There was something about the drizzling rain that made Bonnie Campbell's heart lighten. Whilst everyone around her hurried out of the icy droplets of water, the eighteen-year-old leant over the wooden fence, staring into the golden paddock beyond. She firmly believed that drizzling rain meant there was still hope; after all, it was not soaking rain that would inundate crops, nor was it bright sunshine that caused droughts. It brought a promise that everything would be alright, and it was with this knowledge that she was able to keep her eyes trained on the couple in front of her.
"Stop! Stop, I beg you!"
"Come on, we need to head inside."
Bonnie watched as the boy she'd loved forever wrapped his arms around his companion, his eyes sparkling with mischief as he stopped the girl from running to the shelter of a nearby shed. Even though she whacked at his arms, the girl's efforts to escape were poor; her cheeks were flushed as she giggled away. Bonnie couldn't recall her name, knowing only that the brunette was the daughter of the local Presbyterian Minister, Pastor McGonagall. Unlike Bonnie, the girl was the prettiest lass to have stepped foot in Caithness. Whilst Bonnie was plain at best—her mousy-brown hair, dull blue eyes, and pointy nose doing her no favours—the McGonagall girl was blessed with emerald-green eyes and raven hair that shone in the sun. All the girls wanted to be her, and all the young men wanted to be with her.
And out of all of those young men, she'd chosen her Dougal.
"McGregor, if you don't let me go…"
"Uh, uh, uh, what's the magic word?" Dougal asked, pressing a finger to her rosy lips.
It was a gesture best shared in private, but Bonnie didn't feel guilty watching them. She allowed herself a moment to let her imagination take hold, pretending it was she who was allowed to stare up into Dougal's warm brown eyes, she who could count the faint freckles dusted across his perfect nose. That it was her name he whispered as he brushed her hair out of her face...
"Bonnie? Where are you, girl?"
She was brought back to reality by another, rougher voice. She'd forgotten she'd promised to help her father wrangle the sheep out of the rain. If he found out she'd been daydreaming again, she'd probably be in for a hiding.
Still, a few more minutes wouldn't hurt...
"Coming, Da!" she called, her eyes trained on Dougal.
He was kneeling in front of the McGonagall girl, clawing at the hem of her skirts to make her stay. When the girl pointed to the rain-filled sky, he clasped his hands together.
"I'll die if you don't stay with me," he said, and again, Bonnie couldn't help but wish he was speaking to her.
The brunette rolled her eyes, clutching Dougal's hand and trying to pull him towards the shed. He held onto it, but didn't get up. Instead, he placed his other hand into his pocket and pulled out a small box.
Her heart tightened as Dougal opened the box and the girl gasped. Water slid down her cheeks, but she dismissed it for rain droplets.
Turning around, she tried to block out Dougal's cheers. She focused on the drizzling rain instead, reminding herself that there was still hope for her—there had to be.
Grey clouds filled the sky as Bonnie headed outside to begin another day's work. The drizzling rain hadn't let up from the day before, urging her to bring her shawl tighter around her shoulders. She didn't mind, though; checking the fences for breaks was the best part of the morning, when she could grab time to herself away from her father's constant beratement to pay attention.
Two familiar voices echoed across to her from the neighbouring paddock as she walked, and she couldn't help but turn in their direction.
"I-I can't. I'm sorry..."
Bonnie's eyes widened as the brunette ran from Dougal, her cheeks tear-stained. Dougal seemed stunned, but he soon shook his head and gave chase.
"Minnie! Minnie, please, don't g—"
Bonnie gasped as Dougal fell over a fallen log. She stepped forward to help him, but in just a few seconds he was up again, his tear-filled eyes focused ahead.
"Minnie? Please! Come back!" he called. "Minnie!"
She looked to see if the girl would stop, but the McGregors' paddock was empty, save for one of the farm's tabby cats sprinting away from the yelling. A smile found its way to her face as she thanked the rain; for better or worse, it seemed her prayers had been answered.
It faded a little, however, when she saw the devastation written across Dougal's face. He was staring down at something small in his hand, his eyes devoid of any of the mischievousness they usually held.
Without thinking, she climbed over the fence to comfort him. Only once she was in the McGregors' paddock did she realise how foolish she was being. She'd barely stood so close to Dougal in the past three years, yet now he would see that she hadn't grown into her awkward nose or stumpy legs.
She danced on the spot, debating whether to leave quietly or to speak. Dougal was still staring at the object, and when she saw that it was a beautiful ruby ring, her heart skipped a beat.
"That's a-a pretty r-ring," she stammered.
Dougal nodded, his eyes focused on the glittering stone as it caught the raindrops. "Her favourite colour is red." Without warning, he then thrusted his arm back and tossed the ring as far across the paddock as he could. "It doesn't matter now," he said, finally peering at her.
"I'm sure there's plenty of other fish in the sea," she said, offering him a soft smile.
Dougal raised a thick eyebrow, and immediately, Bonnie regretted speaking. Thankfully, he didn't demand she leave, and he sighed. "Yeah."
Awkward silence filled the air as he gazed across the field, the light rain causing his shirt to cling to his toned body. Bonnie's cheeks grew hot and she tore her eyes away, not wanting to be caught staring.
"She's magical, my Minnie. There's no one like her," he finally said.
She swallowed, trying to hide her disappointment. No one had ever called her magical before. He turned his gaze to her, and she was surprised to see that desperation filled his eyes.
"Tell me, how do I get her back? She couldn't tell me why—it doesn't matter. What do I do, Bonnie?" he asked.
Her traitorous mind indulged in the way his lips formed her name and made her heart flutter. Although she wanted to play absolutely no part in the reunion of Dougal with the pretty brunette, she had the urge to make him smile.
"Well… I suppose I'd write her a letter. Girls like it when men put their emotions into words," she said, holding her breath as she waited for his reaction.
"Yes… yes, that could work. I'll write a letter—several if she refuses to read the first," Dougal said, before frowning. "I'll need your help getting the words out…"
"Brilliant! Thanks, Bonnie," he said, grinning. "Oh! The ring!"
Even though Dougal took off across the paddock, leaving her alone in the rain, Bonnie knew things were looking up.
The next time it drizzled, Bonnie tried to shake the notion that it brought hope. If it did, it was certainly slow. She'd spent the last few weeks dodging her father and climbing over fences to see Dougal, only to spend the hours with him writing letter after letter to the McGonagall girl. She'd helped him promise to let Minerva keep her job as a teacher, and worse, allowed him to beg her to be his wife if he left Caithness for the city. She'd found out more about Minerva than she ever wanted to know, like her favourite flowers being daisies and her fondness for cats, but when Dougal rewarded her with a smile, she reminded herself it was all worth it.
Today, however, she found even his endless thanks unable to push away her impatience, and she trudged across the paddock. Dougal was sitting in his usual spot, his broad shoulders slightly hunched as he pored over a piece of paper.
"Morning," Bonnie said, plopping down next to him.
The blond gave a small nod as his pen ran over the paper. Against better judgement, Bonnie peered over him, spotting words like 'need' and 'miss' that she'd come to hate.
"Perhaps if you added—"
She jumped as Dougal clamped his hand around hers as she pointed to the letter. His breathing became slightly ragged and his cheeks were red despite the cool air. He shook his head and scrunched up the paper, still holding her hand.
"No. No, I'm done with this. I can take the hint that Minnie doesn't love me. It's time to move on," he said, locking his gaze on her.
She shifted in the grass, aware that he was looking—really looking—at her. Somehow, she'd managed to forget her thin lips and pointy nose. They didn't stop him from leaning forward, though, and brushing away a lock of hair from her face that the rain had turned to frizz.
"You're a girl…"
"Erm, thanks for noticing?" she said, before cringing at her poor attempt at humour.
Dougal chuckled. "Bonnie, would you do me the honour of allowing me to court you?"
Her cheeks were on fire, and it took her a few attempts to get out, "Of course."
He leant back and smiled. "Alright, yes, good."
It wasn't exactly how she'd dreamed the moment would occur. There was a nagging thought telling her he wasn't ready for a new relationship, an urge to notice that his smile didn't quite match the one he'd once shared with Minerva.
She pushed these thoughts away and allowed herself to smile as her new beau—hers!—began ripping the letter into tiny pieces.
Bonnie hummed as she crossed the paddock into the McGregors' farm, her eyes trained on the way the sun made the sapphire ring sparkle. It was a smaller stone than the ruby that had once ingrained itself in her mind, but the fact that it wasn't a ruby was enough for her.
A year ago, she wouldn't have believed that any man, let alone Dougal McGregor, would ask her to be his wife. It'd been a surprise when he'd pulled out the box as they walked home from the market. He'd told her he had important news, and she'd dreaded it was that he wasn't over Minerva still. It was the little things that made her think like that, such as the way he thought Bonnie's favourite colour was red and not blue, or that she didn't take sugar with tea. When he'd presented the ring box, an awful, conceited part of her had dared her to say no if it was that ring.
But she'd been proven a fool, and if she had any sense, she would continue reminding herself how lucky she was.
She paused by the door of the small barn Dougal had converted into an office. He was sitting at a low desk, his brow furrowed as he stared at a piece of paper. A pen was in his hand, but every time it touched the page, he lifted it back up and ran his hand through his hair.
Her fiance jumped and shoved the paper into his pocket. Then, sighing, he gave her a small smile.
"Couldn't wait for your surprise, huh? Well, come on," he said, walking over to her and taking her hand.
He lead her further down the paddock, where another, older stone barn stood. She vaguely remembered helping the McGregors store hay in it when she was little, but by the way Dougal's eyes glistened, she doubted it still did.
"Tada!" Dougal pushed open the door with a flourish and headed inside. "After next week, this will be our home."
Bonnie couldn't help the loud gasp that escaped her lips. She'd always dreamed of living in a country cottage, but this was better than expected. The upper ledge had been extended to form two stories, embraced by a solid wooden staircase. An open door to the side revealed a large kitchen, and another led to a cosy living room.
"Do you like it?" Dougal asked.
She couldn't find the right words—it was beyond perfect—and simply nodded with a smile. Dougal grinned and took her hand again, pulling her back outside to the side of the barn.
"You haven't seen the best part yet," he said, leading her to a small fenced-off area. Bonnie's smile faded as he swept out his other arm. "Voila! It's not quite finished, but I planted your favourites."
She could've probably passed it off as Dougal not knowing one flower from another, but he was a farmer, and farmers knew their flora. Her lip quivered as she stared at the offending white flowers, hoping against hope that perhaps she was the one who didn't know.
"Yes, your favourites," Dougal said, puffing out his chest.
Bonnie turned to him, her eyes watery. "Peonies are my favourites." When he simply tilted his head, she whispered, "Daisies are Minerva's favourite flower."
Recognition dawned on him, and he blushed a little. It wasn't enough, though, as tears began to trickle down her cheeks—this time, she most certainly couldn't blame it on any rainy weather.
"Do you want to marry me? Or do you still want her?" she asked, her voice cracking.
The question seemed to linger in the air. Her heart raced as her mind berated her for asking something she knew she wouldn't like the answer to. Dougal stared at her, his lips opening and closing as he tried to find the right words.
Finally, he took her hands, pulling her closer to him. His brown eyes trailed over her face, from her pointy nose to her dull eyes, just as they had months ago.
"I'm sorry, Bonnie, I really am. I have you, not Minnie; you're the one I'm marrying, not her. This is our home," he said with a soft smile. "Tell you what, I'll rip up the daisies and replant peonies, and you'll never have to see them again, alright?"
His finger caught one of the tears sliding down her cheek. He was so earnest, so caring, that she couldn't help but allow her smile to return.
She sniffed. "Our home?"
"Our home." The mischievous twinkle returned to his eyes, and he nodded towards the house. "But who says we have to wait until our wedding to explore it?"
Bonnie giggled and playfully whacked him as he pulled them inside.
As the spring returned for another year, so did the drizzling rain. Bonnie smiled from ear to ear as she watched the sleet from the doorway, unable to believe her luck. Dougal had been so good to her, filling every day of their marriage with bliss. He'd fixed the garden as promised, remembered her favourite things, and frequently brought her little surprises. He was able to make her feel beautiful just by looking at her, pointy nose and all. It was for this reason that she knew he deserved a surprise of his own.
With a hand caressing her stomach, she peered out into the rain and watched as Dougal fixed up one of the fence posts. She couldn't wait to see his face when she told him he'd be a father. She imagined he'd probably grin and spin her around, or perhaps he'd dance in the rain.
Still, he wouldn't be able to celebrate much if he caught a cold, and she turned to the coat rack. Dougal's trench coat was hanging there from the day before, and she took it off. She sighed when she realised its pockets were weighed down, probably with tools he needed for the fences. Sure enough, as she reached inside, she pulled out a hammer and some wire.
What she hadn't expected to also pull out was a folded piece of paper that appeared to have been opened and refolded several times. She glanced at Dougal before opening it. It made no sense why her heart started thumping or why her hands trembled; it was just a piece of paper, and she knew she could trust her husband.
She swallowed as she saw that it was another letter for Minerva, her eyes darting to the date at the top. He'd written it around the time of their engagement, and she held onto this fact as she read on.
I don't know if you've received my other letters, or if you're simply ignoring them. Fear not if that's the case, for this will be the last one. I will no longer beg for you to take me back, to send you endless reminders of our joyous past. I've met someone.
You'll forever be my Minnie...
Love, your Dougal.
Bonnie sucked in her breath. It should've pleased her that the letter was intended for him to cut ties with Minerva. It should've pleased her that he'd told her he had someone else. She could read between the lines though, could see the way he didn't even mention her name, let alone send it.
As she looked across the paddock, Dougal gave her a small wave before turning back to the fence. She fought back the tears as she folded the letter up and placed it in his coat pocket. Then, setting a gentle hand on her stomach, she turned her attention to the drizzling rain.
She knew Dougal cared about her, but she also knew a part of him would always belong to Minerva McGonagall. Maybe one day, she'd have all of him.
After all, it wasn't pouring, and that meant she still needed to hold hope.