Lady of The Highlands entered the morning room with her skirts fluttering around her ankles, her hair tied up in a tight pleat. Her eyes took in every detail of the room and her lips were pushed into a stern line. Her hands were clasped before her stomach.
She took in the dark purple tartan room with ease and walked around the breakfast laid with her fingers running over the table. Each piece of silverware shined brightly back at her. Plates of food were set perfectly in their own places across the middle of the table. Table coated in a white lace.
The smells of smoked fishes, toast, freshly boiled eggs, bread, coffee and tea filled the room with the pleat burning on the fire. She felt Mr Taylor’s eyes following her for a moment in brief admiration of her beauty. The Lady of the Highlands liked to be admired even if she didn’t ever admit it. She saw his look being reflected in the windows and the mirror like effect on the painting above the fireplace.
She found herself watching him, like he watched her. Her own feelings, ones which she tried so hard to suppress started to rise again. Ones she couldn’t even bear to think about, for she knew it would send her house in the depths of a scandal to which it would never recover from.
“Good morning Lady of the Highlands,” he addressed her and bowed at his middle.
His hand graced the floor. She watched him from the corner of her eye, her small smile danced across her lips like it did, ever since Mr Taylor came to work at the manor.
She turned now to face Mr Taylor with her hand resting on the top of the chair. Her eyes now fixed on him. He stood before her in the flawless suit. His greying moustache sat proudly across his top lip. The small white dashes appeared in his eyebrows and dotted around his temples. Lines cut into the sides of his eyes and she thought he now started to really show his age.
No other man was held in the same high regard in her mind. The Lady of The Highlands kept this secret well, even if Mr Taylor failed to keep his admiration for her hidden. She remembered the night Mr Taylor allowed his admiration to get the best of his senses.
A night which had haunted her ever since.
They were dancing in the hallway at the staff party, one which Mr McSinclair had missed due to work at the base. So the Lady of the Highlands lead the dance with Mr Taylor. Laughter filled the house, candles were light on every empty surface. They all danced all night. She can’t remember a time when there wasn’t more laughter in the house than upon that night.
She felt so alive.
All the servants started to leave and Mrs Branson left her alone with Mr Taylor. When she went to go up the stairs, Mr Taylor had stopped her with his kind words. His cheeks were rosy from the sherry. Her head felt like so light and not weighted down with the stresses of life.
“Good night, Lady Mary.”
He took such care to say her name and for the first time since her father died she hear her name spoken without her title. Sometimes her husband still called her by her title, except when they fought.
A giddiness fluttered in her stomach and her hand rested on the banister. She found herself looking up at him underneath her eyelashes. His eyes were growing brighter by the minute. His lips raised into a wide tooth filled smile.
“Thank you for such a wonderful time Mr Taylor.” The Lady of The Highlands responded.
She kept her voice light. So many other things were starting to raise up within her. Words couldn’t explain how she felt.
This man with the greying moustache and the long thin fingers made her feel so alive. Carefully he took down her boundaries and made her feel safe with him. He noticed her when her own husband didn’t. Mr Taylor noticed when she wasn’t well, when the pressure of raising her children got to much. He just sometimes stood there in the room with her when she read her books.
For so long now, the Lady of the Highlands wondered something, so deep, personal. She wondered if Mr McSinclair had fallen out of love her. A reality most women of her position had to accept and as a young mother, lady of this house, she just wanted to be loved.
Lady of The Highlands found herself shoving those emotions aside until Mr Taylor took her hand. His warm hands warmed hers. His eyes stared into hers and she knew she must stop him. For heavens above, servants and those of the house weren’t to act this way. There couldn’t be love between people of different classes.
It was wrong, but she liked it and couldn’t pull herself away.
“I was honoured to dance with you tonight,” he whispered.
He reached up and allowed his lips to linger on her fingers. She found a spark of heat take over her and she couldn’t contain herself. She forced herself to look away and before she knew it, Mr Taylor’s hands were on her cheeks. He held her there as he stared into her eyes.
“Oh Lady of The Highlands I never meant to offend you.”
Slowly she turned back to address this matter, which was spiralling out of control. Did her chest rise and fall with rapid breathes. She just couldn’t explain any of this away and didn’t want too. She wanted to be his even if for just one night. She found herself melting into him with every moment her eyes were fixed on his.
“You didn’t offend me,” those words were enough to bring his lips down onto hers.
She found herself getting washed away in the depths of his embrace. His moustache brushed her mouth and its caress sent shivers through her. The warmth of his hands on her face took away the loneliness which stalked her. Ever beat of her heart made her return his kiss ten fold. She held onto him for dear life, never wanting this to end, not for a moment.
Thoughts of her husband came back to her when she wrapped her arms around his neck. His hands held onto her slender waist. She found herself tearing off part of her soul when she pulled herself away from him.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered before taking off up the stairs.
She felt Mr Taylor’s frozen shocked following her as she went. A mistake she had been trying her hardest to put behind her.
“Good morning Mr Taylor. You have out done yourself as always.” She addressed him and watched the smile break out on his face.
The very centre of his eyes danced and almost glowed with the delight he felt at her comment. She remained composed and made another lap of the room while she waited for her husband to come downstairs. He ran late as always and she thought a man of the RAF would at least be on time.
“I’m glad everything is to your liking Lady of the Highlands.” Mr Taylor acknowledged what she said with his own kind words.
She now went towards the window where she watched the snow fall outside. The Lady of the Highlands prepared herself to talk again, however it wasn’t easy. Not with the pressure building up on her chest. The feelings she tried so hard to forget, yet came back with the new loneliness she suffered with in silence.
The Lady of The Highlands forced herself to stay a part from Mr Taylor, never allowing herself to be alone for to long with him or to be to close to him. She feared she might make the same mistake again with him, she refused to destroy her family or her house with something this risky. Not for one night since it happened did she not relived it in her dreams.
Sometimes she dreamed about leading him to her room where she wrapped her arms around his neck. Allowed his hands to ball in the sides of her dress and raise them up exposing her legs, while he kissed her chest. His eyes staring straight into hers when his hands pull the dress from her body and gently lay her back onto the bed, where they would kiss each other. His hands taking care of her every need while he made...
“We..will serve ourselves today Mr Taylor. I’d appreciate it if we weren’t interrupted, also do you know the whereabouts of Lady Lily?”
Lady of The Highlands forced the words out of her mouth and she trembled with the power of her own desire. She did her best to shove it aside before her cheeks blushed and he caught onto what her secret thoughts were.
She asked him a question to keep herself focused, out of trouble even. The Lady of The Highlands kept her back turned towards Mr Taylor, enjoying the morning conversations she often held with him. Never allow it to be anything more or less. Whether it was about the running of the house or about the wine selections.
“She went for a walk Lady of the Highlands, we sent her lady’s maid out to find her to let her know breakfast is ready. She will be back any moment I’m sure.” Mr Taylor answered.
He puffed out his chest making sure there wasn’t a question he couldn’t answer for her. Mr Taylor had always been aware of her fascination with needing to know where her daughters were at all times.
So often she found herself sharing conversations with Mr Taylor like he spent his spare time trying to come up with reasons to be close to her. She’d never forget why. The whole of her knew how risky it was and yet she couldn’t stop it.
“And my husband, have you dressed him?”
The Lady of The Highlands enquired seeing if Mr Taylor had covered everything. She watched him in the window, the amused look which appeared on his face helped her face the day she had ahead of her. He always made her feel like she could face anything.
What mother wanted to tell their oldest daughter she can’t marry the man she loves, because of something which has nothing to do with her?
The Lady of The Highlands allowed her thoughts to travel down this path as it was safer than the thoughts of Mr Taylor. Her breathe caught in her throat again at the thought of him. How she still wanted him in her bed, for so long her bed had been empty as Mr McSinclair went to the base and worked preparing for the next tragedy to befall this world.
“He is on his way down my lady, he stopped off to collect some papers for the base. He’ll be eating and heading straight out to start his duties.”
Those words felt like a bucket of ice being thrown down the back of the Lady of The Highlands. Anger flared inside her at how he expected her to handle this alone, run the house and be his doting wife. Yet he was never there for her. She felt herself struggle to not gasp aloud. Her eyes lifted from the reflection of Mr Taylor and onto the figure she saw making her way around the side of the house.
Her wild at heart daughter.
Lady Lily reminded her of her husband. She had this spirit inside her like any other. Watching over her as she grew up she wanted to see new things and experience everything the world had to offer. Her daughter loved with every fibre of her being and it was that which made today so hard for her.
“Thank you, Mr Taylor.” She said distractedly now.
She couldn’t truly focus on her daughter rushing home from what she suspected as another secret meeting with Master McKenzie. The Lady of the Highlands knew they were going to have to put an end to this before it got any worse.
The snow made Lady Lily look like an angel and she saw her husband’s wise eyes glaring through the snow. She wished to be that young again and so much in love. Not worry about how things looked and how all the decisions were made by her parents. When drinking tea, eating meals and dancing in the ballroom was about fun. Not networking and showing the world they still held their status.
The boy was more trouble than her daughter could ever imagine, yet she felt helpless to stop her daughter from walking into the heartache she saw before her. After all, love made all women blind fouls and men dangerous creatures.
“Mr Sinclair, your ladyship.” Mr Taylor announced her husband’s arrival.
She turned around to see his warm, friendly face making its way into the room. His normal suit replaced with his uniform and she knew it must be bad if he came to breakfast like this. The two stared at each other for a longing moment before Lady of The Highlands motioned to Mr Taylor who closed the door.
“Morning my love,” Mr McSinclair entered the room and he made straight for the Lady of The Highlands, who turned towards him.
When he went to kiss her, she placed her hand on his chest stopping him dead. He looked at her with sidewards look, he moved away from her without further word. His lips pulled into a stern line, his patted down his hair. She knew he tried to throw their earlier argument to one side. She wasn’t going to let him away with it.
“I see your still mad about my position on this. I don’t understand why she can’t marry him if she is in love with him.”
Mr Taylor started to turn red and Lady of the Highlands did her best to ignore him. For Mr Tylor made it plain to her on a number of occasions that Mr McSinclair wasn’t a man who fitted this house well. She often thought those thoughts herself, she hated correcting Mr Taylor about his position. Especially when he was right.
She took the cup of coffee to which Mr Taylor he poured before he left. The Lady of The Highlands added the sugar and milk, hoping it would give her strength to deal with this.For she wished not to be the mother who stopped their child from knowing true love, however in this case she must.
For the Lady of The Highlands knew what it meant to love a man she couldn’t be with or have.
She addressed delivered Mr McSinclair his the coffee just the way he liked it and knew this wasn’t going to help her. The Lady of The Highlands noticed the way her husbands hand shook a little under the strain of the cup in his hand. Another sign of his emotions on this subject.
“The MacKenzie’s stole a portion of my fathers land during the war when he passed away, when he had been serving in Edinburgh. Due to how long it took to notify my family of his death and for the death to be confirmed. This gave that family, enough time for the head of the McKenzie family to cook up some evil scheme which proved that the farm, which sits on the edge of both properties down by the sea, was there’s. When I know for fact, the farm has been in my father’s family for generations. They wanted the farm because it does quite well you see. I fought with the death fees and trying to keep Walls Manor as it should be, I soon found myself having no other option but to sign over the deeds over to their family. Their family did me a great injustice. This has left bad blood between our two families for over seventeen years.”
She spoke with the coldness she felt towards the subject. The fact there was nothing they could do legally about this mess, made it all the worse.
Lady of The Highlands knew if it wasn’t for the fishing boats they would be broke and Walls Manor would have gone to the wall like so many of the other houses. There wasn’t many manors in the Islands to begin with. She hated to see their society take the hits they had recently.
Sitting down she took up her place and nibbled at the fish while she waited for the whirlwind daughter of hers to explode through the door.
Sipping at the coffee the silence grew between them and she felt like they maybe there should be oceans between them and not a table. The Lady of The Highlands hated to keep her husband at a distance from her, when she knew there was a chance of war. This situation matter a great deal to her.
“Lily was out meeting Master McKenzie again today. If we don’t put a stop to this now, there will be trouble.”
She pointed this out to him and watched him shove his paper aside. His eyes had grown dark and frustrated with her. Almost like his mind got trapped in other matters and she pushed him to deal with the matters which rose up in his own home. Matters which she knew didn’t hold the same sort of importance to him.
“Mary, must we discuss this now?”
Mr McSinclair tried to avoid the argument he saw brewing, the same one which got him ejected from her room last night. She just wished he drew a harder line with his daughters and wasn’t a man who let them away with nearly anything, because of the horrors he had seen.
“We must discuss this now. If war is headed towards us like you say, war changes everything and all of us need to find a way to adapt during these rough times. More so now, than ever before. We need to find a way to keep this family in its rightful position, up hold the traditions which have existed here for thousands of years. The villagers expect us to be their lighthouses in the stormy sea. How many times do I have to tell you this.”
The Lady of The Highlands breathed her speech with the same cantankerous tone as she had used earlier. Her cheeks brushed with anger and her hand balled into a fist on the table. Mr McSinclair’s eyes remained fixed on hers throughout her entire explanation. His stonewall face made her feel even more ferocious about this. It felt like he just didn’t care about his daughters or what happened in his own house.
“Your right about how war changes all of this, however your wrong about traditions. They aren’t going to mean much soon. Not when the villages are burying their sons, fathers, brothers and husbands. When most bloodlines are wiped out, then your bloody traditions will not mean much. Time may be your enemy Mary, but it is not mine. I welcome it.”
His words tore a hole into the Lady of the Highlands as he returned her acrimony. Her fury died out a little knowing what he said was true.
The pressure of the upcoming war now weighing heavy on her mind and she watched her own husbands hands balled into fists. The blood almost completely drained out of her face. She read about how the Germans behaved and the concerns raised about the arm race.
The Lady of The Highlands knew just as well as the rest of Britain what all of this meant for them. She had only been sixteen, when the first world war came crashing down upon them. Nothing could prepare her for how her life would change and now she watched it happen again. Her eyes threatened to tear up with the memories of the past and how it effected her. She lost her brother and her father to the first world war, the one which was meant to end all wars.
With the sound of the door banging open and the sounds of heels in the hallway she brushed her eyes with the back of her hand and now she saw her husband staring at her with his mouth a jar. His mouth opened and closed several times before he finally shoved his words out. They sounded brittle.
“There is a war coming my love and its about time we start to prepare the girls, our staff for it. This will not be anything like the wars we’ve seen before. I do worry about them and you endlessly. For they should have as many happy memories as possible to see them through the war we all face. “
Mr McSinclair’s words made her feel even worse and she wasn’t going to have long to think about it as Lady Lily bounced into the room. She skipped and showed her delight at another new day.
“Oh poor child.” The Lady of The Highlands whispered to herself and the cold, hard mask of being her mother slid back into place.