The Autumn wind blew gently and the colorful leaves came floating down forming a blanket on the yard of The Hemsfield house. The earth was cold. The sun was going down behind the hills far away. Gayle came out of the huge mansion and walked gracefully along the path that led to the garden. Looking at the willows and oak trees changing colors and thinking about Adam, she seemed lost. She had quite an eventful life until a couple of months back - a typical life of one of the most affluent families of Dores in Scottish highlands. Attending ceilidhs and parties, dancing, drinking, and embracing the social grace, she grew up to become a beautiful young woman. Her parents Mr.Finlay, Laird of Hemsfield, and his wife Aileana were eager to marry off Gayle to a similar affluent family as theirs without any further delay. But Gayle had other plans. Against her parent's will, she had made her decision to get married to the love of her life.
One pleasant summer evening, Gayle was walking towards Loch Ness with her friend Maria. That was when she met him. She heard melodious music coming from the direction of the lake. Curiosity took the better of her and she started walking in the direction of the music. Sitting on a small rock facing the lake, a young man was playing the fiddle. Gayle walked towards him and Maria followed. He did not notice her at first. She stood there enjoying the music. The young man stopped playing when he noticed the ladies standing there.
"Sorry, I did not mean to interrupt", Gayle apologized.
"That is alright", he said.
"You play wonderfully well. I am Gayle and this is my friend Maria".Maria and Gayle grew up together. Maria had lost her parents at a very young age and she was with The Hems field's ever since. She was more of a sister than a friend to Gayle.
"Thank you. I am Adam. A pleasure to meet you both.", said Adam.
"Do you play here often?", asked Gayle.
"Whenever I get time off our farm. My grandfather taught me to play. He says the music soothes the rage of the monster in the lake".
"You believe there is a monster in there?"
"I have not been able to prove otherwise so far", Adam said.
Gayle and Adam met very often after that. They took long walks along the lake talking about their childhood, their dreams, and their lives. It was obvious to both of them that they lived two very different lives but that did not stop them from getting closer. Their bond only strengthened as days went by.
One day Adam took Gayle on his dogger for fishing. Adam rowed skillfully and effortlessly with his strong hands. Adam and his family have been farmers for many generations now in Dores. He was well-read and had traveled a little with his adventurous grandfather. Gayle found him to be very attractive and she knew he worked hard and was very passionate about his job.
"I have never been on this lake before", she said.
"Ah really? I thought your family must be owning large ships and your kind went on tours all the time. Sorry, no offense".
"It's alright. What is that you have against our kind?".Gayle was curious.
"Pardon me. It is nothing personal. I have always felt them be condescending. Placing power in the hands of a small group leaves people like us without a voice".There was nothing but silence for a while. It seemed like even the water that was lapping the shores took a break.
Gayle looked at the stretch of water all around her and the mighty mountains bordering the lake. Gayle looked into Adam's kind brown eyes and exclaimed"What a beautiful day!!".
"Aye, it is perfect for fishing".
"This feels so real".
"What do you mean?", Adam asked.
"All of this. The conversations we have, your life, the happiness that I feel when I spend time with you, the warmth in your friendship, all of it feels so real. All these years I have lived a life of a lie, filled with fake people and pretense. I thought I was happy when in reality I am not. That was the only kind of life I was aware of until I met you. My world is very small and I feel even smaller in it now".
"That's Shan !! I am sorry you feel that way. But you know what, you have got your heart in the right place. That is what matters", Adam felt bad for her.
"You think so?", she was getting attracted to his kind nature and genuineness in his words.
"I have no doubt", he said cheerfully. Gayle smiled. Adam looked into the lake.
"This is a good spot", he said and anchored his boat. He took out the fishing rods, attached the bait on the hooks, and gave one rod to Gayle. They threw the fishing
line in the water and waited.
"So is your farm nearby?", Gayle asked.
"Yes, I can take you there someday if you want"
"I can't wait to visit", she smiled. Her eyes twinkled. Her golden hair was pulled up in a tight bun. He admired the few locks of her hair that fell casually on the smooth skin of her forehead and neck. Adam knew he was falling for her charm. He then remembered what his grandpa always used to say - never get mixed with those high-class people.' Dreaming of moving up the social ladder will only pull you down further lad', he used to say.
Gayle's rod felt heavier."Oh there, I think I got one!!", she shouted in excitement.
"A Salmon. Pull that beauty up, now come on", Adam helped her.
"I am having so much fun!",Gayle said.
"Glad that you are", Adam said. Their eyes locked for a moment.
"It is getting cold and dark. We should probably go back", she said.
"Right, I did not realize". Adam rowed towards the shore. He helped her get out."Are you sure you will manage to go on your own?".
"Yes, sure. I will see you".She always felt sad when they had to part.
"Thanks for my dinner", Adam said holding up the fish.
"My first catch.Hope you enjoy it. Bye then", she said.
Adam looked at her walk away and vanish at the turn of a muddy lane that led to her mansion.
Aileana was waiting impatiently for her daughter".You are late", she said irritably.
"I will change right away", Gayle hurried to her room. Maria and Aileana followed.
"Where have you been? Maria tells me you don't want her to accompany you these days. What is this newfound adventure all about?"
"Nothing mother. Can't a woman have some lone time of her own?".
"It is unusual, that is all", replied her mother looking suspicious.
"There is nothing unusual about it. If you both would allow me, I will change for dinner".
Aileana and Maria looked at each other."Ah dinnae ken. She is not quite herself", said Maria.
The Hemsfield family had guests for dinner that night. They had invited The Porters with the hope that Gayle and Lucas Porter might end up liking each other. They were old family friends but drifted apart when the Porters moved to Edinburgh. When the Hemsfield's came to know that they were back in Dores to spend the rest of their retired life, Aileana suggested it would be a great idea to reconnect."We are so happy that you decided to move back here", she said during dinner.
"Us too. We have always wanted to settle down where we grew up", replied Mr.Porter."Lucas will continue to manage our estates there".
"Gayle, when you were kids you and Lucas used to dress up and perform the country dance for us all the time, do you remember?", asked Mrs.Porter.
"I am afraid no, Sorry. Well it was a long time ago", said Gayle. She was feeling uncomfortable.
Butlers went around serving courses of Cullen skink, fish, roast meat, pudding fruits, and caramel shortbreads while the two families engaged in political discussions, talking about the affairs of the town, fashion, gossips and small talks. Lucas and Gayle hardly spoke. Post dinner they all went to the tea room. Tea was served. Lucas went looking around the room and came sat next to Gayle. Aileana kept glancing at them now and then hoping they would hit it off. After some time, Lucas spoke, "Gayle, have you been to Edinburgh?".
"Just once, for my cousin's wedding. Did not get a chance to look around".
"You should come again. It is a nice place. I would like to show you around".Gayle responded with a smile. She was thinking of Adam, his simplicity, how he made her feel, how he appreciated her for what she was, how time flies talking to him. She couldn't wait for the night to get over.
As he promised, Adam took Gayle to his farm one day. A thousand acres of greenery stretched before her. A hundred cows and fifty sheep grazed around. The yellow mustard fields glowed in the broad daylight. Amidst all this, there stood a small beautiful house. A few eucalyptus trees were growing nearby. A little far away on the backside there were sheds for the animals and a stable where two horses were being fed by an old man. On one side of the house, a vast area was dedicated to vegetation. Wheat, barley, potatoes, few other vegetables, and root crops grew there. Gayle had never seen anything like this in all her life.She walked towards the house led by Adam. Adam's mother Marie opened the door with a broad smile."It is so wonderful to have you here today dear, please come in", she said. The house was small but warm and welcoming."Where is grandpa?", Adam inquired.
"He is tending to the horses", replied Marie.
Gayle sat on one of the cozy chairs in the drawing-room while Marie served tea."Your home is lovely", Gayle told Marie.
Marie beamed with happiness."Glad you are liking it. I should be frank, We have never had people like you here we were a bit worried if you would feel uncomfortable",
"Oh!. I feel quite the opposite. It is a beautiful place", said Gayle.
"Do we have a guest?", Adam's grandfather Larry hopped in cheerfully.
"Grandpa, meet Gayle. Gayle, this is my grandpa Larry", Adam introduced them to each other.
"It is so nice to meet you. I have heard a lot about you from Adam. He speaks so highly of you", Gayle said shaking hands with Larry.
"Likewise", Larry said and winked at Adam.
"You must be hungry. Adam, my boy help me set the table for supper will you?", Marie said.
Grandpa gave Gayle a tour around their house while Adam and Marie got things ready for supper."I hope she is having a good time", Marie said nervously in a low voice.
"I am sure she is. Now don't get all worked up.", Adam said. Marie smiled.
"It is very difficult to mend a broken heart dear. I don't want you to go through that", she said looking at Adam.
Before Adam could say anything Larry and Gayle approached the dining table."I am starving, everything smells so good", Gayle said.
Adam and Gayle walked along with the mustard fields after supper."You must be missing your father", Gayle said."Yes, I do. He loved this farm".
"I love your farm too and you have got a lovely family", said Gayle.
Adam smiled."I am quite sure they are fond of you too".
"What about you?", she asked.
"What about me?", asked Adam.
"Are you fond of me?"
"Look, Gayle, it is for the best if we don't take our relationship any further. You and me, we live different lives".
"I can't stop thinking about you, Adam. I know my parents are never going to accept this but I don't care. I know I will be happy with you, here, with your family".
"I don't think you are used to this kind of life Gayle. It is not as easy as it looks. Harvest was not good in the last couple of years. We don't have much to eat sometimes.This year looks promising but I can't promise to provide any luxuries that you are used to. I don't want to be the reason for stopping you from having a wonderful life."
"How in the name of God do I make you understand. You are denying me a wonderful life by not accepting me".
"When you start living our life, you will begin to regret doing so.Give it time and think about it. Things would have been different if..", he didn't finish his sentence.
"If what Adam?", Gayle asked.
"Nothing. Why don't I walk you back to your home now".Saying so, Adam turned and started walking. Gayle followed. She didn't want to argue. They reached the muddy lane that lead to The Hemsfield house.
"Good night Gayle", Adam said.
"I love you, Adam. I know you do too", said Gayle and walked away.
Adam was dying to hear those words. He was desperate to say it back to her. Looking at the full moon over the mustard fields, he sat on the bench thinking about Gayle . He did not realize his grandpa walking towards him."What is with you lad?", Larry asked.
"Gayle loves me", Adam said.
Larry sat next to Adam."What about you?". Adam did not say anything."We are different Grandpa", he said after a while.
"How so?", asked Larry."There are exceptions in that lot you know. If you love her for the person that she is, you have our blessings son", he said.
"Now I will leave you alone with your thoughts".Kissing goodnight Larry walked back into the house.
Dinner conversation in Hemsfield house was The Porters. Gayle's parents kept hinting how Lucas might be a good match for her. She began to feel irritated and snapped."I love someone and it is not Lucas".She stormed out of the dining room and went running into her bedroom. Her mother followed".
Is it true what you said?"
"Yes mother"., Gayle said.
"Who is it? What does he do?"
Gayle told all about Adam. Aileana was shocked. Daughters choosing their husbands, especially from a class considered lower than theirs was not very common.
"How dare you do such a thing? Falling in love with a farmer? Tatties o’wer the side. Oh, I can't breathe. I think I am going to faint. What am I supposed to tell your father?"
"Mother, I love him. What is wrong with farming? They own a big farm and a nice house. It might not be as big as this mansion but I know that is where I will be happy".
"Oh dear, you saw something different and you are caught up in it's fancy. This will pass and then you will need a comfortable life. He cannot give you that. Forget the whole thing and behave well.
"I believe I have better head than that Mother", Gayle was furious.
"Oh, your father is going to be so disappointed".Aileana sat down exhausted on the bed.
Long arguments and fights went on for days at the Hemsfield house. Gayle's parents and her friend Maria tried their best to talk some sense into her. But Gayle would not budge. Today, as Gayle walked in her garden enjoying the crisp evening air, she finally decided to meet Adam the next day to let him know of her decision.
"Are you sure dear", Marie asked Adam as they were having breakfast.
"Yes Ma, I have given it enough thought. I am going to meet the parents and ask her hand in marriage", Adam said.
"Go on then", Larry smiled.
Soon, Adam left for The Hemsfield house. Gayle went out for a walk in the lake early in the morning. She was very excited. She thought of going to Adam's house later in the day when she got a chance, to inform him that she had made up her mind. She looked at the beautiful expanse of the blue lake. The morning air cleared her mind. Suddenly, she heard a movement from behind her. She turned back to check and the next minute she was drowning deep into the ice-cold water, gasping for breath. Images of Adam and his farm, her parents, her home, Maria, passed in front of her and dissolved in the depths of the lake. She struggled to reach the surface but her legs failed. She went down and down and her head hit something hard. She passed out. After a while, she saw a bright light coming towards her. Kelpi, the horse, white as a ghost came gliding towards her. She reached out her hands. Someone then grabbed Gayle tightly around her waist and pulled her out of the lake. The light faded and only darkness was left. Edward checked on her. "She is dead", he told Tom."I will go inform the family, you stay here", Edward said and ran towards the Hemsfield house.
The neighborhood was doomed in the aftermath of the shocking incident. Everybody was convinced it was a suicide. Gayle's parents were inconsolable and filled with remorse. They couldn't stop blaming themselves for the death of their only child. Adam was broken. He wandered alone in the night and drank too much. He took off now and then not telling anyone and then would return after a couple of days drunk and tired.
"I can't watch my boy ruining himself like this". Marie cried.
"I thought this was going to end differently. I was wrong. Never get mixed up with that lot. Never!!", Larry shouted."I encouraged him, Marie. I thought she was nice".
"I guess she was Larry. She loved our son. It was her situation that led her to do this".
"A little courage to fight for her love would have been nice"
"Stop blaming her Larry. God knows what she was going through to drive her into this. I am just worried about our boy. Will we ever get him back?"
"We will. It will be alright. Time heals".Larry consoled her.
Funeral took place after a week of Gayle's death. Friends and family gathered and prayed for Gayle's soul. Her coffin rested under the cold surface of the Dores Parish church graveyard. Adam visited the grave once with a bunch of her favorite daisies, knelt on the wed mud, and cried his heart out."I was coming for you. I am sorry that I hurt you, Gayle. I am dying of guilt every minute of every day".Hoping and wishing for her to wake up from her grave and come back to him, he cried. A couple of days passed. Edward chose windy midnight for his mission. Thunder was rumbling and it was drizzling. He began to dig out earth from Gayle's grave. Tom was nervous.
"It doesn't feel like we are doing the right thing. I feel like shit", he said.
"Do you need the money or not?", asked Edward.
Tom needed the money so desperately. Not thinking any further he helped Edward pull Gayle's body out. They covered her with a sheet and left the place like it was before."No one will notice a thing"., Edward assured. They put her in a box, placed it in Edward's carriage, and drove towards Dr.Alexander's lab. The rain was pouring down heavily by now. They knocked on Dr.Alexander's door and he opened it after a few minutes."Did anyone see you?", he whispered.
"Not a soul", Edward said.
"Come on in", Dr.Alexander invited them in. The room was lit dimly by a candle."Place it right here", he said.
"Here is your money", he thrust the promised amount into Edward's hands.
"Thank ye Doctor", Edward said. Both of them left happily.
The doctor got what he wanted for his research. Tom and Edward got their money. Deformed and dissected, Gayle's body was buried again a little away from the lake under a willow tree. Dores received its first snowfall of the year. Kelpi, making shallow hoof prints on the fresh snow, walked towards the willow tree."Wake up Lady, the time has come", he whispered in a musical voice. Gayle's spirit slowly began to rise above. Scars disappeared, her skin glowed, her golden hair was hanging down her back."It was you that I saw under the lake", she realized. The musical voice spoke,
"You prayed to the good spirit
I owe her and I came hither
I shall be at your service
And fulfill your wish".
"Love was denied to me", Gayle said."I am a coward now who killed herself. How many lives have they taken? How many more await this injustice? I cannot let this happen to anyone else anymore". She looked at Kelpi and asked, "My pursuit may go on for days and years. It could be tiring and never-ending. Will you stand by me throughout the journey?"
"Take the form of a beautiful lady and off you go to the men who killed me. Show them what it feels like to lose the love of his life".
Edward was tending to his horses. He transported people and dropped off goods now and then around town but he made more money from the body-snatching business. He saw a gorgeous woman walking towards him. For a minute he thought he was dreaming of an Angel walking on the earth."I seemed to have lost my way", she said."Would you be kind enough to give me a ride to Drumblair crescent?".Spellbound, Edward only managed to say "Sure".He helped her get into the carriage. All his ride he kept fighting his urge to turn back and look at her. As he dropped her off, he said, "If you need a ride, I will be at Loch Ness View. That is where I wait for rides".She smiled and walked away. The next morning when Edward was waiting for his ride, Katherine walked to his carriage asking for a ride again. In the next few months, Edward and Katherine became inseparable. He was head over heels in love with her. He dreamed about her day and night and waited desperately for their time together. They kissed and danced and went for long journeys in the carriage together. When Katherine was sure that Edward has completely fallen for her, she vanished. Edward waited and waited for her to come but in vain. He lost his other customers. He lost his business. She left him lovelorn. The unexpected end to his love life broke him into pieces. Kelpi came back to Gayle and sang,
"Love unrequited and broken
He will wander like a lost soul
In the highlands forever
I will haunt him not letting him rest
Until he finds peace in his own grave."
Kelpi did the same to Tom. Gayle told Kelpi one day, "I want to see my parents and then Adam". Kelpi took her to Hemsfield's house that night. A house that once stood tall with pride looked haunted. Except for the light from one of the windows, there was darkness everywhere."I wonder how my parents are doing", Gayle said and glided into the house. Inside the study, lit up by a few candles, Mr. and Mrs. Hemsfield sat mourning the death of their daughter. They looked tired, sleepless, and exhausted. Gayle wanted to hug them and console them. Maria brought some food to the room."Oh, my dear friend, you are here! I am so happy you are here and my parents are not alone", cried Gayle. Kelpi stood next to her and said,
"Worry not for this shall pass
When they start seeing you in her
She will be their's, they will be her's
The house will light up like old times.
His words brought some relief to Gayle. He then took her to Adam's farm. Gayle watched him clear the snow from the pathway. He was lost in deep sorrow. There was no life in him. His face was deprived of all the happiness. He had lost weight and looked older for his age."I have ruined so many lives, I have sinned", Gayle began to sob. Kelpi sang a song and blessed Adam,
"As days go by he will encounter love again
It will pull him back to his feet
He will then live happily for years
So kind lady, be in peace"
Gayle said to Kelpi,"Nothing would make me happier than to see Adam smile again and live a wonderful life with wife and children".Saying so she mounted the Kelpi and glided into the distance. Gayle's spirit continued to live on the highlands of Scotland for many more years, saving innocent people from becoming victims of a cruel murder.