The following story is a work of *fanfiction first written and published online in 2008. It was inspired by the movie Dear Frankie, available for viewing or purchase on Amazon. Enjoy, comment, share. ~KRB
They left the pub to not so quiet whispers and knowing lecherous winks, which earned the clever winkers a “what the hell is wrong with you?” look from him.
“Over there,” he pointed across the street to a dump truck filled with construction debris.
He opened the passenger door. Emma paused, bracing herself on his arm. He instinctively flexed, a smile tugging the corner of his mouth as she removed her shoes and shortened several inches.
“Big step,” she said.
His smile broadened when she tossed her small clutch and shoes into the seat, hiked her dress above her knees and climbed in. He resisted the urge to cup his hands on her backside for assistance. She, too, felt a small pang of surprise and disappointment that he didn’t at least try.
Emma straightened her dress. Her eyes followed him now. A long-strided swagger? No, but there was a self-assurance in his carriage that made her have to concentrate to keep from staring too long. He gave her a tight smile before starting the engine.
The mostly gentle rocking of the truck lulled Emma into heavy-lidded, thought-free gazing at the countryside. She’d missed the scattered farmhouses and green pastures during her earlier cab ride down this road.
Her chauffeur kept silent. At first politely giving her mourning space and quiet, then he found himself simply enjoying the way her eyes fluttered closed for a few seconds before popping open again. The graceful way her fingers kept tucking the same stray piece of hair behind her ear. Most of all he watched the pink tip of her tongue glide over her lips making them glisten. Begging to be kissed.
He jerked his eyes back to the road when she turned her head.
“What’re we haulin’?” she asked in a soft, southern American accent.
He chuckled. “We, are haulin’ away rubbish. My mate is renovating his house.”
“Oh,” Emma nodded, not knowing what else to say.
They settled into another long, comfortable silence. Emma studied him out of the corner of her eye. Damn, he was handsome, she kept going back to the tiniest bit of silver beginning to show at his temples. He was so still, only the occasional pursing of his lips. She didn’t know many people who could do that, just sit with another person without feeling the need to have the radio or TV blaring, or worse polluting the air with rambling nonsense just to hear oneself talk. He pursed his lips again and she wondered what they would feel like, unconsciously licking her lips, unknowingly pleasing him.
“Which street?” he asked, using two fingers, like someone accustomed to holding a cigarette, to point left then right.
“Huh?” Emma started out of her daze.
“Where do you want me to take you?” he said a bit slower, in case she wasn’t getting every word in his Scottish brogue.
She looked around to get her bearings. “I can walk from here. Save you from having to take this thing around too many corners.” She bent to adjust the strap on her shoes. “Thanks for the ride.”
He pulled the truck to a stop in the middle of the narrow street and set the brake. Before Emma could protest he was out the door coming around to hers.
He opened her door and reached up to her waist. “You’ll never make it down alive in those.” His face lit up when she smiled.
She put her hands on his shoulders and for a moment was weightless, swimming in an emerald sea. His fingers could feel the warmth of her skin through her silky dress. He slowly lowered her, skimming the front of his body as he did. When her feet finally found Earth she hurriedly thanked him again and heart pounding, turned to walk the few streets over to the bed and breakfast she’d booked as an alternative to the tour group hotel, planning to catch up with them later in Edinburgh.
“Do you like boats?” he called after her.
She shrugged, half-turned, “Sure.”
“Do ye own any practical clothes?”
She chuckled and smoothed her hand down the side of the red dress that had caused such a stir earlier in the pub and funeral home. “I do.”
“Tomorrow morning, at that coffee-house on the corner. Quarter eight,” he pointed those long fingers again.
Emma looked up the street. “Okay.”
“Okay, then,” he turned back to the truck.
“Wait! What’s your name?” she called.
He laughed. “Shouldn’t you have asked that before you agreed to a date?” She shrugged again, obviously expecting an answer. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
At the B&B, Emma changed clothes, and packed away her dress and impractical strappy high heels. It was best not to look too tarty when begging favors.
“Mrs. MacNeil, I have a bit of a problem,” Emma smiled at the plump woman behind the front desk.
“Did you catch a chill, luv?” Mrs. MacNeil’s eyebrows had reached her hairline when Emma had walked down the stairs that morning in the figure hugging, plunging neckline, flame red dress.
“No.” Smiling, blushing a little, as a duly reprimanded child should. “I know I’m supposed to check out in the morning, but is there any way I can keep my room for one more night?”
“Oh, luv. I’m sorry.” Genuine disappointment tugging her mouth down. “I have firm reservations for the rest of the week.”
“I understand. Would it be alright if I kept my bags here tomorrow, until I find a new room or decide to go on with my itinerary?”
“Of course. Would you like me to make a few calls? I can see if there is a cancellation. It is a busy time of year,” she was already reaching for the phone.
“I know it is. Would you mind? I don’t care if it isn’t five star, or even two,” Emma clasped Mrs. MacNeil’s free hand in appreciation.
“It’s my pleasure dear. I’ll see what I can do about getting you a good rate.” Patting her hand. “Can I ask what it is that’s keeping you here another day?”
“Boats.” She winked and smiled at her hostess, bounding up to her room to Google the top one hundred boy names in Scotland, and call her hotel in Edinburgh to ask them to hold her room if she didn’t make it by the six o’clock check in.
“What was that about?” Mr. MacNeil asked from behind his paper.
“What it’s always about, Mac. A man.”
“Aye. Did you see that dress?” he chuckled to himself. “If I were twenty years younger…”
“You’d be old enough for her to help across the street.”
The next morning Emma left her bags with Mrs. MacNeil who was still attempting to find a reasonable vacancy. She’d worn her favorite white button-up blouse, the front darts accentuating her curves. A light jacket, jeans and comfortable shoes. As a last thought she pulled her hair in a loose ponytail, even though she’d spent half an hour teasing it so it didn’t look teased, and just as long applying her make-up so she didn’t look too made up.
“Oh for Pete’s sake, he’s not that cute,” she said aloud. The voice in her head laughed. LIAR!
He sat by the window watching her walk up the street to the cafe. Her oblivion to the appreciative glances from the men she passed amused him. Yesterday she’d known and enjoyed the attention. He decided he liked this less obvious version of her better.
“She should have worn more layers though. She’ll get cold,” he mumbled to himself. He envisioned putting his coat around her shoulders. No, not his coat on her shoulders. His arms around her waist.
She waved at him as she rushed to beat a car across the street. He stood when she walked in.
“Am I late?” Emma blew a loose hair off her forehead.
“No. I came early to order take-away.”
A waiter appeared with a thermos of coffee and bag of warm scones the aroma making her stomach rumble loudly. He pretended not to hear, dropped money on the table and gestured to the door.
“We best get going.”
“Okay.” She drifted through the door wishing she’d let Mrs. MacNeil stuff her full of assorted pastries and sausages Emma couldn’t bring herself to attempt. I hope I don’t get car sick. Her fleeting contemplation of possible embarrassment and missed breakfast distracted her from the impossibly long legs walking beside her.
“Ahem,” he held open the door of a late model Range Rover.
“Oh, sorry. I drifted,” Emma waved her hand, brushing away the thought clouds.
He smiled, disarming her completely. “I noticed.”
When he was seated behind the wheel he opened the thermos, poured two travel cups of coffee and handed her a warm blueberry scone.
“Don’t want to be late,” he said, speeding down the narrow street.
“Where are we going?” she was unable to stop smiling. He was thoughtful, kind, handsome. I’m in big trouble.
“To the boat.” It sounded like “boot”. She giggled. “What?” Her laugh warmed him, a lot.
“Fortunately, I’m fluent in accents or I’d think you were seducing me with shoe shopping.”
“Seducing? Is tha what I’m doing?” he asked deliberately thickening his burr. She blushed taking a big bite of the scone. He smiled into his coffee cup.
They hadn’t gone very far before his curiosity began to gnaw at him. He’d spent half the night wondering what her story was and how an American woman ended up dressed for dancing at a funeral in the little village.
“You caused quite the stir yesterday” he said, keeping his eyes on the road. Trying not to look too interested in her reply.
She fished another scone out of the bag. “Women should do that occasionally. Well behaved women rarely make history you know.”
“I’ve heard.” He couldn’t understand his curiosity and couldn’t fight it either. “Did you really take Holy Communion, then lean into the coffin to kiss the man?” He didn’t try to hide his disbelief in that part of the tale.
Her back stiffened. “I did. Not that I owe anyone an explanation but Jack was,” she thought about what he was for a few seconds. “Not who anyone in that pub or that church seemed to think. Not when I knew him anyway. Red harlot! Pfft!” His brows shot up. “Yes, I heard them say it. Not that anyone tried to whisper.” She whipped her body to sit facing his squarely. “If that’s what you think, you can stop the car right now!”
He was startled by the bite in her voice and bit back. “Bloody hell, woman! What do ye think I’m doing here? If I thought you a whore I wouldna have gone out of my way to drive ye and I fer damn sure wouldna have asked ye to come with me today. Or let ye have all the blueberry.” Flicking the paper bag loudly to emphasize his point.
“You went out of your way?” her voice and eyes soft again.
“The lorry dump isn’t exactly close to coffee shops or bed and breakfasts.”
She offered him the last half of the blueberry scone. “Thank you.”
He took the peace offering, looking at it for a minute then taking a bite where he saw a lipstick smear. The intimacy of the gesture made her redden slightly.
“Andrew?” she ventured after a few moments.
He smiled. “No.”
“Robert? Bruce? Argyle?”
“Do ye know nothing of Scotland besides Braveheart?” he looked at her aghast.
“I know some,” she was slightly ashamed that her knowledge was sketchy at best.
“Do ye now?” his brows rose in doubt.
“When I was about twelve, I fell in love with the Earl of Bothwell.” He looked at her surprised and slightly impressed. She scrunched her face earning a small laugh from him. “Okay, so I fell in love with Nigel Davenport’s Earl of Bothwell. I remember seeing the Queen Mary movie on TV,” a faraway look washed over her pretty face causing him to hold his breath, “and thinking, now that is how I want to be kissed someday.” Realizing where she’d inadvertently turned the conversation, she talked faster. “When I finally re-joined the twentieth century, I Googled him. He was quite a champion for Scotland’s separation from England.”
“Some think he just wanted to be king,” he said, tapping his head where a crown would sit.
“History is written by the victors,” Emma answered.
They had been driving for about half an hour, when she saw water.
“Are we here?” she hiked her body up to look out.
“We’ll be crossing here to Old Kilpatric. Then North for another half hour.” She saw the bridge and shifted in her seat. Assuming a posture of complete calm telling herself they would not go flying off into the deep blue. “You said you liked boats. I assumed water was included,” he’d noticed the nervous change.
“I do. It’s bridges over water that make me nervous,” she took a deep cleansing breath and slowly blew it out.
He took her hand. “It’s a good bridge.”
“Are you Roman Catholic?” she asked, continuing her deep breathing.
“Are you proposing or asking for last rites?” She arched a brow at him. “Not as much as the Pope or my mum would like.”
“Matthew, Mark, Luke or John?”
“Thank God, no.”
“Peter or Paul?”
“No, and you’re running out of apostles.”
“That’s okay. I Googled the top one hundred male baby names in Scotland last night.” A very self-satisfied smirk pulled the corner of her mouth.
He threw his head back and laughed, “You know you haven’t told me your name either.”
“You haven’t asked,” she pointed out.
Even though they were well beyond the bridge crossing, her hand remained nestled in his.
While the world bustled outside the rover, inside there was a contented calm. Emma absently began to swirl her finger in the soft hairs on the back of his hand. He found it wonderfully distracting until a blaring horn shook him from the daydream of her performing that ritual elsewhere. When she removed her hand, he keenly felt its absence. That realization surprised him too.
“Is this it?” She craned her neck to see beyond the buildings to the water.
Her excitement drew his smile, “We are.”
“Are we going on a tourist ferry?” Emma pointed to the line of people waiting.
He drove past the car park set aside for the ferry rides. “Better.”
They continued past sailboats of every shape and size, and what she would call party barges. He whipped the car into a covered space.
She was already climbing out of the car. “Where are we?” Emma looked around for a sign.
“Loch Lomond,” he said gravely.
“Seriously?” Emma spun back to stare at the water.
He pulled a basket from the back seat. “Seriously.”
“You mean I’m looking at the bonnie bonnie banks?”
“Aye, lass ye are,” he said grinning, pouring on the burr.
He took her hand again, leading her to a modest sized sailboat. When she was seated he started the motor, untied from the dock and eased away out of the no wake zone.
“When do you put the sails up?” she ran a hand over the covered sails folded over the boom.
“No sails this time.”
She resisted the impulse to say there wouldn’t be another time. “Oh..”
“Are ye disappointed?”
She smiled brightly, “Of course not.” Looking out over the water, “This will make a great story.”
The air was cool. She’d never been boating without the added incentive to get a tan and liked the relaxed feeling. No worrying if something was hanging out or crawling into crevices where it shouldn’t. Water lapped at the side of the boat, spraying her when they crossed the wake of another boat. .
“There’s a towel under your seat,” he said from the wheel.
He didn’t try to conceal the laugh in his voice, and soon felt a slightly damp rag bounce off his head. He slowed to quiet the engine as they neared a ferry obviously carrying tourists, children were running up and down the decks. A voice over the speaker counted out, “Five, six, seven, eight.” The ferry erupted in chorus.
“Oh! ye’ll take the high road and
I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”
The horn blasted, they all clapped then waved at the pair of them. He waved back. Emma looked over her shoulder. “You know them?”
“My brother,” he pointed to a dark haired man stepping out of the wheel house to wave at them. Emma smiled and waved, before he-who-still-had-not-been-named sped up to move them farther up the famous loch.
Emma smiled so big she thought her face would break. “You planned that?”
He winked. “Planned what? Scots are famous for breaking into song. Didn’t you know that?”
“It’s a sad song,” she said with a sigh.
“Aye. Most folk songs are.”
“I guess I only ever knew the one line about the bonnie, bonnie banks.” The single new line, “But me and my true love will never meet again”, played over in her head and across her face. The sadness cut him to the quick.
“Would you like to take the helm?” he asked, hoping to distract her.
She jumped up. “I’d love to. Where do I need to go?”
“It’s a big loch. Go where you like, except into another boat.”
He stepped away from the wheel. She rushed in grabbing hold at ten and two. His hands gripped just below hers. She could feel him behind her, he took her right hand and moved it to a lever.
“This is your speed. Just press this with your thumb and push forward. You won’t go faster than top sailing speed, but you’ll get where you need to go..”
His demonstration forced him to lean into her. The forward movement of the boat pulled her tight against him. She felt his breath on her cheek, his voice soft, the ever present burr like a constant plucking of some inner tuning fork making her very being hum.
“Just pick a place on the horizon and go.”
He didn’t move. Emma turned her face. Their warm breath swirled together in the small space between their lips. She felt the tingle of electricity. He watched her eyes. She stared at his mouth, slightly open, hers parted trembling in a mirror image. She could almost taste him. The neat scruff dusting his jaws was sprinkled with salt just like the hair at his temple. But she didn’t dare look up. If she did she’d be lost in those pools of green. And she knew all too well what day her plane would take her back to America. One, one-night-stand was enough for her in this lifetime.
She blinked and looked ahead. “So your brother drives a ferry boat?”
He sighed and took the seat she’d left. “He owns it.”
“Really?” She was impressed. “I imagine the tourist business here is pretty good.”
“We make a living.”
“My Da, my brothers and I have two ferry’s, this sailboat and a dozen PWCs.”
He pursed his lips searching for her word. I wish he wouldn’t do that, she thought. “Jet skis.”
“Ooooh, how fun.” She looked around and it appeared they were in the middle of the lake. Loch, she mentally corrected herself. “Back to business. Angus?”
He chuckled, spread his arms out over the bench seat, stretching his legs almost the width of the boat. “No.”
She gave him a look that said, “I will win this game”. “I’ll go through the whole alphabet.”
“Looking forward to it.”
“Brett? Colin? Conell? Duncan?”
“Duncan’s me brother,” he cocked his head in the general direction of the other ferry.
“Maybe I should be on his boat,” her voice dripped sarcasm.
“His wife would strongly object. Probably the ex-wife too.”
“Is there an ex-wife who would object to me being on your boat?” Emma asked with a wink.
“No,” he said too quick and too flat.
“No there isn’t an ex or no she wouldn’t object?” Emma pressed.
“No, she wouldn’t object,” he leaned forward eyes trained on the deck, elbows on his knees and clenched his hands together.
“I’m sorry,” she said, not sure if she should or could leave her post and offer him a comforting touch.
“I’m divorced, not a widower,” he said looking up at her, a thin crease in his brow, now.
Emma shrugged, “I’m still sorry.”
“Divorced,” she tried to make it sound as matter-of-fact as it was.
“Children?” he asked and hoped the answer was no.
“No, thank God. I probably would have stayed if there had been.” Time to change topics. “Fergus?”
“Persistent, aren’t you?”
“You know. This might be an even better story if I don’t know who you are,” Emma feigned a dramatic swoon. “Strangers on a train and all.”
“Wasn’t that a murder story? Besides, I think you know enough.”
“We just met,” she reminded him, unnecessarily.
He cocked his head, letting his piercing gaze roam over her. Emma felt it as if he’d poured warm water over her bare skin. “Sometimes, time doesn’t matter,” he said, his voice low and slow.
“Time is like money, it matters if you don’t have any.”
“Are ye dying?”
“No. But I am leaving,” she took a deep breath and looked in awe at the beauty around her. “Although, I can’t imagine anyone born here ever wanting to.”
The next hour they “toodled” around the loch. Several times he asked her to repeat “toodle”, laughing harder each time. He listened with keen interest as she talked about her journalist career and post-divorce job as an editor for an online food blog. She asked about his family and the tour guide business, peppering the conversation with name guesses.
“Evan?” wincing as she spoke.
“No. You don’t like Evan?” he stood and moved closer.
“The ex – Evan. It would be my dumb luck. That’s not true. I have pretty good luck. But God has a sense of humor,” Emma looked up half expecting to see a laughing face in the clouds.
“Pull the lever to stop. We can put up the bimini and have a bite,” he said reaching for the basket.
“I’ve been wondering about that,” she said, almost excited.
“If you were hungry you should have said so,” a slight irritation at the foolishness of women in his voice.
“I wasn’t hungry. I was curious. I decided a long time ago that if I had to,” she mimicked Mammy from Gone With the Wind, “et like a bird fer da genmuns, the gentlemen could kiss my ass.”
“The gentleman should be so lucky,” he mumbled sardonically.
She could see the smirk even though his back was to her, and smiled.
In the basket was cold meat, crusty bread, cheese, wine, bottled water, and a bakery box of assorted cakes.
“A traditional Scottish picnic?” she asked.
“Not quite.” He secured the canopy and dropped the anchor. “What would you call a traditional picnic?”
She began to put a bit of everything on a plate. “Oh, if I were taking you on one, I’d bring fried chicken, potato salad, biscuits with butter and honey. Fresh melon, iced tea. And in a perfect world my homemade ice cream,” she handed him the plate with a beaming smile.
“Are those your favorites?”
“No, I don’t have a favorite. I have a few things I do very well though.”
Her confidence in her abilities without false modesty or vanity was a refreshing change from the games he’d been subjected to in order to stroke his ex-wife’s very large and needy ego.
“How about you? What’s your favorite?” She held up her hand. “If that answer begins with ‘my mother’s…’, I don’t want to know.”
“No problem. My Mum can’t cook for shite.”
“Sorry, I guess I didn’t leave all my baggage with Mrs. MacNeil. MRS.MACNEIL! Oh shit!” she jumped up almost dropping her plate in his lap.
“What?” he reached out a hand to steady her.
“I meant to call her before we got on the boat to see if she found me another room for tonight.” She looked sheepishly at him. “I was supposed to tour an art gallery in Glasgow today then take the train to Edinburgh this evening. My hotel will hold my rooms, so that isn’t a problem.” She sighed, “I’d just hoped I wouldn’t have to go in the middle of the night.” She shrugged again. “Oh, well. Could be worse, I suppose.”
He sipped his wine thoughtfully, “I suppose.”
Without a word he went to the radio calling “Base, this is Dear Frankie. I need a patch.” He looked at Emma, “The number?” She dug through her purse for the B&B’s card. Within minutes he was speaking to Mrs. MacNeil. “Here,” he passed the old fashioned black phone handle to her.
“Mrs. MacNeil, it’s Emma. I’m on a boat. Were you able to….I see. Thank you for making the calls. No, I’ll be by to get them later. Thank you, Mrs. MacNeil.”
“Nothing in my budget.”
He took deep breath and fixed his eyes on hers. “Ye could stay with me.”
Emma just stared up at him. Thankful she was sitting when he’d said that. He kept talking.
“The floor is drafty. The sofa is lumpy. My kitchen sink drips. But the shower is hot and it’s free.”
She rolled her eyes, skepticism clear in her tone, “Free?”
He stood to his full height. The muscle in his jaw twitched. “Free!” he spat the word and looked out on the water. “Ye can sleep bare assed or in a suit of armor. The offer is there. I thought we had this discussion in the car.”
to be continued….
*Fan fiction (also known as fanfic) refers to stories written by fans about the characters, situations, or world of existing works created by others. When Does Fan Fiction Cross An Ethical Line and An Author’s Guide to Fan Fiction both articles from Jami Gold discuss many legal and ethical issues surrounding fanfic. This story is being shared here because, for me, expanding the story to novel length and profiting from it’s publication would be theft.