Title Taste Thursday. As we are nearing New Year’s I thought I’d share an excerpt containing this quote from my novelette, The Hogmanay Stranger. For those who are not familiar with Hogmanay, it is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish tradition. As the Sweetwater Canyon families visit Scotland for New Year’s this celebration is a major part of the story.
Rachel’s da had sent her an invitation to come home to Scotland for Hogmanay. She hadn’t been home in eight years and she was dying to go. Letters and Google Hangouts had kept them in touch, but nothing like seeing each other in person. Her da had invited the entire band and their families to his home and B&B in Dunoon, Evie’s Inn, named after Rachel’s mother. Hogmanay was a traditional time to welcome friends and strangers to your home, and to enter into the new year together with a clean break from the past—looking forward, not back.
Rachel wanted to share Hogmanay with both her families—her da in her family home and with the family she’d come to know in America since she’d joined Sweetwater Canyon five years ago. If she didn’t extend the invitation and work out the financing now, they would all make other plans. The logistics could be difficult, but that wasn’t her prime worry. It was the cost to fly all five women and their families to Scotland during one of the busiest travel times of the year that had her prepared to beg for assistance.
David sauntered into the conference room and smiled. “So, what was so important you had to call me away from Michele and little Tamara? I can’t believe it was only a few months ago she was barely walking on her own. Now I can hardly keep up with all the places she finds to climb and get into trouble.”
He turned and reached into the small refrigerator for a pitcher of water. “Can I offer you any?” he said, holding a glass next to the raised pitcher.
“Sure.” Rachel ran nervous fingers through her hair.
He looked at her with narrowed eyes. “Is there a problem? Where’s Noel?”
“Noel’s home with Claire. No problem…exactly.” Rachel shifted from one foot to the other. “I have more of a question. I need an advance or a loan or something.”
“Have a seat.” David placed the glass in front of her on the conference table and sat in a chair facing her.
She flopped into the chair and then sat erect, her fingers drumming on the table. She hated asking for favors but this meant the world to her. Somewhere deep inside she knew it was important to spend Hogmanay with her da. She didn’t know why this year was more important than any other, but it was. This was the first time he’d actually extended the invitation. He hadn’t made it to her wedding, hadn’t even met Noel yet. Though she and her da loved each other, since her maw’s death they’d been a bit closed…not as forthcoming in their conversations. Rachel saw this opportunity as the first real chance they had to define a new life without her maw.
She had left so soon after her mother’s death, and then been consumed with her new husband, moving to America, his infidelities and the divorce a few years later, that she’d never had the time—taken the time—to reconnect with her da. It had been eight years since she’d been able to hug him. Now with Noel and Claire and a real family of her own it seemed even more important.
She wanted, no needed, this time for the two of them to discover how they could both move forward and still be a family together and part of the extended family she now shared. She very much wanted Claire to know her Scottish roots and especially her grandfather. She also wanted her da to be a regular part of their family—more than a person seen on a computer screen once a month.
David took a long, slow draught from his own glass of water. “Are you and Noel having financial problems?” He asked, his voice soft.
“Oh, no. No, no, no. It’s nothing like that.” Rachel clasped her hands together to stop her fingers from tapping.“ Da wants us to spend Hogmanay with him.”
“That’s great.” David tilted his head and quirked an eyebrow. “Isn’t it?”
“Oh yes. Absolutely. Claire is thrilled and can’t stop talking about it, and Noel has never been to Scotland and I’m excited to share it with both of them, but…”
Rachel took a deep breath. She’d talked about this with Noel, but she still hated asking for an advance. It’s just that she wanted to make it a present for everyone, and they couldn’t do that easily on his teacher’s salary and her usual take for the band gigs.
“The deal is I’d like to take everyone with me. Our family home is also a B&B and Da will put everyone up and have meals and all that, but I wanted to pay for the airfare so no one would feel they couldn’t come because they couldn’t afford it.”
David nodded slowly. “I see.”
Rachel rushed on. “I don’t want to sound like I always hit you up because your…well…you know…rich.”
David nodded. “We are very comfortable.”
“I know you and Michele can afford it for sure, but Theresa is trying to pay for Kat’s college and Sarah and Tom are still deciding what to do about the ranch and have lots of bills for rebuilding and it didn’t seem fair that I would pay for some and not others, so I figured I’d just pay for everybody but I can’t exactly afford it and so I’m asking for an advance or a loan or whatever you think is right.”
David chuckled. “You’re sounding like Kat with that sentence going on and on.”
Rachel let out the breath she was holding. “I just don’t like asking.” She purposely paused and took another breath. “But all of you are my family too. You’ve been my only family until I met Noel and I just can’t imagine spending New Year’s without all of you. And it’s the first time I’ll be home since maw passed, and I’m not sure how I’m going to take it or how da will be about it. They were engaged on Hogmanay you know.” She swallowed against the lump in her throat and the memories of her mother’s illness and having to leave so soon after her death.
“It’s not a problem.” David covered her hand with his. “Let me pay for everyone as my Christmas present to the band.”
Rachel stood. “No. That’s not what I meant. This is why I didn’t want to ask. I knew you would do the rush in and save us thing just like you did when Annabelle broke down.”
“I’m not saving anyone and, if I remember correctly, it was that motorhome breakdown that provided me with the best opportunity ever—marketing for the band and getting Michele back in my life. I’ve been thinking what to do about gifts. It’s been such a wonderful year and this is the perfect way to celebrate it—all of us, together, in Scotland. I can probably even book a couple of gigs to help pay for it all.”
Rachel shook her head. “Admit it, this is much more than you would normally spend. We are talking thousands of dollars to fly everyone there. No, I want an advance or a loan. My idea. My treat.”
“What if I can get a couple gigs?”
“I don’t want us worrying about playing during the holidays. I just want us to enjoy each other. We can sing and play if we want, but nothing formal, nothing that we absolutely have to do.” She paused and stood still, looking out the window. This part of Oregon even reminded her of Scotland. She had to share it with everyone. She turned back to David. “Please, lets do this my way for once.”
David shook his head in resignation. “Why are all the Sweetwater Canyon women so stubborn?”
“We have to be because we seem to fall in love with stubborn men.” Rachel smiled. “Thanks for the offer though. Now, how are we going to arrange this?”
David reached for his computer bag and pulled out his laptop. “Let’s see what we can do.” He typed something on the keyboard and then nodded. “Here’s the deal. Michele and I will pay our own way.”
“No. I want to be fair. I pay for everyone.”
“If you want my help, Michele and I pay our own way. I’m not charging you for a loan to pay for something I can do on my own. Also, with Tamara, we will be wanting to go first class or business class to have more space and some sleeping room.”
Rachel let out an audible sigh. “Okay. I can accept that.”
David nodded. “I will make all the arrangements for everyone so we can leave at the same time and arrive at the same time. If we get the tickets together we can get a group rate. Also, I can use my miles to get upgrades for everyone to at least business class.”
Rachel thought about arguing on the miles but she knew she would lose that one too. Besides he probably had enough miles to last him for years. She had to admit that traveling in business class would be a lot more comfortable than coach.
“Thank you,” she finally said. “So, you’ll let me know the damages and the terms of the loan?”
“I will. I’m estimating the charges will be somewhere between three and five thousand dollars. That’s about two months pay for you on our current schedule. Shall we say three years at no interest?”
“No. That’s not fair,” Rachel said. “The bank would charge me a lot more than that.”
“I’m not a bank,” David said. “I’m family. You just said so yourself.”
“But even family deserves interest on a loan. Business is business. How much would you be making on that money if you didn’t give it to me?”
“That’s not the point.”
“How much?” She asked again.
“Liar. You would have it in some great stock that is making gagillions.”
He chuckled. “You must think very highly of my investments. There is no stock that makes gagillions.”
“Okay, an exaggeration. But I know two percent is not realistic.”
“This particular money is in a money market account. That keeps it liquid. Money market interest right now is less than one percent. So, by charging you two percent I’m gouging you. Do you feel better now?”
Rachel narrowed her eyes and studied him. She had no idea what money market rates were right now. “Deal.” She finally held out her hand. “Shake on it.”
David shook her hand. “You’ll also sign a promissory note. You wanted this to be business.”
“Thanks, David.” She looked straight at him. “Really. Thanks. This means a lot to me.”
* * * * *
Rachel stared out the window of the limousine hired to bring them all from Glasgow airport. She didn’t know how he managed it, but as usual David had everything arranged to make the trip as easy as possible. She watched for her home as the hired car lumbered up the steep winding drive to the top of the hill. Positioned high amid a woodland garden, the home—now Inn—enjoyed sensational views over the Firth of Clyde.
Claire dozed curled on Noel’s lap. Both Kat and Theresa had drifted between reading a book and napping during the hour ride. Michele held a sleeping Tamara while snuggled into David’s arm. The two-year-old had been so good on the long flight that Rachel had almost forgotten they had such a young child with them. Sarah and Tom snuggled together in the last seat at the back. Still newlyweds, it seemed they couldn’t stand to not be touching for even a second.
Noel squeezed Rachel’s hand. “You okay?” He whispered.
She nodded. “A little anxious.”
“It will be great.” He drew her closer into his side. “With all your friends here, there is nothing that can happen that we can’t handle together.”
She gasped as the view of the house appeared in the window. The main house still fronted the firth. It’s three-story Victorian structure loomed tall on the steep hill. The bright white stucco, trimmed in black, presented a happy welcome. It was much better than the slate blue and grey she recalled when she’d left Dunnon with her ex-husband and worried that her father had to face his grief alone.
The limousine came to a stop and Rachel scooted toward the door to be the first out. Her father appeared at the top of the drive and her breath caught. He looked good. Healthy. Smiling. Not much different except more grey in his hair. She ran to him, tears streaming down her face.
He wrapped her in his big strong arms. “I missed you Rachel. I’m so happy you could come and bring your friends.”
She buried her head in his chest, inhaling deeply the smell of pine boughs and firewood that she always remembered for this time of year. Why had she taken so long to return home?
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