When Milly came down the stairs she returned to the table. She whispered to Brad she had just delivered the message and that Druk was madder than a wet hen.
Fergus leaned back and looked at Milly. “Has that man of yours told yours you look gorgeous today?”
Milly blushed a bit, looked at Fergus and grasped Brad’s hand.
“Brad and I were talking last night,” said Milly somewhat nervously.
“Well, I’m glad to hear the English language is still alive and kickin’. But I suspect you’re about to ask me something” said Fergus.
Milly looked at her mother and father and felt a chill go up and down her back.
“As I said Brad and were talking last night. A lot. And the upshot is we would dearly love to be married here. In your castle. At the end of the week before mom and dad go home. Everyone we would want at the wedding is either already here, close by, or could be here on short notice. Mother and daddy could give me away, I’d want Jessica as my bridesmaid, Brad wants Jamie to be his best man, and most importantly we both want Dr. Macbeth here. Mostly because without you and her we wouldn’t be here at all.”
Fergus scratched his chin and asked Tyler if she was always so eloquent and gorgeous.
“My daughter Milly has always been gorgeous. Just as gorgeous as her mother. Eloquent? Well, that’s a different matter. In her teenage years, it was more “I want this or I want that”. But in her twenties whenever she wanted something it was always “Mother dear…” or “Daddy dear…” This civilized eloquence would seem to be a relatively recent development. But as her father, I can only suggest you give your consent to her request or you’ll never hear the end of the matter.”
Milly couldn’t take the suspense or the character assassination any further.
“Daddy. You’re embarrassing me!”
Her father leaned on the breakfast table and addressed his daughter. “And that, my darling Milly, is one the prerogatives of being a parent. And as one of your parents, I’m allowed to embarrass you. As is your mother. Nobody else is. Just the two of us. It’s something I suspect you’ll excel at. As will Brad.”
Tyler turned his head slightly and addressed Brad.
“And Brad, if you want a little coaching on this subject I humbly volunteer my services.” Tyler turned his head towards Milly. “Milly, my dear I suggest you consult your mother. There are some things best-said man to man and woman to woman.”
But right now Milly gazed at Fergus. His silence started to make Milly crack. She put her hand on top of his. “Please?” She looked into his eyes with two moist eyes.
All of a sudden he pushed his chair back.
“Och, I canna stand all this sentimentality. I’ll give ya ma answer when you least expect it. Ask me agin and the answer will be no!”
With no warning, Milly rose from the table and ran to the bedroom crying. Fergus watched Milly run to her bedroom and heard sobbing.
Tyler and Tilly glared at Fergus with fury and anger. He had overstepped his role as host. Tyler lost his temper and started yelling at Fergus.
“I don’t have a clue what you thought you were doing just now, but if you don’t apologize to my daughter this instant Dr. Macbeth is going to have company on the plane home.” yelled an enraged Tyler. Tilly stood up for her daughter as well.
“I thought we were friends. If you don’t do something right now you can consider our friendship at an end. You seem to think you can bully people to your way of thinking. Well, guess what…you can’t! If you value our friendship at all you’ll get off your high horse and apologize.”
Fergus considered what he had said and what was being said to him. He didn’t like anyone telling him what to do in his own house, but in this case, he was clearly in the wrong. And outnumbered.
“I think I may have overplayed ma cards a wee bit. I think I better tend to this right now.”
He walked down the hall to the guest rooms. And he heard her crying into a pillow. He knocked on the door and to his surprise, Milly opened the door.
“May I come in? I’ve come to apologize. Only once before has a woman’s tears caused me to apologize or change my mind.”
“That must have been your wife. She must have a very understanding and patient woman.”
Milly sat on the edge of the bed while Fergus grabbed a chair and put it close to her.
In hushed tones, Fergus talked to Milly like a father. “What I’m about to say must stay between you and me for the remainder of time. You mustn’t tell anyone ever, not even Brad.”
Milly nodded, not quite sure what sure what she was hearing had to do with her request.
“For a lot of my life, I’ve been pig-headed, and stubborn. My stubbornness has caused me to lose my first born son. I wanted him to stay in Strathpeffer but he wanted to leave and see the world. I’d like to ask you a personal question. Is Brad your first love?”
“I suspect you already know he is Dr. MacTaggert,” she said quietly.
“Aye, I thought he was. After my son, Hamish left my attitude towards people left me an embittered, angry old goat. My attitude destroyed my marriage. It drove my wife away. I tell Jamie his mother died because that’s what happened to our marriage. It died because we both stopped trying to understand each other. I learned too late that no one fully understands their spouse. You may think at some point you know all about Brad, and he knows all about you. In a marriage, you never stop learning about the other. As for my first love lets just say it was somebody you know very well. Somebody, you’ve known all your life.”
Milly’s eyes became as big as saucers. “Are you telling me I’m you’re daughter?!” she said excitedly.
Fergus started to chuckle. “Nothing so theatrical as that. Your mother was my first love. She met your father when he and I were in med school and fell in love with him. But she wanted to study in your country. Today at the table I could see so much of your mother in you. So much of the woman I fell in love with. It was so difficult seeing you and knowing you could have been my daughter. With your permission, I’d like to be your second father if you’ll let me. The castle is yours for the wedding.”
Milly was so happy that tears rolled down her face.
But Milly wasn’t finished with her questions. Not by a long shot.
“Are you saying mom never knew you were in love with her?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. I never had the courage to tell her. And please don’t ever tell her. Or your father. Ever. Now that I’m through gettin’ that off my chest am I a friend of the bride or groom?. I want a good seat. I don’t want a seat way at the back.”
“You’re definitely a friend of the bride. And you get a seat with mom and dad!”
“Could I ask you a question?” asked Fergus.
“By all means fire away” replied Milly.
“Based on everything you’ve seen since your flight, even in England, do you think you or Brad would want to stay here in Scotland of a while? The reason I ask is that Highland was willed a cottage. And the hospital is simply not in the real estate business. Right now we have no use for the place. But it could serve as your first office/surgery and a home for both of you. The hospital would supply everything you need. And we would keep in touch with you via a secure internet connection. The board of directors would probably approve of the idea if they knew two newly married doctors were available. I know you probably want to see it first before committing yourself and I don’t blame you. If you agree the cottage might even become known as Foster Cottage. The hospital is simply becoming too large, and this could be an extension of the hospital but in a more rural setting. I want you to understand this is just an idea. Nothing is carved in stone yet. Who knows…maybe you or Brad may have an idea for improving on the idea.”
“Before I give you my reply is my answer connected in any way to my getting permission for my wedding?” she asked warily of what the answer might be.
“You using the castle for your wedding does not depend on your answer regarding the cottage in any way. And if I may be so bold you asking the question makes me wonder if you aren’t a Scot in some way.”
Milly gave Fergus his answer. It was not the answer he was hoping to hear.
“Brad and I both dislike working in a city to a certain extent. Working in a small town appeals to us both. But working in a big city does have its advantages too. While the idea does have some merit the question you’re asking is of such magnitude that I would feel very uncomfortable giving you what I think might be his answer. If we were to work here for even a short period of time we’d be breaking the law. When both of us became employed at City General we signed contracts. Binding legal contracts. We can’t work for anyone else for any length of time. Those contracts would have to render null and void. Then there is the matter of closing matters such as credit cards, bank accounts, moving, and everything associated with a move this large. I have a car as does Brad. We’d have to sell those. You seem to think Foster Cottage could be whipped into shape in no time flat. The cottage would have to be retrofitted with everything we would need before we could see one single person. I don’t know anything about building permits here in Scotland but you would have to find out if you can convert a cottage into what you want it to be. If it can be converted that’s fine. If it can’t the idea is as dead as a proverbial door-nail. I won’t mention any of this conversation to Brad till you find out if the cottage can be converted. If it can be converted to what you suggest that’s when we would want to take a look at the cottage. Brad and I have a wedding to plan and precious little time in which to do it in. Right now I’m going to find out if Jessica will be my maid of honor.”
Fergus looked with Milly with almost fatherly pride. “Right now you look and sound so much like your mother. And you make me so very proud. I was hoping to hear something very different. But you made this old man realize he was putting the cart before the horse. And like your mother you’re wise far beyond your years. It might be a good idea if you asked Jessica now. I’ve got some apologies to make to your parents.”
Milly dried her eyes, went into the hall and knocked on Jessica’s door. She was taking a nap. Milly’s loud knocking roused a sleepy Jessica. When she came to the door her red hair was all askew. She looked tired and yawned.
“I just wanted to ask you what you’re doing at the end of the week because I’m getting married and I would like you to be my maid of honor.”
“What did you say?” said Jessica not quite sure she heard Milly correctly.
“Jessica McCloud, will you be my maid of honor?”
Jessica heard what she needed to hear and forced herself to become more awake.
“Are you sure? You’ve only known me two weeks” she asked.
“That may be true but I know all I need to know” she replied.
“Then I’d be honored Dr. Milly Shine,” said Jessica.
Milly pointed to her neck then pointed at Jessica. Milly mouthed the word “hickey” and Jessica clenched her fist. “If you should see Jamie tell him Brad’s on the prowl. He wants to ask Jamie to be his best man.”
“Thank you, Milly.” As Milly walked away from the door she heard Jessica quietly chastise Jamie. She smiled and had a spring in her step.
Fergus had just finished apologizing to Tyler and Tilly when he encountered Brad and Milly in the hall.
“I’ve apologized to Milly and her parents. And I’d like to apologize to you, Brad. Your lovely bride to be has made me realize that I better mend my ways. I want to apologize for upsetting Milly, you, and your plans. I also want to know if you two will still want to come to the hospital to show your us your life-saving knot. I’m more than sure that Herman can hardly wait.”
“Herman. Just who is Herman?” asked Brad.
“Let’s go into the library where we can sit and discuss things. With a wedding to plan things will hurry by mighty fast.”
The trio wandered into the library where Brad got his first good at the library. The walls were covered in oak paneling. The shelves were stuffed with books about medicine and astronomy. Brad asked about the books on astronomy.
“When I want to get away from the world and just relax I retreat to my observatory. I built one on the roof. Being so far north I don’t have to worry about light pollution from a big city. I don’t know if you know this but in Strathpeffer, you’re closer to Norway than you are London. You can get some gorgeous photos of the heavens from up in my little observatory.” Fergus reached for a leather bound book that contained nothing but photos he had taken and handed it to Milly. Here’s what you can see up there. When you’re up there it’s like being on an island in the middle of the ocean. Only the sky is my sea. And the stars acts as a nightlight. I can truly relax.”
Milly was more than impressed. She was speechless. Her eyes slowly grew wider and wider as she turned each page. “Have you ever thought about having any of this published? They’re simply beautiful!” Brad looked over Milly’s shoulder. “These are really impressive Fergus.” “Och no, I won’t publish. Astronomy is just a hobby. A retreat. Medicine is my passion and my life.
Which brings us back to Herman. Herman is an anatomically correct dummy you can operate on. Herman isn’t alive. But he’s programmed to behave just like a real person. And to respond just like a real person. If you want to have a general anesthetic he’ll be quiet as a mouse. If you want him to have a local he can talk your ears off. You can program him to talk to you in Scottish-Gaelic, or English. Once some med students programmed the little bugger to talk like me. Herman was made in England which is why I call him a dummy. Herman is a MAD or a Medically Assistive Device. But I call him Herman because he looks like a character from an American TV show I saw when I was a boy. The show was called The Munsters.”
Later that day Brad and Milly walked through the town of Strathpeffer. The town had a population of only two thousand people, far from the raging metropolis it might have been. It was a quaint Victorian town with buildings that were done in the Victorian style. Many of the original structures that weren’t made from stone were painted green. Strathpeffer was a perfect example of a town where the rumor mill outdid the local newspaper almost every day. If somebody living in the east end of the town ripped their pants trying to deal with an uncooperative sheep those living in the west end of town would almost certainly hear of it just a few hours later. Only those living in the west end would hear that somebody dealing with a crazed ram was maimed and the ram was thought to be rabid. Few facts of the original story would make it intact across town. Usually, the story was morphed and contorted into something it never was by the time it reached its final destination. A pipe band started playing every day during the summer for one hour. Strathpeffer was also a town that depended on the tourist trade. The locals had to be nice to strangers. As Milly and Brad passed near a local bakery a young woman appeared in the doorway with a tray full of free samples.
Milly discovered Brad was part bloodhound. And he had a bit of a sweet tooth. He started sniffing the air. He ran across two lanes of traffic to get to the local bakery. He bought some freshly made bread and a locally made beverage that approximated a Coca-Cola.
He tore off a hunk of bread and offered it to Milly who declined. But after a few minutes, she found the smell so tantalizing she suddenly took a bite out the hunk in Brad’s hand. “Oh Lordy, that’s so good!”
When it came time to pay the woman who ran the shop she stopped to ask them a question.
“You wouldn’t be staying at the MacTaggert estate would you?”
Brad tried answering but had stuffed too much bread in his mouth. He pointed at Milly.
“What Lord Piggy is attempting to say is that we’re both staying at MacTaggert Castle,” said Milly.
The woman behind the counter wiped her hands on her apron and came out from behind the counter. She then leaned against it. Her arms were crossed.
“Is it true Fergus is getting re-married?” she asked.
Milly started laughing. “I’m sorry. I not laughing at you. I’m laughing at my overstuffed fiancée. Fergus is not getting re-married. But we are at the end of the week. In the castle. I’m Dr. Milly Shine, and the tall overstuffed fellow at my side is Dr. Brad Foster.” Milly shook her hand then Brad, who finally swallowed enough bread, managed to say hello.
“Shine. From County Mayo in Ireland?”
“That’s what the research on my family said.”
“Then it would seem we’re about to relatives of a fashion. I’m Kendra Foster. This is certainly a coincidence. My great aunts’ name was Milly and her husbands was Brad as well.”
Brad’s eyes bugged out in total surprise. He had also swallowed enough bread to ask a question on his own.
“Then you must know of Gil Whitaker. He and I had a great chat when Milly and I stayed in Bosworth market. I recorded most of our conversation but I don’t recall him mentioning anyone named Kendra.”
“He may not have mentioned me because I was born after the bombing. How long was your chat with Gil may I ask?”
Brad paused to think. After a few seconds, he gave his reply. “I don’t recall exactly, but it felt like at least a couple hours. It was a most enjoyable conversation. I just met the guy but at the end of the talk I felt like I had known him all my life.”
Kendra went behind the counter to fill another customers order.
“That sounds uncle Gil. It’s too bad he has dementia now. But I’m glad you recorded the conversation. Maybe you could burn it onto a CD. Then you’ll have it when he’s no longer with us. Have you seen the photos?”
“You mean there really are photos? The reason I say that he wasn’t making a lot of sense at the time. I thought it was simply a fragment of a thought that had nothing to do with our talk.”
“Take a look at the photos if you can. He’s got a photo of me in there I think.”
Brad brought out some change to pay for the bread. Kendra put up her hand and started wagging her finger at Brad. “You sir get the family discount. It’s free.” When Brad insisted Kendra started talking to Milly. “Is he always so stubborn?” she asked.
“Sometimes. Sometimes not. It all depends. If it’s near dinnertime he can be really cranky. And if he’s not fed and watered on time he can be rude too.” said Milly. “Hey, are you trying to sully my good name?” asked Brad. “No hon. I’m just trying to give Kendra an honest answer.” It was then Kendra spoke up “Sure sounds like a Foster to me.”
Kendra whispered to Milly there was a bridal shop in town. “If I tell them you’re coming you may get a discount. I canna promise but I’ll see what I can do.”
Chapter 17 coming next week….