I think I’ve just found my NaNoWriMo 2016 project. Once again it began as one of my creative writing assignments.
“You have reached your destination in fifty meters.”
“Oh, thank God!” Aileen MacEwan said to the GPS on her dash. After forty-eight hours of traveling, she couldn’t wait for a nice hot shower and then a good twelve hours in the sack. She turned right off the A87 through a small opening in a short stone fence and got her first view of the small cottage that her paternal grandmother, Moira MacEwan, had left to her. She’d never even met the woman. Her father left the Isle of Skye in his late teens and never went back. She’d given herself a month to stay here and decide whether she wanted to sell the cottage, convert it into a rental for the hikers and climbers that visited the area to conquer the Cuillin Hills, or move here permanently. She sure as hell didn’t want to go back to Toronto.
Her first glimpse of the cottage put a smile on her face. She’d been picturing a dilapidated ruin that may not even be livable. But her grandmother had obviously kept the place well maintained. The windows looked new and the front door featured a beautiful inlaid stained glass work of art. The cream walls were clean, as if freshly painted, and the sloped roof looked newly shingled. Flowers bloomed wildly along the front of the house and dripped out of window boxes. A large deck peeked around the side of the house and offered a lovely view of Loch Sligachan.
Aileen stepped out of the car and stretched her long, lean body as she turned to take in the view of the Loch. The dark, rolling clouds were so low in the sky she thought she may be able to touch them as she stretched. She took a deep breath of sea air and relaxed her tense shoulders as she breathed out. Why had her father been so hell bent on leaving such a beautiful place? Maybe that was something she could figure out while she was here. But, for now, she just wanted to get settled in and sleep. She pulled her two suitcases out of the trunk and dragged them to the front door then fished around in her purse for the key that the solicitor had sent her. She stuck the key in the lock, turned it to the left, but didn’t feel the dead bolt slide over. The door was unlocked.
Frowning, Aileen turned the door handle, eased the door open, and got an earful of an excited sports caster with a thick Scottish brogue. She took a few tentative steps into the foyer and peered into the room on her left. A soccer match was in full swing on a large screened TV and cheering one of the teams on was a dark haired male sitting on a leather sofa with a beer in one hand and a sloppy sandwich in the other.
Aileen looked back at the front door then down at the key in her hand. It had to be the right cottage as the key had fit in the lock. “Excuse me,” she called out. When she got no answer, she raised her voice. “Hello!”
The man popped his head around, a surprised expression on his face. “Who the bloody hell are you?”
Aileen perched her fists on her hips. “I’m Aileen MacEwan.”
One dark eyebrow lifted. He took a long swig of beer and said, “Well, what the bloody hell are ye doing here then?”
“This is my cottage, so what the bloody hell are you doing here?” The man stood and Aileen guessed he had to be at least six foot four of solid muscle. There was no way she could muscle him out the door, although she’d give it a damn good try.
“I’m buying the cottage, so I didna see any reason not to move in.”
She had to pick her jaw up off the floor. “Well, you can just move out. The cottage isn’t for sale.” And he better do it quick. She needed to rest.
He laughed. Literally stood there and laughed at her. “I’ll no be moving oot, lass. I live here. De ye ken?”
“Do I what?” She shook her head and held up a hand. “Never mind. You have no right to be here. I own this cottage. Moira MacEwan left it to me in her will.”
“Oh, aye, I’ve a right to it. Moira MacEwan was my gran. I’ve been living here since she passed and I’m staying.” A thick, ropey vein pulsed in his neck, his face flushed to a bright red.
This wasn’t a good situation. He was as angry as she was and God knew what he would do. She couldn’t leave and go to a hotel or she might never get the cottage back from him. Was he planning to contest the will? “How could Moira be your gran? My Dad told me we were the only family she had left. Who are you?”
He pursed his lips together and his ice blue eyes flashed to the mantle over the stone fireplace for a brief moment. Aileen looked over at the mantle which was lined with framed photographs. She went to move closer to it and he stepped in front of her. “Me name’s Brodie. Look, if ye want to have a wee rest, there’s a spare room at the top of the stairs. If ye like, ye can stay here until the sale of the cottage is through and ye go back to Canada.”
She was sure her face was as red as his now. She glared up at him with eyes the same ice blue as his. “It’s. Not. For. Sale.” Damn him. Her eyes burned and she forced back hot tears. She didn’t come all this way to be bullied into selling the cottage.
Brodie grinned down at her. “Oh, aye, yer a feisty wee lass, aren’t ye?”
Feisty wee lass? She was five foot nine, albeit a little on the lean side, but that was beyond her control at the moment. No one had ever called her wee. Feisty maybe, but not wee. “Ugh!” she growled then stomped back outside, dragged her suitcases in, and slammed the door closed, cringing when she realized she could have broken the beautiful stained glass insert. When Brodie reached for one of her suitcases, she ordered him not to touch them and heaved them both up the narrow staircase herself and into the tiny room at the top of the stairs. How was she supposed to sleep now that he’d riled her up? God, she could use a drink!
Aileen tossed and turned on the lumpy mattress. Who the heck moved into a house before they bought it? How dare he? She punched the pillow a couple of times, but it didn’t help. The hot tears that threatened earlier flooded back. How was she supposed to deal with this all alone in a strange country and stay sober? She swiped the tears away and started doing the deep breathing exercises they taught her in rehab. By the fifth breath she was starting to feel a little calmer, but she still wanted a drink. She wondered if they had AA meetings on the Isle of Skye. She should probably check that out. Right after she went to see the solicitor that had contacted her about inheriting her grandmother’s cottage and a half decent chunk of change along with it. She needed to find out who Brodie was and why he thought he had a claim to her grandmother’s place. She couldn’t have been his blood grandmother because her father had told her they were the only family she had left. She’d asked her dad why they never visited her, but he always waved her off. It was nearly ten years ago that her dad died and left her with a bitch of a step-mother to deal with. She still hadn’t forgiven him, but she was working on it – part of the whole twelve step thing. She hoped she didn’t have to forgive Brodie. The bastard!
Okay, so first thing in the morning, she’d visit the solicitor and find out what she had to do to get him out of her cottage. She could do this. By this time tomorrow she would be snuggled up in the big comfy bed she’d seen in the master bedroom and Brodie would be sleeping on a park bench for all she cared.
Aileen was so grateful that Brodie wasn’t around when she woke up in the morning. She was able to shower and get dressed at her leisure. The only complaint she’d had was that there was no coffee in the kitchen that she could find. At least she’d found a little café on her way to the solicitor’s office, which was in a stone building that looked like it had been around for hundreds of years. Probably had, Aileen thought. A young woman with a mass of red hair sat at an antique desk in the reception area. The floors were old plank floorboards that had been buffed and polished to a high shine. Aileen gathered her long dark hair and pulled it over her shoulder. “Hello,” she said. The young woman looked up and smiled. She had bright green eyes, a sprinkling of freckles across her nose, and a lovely smile.
“My name is Aileen MacEwan. I would like to see Mr. Browning.”
“Oh, aye. You’re from Canada. Welcome to Sconser. Did you find your way okay?”
“Yes, thank you, but there was someone living in the cottage when I arrived. I need to speak to Mr. Browning about having him removed.”
The smile dropped from her face. “Oh, de ye mean Brodie?”
The woman picked up her phone, dialed a number and turned around, giving Aileen her back. She whispered into the phone then turned around again, smile back in place, and hung up the phone. “Mr. Browning will be right oot. Can I get ye a cup of tea?”
She would have preferred another coffee, but she was in Scotland after all. “Sure, why not?”
She never got the cup of tea because Mr. Browning came out of his office with Brodie on his heels. “Ms. MacEwan,” Browning said. “Why don’t you come in and we’ll see if we can work this matter out?” He waved his hand towards the door he’d just come out of.
“What’s he doing here?” Aileen asked, her fury from the night before surfacing again.
“Please, come inside. Let me explain.” He had a bit of a Scottish accent, but it was faint.
Was the solicitor in on this, too? Were they trying to rip her off? Oust her from her own damn cottage? “I’d like you to explain to Brodie that he has to move out of my cottage.”
Browning winced. “Are you not planning on selling it then?”
“No, I’m not.” She hadn’t decided yet, but she damn well wouldn’t tell them that. “I’m moving into it myself and I want him out.” She stabbed her finger in Brodie’s direction.
Browning and Brodie’s eyes met and Browning said, “Well, we do have a problem then, don’t we?”
“There’s no problem,” Aileen huffed. “The cottage belongs to me. Brodie will just have to find somewhere else to live.”
Brodie rolled his eyes and spoke to Mr. Browning. “Ye see. She’s no being vera nice aboot it.”
“Come in to the office, please. The two of you,” Browning said with an exasperated sigh and walked back to his office.
Aileen glared at Brodie and followed Browning. His office boasted the same high-sheened floors as the reception area. He lowered himself into his leather chair behind a monstrous antique desk with flamboyant flourishes while Aileen perched on the edge of one of the chairs facing him. “This is ridiculous, Mr. Browning. You sent me all of the paperwork. I own the cottage. Brodie has no right to it.”
“Aye, Ms. MacEwan, but he is your brother and throwing him out on the street isn’t the best solution.”
Aileen coughed, choked. Her hands went to her throat. “Brother?” Jesus! Was that really her voice? It sounded far too high. She turned around when she heard a laugh and stared at Brodie, leaning against the doorjamb. God, now that she looked at him, he did resemble her father. In fact, he was the spit of him. Is this why Dad had left Skye? Had he knocked Brodie’s mother up and taken off?
“Did he no tell ye aboot us then?” Brodie asked. “No, I dinna think he did, aye? He couldna risk it.”
“Us?” Aileen squeaked. Were there more kids that he left behind?
Brodie took a step into the office. “Aye, ma and I. He stole ye away from yer own mother.”
Aileen rubbed her temples, a sudden headache pounding there. “No, that can’t be. My mother died when I was very young.” This was getting overwhelming. She really needed a drink, even knowing she only wanted it to drown the pain and it would just make things worse. It always did. Why would her father steal her away from her mother and lie to her about it? It didn’t make any sense. She looked up at Brodie. How did it make him feel when his father took off with her and left him behind? Was he left with an abusive bitch like her step-mother? “I don’t understand.”
“Yer da was aboot to go to gael for a vera long time. He ran, with you, instead of doing his duty.” Brodie shrugged. “A coward was our da. He may have taken me as well, but I was at school and he dinna have time te wait. Ye were on a plane and away before the coppers knew he was gone. Poor Mr. Browning here spent a fortune on a private investigator to track ye doon. It took months and we were all vera surprised he dinna change yer name.”
“Wh-what was he going to jail for?” Aileen wasn’t sure she wanted the answer.
Brodie’s eyes were cold and hard. “Murder.”
Oh, God! “Who d-did he kill?” No wonder he wouldn’t come back to visit his mother. Aileen wrapped her arms around herself. She felt like she was sitting in a bucket of ice. She was shivering and couldn’t stop.
“That’s enough, for now,” Browning said. “I think Ms. MacEwan needs to go home and rest, Brodie. This is a lot to take in.”
“Ye willna kick me oot the cottage, will ye then, Ailey?”
Ailey. That was what her father called her. She looked up at Brodie again. Why had their grandmother left the cottage to her instead of Brodie anyway? Now she felt horrible about the whole thing. “No, I won’t kick you out. In fact, I’ll get my things and move to a hotel until I can get a flight back home.” She started to get to her feet and was hit with a dizzy spell. She fell back into the chair, grasping her spinning head. When had she eaten last? She couldn’t remember. She’d picked at the meals they’d served on the plane, but that was the day before yesterday.
“Ms. MacEwan,” Browning said from directly in front of her and she realized he was crouched down at her knees. “Are you okay? Do you need a doctor?”
“No, no, I’ll be fine in a minute.” Add embarrassment to her growing list of emotions. Her face probably looked like a beetroot. She took a few deep breaths then slowly got to her feet. “You’re right, of course. I need to rest. It’s been a long few days.” So much for taking a month to explore Skye and decide what to do with the cottage. She’d come back to see Mr. Browning tomorrow and sign it over to Brodie.
Good one, aye? Definitely another novel in the making.