Magnus and I shoveled in breakfast. I couldn’t get enough of the eggs and sausage but also the piles of sweet things. Zach went overboard on it which was necessary, fewer than three courses would have been just. so. sad. We were hungry, deep through into our core. Not just hungry for the food, but for it all. The love, the laughter, the sweet conflicts of parenthood. The messiness of a big family with lots of big personalities. Isla sat beside me in the high chair and beat her hand sweetly on the tray, splashing goo around, and wiping it in circles, and shoving it in her mouth and I laughed and she laughed at me laughing, and we got into a regular ol’laughfest which was awesome. Her laughing at me, me laughing at her. Archie, long since done eating because he hadn’t been starving for a year, climbed on Magnus’s lap, put a hand on his face to center his attention and said, very seriously, “Did da see the pool?” “A pool? Tae swim in?” Archie said, still serious, “Aye.” “I have not seen it wee’un. Chef Zach, is there a pool now?” Zach said, “Yep, we got it installed and we’re all dying for you to swim in it, some might say it was the whole point.” “What are we waitin’ for then?” Emma laughed.
“I think it’s pretty cold out there right now. About 65 degrees and not a sunbeam in sight.” Magnus grinned.”Och! Tis a balmy summer day! Wee’un, ye want tae go for a swim?” Emma shivered and Archie and Ben yelled, “Swim!” Magnus and I rushed into our room to pull on bathing suits. I had to add a pin to tighten the waistband of Magnus’s shorts because he had lost so much weight. My skin, in my bikini, glowed a pale white, the clammy pallor of a foot that has been encapsulated in a wet sock for a few days of canoeing during summer camp. I said to Magnus, “You’re so pale—” “I look tae be the underside of a river trout.” I joked, “Aye.” When we emerged into the main room, Archie and Ben were waiting to lead us to the pool. I said, “Isla! Want to go to the pool with me?” She looked at me for a moment, then shook her head.
“No no.” I met eyes with Emma, but I smiled widely. “No problem, Isla can go with me next time. I will be in the pool. If Isla wants to come see me in the pool, ask Emma.” I gestured toward Emma. Isla said, “Ma ma!” Emma and I met eyes again. This was going to be hard, but also, I would be okay — I felt very sad, but that moment this morning with Archie had lightened my heart so much. With Archie fully our son, he would persuade Isla to be our daughter again too. I knew it, I just had to be patient.
I kissed Emma on the cheek to set her mind at ease. She had little Zoe snuggled in her arms. “It’s hard to remember having such a tiny being in my arms. Now look, she’s all sassy.” I asked Isla, “Are you sassy?” She squealed happily and smacked her hand down on her tray. I asked, “Zach, should I help you clean that up?” “Hell no, your first moment back? I got it, go see the pool, spend some time with Archie.” I rushed through the back doors and around to the pool house, arriving just in time to see Magnus jumping into the deep end, with maximum splash, drenching Ben and Archie who stood giggling on the side. He came up with a “Fwish!” And exclaimed, “Och! Tis warm!” I dipped a toe in, laughing, “It is warm!” I was exaggerating, it was probably about 60 degrees. But when had I last been submerged in a body of water? Years? Centuries? I jumped in with as much maximum splash as I could accomplish and surfaced right beside Magnus. We grinned at each other and then beamed up at the boys.
Their little arms crossed, their bare legs shivering. Ben shook his head. Magnus said, “Archie?” Archie looked from Ben to the water and yelling, “Cannonball!” took a courageous plunge, spraying us with water, just about making my heart burst with love. Zach entered the pool house following a toddling Isla who was wearing a little swim diaper. “She decided to come, you got her?” I barely said, “Heck yeah,” before she flung herself into my arms. I scooped her onto my hip and she spit and gasped. “Is it cold?” “Ba Ba!” I waded to the shallow end so I could hold her out of the water. Together we watched Magnus toss Archie from his shoulders, and clasp hands to bounce Archie back up into the air. They competed to make the biggest splashes and Isla and I cheered them on. Isla said, “Da! Da!” And when Magnus waded over she jumped into his arms and it was beautiful, wonderful, dream-come-true-full.
And when I met Magnus’s eyes— Yes. aye. He felt it too. Finally, we were cold, even Magnus admitted it. We wrapped Archie and Isla up in towels and Beaty offered to take them to get dressed. I wrapped a towel around my shoulders. Magnus wrapped one around his waist, shook out his hair, and slumped into a chair. “Och, twas a big moment this playin’ in our new pool. Twould seem simple if ye dinna ken our hearts.” He hooked a foot around a chair leg and dragged it in front of him for me to sit, with our knees touching.
He leaned forward and took my hand in his and we bowed our heads right beside each other. He quietly said, “God, thank ye for yer divine wisdom and for keepin’ our family strong and our bairn safe. Thank ye for deliverin’ us tae safety and intae the welcomin’ warmth of our home. Amen.” I nodded. “Amen.” He said, “I ken we hae regret, mo reul-iuil, but we also hae a new day upon us. The smiles of our bairn beamin’ up at us. It has been a trial, but I am the luckiest man in the world tae hae ye beside me.” I pressed my cheek to his, his words settling past my ear, down to my heart, warming me.
“I feel the same way.” “Tis verra much like being reborn tae come from that century tae the present, tae hae been so hungry and tae hae a full stomach now, tae hae a loch for swimmin’ in Florida with nae alligators tae be seen. And tae hae m’son jump intae m’arms. And then m’daughter. I feel it in my soul.” “Me too, my love.” I wrapped tighter around his hand. We kissed, but were interrupted when Hayley barged in and flounced into a chair. “God, you slept forever. I went to work and came home, and look at you, you’re not even dressed yet.
” “Hayley, we had to sleep. In a bed. With softness. With climate control. With pleasant scents. Then we had to eat, four or five courses — you can’t rush that. Then we had to come see the pool. Where’s Fraoch?” “He’s off in the boat. He said he’ll take you this afternoon, Mags.” She sighed, looked at her watch, and said, “He’ll be back in a half hour.
” She waggled a finger between us. “You and me, we, probably all four of us, need to sit down and talk about some stuff.” “Big stuff?” “Of course, it’s always big stuff. We need to talk about it.” “Big enough that I need to be dressed?” “Well, let’s think about that: we need to have a big conversation, want to have it in a bikini?” I groaned. “Hayley, is this awful? Is this death defying? Is this something I won’t recover from? Because Magnus and I were just this moment talking about how we were going to start fresh and how happy we were and how good it was to be home and…” She sat quietly. “I just need to talk to you about some stuff. You and Mags. Please, just let me talk to you.” “Okay, of course, definitely.
” Magnus and I went to change into big conversation clothes. Two – Kait lyn Day One still F irst we ate lunch: early, and a lot. We piled our plates high with roast beef sandwiches, mixed fruit salad, sweet potato chips, ranch dip, and a spinach salad with berries, walnuts, and blue cheese. I, after arguing with Zach whether it was a good idea, put a six pack of Cokes in front of us so I wouldn’t have to ask for another. The point was unlimited. Of course it got warm pretty quick and I had to admit it had been a dumb idea. I wanted unlimited, ice-cold sodas. Zach joked, “It’s not like you even have to get up to get it, just ask for it.” “It was a year, Zach, a whole y ear. I want Cokes without having to ask.
” I ate a handful of chips. Quentin talked to Magnus about security guards and shifts. I picked blueberries from the salad and finished off my sandwich. Beaty asked, “Could we do a photo shoot, Queen Kaitlyn? I would like tae hae a photo of yer family. I hae many photos of the kids, but none with ye and Magnus.” “Oh.” I exhaled. I hadn’t thought about how many photos existed without us. A whole year of a life I hadn’t been a part of. I shook my head, trying to dislodge the thought.
“Yeah, um… A family photoshoot would be amazing. Can we do it tomorrow? I’m hoping Isla will be more and more comfortable with me.” Isla burst into tears, right then, as if on cue. I tried to console her. Then Emma tried to console her with me helping, until Beaty carried her off to change her diaper and see if she would nap. I wanted to be that person, but didn’t want to force her, so I was kind of melancholy, and ate my feelings by pouring a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels into a bowl. I marveled at what a glorious thing they were, pointless and extravagant, chocolate on pretzels… Why? But also, delicious— Fraoch and Hayley brought their lunch plates over and slumped into chairs across from us. Magnus said, “Och, ye are makin’ me hungry again.” We had just eaten fifty pounds of food. I leaned back in my chair and patted my stomach.
“I might actually be full, finally. Where’d you go, Fraoch?” “Out in the boat. I kent ye were spendin’ some time at home, Og Maggy, but I would like tae take ye fishin’.” “How dost ye go?” “In James’s boat, I ken how tae drive it.” He grinned. Across Magnus’s face I saw many complicated emotions, but he simply nodded. “I would like ye tae take me out in the boat, but I am nae wantin’ tae go fishin’. I had m’fill of fish in the year I was gone.” I said, “How about at sunset we go for a boat ride, and then have the amazing dinner Chef Zach is dreaming up for us?” I raised my voice into the kitchen. “Whatcha cooking tonight, Zach?” He leaned on the kitchen island and waved a wooden spoon at me, the loud sounds of Twenty-One Pilots filling the kitchen behind him.
“I just fed you, not twenty minutes ago, you’re already asking for ‘what’s next?’ sheesh, but since you asked, pasta, homemade bread, big ass salad, apple pies with ice cream.” “Awesome, I’ll try to make room.” I poured the three remaining chocolate covered pretzels into the bag and folded over the top. Hayley, who had been quietly eating, tossed her sandwich crust to the plate, and pushed it away, wiping her hands on her napkin. She drew in a deep breath and said, “So, let’s talk.” “Yep, let’s get to it.” She picked at her napkin and spoke nervously, “First, I want to admit, just so you know, that I am not perfect. Fraoch is not perfect.” I squinted my eyes. She added, “I know what I’m about to tell you is going to be hard to hear, but I want to say, you aren’t perfect either.
Mags, you were really scary when you were threatening to kill Fraoch, my husband.” “I ken. I am sorry for it.” She chewed her lip and nodded. “Fraoch would like to say something, too.” “I am sorry for nae tellin’ ye that I had been hired tae kill ye. It worried me verra much, tae nae tell ye, but I thought when I got ye from Florida tae London, that I had delivered ye from harm. The man who had approached me, what was his name?” “Roderick.” “I thought he was from Florida, and that ye were safe from his intentions. I dinna ken at the time that he could travel tae where or when he wanted tae find ye.
” Magnus said, “If I had kent ye had been hired tae kill me I never would hae trusted ye tae guard the Campbells.” “I ken. But ye did trust me, and I earned it, I hae been a brother tae ye.” “Aye, tis true.” “And ye invited me tae come tae yer home, I hae been livin’ here while ye were away.” Hayley said, “We want to make sure it’s okay that he’s here, Mags. You invited him before you knew the full story. I have money, a house, I can—” I said, “That’s not necessary, Hayley, at all. Right Magnus?” “Tis nae necessary. I am glad ye are here, Fraoch, and that ye helped tae protect m’bairn while I was away, and that ye helped with our rescue.
It means a great deal tae me.” Hayley exhaled in relief. “Okay, that was one part of it. Now, how about Fraoch explains to you about the vessel? I want to preface though — Fraoch told me this story, and I didn’t mean to keep it from you, I just didn’t know what it meant. I knew you had vessels, I didn’t know if people all over the world had them. Were they common in Scotland? I didn’t know. I didn’t even know exactly what having a vessel meant. So I decided you didn’t need to know. Now I see that of course you needed to know, it was very silly to—” “Hayley, your point?” “Just remember, this is a part where I’m imperfect.” “We all make mistakes.
” I rolled my hand for her to get on with it. She said, “You don’t know the half of it.” I said, “Uh oh.” She nudged Fraoch. “Tell him.” “When I was verra young, after m’mother had passed, I found m’father sitting with a box on his lap. There was a bright blue light emanatin’ from inside. I dinna understand what m’eyes were tellin’ me. I could nae describe it because twas somethin’ I had never seen afore. My father hid it from me and I never saw it again.
” He plucked at the napkin beside his plate. “Later when I saw the vessels I recognized the same machine as I had seen in my father’s hands.” My eyes went wide. “So your father was holding a vessel?” “I am sure of it.” Magnus said, “And ye hail from Glen Coe?” “Aye.” Fraoch looked uncomfortable and shifted in his seat. “Dost ye ken where he might hae hidden it?” “I daena, I never saw it again.” Magnus looked contemplative. “It might be hidden there, in yer village.” Fraoch’s shoulders hunched, he ran a hand through his beard, shaking his head.
“Lady Mairead says m’father is Donnan — I was speaking on it with Hayley, I am sure the vessel must hae belonged tae m’mother.” I said, “Donnan gave Lady Mairead a vessel or two, it would make sense.” Magnus said, “Ye said yer mother passed away, perhaps afore she could shew it tae ye, or tell ye of yer true history?” “Aye, she never mentioned I was nae m’father’s son.” I asked, “Did you ever suspect?” “Nae, he was always m’own, m’brother was my own.” Magnus shrugged. “Ye ken, in the history of the world, this is a story that will happen. There is nae way tae ken, truly, that a son is yer own or another’s. Perhaps yer father kent ye were from another man or maybe he dinna, but either way, was he a good father tae ye?” “Aye, he treated me well.”