This is my current work in progress, a historical fiction based on the true story of Ann MacLean, a Scottish immigrant and Loyalist. In this peek she meets someone who will play a brief but important role in her life.
A few torches guttered at the corners of the garden beds, hard pressed to burn against the gusting wind and drizzle. The garden paths were empty and sodden, but she turned and found the lieutenant leaning against the wall beside the doors, sheltered by a balcony overhead. At her appearance he stood straight again and regarded her with a quizzical expression.
“Lieutenant McIntyre.” She curtseyed to his bow. “I see you needed some air as well. I’m sorry for invading your solitude.” She watched him carefully for any sign of dismissal.
To her relief, he smiled. His eyes creased. “Not at all. You’re welcome company. It reminds me of home—the rain.” He nodded toward the damp night.
“Aye, it does.” Suddenly, in his presence, her accent broadened into the Island lilt of Dunvegan village, that uncouth speech Lady MacLeod had all but bred out of her.
Was it her imagination, or did his smile deepen at the sound?
“I used to watch the storms sweep in over Loch Etive and blot out the tops of the mountains as a boy.”
She smiled at the thought, picturing the same phenomenon over Loch Dunvegan. “Do you ever think about going back?”
There was a brief silence, filled with the strains of music and the hum of conversation from the open doors behind and the patter of rain, rustle of leaf, the trill of an enterprising night bird, and the ceaseless chirp of insects. “At times, aye, I do. But it will have changed, ye ken? Everything I miss is gone, or changed. Perhaps what I wish at times is to go back to what was. That canna be done. And I dinna think it should.”
Inspired by her example, he had freed the restraint on his own accent. She smiled to hear it, and at the same time ached for the sound of her father’s voice.
“There is no mother and father there, nor any sweetheart waiting for my return. My brothers and sisters are all settled. No.” He shook his head. “Everything I am now—the man I have made of myself—is here. My future is here.”
Another hushed silence fell. Ann still dwelled on the word sweetheart and wondered if he’d had one in that wished-for past.
“And what of you? Do you wish to go back? You’ve suffered a terrible lot since you left.”
For a brief moment a vision came to her of a fine house, and a warm fireside with Lady MacLeod and Lady Mary for company, and all of her little cousins round their feet. But it was an illusion. She would still be just as poor and pathetic, as much of a burden as ever.
She shook her head. “As you said—my future is here.”
The opening chords of a new dance came out through the doors.
“Ah, the Ecossaise.” He held out a hand to her. “If I may have the pleasure.”
She placed her hand in his with a smile and they slipped back into the crowded room to take up their place with the dancers.
This time, though the hush still carried with them as they danced, Ann felt a tie of kinship born of a little brogue and the rain.
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