Time Goes By
MacGuille Castle, Scotland, 1691
Millie walked with a smile on her face, even though it was also a day that was filled with sadness.
“Come on, William,” said Millie. She held her son’s hand as he walked beside her, moving his legs quickly to keep up. He had just turned five and had the same complexion as his mother, though his stout figure was reminiscent of his father. Millie gripped his hand tight, holding onto one of the loves of her life.
“He’s gettin’ so big,” said Isobel, who walked beside Millie with a baby in her arms.
“Aye, he is that,” said Millie. “I wish that we could see more of ye. I cannae believe how time flies. It seems just yesterday that we were at yer weddin’, and now ye have a babe in yer arms. Keith must be proud of this bonny wee lass.”
“He cannae take his eyes off of her and keeps tellin’ me that I’ve given him the greatest gift that he could ever receive.”
Millie smiled more as she looked at her own son and then her niece in her sister-in-law’s arms. Her ever-expanding family had truly been blessed. She had given Kieren four children already, and they were still planning on having more. Isobel had birthed her first, and there was talk that Mason and his wife would be expecting any time too, though he had married one of the noble’s daughters from a castle outside of the allied clans, but that was bringing more opportunities in itself.
“She is a bonny lass,” admitted Millie. She looked down at her own bonny child and smiled again. She had done a lot of smiling over the past six years. Her relationship with the Laird of MacGuille Castle had started with trauma and heartbreak, but more joy had come of it than she ever thought possible, and she truly was the happiest woman in the clan.
As the two of them walked through the castle, men and women passed them, nodding their heads and greeting them warmly. Many of them had not seen Isobel in some time, but they all knew Millie, and they all knew how she had improved life in the castle, even if they could not put their finger on exactly how their lives had been improved. All they knew was that the Laird was a different man, and he had become a Laird of the people, often visiting the surrounding villages and giving his clan members an audience even when he had more pressing matters to attend to.
“Shall we get back?” asked Isobel.
“Aye,” said Millie. She did not want the walk to end, but she knew that it was time to visit her father. She had still gone with Kieren every Sunday to be with him, yet this would be the sixth anniversary of his death, and it took on more significance than her other visits.
“I cannae believe that it has been six years already,” said Millie.
“Aye, a lot has changed. He would be proud of ye, sister,” said Isobel.
“When did ye get so wise and grown up?” Millie stopped walking and looked at her sister-in-law with a smile.
“A child will do that to ye.” Isobel looked down at her daughter and smirked. “Perhaps I can leave this one with yer nanny, and we can go and explore the rooftops or get up to some other type of mischief.”
Millie looked around with a smirk on her face too. “Daenae tempt me. There’s a lot less chance of getttin’ up to mischief now that I have four bairns, and it’ll nae be long before they are the ones doin’ the things that I used to. How am I to scold them when I’ll want to join them?”
Isobel let out a laugh and pretended to cover her daughter's ears. Millie joined in with the merriment, and the two of them made their way back to the castle.
“I’ll see ye later for supper, aye?” asked Isobel when they got to the Castle.
“That would be braw,” said Millie.
They parted ways, Millie heading towards the nursery where the nanny would be looking after her other three children. Millie wondered about what sort of mischief they would get up to. The twins had just turned two, a boy and a girl, and she could still remember the look on Kieren’s face when they had been born. Mason and Isobel had been ecstatic, and Millie was sure that her twins were destined to cause as much mischief as their aunt and uncle.
When she got to the nursery, Millie stopped at the door. The twins, Hamish and Abigail, were at the far end of the room, quietly playing with wooden blocks and a fabric duck, overseen by Shona, who had been enlisted as William’s nanny as soon as he was born, and was even more delighted to care for more and more children as they came along. Millie noticed the warm look from Shona when she arrived, but the nanny did not say a word.
The reason was Kieren standing in the middle of the room with his back to Millie. She could not see Lily, their infant, only the strong, muscular back of her husband, but it was clear that he was cradling their youngest daughter. He dearly loved all of their children, Millie knew that, though he had taken a special protectiveness to this tiny child, not yet six months old.
Millie walked slowly through the room, the twins not yet spotting her. She guided William by the hand, and he understood to go and play with the twins, keeping silent as he went over to Shona. Millie pressed herself to Kieren’s back and looked over his shoulder. The babe in his arms was fast asleep, a peaceful look on her face, and Millie knew that Kieren would protect her as fiercely as he had protected the baby’s mother.
“She’s an angel,” whispered Millie.
“Birthed by an angel,” said Kieren.
Millie wrapped her arms around Kieren and their child, laying her head down on his shoulder. There was a smell of pine, but it was almost overshadowed by the baby’s scent, an indescribable aroma that she could not stop herself from going back to time and time again.
“When she wakes, we’ll go,” whispered Mille.
“Mama! Mama!” The twins were suddenly on their feet, teetering over toward Millie, and she could not help laughing at their enthusiasm.
“They dinnae do that when I came into the room,” said Kieren with a smile.
“I can do that the next time that ye enter a room,” suggested Millie. “Though perhaps nae in the clan meetin’s.”
“Well, never say never.” Kieren moved his hand gently over the baby’s head as her eyes opened slightly, waking up from her morning nap.
“Come here, ye rascals,” shouted Millie, letting go of Kieren, and bending down to scoop the twins up in her arms. They were getting heavy, but she could still manage both of them at once. They grabbed onto their mother, hugging her tightly. “Ye want to go and see Grandad?” asked Millie.
“Aye,” the twins said together.
“How are ye doin’?” asked Kieren. He turned with the waking baby in his arms and kissed Millie on the cheek.
“I’m fine,” said Millie. “I had a braw talk with Isobel earlier. When did she get so grown up, by the way?”
“I daenae ken. And, ye’ve nae seen Mason for a while, have ye? He’s taller than I am now, if ye can believe it. God help the man who goes up against him.”
“Everyone is growin’ up so fast.” Millie looked around at her children and wished that they could all stay as they were, but she also knew that each stage had been better than the last, and she could not wait to see where life would take them as they got older.
She placed the twins back on the ground, and Shona came to take their hands. Millie took Kieren’s hand in her left and she took William’s in her right. The happy family left the nursery and went to the castle gardens to pick some flowers to lay on the grave. They walked from the castle toward Dunnet, Millie holding yellow daffodils and purple crocuses.
When they got to the cemetery, Kieren gathered the children. “Let yer mother talk with yer grandfather first, aye? Come on, William, I bet that ye cannae climb this tree.”
“I want to climb!” shouted Hamish and Abigail together.
Millie smiled at Kieren and squeezed his hand before he walked off. She gripped the flowers tightly in her hand and walked past the headstones, her head bowed.
The grave was not marked, yet Millie knew that Archer was buried here. He had little friends and family, but there was no service anyway, and Archer was buried six years ago with only a priest and gravediggers to oversee. It was a traitor’s burial, and those who would have gone had he died of natural causes, stayed away.
Millie did not want to go to the burial, though she had asked where the grave was, and it was annoying to her that he was in the same cemetery as her father, but he was dead, and she knew that she had to let the dead rest. They would be rewarded and punished accordingly.
“Are ye well, father?” asked Millie when she got to her father’s grave. She laid the flowers on the ground and picked up the wilted flowers from the previous week. “It’s been hard with ye gone, and I cannae believe that ye have been gone from me life for six years now.”
Millie glanced across to where her family was playing, William was so high in a tree that it made her dizzy just to look up, but Kieren was there, and he would ensure that their son was safe.
“Ye see him, father? He’s an adventurous boy, that much is true. I think that he takes after ye in that way, and me, of course. I’m glad that we named him after ye. He’s already started with a teacher, and he questions everythin’, sometimes a little too much, that’s nae a bad thing. Ye’d like him, father, I ken that ye would. Ye’d like all of them.”
Millie wiped the tears from her eyes. She took a deep breath and kneeled down in the soft earth in front of the headstone. She brushed off some dirt from the top of the stone and arranged the flowers a little before she continued.
“I’m glad that ye get to rest and find peace with the Lord above. Och, why am I sittin’ here by meself when me family is everythin’ to me.” Millie stood up and waved for her family to come over. “Watch his face, father. I have a secret that I havenae told anyone yet,” she said before her family got there.
William was first, running as fast as he could the entire way, even though the others had started walking before he was down from the tree. The twins were not far behind, running and falling for most of the way. Kieren arrived last with Lily in his arms. Shona stood by the gate to the cemetery, giving the family some time.
Kieren wrapped his arm around Millie’s waist when he got there and kissed her on the lips, lingering for a second before pulling away, and looking down at the grave.
“He would be so proud,” said Kieren. “I ken that he would. I still feel some anger that he dinnae get to meet our bairns, but I’m so glad that I got to meet him. He was a respectable and honest man.”
“Grandad, did ye see me climbin’ the tree?” asked William.
“I’m sure that he did,” said Millie. “He’ll be lookin’ down on ye with a lot of pride. On all of ye.” Millie rubbed each of her children’s cheeks. “He’s still with us, lookin’ over us.”
“Aye,” said Kieren. He pulled Millie in tighter and held her in silence as none of them spoke for a while.
Millie tried to think back to when she was William’s age and how her father had raised her. She hoped that she was doing just as good a job. As she looked around at her beautiful children, she was hopeful that she was. They were all growing to be well-mannered and nice children who still questioned the world. Of course, they all seemed to have a mischievous streak too, even the littlest, though that only made them more endearing. In Millie’s eyes, anyway.
“Are they all comin’ for supper tonight?” asked Millie.
“Aye, me father has made sure that they are, and I hear that the cooks are preparin’ some pheasant for the meal, along with that soup that ye like.”
“Sounds braw,” said Millie. “It’s good to have family around.”
“Aye, me uncle will be there too, with his wife, and Isobel and Keith with their bairn. I’ve made sure to set two extra places for Shona and Zax too.” Kieren kissed Millie on the cheek again.
“Ye are a good man,” said Millie.
“I only wish that Mason could have come. He seems so far away now. I miss him a lot.”
“I ken,” said Millie. She lifted up the twins, and Kieren scooped up William. The six of them stood together, enjoying the moment. “Ye could set another place, just in case,” said Millie.
“Nay, he willnae be makin’ it,” said Kieren with a frown.
“What if there was one extra bairn on the way?” asked Millie.
“I daenae ken what ye mean? Whose child?”
Millie stared at her husband and cocked her head to the side, lifting her eyebrows and smiling at him, waiting for him to work it out for himself, which he finally did.
“Are ye serious?” asked Kieren, a smile growing across his face.
Kieren placed William gently on the ground and looked around the cemetery as if there would be someone else there. He quickly grabbed Millie and pulled her in, pressing the twins between them, who both erupted into fits of giggles.
“Och, how can I be blessed anymore by this woman!” shouted Kieren. He let Millie go and punched his fist in the air before biting on it, tears swimming in his eyes. Millie could just about burst. She looked down at her father’s grave and found tears in her eyes.
It was the great ebb and flow, she knew. Death and life came for everyone, and there was joy to be had in both. Her father may have passed into the next life, but he was still honored in this one through the children Millie and Kieren brought into the world.
Millie placed a hand on her belly as they walked back toward the castle to break the good news to the rest of their family.
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