Deny that Connor is the child of her loins? No, there it was, a lie she'd rather have, for who could fathom the truth of it? That there was no child of her loins called Connor MacLeod, but rather, there was a child of her own heart, made not in a bed, but of her own wish? Aye, for that was how she'd recall it.
"If your God should persecute me into the next world, I shall simply have to find another," she responded. And perhaps he would. Perhaps he would find her a sinner, even after her years of decency and faith. Perhaps for the crime of one lie, such a god as these men believed in would condemn her to hell, and hold love itself to be a sin. Perhaps she would take it up with Him when she met Him, and he would hear an earful of a mother's sorrows.
They called her child a demon. And but hours ago, did she not say she thought he was the water horse, come to drag her into the loch? But he was neither, and though a like changeling found, he was no changeling lad?she knew her son, even when others would not know him. What do these people (her own clan, she reminded herself, her own) begin to know about him?
Do they know about wanting a child so badly you think of little else, and make bargains with God for one? Do they know about the small practices one will do-rituals a girl would laugh at, but a childless wife considers no joke? And wondering what you had done, what offense, for which you'd be denied what other women had? And then, God smiles, and gives you a gift. And then?
God laughs, and tries to take it away!
The other women watched their husbands, sons and brothers go into battle?hers comes back half-dead and is dead--called dead. Taken away--but wait. The hand that gives, takes and gives again. And so he lives, only to be snatched away again--to wander outside of the clan, outcast, alone?
But he was the child of her heart, and so at least she could keep him there?--eny him? No. No child of her loins, but child of her heart; not of her bed, but of her wish. Black powder might bring the ease of death quicker, but what eases her mind over that? Exile him for a demon, burn her for a witch?what did they know of the magic she knew?a wished-for child arrives, a dead son lives? Is that the kind of magic she was burning for?
"My water horse."
She could feel herself being pulled into the loch.
He would still call her "Blossom," at times, and though she knew he said it to be kind, she also knew the flower was fading. He would touch her hair, saying he loved to see it hang free, and yet, she knew that as the dandelion goes to seed, so did white show in the gold of her locks; and when he would take her chin in hand, she knew full well that hers was not the face of the girl he married. But he was still the man that she had.
Oh, but he was still Connor. His words were the same, and his eyes still gave her looks of love, and that was wonderful, but also, he was still the same. And that was hard. He slept beside her in their bed, and at times she would simply lie awake, and notice that. The same. Same young man's face, and lean young man's body, not that she minded a young man in her bed--but she did. No matter how tenderly he loved her, there was some part of her that wondered how he felt about her aging. As she mourned each new line, and wondered over some strange sound heard upon rising, she would wonder how he could share this with her, when lines and creaking joints were things he'd never know. But he would laugh, and kiss her, and say she was beautiful. As if that was all she worried over.
But it was not.
No, she never worried over her Connor falling for some other lass with a lighter step, a softer skin, although perhaps another woman might. But rather, it was that she did not have to worry about such a thing, that made her concerned for another--not for herself, but for him. He was a man, good, gentle, strong, but he was also alone, save for herself. But a flower that fades, is a flower that can wither, and she could also see, though he did not yet, a flower that dies. And though all (almost all, she rapidly amended) God's creatures must face that end, she didn't want to leave him so alone.
And so she resolved to leave him something that he could look at and think of her. Some part of her that stayed the girl he fell in love with. Something he could look at, remember her love, and not feel alone. She went to the kitchen, and found a knife.
Her family had a bible, a fine old book, and pressed between the pages, her mother had the flower her father gave her when first they were courting. And so kept, though crumpled, the flower stayed. She reached for a long curl of hair, and wrapped it about her fist. A blossom. It hurt her scalp when the rough blade began to hack through it, but it only hurt a little bit. And it would grow back, after all, with perhaps a few more white strands. But at least he could keep the gold.
In the stillness of the shop, it startled her to hear the phone ring. Funny, that it should startle her so, the sound of a phone ringing--why, phones, do ring, or else they would be pointless, wouldn't they? And yet she had many reasons to fell apprehensive about the sound of a phone, because she had come to understand that often enough, there was bad news on the other end.
It needn't be bad news. It could be a customer. It could be a friend.
A friend of hers, of course. Connor received few calls from friends of late, and she understood why. She knew he reasons to be a private man, and that what friends he had rarely made spur-of-the moment calls. She had learned that in some respects, it was the queer courtesy of their kind--being usually so much older, they held to less casual communications. And also, she knew he lost friends--there, there was another reason to dread a phone call. She did not want to hear it was another loss. She knew how hard he had taken Brenda's, and seemed to withdraw more into himself, then.
That had been the reason she'd always stayed close to the man who had raised her--his tendency to withdraw, his tendency to be alone. It wasn't always easy to love a man who lived as he did, but it would have been far harder for her not to. He was, simply, her hero. And that was why she ached when things went wrong. When he lost someone, or something. And she dreaded the day she might hear she had lost him.
Because there were other phone calls she knew about. And there may well be an Immortal at the other end, seeking a meeting. She hated the thought of him fighting--too close to the thought of him dying. Certainly, women her age could resolve themselves to bury fathers--but their fathers were old, old men. Not four hundred-plus year old boys that had come to look like sons, who never changed, but would be much changed in death. A closed casket funeral, if indeed, she ever learned outright that he was dead. If he didn't simply disappear, some day.
But no, it was only the phone. And it was probably nothing ominous at all, no bad news. And with that thought, she reached for the receiver, hoping the call would be brief.