Fiona and her mother spent
Sunday morning working in the garden. They dug up potatoes, carrots and
turnips and picked the last crop of peas from the vines. “When we’re done
here, I’d like you to help me with the apples. Our tree is full. I was
thinking of making a few apple pies,” Mairi said.
“What about church, Mum?”
Fiona wiped off the mud caked on her hands.
Mairi answered, “I don’t
think I have time today. The beehives need work and there’s just so much to
do. If you want to go, why don’t you go in and shower and get ready.”
She decided to go and after
getting into her favorite Sunday dress, she waved goodbye to her mum and
headed down the dirt road to the old Norman church. Mairi poured herself a
glass of cold water and sat down on one of the outdoor chairs. The sun,
hidden now and then by clouds, white and fluffy, raced by, leaving behind a
cool, crisp autumn morning. After clipping a bouquet of flowers from her
garden, she put the hollyhocks in a vase and set it on the dining room
Fiona sat next to Elspet and
her brothers during church. Whispering, she asked, “What are you going to do
for the rest of the day?”
“I’ve got to help my mum. Dad
clipped the sheep yesterday and the wool is piled high. She doesn’t want to
wash it because that would wash out the lanolin, but she needs to prepare it
for dying and then spinning. Dad’s taking the lads to visit his mum in
Tummoch. Not very exciting, is it,” Elspet whispered back.
“Tomorrow, after school, come
to Uncle Angus’s. He’s supposed to be back in the afternoon, late. I’ll see
you then,” Fiona said.
After church she ran to find
Callum, catching him just before he and his mum and brothers left.
“Hi Fiona,” Callum said. “I’m
going with Mum, Murdoch and Shona to visit Gran. She lives near Rannoch
Moor. Do you want to come with us?”
“I’ve got to get home. We’re
having guests for tea this afternoon. Don’t forget to come to Uncle Angus’s
after school tomorrow.” Fiona winked and ran home.
When she walked in the house,
Johnny and Jimmy were already there.
“Hello Fiona,” Johnny said.
“We came early. I hope you don’t mind. Your mum’s been showing us about the
house and telling us about her garden.”
“Let me change out of my
dress first and then I’ll come and visit with you. Excuse me, please.” Fiona
rushed to her bedroom to change. While she was tying her shoes, an idea came
to her mind. She went downstairs. “Jimmy, would you like to go to the
beehives with me?”
Johnny smiled. He knew what
she had in mind.
Her mum scolded her. “Fiona,
that’s not polite. What about Johnny? He’d probably love to see the beehives
“That’s fine, Mairi. Let
Jimmy go with her. I’ve seen plenty of beehives in my lifetime. He’s never
seen one,” Johnny said. “Go with her, Jimmy and see what you can learn.”
“Great. We’ll be back in an
hour. You two go ahead and enjoy each other’s company,” Fiona winked. She
grabbed Jimmy’s hand, without objection, and led him out the door.
“So, Mairi, you say you’re
from Inverdrochit. Please tell me about the place. What does it look like
now?” Johnny’s eyes seemed distant, full of memories of how it used to be
“I’ve not been back for a
visit for a month or two. Fiona’s always asking me to move back there, or to
the city, but I feel settled here in Inveralba. Inverdrochit’s still a wee
place, with about fifty or so crofts. There’s a post office and a shop. Most
of the residents come to Inveralba to do their shopping, or to have a day
out. Maybe we could take a stroll over there tomorrow.”
“That sounds wonderful. What
about Castle Athdara? Have you ever been there?”
“No, I’ve not. There’s
something about the place that frightens me. Don’t laugh, Johnny. I mean it.
I feel pain and tragedy radiating from the stone walls.” Mairi rubbed the
goosebumps inching their way up her arms.
Trying to make the
conversation more cheerful, Johnny said, “Do you like to fish? I love
fishing, especially on a loch like Loch Doon. The water’s deep, dark, and
full of trout and salmon carried in from the river. Malcolm’s shown us a few
fishing spots, mostly rivers.”
“Who are you, Johnny Thomson?
I sense you are not what you appear to be. I find it mysterious how you seem
to know all about this area, the loch, the villages, and even the castle,
yet you claim to come from London as a tourist.” Mairi looked into his pale
“I’ll be honest with you.
I’ve been here before. I’ve fished in the loch and I’ve even lived in one of
the villages, but it was long ago, Mairi. The fondest memories and the
darkest memories of my life are from here,” Johnny said, his eyes once again
distant and forlorn. “Enough of this gloominess. Time’s passing quickly
today. Why don’t you help me make tea and biscuits? Fiona and Jimmy will be
back shortly. Let’s have it waiting for them, hot and sweet.” Mairi laughed,
stood up and grabbed Johnny’s hands, pulling him up.
Their eyes met. He bent his
head about to kiss her when they heard, “Ahem!”
Mairi let go of him and
turned to see a smiling Fiona and her companion to the beehives, Jimmy.
“You’re back so soon. Johnny and I were about to have some tea and biscuits.
Sit down and I’ll pour.”
Fiona winked at her mum.
The next few hours sped by.
As the sun set, Mairi, Fiona, Johnny and his brother sat outside in the
flower garden, watching the stars twinkle in the sky. “Just as I remember
them. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed,” Johnny said.
“Johnny?” Jimmy wasn’t sure
what was going on.
“We’d better be going.
Malcolm’s got a busy day of hunting planned for us tomorrow. May I come by
tomorrow night?” Johnny asked, hoping she’d say yes.
“Certainly. I’d be delighted
to have you both,” Mairi said.
“It would just be myself.
Jimmy’s going out with Malcolm to one of your local ceilidhs and I’m not one
for parties. I’ll see you tomorrow night then,” he said and stood up.
“Come for supper,” Mairi
shouted as she waved at the men walking down the path towards the
“Mum, I won’t be here either.
I’m going to Uncle Angus’s house after school. Elspet and Callum are meeting
me there. We’ll eat with him, if that’s all right. You don’t mind being
alone with Johnny, do you?” Fiona giggled and went inside.
Mairi watched the dark
figures disappear over the hill, turned off the light and followed Fiona