Alex's Celtic Knot Clan Wallace Crest.
Knowing Her...again...Ch 2
Explaining to Dany and Ann what she planned to do, had been easier than Ellie had hoped. She got the feeling that her two buddies had discussed her situation and resolved to stay out of it.
"Are you sure?" was the only question Ann asked, and seemed content with the response. They had agreed to carry on running Ellie's business and, despite their own misgivings about how well they would do without their front woman, Ellie convinced them to give it a go.
Alex and Ellie were due to fly to Scotland in 2 days, so the three friends thrashed out their plans in intensive sessions until they were all happy with the result.
Alex had arranged the flights and phoned Uncle J to warn him of another guest at his party. Even stoical Uncle J couldn't fail to have picked up the tone in Alex's voice, but he decided to ask more questions face to face. He agreed to have Alex's 4x4 taken to the airport so she could drive herself home and promised that Jeannie, his housekeeper, would air Alex's croft and prepare it for her homecoming.
Alex had one final request, which left the Scotsman speechless, but he agreed willingly.
At the Airport, two days later, the two women sat waiting for their flight and pondered how much their lives had changed so quickly, absentmindedly, their finger intertwined and each rubbed the others hand gently. The flight was uneventful and they landed at Glasgow Airport with only a short delay. They separated at the Customs desk, where, Ellie as a US national, was asked her reasons for her visit.
"Purely pleasure" she told the uniformed official and smiled to herself.
She had to give Alex's address in the Highlands as her contact address and she smiled to herself as this gave her a nice, warm feeling.
They gathered their luggage and Alex led Ellie to the car park where she knew her vehicle to be. Ellie's eyes were out on stalks when she saw the monstrous truck,
"It's huge!" she gasped, "What do you use it for?"
"Listen, my wee one, wait till you see where we, are going to be living!!"
They drove north from Edinburgh and Alex promised to show Ellie around at a later date. Ellie shivered, as the temperature of Scotland in early November was considerably different to California. She had wondered why Alex had insisted on stopping to buy a thick padded Wax jacket for her just outside the airport...now she knew why, and gave thanks for Alex's thoughtfulness. The city gave way to country roads that skirted large expanses of water Alex informed her , were Lochs,...not PONDS as Ellie had suggested!! Their journey of 200 miles seemed to fly by as Ellie marvelled at the beauty of the mountains and hills surrounding them.
They stopped for lunch and ate Scottish smoked salmon on fresh brown bread flavoured with lemon and black pepper....
"I have always loved salmon." Ellie mumbled as she devoured her third sandwich.
Alex smiled with pleasure to see Ellie so relaxed and her own spirits soared to be back home in her beloved Scotland, with this beautiful woman.
As they drove along a normal two lane road, Ellie was surprised to find that Alex turned the truck onto what looked like a dirt track.
"Why, Doctor Wallace," Ellie drawled in her best southern belle voice, "Where are ya'll takin lil ol me?"
Alex grinned and gunned the truck engine as the road began to become steeper. In a few moments Ellie was gasping at the route they were travelling. The single track road was near vertical and long looping hairpin bends were the only thing that made it navigable ...Ellie now realised why Alex drove the big truck!! They stopped half way up the road so that Ellie could see the view back down the valley.
"Honey, it's just amazin'. " Ellie's voice revealed her awe in this magnificent scene. The waterfalls were cascading from the hanging valleys of the valley that had been carved through the land by ancient glaciers.
As they reached to top, the plateau before them had its own stark beauty, and small patches of water filled the tarns left from the ravages of those same glaciers that had formed this landscape, in the many ice ages suffered by this northern land.
They finally arrived in the coastal village of Applecross as the winter sun disappeared, and a few scattered cottages appeared in the gloaming.
Alex drew into the car park of the Applecross hotel where the sign showed an image of a Stag with full antlers, and proudly proclaimed,
"Proprietor James D. Wallace"
She stopped and as Ellie stepped down from the truck, Alex steadied her and asked,
"Are you OK to do this now? Would you rather rest and see Uncle J tomorrow?"
"I won't say I'm not more than a little nervous to meet your family, but I want to know them and your home ,Alex, I just hope they like me." She sounded worried.
"They will love you as much as I do...who could resist the long fall into those beautiful green eyes...they are the windows to our souls, my wee one. They will all be your slaves." Alex chuckled.
"There's only one person I want to fall into my soul....and she has done that already." Alex felt her eyes fill with tears as she gazed at this wonderful woman who had left her life behind, to be with her.
The lights of the hotel lit their path to the door and, as they entered, they heard the gentle sounds of voices and laughter. This soon changed to loud greetings as Alex's arrival was noticed.
"Alex, welcome home!!"
"Hey Lassie, we missed ya."
Alex was surrounded by people hugging her and slapping her back and Ellie stood back a little, to soak up the love and pleasure,that these people felt.....just cos Alex was home.
Alex extricated herself from the throng, and searched for Ellie, their eyes met and Alex blushed as she saw the love shining out from her girls eyes.
They moved together to hands clasped when suddenly, Alex was pulled away from her by a giant of a man, with a huge beard streaked with red and silver.
"Darling Lassie of mine.....about time you came home "
This, Ellie realised had to be Uncle J and she could see the resemblance in the same startlingly blue eyes that so mesmerised her, when she looked at Alex.
"Hey, Uncle J, I missed you too....let me down, I want to introduce you to ..."
The big man looked at Ellie, and for a moment she felt his ice blue eyes assess her. Then he offered a huge hand and ,as she put her own tiny hand in his, she felt the full force of the charisma that must run in the Wallace genes, and smiled as he gently kissed the back of her hand.
"Welcome, welcome to my humble abode, beautiful wee lassie.... Cued Mile Failte, Ellie".
Ellie looked at Alex quizzically.
"It's an ancient Gaelic greeting...it means A Hundred Thousand Welcomes." Alex whispered as the greeting was repeated and reverberated around the bar, to the chink of glasses raised in toast.
"Now then, wee lassie, what can I get you." Uncle J reverted to his role as host, and walked to the other side of the bar.
"Now then Uncle J, we've just flown half way around the world and we need some sleep." Alex insisted, "There will be plenty of time to catch up tomorrow."
Although he pretended to grumble, Uncle J knew she was right and as he pulling his niece into a hug, he made them promise to come see him the next day.
Back in the truck, Alex cast a glance at Ellie.
"Are you OK, my love??.....he's a big guy with a big heart, but he's gentle as a lamb. He wouldn't hurt a fly. You'll get used to him."
In the back of Alex's mind reared the spectre of Ellie's Father and her heart warmed at the young blonds reply.
"I love him already". Ellie smiled and wondered at the magic being woven around her that made her feel able to say and feelthese things.
It was only a few minutes along another track before Alex pulled into an even smaller track, and came to a stop outside a single story, stone built building, .
Lights shone out from the windows and Ellie heard the gentle thrum of a generator from behind the Croft. Alex opened the door and she stood back to let Ellie pass her and enter. Alex held her breath, she was desperate for Ellie to like her home...She dropped the luggage on the floor and turned to shut the door. A big log fire burned in the imposing fireplace that almost filled one wall of the living room, and its warmth quickly replaced the heat lost when they had entered. The room was simply furnished. Two large, well worn, brown leather couches sat either side of the hearth. A coffee table made from rough wood and a pile of big brightly coloured cushions in front of the fie completed the inventory. Ellie was standing in the centre of the room and slowly turned in a circle ... She moved to gently touch the photographs and objects dotted around the room; she lifted the fossils and driftwood she instinctively knew her girl, had found, and treasured. She breathed in the atmosphere of this strange and wonderful world and felt the power of Alex's personality in it. For a brief moment, she felt a chill go down her back as something dark touched her soul and she sensed some pain amongst the stored memories in the room, but this passed very quickly as she turned back to see the anxious expression on Alex's face . She opened her arms and as Alex moved to hold her.
"I love it, Hon...it's just amazing!!"
Alex's relief was palpable and she kissed Ellie with the fervour of relief.
"Is Alex Wallace a Scot??" Ellie laughed as she noticed that Alex's Scottish accent, almost unheard in the States, was getting stronger by the minute.
"I'm sure Jeannie will have left something for us. Why don't you have a wander around...that will take all of 2 minutes...it's only a small place!!"
In the kitchen, which was small but well stocked, Alex went to the huge range sitting in a chimney breast surrounded by the logs which fired it. She took a casserole from the range and grabbing two plates and two forks from the cupboard, returned to the fire. She settled herself on the rug and waited for Ellie to finish her inspection.
Ellie walked slowly from the main living room into a small hallway where she could see three doors. The first was the bathroom and she was not surprised to see all modern conveniences. She felt instinctively that Alex didn't mind roughing it on digs, but at home, liked her comforts.
The second door led to a small study where Alex obviously worked from home. All the 21st century technology was there. Satellite phone and internet connection sat easily next to the bird feathers and driftwood that made Alex's home, so strange a mix of old and new.
A glint of metal caught her eye and, in the corner, Ellie saw the shiny metal of a large sword. It had a filigreed metal hand grip and seemed well cared for...she cocked her head to one side, and thought again about how things to do with Alex, awoke so many long forgotten memories.
Behind the door, Ellie noticed a gut strung guitar and sticking out of it's soundbox, a silver penny whistle. She smiled and thought that she still had much to remember about her love.
The final door entered the bedroom and in the gentle lamp light, Ellie saw the massive carved headboard where the motif that adorned Alex's favourite waistcoat, was clear to see. The bed was covered in a thick quilt and a tapestry bedcover, rich in the reds and greens of what Ellie assumed was the Wallace tartan. She smiled and realised that her woman was a Scot through and through. Ellie suddenly wanted to be in that big bed, wrapped up in Alex's arms, but her grumbling stomach drove her back to the warm fire.
As Ellie opened the door to the living room, she smiled at Alex, whose expression revealed many unasked questions.
"Fascinating... my love, you are an anachronism ...big time!!
Alex seemed happy with this and they ate the meal with bread fresh from the Hotel kitchen that day.
When they had finished, Ellie scooted over and put her head on Alex's lap as the tall woman stretched out her legs and leant against the couch. The firelight caught the reds and copper strands of the dark head and the golden ones of the blond. The only sound was the crackle of the log fire until Ellie whispered.
"Happy" Alex asked gently.
"What do you think??" Ellie turned to face Alex and moved to begin a kiss that would soon cause them both to want to move to the bedroom....urgently!!!!.....and so they did.
The next day found them still cuddled up beneath the goose down quilt, just enjoying being together.
Alex spoke first, "We'd better get over to the hotel soon or Uncle J will send the boys over."
Ellie asked, "The BOYS??" her green eyes wide..
"Trust me, my darlin', you've a lot to learn about Applecross!!"
Finally, extricating herself from the warm bed, Ellie enjoyed a really hot shower then dressed in warm jeans and two sweaters, the latter at Alex's insistence.
"Trust me, this is the Highland winter, munchkin, .and you are gonna need all the warmth you can get."
Ellie just snuck up behind Alex and putting her arms around the tall woman's waist, murmured seductively, "I've got all the warmth I need right here."
Alex turned within her arms and enveloped Ellie in a big bear hug that left them both breathless. Alex seemed to be even taller as Ellie looked up and up into her lover's face.
She took a deep breath, "By all that's holy, Alex." she whispered, "You are BEAUTIFUL!!"
Alex was truly moved by the adoration she saw in that beautiful face and she gathered herself to whisper,
"As you Americans say. Back at ya ...bigtime ...my lovely, lovely girl."
After a few moments, Alex looked at Ellie and spoke,
"Ready for the fray??"
"Lead on Mac Wallace!!" Ellie grinned, and took the outstretched hand.
For the first time, Ellie saw the croft in daylight and she gasped as her eyes swept a 180 degree horizon of sea and islands crags.
"Those are the cliffs of the islands of Rona and Raasey, "Alex pointed to the west. She, herself, was drinking in the view as she re-connected with her ancient roots, and smiled at the look of awe on Ellie's face.
Looking back at the croft, Ellie could see how it lay in the lee of the equally impressive crags of the mountains surrounding it, protected on three sides from the wind and weather. The spring that fed the cottage water supply gushed from a natural stone conduit into a water tank, hidden by the rocks. The scene was timeless and could have been from any of the centuries past.
The sea was calm and the clear blue skies were disturbed only by a few wispy clouds.
"You know, we Scots have a saying."
"What, only ONE!!" Ellie teased
"Watch it, Yank," Alex grinned and continued "If you can see Raasay, it's going to rain...if you can't see Raasay...it is raining!!. So you are honoured, my love, the sea nymphs are too busy gazing at your beautiful face to make trouble today!!"
Ellie swatted Alex's rear and pulled her away up the track to the hotel.
In the daylight, the Hotel was revealed as an imposing stone built building. Its windows faced the bay in the same way that Alex's croft did, and the view was just as stunning.
As they entered, Alex was quickly grabbed into a big hug, by a large woman with grey hair pulled into a bun. "I had left when you got home last night, Alex, How are you? How did it go in America? Will they publish the book? What about the TV series??"
"Whoa Jeannie, one question at a time." She smiled indulgently at the woman who had played such a large part in her life. "First of all, I want you to meet Ellie, my....."
Jeannie stopped and looked at Ellie with clear, grey eyes; she assessed her, as Uncle J had done the previous evening, and obviously liked what she saw.
"Welcome, wee lassie" she whispered "Welcome home."
Both Alex and Ellie felt their throats tighten at the simple message and all three women turned to enter the bar together.
Although, only 11am, the bar was already populated by some locals and a few hotel guests. Alex waved returning the greetings she was receiving, and looked around for the imposing bulk of Uncle J. An imaginative curse echoed up from the cellar and shortly afterwards, J appeared from the trapdoor in the floor of the bar and rubbed his head.
"Forty years and I still forget to duck." He muttered to himself, and then he saw the smiling faces of the three women watching him. His attempt to gather his dignity, as he coughed and began to polish a glass, failed dismally as the three women all burst out laughing.
"Och, Away with you women, can a man have no respect in his own home??"
Alex soothed his ruffled feathers with a big hug and kissed his head better.
The big man melted at this display of affection and grabbed her in a big hug.
"Did you two sleep well?" he asked and catching the shy look that passed between them, he threw his head back and roared with laughter. "I'll take that as a yes, shall I??!"
Two men, dressed for the weather in warm padded jackets, entered the bar.
They both let out an ear splitting Highland battle cry, and as Alex whooped a reply, they hurried over to her to wrap their arms around her.
"About time you got back, big girl!! "
"Yeh, Yeh I know. You missed the fish I catch for you!!" Alex teased
"Fightin talk, Wallace...is that a challenge??"
Turning to include Ellie, Alex took her hand and drew her to her side. She wrapped an arm around the blond woman's waist and introduced her.
"Ellie, these two rapscallions are Hamish and Donald, the closest thing I have to brothers. Boys, this is Ellie."
The two men blushed; each took one of Ellie's hands and smiled.
"Nice to meet you, Ellie. "
They looked at Alex and grinned. "Big J tells us you have tamed this wild woman of ours!!"
Those in the bar close enough to hear, laughed and clapped as Alex stood dumbfounded and Ellie's face lit up with a smile that she could see reflected in every face around the bar.
"Enough" cried Alex. "We are going for a walk, before I die of embarrassment. This is the equivalent of showing a picture of me naked on a rug as a baby, isn't it, you buggers!!"
Her indulgent smile took any sting from her words and her obvious affection for the two men shone through.
Jeannie came in from the kitchen with a rucksack which she handed to Alex.
"Your usual rations, Alex, and some extras too. Be back by 6, its J's party tonight and I'll need you two girls to help. The men here are hopeless."
She cast a disparaging eye at Hamish and Donald and they quickly melted away for fear of being roped in.
Waving goodbye, Alex and Ellie walked out of the hotel and surveyed the scene before them.
Ellie put her arms around her girls waist and asked, "Do you feel tamed, my love, cos I like the wild woman in there," she placed her hand on Alex's breast and got a sideways glance in return.
"I'm putty in your hands, Ellie, you melt me like an ice cube in a warm bath, but I think you already know that."
They stood for a moment, just resting in the warmth of the connection that bound them.
The weather remained fine and Alex was happy to take Ellie on a walk around the headland, to the north of Applecross Bay. There she pointed out the remains of the Iron Age huts where she had played as a child. She waved her hand to the north, to the far distance where, she told a rapt audience there is a waterfall and a clear pool where they could swim in the summertime.
Alex led the beautiful blond to a small indent in the rocks of the cliffs and spread out a blanket taken from the rucksack. They were sheltered from the wind as Alex laid out the pasties and cakes provided by Jeannie. Ellie realised she was starving and filled her mouth with the lovely flavours...
"Hmmm Hmmm." She showed her appreciation of the delicious food and then turned her gaze to Alex, who appeared to be someplace else.
"Penny for 'em Darlin'." She asked and searched her lovers face with concern.
Alex shook her head a little and spoke quietly.
"I used to find myself here a lot when I was a kid, I was always drawn here but I never knew why. Uncle J tells me I used to walk here in my sleep and he would find me crying."
Ellie finished the mouthful of food and reached out.
"Honey, we both seem to be carrying some baggage, I wish I could have been here for you then."
"As I wish I could have stopped your Father..." Alex stopped and looked over,
"Sorry, didn't mean to bring that up again."
"Don't apologise, Babe, don't ever apologise to me for caring." Ellie's green eyes reflected the light, and the moisture in them twinkled briefly, before she wiped her hand over her face.
They drank some of the hot tea from a flask and sat close together watching the gulls soar overhead.
They returned to the Croft at about 4pm and relaxed for an hour before getting ready to return to the hotel for J's party. Ellie suddenly put her hand to her mouth and gasped, "Alex, I don't have a gift, what will he think of me and him being so welcoming and all."
"Hey, no panic, His gift is from both of us, it's OUR'S and it's wrapped and ready."
Ellie, every now and then, would stop and wonder at this amazing woman who had plucked her from what she had though of as her life, to bring her here to this warm and gentle place. She savoured the 'OUR'S' and smiled at how simple a word could be so powerful.
Ellie decided to wear a simple outfit of black trousers and a white blouse .Alex had her usual blue outfit on and they stood and looked at each other.
"Boy, are we gonna knock'em dead." Ellie grinned.
Just a minute," Alex went to the bedroom and returned with a silk scarf that she proceeded to tie around Ellie's neck.
As she watched Alex tie it, Ellie realised that the scarf had on it, the same ancient design as Alex's waistcoat; she savoured the moment and its enormous affect on her.
"Wow, Alex, that is so beautiful." She murmured, "Thank you, my love, thank you for all of this."
"No, Ellie, thank you for making all of this come to life for me." They kissed the gentle kiss of two deeply happy people and gave thanks to their goddesses.
Alex drove to the hotel in the truck as when they left, later that night; she knew it would be too dark and dangerous to walk back.
The Hotel was already filling with people invited to share J's Birthday party and the atmosphere was warm an inviting. A huge log fire burned in the inglenook fireplace and lamps lit the room, casting dancing shadows on the walls.
Jeannie bustled around and when she saw the two women, she gestured to them to come to the kitchen. Delicious smells wafted out and the table of food already laid out in the room, was groaning under the weight of it all.
Alex and Ellie set to, and helped to complete the job.
At 8pm, both women turned to the door as the skirl of the bagpipes heralded Uncle J's impressive entrance. Ellie gasped at the sight of the huge Scot, in full Highland Dress enter the room led by the Piper. It was the image of ancient Highlanders going into battle that she remembered from books as a child, and she smiled as she saw the rapt expression on her lover's face as she watched her Uncle in his domain.
The party got going, big time, the food and drink flowed and Ellie felt caught up in the sheer joy of life exuding from these wonderful people. Her throat tightened as she remembered Alex's offer to give all of this up to be with her, in America, and she knew her decision to follow Alex, had been the right one.
A small group of musicians were gathering by the fire and this appeared to be a usual thing for parties at the Applecross Hotel. There were two fiddles, several guitars and two women had the round drum like Bourans on their laps, with the drumsticks at the ready. They struck up a Scottish reel and people began to clear the room for dancing. Soon the tartans were flying and the floor shook as the dancers kicked and whirled around, the room echoed with their whoops and yells.
How the hell do they make that much noise without hurting themselves?" Ellie mused.
Alex had returned to Ellie's side with two glasses of beer and answered,
Lots of practise and bucket loads of single malt!!" She smiled and turning to Ellie, asked.
"Want to dance, lovely Lady?"
"Don't even go there if you want to keep your toes intact...I've got two left feet." Ellie responded wistfully. "Let's just watch, Huh?"
Time flew by and it was at 11pm when the floor cleared and a call went up.
"Alex...it's your turn, come on!!."
Ellie looked at her girl and saw her blush and shake her head.
Uncle J pushed his way through to her and taking her face in his hands, looked into her eyes without saying a word.
Alex returned his gaze and smiled. "OK...OK ... but only for you Uncle J!!"
She gave Ellie a fond look, shrugged her shoulders and walked to the musicians. She took the proffered guitar and sat on a stool. Her hands ran over the instrument and she strummed a few chords.
"Ok, what'll it be??"
From all over the room, people called out their choice of tune and eventually, Alex cried out. "Hey, OK. How about, Breisleach?"
Roars of approval greeted her choice and Alex smiled.
She nodded to the musicians and they smiled as they readied their instruments.
Alex took the guitar to her lap and strummed a chord, her eyes closed and Ellie was swept away on the sound of her partner's deep rich voice. It swept through her like a wave, she held her arms around herself; and she was relieved to feel the steadying arm of Jeannie who had come to stand behind her.
Alex's voice soared as she sang the ancient Gaelic words, soft and gentle was their sound and Ellie felt the emotion in the words. Gradually, the other musicians joined Alex, with subtle sounds, to complement her beautiful voice. Jeannie's voice whispered in her ear.
"Do you want to know what she is singing?"
"Yes, please," Ellie barely murmured...
Jeannie's voice whispered in her ear, loud enough so that she could hear the words but soft enough to ensure that Alex's voice was clear.
As Alex sang each line, Jeannie translated for Ellie
"I went to the hazel wood yesterday, seeking hazelnuts for food, but on every' branch and twig, was your pursuing face.
I went to the fertile shore yesterday to gather cockles for a meal; every single shell was filled with your beauty, my love.
I went Into the alehouse to expel you from my head, every glass I raised,
your beauty overflowed from it.
I went early to bed last night, to escape you in sleep,
but you kept me awake, til I'd make you a song.
I'd wish we were tom asunder, were we not apart.
Let your presence replace my image of you, and how I'd rejoice.
You've brought me to foolish babbling, tiring friends with praise of you.
When you return, they'll see that all my words are true.
They'll see mountains dance with ripples, mole and eagle step the reel,
Red rasp held by kind sea-eagle, sport before their eyes.
They'll see you and me make merry, lip to lip, our breath as one
caressing thus forever, together our reward. "
As Alex's voice held the last line, the room was utterly silent; a magical hush reigned for just a few seconds before it erupted in applause of clapping hands and stamping feet. Ellie opened her eyes to see Alex's blue ones gazing at her in open adoration, and she only kept her feet because Jeannie's arms were at her waist.
"More, More" yelled the crowd and Alex smiled.
This time Alex spoke to the other musicians and they nodded. The violins, guitars, bourans and penny whistles joined to create the toe tapping rhythms of the Scottish Reels, all hands clapped along and whoops swept the sounds to the rafters. Through all of it, Alex kept her eyes on the only face in the room that mattered, her girl Ellie.
Continued in Knowing Her...again. Ch 3.
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