Hard to believe another year had passed but here it was the wee bairn’s birthday already, his 4th. Time flying by and so many important milestones missed; first smile, first steps, first word. He could harangue Harlan Garrett all he liked but it didn’t change the facts. It had been his decision to leave his boy where he was, in Boston, and if Garrett thought he could lay a claim on Scott it was because he had allowed his foot in the door.
His boy, Catherine’s boy, the son he had yet to lay eyes on.
For the millionth time he tried imagining what Scott looked like; a combination of him and Catherine he supposed but all he could see was Catherine—how the sunlight filtering through the lace curtains of their room paled in comparison to the brightness of her hair, the charming dimple that appeared whenever she smiled, the glint of stubbornness sparking in her blue-grey eyes…
The photograph cupped in his hands didn’t do her justice. All stiff and proper, hands demurely clasped in her lap, her gaze off to the side focusing on something unseen. His thumb swept across the frozen line of her mouth remembering as if it were only yesterday the subtle scent of gardenias, the gentle curve of her neck under his fingertips, the calming touch of her hand. As good as it was the photograph paled in comparison, unable to capture the essence of what made Catherine, Catherine.
He had crossed an ocean to follow his dream. Never did he imagine he would find his other half as well, his soulmate, his chridhe.
Or that his dream would become hers. A dream shared, of a place, of sons and daughters born of their love who would build on what they had created and carry it into the future.
It hadn’t been easy. It was so different from Boston and all she had known. She had had a lot to learn, they both did but she had been the stronger of the two, determined and sensible, unafraid to get her hands dirty. She had been no shrinking violet, his Catherine.
And it had become a reality: their dream. But for the longest time it was like ashes in his mouth. As if his heart had been packed away with her letters and her clothes and the pieces of jewelry he had kept for sentimental reasons. And baby clothes. The tiny gown he had found on her chair, the needle threaded with blue floss tucked into the material as if she had just stepped out of the room for a moment…
He snapped the case shut, cradling it in his large, work-roughened hands, his eyes drawn to the large window and the world beyond.
The world their son should be growing up in not some mansion in Boston.
His thumb caressed the case, the embossed velvet covering worn smooth from handling. Was he being selfish, thinking of his own interests over his son’s well-being? No, he thought not. Catherine would want Scott to be here, had wanted him born here. If only he hadn’t insisted that she go…
Guilt shot through him, as deep and raw and all-encompassing as it had that day, when he had ridden into Carterville to discover that she was dead, dead and buried and their child on his way to Boston.
There had been flowers on the freshly-turned earth, he remembered; a simple bouquet of late-season wildflowers …
He inhaled sharply through his nostrils, wrestling his emotions back under control with a ruthlessness born of necessity. He had become quite good at that, keeping a tight rein on his feelings.
Life had gone on, as relentless in its own way as the ocean waves that had carried him from Scotland to America. Much to his surprise he had found love again. Maria was so different from Catherine. Like a force of nature; free-spirited, passionate, impetuous, seizing life with both hands. And she had made him feel alive, really alive for the first time in… well in forever.
But that hadn’t stopped him from feeling guilty, as if by loving Maria he was being unfaithful to Catherine. But Catherine was gone, had been for almost three years. She would want him to be happy, not living in the past crippled by grief and remorse. She would want him to get on with his life, a life that included their son.
And now there was another boy, Maria’s boy, his Johnny. He had duly written Harlan Garrett about his remarriage and again when Johnny was born. He wanted Scott to know about his brother and to prepare Harlan for the eventuality of his bringing Scott home. A smile formed, spreading as he pictured his boys growing up together, doing all the things boys do, the sort of things he and his own brothers had done once upon a time. One day working alongside him, men grown, sharing a dream and a love for this land.
He glanced down at the velvet case thumbing it open.
“Yes, mo chridhe. The dream is very much alive. Oh, there’s been a set-back or two but tis a fitting legacy for our son and his brother.”
His brow suddenly creased, mouth settling into a thin hard line as he raised his head to stare out the window. A vague prickling of unease settled over him. Maria shared the dream, didn’t she? It was all he had talked about as they made their way to the estancia after the wedding, probably had bored her to tears with all his plans for the future but that wasn’t the same, was it? Try as he might he could not remember a time when they had discussed it, not really, not like he and Catherine had. Maria was always supportive but often failed to understand the amount of time and effort and sacrifice it took to build something out of nothing. Since the birth of their son he had hoped she would take more of an interest in the success of the ranch. But Maria was young, little more than a child herself. Sometimes he had the feeling she resented it for taking up so much of his time. It was almost as if she were jealous…
A wail interrupted his musings; Johnny, awake from his nap and impatient as usual. He closed the case gently and swiveled his chair about. The ledger lay open on the desk, its pages stirred by the welcome breeze through the French doors. Next to it was a neatly stacked pile of bills, a bit of quartz he had come across in a dry creek bed serving as paperweight. The report from Mason was still waiting for him to read, the envelope braced against the inkwell. Bad bit of luck the north fence line had needed his attention worse. Hopefully he hadn’t lost his chance on that piece of land.
He slipped the case back into the center drawer, his hand lingering a moment before he slid the drawer home and locked it. Pocketing the key, he rose from his chair and with ever lengthening strides headed swiftly toward the staircase.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth more than rubies. Proverbs 31:10
Mo Chridhe-“My heart”