Pat gripped my shoulders tightly and looked at me for a moment. He was certainly not a sentimental man, but I could tell he was trying to express something of the sort.
“Take care of yourself, John. And stay in shape- I’m not gonna go easy on ya when you get back.”
“I would be shocked if you did,” I laughed.
“That Annabelle girl you’ve been training has big shoes to fill. You’ve set a high bar, son.”
Pat had recently begun to refer to me as “son.” It made me feel a small sense of pride that he regarded me so highly, but I made sure never to bring it up. Doing so would make him cease saying it completely.
“She’s a capable substitute, I assure you.”
Pat nodded. “Now go, I can’t bear to look at ya any longer.”
To my surprise, his voice sounded choked. I reached out my hand for him to shake, but he instead pulled me into a brief embrace. “I’ll be back to bother you before you know it,” I said, handing him my apron.
Pat chuckled and jerked his head towards the door. As I pushed it open, he called my name. I looked over my shoulder and he grinned. “If you don’t bring me back some Scottish whiskey, you’re fired.”
Graham was on the phone with Luisa when I got home from the shop. He extended an arm and I wrapped my own around his torso, relaxing into him. Klara babbled cutely in her high chair, her face and clothes covered with the remnants of mashed bananas. She had a tight grip on her teething ring, which she gnawed on constantly nowadays.
“Luisa, I know you want to see Klara, but-no, it’s not a vacation. I promise you, the second we are back on US soil, we will make sure you can see her.”
There was a brief pause and I felt Graham relax a bit. He must have finally managed to convince her. “We will miss you too. Love you- bye.”
He hung up the phone and wrapped his other arm around my shoulders. “I feel so gross about lying to her,” he said, kissing the top of my head.
“Well, it is not as if you have another option,” I said, looking up at him.
“You’re right, but she’s still Klara’s grandmother.” He sighed again and turned his head, smiling at Klara. “What are we going to do about her teeth coming in?”
“Well, I remember William’s nurse giving him coral to suck on when he was Klara’s age. But I also remember he had bloody gums the next time I visited Helwater…”
Graham’s eyes widened and he shook his head. “Absolutely not. Any other suggestions?”
“I’m sure Minnie has some of her children’s old teethers. They’re made of silver, so there’s less potential for injury.”
“She’ll probably have teeth by then,” Graham sighed. “I suppose we’ll just have to play it by ear.”
He sat at the table beside Klara and kissed the top of her head. She glanced up at him and dropped her teething ring on the floor.
“Are we going to play ‘Daddy, Pick it Up?’” Graham eyed her and her lip began to quiver. Graham quickly stooped down and retrieved the plastic ring, wiping it on his shirt before handing it back to her. Seconds later, it was back on the floor.
“Is testing Daddy’s patience fun?” I asked her. Klara kicked her feet and giggled as she dropped the ring yet again.
Graham raised his eyebrows at me as the ring once again fell down to his feet. “Why doesn’t she play this lovely game with you?”
“She tried, but after I realized her strategy, I stopped handing it back to her.”
Graham glanced at the toy in his hand, then to Klara. Rather than give it back to her, he placed it on the table beside him. Klara sat in shock for a moment before her face shriveled and she began wailing.
“Did she cry when you did it?” Graham asked, his face wrinkled in concern.
“Yes, but she stopped eventually.”
“You monster,” he laughed. He seemed to consider the option and glanced between us. Sighing, placed the ring back on Klara’s highchair tray. The crying ceased half-a-second later.
“I’m going to have to keep you from spoiling her, aren’t I?” I laughed.
Graham pouted playfully and nodded, reaching down to pick up the ring again.
“Which catalogue did you get these from again?” Graham asked, bringing the package inside. Roger ripped the tape off of the top, revealing two different daggers.
“I have a student whose father buys and sells weapons. He seemed surprised when I told him I was in the market, but gave me his dad’s number anyway.”
The blades were of decent size and quality. I inspected one, pulling it out of the sheath. It had clearly been fashioned with modern tools, but such things were only noticeable under close inspection. They would serve our purposes- hopefully. I was still praying that we wouldn’t get into any major altercations.
Graham had pulled his dagger completely out of the sheath and was staring at it intensely. An odd expression spread across his face. I couldn’t tell if it was shock or horror.
I lifted a hand to his cheek, “That blade will remain clean if I have anything to say about it,” I said. Graham swallowed, replacing the sheath .
“I don’t even want to think about it,” he said calmly.
“You dinna have to,” Roger said. “If a moment comes where you need to use it, your instincts will take over.”
“Have you ever-” Graham looked up at Roger, unable to finish his question.
Roger nodded, “Killed someone? Aye, I have once.”
“Did he deserve it?” Graham asked.
“It is hard to think of it as ‘deserving’ death. Such things are unquantifiable. But I do ken that the man I killed gravely dishonored a helpless victim whom I cared for. At least he was able to fight back when I drew my blade, unlike her.”
Graham drew in a breath and nodded. “I hope I never have to draw mine.”
Graham went down the list of errands once more, making check marks as he went.
“Alright, the mail is being forwarded to the MacKenzies, check. Roger has access to our accounts so he can pay the utility and insurance bills, double check. Bags are packed, triple check. Anything else we’re missing?”
I thought for a moment before shaking my head. “I’m sure the second we are through the stones we will think of a hundred-and-one things we missed. Only one comes to mind now.”
“Graham looked over the list again. Mail, bills, luggage, and oh yeah- plane tickets. Everything is all set.”
“I’ve been meaning to discuss it with you actually. I’m not quite sure it’s a concern, really..”
Graham raised his eyebrows. “We’ll see about that. What is it?”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. “I keep on thinking about how I’ll explain my absence and eventual re-departure to William. Would it be foolish for me to tell him the truth?”
Graham pondered my question, running a hand through his hair as he thought. “If you think he’d believe you, it would certainly be preferable to dropping off the face of the Earth. But, from what you’ve told me about him, I’m not sure he would. Hell, most people would be crazy to.”
“What if I had some sort of proof?”
“What, are you planning to show him a photograph? I think he would be more likely to believe it was some form of magic.” Graham certainly wasn’t wrong. I couldn’t risk William coming to such conclusions. It could make him feel that his reputation is at stake.
“No, I couldn’t show him a photograph until he believed me. I was thinking we could try and find something about him, or his life.”
“Like how you convinced me?”
I nodded. “He is, or was, an Earl. He wouldn’t be too hard to find, right?”
Graham shook his head. “Surely there would be something about him in the stacks of the historical libraries at Harvard. But even then, I don’t think you should tell him unless he doesn’t buy any other excuse.”
He was right, but I still couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning William again. I put my head in my hands. After a moment, I could feel the weight of Graham’s hand on my back. “You don’t want him to think you’re dead, is that it?”
“Or worse, that I’ve abandoned him,” I said, feeling a lump in my throat. “I already feel like a horrible father, Graham. I can’t put him through it again.”
“What did you tell him the first time?” Graham asked, rubbing my back softly.
I rubbed my eyes, trying to will away the tears that pricked them at the thought of William reading my letter. “I wrote to him that I was going to Boston and would be unable to send correspondence until further notice.”
“Well, it makes sense given the politics in Boston and your reputation. I’m sure he understood.”
“But he won’t understand when I come back, leave again, and then make no effort to contact him once the war is over. He’ll either think he’s been abandoned or that I’ve died. And it’s clear that he and the rest of my family had reason to question my original alibi. Hal felt the need to post broadsheets across the northern colonies, after all.”
Graham tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. “Hey, look at me.”
I turned my head.
“If you raised him with even half of the love, understanding, respect, and dedication that you give to our daughter, then he knows how lucky he is to have been raised by you. Nevertheless, I’ll stop by the library tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” I said, relaxing into his touch.
Graham returned home from the library with a large, yellow envelope tucked beneath his arm.
“Were you able to find anything?” I asked, not sure what I wanted the answer to be.
“Hello to you too, darling. And yes, I’ve made copies of a few promising documents, letters, and passages.”
I was not relieved. Now that telling William the truth was officially a plausibility, I felt my insides churn.
“Thank you, Graham.”
Graham sighed and placed the parcel of documents in one of our satchels, which were currently on the kitchen table. “You only need to tell him if you think he’ll be receptive. Relax, darling.”
I took a deep breath, returning my attention to Klara. I had been in the middle of feeding her dinner when Graham came home. Her mashed peas and carrots dribbled down her chin and she tried to reach for the spoon.
“Alright, angelface. Let’s try and get this bite into your mouth this time.”
“Perhaps she would open her mouth wider if the vehicle carrying it were more exciting,” Graham commented.
I glanced at the ridiculous baby spoon and furrowed my brow. “It’s pink and the handle is covered in ridiculously inaccurate drawings of giraffes. How could it possibly be more exciting?”
Graham rolled his eyes, “I didn’t mean visually. And hey, don’t diss the cartoon giraffes. I happen to think they’re cute.”
I held the spoon up to examine it more closely. “Their heads are larger than their bodies-”
Graham interrupted me, plucking the spoon from my hand. “Step aside and let me show you how it’s done.”
Graham dipped the spoon into the baby food and began maneuvering it in a wave-like motion towards Klara.
“Nreaaaaoor! Here comes the airplane.”
Klara wiggled and opened her mouth fully.
“This is Captain Nowak reporting from flight Alpha Foxtrot 2940. Permission to land? Over.”
I raised a brow. “This is far less efficie-”
“Shush! No comments from the peanut gallery until we have landed safely.”
I was about to ask what in the hell a “peanut gallery” was, but he spoke again.
“This is traffic control to Alpha Foxtrot 2940. You’re all clear to land. Over.”
Graham finally directed the spoon into Klara’s mouth. Miraculously, only a small dribble ended up on her chin. He looked at me proudly. “So what do you think, peanut gallery?”
I crossed my arms. “I prefer the ‘boring’ method, but thank you for the enlightening performance.”
“Speaking of airplanes-”
“I don’t want to think about it,” I said hastily, not wanting a reminder of my fate.
“I was just going to ask if you wanted me to stop by the drugstore and get you some sleeping pills. They might help if you get anxious.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Yes, I suppose that sleeping through the flight is better than panicking for several hours.”
“I’ll pick them up tomorrow.”
The last morning in Boston was a flurry of activities. The MacKenzies arrived early in the morning to help us go over the final plans. I had hardly slept the night before, so I sipped my coffee as Roger went over the plan. Jemmy had managed to crawl under the table and slither onto my lap, holding onto me tightly.
“Alright, lads. Your flight tomorrow is at 6 AM, meaning you should try and arrive at the airport by 5. The flight is ten hours long, so that plus the time difference should get you in Aberdeen by 8PM. You have a hotel booked there, and then your train to Inverness leaves at noon the next day. You have your passports?”
Graham and I both nodded. I had been nervous about procuring the document, but my falsified records seemed to have sufficed to the employees at the post-office.
“And you’ve been over the packing list?” Roger asked.
Graham recited the list from memory. “Clothes, courtesy of Bree. Formula for emergencies. 18th century money. Letters from yourself, Bree, and Jem. Photographs and camera locked in the compartment of my satchel. John’s pocket watch. Daggers. Gemstones. Modern clothes to wear in Inverness before we go through the stones. Fountain pen. Books for Jamie. Sonogram of Mandy. Anything else?”
“The documents about Willie,” I said drowsily.
Graham nodded. “Ah yes, and those are already packed. Looks like we have everything in order then.”
“It appears so,” Bree said quietly. She was looking between my face and Jem, who was still clinging to me. I stroked his hair and he looked up at me.
“Why do you and Uncle Graham have to leave?” Jemmy asked.
“To visit your Grandma and Granda. They want to hear all about you. We’ll be back before you know it.”
Graham reached over and rubbed his back, “And soon, you’ll have a baby sister too. When we get back, you’ll get to tell us all about being a big brother.”
“But I’m gonna miss you,” Jem said quietly.
“We’ll miss you too, Jemmy,” I said. I looked up at Bree and Roger. They were smiling, but it was clear that they were feeling similarly to their son.
We spent the rest of the day in the house, a silent agreement amongst us not to discuss how much we’d miss each other. Bree and Roger took turns holding Klara and playing with her while we listened to some of the records that would be dearly missed.
“I wish there was a way to get a record player through the stones,” Graham commented.
“Oi, and be burned for witchcraft the very next day,” Roger laughed. “You’ve got a good voice though, you could always sing the tunes.”
“Hardly,” Graham chuckled.
“Trust me, you’ll realize how much you take for granted after a day or so,” Bree said, setting Klara on the carpet. She had just learned how to wiggle herself across the floor. It was hardly crawling, but she seemed to enjoy the newfound mobility nonetheless.
Roger laughed, “Showers, toothbrushes, liquid soap.”
“Washing machines, refrigerators, cars, running water, aspirin,” Bree added.
“So pretty much everything,” Graham joked. Klara had managed to slither from the couch to the spot on the floor where Graham was seated and rolled onto her back. He tickled her exposed belly and she giggled. “But we’ll at least have this little one to keep us occupied.”
I sighed, enjoying the familial scene before me. I tried not to think about how going through the stones would affect my ability to bond with Klara. Outside of the privacy of the Fraser’s, I would no longer be able to be a father to her. I hadn’t mentioned these concerns to Graham, as he was already stressed enough about raising her in a different century. I brushed the thoughts away. This was my last day in Boston for a year. I would be damned if I didn’t enjoy it.
The trip through the airport was a blur. Our bags had been weighed, and I remembered Graham telling me we had to “check” one of our bags because our daggers were over four inches long. I walked through an odd machine, someone checked my passport, and we purchased breakfast and coffee from a small bakery within the airport. Eventually, we were seated by our “gate,” which had a large sign reading “Boston to Aberdeen: 5:00.”
Bree, Roger, and Jemmy had accompanied us to the gate. They were saying something, but I couldn’t quite hear them. I was too busy trying to get my knee to stop bouncing. Graham’s hand was resting on the small of my back and Klara was asleep in my arms, but neither was a comfort at the moment. I watched as the airplanes raced down the strip of pavement, apparently called a “runway,” and went sailing gracefully into the air. The thought of being inside one whilst that occurred made me want to vomit.
I sat up and looked at Bree, who was now standing. “The plane is going to start boarding soon. It’s time for us to go.” Tears pricked in her eyes and I momentarily forgot about the panic I’d been feeling.
“I’ll see you soon, my dear,” I said, hugging her tightly. Klara was pressed in between us and she squirmed. Bree bent down to kiss her.
“You’re going to be so big when you come back,” she said.
I must have hugged each of them at least three times. Jemmy had to be extracted from around my waist and was hoisted into his father’s arms.
“We will see you soon. Please, be safe,” Roger said.
“We will, we promise,” Graham smiled. He was clearly nervous, but seemed to be holding himself together more than I was.
Jemmy looked over Roger’s shoulder as they walked away, waving. I blew him a kiss, tears rolling down my cheeks.
“I guess it’s just the three of us now,” Graham said. I sniffled and he wrapped an arm around me, holding my close.
Everything the flight attendant was saying as the plane drove its way onto the runway went completely unheard by me. I was shocked by how calm the other passengers seemed. Didn’t they know we were about to die? Graham in particular seemed calm, methodically strapping on both of our seatbelts and listening to the safety speech. He had taken out the camera to take polaroids of the plane and placed it underneath the seat with the rest of the baggage.
Eventually, the flight attendant took her seat. A voice came over the intercom, giving me deja-vu from the last time I heard such a noise. Graham had been by my side then too.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. The weather over our route today is clear and sunny for the most part. The time is now 6 AM and we will be landing in Aberdeen at approximately 8PM. We will take off momentarily, so make sure those seatbelts are nice and tight. Enjoy your flight.”
“Did he sound competent to you?” I asked, nudging Graham.
“Yes, darling. Just hold my hand and try to relax. The takeoff is the hardest part, but after that it’s smooth sailing.”
“If it were sailing, I wouldn’t be so worried.”
The plane began rolling again, slowly but steadily picking up its pace. The sound was overwhelmingly loud and I gripped Graham’s hand as tightly as I could. Suddenly, I felt myself leaning backwards.
“Holy shit,” I whispered, closing my eyes. I felt absurd, and watching the other passengers calmly read their magazines and smoke their cigarettes was not helping. Even Klara seemed unperturbed.
After what felt like a lifetime, I finally opened my eyes. We were still ascending, as evidenced by the general pressure pushing me into my seat, but the force had become bearable. I risked a glance out the window and gasped. I wasn’t sure if it was out of horror or awe.
“It’s cool, right,” Graham said. I released my death grip on Graham’s hand and he audibly sighed. “Thank God. I thought you were going to break my hand.”
I reached for the camera and snapped a photo out the window, trying to stop my hands from shaking as I did so. I wanted to remember this view.
I woke up to the feeling of Graham squeezing my shoulder. It was dark outside of the plane, and many of the other passengers were asleep. The flight attendants were in the process of rousing them.
“We’re landing in 20 minutes. If you need to use the bathroom or anything, now is the time.”
“I was asleep for 10 hours!’ I whispered.
“That’s the magic of sleeping pills, babe. Plus, you’ve been tossing and turning for the past two nights. You must have had a lot of sleep debt.”
I took Graham’s suggestion and made my way to the restroom at the back of the plane. I was barely coherent and still quite groggy. Thankfully, there were directions for how to properly operate the tiny metal toilet and sink on the wall.
When I rejoined Graham, everyone was re-buckling their seat belts. I did so as well, instantly feeling the nerves returning. “So, what did you do while I was asleep?” I asked Graham, trying to distract myself.
“Mostly just tried to take care of Klara and keep her from crying. The only thing harder than using the bathroom in that tiny room is trying to change a cloth diaper on that measly excuse for a changing table. I have a shit covered cloth in my luggage. The flight attendant was kind enough to offer me a plastic bag, at least.”
“Mm,” I mumbled groggily, “Maybe we should keep it. Might be useful.”
Graham collapsed into the bed in the hotel. Klara was beginning to nod off as well. As the most-awake of the three of us, I took it upon myself to feed Klara her bedtime bottle and try to find a proper place for her to sleep. There were two beds in the room, but I was worried she would manage to roll over enough times to fall off. I eventually decided to place her horizontally against the headboard, positioning the pillows and blankets to make a retaining wall around her on the three open sides.
I was still worried about the safety of my make-shift crib, so I poked Graham’s shoulder. “Yes?”
“Do you think Klara will suffocate if we let her sleep in there?”
He turned his head and blinked his eyes open. “Hmmm, probably not, but better safe than sorry. He stood from the bed and grabbed some of our luggage, pushing the edges of the retaining wall slightly further from Klara and lining the interior with leather bags. “There, she’ll be okay that way. She doesn’t have anything too soft around her now.”
“I feel so underprepared,” I said, leaning into Graham.
“Well, how do people travel with babies in your time? Surely we can’t be any worse than them, right?”
“They didn’t travel with babies, or at least they avoided it. The first month before we get to London will be difficult.”
“Well, at least we know everything will be okay, right?” Graham shrugged and pulled off his shirt. “I’m going to go take a shower before bed.”
I nodded and he disappeared into the bathroom. Klara had managed to fall asleep in her makeshift crib and I felt momentary relief. Despite our inevitable worrying, she would make it through the 18th century; Jamie’s journaling was proof of that.
After a moment, I heard the shower come on. Graham popped his head out of the bathroom and winked. “You coming?”
The train ride from Aberdeen to Inverness was quite relaxing. Klara slept through most of it and there were very few passengers. I watched the rolling hills rise and fall beside the tracks. Scotland hadn’t changed much since I had been here last. Sure, the cities were modern, but the history was as present as it had ever been. It was oddly refreshing after a year in America.
“When was the last time you were in Scotland?” Graham asked. He had a talent for reading my mind.
“Oh, it was a lifetime ago. I was warden of a prison about a decade after the ‘46.”
“Surely a Lord from London had better things to do after Culloden than run a prison,” Graham said, clearly surprised.
“I did, but sadly going to Ardsmuir was not my choice. My brother, he uh, suspected something was occurring between me and a man named George Everett. He sent me there to separate us and avoid a scandal.”
“Was there something between you two?” Graham teased.
“Of course there was. But trust me, you do not have to worry about George, or any of my former lovers for that matter.”
“How can I be so sure?” Graham was clearly teasing, but I decided to humor him anyway. It was a long train ride, so I might as well take advantage of the time.
“George is dead. I won’t bore you with the details, but he attempted to murder me. Luckily, a friend of mine was there to prevent him from doing so.”
Graham raised his eyebrows. “A friend? Or a *friend*?”
“Ha! You’ll meet Harry Quarry at some point, I’m sure of it. His gaze is certainly drawn towards the fairer sex.”
“Alright, then will I ever meet any of your exes?”
“Why on Earth would you desire that?” I asked, somewhat confused.
“So that I can feel reassured that I’m better than them.”
I rolled my eyes. “Machismo is not a good look on you, my dear.”
Graham seemed to consider this, nodded, but continued to press me. “Tell you what, I’ll tell a story about an ex if you tell me one.”
Graham and I had never really delved into each other’s romantic past. We had never felt the need to. But for the sake of curiosity, I accepted his offer.
“Well, I feel that I have already told you about a few. You just heard about George, and I’ve mentioned Percy.”
“Was he the cheater?”
“Yes, that’s the one. And I mentioned Hector, my first lover, quite a while ago.”
Graham seemed to think for a moment, perhaps trying to recall when I’d mentioned him. “I do remember you mentioning him, but it was before I knew you were from the past. You mentioned he was a fellow soldier who died in battle?”
“Yes, at Culloden. He was my first love.”
“Do you think about him much?”
I shook my head. “Not often. Every once in a while, something will remind me of him. But I was a different person back then than I am now. We were hardly more than children when we were together. Although I kept his ring for years, I gave it to Jamie. I think he used it to send the MacKenzies back through the stones, now that I think about it.”
Graham nodded, listening intently. “What was he like?”
I smiled, “Kind, brave, handsome. He was the best first love I could have asked for. When he died, I thought I’d never love again. But clearly, I was wrong.”
“Because of Jamie?”
I chuckled. “I was thinking about you, but sure. I loved Jamie too, but that was different. I knew he’d never reciprocate my feelings. I merely admired the way he loved his wife.”
“Okay but like, you were attracted to him too, right?”
“That was part of it,” I laughed. “But not after I saw him with Claire. I envied the life they shared together. Even if Hector had lived, I never would have had that. It just wasn’t possible given the time.”
“Do you think you have that with me?”
“I know I do.”
Graham smiled, looking down into his lap at Klara. “I know I was just teasing you earlier about your exes and stuff. But it’s still nice to hear.”
I rubbed my hand on his shoulder, “Of course, love. Now, I do believe that a fair exchange was promised? I think it’s only suitable that you tell me about your first love.”
Graham smiled awkwardly, seeming a bit shy. It was a rare expression on him.
“My first love, eh? Well, I met him on a train and I accidentally fell asleep on him.”
“That has happened to you more than once?” I said, baffled.
Graham laughed. “I know you’re not an idiot, John.”
I raised my eyebrows when I realized, somewhat shocked. “Me? You can’t be serious.”
Graham looked down, and it became clear to me that this wasn’t merely a joke.
My expression softened and I put my hand back on his shoulder, “Sorry, my love. I’m just a bit surprised. Never?”
Graham leaned his head back on the seat. “Pathetic, right?”
“No, it’s not pathetic. It’s actually quite the opposite.”
Graham sighed and sat up again. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in relationships before. I’ve had a lot of sex. I thought I was in love with a few of them. But I realized when I met you that I’d never actually been in love before.”
I smiled, feeling not only endeared, but quite flattered as well. “Is it everything you hoped it would be?”
Graham smiled back at me, relaxing into my touch. “It’s more than I could have ever dreamed of. You’re my soulmate, John.”
I almost kissed him right then and there, with everyone watching. Luckily, the intercom came on in time to distract me. “Next stop, Inverness!”
“Saved by the bell,” Graham winked.
“And before you ask what that means, it’s boxing slang.”
“Oh, isn’t she she a darlin’ lass,” Mrs. McIntyre, the hostess of the bed and breakfast, said as we checked in. “Alexander!” she called. A man about her age came into the foyer.
“Oh, look at the bonnie wee lassie! Reminds me of our granddaughter,” he said, looking up at Graham.
“Alright, fellas. You have a room up the stairs. Alex, bring in a roll-away for them please. We dinna want to make them sleep in the same bed.” They both laughed and Graham and I laughed along with them, not wanting to risk having to find another place to stay.
“We have a spare crib here as well. We used to use it when our granddaughter was wee. It’s yours for the night.”
“Thank you, Mr. McIntyre,” Graham said cordially.
“Och, call me Alex lad. We’ll bring your bags up. You go see the sights now, aye?”
Rather than “see the sights,” Graham and I spent the afternoon searching the small city for shops and taverns that might be useful once we went through the stones. The task was not difficult, especially since the historical buildings all had large plaques on them describing the history of the property. By dinnertime, we’d managed to find two different taverns, an inn, a blacksmith, and a hat shop.
“Add that to the list,” Graham said. “I don’t want to be the only man in the 18th century without a proper hat.”
The Final Moments
The cab ride to Craigh Na Dun was not particularly long, but it somehow seemed to stretch for hours as we wound through the hills of the Highlands. Graham held onto Klara tightly and I gave his arm a short squeeze. We were both tense, but now it was my turn to guide Graham through a world that was new to him.
Eventually, the stones appeared atop a hill in the distance. The grey stood out against the pale blue sky, growing as we made our way closer and closer.
Eventually, the driver pulled off to the side of the road at the base of the hill. We paid him and he nodded, driving off. Graham watched the car as it sped down the road.
“Well, that’s the last of the modern technology,” Graham said as the taillights disappeared over a hill.
“We still have the camera.”
Graham nodded and looked up the hill, adjusting Klara on his hip in preparation for the climb.
The buzzing began as a soft hum as we approached the stones, but grew in intensity once we were atop the hill. Klara buried her face into Graham’s chest, clearly nervous about the haunting noise.
We unpacked the clothes Bree had made for us and changed in silence. I smiled at the sight of Graham, who honestly looked quite dashing in the 18th century garb. Klara did too, her bonnet framing her face cutely. Graham noticed my expression and smiled back, a momentary break in the tension as we took each other in.
I held three of the gems tightly in my hand feeling the pull of the center stone as they touched my skin. With our luggage secured tightly and Klara firmly in Graham’s grip, I held out my palm full of stones to Graham.
Klara’s stone, a small ruby, was placed securely into a small pocket on the front of her dress. She turned her head, looking towards the center stone. I was both relieved and horrified that she too felt the pull. She had no way of knowing what it meant.
“I’m ready,” Graham said quietly. I nodded, beckoning him to come closer to the stone. He did so tentatively, wincing at the increase in volume of the humming.
My arm wrapped snugly around his waist, grabbing a hold of the strap of his satchel. “For the love of God,” I whispered to myself, “don’t let go.”
We joined our free hands in the middle, grasping Klara’s tiny fist between them. Our hands were inches from the rough surface. I looked instinctively at Graham, meeting his gaze. I had never seen him so terrified.
“We already know we will make it through.”
I felt him push my hand and the coolness of the rock. Suddenly, I was falling.