Shortly after dinner the two returned to their room and got ready for bed. Fatigue from jet lag and from the fiasco at the Swallow Hotel had taken its toll on both of them. The following morning they explored the exterior and the grounds of Bosworth Hall. During their walk, Milly’s balance wasn’t quite what it should be. They returned to their suite and Milly lay down. Her spa day was one away and there was no way on this earth she was going to miss it. As she lay down she and Brad talked while he sat on the edge of the bed. She held both his hands.
“I know our original plan was to see Gil Whitaker together and to see if we can learn about this mystery. But I really don’t feel up to seeing him today. Do you think you can handle him on your own hon?” asked Milly.
“I want to put an end to the mystery he told us about, and you already know I don’t care for mysteries. You rest here. And when I get back I’ll tell you all about the meeting. You’ve got a big day tomorrow. I’ll put the do not disturb sign on the door so you don’t have to deal with an overzealous chambermaid. I’ll take my key with me and yours is on the dresser. Now close those beautiful eyes and see if you can get some rest. I’ll be back to check on you this afternoon. I want my kitten in my life for quite some time.”
Milly put her arms around Brad’s neck. “I’m so glad you picked me. I’ve always wanted to come to England and Scotland. Thank you.” Milly gave Brad a very passionate kiss. “Come back soon. And there’s more where that came from.” Brad kissed her again, pulled the sheets up and made sure she was warm. Then he turned out the lights. “Go to sleep kitten and that’s an order from your doctor,” Brad whispered.
As Brad walked to the car he came to the conclusion that he really couldn’t live without Milly. It caught him by surprise but he was actually thinking about asking Milly to marry him. He weighed the pros and cons. He asked himself if their joint income would be enough for the both of them to live comfortably. But he only knew about his income. He didn’t know Milly’s and at this particular point in their relationship, it was none of his business. One question caused another to be asked. But one thing remained. He loved Milly. And he wanted her in his life. Then there was the inevitable question about children. It was a question he never really gave much thought to. He already knew Milly liked children. But how did he feel about them? After much soul-searching, he found he wanted a daughter and a son in that order. He knew from painful experience that he wanted his kids to a much better childhood growing up than he did. Being an only child was very, very lonely. There were always other kids in the same neighborhood, but not in his family. There was never some near your own age to talk to in the same house.
He got in the Lotus and adjusted the seat for a person of his height. That would be another thing to think about. Transport. Milly would have to have her own car. If they just had one car they would forever be adjusting the driver’s seat. As his hand gripped the steering wheel he looked at the bandage on his hand. And the longer he looked at it the angrier he got. He wanted to tear it off. He wanted to feel the warmth of Milly’s hand in his again. He usually touched her, held her with his right hand. And doing those same things with his left hand was awkward and foreign to him. He was right-handed, and with the bandage on his hand, he had to have Milly cut his food. He felt like an infant at meals. And any time he wanted to simply touch her the bandage reminded him that he couldn’t feel her. The bandage stood as a barrier between him and the warmth of her skin. But he needed Milly to help him take it off. He vowed when he got back to the hall he would ask her.
Finding Gil Whitaker was going to be a bit of a chore. All he had was a thirty-year-old address. He tried the GPS system in the car that Milly raved about. It got him lost faster than he could if he were on foot. He was convinced the GPS system was the devils’ work. In truth, he was about as religious as a ham sandwich. He tore into the glove box and pulled out the maps. After twenty minutes had elapsed and innumerable curses had been said Brad discovered the address he wanted was a five-minute walk away. After spending another twenty minutes trying to fold the giant maps so they still looked brand new frustration set in and he balled them up, opened the car door and tossed them in.
Finding the old address was relatively easy. When the legal firm was blown to bits a bikini store moved in to fill the void. To make things a bit more uncomfortable this shop offered every kind of service that was available to women who wore a bikini. And that included waxing. After Brad entered the store he soon discovered he was the only male in the store. He simply was not used to seeing a store full of women wearing the tops or the bottoms of a bikini in a store. He eventually found the manager but not before a woman in high heels took a number of bikinis into a change room. As she passed Brad she tossed the collection over her over her shoulder. One bra strap looped around Brad’s neck. When she was a couple of feet away the strap shortened and managed to snare Brad’s nose in a bra cup.
“Sorry miss. I didn’t mean to stick my nose in your business.”
“You dirty old man. Why don’t you blokes just push off.”
Brad extricated himself from the bra cup but not before the woman yanked on the strap. The strap was wrapped around Brads bandaged hand and he howled in pain.
The manager separated the two and asked the woman to leave. To the manager, it was more than obvious that the woman yanked on the strap to cause an already injured man extreme pain. Once Brad had composed himself he asked the manager about the legal firm and about Gil Whitaker.
The manager, a rather tall woman with blond hair and silvery-blue eyes apologised for the altercation.
“Poor man lost everything in the world that mattered to him in the bombing. Spent the rest of his life to trying to put the remains back together. Now he has dementia. Better talk with him while he’s still with us. You’ll find him at the Bosworth Market Retirement Home and Hospice.”
Once Brad heard the “dementia” and “hospice” he feared this journey might be for nothing. When he arrived at the hospice he was greeted by a matron. He introduced himself and inquired about Gil. The matron tried to protect one of her charges.
“Without snooping too much may I ask what business you have with Gil?”
“Gil wrote a piece about my family. He said to learn more I’d have to come see him. He was rather secretive, but I am rather curious about my family.”
“Mr. Whitaker is one of our more friendly patients. He’s in the early stages of dementia. He is more than aware there isn’t any “magic cure”. He also knows what’s going to happen. He’s asked for a DNR to be put on his chart. Since you’re a doctor I’d like your medical opinion as to his competency. You see when he made the request for a DNR he was not having a very good day. You’re very lucky you arrived when you did. This morning was rough for him, but I suspect you’ll snap him right out of his funk. Now if you’ll be so kind as to follow me I’ll take you to him. He’s in the sunroom. He goes there to think and reflect.”
Brad walked down the hall with the matron. When they got there Gil was scowling at the newspaper. Brad approached him slowly not quite sure what kind of a reception he was going to get.
“Mr. Whitaker, my name is Dr. Brad Foster. You sent me a letter in 1980 just after your father passed away.”
Gil took a look at Brad. “I sent you that letter over thirty years ago. What in thunder took you so long? I’m not immortal you know.” A mild bout of confusion interrupted him. Then after a few seconds, he started speaking again “You’ll have to excuse me. I’ve gone slightly crackerdog. What can I do for you young man?” Brad pulled up a chair and sat opposite Gil.
Brad showed him the letter and the grainy photograph of Mr. Whitaker’s uncle Brad and his wife Milly. Gil took the letter from Brad’s hands. Gil’s hands trembled as he held the letter. Brad took a small pocket sized recorder from his jacket. He asked Gil permission to record the conversation.
“Go ahead son if you think it’ll help. I prefer handwritten notes myself, but if you want to record an old buzzard go right ahead.”
The light in Gil’s eyes had been dull but as soon as he held the letter he sent so long ago the light became brighter and brighter as the fire of recognition burned within him. The photo of his uncle Brad and aunt Milly brought a tear to his eye. A tear he quickly attributed to allergies.
“Oh my god. Now I remember. You’re Dr. Brad Foster. If I may be so bold where is your better half? Is Milly your wife yet?
“Gil, may I call you Gil?”
“Most certainly Brad. Let me guess why you’re here. You’d like to know about the letter I wrote you. I wrote Milly a letter too. The contents were a little different but essentially the same. I used to have a great interest in genealogy. But it wasn’t my family I was interested in. It was yours.” He pointed a bony finger at Brad. “Did you know I went back as far as 1530 in my research? I bet you didn’t. And you know what I discovered? That every 75 years, there is a couple named Brad and Milly who marry. That by itself isn’t astounding. But the photos and paintings are. The people in them all look very similar. You look a bit like my uncle Brad. Uncle Brad was born in 1920. And he learned there was another couple named Brad and Milly who married in 1865. The names changed then very slightly from Brad to Bradford and from Milly to Millicent but the names were basically the same. Then all of a sudden the pattern of Brad and Milly marriages changed. You were born only 60 years after my uncle and Milly was 62 years after my uncle. That’s why I wrote you.”
Brad was dumbstruck by this news. “Can you tell me anything about the letter you wrote to Milly?”
“I can but I won’t. I’ve asked her not to tell you anything about the letter until you propose to her. And judging from the expression on your face you’re already thinking about asking her.”
“But how could you possibly know that? I only started to think about asking her this morning.”
“Just before the second world war, I was obsessed with patterns. To be more precise I dealt with the numerical probability that a given person would do something specific. I discovered that there is a high statistical probability that someone named Brad, or a person with a variation of the name will marry a woman named Milly, or a person with a variation of that name. I also discovered they usually have one or two kids. Their grandchildren are usually named after their grandfather or grandmother. Then the whole cycle starts all over. But you and Milly broke the pattern. I know I’m slowly dying. And before I die I want to find out how or why you two broke the pattern.”
Brad listened dumbstruck by what he was hearing.
“I think I might know the answer. All of your computations are based on definitive actions. Actions you can predict. You can predict A will marry B but you can’t quantify love and the desire to procreate. Both are instincts that are simply impossible to predict. Before Milly moved into the apartment opposite me I saw her occasionally at our place of work. She was a co-worker. A very attractive and sexy co-worker, but as I said I saw her very occasionally. After she moved in we became friends and a romance that I never want to end blossomed. Right now I want her in my life. I want to be able to call her my wife. We’ve never discussed children but I know I want a daughter and a son in that order-”
“Normally we get one or the other. Science may help us go in one direction or another, but it’s usually one at a time with a fifty percent chance of getting what you hope for.”
“I was an only child and that was a very lonely experience. That’s why I want a boy and a girl. As I said Milly and I have never really discussed children. But I suspect the subject will rise to the forefront rather soon if she says yes. And I pray she does because I don’t want any other women in my life. I love her so much I can’t imagine breathing without her in my life.”
Gil leaned forward and put a hand on Brad’s knee.
“My boy, I can see you’re head over heels in love with Milly. And the longer you put off asking her…well let’s just say the effects aren’t very pleasant. I remember my dad telling me about a bombing raid before my uncle Brad asked his Milly. He couldn’t see him, but he could hear him on the intercom. My father could hear him moan and groan. It was just awful. He said sounded like a scared puppy experiencing his first thunderstorm. My advice son is to buy that ring and ask her. Do it today after you leave here. If she feels what you so obviously feel for her I’m pretty sure she’ll say yes.”
Just then the matron arrived on the scene.
“Time for lunch Mr. Whitaker,” she said.
Brad leaned forward and shook Gil’s hand.
“It was certainly a pleasure meeting you after all these years. I sure wish Milly could have been here. I’m going to take your advice and buy that ring. I want to ask her tonight. Knowing I love her and not telling her is eating me up inside.” Brad picked up the recorder, turned it off, and put it in his jacket pocket. He then did something that caught Gil by surprise. Brad hugged him.
As he walked from the sunroom he passed the matron who requested a medical assessment of Gil.
“Well, how’s Mr. Whitaker today Dr. Foster?”
Brad approached the matron and put his good hand on her desk.
“In my medical opinion, he was very competent to request that DNR. During our talk, he did have his foggy moments, just like the rest of us. But speaking as a man and not as a medical practitioner I have to say if you stay on topic when talking with him you’ll find him extremely wise and sharp as a tack. And if you want me to put that on his medical chart I will.” The matron handed him the chart and Brad started writing.
Brad went down the stairs leading to the sidewalk. As he walked towards the car he passed a store called Bosworth Jewelers. It was a tiny store. One of those stores that are so small that if you blink you’d miss it. Brad went in and told the proprietor exactly what he wanted. He said he didn’t want a stone that was a large as a crystal doorknob. And he most certainly didn’t want a stone that was gaudy. He wanted the ring to be reflective of Milly. So for an hour and a half, Brad inspected rings. He created an area for rings he called “contenders”, and for those that simply didn’t measure up, he simply put them back in the display case. The owner of the store wasn’t quite sure what to make of Brad. All Brad could tell the owner was “it’s for the most special woman in the world”, a phrase the owner had heard far too often. And a phrase that related to the ring. “I’ll know it when I see it.” When Brad finally picked out a ring the store owner let out a quiet sigh of relief. Brad apologized for taking so much time. “I’ve never done this sort of thing before” to which the owner replied very politely “There’s always a first-time sir”. Brad paid for the ring and made his way back to the car. He thought for a while then he called Jamie and Jessica. He stood beside the car and put the phone on the roof of the car. Since he had them on speed dial he didn’t have to dial. When the phone completed dialing and started to ring Jamie answered.
“Hello Jamie, it’s Brad Foster here-”
“I know it’s you, Brad. We have call display on our phones too.” Jamie could help but give him a little grief.
“You do? When did you get it?” asked Brad.
“Oh about the same time as you Brad.” Jamie’s accent was thick as he said certain vowel sounds.
“Did I just make an ass of myself?” as Brad now leaned against the car.
“I canna say. You’ll hafta decide that one”
“I need a huge favor. I bought an engagement ring. And I’d like to ask Milly tonight. And I’m going to wearing the kilt. I’m going to need a lot of help with that kilt. I still haven’t worn it and I want it to be a surprise for Milly. Can you come down to Bosworth Market and give me a hand with it?”
Just then there were some hushed words and some clicks. Brad looked at the phone totally puzzled.
All of a sudden Jamie came back on the line.
“Sorry for the delay Brad. British Telecom at it’s best. Jess is with me and we’re in London. Can you repeat what you just said to me, please? I want Jess to hear it.”
As soon as Brad said that he bought an engagement ring for Milly he heard a distinctly female voice scream “YES!”
“Will one of you two kindly explain what that was all about?”
Jamie explained that after he and Jessica dropped Brad and Milly off at the Swallow Hotel the two entered into a bet about whether or not Brad would ask Milly to marry him before they got to Strathpeffer. Jessica bet that Brad would ask before they got to Strathpeffer.
Another voice entered the conversation. “Has Milly had her spa day yet?”
“No Jess. That’s tomorrow I hope. Today she’s a bit under the weather-”
“Say that agin Brad. I dinna understand you” asked Jess.
“Sorry about that. I meant to say she wasn’t feeling well.”
“Did Milly bring anything special to wear?” asked Jess
“I think she brought everything she owned judging by the weight of the suitcase. The bellboy at the Swallow almost had a heart attack lifting it” said Brad.
“Jamie, the brave lad, is still moaning about his arm. I’ll bring a couple dresses with me. I’m taking a guess as to her size so no promises” said Jess.
“Just out of curiosity since Jamie lost the bet what does he have to do?” After a pause, he thought better of his request. “No. Strike that. Don’t tell me. In fact, I know I don’t want to know.”
“We’ll be with you in about an hour. About forty-five minutes if Jess drives. One man servant and ladies maid coming to your rescue. Where will you be?” asked Jamie.
“We’re at Hampton Inn Hotel & Spa. I’ll be in the lobby sweating bullets.”
The next few words were in Gaelic and hushed. Brad guessed they were trying figure out what he said.
“I’ll be the nervous one. I feel like my socks are slowly falling down and there’s nothing I can do. Thank you both very much.”
“We’ll be there soon. You’ll be all right. You can thank us by having your honeymoon in Scotland.”
When the call ended he put the phone back in his jacket. After he drove back and walked through the parking lot he found he couldn’t stop thinking about Milly. He also made an observation. He thought if he was this nervous before he even asked her to marry him he thought he’s going to be a pool of sweat and jelly if she says yes and there is a wedding.