for our walk?” Shelly asked me. Every time I would go home Shelly and I would start out my visits by taking a walk along the beach that was only three miles from the house. It became a tradition of ours, a time for the both of us to catc up on what the other had been up to. Also a time for Shelly to confide in me things that she couldn’t tell Mum and Dad.
I promised her we would after I said my hellos to mum and dad.
“ Bonjour Kathleen, so glad to see you.” Mum puts down the knitting in her hands to give me a hug and kiss. “Did you see your father?”
“ Bonjour mummy. No, Jeff says he is still out in the fields. He went to tell dad I’m home.”
Maybe I should explain to you why my mother and I are speaking french. My mother was born and raised in Franch until her tenth birthday when her parents migrated to England. She learned to speak english but still spoke in her native tongue at times. he taught me, my sister and brother to speak french when we were smaller. It always came in handy when we would visit with our mothers relatives. My father never quite got the hang of speaking french. We would always have to translate for him.
“Do you know what Jeffery is up to?”
“No, he wouldn’t tell me anything. He said we’ll find out tomorrow.”
“Kathleen, come give your dad a hug.” My father walked into the sitting room throwing open his arms to welcome me. He had on his favorite pair of faded blue jean overalls. I stood up burying my face into his chest ( my father is over six feet and som ow I only ended up to be five feet five inches) to smell his unique manly scent, a mixture of sweat, dirt, and a faint whiff of his aftershave.
“Hi daddy. Are all the sheep OK, you were working late tonight.”
“We’re waiting on one of the ewe’s to give birth. Should be anyday now.” Dad walks over to the fireplace where he keeps his pipe. Stuffed in fresh Tabacco and lit it with a match. Everytime I picture my father today I can see him leaned up against t mantel with his black pipe dangling from his dawn-tinted lips with puffs of gray smoke disappearing up into the air warming his hands. He would always do it in the same fashion, letting his palms warm and then turning them over to warm the outside, st ing into the fire as if it would tell him a great secret.
I saw Shelly standing over by the coat rack yearning to leave the prying ears of our parents to confide in me. We slipped out the door quietly so as to not disturb the surroundings.
Shelly and I walked side by side through the brown grassed field. I looked over her budding adolescent body. Just the last month she turned fifteen and already she was a beautiful woman exactly like our mum. I have however taken after our Dad; chestn hair, grey-blue eyes and a long, lean body. Shelly on the other hand already has more curves than I ever/will have. Her skin the same dark tone and eyes green as Mums, my skin mixed with my fathers. A shade somewhere in the middle of both my parents Before us laid the deep blue sea. On the horizon is the main land of Scotland only a few miles away.
“Come on, Kathy.” Shelly pulled me by the hand down to the sandy beach.
“How’s school,” I asked swinging our arms back and forth still locked together.
“Good.” Shelly releases my hand starring off into the distance.
“Oh Kathy, do we have to talk about school?”
“No, what do you want to talk about then?”
“Who is Nathane?”
“Only the best looking lad in the whole school!”
“And the boy of your fancy I take it.”
“The very one.”
“Has he asked you out on a date yet?”
“Yes, but it doesn’t matter because you know mum and dad won’t let me date yet and I don’t know why not. I’m a big girl now not a wee child. I swear sometimes they can be so bloody old fashioned.”
“They just love you and want to protect you, Shell and don’t say bloody. It’s unlady like.”
“Like you’ve never said it. I can remember a number of times when “bloody” has come out of your mouth.”
“Ok, ok. Do you think I’m turning into Mum? I mean listen to me telling you not to say bloody because it’s unlady like. Did you know that just the other day I sat down and started to make a list of all the things I had to do.” We had always made fun mum because she would make out lists of all the things she had to do.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, besides it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to turn into mum would it? She is the most organized woman in the county and is the best cook.”
“Are you saying my cooking is bad?”
“I wouldn’t say bad, just needs a bit of improving.”
“I do hope someday to be like mum. Taking care of my husband and wee ones.”
We both walked on in silence. After a few minutes Shelly spoke up. “You know the spring dance is coming up?” More of a statement than a question.
“Do you think you could help me convince mum and da to let me go with Nate? I’ll do anything for you in return! Please, Kathy?”
“Of course I’ll help you. Even though I’m 22 I do remember what’s it like to be fifteen. Don’t worry I’ll think of something for you to do to make it up to me.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll never forget this.” Shelly threw her arms around me.
“You better not.”
We walked along the shore a little further. Shelly had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. It made me feel great that I could make her so happy.
“Who is that man?”
“Where?” I searched the coast line.
“Up ahead there.”
I squint my eyes to make the fuzzy figure come into focus. It was James walking along the shore looking out into the ocean. A melancholy mood drifting around his figure. “It’s James McGregor the man who bought the McLean Farm.”
“I’ve heard of him. It’s said he’s a handsome man. Is it true?” Shelly looked over at me with a knowing look.
“You’ve heard about my meeting?”
“He is a handsome man.” I tried not to let out my feelings in this statement.
“Maybe we should go say hello, meet our new neighbor.”
“No! He’s a private man, Shell. Let’s go, he seems to want to be left alone.” The image of his icy eyes from the horrible dream the night before flashed across my eyes. I had no intention of seeing James, not wanting my dream to become real.
“Right. I’m half frozen anyways.” Shelly turned away heading in the direction of our house. I quickly followed before James could turn around to see me.
The forecast for that Saturday was said to be grand one although there was a wee chance of rain for the afternoon. Jeffery had been running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off all that morning in anticipation of Margaret, his girlfriend comin He even had our father wearing his Sunday best. Father put up a big fuss over that. He was a humble, country man at heart, not one for fancy dressing. Jeff was now on his way back from picking up Margaret O’ Connor. I was in the kitchen helping mu with lunch, Shelly was setting the table and dad was reading the newspaper in the sitting room.
“Mum, Kathleen, Shelly our Jeffrey’s back!” I heard Dad calling.
We all took a deep breath before dad opened the door. This was our first time meeting Margaret. Jeff introduced us all when we made our way into the sitting room. Jeff held her hand as we talked waiting for dinner. She seemed to be a bit shy but, I hought she was a lovely girl. She had long, red hair and bright blue eyes. Her smile seemed to light the room.
Mum lead the way into the kitchen and we began to eat the delicious meal she had made. It was a recipe she called Home Pie made with carrots, peas, potatoes and hamburger meat in layers and a delicate pastry crust covering the top of the dish. I know ke this same recipe for my own children, omitting the meat of course because we are all vegetarians. The family made more light conversion asking Margaret about her life. She told us how she still lived at home helping out her mother with the daily ch es and in her spare time she made dresses for extra cash.
“She made the one she is wearing today,” Jeff said with pride in his eyes.
I made a quick overview of the dress and decided she was most definitely a brilliant dress maker. I can’t sow a thing to save my life. I’ve had several lessons and to this day no matter how hard I try the stitches always come out irregular.
“It’s now time for desert.” My mother announced.
I raised to help her carry the cake and tea. She made her specialty, a white cake covered in white frosting with coconut sprinkled over the top.
“I would now like to make an announcement.” Jeff said as I return to my seat. “I have asked Margaret to be me wife. We will be going to her parents home next week to ask for their permission but, I wanted to come here first. I hope you all will be ppy for us and will give us your blessings.” He paused to take a breath and to let the news soak in. “I know it’s a bit sudden, but Margaret and I have talked it over. We are very much in love.”
I looked around the table to see how everyone reacted. I could tell Jeff was in love but had no idea he was thinking of marriage. Neither did the rest of the family. Mum had tears in her eyes, Dad seemed to be in a state of shock and Shelly had one o her goofy grins plastered across her face. She has always been the romantic in the family, crying over sappy movies and making everything into a romance story. Shelly is the first to get up and congratulation Jeff and Margaret. I am next. “I’m so ha y for you both,” I say wiping away my tears. I was truly happy for him and yet I had a pang of jealousy deep in my heart. For the last couple of days I told myself the time will come when I will have a settled life, but now all that solace I gave to self had seemed to vanish. I ached to see the loving look Jeff had in his eyes for Margaret, in the eyes of a lover of my own.
“Mum, Dad, do you give us your blessing?” Jeff slide his arm around Margaret waiting for our parents to speak up.
Mum and Dad glanced at each other and then turned to give their approval to Jeff. I am amazed at how they could communicate to each other without saying a word and yet know exactly how the other felt. I’ve learned that it comes with many years of marr ge. After a while all you have to do is look into the eyes of your lover to know what they are thinking.
We all sat then to have the cake and tea. My mind drifted past the table and conversation to the world outside. I felt confined and needed to get outside to the vast openness. Everyone was finishing up their cake and mum suggested we all go into the tting room to talk. I helped to put the dishes into the sink to be washed later and knew that this was my chance to get away.
“Would it be all right if I took a ride now, mummy?”
“That wouldn’t be very polite to your bother and what will Margaret think of you?”
“I know, but I have to get out of here, mum. I feel shut in. I will explain it to Jeff, I’m sure he won’t take offense.” My mother looked into my eyes. I hoped she couldn’t see the confusion I felt.
“Fine, don’t be long, Kathleen. I don’t want your soon to be sister-in-law to think you are rude.”
I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and rushed in to explain to Jeff and Margaret why I wouldn’t be joining them. Inside the stable I took down my old ridding saddle. Ginger raised her head to let out a loud sound.
“Yes, Ginger it’s me. So sorry I haven’t been to see you. Would you like to go out for a tramp?”
Ginger was the horse my parents gave me for my eighteenth birthday. I named her Ginger because her coat was a reddish-brown like ginger root. She thrust her head up and down wildly giving me her answer. I took her out of her stale putting on her blan t and saddle. I put my left foot into the stirrup and hoisted my body over hers. Not being used to riding I let her take a leisurely stride for the time being. We headed out east across the fields, jumping over the fences we came to. I lifted my fac up to the sky to see dark clouds looming overhead.
“Oh please keep your rain until I’m finished with me ride.” I asked of the angry clouds.
Now getting used to the feel of Ginger beneath my body I let her go at a gallop. The field and trees were a blur and once again I felt free. The crisp wind blew back my hair. I dropped the reins to erect my arms in the air. This does not phase Ging since she was accustomed to my doing so. I can’t explain the feeling no other way except as a high. Knowing that my body was venerable and that all my trust was in the animal beneath me. If I could have one moment to have for the rest of my life thi would be it. The feeling of freedom and liberation.
Suddenly a loud crash split the atmosphere. I felt Ginger raise and then my body falling to the ground with a thud knocking the air out of my lungs. I couldn’t see anything through the darkness that had fallen over my eyes. In the distance I heard so one yelling out my name as frizzing wetness poured upon me.
“Kathleen, Kathleen! Are you all right?”
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