Northern Lights – Episode 44

Even while the family ate a subdued meal within the house, lamps flickered and flared in sudden draughts and stout shutters moved and clanked as the gale threatened to wrench them from their hinges.

But the fire burned. Somehow for Maggie the lively fire added to the threat of danger. Flames flared, embers white hot, roused by the draught that drew the fire roaring up the chimney.

Trembling, she slammed home the metal damper in the chimney breast to check the blaze.

Her frightened sisters kissed her cheek and went off to bed to pull the quilts over their heads. Fionah and the dog retired to the small room they inhabited in the rear of the house.

There was no sound from Lilias, gone early to bed dispirited and disappointed by Alec’s decision.

But there was no hope of rest for Maggie. The trembling would not stop; terror would not leave her.

The room seemed feverishly hot, so hot it drove her to the doorway. Easing the bolts of the storm door aside, she went out to share the storm with her brother.

It promised to be a fearsome night at sea, similar to the one that had drowned their father.

The gale battered her body relentlessly and she welcomed it. Rain pelted with slashing force and her own tears joined it. She clung to the storm door crying her brother’s name, the sound torn instantly from her lips and lost in the maelstrom.

“Maggie, come in! Lassie, you’ll catch your death!”

It was Lilias in nightcap and gown. Surprisingly strong hands gripped Maggie’s arm, hauling her inside. The storm door slammed shut and they faced one another in the darkened room lit by the blazing firelight.

“What were ye thinking?” Lilias said in not much more than a whisper.

Her heart was wrung with pity. The weakened lass needed gentleness. She was close to breaking point, eyes horror struck.

“I was thinking of my mother and of the storm that dashed my father’s ship to driftwood on the rock. I was thinking that if my brother died, I would want to die.”

“Maggie, dear, Alec’s safe aboard the Floating Light. The vessel’s securely anchored to withstand bad weather. You should not be thinking such mournful thoughts.”

Maggie’s head drooped.

“Aye, I should. You don’t understand and you never will. I promised my father not to tell.”

Lilias looked at her granddaughter in silence for a long moment. Pieces of the puzzle were maybe falling into place. Perhaps she was nearing the reason that had kept them apart.

“Maggie, I humbly regret the cruel words I spoke in those grief-stricken moments. I ken words can never be forgiven or forgot, but your father was a fine man and those accusations were best left unsaid. Will ye no’ forgive me, lass? For I love ye very dearly.”

Maggie raised her head abruptly. Firelight blazed in her eyes.

“I knew you’d never understand. My father was protecting me!”

Lilias stared.

“Protecting ye? From what?”

“From you, Grandmother.”

Lilias stepped back.

“Me? But why?”

“Because Papa never wanted ye to ken it was me who killed my mother,” Maggie whispered.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!