The question was simple. It needed to be asked. Only Brad couldn’t think of a diplomatic way of asking it. It was a straightforward question. It didn’t require a lot of thought. Only it carried a lot of weight. It could ultimately decide the tone of the remainder of the trip, and the kind of relationship he and Milly will have for the rest of time. Finally, he decided to simply ask the question.
“Milly, it’s one hour before we land and I simply need to know. Do you want us to have one bedroom or two? Do we share or don’t we.”
Milly looked stunned. “What are you talking about?”
“I need to know if we’re sharing a room during the trip. The hotels need to know too.”
“Well if we’re going to try living together I think we should have just one bedroom. No, forget what I just said. I definitely think we should have just one bedroom. After all, we’re both doctors, we both know what to expect. From a romantic standpoint I say one double bed, and from an economic standpoint, I say one double bed. It’s a win-win scenario. We win and Highland Central wins. Only I do have one request.”
“What that kitten?”
“That I get the side of the bed that’s furthest from the door.”
“That’s all I wanted to know. I’ll make arrangements via my smartphone to let The Swallow Hotel in London that we only require one bedroom.” Brad pulled out his phone and busily texted the hotel. It took only a few moments for them to text him back that the arrangements have been changed and that a double bed suite awaited them.
“OK. That’s done. I am so glad you said one double-bed suite instead of two tiny singles. I’ve sweating bullets over asking you.”
Milly took Brad’s hand and turned his head to face hers with the other.
“I really don’t know what you were fussing about. I want to be in the same bed as you. If for some reason things don’t work out we can always change to two singles. It’s as simple as that. You made it sound as if the sword of Damocles was hanging over your head.”
“In a way it was. This is going to be a big step for both of us. I’m not used to having a woman, let alone a sexy kitten like you, in my room. And you’re not used to having a man in your bedroom. It’ll feel strange at first because we’re simply not used to it. But after a few nights, you’ll become used to me, and I’ll become used to you. At least I’m hoping it’ll happen that way.”
All of a sudden the click of the public address system was heard. “We are beginning our final descent into London Heathrow. On behalf of British Airways, I hope you have enjoyed your flight. Would everybody kindly return to their assigned seats and buckle up.”
As the ground got closer and closer Milly’s grip on Brad’s hand became stronger and stronger. When they finally landed Brad’s pain threshold had been breached. He let out a small yelp. Milly, who was busy looking out the window studying every blade of grass beside the runway heard the yelp. When she turned her head from the window to look at Brad she saw sweat on his brow. Her hand was slowing crushing his and her nails were slowly digging deeper and deeper into his hand. There was now a small pool of blood in the back of his hand.
“Oh crap, did I do that?” she said.
“Well kitten, the tooth fairy didn’t do this. You don’t know your own strength. Reach into the outside breast pocket of my jacket. Now pull out a handkerchief. Unfold it and tie it around the wound. I’ll see if I can get a small bottle of Scotch whiskey from on the stewards for the alcohol.”
After the plane finished approaching Terminal number 1 and the engines were switched off he approached a cabin steward. They were somewhat reluctant to do anything. Captain Ransom opened the flight deck door and saw a small trail of blood on the cabin carpet. She got out of the flight deck, approached Brad, and surveyed the situation. She looked at the cabin crew and announced her decision.
“OK troops. I know it’s company policy to not treat a wound after the plane has stopped, but legally we must treat him because he’s still on BA property, and I’m responsible for the well-being of everybody on my flights. So let’s patch him up. This mans livelihood could be at stake. He’s a surgeon.”
It took only a few minutes but he was soon sporting one of the best field dressings he had ever seen. He tucked his hand inside his jacket. The job to patch up Brad’s hand required a fair amount of work and consequently meant they were one of the last to leave the plane. When they got inside Terminal 1 they saw it was gigantic. And a long walk would be involved before they even saw their luggage.
“Holy Fuzzbucket. How big is this place?” asked Milly who was now on his left side, holding his left hand. Just then the flight crew and Captain Ransom zipped past in a small golf cart. It stopped suddenly about 30 feet in front of them.
“Doctors, may I offer you a lift?. There’s supposed to be a moving sidewalk but that won’t be built till next year. It’s a rather long walk back to civilization, and Uncle Fergie would never forgive me if I didn’t offer you a ride.”
Before Brad could mull the offer over in his mind Milly answered for him. “Yes please!” The two ran like bandits.
“I’m afraid the only seats that are available are at the back. Hang on. We’ll drop you off at the baggage carousel. Remember to look for the carousel handling baggage from flight BA127. Is anybody meeting you?” asked the captain.
“Fergus mentioned something about “two shadows” but I haven’t a clue what to look for” replied Brad.
The captain stood up in her seat and scanned the waiting area for the general public. “I think your “shadows” are about ten feet behind you.”
Milly and Brad thanked Captain Ransom for her assistance and wished her good luck. Before they parted company Captain Ransom reminded them to look for her at the head office. “Hope to see you two in about two months.” With that, the golf cart like vehicle sped off.
Two people were at the front of the crowd, wearing kilts, holding a sign that said “Drs. Shine and Foster”. Milly went over and identified herself and Brad.
“We’re your shadows Dr. MacTaggert told you about. May I introduce Jessica McCloud, she’ll be your shadow, Dr. Shine. And Dr. Foster I’m Jamie MacTaggert. I’ll be your shadow.” Before another word was said Brad spoke up.
“I’d like to make a suggestion. Since we’re going to be joined at the hip for the next two months I’d like to suggest that we all call each other by our first names. I’m Brad. and my better half is Milly. All this formality is a little bewildering, and to be honest I’m really tired.”
Jamie and Jessica looked at each other, exchanged a few quiet words in Gaelic, then Jamie spoke up. “Sounds fine with us. I’ll get your bags and drive you to the Swallow. Your car is already there. But I must ask what have you done to your hand?” Milly meekly raised her hands and pointed at her fingernails.
Jessica then spoke up. “Aye, I know what you mean. I accidentally did the same thing to my boyfriend. Poor lad couldn’t practice the pipes for two weeks. You should have heard him carry on. You would have thought the world was coming to an end.”
Jamie went over to the carousel and got the luggage. When he picked up Milly’s giant suitcase his face suddenly went red and he started massaging his arm.
“Ya tryin’ to kill me, lass? You could have warned me.”
It was then Jessica reprimanded him.
“Jamie MacTaggert I’m ashamed of you. You’re bleating like a stuck sheep. Just pick up the luggage and keep a civil tongue in your head.” Jamie didn’t say anything but it soon became obvious they were boyfriend and girlfriend. Jamie, with his dark hair, was obviously the more reserved of the two while Jessica, with her flaming red tresses, was the more outspoken of the two. It was also obvious that she was not shy about sharing her opinion nor was she seem concerned about who heard her.
Just then added Jessica added. “Dr. MacTaggert wanted you to have these welcome gifts.” She handed Brad and Milly two cardboard boxes with their names scrawled on them. “Dr. MacTaggert would like apologize to you, Milly. Your kilt is the Foster Tartan as well. He couldn’t locate a family tartan for you.” Milly thanked both of them for what they have done, and what they would soon be doing. She also opened the box containing her kilt. She oohed and awed at it. “It’s gorgeous! I can’t wait to put mine on. You may have a long wait before you see Brad in his. He seems to think that wearing a kilt is unmanly.”
Jessica humphed and took a hold of both of his earlobes, “Is that so Dr. Foster. I’ll have you know I’ve seen wee bairns wear kilts. Something tells me Milly and I have our work cut out with you. We’ll get you in that kilt in no time. We women have our ways.” Just then Jamie spoke up. “Oh, you’re in trouble now boyo. Something tells me that it will be far easier to wear the kilt than to have Jess McCloud on ya.” He then went to get a baggage cart so he could take the bags to the waiting automobile. As they neared the car Brads eyes bugged out. Jamie offered a bit of an explanation. “Just in case either one of you like James Bond films you’ll be riding in a Lotus Espirit. It looks just like the one in the film “The Spy Who Loved Me”. My father loves the films and collects cars that are the same make and model.”
Brad asked if he had an Aston-Martin DB5, the car used the film “Goldfinger”. “He does indeed. That car will be yours to use when you’re at the house in Strathpeffer.” All of a sudden Jessica interrupted. “Jaysus Jamie. It’s just a bally car. You make it sound like the Holy Grail or something. A car is a car is a car.” Brad and Milly, who were the back seat, were enjoying being chauffeured to their hotel. “The Swallow is a very popular hotel. It has one feature I absolutely adore, and I suspect you will too Milly” said Jessica. “What feature are you talking about Jessica?” “Every room at the Swallow has it own Victorian clawfoot tub.”
Milly closed her eyes and clasped her hands. “Ohh, I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. Every time I see one in a home renovation show I try to imagine myself in one. When we get to the Swallow I plan to soak in it for hours.”
Jamie, who was driving the Lotus decide to speak up.
“Jess knows there’s one at the house in Strathpeffer. I’ll wager she’s thinking about it right now. When she’s in the tub you almost need a rocket to get her out. And the sounds are positively obscene.”
Jessica who was sitting next to him swatted him on the thigh. “Hush now Jamie MacTaggert. No telling tales out of school. I’m quite sure Brad and Milly have no interest in my bathing habits.”
Brad put his hand on Milly’s knee and winked at her. “Tell me, Jamie,” he said, “were they slow moans or quick, excited shrieks?” Jessica was in the midst of turning around to give Brad a piece of her mind when Milly suddenly interrupted. “Please pay no attention to Brad. He gets cranky when he hasn’t been fed or watered for some time. We’ve both been up over 28 hours.” Jessica kept her head pointed forward. “I know exactly what you mean Milly. I know someone just the same”.
Jamie drove the Lotus directly in front of the main reception doors. Brad got out to help with the luggage. A bellboy with a huge luggage carrier appeared and helped transfer the luggage. Jamie let him handle Milly’s massive suitcase. Brad handled the carry on luggage by putting both straps on his right shoulder. This way he could hold Milly’s hand with his left. Jamie and Jessica said their goodbyes and said they would see them in Strathpeffer in a weeks time. Jamie reminded Brad to text him if he learns of any delays.
As Brad and Milly stood in the elevator Milly gave a warning to Brad. “If I spend an inordinate amount of time in the tub it’s not because I’m trying to avoid you. I just want to enjoy it for as long as I can.” When Brad put the bags on the bed he said something that caught Milly by surprise.
“You soak kitten and I’ll snoop. I’m going down to the gift shop and get a newspaper. I want to know what’s going on in this crazy world of ours.”
“You mean you’re not going to unpack first honey?” asked Milly.
“Nope. Snooping takes precedence.”
Brad made sure he had the room keys in his pocket. When he left the room he turned around and locked the door. Locking the door was no easy feat with one hand in a bandage. He didn’t want Milly to worry that someone would walk in on her when she was in the tub. After locking the door Brad turned and walked towards the elevator. When it arrived he walked in and pressed the button marked “G”. Instead of going to the ground floor the elevator went up to the fourth floor. The doors opened, Brad got out, and an arrow pointed him to the right and a flight of stairs that led down. Since he was up on the fourth floor, and the room he and Milly shared was on the third, logic told him that if he took the stairs down that he should return to his starting point. When Brad went through a fire door he suddenly faced a sign that said he was on the fifth floor.
He decided to forget snooping and to forget getting a newspaper. After an hour and a quarter he finally found a member of the hotel staff who told him that in order to go down from the third floor you must go up to the fourth floor, walk over to the east side of the building, take the elevator up to the fourth floor, and then and only then could he go down. He eventually returned to his room, knocked on the door, and entered fuming mad.
“I never want to come back to the Swallow!” Milly asked what the problem was. “Did you know the Swallow was originally two different hotels? The hotel on the east side was taller than the hotel on the west side. Not one single floor on the east side corresponds to the same numbered floor on the west side. We’re on the third floor, but if you walk across the crossing to the west side you’ll find yourself on the fourth floor. This place isn’t a hotel, it’s a three-dimensional maze!”
Milly was surprised at the level of frustration she heard in Brad’s voice. She had never heard so much frustration and anger before. The color of his face was so red she wondered if he was about to burst a blood vessel. When she was dressed she tried to snoop too. After three-quarters of an hour, she gave up. She couldn’t get off the third floor. She eventually returned to the hotel room she and Brad shared. As she entered Brad was seated in a chair reading. She leaned against the door with her head bowed and looked at the floor.
“You’re right. We’re trapped.”
She sighed, pulled a chair beside Brad, held his left hand, put her head on his shoulder and said “Someday when we’re old and gray we’ll look back on this experience and chuckle. But part of the fun part of any trip is the snooping. The things you see that you don’t expect to see.” She looked at the book Brad was reading. “What are you reading, hon?”
Brad closed the book partially and showed her the cover. “Moby Dick. I suspect our stay is going to feel like a thousand years. You know this is embarrassing. When I was a scout I could look at a map, or floor plan and figure out how to get from point A to point B. Now I can’t”
Milly looked at Brad and could see how dejected he was. Brad Foster almost always had a smile on his face. But now that smile had been replaced by a frown.
“Cheer up. Don’t look so gloomy. You could always have your way with me.”
Brad closed the book and looked at Milly.
“I never thought I’d get to this point, but I just don’t feel like being frisky. I’m just so damn disappointed. I want to snoop and explore. London is one of the few cities in the world where every street corner has a history to it. I want to be a part of that history, become a part of it, and I wanted you to be able to experience all those things with me. This might the only chance I’ll have to explore this city and it’s being wasted. Right now I wondering going on this trip was such a good idea.”
Milly had seen Brad when he was being friendly, helpful, concerned, horny, and dejected. She was now seeing him when he was really unhappy and it was not a pretty sight.
“Does that mean you’re sorry you asked me to come to Scotland with you?”
“Hell no. You have been the best part of this trip so far. If you had told me one year ago a super sexy kitten would be in my life I would have said “Get out of town, you’re pulling my leg” or words to that effect.
All of a sudden the telephone rang. It was the manager and he wanted to speak to Brad. All Milly could tell is that Brad was being asked a great many questions as his answers were clipped one or two-word answers. “How soon do you need an answer?”. “OK, I’ll ask her then I’ll call you back.” Milly looked at Brad.
“Let me guess. The management think we’re married,” said Milly
“Nope. They’ve just had a last minute cancellation. Apparently, some other couple booked a room on the second floor. It’s got a four poster bed in addition to a clawfoot tub.”
“That’s all well and good but we’d still have to deal with the elevator from hell.”
“Not on the second floor! We can use the stairs and snoop. What’s the kitten say to that idea? Do you think you could live with that?”
“Start Packing!” she said.
“One last thing. For some reason, they think we’re on our honeymoon. So if anybody calls you Mrs. Foster play along.”
As Milly put her things back in the suitcase she asked a question Brad couldn’t answer. “Wait a minute and hold the phone Brad. When we checked in they said they were expecting us and knew we were both doctors. And now they think we’re honeymooners?”
“Beats me. I haven’t got a clue how they got that idea. I just want to get out of this room. If we ever come back remind me never to book a room above the second floor. They should supply maps and guide dogs to those who do.”
Five minutes later a bellboy knocked on the door. He had a luggage carrier with him. As soon as the bags were on the carrier it was off to the second floor. As soon as they entered the room and the bellboy had departed Milly threw herself on the bed.
“Now this is the kind of bedroom every little girl secretly dreams of. Right now I feel like a princess. I wanted a four poster bed when I was little but my mom said it would be too hard to make each morning. But right now I just want to cuddle with my prince.”
“I don’t mind the idea, but I think you will. I really need a shower and I’m a bit ripe.”
“Oh, I’ll survive now strip!”
As Brad took off his shirt Milly got a whiff of him.
“On second thought I think maybe you should have a shower. Just don’t light any candles. And don’t go near my tub. I haven’t tested it yet!”