“Fiona, look what I found on
front door this morning. It seems like Anne McAllister is throwing a tea
party this afternoon. You’ve only got half a day of school. Why don’t you
run along, don’t be late, and when you come home we’ll go. It’s a dress up
party too. I’ll get your best things out and lay them on your bed. You can
change when you get home. I’ll get off work early; hopefully it will be a
slow day. It sounds fun, doesn’t it?” Mairi said.
“A tea party? Dress up? I
don’t think I’ve been to a tea party before. Are they fun?” Fiona ate her
breakfast and put her schoolbooks in her backpack.
“Tea parties are grand. It’s
just what I need to take my mind off this mess. Where’s Johnny?” Mairi
looked around and didn’t see him.
“I think he went back to the
McAllister’s house. I heard noises this morning and when I got up he wasn’t
here,” Fiona said.
“Ah well. He’ll probably go
off with Malcolm and the lads. Men don’t belong at tea parties,” Mairi said.
“I’m off, Mum. See you around
noon.” Fiona grabbed a piece of wheat toast and left.
* * *
“Oh Johnny, you just missed
Malcolm. Shona and I are giving a tea party for Mairi and Fiona. Malcolm
took the lads out for the day, probably doing a little hunting. Will you and
Jimmy be able to amuse yourselves today?” Anne chopped cucumbers and sliced
lemons, limes and oranges for the ice ring for the punch.
“Thanks Anne. I’m sure my
brothers and I will be able to keep ourselves busy. Where is Jimmy?” Johnny
said, looking for him.
“He went to Angus’s to see
Jesse. Why don’t you just run along now? I’ve got so much to do. Try to keep
yourselves away from the croft until supper time,” Anne said.
Johnny waved goodbye and
headed for Angus’s house.
Anne spent the entire morning
preparing food, airing out her linen tablecloths and clipping flowers from
her garden for the centerpieces. “The garden’s lovely at this time of year.
I’ll just cut some more roses and a few sprigs of fern and white cow parsley
and I’ll be all set.”
* * *
After school Fiona changed
into her white dress. Tiny stitched purple flowers and olive green leaves
decorated the hem and around the neck. She saw the white gloves and hat on
the bed. “A hat? No way. Mum, I am not wearing a hat!”
“Fiona, come on. It’s a tea
party. Put the hat and gloves on. I’m wearing mine,” Mairi said.
“But I’ll look stupid.”
“All the other girls will be
wearing theirs. Come on, Fiona. Cooperate with me.”
She put the hat on and stared
at herself in the mirror. “I look stupid,” she said, but left it on. The
white gloves stretched up her arm. “I feel like an idiot.”
Mairi came into her room to
see if she was ready, caught Fiona frowning. “Is it that bad, Fiona?”
Fiona glanced up. “Wow, Mum.
You look very nice.”
“I can say the same for you.
You look lovely. Are you ready for the tea party?” Mairi held her gloved arm
out and Fiona slipped hers through. They walked arm in arm to the
* * *
Good morning, Angus. I see
Jimmy and Jesse already made it here. Good morning to you all,” Johnny said.
“Come in and sit down. Your
brothers,” Angus said, giving Johnny a look, “have been telling me all about
the history of your homeland.”
“Ah, so you know everything.
Well, fill me in,” Johnny said. “I can’t stay long. I need to get back to
Mairi’s and make sure there’s no trouble while she’s at work.”
“Would you like to see the
book first?” Angus pulled it out of the drawer. “Here it is. I’m sure it
brings back memories.”
Johnny took the book in his
hands. “My book. It’s still in one piece, after all these centuries.
Amazing.” He sat down and turned the brittle pages one by one. “I remember
the day I wrote this. It seems like only yesterday, yet it was in another
lifetime.” All thoughts of Mairi and her house disappeared.
“You certainly had me
confused. You wrote part of the book in a strange mixture of
Phoenician and Arabic and then, once you came to
Scotland, you switched to Gaelic,” Angus said.
“I pick languages up quickly.
One of our servants was a local villager. His name was Bruce. When he was
finished working, he and I would slip away to my room and he'd teach me how
to speak and write Gaelic. Great man, Bruce. I miss him.”
The others left him to his
memories, went outside and sat on the chairs Angus had set up under the
branches of an ancient oak.
* * *
Drayton hummed as he walked
down the street, heading for Mairi’s house on Cheshire Road. “Good,
everyone’s gone to work,” he said, noticing no cars in the neighbor’s
driveways or garages. He went around to the back of the house. The doors
were locked and so were the windows, all of them. “No problem. I’ve got my
handy pick here.” He unlocked the back door without any trouble and went
inside. “Anyone home?” He stood ready to run if someone answered. Nobody
did. “It looks like I’ve got the place to myself.”
He saw the blanket and pillow
folded on the couch. “Mairi’s had a house guest last night. What’s the
matter, Mairi? Afraid of the dark?” He mocked her and looked around the
house. “Well, well, well. You did a good job cleaning this up. What a shame
I’m going to have to make it a mess again.”
Drayton searched the cupboard
under the sink. “Goldmine here.” He pulled out a can of black spray paint.
He went into the living room and sprayed symbols he’d seen in the ancient
book all over the walls. “I’ll not make too much mess for you this time.” He
laughed out loud, spraying the bathtub, sinks, closet doors and even inside
Mairi’s shoes. “That’ll do.” He dropped the can of paint in the rubbish and