Escape From Clothing
“I can walk you know!” I squirmed pushing my hands against his back to lift my head. “I said I can walk! braggart, abuser, egotist.” I mumbled. Then I received a sudden swat of his hand on my bottom.
“What the…. How dare you hit me!” I protested but ceased to squirm. Conall continued towards the cottage muttering under his breath. He set me down inside the cottage, dropped my shoes and departed quickly shutting the door on his way out. I was angry at the swat. At the same time, I felt like having a good giggle, and couldn’t work out for the life of me why I would want to do so.
I heard horses coming to a halt outside. It sounded as if there were quite a few of them. Peering out the window at least a dozen men in similar kilts to Conall’s jumped off their steads. Conall greeted them by seizing their forearms. Well they certainly look friendly, at least to Conall.
Opening the door silence fell bringing the Gaelic exchanges going on between them to cease. Meeting only silence and astonished looks. All of them except Conall of course.
Conall addressed the oldest of the men. A fair-sized man nearly as tall as Conall but wider in girth. His hair was silver with a few strands of red similar to Sloane’s, and a beard to match.
“Haig, I would like ye to meet the Lady Morgan Evalina Danu Monroe.” Conall announced. Haig headed straight towards me. He stopped just in front of me and bowed. Then taking my hand, he kissed my knuckles. His whiskers tickling. I held my repose. Two other men came to stand at his side.
“I am happy to meet you. Haig, was it?” I asked with a smile.
“Aye, milady I am Laird of clan Sutherland at yer service. Welcome to Sutherland land.” he said cordially. “And these ruffians ere are me sons Aiden.” pointing to a heavy built man about twenty years old with dark brown hair and the same dark blue eyes as Conall. Aiden bowed just the slightest then gave me a mischievous wink.
“And this being me son Murtagh.” Murtagh was perhaps about fifteen years old having the same red hair and brown eyes as his father. Murtagh stepped forward and caught my hand for a quick kiss, addressing me as Lady Morgan. I did catch a whisper from Murtagh to Aiden.
“That’s how ye greet a lady, ye clot heid.” Aiden promptly elbowed Murtagh. Haig raised a goaded eyebrow at his sons but continued.
“Aye and Conall be me son too. I hae two others but they are oot checking boundaries. Ye will meet them later, I should say. I ken ye have met me eldest Sloane, back in ye time.”
“I am very happy to meet you all.” I said eyeing Conall with a sneer for the slap I had received. Conall ignored me. He was however, visibly happy to see his father and brothers.
Haig shouted to two men at the back of the group to take the horses to the compound and see them watered. Then he told another two to go and catch something for supper. They ran off as fast as their feet could carry them into the scrub of trees behind the compound. The rest of the men were ordered to check the area, and they too left diligently in different directions. Leaving only Conall, his father and two brothers. I continued to stand near the doorway.
Conall and his father commenced their conversation in Gaelic, with his brothers listening intently. I decided to go back into the house and leave them to their conversation. I didn’t understand what the hell they were talking about anyway. I so wanted to get out of the bulky clothing. I went into the bedroom and rummaged through Conall’s cupboards. More for the sake of doing something other than sitting. Not snooping just looking.
My rummaging was not in vain. I found some clothing that looked far too small for Conall, they were however close enough to my size. Perhaps they had been his when he was younger. A pair of pants, long sleeve white shirt with a wide collar, and a leather jerkin. These looked much more comfortable than all the layers of kirtle, skirt and petticoats I was encumbered in. I shut the bedroom door and began to undress. It was difficult to get the laces of the stays undone, but with determination I got there. I changed into the clothing. The pants were a little snug. The shirt and jerkin were a decent fit.
This was so much better and lighter. I could breathe without restriction. I was not happy at not having a bra or a pair of knickers on. Oh, the joys of the twenty first century. But I would make do with what I had. I stopped feeling like a sweltering pig in the heat. The jerkin was all front buckles, so no lace tying was required. Thank goodness. I unceremoniously dumped the skirts and the rest of the clothing into a pile near the door.
After donning the belt, I fitted the small knife Conall had given me between jerkin and belt. I undid the plaiting of my hair that Ula had done and left it down. Right now! that done I decided to go outside. I expected to be on the receiving end of sarcastic comment from Conall so I was ready for him. If he didn’t approve of my outfit then he can wear the kirtle and dresses himself. I just hoped that he didn’t take offence to my borrowing the clothes.
Upon exit of the cottage I was met with mouths hanging, wide eyed looks of shock from Haig and his two sons. Not Conall though he looked quite irritated.
“Gods Blood.” grumbled Conall raking his fingers through his hair. No, he wasn’t happy at all. I really didn’t care what he thought. I was delighted in the more comfortable clothes.
“Hello again.” I said to three stunned mullets. Haig took a quick look at Conall then back to me.
“Milady, why are ye dressed so.” Haig stammered.
“It’s no decent. A lass should nay be dressed as a...a boy.” exclaimed Murtagh.
Aiden however with arms folded across his chest had a devious smirk lurking at the corners of his lips. Eyeing me from top to bottom as if I didn’t have a stitch on. A look unappreciated. Conall quickly moved towards me grabbing my forearm in an attempt to steer me back into the cottage.
“Morgan do ye have no decency. Ye canna go about dressed like this.” he whispered crossly pulling at me. I was having none of it and pulled ardently back breaking his hold. I turned to face him, hands on my hips staring at him defiantly.
“I will dress anyway and however I like!” I spit back jabbing a finger into his chest. “I will not be harassed or ordered about like I am one of your acquiescent servants!” another jab to his chest. “You will treat me with respect! And if you ever! Ever! lay your hands upon me again!” my voice had increased significantly in volume. “I…I will sever your bloody head from your body. Do you hear me, Conall Sutherland!” with one final jab at his chest.
Haig threw his head back and broke into a reverberating roar.
“Conall she is a wild one.” Haig guffawed, while his boys snorted trying to hide their amusement behind raised hands. I was so nettled that my thought was, in for a penny in for a pound and turned on Murtagh striding towards him.
“And you, young man think I am not decent.” I growled as I crossed my arms and looked at his kilt and knees, then back at his face with provocation. He quickly lost the smirk. His spine stiffening slightly. I continued to address them all.
“I have been beaten to within an inch of life, nearly died at the hands of a Brollachan, dragged to this ungodly time, near on attacked by your friend.” I pointed at Conall. “And spanked like I am some ill-disciplined begotten child. Now you want to affront me for wearing something that feels far more comfortable than being embalmed in a copious expanse of kirtle, skirts and petticoats. Well, I will not have it. Do you hear me?” I turned and huffed off walking swiftly past them to the line of trees that led to the waterfall. I didn’t look back. I heard not a word.
I kept on walking regardless that I had no shoes on. Rocks and twigs cutting into my feet. When my feet could stand no more I sat down on a flat piece of stone near the base of a hybrid larch tree. I lifted a foot up and rubbed it removing leaves and a small stone that clung to the skin. It was cool sitting on the rock amid scots pine, the straight and tall lodgepole pine and ash trees.
Around the base of the rock grew bluebells bowing their heads from the heat of the afternoon sun. Gorse and small yellow flowers grew in ample supply in almost every nook and cranny. It was a beautiful place. The air fresh and clean. I hadn’t noticed the trees and flowers the first time, passing hurriedly trying to keep up with Conall’s long strides to the waterfall. The return, slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
I was more than aware that one of Haig’s men was standing far enough away as not to intrude but ensuring that I was in sight at all times. I was not the least bit sorry for my emission. Thinking of my actions. I felt emancipated. No doubt because I had just exploded releasing all the built-up anxiety, worry and anguish that I had accumulated over the past week.
If Haig had not broken out in laughter I could have been in serious trouble. After all he was a Laird. I was sure that not too many people would have spoken to him the way I had. I thought about the look on Conall’s face during my tirade. Only now realizing the look was not anger but one of veneration. He had stood arms folded across his chest with a slight smile to his face. Why didn’t I notice that when I was jabbing him in the chest with my finger?
I sat on the rock for what seemed hours, whereas in fact it was no doubt just less than an hour. I continued to rub my feet. I could smell the cooking of roasting meat, and my stomach answered the call with grumblings. Well my stomach can wait I was not ready to go trudging back yet. Catching Conall approaching from the corner of my eye I turned so my back was to him. I could hear the crunching of leaves and stones under foot as he neared.
Conall spied her sitting on a low rock. Although she wore pants, shirt and jerkin, she was indeed a beautiful sight. Sat on a rock her back straight, head held high in defiance. He really did like the boldness in her. Her hair fell just past the curve of her hips. He was sorry he had slapped her, well sort of sorry. Haig had given him an ear bashing over what he had done. So now he needed to apologise.
I heard his step getting closer. He surprised me by placing a hand on my shoulder. I didn’t flinch keeping my back straight and my head up.
“My lady, may I have a word wi ye.” he asked in a calm voice. I turned and tilted my head towards him, keeping an austere look to my face. Lips sealed to a thin line. I had expected an admonishment but his tone suggested that it was possibly not going to come. He walked to the front of me and knelt just has he had done in Sloane and Ula’s kitchen. I expected to see anger on his face but all I saw was concern and apprehension. I relaxed my stiff shoulders and eased the rigidity of my mouth.
“I am sorry my lady fer hurting ye…I had nay intention of doing so.”
“So, why did you?” I said with indignation looking off into the trees.
“I swear to ye I will nay do it again. I can give ye nay excuse for my brutish behavior.”
I raised my eyebrows and glanced sideways at him “And my clothes? What say you Conall Sutherland?” I turned to look at him. His face was so close. Dark blue pools staring at me with trepidation. I caught my breath as his eyes dropped to my lips for a moment before lifting again.
“If’n ye wish to wear men’s clothing then I can nay stop ye.” he said with a sigh. “We have some hard riding afore us, so ye will no doubt be more comfortable in these than in ye skirts.”
This certainly was a reformation of attitude. I was relieved, not wanting to fight with him. A smile edged the corners of his mouth. He looked like a little boy waiting to be patted on the head seeking forgiveness.
“Are ye hungry lass?” he asked when my stomach once again grumbled loudly. That was one thing about me that caused concern no matter where I went. When I am hungry everyone knew about it. My stomach always growled exceedingly loud.
“Yes, very.” I smiled feeling a little embarrassed at the loudness of continued stomach groans. Looking at the path I had come down. I was not looking forward to tackling it in bare feet again.
“Do ye mind if I assist ye back to the hoose?”
I nodded. He carefully lifted me in his arms with ease. On the way, with my arms around his neck I couldn’t help but notice the gold flecks in his eyes, dancing when light, filtering through the trees hit them. He had a thin scar on the right side of his face that ran from the bridge of his nose down to his jaw. His nose had a little crookedness to it, obviously broken at one time. It did not however, take anything away from his looks. I had to admit it, this man, my protector was extraordinary.
He must have felt my gaze on him as he looked down at me with a smile, but only for a moment. I wondered if he had a wife or girlfriend, and whether he was as capricious with them as he was with me.
“Am I heavy?” I asked.
“Nay my lady. Ye are as light as a wee chicken.”
“Chicken?” His face broke into a grin.
“Chicken indeed.” I muttered.