November 29, 1998 – Dornie: The quivering reflections of the mountains on the other side of the loch and the castle on its island in the foreground lulled Freya into reverie. The air was clear. Blue and purple and green peace surrounded her, blocking out the chatter of the seemingly endless stream of tourists who were striding or straggling their way towards Eilean Donan Castle from three buses.
From her picnic blanket on the grass near the edge of the water, Freya immersed herself in remembered scraps of Gramma’s story – the odd thing Nessie had gleaned, Mama’s second-hand tales, the sparse information from the lawyer dealing with the cottage inheritance, and the contradictory jumble of Gramma’s dementia garbling. She would have heard none of it if the old woman had remembered who she was talking with.
Unsure if Gramma really had met Dougal here, Freya imagined how it might have been if it was the place, trying to picture their trysts and secrets and plans. . . . Had Gramma become a sour old woman because of the loss of a deep love born in this romantic place? Who really was Dougal, her mysterious grandfather? Freya focussed, seeking some sense of him, but there was nothing. Had he charmed Agnes or had she charmed him?
Freya thought about Mama’s excuses for Gramma’s behaviour. Sure, loss could twist a person. And poverty could lead to compulsive thrift long after the need had passed. Even as she tried for compassion, mind whispers over-rode the defence – others with even more traumatic experiences than Gramma’s had continued their lives by acting with love and generosity. She thought of Cook at Arif who had been abducted, raped multiple times, enslaved, lost her husband and two children to violence, but had found a way to be thankful, kind and hospitable in her poverty. How sad that the same base of Christianity had worked in such different ways for the two women.
Another whisper leaked in. Although now damaged beyond repair, Cook’s original family and culture had been strong and nurturing. Was that the key? Hadn’t Agnes once hinted she’d been rejected by her father? That would have happened before she was widowed and lost security. . . . The reverie went on. . . . Suddenly Angela’s words surfaced. What had she meant when she said be ready?
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