Highland Echoes:Fated Hearts 02(8)

By: Ceci Giltenan

The older man blushed crimson. “It was nothing. I wish ye God’s blessings, lass.”

“Dugald,” his wife called from the wagon seat where she held a sleeping Kristen on her lap, “we can’t just leave her here until we know she’ll be welcomed.”

“Mary, that’s kind of ye, but I have delayed ye enough. I’m sure Kristen and I will be fine.” Grace climbed up on the wagon to lift her daughter down as one of their sons handed down the bundle of her belongings. Kristen woke, but not fully. She popped her thumb in her mouth and rested her head on Grace’s shoulder.

Mary smiled at her. “Well, just in case, we will stop back by here on our way home. If things aren’t working well, ye’ll always have a welcome with us.

Tears welled in Grace’s eyes. She prayed that her grandmother would accept her, but fear of the unknown prevented her from refusing the offer. “Thank ye, Mary. I truly appreciate that.”

After saying her goodbyes, Grace followed one of the guards through the gates, across the outer bailey, into the inner bailey, then around to the kitchens. Before returning to his post, the guard opened the door for her, calling in, “Innes, there’s someone here to see ye.”

The kitchen he showed her to was empty save for a white haired woman who stirred a pot hanging over the fire. The midday meal had been served and cleared. This was the quiet pause in the afternoon, before work began again for the evening meal.

The older woman smiled. “Do I know ye lass?”

Grace hesitated a moment, trying to figure out what to say. The forthright approach seemed best. “Nay, ye don’t. My name is Grace Breive and this sleepy lass is my daughter, Kristen. I am Tristan Murray’s daughter.”

The news stunned Innes. She dropped the long spoon she held. “Ye can’t be. Nay. Tristan—Tristan disappeared years ago. I never heard a word. I thought him dead.”

Disappeared? Her mother hadn’t made that detail clear. “I’m so very sorry for yer pain but I am his daughter.” Grace slipped a hand in her pocket and pulled out her da’s brooch. “This was his. Do ye recognize it?”

The old woman burst into tears. “Aye, I do. That was my husband’s and then Tristan’s.” She rushed across the room and wrapped her arms around both Grace and Kristen. “By all the saints, lass, I can’t believe it—after all these years. He left. He was young and so angry. I thought he would forgive me eventually and come home. That was the last I saw him.”

Grace returned her hug. She didn’t know what to say. “Please, sit down,” she said, gently guiding her weeping grandmother into a chair. “I know this has been a shock. I don’t understand it all myself, but perhaps we can sort it out together.”

When her grandmother had regained some control, she asked, “Where is Tristan now?”

The anticipation in her grandmother’s voice caused a lump to form in Grace’s throat and tears prickled the back of her eyes. She took a deep breath. She hated having to break the old woman’s heart again. “I’m so very sorry to have to tell ye this, my father died last October.”

As Grace expected, this brought on a fresh wave of tears but the old woman recovered a bit quicker this time. “Tell me, child. Tell me everything.”

“I’m sorry but I don’t know everything. We lived on the Isle of Lewis. I knew my parents hadn’t been raised there, but I thought neither of them had any living family. My father and husband were fishermen. They both died when a gale struck and their boat went down.”

“Oh, my poor sweet lass, ye are a widow. I was widowed young too. I’m so sorry for ye. I thought it would kill me at the time, but I had Tristan, I had to go on.”

“Aye, that is just how it was. I had to for Mama and Kristen. Mama had been very ill, ye see. I needed to take care of her. Finally, a few months ago she told me why she and Da had come to the isles in the first place. Apparently her father didn’t want her to marry my father so they ran away together.”

“But why didn’t he tell me? I would have understood why he couldn’t come home. Why didn’t he just send me a message telling me he lived?”