Friday, February 24, 2012

A Friday of Fiction

1

“Come on Bronwen! Act like you at least want to be here!”
Sighing, I hefted my bag up on to my shoulder and followed my sister in to the medieval castle. Just to keep Morgan from grouching at me, I grabbed one of the tourist brochures from the rack near the door and pasted on a smile. The tour guide rattled on in what I was sure had to be a heavier accent than he was used to speaking in, and like school children, my sister and I along with several other yanks tagged along, ooing and awing at the various displays of tapestries, swords, plaids and other sundry items one might find in a Scottish, medieval castle in the highlands.
While Morgan was enthralled at the displays of clothing and needle work, I stepped to the side and examined the fireplace in the great hall. It was a huge affair, and I had no trouble picturing a roaring fire in it, the laird and his family sitting in chairs or on stools before it, hoping to catch some of its warmth. Probably nearby a bard would have been playing a harp and singing. A cool draft of air wafted around me, and I shivered in spite of myself.
I had heard the tales, just like everyone else. Ghosts and time travelers, Scottish stones and fairies, and like most of the population in the twenty-first century, I didn’t believe any of it. Yet, as I looked at the fireplace, I could almost be persuaded that there might be a modicum of truth to the tales.
Without thinking, I reached out a hand and touched the stones. They were cool to the touch, smooth from the passing of years, and they were also silent. No huming to warn of impending doom, no distant shouts of battle suggesting a passageway through time.
Feeling quite stupid, I dropped my hand. What had I expected.
“Bron,” my sister hissed from her spot in line, “quit that and come here!”
I managed to suppress the sigh this time, but even so, Morgan knew how I felt.
This vacation to Scotland was her idea. For years my sister had been fascinated by the old country. Our grandparents on our mother’s side were originally from Scotland. Both my grandad and grandma, at the ages of twelve and nine boarded a ship along with their parents and made the voyage across the pond. Summers with Grandad and Grandma were spent listening to Gaelic, if you can believe it, and learning how to bake scones...and be leary of anyone from England. We were never forced to learn the old tongue, but Morgan had. I just liked hearing my grandparents use it. Why learn a dead language? Morgan, now, she was a different story.
Last year, after her husband’s sudden death, Morgan had made up her mind to go on a vacation to Scotland. She wanted to see all the places Grandad and Grandma had talked about. She said she wanted to hear the accent, speak some Gaelic with the locals and tour some old castles and stone circles. I think she secretly wished she could walk through one of those stone circles and disappear in to the eighteenth century or somewhere else in the past. But, not me. I like seeing old things; I like antiques; I even like hearing the Gaelic, but I am very glad time travel is impossible. Learning about bygone days is great, but I like reading about it on a computer while waring jeans and teeshirts. Hot, running water, electric furnaces and refrigerators were not things I was willing to live without. I was along for the ride, so to speak, because I love my sister, and when she offered to pay for my trip, I couldn’t refuse. Besides, it was great, seeing things I’d only heard about. These were the reasons I gave to my family for tagging along. The truth was much harder to face. I was in Scotland because I no longer had a job.
A week before my sister was to hop on a plane bound for the UK, I stood in front of the dean of the college where I used to teach and was told I was no longer needed. Not only did I not have enough qualifications to suit my impoyers, I apparently wasn’t smart enough for them. I was being replaced. There was a man with a doctorate in medieval studies, they said. Mr. smarty pants had not only received his PhD from Yale, but he had taught at the college level for a few years. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, he had actually studied in the UK. So, even though Morgan didn’t know it, I had a perfectly good reason for not wanting to see yet another old castle.
This particular fortress of stone built somewhere around thirteen hundred, just happened to be the fifth castle in three days with one more visit to another castle tomorrow afternoon. I was coming to the conclusion that if you’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen them all. I knew we only had two weeks before we ahd to board a plane for the states, but Morgan seemed determined to run from tourist site to tourist site like there were yappy dogs on her heels. When I asked her what her hurry was, she would only remind me of our fourteen days. I would remind her that we didn’t have to do it all at once, but then she would tear up and beg me to have patience with her. I always gave in, and today was no exception.
When the tour was over, I pointed to a little tea shop on the castle grounds.
“They’re still open,” I said. “Let’s get a bite and take arest.”
Morgan nodded and we were soon sitting at an outdoor table with tea and little pastry things in front of us. I would have rather spent the time watching the other tourists, but Morgan wanted to talk about everything we had seen. I was used to being the quiet one and had developed a nack for nodding and mumbling a “hmm” at all the right places.
Sometime along the mention of the castle’s dundgeon, I noticed the man. He was with a few of what appeared to be comrads, all of them dressed in full highland regalia. They seemed to be preparing for some demonstration or reinactment of some type. One man had a set of bagpipes, another held sheets of paper, as if he were going to read or sing. The last man, the one I couldn’t take my eyes off of was carrying an honest to goodness broadsword.
“Well, would you look at that!”
Hearing my sister’s comment, I glanced over at her only to find she was staring at my guy, too.
“Nice choice, Bron. After the demonstration, you should go introduce yourself.”
“Are you kidding?”
“What?” Morgan asked, flashing me a conspiritorial look. “I’ll keep watch so you don’t do something you’d regret.”
“Gan, I don’t just walk up to strange men and introduce myself.”
“Well, why not? I mean, how do you think Brian and I met?”
“That was different,” I said, feeling my heart ache at the sad look that entered Morgan’s eyes at the mention of her husband.
“No it wasn’t,” she said. “He was working on Mom and Dad’s house, and I walked right up to him and introduced myself. Then, I asked him what his name was. We talked about the house and the nice weather, and then he asked me out for dinner.”
The thing was, things like that just seemed to happen to Morgan. They didn’t happen to me. I wasn’t pretty like my sister, I wasn’t as graceful as she, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think that when God handed out luck with guys, He somehow forgot I was in line.
Well,” I stalled, “you and Brian were meant to be.”
I didn’t miss the way she swallowed hard; grief was something that never seemed to go away. After a minute, though, she nodded.
“Yes, Brian and I were meant to be, and I believe God has somebody out there for you.”
I managed to keep from snorting, but barely.
“Gan, let’s just sit back, sip our tea and enjoy the performance. Then, we’ll go back to the B and B and go to bed. I’m worn out, I feel too grungy to talk to any men, and besides, I’m not in the market for someone new. You remember what happened the last time?”
“Yeah,” she said, a pinched look around her mouth, “I remember Drake, more’s the pity. But, Bron, that was last year, and not all guys are like that...that...that idiot. You need to start looking at men like anyone of them could be God’s match for you.”
“Now you sound like an advertisement for one of those Christian dating sites online. Give it up, Gan. I’m on vacation. Remember?”
Her sigh was loud. I could hear it even over the sound of the piper getting his pipes ready, but she said no more about my non-existent love life and what I should do about it. With a sigh of my own, I sat back and made an effort to pay attention to all the performers, but it was hard. My eyes kept straying to the man with the sword.
The performance was impromptu, if the expressions on the locals were any indication, but it was superb. The man with the papers read aloud in Gaelic and then translated in to English. It was a poem written by some long dead Scottish author. Then, the man put aside his papers, grabbed a sword and he and my guy went at each other, as if they truly intended on killing one another. But, as vicious as it looked, I knew it was staged. Still, my mouth watered in spite of my vow to give up on men. After the sword play, the man with the bagpipes began to play, and something inside me seemed to come alive. I can’t explain it, really, but when I closed my eyes, I could almost see a regiment of highland clansmen, running toward the battle, broadswords at the ready.
Then, in to my revery, someone began to sing. Opening my eyes, I stared at my guy in awe. He sang in Gaelic, of course, a song I remember my Grandma used to sing. I knew the English words, only because she had taught them to me. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, my whole being focused on the man and his song. By the time it was over, I was on my feet, barely abel to catch my breath.
There was the sound of aplause, somewhere in the distance, and then our eyes met across the way. I don’t know what he saw in my expression, but the corner of his mouth tipped up, and he actually bowed. He straightened, and then he winked. I opened my mouth, but speech was inpossible. Then, he turned and melted in to the crowd, and i could have cried at the feeling of berievment I felt.
What had that been about?
“Bron? Bronwen? Hello, earth to Bronwen!”
I blinked, and time began again. i turned to Morgan, and the expression on her face made me feel about two inches tall.
“Hello!” she said. “Not in the market for a relationship? Bron, that man was flirting with you. Go find him!”
Flirting? What planet was she on.
“He wasn’t flirting,” I said. “He was just singing.”
“To you. Bron, everyone could see it. He was looking right at you and singing, and you stood up with this look on your face like he was the only man alive!”
I felt my face heating up with embarrassment and turned away.
“Gan, let’s go.”
“You’re not going to look for him?”
“No.”
“Bronwen!”
But, I ignored her and took off toward where we had parked the car.

*****

So, it has holes, probably, it needs the spell checker taken to it, and Bronwen might need some work, but that's where y'all come in. Feel free to tear it apart or fall in love with it. All I ask, is don't steal it. lol Have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend.

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