Elizabeth: Short Story – The Unexpected

The MacHugh saga continues.

It all started a few weeks ago when Jilly wrote a short story about Jordy MacHugh, a Canadian music teacher who inherits a derelict estate in the Scottish Highlands and decides to build an outdoor opera house by the sea.

I continued the story in Finding Home a few days later 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 her Friday writing sprint offering And Now, Twins), the whole setup screams Trouble with a capital T.

Jilly picked up the story again on Sunday and added some much-needed conflict in Challenge Accepted, As I re-read the entire saga, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave Jordy and Jenny to their own devices, though they may not appreciate the direction of today’s installment.

Without further ado, read on to find out what happens next. Using the prompts from Friday’s writing sprint – character(s) face a challenge – and including (most of) the random words: equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise, bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump and artist.

The Unexpected

By unspoken agreement, Jenny and Jordy busied themselves with separate pursuits when they returned to their temporary cottage after their aborted picnic along the cliffs.

While nondescript from the front, the area behind the cottage was a wild tangle of riotous blooms and clinging vines.  Paths that seemed to be in danger of being swallowed up by the creeping foliage wended around and about the area and led to an overgrown folly in the back barely visible through the trees from mere paces away.

Jenny wandered the paths aimlessly, deaf to the noise of the bumbling bees, drunk on the abundant nectar and buzzing happily.

It had been a baffling day.  Or week.  Or lifetime if it came right down to it.  She had always felt like an outsider; never one of the popular girls or the smart girls but instead always struggling to fit in and failing.  She was clever and had worked hard, gotten a degree and a good job, but it wasn’t enough.  She had money and things, but what she wanted were dreams.

Dreams of a family and a purpose and, yes, of someone to love and who loved her.  Not for what she could do, but just for herself.

When Jordy had asked her to marry him there on the cliffs by glass-smooth ocean she’d felt her heart soar like the swooping yellow-headed gannets.  But only for an instant.  Then reality kicked in.  He didn’t want to marry her.  He didn’t even know her.  Not really.  He just offered because of the twins and because he apparently couldn’t resist a damsel in distress.

A Canadian ex-pat, budding opera house impresario, and all-around great bloke couldn’t possibly just want her.

Could he?

Jenny made another circuit around the garden.  The real question was, did she want him?  And if she did, what was she going to do about it?

Unlike Jenny, Jordy’s thinking was not fuzzy or uncertain.  As soon as the words “Marry me” had come out of his mouth out there on the cliff, he’d felt their rightness.

He didn’t need Maeve, the village maven, seer, and chief beekeeper to tell him that Jenny was the woman for him; or a Blessing Stone for that matter.  He just knew.

But he also knew that Jenny didn’t believe him; didn’t even seem to believe in herself.  He’d watched her with the twins.  She was wonderful with them.  Making sure they were clean and fed; blowing raspberries on their round little bellies and playing peek-a-boo; making them feel cared for.  But she’d kept them, like she kept him, at a distance; as if theirs was just a temporary connection.

He needed to help her see what was right there in front of her.

His long-dead ancestors, masters of cattle-raiding and border robbery would probably drag her off to the nearest preacher or maybe lock her in a tower, but he had a better idea.

He’d woo her.

Surely he could do that in their remaining three months.

True, he hadn’t had much success with women in the past, but here as the laird, with the opera house, festival, and twins he felt like anything was possible.  Besides, could any woman really resist a man in a kilt?

With a chuckle, Jordy went about setting out the tea things on the little table in the kitchen.  There were freshly baked scones and clotted cream, along with lavender honey butter biscuits, made with honey fresh from Maeve’s hives.  He considered the teapot in its knitted cozy for a moment, then added glasses sparkling with Moira’s best loganberry reserve liqueur to the table instead.  The artist in him appreciated the way the light reflected off the rich ruby liquid, while the hungry man in him appreciated the warm sweet smell of the scones.

He walked over to the door to call out, “tea is ready,” but the words died in his throat as he opened the door.

There on the threshold was a young auburn-haired woman in a soft green corduroy jacket.

“Are you Jordy MacHugh,” she asked, staring up at him with determination.

“Aye,” he answered.  “Can I help you?”

“I’ve come for my babies,” she said.

The words hung in the air.

Returning to the house from the garden, Jenny saw Jordy talking to a woman at the door.

As she watched, his face lost all its color and he sagged against the door-frame.

Concerned, Jenny raced forward, unaware that her life was about to be upended yet again.

# # #

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?”

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Well this week has been a little out of the ordinary for many folks here in beautiful California.  Fall brings the return to school, hockey season, the baseball plays-offs and, unfortunately, fire season.  High winds, abundant growth, and warm temperatures can sometimes be a deadly combination.

To combat that this week, with high winds expected, many areas have been without electricity; the power intentionally turned off to eliminate the possibility of power-lines downed by the high winds sparking a fire.

The theory sounds good, but the reality has been problematic for many.  It’s amazing just how much we depend on electricity for day-to-day life.  I (so far) have been lucky enough to live in an area unaffected, though my coworkers were not so lucky.  On the plus side, I now have steaks in the refrigerator, courtesy of a co-worker who lost power and didn’t want them to go to waste.

Always a bright side.

Since I’m here with power; warm and well-fed, I’m thinking I should do something productive like giving today’s story prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Jilly: Short Story–The Laird’s Legacy

I loved Elizabeth’s short story Hands Off! using last week’s Writing Sprint prompt words.

That excellent tale inspired me to try a Highland-based short story offering a nod to Jeanne’s recent trip to Nova Scotia and using this Friday’s prompts: a character who found something unexpected, incorporating the words basket, symbol, siren, bottle, freewill, baby, future, confusion, absurdly, little, grabbing, aroma, banana, vision, identical and robbery.

Here goes!

The Laird’s Legacy

“As you can see, we’re jam-packed…” Moira Douglas gestured to the dining room behind her. The But & Ben was rarely full in high summer, let alone in early October, but tonight every family in the village was there, trying to look casual and hoping Moira’s home cooking and smooth talking would persuade the visiting Canadian where Charlie the Solicitor Advocate’s carefully worded suggestions had failed.

Jordy MacHugh smiled politely. He had to duck his head to get through the doorway but now he stood tall, blocking the entrance. It was an assertive sort of politeness, worthy of his long-dead ancestors, masters of cattle raiding and border robbery. “The Pointing Dog had a kitchen fire. They had to close for the evening, so they sent me over here. They promised you’d feed me.”

Of course they did. There was a lot of him to feed, and while he’d reportedly made fast work of a full Highland breakfast complete with porridge and black pudding, that was eight hours ago. Since then Charlie had walked the incomer all the way round the boundaries of the McHugh property with little more to fuel them than a packet of oatcakes and a flask of coffee.

Right on cue, Jordy’s stomach rumbled. “I’m starving hungry, and it’s a twenty-mile drive to the next village. Can you please squeeze me in somehow?”

“Well…” Moira drew out the word like a siren call. “There’s a table in the kitchen. You could sit there and chat to me while I cook. The food’s the same.”

His face lit up like the aurora borealis on a clear winter’s night. “That’d be great. Thank you.”

Moira seized the advantage. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

What a difference a day makes!

Actually, what a difference a few hours made.  This past week, the weather changed overnight from “turn on the fan” into “where’s my sweater?”  The ants still haven’t left the kitchen completely, but at least I don’t worry that I’m going to melt before the day is over.

After reading 8LW Jeanne’s post on Thursday about her recent autumn vacation I wound up spending far too much time this week researching the Canadian Maritimes, Quebec, and various other potential vacation locations and oohing and ahhing over the lovely hotel Le Château Frontenac.  I’m suddenly feeling a need to start a new story series set in that area so I have a pressing reason to visit.  Or perhaps I should set a series in Paris?

Must cogitate.

While my sub-conscious is working on that thorny problem I think I’ll jump-start my creativity by giving today’s story prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Short Story – Hands Off!

Jilly has started a trend with her posts based on our Friday writing sprints.  I took her posting this past Sunday as a challenge to keep up with my own sprinting.  So here, without further ado, is a short story (that didn’t quite go the way I expected it to) about a character who was featured in a newspaper, using the prompt words bikini, flirtation, blowtorch, confidential, parcel, baptism, excuse, dishonest, lump, warning, needle, heavenly, twisted, mindless, fake and sky.

Hands Off!

Bleary-eyed and barely awake, Carolyn scanned the morning edition of the Capitol Gazette while waiting for the toaster and coffee-maker to finish their respective tasks. The heavenly scent of warm crusty bread battled with dark rich espresso and some other faint smell that didn’t bear investigating too closely.

The only investigation she was interested in at the moment involved General Blunderbuss and his wandering hands.

Capitol City’s latest entrant in the #MeToo Hall of Shame.

Years ago, back when she was just an entry-level law clerk, Carolyn had a number of run-ins with the General, who was one of her boss’ major clients. The General, who had only a passing acquaintance with morals and ethics, had an unfortunate tendency to confuse friendliness with flirtation.

Over and over and over again. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Fall allegedly kicked off earlier this week, but here on the west coast summer hasn’t quite released its grip.

There are still ants randomly roaming in my kitchen and I’m still sleeping with the fan on, but I have hopes that both will be a thing of the past in a few weeks.  It’s not that I’m in a rush for the passage of time, I’m just looking forward to transitioning my wardrobe from summer to fall.  Everything except my sandals that is, those I wear rain or shine.

This weekend is time for my annual “go through the closet/dresser and get rid of the things that are never going to be worn again” exercise.  I’ll undoubtedly wind up with a bag of items to donate to the local charity shop and probably also manage to unearth a few items that I didn’t even remember I had.

Before all that excitement I plan to do some writing, starting off with today’s story prompt and random words.

Care to join me? Continue reading