ANNA PAGE 21

            Clean Romance you can give your mom. Suitable for ages 14-96 

                                                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                        
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Catherin laughed. “Aye.”

“On a horse?”

Catherin couldn’t stop laughing long enough to answer and nodded instead. At length, she took several deep breaths to calm herself. “It feels so good to laugh. I swear, I will never let anyone take the laughter away again.”

“Nor will I.”

Her dark memories started to fog her mind, but Catherin pushed them away, “Justin tried to teach me how to carve wood and he did not yell when I made a mistake.”

“All lads yell, even Harold.”

“Justin did not. He is a thoughtful man. His English is not good, but he does not speak until he is sure of what to say.”

“I believe you like him.”

“I believe I do too. But...” Catherin started to leap up when Rachel fell, but the child laughed and Catherin relaxed.

“We are afraid they will hold us down.”

“Aye. If Athena were here, she would tell us the truth. The King said she broke a man’s arm.”

“Did she? I would like to learn how to do that.”

“So would I. Do you think they would let Rachel and I live with Athena?” Catherin asked.

“Perhaps. Would you rather have a cottage of your own?”

“I would indeed. I wonder if your husband would let me.”

“I think my husband would let you do whatever you want. He let us leave and did not chase us. I thought he would. If he had, I would have hated him for it.”

“Perhaps he is wise as well as handsome. But the wall, Anna. I cannot live again inside a wall.”

*

Kevin sat on the bed, unlaced one of his shoes and took it off. He was exhausted, but just like all the other nights; he didn’t want to sleep without at least knowing she was alive. He looked around the room. Everything was exactly the same as it had been before he rode out that day to make Anna his wife. She changed nothing and now there was little evidence she had ever been there. The scarf Mary made for her hair and the clothing she wore to ride her horse the day she left were still there. However, Katie put those away so he wouldn’t have to see them. Sometimes, he touched his mother’s hand mirror just because she had touched it. No one spoke of Anna now, not even Katie, and he admitted there wasn’t much left to say.

She was his for just a moment, quick to come and even quicker to pass away. He tried to think what he could have done differently. He shouldn’t have made her stay inside the wall and if she came back, he vowed he would never do it again. He would see that the bridge remained down all day and raised only at night or when there was certain danger. He didn’t like the idea of not having a guard with her, but he was willing to ask her what she wanted when she came back...if she came back.

He pulled off his other shoe, stretched out on the same bed she once slept in and stared at nothing at all. She was gone, she might not ever come back and he had to find a way to live with it.

Kevin closed his eyes and whispered, “Come back to me, Anna MacGreagor.”

*

When he glanced out the window just after sunrise, Kevin spotted a man sleeping in the middle of the meadow. Harold! How had he forgotten about Harold? Kevin wasn’t completely dressed. One shoe was on, the other was not, and he couldn’t have cared less. He went flying down the stairs and out the door, yelling for Justin on the way. He could hardly wait until the drawbridge was lowered so he could get out. Then he ran into the meadow with Justin, Thomas and Clymer right behind him.

Harold heard the noisy bridge come down and stood up to greet them. For a moment, he wasn’t sure Kevin was going to stop before he ran him down, and the other three looked like they would trample him as well. When they finally did stop, he stroked the side of his beard. “I have begun to worry about you MacGreagors. I have been in and out of your hold three times since I got here.”

“How?” Thomas demanded.

That was the last thing on Kevin’s mind. “Have you seen Anna? Is she well? Do you know where she is?”

Harold smiled. “A little worried about her, are you?”

“Worried? I have nearly lost my mind.”

“Well now,” Harold began, walking slowly away with the men following close behind. He knelt down, picked up a rock and started to examine it. “They showed up on my doorstep a few weeks ago. I do not mind telling you, I was surprised to see them. What do you suppose they wanted to do?”

“I have no idea,” answered Kevin.

“They wanted to burn that hell house they called home.”

“And did they?”

“Aye, they burned it two days running. The first day, it didn’t burn completely, so they lit it again. Then they shouted their rage and called Stoneham a few names I have never heard before. I believe some names were in your fine language. After that, they danced, drank wine and celebrated.”

“Are they still there?”

“No.” Harold turned his back and walked to another stone. Again, the Highlanders followed.

“Where are they?”

“Just wait, I am getting to it. They were worried about the servants, so I helped find good positions for them. Next, they wanted to swim. They swam every day for two weeks straight and they stayed in the water until they were wrinkled from head to toe. Watching those two swim is a thing of beauty.”

It was Justin who questioned him next. “Did they laugh? I love it when Catherin laughs.”

“Did they? They could hardly stop laughing. They cried too. They cried so hard they broke my heart and gave themselves a vile headache -- which made them laugh again. They were helping each other heal, you see.”

Again, Harold walked a little closer to the trees before he continued, “Laird MacGreagor, Anna said to say thank you for not coming after her. She feared you would and she needed this time with her mother. I could tell you stories...oh well, we best not get into that.”

“Is she coming back?”

“I will not say just yet. You see, Anna had to wait until her mother figured out where to go and what to do. With her husband dead, she has no one to tend her or any family to turn to but Anna.”

“Does she not understand we will gladly care for her?” Justin asked.

“I cannot rightly say what Catherin understands.” He turned then and looked directly at Kevin. “They need a door in the wall. They can swim the moat, but they need to be able to go out whenever their fear overcomes them. Do you agree?”

For the first time in weeks, Kevin felt there was hope. He quickly nodded. “We will begin it today.”

“Good. Put it as close to the forest as possible so they can slip into the woods before any enemy sees them. If you are not aware of how to hide a door in a wall, I will assist you. I have three of my own. Next, Catherin wants a cottage where she can raise Rachel in peace. She wants to learn to protect herself and how to cook. She wants Athena to teach her. I think it would be good for both of Stoneham’s wives.”

“Done!” Justin said.

“Anna says your people will not let her learn how to do anything and she feels useless. Can you correct this problem?”

Kevin quickly nodded, “I can and I will.” He could feel her before he saw her, and held his breath as he slowly turned to look behind him. She was standing next to her mother with Threcher on the other side.

Rachel started to squirm, so Catherin let her down and when she ran to him, Justin caught the child, swung her up high and then kissed her cheek. “I am so happy to see you, Lassie.” He lifted her high again and made Rachel giggle. He hoped, but he hadn’t expected it when Catherin walked to him. “I am happy to see you as well.”

“I want...I mean, Anna said...I…,” Catherin couldn’t seem to get it out and looked to him for help. 

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