The Pocket Watch(10)

By: Ceci Giltenan

Yeah, you go on. I’ll get there…someday. If I can figure out where “there” is.

As if he had heard her imagined sarcastic quip he stopped, turned around and glared at her. “Is there a problem, Margaret?”

Ah, her name was Margaret. Nice to know. “Nay, no problem.”

“Then why did ye stop?”

“Ah…well…that. I suppose there is a wee problem. Ye walk very fast. And I—” She coughed, unable to suppress a grimace of pain. Even though the accident wasn’t her fault, strictly speaking, she still felt responsible and didn’t want to complain. “—I’m sorry. I can’t quite keep up. I know this is my fault, but would it be possible to—” He scowled at her, clearly still angry, “Never mind. I’ll try harder.”

The look of shock on his face caught Maggie off guard. “I-I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?”

He frowned at her, for the first time looking more confused than angry. “Nay.” After considering her for a long moment he said, “I’ll walk more slowly.”

She gave him a weak smile, “Thank ye.”

He looked confused but continued at a significantly slower pace.

Maggie still found it hard going, but she would not complain again. It wasn’t in her nature. So she did her best not to fall behind. To get her mind off the pain in her ribs, she tried to puzzle out her next steps.

She supposed she should have feigned amnesia immediately, but things happened so fast, and her companion’s anger had taken her so off guard, she forgot to. Hah. She forgot to have amnesia. Paige would laugh at that. Still, she had already learned a bit by simply paying attention. Her name was Margaret, she was somewhere in medieval Europe, and the man with her didn’t like her. He would have mourned the loss of the horse more than her. She figured that was probably a good thing because if Gertrude was right, Margaret’s life was already over.

Given that she didn’t plan to stay long, it might be possible to simply listen and figure out enough to get by—although she would play the amnesia card if she had to.

When they reached the top of the hill, the vista was breathtaking. The land sloped down towards a village before rising again, even higher. Halfway up the next rise was…a castle. She stopped and stared, in awe.

The man stopped too. “What’s wrong now?”

“Nothing. It’s just very beautiful.” I wish I had my cellphone, was on the tip of her tongue but she stopped herself.

He gave her another confused frown. “What’s gotten into ye?”

“N-nothing.” What did he mean by that? “Don’t ye think it is beautiful?”

“Aye, of course I do, but ye never have. Since ye arrived, I’ve heard nothing but complaints about how ugly and unpleasant ye find Castle Carr and how everything is so much better at yer home.”

“Ye must have misunderstood me.” How could anyone think that castle was ugly? But really, in Maggie’s opinion, how could anyone find any castle ugly? Castles were…well, castles. This was square with towers on each corner and a wall encircled everything. It looked exactly like the kind of castle she would have built in sand, except without a moat or driftwood drawbridge.

“Margaret, ye have done nothing but complain since ye arrived. Ye’ve made it painfully clear that ye would prefer to have nothing to do with Clan Carr in general, and me specifically. Ye have shown us nothing but disdain. I didn’t misunderstand ye.”

Maggie was taken aback. One more piece of information—clearly Margaret was exceedingly ill-mannered. She was embarrassed just knowing the woman had been so unkind. “I’m sorry. I…I may have made a mistake.”

“Ye may have,” was all he said before continuing down the hill.

She could only follow. He had increased the pace again, probably without realizing it because they were going downhill now. She hurried, trying to keep up but in her haste and unaccustomed to the long skirts and funny shoes, she tripped and fell. Although she caught herself with her hands, the hard jolt sent waves of pain through her ribs, causing her eyes to water. She bit her lower lip to keep from crying out. As soon as the worst pain had passed, she looked up to see him staring at her.