“Daddy,” she said, with great certainty. “I knew it was you. I’ve been dreaming about you.”
Brianna was lost. A perennial outdoorsman (woman–she silently corrected herself), she prided herself on her survival skills: her ability to always find north, her fire-starting prowess, her mastery in marksmanship. But, now those skills seemed to fail her. Disoriented and dizzy, she stood, taking in her surroundings.
A forest. That was obvious. The greenery and brush spoke of unkempt nature, and the smell of sap invaded her nostrils.So dense were the trees that little light peeked through their canopy. All of these were familiar aspects of her current location.
But, something wasn’t right.
Forests were loud. A mixture of wind between leaves, footsteps of small mammals, and the croaking of insects gave woods their own unique melodies. However, this particular wood was completely silent.
“Hello?” She called through the trees, reaching for aid that may not appear. Her echo was the only response.
“Hello?!” She tried again, louder.
“Brianna.” A voice caressed her ear; tender, kind, and unfamiliar.
She was not frightened of the strange voice. No, the voice held a comfort that warmed her from teeth to toes.
“Who is there?” Curiosity and unabashed need slipped through her tone. She needed the voice, needed the strength that surely followed within the voice’s arms.
“Brianna.” The voice was needy as well, straining against emotion held in check. It needed her as much as she needed it.
“Where are you?”
“I don’t see you!”
“Stay where you are! I’ll find you!”
Against all of her good judgment, Bree ran. Her legs were heavy and slow, as if she were running against the ocean current. Pumping her arms, she tried to gain momentum to no avail.
“C’mon…” She murmured to herself. “Go!”
Her bare feet began sinking into the cool, muddy ground, decreasing her already slow speed. Swallowing her, like quicksand.
Ankle deep in the sludge, she struggled against it’s pull. She sank deeper and deeper, unable to escape.
Knees. Hips. Chest. Shoulders. She would be completely sheathed within the ground in a matter of minutes. Gasping and struggling, her body descended further. Soon, she would have no air to breathe. Taking one last shuddering breath, she was enveloped in the cold, wet earth.
That voice… The voice!
Brianna felt a hand snake around her forearm. It was warm, and large—large enough to grasp the limb in its entirety. Pulling, pulling. Pulling her body toward the surface. Gulping for air, her head emerged, followed by the rest of her body. She collapsed amongst the blades of grass that tickled her skin.
“Are you alright, lass?”
Shielding her eyes from the sun, Brianna peered upward to her erstwhile savior. The man was a stranger. Tall and broad, his body blocked out the smattering of sunlight through the trees. The curls atop his head twisted about his face, like the licking of flames.
A stranger, but Brianna knew his face as she knew her own.
“My father?” She stood quickly, brushing the dirt off her clothes; she wished to make a good impression on the man.
He grinned at her question, a half smile that she reciprocated. “Aye.”
“I dinna ken, lass. But I dinna question it.”
“I—“ She began, but stopped abruptly. What could she say to this man? “Thank you.”
“Och. It’s nay trouble lass. I—“ His hand floated in the air between them, as if he were reaching toward her. Longing to touch her. “l would do anything to keep ye safe.”
Bree grabbed his hand, sandwiching it between her own. “I know.”
And she truly did. Hadn’t her mother told her just as much?
Jamie closed his eyes briefly at her touch, savoring the moment.
“I’m glad to see ye, a leannan. I never thought I would.”
“Me too. I always wondered what you looked like.”
“I suppose I look a bit like you, aye?” His smile broadened as he chucked her under the chin.
The wind began to rise, whipping the leaves from the trees. Bare, the branches opened up to the bright light of the sun. Brianna shielded her eyes with her hand.
“What’s going on?”
“I think…” Jamie glanced at the light briefly, pondering. “I think it’s time for us to go.”
“Back to our lives.”
“What do you mean?”
“Tis but a dream, a nighean. We must part now.”
“NO!” The word burst through her chest without though. Leave? But they just got here!
“Aye, I ken. I dinna want to, either. But we must.”
Stumbling, she threw her arms around her father’s waist; he was much bigger than she ever imagined.
“Will I see you again?”
A hand cupped her cheek, urging her eyes upward. She gazed at him, staring into the fathomless pools of his irises.
“I’ll make sure of it.”
They parted, with hope and longing.
“Tha gaol agam ort, Brianna.” His voice faded within the trees, a mere echo of what it was.
Brianna woke to the bright morning light streaming through her window. Such a vivid dream. So real… She could almost detect his scent on her nightgown: woodsmoke, wool, and whisky. Pushing the blankets off her body, she hopped out of bed and toward her desk. Paper and pencil in hand, she began to sketch. Long, light strokes. Short, thick hatching. A broad forehead. A dimpled chin. A friendly mouth. Eyes, so like her own…