Highland Echoes:Fated Hearts 02(9)

By: Ceci Giltenan

Her plaintive tone tore at Grace. She understood her parents’ reasons; still, her heart ached for her grandmother. “My mother said her father vowed to kill Da so they ran away. She feared her father. She wouldn’t even tell me her family name. She didn’t want me to ever seek them out. She made me promise I wouldn’t. Do ye know anything about her?”

Her grandmother shook her head sadly. “Nay, I don’t. Ye see, as I said, Tristan left as a very young man. He had trained here as a soldier but I didn’t want that for him. I told ye I was widowed, Tristan’s father died at the battle of Falkirk when Tristan wasn’t much bigger than yer wee lass. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him in the same way. I asked Laird Sutherland to release him, to have him work in the stables or on a croft, anything but wield a sword. He was my only child.” She bowed her head for a moment. Clearly these were painful memories.

“Did the laird refuse?” asked Grace gently.

Innes shook her head. “Not outright. Laird Sutherland said he wouldn’t force Tristan out, because he was a skilled warrior, but he would talk to Tristan, giving him the option to work elsewhere if he so desired.”

“I don’t understand. Why would he leave if the choice was his?”

“It was my fault. I shouldn’t have interfered. When Tristan found out what I had done, he was furious. He said if I couldn’t stay out of his life, he would stay out of mine. He left the next day. He was only twenty. He never contacted me to tell me where he went. Laird Sutherland might have tried to find out for me, but as it had been my interference that caused Tristan to leave in the first place, I didn’t want to risk pushing him farther away.

“For the first few months I was certain he would return home. Then after a couple years, I simply prayed to hear from him. I just wanted to know that he lived and was happy. Finally, after so many years had passed, I believed he must have died. And, now I learn that he has and I was never able to tell him how sorry I was. How I regretted interfering.” Her grandmother began weeping again.

Grace was stunned by her father’s thoughtlessness. She offered the only explanation she could think of. “It sounds as if he married my mother just months after leaving home. If my mother’s father was as ruthless as she believed, I can only think my da’s silence was meant to protect ye. Still, I am so very sorry.” They sat in silence for a few moments before Grace said, “I have a letter to ye from my da that my mother wrote for him. Maybe it will explain things.”

“I can’t read. We’ll go to Father Francis. He’ll read it to us. I could ask the laird but he is away.”

“I can read it to ye if ye wish. Apparently Da composed it years ago but feared sending it.”

A look of excitement crossed her grandmother’s face. “Ye can read? Aye, please read it to me. But if ye have had it for months why haven’t ye read it before now?”

“The letter was written to ye, not me. I didn’t want to read it without yer leave. Would ye hold this sprite for me while I fetch it from my bag?”

Her grandmother gave Kristen a warm smile that reminded Grace poignantly of Da. “Hold my great-granddaughter? Aye, I’d love to.”

Kristen was beginning to wake more fully now but she happily snuggled into the old woman’s lap.

Grace found the small, carved wooden box, producing the letter from it. “Here it is.” She broke the wax seal and the sight of her mother’s beautiful handwriting caused her heart to ache, but she took a deep breath and started reading.

Dear Mother,

I have tried to compose this letter so many times. Each time, I have started by explaining why I left so suddenly without ever revealing where I went. I have finally realized the “whys” are of the least importance. So first I want ye to know I love ye. No mother deserves to be treated as I did ye. From the depths of my heart, I am sorry. I said terrible things. I shouldn’t have left angry. But even having left, I should have at least told ye where I went. There are no excuses.

Why then am I not coming to ye in person, falling on my knees, and begging yer forgiveness? Sadly, I cannot without endangering everyone I love, including ye, my dear mother. I can only tell ye the story and hope ye understand.