Chapter 23 –Summons From A Far

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To Take Or Not To Take

Milly fretted over what to take to Scotland, what to throw out, or give to charity. Almost everything she touched held some kind of memory. Some of the furniture would make the trip but others would not. Items such as knives, forks and other items that could be found in a kitchen were destined to go. Slowly, they waded through the debris of their lives and asked: “do we really need this.”

Brad initially wanted to take his entire CD and DVD collection. Milly prowled through the titles. Some she could understand Brad wanting. However, there was one particular title she took issue with. The twelve disc set entitled “Busty Babes in Prison” did not make the cut.

“You’ve got to be kidding. You seriously think this should go to Scotland with us?. You’re about to be a father. Do you really want our children to see this trash?”

“But it’s a collector’s item. And it’s got great music” was Brads only defense.

“I know perfectly well what it’s got and it’s not going to the cottage. I don’t want our children to learn their father watched this garbage while practicing to be a dirty old man. Just holding the case makes me want to wash my hands.” She said nothing about some the stains on the case. She simply didn’t want to know.

Other titles had more redeeming qualities.

“Don’t you think you’re a little old for cartoons. Winnie The Pooh and The Blustery Day. I know you like DVDs but the Walt Disney version of The Sword In The Stone too?”

Brad was packing a box. When Milly started criticizing Winnie The Pooh it was just too much. “I’ll have you know those two titles are classics not likely to be re-released for years. Plus our kids might get a real kick out them. Before you condemn them why don’t you watch them? You might enjoy them.”

After dinner, Milly and Brad watched both the titles. She could actually see the worth of Winnie The Pooh. She conceded her condemnation of Winnie The Pooh had been a little rash. Plus they might come across children’s books with Winnie The Pooh. And having the DVD might encourage them to want to read.

That night, as she lay on her side and Brad snored, she noticed something about Sprog. Something was different. Nothing to be alarmed about. The following day she was due for another doctors appointment. She decided to mention this feeling then.

*****

…One Last Time

“I’ve made a record of your pregnancy under my care for British Airways. I included my cell number, fax number, as well as my office number. Here’s my home number as well but only give it to them if there is some sort of problem at the airport. I sent Dr. Ransom a complete copy of your file so there shouldn’t be any problems there. I want one more scan if that’s all right with you.” Milly changed while Brad waited in the waiting room. The doctor was unhappy with the image on her ultrasound monitor. “I’ve really got to get this thing checked. It’s starting to get some sort of interference. No need to worry. There’s nothing wrong with you at all. Sprog is doing just fine too.” As Milly’s doctor switched off the monitor something appeared for a split second. As Milly got dressed behind the partition she and her doctor had a short conversation. “I’m going to fax Dr. Ransom and ask her to scan you in a weeks time. I want her to confirm these results. As a mother of three boys, I’m going to give you some advice from one mother to a soon-to-be mother. You’re almost at the six-month point in your pregnancy. Let Brad have the window seat and you take the seat by the aisle. The trip is going to be long and planes are dry. I don’t want you getting dehydrated. So get a bottle of water after you go through security. You’re going to be making lots of trips to the ladies room. I know you’ve flown before but you weren’t pregnant then so have the air sickness bag well within your reach. Things may be different this time. You might like flying but Sprog might not.” She handed Milly a small package. “It’s a present for Sprog. It’s a teddy bear. I didn’t wrap it because security guards love to tear wrapping off.” She handed Milly an envelope. Here’s everything you’ll need at the airport. Now scoot. You’ve got a plane to catch.”

*****

My Seat Has Shrunk”

There were no problems boarding and the medical certificate was accepted. Milly and Brad were shown to their seats in first class. Milly watched Brad slip into his seat with almost annoying ease. “That really burns me up. You just slip right into your seat and I’m as big as a horse! Did you know I’ve got pillows between my hips and my seat? That’s how much of tight squeeze this is.” On this flight, they landed in Glasgow which was much closer to Strathpeffer. When they landed Milly immediately phoned MacTaggert Castle. Jessica answered. “You and Brad must be tired. You’ve had a long flight. It seems like you just left here but when you get here you’ll notice a few…changes. Jamie is driving down to pick you up. I’ll call his mobile and have him pick you up just outside international flights.” As Milly and Brad waited for Jamie Brad put the bags on a baggage trolley. After waiting a short half hour Jamie and the Esprit arrived. With the bags in the trunk, Brad helped Milly into the car. When all three were in the Esprit Milly couldn’t wait to find out all that had happened in their absence. “All right, what’s new? Tell us everything.” Jamie was highly selective in what he said. “Och lass, I canna tell you everything but I can tell you there have been big changes since you left. It seems you gave this town a proper shake. My father and the townsfolk are the best of buddies now. Foster Cottage is coming along nicely. I took a photo for you.” Jamie hand them the print-out.

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Milly took a look and oohed and awed at it. It had a gorgeous clawfoot tub, two fireplaces, and Jamie told her about a small veranda that was at the back. “You can thank Jess for the clawfoot. She told my father how you adored the tub at the castle and he ordered one especially for you. He seems quite taken with you.” Brad got a look at the photo too. As Milly sat back and admired the photo there was a reflection coming from something and it was making her close one eye. It happened every time Jamie made a left-hand turn. On his ring finger was a solid gold wedding band. “Jamie Friggin’ MacTaggert! You’re married!” exclaimed Milly. Jamie was in the mood for a little good-natured ribbing and was not taken aback by Milly’s outburst. “Aye lass. That usually happens after a man and woman get engaged. They tend to get married” Brad snickered in the back seat. Jamie continued to give as good as he got. “Jess and I thought about inviting you both but when we heard you were with child we decided we did not want to stress out the mother-to-be.” There was a cough from the back seat. “Sorry, Brad. You’ve been so quiet I totally forgot you were in the car. I guess you’re enjoying the last bit of peace and quiet you can get. It won’t be long now.” Jamie wisely decided to drop the subject and started talking about the cottage again. Before long they entered the outskirts of Strathpeffer. Milly asked if they could stop in the town to say hello to Kendra, Brad’s distant relative.

The Lotus stopped outside the shop. As Brad and Milly got out of the car Kendra came out of the shop to greet them. “Last time we talked ya dinna say anything about starting your own tribe,” said Kendra. “I’d guess you’re about six months along. Am I right?” she added. Milly said she had just started her sixth month. “I’ll be glad when this is over. Six down three to go.” Kendra got Milly a seat. “And you, dear relative, don’t get a seat. Looks like you’ve already done your thing so you get to stand.” Kendra then hugged Milly and Brad. “I’ll do baby sittin’ as long as the wee bairn doesn’t call me Auntie.” Milly then explained they don’t know the gender and they call the unborn baby Sprog. “You should name the wee bairn a strong Scottish name like Angus. The fact that it’s my father’s name is sheer coincidence.” They talked for about ten minutes more. “I think we better get going. My father’ said Jamie. He’s probably anxious to see his newest employees.” As Milly was getting into the car she turned pale and fainted. Brad told Jamie to drive to the hospital.

When they arrived Brad carried Milly in. He explained that she was a new patient of Dr. Dinah Ransom. Dr. Ransom was sent for. Ten minutes later she arrived just as a resident was preparing to an emergency C section. She stopped him before Milly was wheeled into surgery. She took over and did an ultrasound at the request of Milly’s previous doctor. A fetal heartbeat monitor was attached to ultrasound to give a hard copy of the heartbeat. As the scan proceeded Dr. Ransom started to curse. “Damn and blast. I was afraid of this. I think we have mirror twins. Get Dr. Foster in here right now!” she barked. An orderly directed Brad to a small conference room. The two conferred in a small room. “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to sugar coat this. Your wife is carrying mirror twins. Mirror twin are very rare. One sperm fertilizes one egg. Then for some reason, the egg splits. One twin looks perfectly normal at this stage in the pregnancy while the other is essentially starved of nutrients and blood. Your wife’s previous doctor asked me to check for this. One baby will be fine in size and weight. The other will most likely need some time in an incubator. If we did an emergency C section today one baby might survive. One will almost surely die. My advice is to leave them both inside Milly and let mother nature to do her stuff.”

Brad was totally unprepared for any of this. He had to sit down and think.

“How come the twin wasn’t detected until now,” he asked totally bewildered. Dr. Ransom offered up a theory. “A lot of mirror twins are completely missed because their heartbeats are in absolutely perfect synch. Her previous doctor heard one heartbeat and saw one healthy fetus. The other was so tiny and so perfectly placed inside the mother that it literally was hidden from view. Remember, what you saw on an ultrasound was a two-dimensional profile view. The smaller one was probably directly behind the healthier one. Almost all mirror twins are preemies. One is going to need help right after birth. In Canada, one mirror twin weighed in at five pounds eight ounces. Its twin was only three pounds six ounces. That little guy needed six weeks in an incubator just to bring him up to a weight where he could be released. In terms of length, his length at birth was from the inside of your elbow to the base of your thumb. This is one case where size really does matter.”

“Milly means the world to me and so does Sprog,” said Brad.

“Excuse me. Who is Sprog?” asked Dr. Ransom.

“The name Sprog was Milly’s idea. We didn’t want to know the gender of the baby so she decided we should have a name that isn’t associated with either sex. She didn’t want to say “the baby” or “it” for nine months. Hence the name Sprog.”

“Dr. Foster, may I call you Brad.”

“Go right ahead”.

“Let the kids stay put for one more week. I want to do another scan. If…Sprig-“

“You mean Sprog”.

“If those two don’t start getting along we’ll consider doing a C section. You and Milly may have the unenviable choice of deciding who gets to live and who dies. But right now I think the best place for those two is with the mother.” Milly was given some water and some oxygen. As her previous doctor had warned she did not drink enough water and had become dehydrated. When she became conscious Brad filled her in as to what had been happening.

“Now I know why I feel so wiped out. I’m carrying a friggin’ tribe just like Kendra said.” Then Brad filled her in on they have may have to consider. “Jesus. What a choice to have to make. You said Dr. Ransom made a mistake with Sprog’s name. What did she call him hon?”

“She called him Sprig by mistake” answered Brad.

“OK. Since we know there are two babies their names will be Sprig and Sprog. Sprig will the little one. Sprog will be that great big lumbering brute. As for that choice, the one we might have to make, to be honest, I’d rather not have to make it at all. Are you alright with an instant family hon?”

“I want you and both of them if you’re looking for an honest answer kitten.”

Milly had tears in her eyes and she kissed Brad as passionately as she could. “I knew I married you for some reason. Thank you.”

When Dr. Ransom entered the room Milly saw her for the very first time. Her face was familiar yet Milly had never seen her before. Her mind raced to make a connection.

“And how are you feeling young lady?” asked Dr. Ransom. She sat on the edge of the bed.

“Like an exhausted mother of unborn twins usually feels” replied Milly.

“Did you two have a chance to talk?” she looked at Brad.

Again Milly spoke.

“I don’t know if you gamble Dr. Ransom but we’re goin’ for broke. We won’t make a choice of one baby over the other. We want both.”

Brad squeezed his wife’s hand. “The whole kit and caboodle” added Brad.

Milly squeezed his husband’s hand. “We know there’s a risk but we want to try and win.”

“I was hoping you two would make this choice. But I’m warning you right now you’re going to have to make some pretty radical changes starting right now. I want both of you in my office starting next week. The big baby may make a break for it at any time. I want you to be prepared for that. He almost looks full term so things could happen any time now. So that means both of them could be in incubators. We’re both going to be meeting once each week. So remember my name. It’s D-e-e-n-a, not Dinah. I want to see you both once each week prior to birth. I’ll set up the appointment schedule. Right now you need some rest.”

Dr. Ransom lowered her voice noticeably and spoke softly.

“On a completely different note from what I understand I think I should thank you both for turning Fergus into a real human being. I’m not sure how you did it but this entire hospital is glad you did. So on behalf of every employee at Highland Central thank you very, very much. My secretary will phone Brad with your next appointment. Gotta fly.”

That was it. The word “fly” made finally made Milly recall why Dr. Ransom looked so familiar. As Dr. Ransom exited the room Milly yelled “Freeze”.

“Excuse me. I am not used to being barked at”.

Milly apologized but explained she had a question.

“Do you have a sister named Susan and is she a mother yet?”.

Dr. Ransom looked very puzzled. She put her hands in pockets of her white lab coat and sat on the edge of Milly’s bed.

“Yes, I have a sister named Susan. And she had her daughter a few months ago. How in heavens name do you know her?”

Brad explained that Susan was at their wedding and was the pilot who originally brought them to Scotland. He also volunteered that she admitted being the person who gave their old boss the nickname of Dragon Lady.

“You mean there really is a Dragon Lady? I thought Susan was pulling my leg when she told me that.”

Milly explained that Dr. Druk Macbeth, her and Brads old boss was the fearsome Dragon Lady. She also added the only thing fearsome about her was her driving. “Dr. Macbeth has somewhat of a lead foot if you know what I mean.”

Dr. Ransom started laughing. “I’ll be talking to Susan tonight. I’ll say you two say hello. By the way, she named her daughter Milly.”

Milly suddenly grabbed Brad’s hand and started getting all misty-eyed. Dr. Ransom looked at her watch. “Now I really must fly. I try to call before Susan has to feed Milly. First, she feeds Milly then puts her down for a nap. Don’t tell Susan I said this but if I’m late in calling, and I wake up Milly she’s a right horror to get back to sleep.”

Brad started pointing at Milly. “Just like this one. If she’s not fed and watered on time she gets really cranky. When we were talking about names Rasputina was mentioned.”

Dr. Ransom stood up. “Alright, you two. Scoot, scram, get out. I’ll see you next week.” She almost flew out of the room. Brad took Milly to the exit in a wheelchair.

Jamie was almost beside himself. “What’s goin’ on? We were supposed to at the castle an hour ago”. After Milly got in, adjusted herself and put her belt on she told Jamie. “It seems there’s a wee stowaway.” She put her hand on his. “In other words dear friend I just found out I’m carrying twins. One’s very large and the other is very small. Dr. Ransom wants me to rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.” Jamie looked dumbfounded and concerned. “Well, how did that happen?”. He realized he just asked a very dumb question. Brad spoke up. “One sperm fertilized one egg. A few days after conception it split. We don’t know why it split but that’s how you get mirror twins.” Jamie went white as a ghost and as silent as a tomb. When they got to the castle Jessica came out. She too was pregnant. Milly hugged Jessica and Brad shook Jamie’s hand. Jessica was just starting to show. “Welcome to the club,” said Milly.

Milly was a pretty foul mood. In a nutshell, she could do very little but wait while Sprig and Sprog grew inside her. She was allowed out for walks, but aside from that, there was very little she was allowed to do. While Mason, the butler, went about he duties in the castle he couldn’t help but notice Milly’s expression. What should have a happy time in her life was exactly the opposite. Mason and Brad had arranged to communicate on a daily basis. Mason was not very comfortable with cell phones but every day at 4 PM Mason would text Brad with what he called “The Milly Report”. He got Brad’s cell phone number and would text one of two emoji symbols. Soon after they arrived in Scotland Mason regularly texted Brad this “:)” But soon the mood changed. Mason texted “:(” more often than not. Milly openly complained to Brad and came very close to saying he was totally responsible for her dilemma. Brad emailed Dinah and explained that Milly was going crazy with little to actually do. The answer was almost always the same. “Take her for a short walk in the town and buy a magazine.” Milly soon collected a small but substantial pile of magazines all geared to home decorating. When the shipping container arrived at the cottage Dr. Ransom said Milly could not decorate her own house which didn’t go over particularly well. To try and remedy matters Brad went into town and bought a small tripod for his phone. When he screwed it into the side of his phone he was able to transmit live images of the container to Milly’s phone. Tyler and Brad did the heavy lifting while Milly directed from the comfort of an easy chair in MacTaggert castle. Milly got to enjoy the “remote decorating” but would have preferred actually decorating her home with her own hands. Milly gave herself the title of “forewoman”. Tilly tried to make an uncomfortable situation bearable by being there for her daughter.

“A little to the right…more…more..got it! Freeze”. Tyler was beginning to wonder if his daughter had been a tyrannical Hollywood director in a former life. One day Tyler and Brad were trying to place the sofa in what would be the family/living room. Brads phone had an unusually sensitive microphone and Milly could hear every grunt, groan, curse and moan coming from Tyler or Brad. When Brad or Tyler got tired they would start calling Milly “Master”. One day while directing the placement of a picture her water broke.

“WHOOPS…AGH…OH CRAP!”. Then Tilly translated. “C’mon back boys…it’s time. Her water just broke.”

Brad was in the delivery room but was of little use. He was primarily the target of curses hurled at him by Milly.

“TOUCH ME AGAIN AND I’LL MAKE YOU THE OLDEST LIVING MEMBER OF THE VIENNA BOYS CHOIR!”

Dr. Ransom urged her to push.

“YOU PUSH DAMN YOU!”

Sprog was the first to make her entrance. “Got him…I mean her”. Milly sat back, soaked in sweat. “OK people. We’ve one more to come…on your toes,” said Dr. Ransom. Milly, who was in labor for fifteen hours, was exhausted. “Look doc, I’m too tired to push. Can’t you just reach in and get him?” Dr. Ransom knew Milly was tired so she tried a little maternal psychology. “Imagine the tax man is here to take away your daughter.” Milly sat up and made the fiercest face. Sprig just eased out. “OK. This one is an incubator kid. What’s his name, Milly?”

“I like Angus”.

Angus wailed at the sudden temperature change. He didn’t think much of his new accommodations and let his displeasure known.

“Oh for Christ’s sake’s…who’s bawling their brains out?”

Dr. Ransom put Angus on top of Milly. Milly started kissing and cuddling him. “Where did you come from little one?”. “And here’s your daughter”. Milly looked at her red hair and called her Jessica. Brad waddled out of the delivery room, covered in sympathetic sweat, and took off his mask. Tilly and Tyler asked about Milly. “Milly is gorgeous. She’s a mother to twins, Angus and Jessica.” Tyler got up from the couch he and Tilly had been sitting in. He approached Brad and put his hand on Brad’s shoulder. “This is the start of whole new chapter in all our lives son. Thank you.”

When Milly was moved to a private room she made herself more presentable. Tyler and Tilly visited. Baby Jessica was with her and all bundled up. Tilly cooed, oohed and awed at her new granddaughter. Angus was down the hall in an incubator complaining most vocally about the way his incubator was decorated. Jamie and Jessica entered Milly’s room. As Jessica entered Tilly said she should say hello to her namesake. Jessica took a look at her young namesake and started crying. Soon Dr. Ransom entered the room and ordered everybody out. “All right everybody out. Milly’s been through a lot and needs to rest. The show’s over. You have an entire lifetime to get acquainted. Everybody Out.” Just then baby Jessica started to cry. “Maybe the show is just starting”.

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The End

I’ve done two separate series over the last year and I’m kind of bushed. So I’m going to rest, recharge my batteries and return  in the new year. Stay safe. Tom 

Chapter 13 – Summons From A Far

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As Brad and Milly drove toward the town of Strathpeffer they kept a sharp eye on the road. Driving through the mountains for the first time gave Milly her first real case of white-knuckle driving. You could be on the road and the skies would be blue. All you had to do was turn a corner and the environment could change instantly. Clouds had the nasty habit of appearing from nowhere.

Brad tried to help with the navigating as the GPS system was still acting up. It didn’t help when a motorist who knew the roads passed Milly at 100 KPH or 60 MPH. Brad decided to be quiet and let Milly concentrate. About half an hour later and a few nerves later they passed the boundary stone that marked the beginning to the town. But it wasn’t long before the discovered the true meaning of traffic jam, just as Jamie and Jessica had forecast. More sheep than Milly had seen in her entire life suddenly appeared in the cloud/mist. Most were spray painted with a blue number. The car went from 100 KPH to a slow crawl to a dead stop.

Loch na Cuilce and Loch Coruisk with Black Cuillin in the background, Isle of Skye, Scotland

“I don’t believe this. There are thousands of sheep everywhere! Everywhere you look you see sheep. So that what those two meant! They’re so cute but there are so many.” she said wide-eyed her brain finding what she was seeing incomprehensible.

Brad rifled through some papers. “If you all talking about all those four-legged dinners running around you’re in for a bit of a surprise Kitten. According to those info packs the dragon lady gave us there are just over 5.5 million people in all of Scotland. And 6.6 million sheep. There are apparently over fourteen thousand farms that deal exclusively with sheep so I think we can count on seeing a great many more. And since we’re here for two months it might be a good idea that we both get used to the aroma”.

“Well I don’t know about you but I glad someone -I mean something has been busier than we have. Jeepers!”

Welcome to Strathpeffer

As they drove into town Brad asked for directions to Dr. MacTaggert’s house. The response was far from what they expected. A woman leaned down and gave Milly some instructions on driving to the house.

“The MacTaggert house you say? So that’s what the old boy is calling it now. Just stay on this road. The MacTaggert Estate is at the end of the road and at the very top.” The woman stood up and simply walked off.

“They didn’t sound too friendly as soon as I mentioned Dr. MacTaggert. I don’t think Dr. Fergus MacTaggert has particularly endeared himself to the local population.” Brad said quietly to Milly.

They drove slowly along the road. Some people gestured at them in a cryptic manner, while some made gestures that were understood easily understood in any language. “What in heavens name have we done to be treated this way!. We haven’t been here an hour” asked Milly.

Brad was far from pleased. “If I had known about this kind of reception I think I would have turned down the offer to come here.”

Milly suddenly looked at Brad. “Does that include what I think it does?”.

Brad collected his thoughts before he responded.

“When I proposed to you it was the best day of my life. I love you more than you will ever know. I feel we’ve known each other for a very long time yet I know it has been a whirlwind romance. I want you to become part of my life so we can have a life together. Besides Dr. Brad Foster only puts on a kilt for one very special woman, one very sexy Kitten.” Brad didn’t know it but Milly had been holding her breath.

“Phew…am I glad you said, Kitten. For a second there I thought you were talking…” Milly’s voice trailed off when she caught sight of their destination.

“Holy Highland Fuzzbucket! We’re staying in a friggin’ castle!”

Brad rolled down the car door window and looked at the MacTaggert estate. The house had ivy crawling up the exterior and a large tower with four spires. Milly had purchased a small digital camera and took a photo of the estate for her parents. While Milly snapped away in total awe of the MacTaggert estate she saw Jessica come running from the house.

“I see you, Dr. Milly Shine! Present fingers!” yelled Jessica. She ran down the road “I want to see that ring.”

As Jessica ran towards the car Milly started to cringe. Dreading it she turned to Brad. She touched his hand.

“Oh, crud. She must have seen me,” said Milly not looking forward to what was about to happen. She turned to Brad and held his hand.

“I guess this is confession time hon. During my entire life, I’ve never really understood why women go all to pieces when they see another woman’s engagement for the first time. Sure I’m happy for them but I have never understood the need to all to go berserk.”

As Jessica neared the shrieking started and Milly got out of the car. She steadied her hand while Jessica oohed and awed. Then Milly noticed a ring on Jessica’s ring finger. Milly grabbed hold of it and after examining it intensely she told her it was gorgeous. She hugged Jessica.

“Brad and I wish you and Jamie all the happiness. When did he ask you?”

“Yesterday. May I have permission to give your man a great big kiss?”

Milly was about to give her permission when curiosity struck. She just had to know what Brad had to do with the proposal.

“Now you have me stumped. What does Brad have to do with Jamie asking you to marry you?”

Jessica took a breath then started with the explanation.

“When Jamie was helping Dr. Foster get dressed Jamie let it slip he was thinking of asking me, but he added that his father wanted to marry within the clan. Jamie made it clear that he wanted to ask me but was afraid to do so because of his father. Then your man reminded Jamie that he if he loved me and if he asked me to be his wife then he’s going to married to me and not his father. That’s when Jamie realized his father would simply have to accept the marriage or risk losing a son, a daughter-in-law, and any wee bairns that happen along.”

Milly turned to Brad and looked into his eyes. “Did you really say that?”

Brad to brush off the significance. “It was just guy talk. Nothing special.” Milly stood still, looked at Brad then said: “Sometimes you know just what to say.” Then Milly hugged Brad. But she soon turned her attention back to Jessica.

Milly then shook Jessica. “Well, what did Fergus say?”

Jessica was silent for a while. “He hasn’t said anything. He said he’ll give us his answer at dinner tonight. He’s been sitting in his study like quiet as a sphinx. But let’s get your bags out.” Just then Jamie appeared in the doorway with a steel reinforced cart with a small note attached “Milly’s Trolley”.

Milly put her hands in her pockets and walked over to him. “Something tells me you’re never going to forgive me are you?” she said rocking on her feet.

“Och lass, how could I hold a grudge agin you? Permission to kiss the bride-to-be?” Jamie looked at Brad who closed his eyes and nodded quickly. Jessica surprised Brad with a kiss. Her particular brand of lipstick left lipstick on his cheeks. Milly quickly took some Kleenex from her pocket and rubbed it off. She turned around, faced Jessica and said: “This one’s taken and he’s all mine.”

After Jamie showed them to their room he informed Brad and Milly about tonight. “Tonight is a full-dress dinner. Brad is to wear a kilt. Milly, you’re being asked to wear best evening frock you’ve got. My father is going to give us his answer tonight. Jess and I are terrified he’s going to be stubborn as a mule. After you’ve unpacked Jess and I want to give you a tour of the estate.”

Twenty minutes later as Milly and Brad walked down the hall they were joined by Jessica who was already wearing her kilt. She couldn’t help but give Brad a little grief. “And where is your kilt, Dr. Foster? I hope you don’t need a refresher course on how to get dressed?” Milly stifled a laugh and sniffed a bit. “And you young lady. Why are you not dressed for dinner? Jamie and I need your support tonight more than ever.” Brad couldn’t help but chuckle at the dressing down Milly was getting. “And you young man. You would be wise to stop chortling and puffing like a steam engine.” Brad saluted. “Yes, Miss McCloud.” Milly gave Brad a light tap in the ribs with her elbow. When Jessica was a few paces in front of them Milly whispered  painfully quietly to Brad. “I think she means business. Maybe it might be wise to get dressed now. I know dinner isn’t for another two hours but this isn’t your ordinary Sunday dinner. At least two lives will be profoundly changed by what happens tonight. We don’t know what Fergus is going to say.” Milly and Brad took a rain check on the tour and retreated to their room to change.

Brad put his “highland monkey suit” over a wooden chair to get the creases out. Milly changed into a copy of the evening gown she wore Brad proposed. By the time she was fully dressed Brad started moaning.

“Nuts. Now she’ll have my guts for garters. It’s still got too many creases.” Milly rolled her eyes. “You men. What would you do without us? Put the kilt in the bathroom. Make sure it’s hanging straight down. Then turn on the hot water in the tub and in the shower. In fifteen minutes it should be as right as rain. A little steam will smooth things out.”

As the steam smoothed out the creases Brad got dressed exactly as Jamie showed him. Then he made a fatal mistake. Milly was standing closest to the wounded sporran when Brad asked her to pass the sporran to him. She noticed that it weighed a great deal more than it should.

“Why does this thing weigh so much?”

Brad eyed the ceiling and took a deep breath.

“That’s because it contains your very first wedding gift.”

Milly opened it in a flash. She looked in and saw a small smooth stone.

“Are you saying someone gave me a rock?” she asked.

Then Brad explained the rock was for. Milly started snickering which quickly grew into hysterics.

“You mean somebody gave you a rock to control your rocks?”. Brad then said he was instructed to give it to Milly on their honeymoon. He also said it came from Jamie and Jessica and that she shouldn’t breathe a word of its existence to anyone until they’re married.

When they were properly attired they waited in the library. Fergus appeared and greeted Brad and Milly. His accent was thick and difficult to follow at times. He was a bit stocky but there was very little fat on his bones. Jessica remarked that Fergus looked very much like “wee Jamie.” A butler named Mason carried in various bottles of spirits as well as a generous supply of scotch. He put the liquor on a side table. He then distributed Champagne flutes to everyone. After that, he filled the glasses with French Champagne. Mason executed his duties, took two steps back and stood a few inches in front of the library wall.

Fergus tapped the side of his Champagne flute and everyone slowly stopped talking. When he started talking Jamie and Jessica held hands hoping he would deal with the matter that concerned them.

“I’m more than aware that you’d all like to me to say something particular about the beautiful Jessica McCloud and my son Jamie. But I’m goin’ to ask you to be a little more patient. I’d like to welcome our guests from across the Atlantic. I’d like you to welcome Dr. Brad Foster and his bride-to-be Dr. Milly Shine.”

There was an applause, but it sounded louder than it should have.

“When I suggested this temporary trade with the administrator of our sister hospital I had no idea we were about to be graced with such beauty. So with no more beatin’ around the bush may I also present Dr. Druk Macbeth. Which brings me to the conclusion of this speech-”

There was a great deal of clapping and some whistling. Fergus continued talking.

“When I learned Dr. Foster and Dr. Shine had become engaged something twigged in my memory. A long time ago, a very long time ago, when paper was still used I went to med school with a very wise man. He always knew just what to say and how to say it. In fact, he came second in my class at med school. I came third. For some time now I’ve suspected him of some…certain shenanigans shall we say with regards to who really came second and really came third. Milly, when I found it was you who were comin’ I checked my med school yearbook. And sure enough, the man who bested me at med school was your father!”

Milly looked shell-shocked. She had no idea her father went to med school with her soon to be albeit temporary boss.

Fergus picked up where he left off.

“I wanted to know more about you so I contacted your mother and father. And they graciously accepted my invitation to this little get-together. So it gives me immense pleasure to introduce my lifelong friend Dr. Tyler Shine and his lovely wife Tilly.”

Dr. Shine and his wife and his stepped out of the shadows and were handed Champagne flutes by Mason. Brad studied Tyler. And Tyler glowered at him. Tyler motioned he wanted to talk with Brad. When the applause started to die down Fergus resumed talking.

“Alright, before anybody starts hoping that I’ll run out of air it has come to my attention that I must say something about the beautiful Jessica and my wee Jamie. Yes, it’s true I wanted wee Jamie, no let me correct that, my son Jamie to marry within the clan MacTaggert. But my son is no longer “wee Jamie”. He’s a grown man, and more than able to make his own decisions. So with the help of Tyler and Tilly, I discussed the situation. No has ever said that I’m stubborn, at least not to my face. But I can be extremely narrow-minded at times. With Tilly’s able assistance I remembered when I proposed to Jamie’s mother. I was as nervous as can be, and very concerned about how my own father would react. He too wanted his sons to marry within the clan. But I was stubborn. I wanted a woman from outside the clan. With the help of Tyler and Tilly I learned, I could keep Jessica and Jamie nearby by accepting the engagement, or I could be a stubborn old fool and not accept the engagement.”

Fergus directed his gaze at Jessica and Jamie. “This next part I say to Jamie and Jessica. Jamie, please forgive your father. I canna lose you too. So, if you feel even a tenth of what I felt for your mother you have my permission and my blessing. And to the beautiful Jessica. Knowing what you what you feel for my son it would be a crime if you two didn’t get married. But…I do have one request”

Milly was dabbing her eyes with Kleenex while Brad searched his sporran for a handkerchief to replace the Kleenex. “I knew it. A condition” cursed Milly.

“If you are blessed with a son please do not name him Fergus after me. I hate that name and could only feel pity for the wee bairn. But if you like the name I’m sure there’s a McCloud named Fergus. Now, let’s go to dinner. I’m starving.”

Jessica rushed into the arms of her soon to be father-in-law. “Fergus. You mean so much to both of us. We won’t name anyone Fergus. And thank you for your blessing.” Jamie shook hands with his father. Their eyes communicated what they could not say verbally.

Tyler and Tilly next spoke with Fergus. “Fergus, you grizzled old codpiece. You gave Tilly and me far too much credit. We did very little. All we did was move the debris of the past out of the way and show you your options. You were the one who made the final decision.”

Milly finally got to meet with her mom and dad. She kissed her mother, hugged her father, and introduced Brad. Her mother approved of the choice immediately. Tyler took his time assessing Brad. “I understand you’re the fellow who’s made my little girl so very happy. What’s your specialty? I think you and I should chew the fat. Get to know one another. After all, from my little girl says we’re going to be related.”

******

After dinner, Tyler and Brad adjourned to the driveway to “chew the fat”. Brad was visibly nervous as sweat was on his brow. Both of them walked down the length of the gravel driveway without saying a word. As Tyler walked the sound of the gravel crunching and grinding beneath his feet grew louder and louder.

“Why do you want to marry my daughter?” said Tyler as he stuffed tobacco into his pipe.

“Milly completes me. I love her more than you will ever know. I care about her and I want to see her grow into the marvelous diagnostician I know she can and will be. When I first noticed Milly she was gorgeous. I thought that a woman that good looking must surely have a boyfriend. And that I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell with her. We consulted on a few cases, but that was the extent of our medical collaboration. But when she moved into my apartment building I was able to see the woman under the doctor persona. I helped her move into her apartment, and she took an instant liking to my recliner.”

“She was always partial to recliners. I had one in my study when she was a little girl. Whenever it was bedtime my wife or I would almost always find her in my recliner curled up fast asleep. Why do you have one?”

“10-12 hour sessions in the operating room have taken their toll on a disc in my spine. It’s slowly disintegrating.”

“Have you told her what to expect?”

“I’ve tried to Dr. Shine-”

Tyler put his hand up. “We’re going to be related. Try calling me Tyler. I promise I don’t bite or breath fire despite what Milly may have told you.”

“That’s one thing I was hoping we could talk about. Milly has never mentioned your name or your wife’s until I asked her. Up to that point in our relationship you two were always called “mom and dad”. Is there something I should know about?”

“Milly was always fiercely independent. From the time she was a teenager, she was itching to live by herself. As with all teenagers, we butted heads over many an issue. And when I say “by herself” I mean exactly that. No parental strings whatsoever. I can only guess that she found living with only a telephone for company pretty lonely and she sought out companionship. I’m glad she found it. And from what I can tell from our short talk I’m glad she found that companionship in you. But as her father, I’ve got to ask if she knows?”

Brad was puzzled. “What are you talking about Dr….Tyler?

“Have you told her you’re dying?”

Brad stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Tyler. “Why in heavens name would you say that? After my last physical, I was pronounced ship-shape in Bristol fashion. I plan to be around for at least another fifty years!”

Tyler started growling to himself. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a single sheet of paper. He also pulled out a pair of reading glasses.

“I have before me a private investigators report. It says your name is Bradley Jefferson Foster. How am I doing so far?”

Brad laughed so hard he had to undo his vest and bend over to catch his breath.

“Not even close. I was born Brad Foster. Not Bradley, and certainly not Jefferson. I don’t have a clue who this poor bugger is but I assure you it is not me. Just what is this private investigators report all about?”

“This so-called report was my wife’s idea. When Milly phones Tilly usually answers. When the talks started to get all lovey-dovey my wife wanted to know more about you. The traditional method is bringing the beau to meet the girls’ parents. When Milly didn’t do that my wife decided to turn into James Bond. Hence this useless pile of crap. I was against the whole thing but you know how mothers can be.”

Brad scratched his nose and shuffled his feet. “No, I don’t. I lost both my parents and an unborn sibling to a drunk driver when I was ten.” Brad continued and told him his life story. Tyler apologized profusely because he was partly responsible. He reluctantly signed the checks. Brad suggested they go in as it was getting somewhat chilly. “I think a Scotch would warm us up.”

“I’m really starting to like you. Any man who drinks Scotch usually has excellent taste.”

Brad asked for and got the report. He wanted to frame the investigators report. “We may need something to laugh about in a few years.”

Chapter 9 -Summons From A Far

Bosworth Hall - lobby

Lobby

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.

Bosworth Hall  - reception

Reception

“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.

Bosworth Hall -bar

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

MD. (Ret)

“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?”

Chapter 8 – Summons From A Far

Bosworth Hall Bedroom

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-”

Gil interrupted.

“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.