Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Stories: Shannon and heather Start to Unravel (Cut)

Remember this event. It will be meaningful in the future.

“Och, ‘tis a pretty little farm,” Shannon O’Neill remarked as he led his small son y the hand up the road to the house. “Look, Seamus, they have the tables and all set up over there in the field.. are ye hungry then?”

The little boy nodded and looked up at his mother. Heather smiled thinly and nodded. “Go on, Seamus.. but do not wander away.” The boy smiled happily, loosened his hand from his father’s hand tore off towards where several children were playing.

Shannon’s friend Rory McGuinness asked Heather, “Lass, ye seem tired from the walkin’. Would ye not like to sit for a while?”

Shannon responded for her, “Aye, ye two go find a shady spot to sit a while. I must find the uncle of the bride to see where and when ‘tis I shall be wanted.” He leaned to kiss his wife, who deftly swerved to avoid it. He shrugged, made a defeated look in Rory’s direction, and took off towards the big house.

Rory had learned long ago to stay out of these exchanges between husband and wife. He just knew Heather was unhappy about something and Shannon did not have a clue what it was. Come to think of it, that was how things went most days between them. He let her choose a place to sit and came to sit with her.

Heather was glancing around at the farm buildings visible from the spot, then over at the people starting to gather by the tables. “’Tis a bonny wee croft,” she remarked.

Rory nodded. “Is it much like your own in Ayrshire?”

Heather shook her head. “Nay, ‘tis bigger and much nicer.. me own was not in good repair, even after all the work Shannon did on it..” Her look turned nostalgic and sad.

Rory looked down at his feet. “Ye miss it.”

She sighed, “Aye, and I miss that Shannon I knew.” She turned away from him, and he knew he must let her sit in silence.

Heather’s and Rory’s relationship was fragile. He tried to be her friend, but she would not allow it. She saw him as Shannon’s ally, and, in spite of many opportunities to judge his worth, she always assumed he would color the truth to Shannon’s advantage. Further she was completely intolerant of his professed romantic love for the Queen. “”Tis childish and obstinate,” she told her husband.

Rory regretted Heather’s distrust of him. He knew Shannon better than anyone else and knew that Shannon, though meaning well, was a rather obtuse fellow when it came to how to treat his wife. She was difficult, but Shannon worsened not assuaged that characteristic in her. He was full of himself – wasn’t that part of his charm? And he tended to assume that anything he enjoyed so would others. His outgoing nature was also at odds with his wife’s shyness.

At length Heather remarked, “I might have known there would be no one of my acquaintance here..”

Rory looked about. “I see many from Cedric’s and Gitta’s..” he began.

Heather shot him a look. “Those are your friends, yours and Shan’s, not mine.”

Rory did not reply. He knew that while Heather complained of loneliness, she refused to join the gatherings at Cedric the master metalsmith’s large house. She alternately complained that the gatherings were to coarse and boisterous and that the metalsmith’s family were too grand for the likes of her. Shannon had given up trying to get her to come meet the other Celts, who would include Scots like herself, and he went anyway,. Leaving her back in their chambers at the castle, coming in late and sometimes drunk to a very angry wife.

Shannon came ambling up after a short time. He looked over and saw his son playing happily with a six year old girl and assorted boys, none of whom he recognized. He smiled over at the children. Then he looked at Heather and saw her expression. His resigned look spoke volumes in Rory’s mind. “I shan’t have to sing for some time, love. Shall we join the others and get something to eat and drink?” He reached for her arm, but she just stood and walked away from him towards the tables.

When she had given them some distance, Shannon asked his friend, “Did she offer ye any clues as to why she is vexed with me this time?”

Rory hesitated. He did not like getting involved in his friend’s marital strife. But he relented. “She does not know anyone.”

Shannon just raised one eyebrow and shook his head. For once he said nothing.

Later, as the feasting was well underway, Shannon gestured in the direction of the lead table with his cup of ale. “Och, look at that, the pity. Such a fine lookin’ young British lass marryin’ that great lummox of a Sassenach.”

Rory looked over at him amused. “Celtic ladies have been known to marry Saxons..” he commented, thinking of his beloved Queen.

Shannon replied, “I be just after sayin’ ‘tis a pity.”

Rory looked at the bride and groom. He was a strongly built fellow with long fair hair and bright blue eyes. He was smiling and festive, while the young girl at his side, who had brown hair done in braids, a beautifully embroidered bodice sat looking happy but uncomfortable. “Her name.. ‘tis Ceridwen, nay?”

“Shannon nodded, “Aye, Cedric’s niece, an orphan I hear. The man’s name I ken not.. something guttural and Saxon no doubt.

“She dinnae look like she much enjoys the festivities,” Rory remarked.

Heather interjected, “I do not blame her. These things always get out of hand.”

Cedric came up at that point and leaned to Shannon. “’Tis time, my friend.”

Shannon took a gulp of his ale and nodded. He slung his lute on his back and got up. This time he outsmarted his wife and managed a kiss on her cheek. “Cheer up, darlin’, it willnae go on forever.”

Shannon was not the only one to perform at the wedding feast but he was clearly the favorite. He sang and played several songs, some funny, some romantic, some ballads. One of the love songs he sang directly to the bride and groom, with his right foot up on a bench and the lute on his knee as he gazed into the bride’s eyes. She looked pleased but embarrassed.

Inevitably Shannon, warming to his theme, started to stroll among the guests. He flirted shamelessly. When he got to heather he flirted with her as well, but she would not look at him. She brushed away the kiss he landed on her cheek again.

They had to stay the night since the walk back to Lawrencium would take several hours and they were tired. Fortunately the house had plenty of room for the women. The m en and children slept out in the barn and stable. Seamus, who had developed a crush on the six year old girl he had been playing with, whose name was Hilda, found the whole thing to be a lark. Shannon was a bit tight and was asleep and snoring in no time. Rory lay back on the hay in the loft and laced his fingers behind his head. He lay with his eyes open, thinking of the Queen. Just before he dozed off he thought, “I could be happy in a place like this, so quiet and peaceful…”

Next: The Sword Challenge

Imahe: Heather, by Linda Laaksonen, about 1967.

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .