Jilly: Short Story–Challenge Accepted

The MacHugh saga continues 🙂 .

Last week I wrote a short story about Jordy MacHugh, the Canadian music teacher who inherits a derelict estate in the Scottish Highlands and decides to build an outdoor opera house by the sea.

Elizabeth continued the story and raised the stakes by introducing Jenny, a tourist from Kansas, who discovers twin babies in a basket, courtesy of the mysterious MacHugh Blessing Stone.

Maeve, the local seer, pronounces Jordy, Jenny and the twins a family, but as Jenny observes (via Kay) in Friday’s writing sprint, the whole setup screams Trouble with a capital T.

Read on to find out what happens next. Using the prompts from Friday’s writing sprint, our character(s) face a challenge. And the story includes the words equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise, bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump and artist.

Challenge Accepted

They couldn’t go on this way. Somebody had to make this village of dreamers face reality, and apparently that someone was Jenny.

Sunday service was over, and she emerged from the small stone kirk into the sunlit, postage-stamp sized churchyard. She settled the oversized wicker basket at her feet and chatted politely with the villagers, all twenty of them. They were kind and friendly, but their warm welcome wasn’t for Jenny herself. Not really. Her true value to them was as companion-dash-housemate to the new laird, Jordy MacHugh, and as carer for his adopted twin daughters.

“Swap you!” Moira from the But & Ben bistro, a vision in purple tweed and moss green corduroy, handed Jenny a covered basket and picked up the larger one that contained Elspeth and Isla, snug as a pair of bugs in their fuzzy romper suits. She deftly lifted the blanket and checked for rattles, nappies and all the equipment required to keep the twins clean, dry and contented for a couple of hours. Then she departed for the village at a brisk clip, offering Jenny a conspiratorial grin over her shoulder that said I know what you’re up to.

She didn’t. Nobody in the village did, and Jenny intended to keep it that way.

She’d fallen into her current role through a combination of her own aimless lifestyle and Maeve from the Pointing Dog’s fancy footwork. Now people were making assumptions. She had to unwind the setup with Jordy before somebody got hurt.

The laird-come-lately let himself out of the side door that led to the organ loft, bell-tower, and Maeve-the-Beekeeper’s rooftop hives. Jordy was Canadian—an incomer like Jenny—but you’d never have known. It was baffling, but from his curly red-gold hair to his Sunday best kilt, he belonged in the Highlands. He smiled at Jenny and she swallowed her nerves down deep into her belly, where they burned worse than Moira’s infamous loganberry liqueur.

“What’s that?” Jordy raised an eyebrow at the covered basket.

“A picnic. I thought we might walk out to the lighthouse.” Jenny tried to sound casual. “Moira said she’d watch the twins for the afternoon.”

“Fine idea.” He was even starting to add a Highland overlay to his transatlantic drawl. He treated her to another easy smile that faded to a concerned frown as he met her eyes. “Right. Let’s go.”

He settled the basket on one muscular arm, offered her the other, and they strolled out of the churchyard and along the cliff path that led to the lighthouse.

“What is it?” he asked as soon as they were safely alone. “Problem? Can I help?”

“No. Yes.” Jenny dropped his arm and turned to look out to sea. High in the cloudless sky a mob of bright yellow-headed gannets plummeted at high speed, one after another, toward the glass-smooth ocean. “We need to talk about the twins’ future. To find the right person to care for them after I’m gone.”

For a full minute there was no sound but the waves below the cliff, washing gently against the rocks. Then the scuffing noise of a basket hitting the turf.

“Gone?” Jordy echoed. “What do you mean, gone?”

She kept her eyes on the horizon, where the blue-gray of the sea blurred into the cyan sky. “I’m American. I’m legally allowed to stay for a maximum of six months. I realized yesterday that I’ve been here nearly three already.”

He took her elbow and gently turned her until she was facing him. His jaw was set, and a pulse beat fast in his tanned throat. “I don’t want somebody else for my girls. They need you.” He added, so quietly it almost got lost on the breeze, “I need you.”

Jenny looked down at his polished ghillie brogues. It was easier than meeting his clever hazel eyes. “Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want.”

“I do. Well, lately it’s seemed that way, however improbable…”

His voice tailed off, but she knew he spoke the truth. Jordy was an artist, a musician who’d imagined an opera house in the middle of nowhere, and now the entire village was working its socks off to realize his dream.

“Maybe the MacHugh Stone would work for you.” Bless the man, he was relentless. Nothing kept him down for long. “You could at least try, and I’ll wish for it as well. What do you want? What do you want most of all, to the bottom of your soul?”

That was easy. In between feeding, bathing, changing and cuddling Elspeth and Isla, she’d asked herself the same question, over and over. She owed him an answer. “I’ve never stayed anywhere long enough to put down roots. I thought I wasn’t a settling down kind of person, but seeing you here, risking everything and finding a home, makes me see that I want that too. I just haven’t found the right place yet.”

He let out a frustrated growl that bore no resemblance to his trademark blokeish optimism. You have found the right place. You belong here.”

“You’re not listening.” Jenny growled right back. “I can stay for the rest of the year, max. Then, like it or not, I have to leave.”

He closed his eyes and thought for a moment, lips pursed, brows lowered. His face cleared like the air after a storm. “I have a British passport.” He opened his eyes wide and beamed at her. “Marry me, Jenny. Then you can stay.”

You bloody idiot, Jordy MacHugh. Her lips moved. Hopefully she didn’t actually say it.

“I would never marry you for…” She forced the words past the lump in her throat. “…for a passport. Or to become a kind of permanent super-nanny to the twins, however much I love them.”

This time the silence stretched on and on.

“I’m a bloody idiot.” Jordy balled one huge hand into a fist and smacked himself in the temple. “Would you marry me for yourself? Risk everything and—maybe—find your heart’s desire?”

Maybe. Possibly. If only…

“I don’t know you, Jordy,” Jenny said bluntly. “And you don’t know me.”

“Fair enough.” He softened his voice, coaxing. “You won’t leave yet, will you? Stay for the rest of the year, at least?”

“Yes.” Sharing a house with him after this conversation would be mortifying, but she’d do it for the girls.

“Good.” He nodded decisively. Picked up the basket and offered her his arm. “Then I have three months to remedy the situation. Starting right now.”

*****

I hope you enjoyed that! Jordy has work to do, but he’s a resourceful man. I have high hopes.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

13 thoughts on “Jilly: Short Story–Challenge Accepted

  1. Excellent story, Jilly! I was so worried, but now I have hope. 🙂

    I’m sorry I stuck you with Maeve being the beekeeper, but I couldn’t find another way to use that word at the time. Nice follow up. 🙂

    • Glad you like it. We’re not there yet, but I have hope, too 😉

      No worries about Maeve. The village really should have at least one beekeeper–all that lovely wildflower honey–and she’s a great choice.

    • Glad you’re enjoying it, Michille. It’s good fun and an enjoyable challenge.

      I’m hoping Elizabeth decides to continue, and wondering where she’ll take us next. Twins! I’d never have thought of that 😉

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth: Short Story – The Unexpected – Eight Ladies Writing

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