When Brad was driving back to the hotel he realized just how many things had to happen perfectly before he could even ask Milly to marry him. First, he had to reserve a private room where he and Milly could have dinner. Then Jamie had to help him with the kilt and all it entailed. Then Jessica had to help Milly get dressed without letting the cat out of the bag. During dinner, Brad planned to throw Milly a curve by presenting her with a Jade necklace just in case she had any preconceived ideas about anything else. After dinner, they would go for a walk on the grounds. When she was bathed in moonlight then and only then would he propose.
After he parked the car he went straight to reception to arrange a private room where he and Milly could have dinner. Brad walked to reception where a man was sorting mail.
“Excuse me. I was wondering if you could help me. I’m Dr. Brad Foster. I’m here with another doctor Dr. Milly Shine. We’re both here on a medical exchange with Highland Central. We’re staying in room 17. I would like to propose to her this evening.”
“Jolly good sir. I wish you all the luck.” said the man behind the reception desk.
Brad continued. “Milly has been dropping hints that she would like me to wear a kilt, sporran, the works. So far I’ve refused to wear it. But I want tonight to be extra special. I have a friend coming from London to help me put it on. As you can see my right hand is bandaged, and I’m right-handed. Is there a room where I can get dressed tonight? I don’t want her to know. I really want it to be a surprise. And I would like tonight’s dinner to be intimate. Just the two us”
The man at the reception desk thought good and hard about Brad’s request.
“Bosworth Hall has many a request but I don’t recall any of them being quite like yours. There is a small room where you can get dressed. It’s currently under renovation so there won’t be any cost. But I will have to know your friends’ name.”
“His name is Jamie MacTaggert of Strathpeffer Scotland. He’ll be accompanied by one Jessica McCloud. She’ll be helping Dr. Shine get dressed. I was also wondering if I could book a room in their names. I know it’s very short notice but I understand the drive back to Strathpeffer is rather long at night. I want them to be refreshed and drive in the morning.” said Brad.
“Aye, that it is. Depending on what roads you take it can take upwards of three hours. But if Fergus taught his son to drive he’ll have no trouble at all. And if the beautiful Jessica is driving they’ll be there in no time” said the man at the desk. He shuffled the mail and put some between his fingers.
“How do know of the MacTaggert family?” asked Brad.
The man turned and put some mail in the paneled slots behind him. When turned around he answered Brad’s question.
“You see sir wee Jamie is my younger bother. I’m Hamish MacTaggert. From what you’ve said I gather you’re one of the two “ambassadors” my sister Druk has been bending my ear about. If I didn’t help you out and my sister found out there would be holy hell to pay. And she’d never let me forget it. I learned long ago not to anger her. You see I’m the black sheep of the family. I left Strathpeffer when my father wanted me to stay.”
“I must agree. Your sister is a handful. Thank you, Hamish.” Brad extended his left hand and shook Hamish’s left hand. “Thank you. You’ve just taken a monumental weight off my shoulders”. Before Brad turned and left Hamish made a request of Brad. “Please don’t tell wee Jamie about me. When I left Strathpeffer my father and I weren’t talking and we haven’t talked in over ten years. Druk is my only contact with any of the family.”
“I know what you mean. A person can choose their friends but they can never choose their family. I won’t say a word. I’ll be in the lobby waiting for Jamie and Jessica should you need any further information.”
“Dr. Foster. All three rooms will be ready by the time they arrive.”
“Thank you, Hamish.”
Brad walked off in the direction of the lobby. When he got there he sat down on a red leather couch. As he was in the process of sitting down the couch rubbed against the fabric of his pants causing a sound some might consider rude to be heard. An elderly gentleman sitting across from Brad looked over the tops of his glasses, raised an incredibly bushy eyebrow, and slowly raised his newspaper high enough so he wouldn’t see Brad. For no logical reason, Brad suddenly felt very guilty. He got up and walked off and headed for the hotel bar.
The bar wasn’t hard to find. All he had to do was to follow the trail of endlessly clinking glass and the phit sound of carbonated beverages being opened. The bartender was hanging glasses upside down and restocking the shelves with rum, cognac, and various types of beer. Some of the names of beer were familiar but one, called Ricochet, was new to him. Its maker, however, was not. Brad decided to indulge in a bottle of Ricochet. Just after Brad had placed his order the elderly gentleman who had been eyeing Brad stood beside him.
“Cancel the Ricochet. Dr. Foster and I will have two sherry’s please and put both of them on my bill.”
Then he turned to Brad.
“You don’t remember me do you?” he said.
Brad looked from side to side wondering just what was going on.
“I know I’m not terribly memorable Dr. Foster but it’s not every day a total stranger saves your life. If you still need some help I offer two words to you. Heimlich and nuts.”
Brad studied the man and for some reason focused on his handlebar mustache.
“Now I remember you. How are you feeling? I haven’t had to do the Heimlich on anybody for some years.”
“Well my ribs are a bit tender but I’m unsure if they’re tender from my coughing fit or your life-saving bear hug. May I suggest we sit down.” The man was holding two sherries but somehow motioned with his elbow and indicated the noisy red couch.
“That couch doesn’t like me. May I suggest the Queen Anne chairs?” said Brad.
“Excellent choice my boy.” He placed the Sherries on a table, sat in the chair, leaned back, interlaced his fingers, and formally introduced himself.
“Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Professor Quentin Jameson. Here is my card. I’m retired but I used to be a neurologist.”
Brad studied the card.
Prof. Quentin Jameson
“I have found retirement to be rather wanting at times. To that end, I’ve created a hobby for myself. I study people and if I like them, really like them, I “collect” them. And when you sat on that couch your expression was one of concern, mixed with anxiety and worry. Since you did me a good turn I thought I might return the favor. You’re far too young to worrying so. So if you would like to chat about whatever seems to be so concerning to you I’m more than willing to listen.” said the Professor.
“It’s nothing but pre-proposal jitters.”
‘”You mean that vision of loveliness I saw you with when we were checking in with isn’t your wife?”
“Not yet. I hope to ask her tonight. Right now she’s upstairs sleeping. Hopefully, she doesn’t suspect anything. But Milly is a romantic. She probably suspects something is afoot. All I know is that the simple act of breathing is very difficult without her at my side. I love her that much. She completes me and means more to me than you could know.”
The Professor chuckled and took a sip of his sherry.
“There may be snow on the roof but the fire still burns bright. I felt much like you do now once long, long ago. I was a proper mess. Then I popped the question. And my gorgeous wife Annie said yes.”
The Professor patted his head and Brad understood.
“Where is your wife, Professor?”
“My dear Annie passed away a year ago. Cancer. In fact, we had planned to come here together. I miss her so very much. But if I had canceled this trip I suspect she would have found a way to let her anger known. Not that I believe in ghosts mind you.” The Professor leaned toward Brad.
“I’m sorry for your loss. But I’d to offer an observation. Your Annie sounds very much like my Milly. Caring, gentle, but not afraid to tell you exactly she thought” said Brad.
“My spitfire. I called her that you know. I don’t think she was terribly fond of the nickname but she knew when I called her that it was said with love and respect. And from what I can tell you have great amounts of those two feelings for Milly. Ask her. I suspect the answer will surprise you. I know I loved Annie. And I suspect you love Milly greatly. If you’re anything like me you’ve concocted some sort of elaborate scheme to help her say the magic word.” The Professor put his hand lightly on Brad’s knee and spoke to him much a grandfather would talk to his grandson. “Now my advice to you is to drink your sherry slowly and relax. Everything will unfold in due time.” said the Professor.
Just then Jamie and Jessica arrived. They were somewhat surprised to see Professor Jameson.
“Here we are Brad, as advertised. We brought a few dresses for Milly to try” Then they noticed the Professor. “We didn’t know you were stayin’ here?”
“Annie and I planned this trip before she passed. And I got the feeling she’d let me know in no uncertain terms how she felt if I canceled. Young Jessica, beautiful as always, has Jamie been behaving himself?”
“He’s been behaving himself, but just barely. I swear the lads part octopus. I’ve never seen so many hands.” said Jessica
“That’s it, Jamie. Stand up for the male gender” said Brad
Jessica grabbed Brad by both earlobes and looked him square in the eyes.
“Don’t you dare encourage him. I’ve got quite enough to deal with without you causing trouble. So just behave yourself Dr. Brad Foster or I’ll let Milly know you’ve been you’ve been causing trouble and there will be hell to pay.”
Brad stood up and suddenly grabbed both Jamie and Jessica by the shoulders and hugged them both. “Thank you for coming – both of you. I think what I have planned is actually going to work.”
Jamie could smell the sherry on Brad’s breath. “Great, but lets this show on the road” anxious to get started.
“I’ll be with you in a minute. I promised Milly I’d look in on her.”
Jamie finished Brad’s sherry in frustration. “Och, I canna believe the man! He has no idea of what’s involved.” He put his head on Jess’s shoulder in bewilderment and frustration.
“He loves Milly just like you love me. That’s all that counts. If you were as nervous as Brad you’d be acting much the same Jamie MacTaggert. And when the time comes I hope you’ll be as caring. So give the poor man a break. He’s lovesick.” said Jessica.
Just then the Professor interrupted.
“Brad cares greatly for both of you. So much so he reserved a room in your names. He doesn’t want you driving at night and I don’t blame him. It looks like real pea-souper out there. Right now my suggestion to the both of you is to Dr. Foster a great deal of latitude”
When reached his room he did his best to open the first door to the suite as quietly as he could. The heavy oak door moved with only a mild creak. A space approximately of four feet square separated the outer door from the inner door. When the house was a private residence someone used this small area to make last minute adjustments to their attire. After quietly unlocking the inner door the hinges howled and announced Brad’s presence.
The suite was still dark. The curtains were drawn and Milly was still in bed. As soon as she heard the protesting door she sat bolt upright clutching the sheets to her chest.
“Brad, it that you?” asked Milly
“It’s me, kitten. I’m just waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness before I move anymore. I wanted to see how you were.”
“What time is it hon?”
“It’s about 4:30 in the afternoon. I spent most of the day walking. This is really a charming little town.”
“Holly Fuzzbucket! I’ve missed a whole day. I feel great right now so I guess I really must have been exhausted. The time change, that farce called at the Sparrow hotel and trying not to disappoint you. How was Gil?”
“He has dementia and is in the town hospice. But we had a wonderful talk. He told me some fascinating things. But what do you mean trying not to disappoint me?” replied Brad
“I want to ask you a question and it nothing to do with Gil. Ever since I first saw you in the hospital I hoped you would ask me out. But you never did. How come you never said anything?”
Brad had just been put on the spot. And he didn’t like it. But there was no way out that he could see so he told her the truth.
“To be totally honest I was afraid of you. You are so damn attractive and so very sexy. You looked like a supermodel and you always will. And I thought someone so fantastic looking must already have a boyfriend or at the very least be clubbing potential suitors off with a stick. But when you moved into my apartment building you dropped the doctor persona and let the feminine part shine through. I thought I could never compete with you. You are just that gorgeous. There is no way on this earth that you could ever disappoint me kitten. But before I forget any longer I ran into Jamie and Jessica in the hall. I mentioned to her that you were under the weather and she volunteered to help you get dressed tonight. So tonight you have your own ladies maid. I’ve got to go back and straighten some snafu at the reception desk.” With that Brad made a quick exit from the suite. He ran down the hall to where Jamie was waiting. As he was trotting down the hall he passed Jessica with an armful of dresses. Brad passed her in the hall. “OK, Jessica, you’re on. It’s room 17”
As Jessica walked towards suite 17 she almost stumbled carrying the dresses. When she knocked on the door of suite 17 Milly was naked. She always slept naked. She quickly put on a robe. When Jessica announced herself she pretended to be angry. Milly opened the door, Jessica entered, fell to the floor, and tossed the dresses on the bed.
“I don’t know what that man of yours” pointing directly at Milly “has cooked up in that devious mind of his, but here I am. All he told was that you were not feeling well and I volunteered to help you get dressed for dinner.”
Milly couldn’t help but look at the dresses. “But Jessica I feel fine. It’s true this morning I didn’t feel at all well this morning but it was simple exhaustion! I feel much better really.”
“Look Milly. I’ve got my orders. To help you get dressed. But before you can do that you’re going to have a bath so take off that robe and get into that tub.” Jessica pointed at the bathtub.
“Just what is going on Jessica?”
“That man of yours is out of his mind. He phones me up and says he wants to have dinner with a princess. I tell him you already are one. Personally, I think he’s gone a wee bit daft. You look as right as rain to me. I’d like to suggest we doll you up so much his jaw will be on the floor for a month.”
Milly now suspected something. She could say what but something just didn’t sound right.
“Woman to woman, what exactly did Brad say? I mean word for word,” asked Milly.
Jessica tried to think of something appropriate. It didn’t work.
“Come Jessica, out with it.”
“You not going to like it all. Why do try on one of the dresses?”
“Jessica McCloud spit it out this minute!”
“Do something with that!”
Milly punched his pillow pretending he was right on the bed.
“That low down dirty bastard! Right now I’m so mad at him I could knock his teeth down his throat! Well, two can play that game.” She flopped in a chair. “So he wants to have dinner with a princess, does he? Let’s give him someone he’ll remember. Do your best Jessica. It’s jaw droppin’ time!”
Down the hall, Brad entered a small room that was in the process of being renovated. Jamie was already there. His arms were crossed, and he looked he was about to kill Brad.
“Before we get started I want you to know I’ve never done this before. So if it’s not perfect I’m not to blame.
“Relax Jamie and don’t worry. I’m not to ask to sign a contract-”
“A Scotsman’s word is a contract!” Jamie roared.
Brad showed him the box that contained the kilt, the sporran, etc..
“Everything seems to be in order. Kilt, sporran, Bowtie, Hose, flashes, Brogues, Kilt pin, your jacket and vest, and most all your Sgian Dubh. Alrighty take everything off but your underwear and put on this crisp clean white shirt.”
Jaime watched as Brad did up the shirt. “I want that top button done too. When you’re finished doing that sit on this wooden box.” The room had been stripped bare and there was precious little to sit on. Sheets were hung over the furniture in preparation for painting.
Brad straightened the arms of the clean crisp shirt and was about to start inserting the cufflinks when Jamie almost exploded. “What are you doin’ man? Take those off this instant! I’m here to teach you the only way I know how, and that’s how I dress. Don’t do anything unless I tell you. Are you clear on that?”
Brad simply nodded afraid the knife, otherwise called a Sgian Dubh, would suddenly come into play. He also wondered if asking Jamie to do this was a mistake.
“Sorry about being so cranky. I’ve got a lot on my mind too. I suspect we’re both thinking about doing the same thing. I want to ask Jess to marry me, but I’m not sure how my father would take it. He’s been hoping I’ll marry within the clan.”
Brad put his hand up for permission to speak. “You’re not in school so out with it” was Jamie’s reply.
“I suspect you love your father and that’s great. But if Jessica says yes she’s going to be married to you and not your father. When all is said and done it’s all about you and her. Nobody else. Just you two.”
“Next step. Your hose or socks. You bring them up to just above your knee. Whatever you do don’t ever pull them up. When you’ve done take the flashes with the elastics and put them on the same way and make sure they’re at the top of your calf muscle. The flash on your right leg goes on the right side of your leg while the left flash goes on the left side. Now fold the hose one or two times over the top half of the flashes. Whether you fold the hose down one or two times depends on you. It’s all a matter of comfort. If your hose are at different heights you’ll pretty odd so when you’re doing this by yourself check in a full-length mirror. Now for the main event. The Kilt. Hold the kilt at your natural waist level against your back. Not the one clothing designers decide. Pull the left side towards your right. Find the slots in the kilt and insert the belt. Do the same for the left side. Don’t make it too tight or you’ll find breathing a wee bit difficult. If you can put two thumbs down the waist comfortably you’ve done it perfectly”
Brad picked up the ornate looking kilt pin. After close examination, he asked a very ordinary, very innocent sounding question “And where does this go?”
Jamie turned around, put his hands on his head, and started muttering in Gaelic. Jamie eventually walked towards Brad and both his hands on his shoulders.”Och, I don’t believe it. You’re ten years my senior. If I understand your slang correctly questions like “Where does this go”, and especially “Where do I stick this” are loaded questions. You should know ahead of time or have instructions. Don’t ever ask a question like that again unless you want somebody to think you’re an ass. This time you were lucky. I know you’re not an ass. Let’s continue. We’re almost at the finish line. The pin keeps the inside of your kilt connected with the outside of the kilt. It also preserves your modesty on windy days.”
Jaime foraged in the box for two rather lethal looking shoes.
“See those shoes. They’re called Brogues. Some people, like me, prefer loafers. But with Brogues, you have very long laces with tassels on them. I’ll do up your Brogues today, but after that, I won’t. Brad watched as Jamie looped them twice just above the ankle. “Don’t tie them too tight. And the tassels must be even.”
Brad said he knew what to do with the vest. He adjusted the strap at the back of the vest. Once he put it on he buttoned it up. Jamie commented that he had a “wee corporation”. Brad said he knew he did but he called it “middle age spread”.
“Take the sporran out of the box. You’ll see its got tiny chains on each side. Put it behind you till it touches your bum. Hook the chains together and rotate the sporran till its exactly in the middle and hangs just below your waist.”
Jamie was holding a small flat stone. Brad asked about the stone. None of his research prior to the trip mentioned anything about any stone.
“It’s my own little touch to the sporran. It’s for those occasions when you have to be close to a woman. It helps weigh things down should anything arise, or should a slight stiffening occur if you get my meaning. My suggestion is that you give it to Milly on your wedding day. She should get a bit of chuckle when you tell her what it’s for.”
Brad put on the Prince Charlie jacket with no problems. Brad held the ornamental knife. He asked about it.
“That sir is your Sgian Dubh. You tuck it into the top of hose of your dominant hand. In your case, that’s your right hand. Now there’s only one thing left. Your bow tie.”
Brad raised his bandaged right hand. “Sorry, Jamie. That can’t happen today.”
“Just after you called I remembered your hand. I got a tie with your Foster Tartan with a Windsor knot at a Highland Games festival. This wee beastie is a clip-on tie. When you get home I suggest you get a proper tie to match your tartan. Now I wonder how my Jess is doin’ with your Milly?”