This a short story for those that have read either a river of tears or tales from this northern land (or preferably both). It is meant as a companion to them and a thought of the way in which they may have been told. It has never been edited correctly and you will have to think of the stories themselves to know where to insert them. Hope you enjoy
Nights of dark renown
The lovers headed west and north, sometimes for an hour sometimes for longer but always west and ever north.
They travelled by bus and foot and very occasionally by train, once by boat heading into the unknown.
They slept in their tent and the odd hostel and on a very cold and dank misty night, in a nice hotel with tartan carpets and wood panelling. It was all a hotel should be; warm and comforting, their host amiable, their surrounding plush.
And there, in that very hotel our story begins. Imagine a cold night in October and two figures walking slowly down a road shrouded in trees, shadows and mist combining into a pressing cocoon making their own little but settled world.
They stand and walk slightly apart the weight of their heavy backpacks dragging the fleeces from their shoulders. Her long and dyed frizzy auburn hair was tangled and caught in her backpack straps. It hurt her as she walked though she wouldn’t fix it for the pain in her legs and back that such a stretch would require was much worse it seemed to her than the release of her hair would allow. In the front her long hair was plastered to her furrowed forehead the lines between her eyes deep with concentration and pain and she wished at this time and for the first time that she had not accompanied him on this road despite all the wonders she had seen. She knew that after a shower and a good sleep she would be ok but at this time she was miserable and though she loved him she also hated him.
She was much fitter than he, she smoked much less, drank but a fraction of his consumption and ate much better but he seemed able to eat up the miles without any worry. He wheezed when they made love for half an hour but walked forever and she could not reconcile the difference though he had always told her that was the case.
I have a kind of facility for walking he had said. I can’t run my own height nor am I flexible in anyway but I can keep walking when all others fail. She had not believed it at the time but now was sure he had meant it.
She knew that for someone so unfit he walked endlessly. He at one time had enchanted her with thoughts and stories of times he had walked the woods for that he told her was what he loved most. She had no reason to disbelieve this and indeed wished that it were so.
As a girl she had been entertained by her father’s stories and as all children will she equated those stories with a mystical and better time. A time when her father and mother and siblings were her world, A time when the colours she could see and the scent of milk on her mother’s breast were all she wished for. The warmth of her father’s arms and a kiss upon her cheek even the tickle of his beard upon her face.
Perhaps that’s all it was she wondered as she wandered along, perhaps that’s the only reason she loves him, the stories and the fact that he holds her so tightly. Perhaps all it is; that remembrance of waking up to him already awake and holding her, just him making sure she would come to no harm. The wind in the trees whispered that it was to her face and ears.
But now she was tired and her legs hurt her ears ached from the whistling wind and her feet felt swollen and engorged desperate for air and release as though a penis from constricting jeans. She smiled at this thought despite the discomfort. I hope he feels this too.
She hitched up her shirt slightly running her hands beneath her breasts to remove the sweat knowing that he will see just the curve of them and knowing that they will excite him.
He will chafe as well ah it serves him right, he just assumed I would be able to walk as he does; yes and I assumed that as well, ok, I admit it but I didn’t know that for one strange time he was telling the truth.
I am so used to his lies for she thinks of those that she has carried before those that have burned her and hurt her. And wishes this was one of them but in this he spoke true.
He could walk and walk and walk and now her legs were going and her feet were sore and she felt so sticky and dirty so when he asked if I’d fancy a royal night, well who was I to refuse.
Ah my darling rob I said leaning into him, mostly to take some of the weight from feet, what do you wish of me?
I could see the exhaustion written upon her face, she was weary her beautiful hair plastered to her brow with sweat, she leant against me almost pushing me over and I told her we were not far from our destination.
I smiled down into those tired, weary but always beautiful nut brown eyes and invited her to a beautiful hotel. I had enough money for one night of splendour rather than the lodges hostels and tents we would otherwise occupy and though I was saving it for our last night away I could see she needed it now.
Indeed, I myself could do with the same. Though I could walk with the best of them I tired, eventually, as all do and we had walked about twenty miles today since the bus dropped us at Arrochar.
My mind had been taken off it for sometime as we started on our way, the beauties of loch long and the mountains of the west drawing my sight even from the beauty that walked beside me on occasion.
The rest and be thankful had been a hard climb though we walked the old road all the way and no grass underfoot, but the uphill stretch at the end had taken my breath and wounded my dodgy knee.
When we reached the top and started on the walk again, level by then, by the side of the black loch (Loch Dubh) I saw the hurt on her face and decided she needed a comfy night.
So we booked in and spent that night in the George hotel in Inverary. It was an old hotel but beautiful with antiquity and it showed in every nook and cranny of its construction.
I cannot remember when it was built though I am sure that a stone worked into its walls proclaims its birthday, not its original purpose but can only guess that it served as a hostelry for those visiting the nearby gaol.
Inverary gaol was old and pondersome through strength rather than size. From the outside it looked like some baronial house though all knew it could not be as the even more impressive Inverary castle was so close. It was a place where those brought to justice were confined in the ………..
The hotel however was taken over in the ………
It had more recently had been improved beyond all expectations by the new owners, they were Australian as are all those that provide a good service and appreciate the beauties of Scotland. Only the fools who live here, myself included would find it difficult to recognise………….
We dumped or bags in the room and leaving them where they lay collapsed on the beautifully made up king-size bed. I wanted to make love to her but sleep sapped that thought from my head and loins. It was after two when I woke and roused her with the idea of taking a walk round the town before a light lunch in the hotel and a restful day.
We had not brought that many good clothes for a regal restaurant such as the George’s was but I was able to draw clean jeans a shirt and jacket from my pack. Her task however proved difficult as she wished, as all women do to look as wonderful as she could be. To draw this wonder from her small pack on a walking holiday was not easy but somehow she managed it and I found myself sitting across from her; her hair now washed and brushed and pushed back from her face with a carelessly run hand through it
Her brown eyes flecked with gold gazed deeply into mine as she watched all those that entered and left the bar.
I wondered as always at her beauty and independence, her capacity for love and her strict selfishness.
I wished for such myself as all should and even tried at one time to maintain it but I think that it takes a special kind of person to completely know what they want.
Later we retired to our room, which was lovely painted forest green and a deep russet burgundy and made love.
We sat there in the aftermath and talked of our travels and where we would go to next, what we would do to pass the long Scots nights and keep us warm. Some of the ideas we came up with were carnal and I will not bother you with those. Some were everyday but she was not an everyday person so again I will not take your time with those and though we did many of the things we talked of they were just things. And as such not part of this story and so I shall not bother you with those either but rather lead you on another tale which includes elements of the everyday and the erotic but just were stories talked of at night. Anyway I grow ahead of myself and must remember what story I am telling and so back to the story. and so…….she asked me that night for a story and I tried to fill her mind with one.
I told of Alan Gardner and his stories of Colin and Susan and the Firefrost tear for that is what first came to mind and that is a beautiful story.
I told of high hills and tin mines and creatures that dwell in the dark, of witches and wizards and elves and dwarves and there sitting on that large comfortable bed we made a pact.
I would tell her stories of where we slept or where we walked and I would tell stories only of us and our love and our future. This I promised before we set out the next morning and with those thoughts and ideas in our heads and when we had finished walking we sat by a river.
It was narrow and a spate river, it held our eyes and attention. The dark brown of the peat in its waters reflected our gaze and the heart and depth of it our eyes.
Tell me a story of the river she asked of me when she saw me staring into its depths. Have you heard of Apollo and the river sprite I asked remembering it from when I was a boy. It was an easy one for me to tell and would trip easily from my lips.
Do you know that once all ravens were white till Apollo willed it otherwise as is the will of gods.
I don’t know that tale she said her hair hanging in front of her face her beautiful brown eyes shining. She turns and smiles directly at me- then you will tell me a tale of the river for it is not one you have thought or imagined simply one you wish to repeat that you have read or heard before.
She was right and I agreed with her as I always did and there on the banks of a small tired river we made our deal
Wherever we stopped and started I would tell a tale of that place. We were in love and so it had to be a love story.
I questioned her much on what constituted a love story for my stories tend to be darker and taken from the history of this land we walk upon.
She passed me another stipulation and that was that the lovers had to be her and me.
I thought of it as we caught the bus from Inverary to Oban
And that night when we erected our small tent and made ourselves comfortable in our sleeping bags I started to tell her the stories I had concocted as we walked or rode upon the red and white buses we caught.
So I have to tell you of a love story and a river.
Oh yes she replied but not just any river it must be as this one is
fast flowing and deep, where I am from rivers are wide and shallow and clear but I wish to hear of this land.
and so that was the river he told of ……………….
Ah my dear she said as he pushed himself almost fully dressed into his sleeping bag it was a beautiful tale
And so romantic she replied.
Ah you my dear are just sure of that so can I tell you same tale allowing sense to come to the fore?
Or do you wish a new tale?
I can tell you of me, I can tell you of things you have not yet thought of.
I saw her considering and then she said ok we will call that one a given- tell me.
I am so tired talk me to sleep and so I told her another story of the same river
Tell me more of the river se asked for I am still sleepy and I wish to dream of your words.
Northwards again, mainly by bus but sometimes walking and we sat by the deep forest and put up the tent and I told stories of the forest
We watched birds in the sky and told stories of them
Ruins and trees and deer
So many stories and I told all I knew and invented those I did not, I tried to not tell those I knew others had wrote, I never drew on karen blixen nor poe nor smith nor wilde (some of my favourites) but just from me though I loved those writers so much.
We sat on a wall and watched the cars go by on, lochlomond side and counted the few pennies we had left to gauge wither we could get the bus or no.
We had not enough and so had to walk for long and far and yet we knew exhausted as we were that was a real holiday
When the house drew near and we sat and waited tired yet despite the loveliness of the holiday glad to be home and glad to just on the bus sit and let tiredness wash over us.
When finally we got off we walked the short walk from the bus stop to my house though even that short distance pained our legs and then dropping our bags to the floors we collapsed together onto the couch staring motionlessly ahead of us, exhaustion seeming more real by the warmth of the room and the comfort of the padded couch.
After a while she asked rob?
I really did not wish to answer but did none the less.
All those stories were of us, weren’t they?
Well of course they were, that was your stipulation, they had to be of us, they had to be of lovers and all were as we had agreed.
I know I said that some of mine were not love stories in the truest sense of the word but they all were in their own way.
I know she said, I loved them, all of them, and I thank you for them.
I saw her face crease and tears form at the corners of her eyes.
Why do you cry I asked for we have had a lovely holiday, I have enjoyed each day and thought you also did. I did she cried, I did. And then she cried more and despite my tiredness I asked her why she cried and she answered that she cried for us.
Do not cry for us I replied for we are whole and together and have had a good time.
It was the stories, I said, knowing it was not but hoping to bring such a denial from her that I would find what really was wrong.
Yes it was she replied.
I was stricken; I always thought I was good story teller, once even thinking myself capable of writing a novel. You did not like them?
I loved them, I brightened, you put so much into them and I dreamed each and every one of them when I slept.
So why would they make you cry? Surely they would make you know how much I love you.
She sighed and hung her head to her hands.
Yes they do she said. They tell me of your love for me, your longing for me, how much you want me, how much you need me and desire me and yet you always lose me.
I will never lose you, I replied, I love you. But you will again, when I return home next week and then you will long for me again and wish for me again.
I will, till we can be together forever I replied. I really do mean it when I say I love you.
I know you do, but at the same time your stories tell me more, you have to give up everything for me. You have to give up happiness, your children, everything just for a dream that we both have.
I am willing to give up anything for you I replied.
I know you are she said, her head dropping more but now I cannot ask you to.
You don’t have to ask, have never had to ask, I offered.
Yes I know you did and I am grateful but I heard your stories rob. I lived them and you cannot come.
I will I stated with abandon, so certain.
Thank you rob she said with a soft smile and a sob. You are wonderful and thank you for all the stories I will always remember them. But they were for you, do you not love me anymore.
I do rob, I always will, but when you spoke of your love and your future in those stories, you had to die to have me and I will not be the cause of that.
I would be willing to die to have you.
But rob that I don’t wish for, yes I want like any other girl a white knight and a love everlasting and you are the only one that I think I could ever have it from but I am not willing to let you die inside to gain it for myself.
One more thing rob she said as I raised my arm to stop her.
Rob one more thing. All you said was of us and all you wished for was me and that I was your future and I loved every minute of it. But? I asked. I know there is a but coming?
The last one rob, the last story.
Sorry? I don’t know what you mean.
The last story rob The one of the eagle and the people on the hill.
I liked that one I said what was so wrong with it?
Nothing she replied, nothing at all rob I loved it even though I cried as you told it.
Yes it was sad I’m sorry, but you said they all had to be love stories and I told you that most of my love stories don’t end up as such.
Yes I know she said sobbing, but the girl rob.
Which girl- there was two.
The girl rob, the one that he finally loved till he died.
He did in some others to
Only the early ones rob, they changed as we moved on, when it started there was acceptance and joy that we would be together forever, look at shiver, no matter what happened he was without her then got her back and as the stories progressed he had to die to be with her and then it came to that one.
He love d her in that one till she died.
Yes he did rob, you didn’t realise did you?
That he did, he loved her and they were together even as they both accepted it and died.
So? Then that is good isnt it?
No rob, that’s not good. He looked hurt but kept quiet wondering what she would say.
Its not good rob. The rest were of me or thoughts of me.
She had blue eyes.