Always, Catriona was the first to awaken, long before dawn. It was her favorite time of day. The messages from the nighttime dreams were still whispering to her, although they had a serious contest of being heard between the heavy breathing from Elspeth, who slept beside her, and the raucous snores from her father across the room. She knew that her mother especially used this time to relay messages. She could sense light beings still hovering in the air around the bed.
After a quiet visit to the bucket behind the screen, she stole back to the warmth of the bed. Like the evening before, she put her hands to excellent use. She rested her hands on her heart; sometimes she put one hand on her belly, sometimes on her throat, sometimes lower down on her body, sometimes over her forehead, sometimes on the crown of her head. Always, one hand remained on her heart. After a moment or two, the pulsing began. It was as though her hands became fused to the part of the body they were resting upon, as though she couldn’t move them if she tried. She could picture the light of her hands connecting to her body of light. So much for “Remember man that thou art dust”; at least one of us remembered that we’re made of stardust. And as for that “and to dust you will return,” nay, we return to the stars.
Catriona was rarely ill; nor were her sister and father. If her herbs didn’t heal them, her hands would. It was unfortunate she couldn’t heal her father’s love of the drink. Perhaps she figured that that’s what kept him alive, perhaps the pain of living without that particular buffer would’ve been too much for him.
Elspeth awoke next, and she’d snuggle next to her sister, relishing the extra radiant warmth provided by Catriona’s light work. As their father’s snores slowly subsided, the two women would brave the morning chill and dress and revive the fire. Elspeth handed their father his morning meal, as Catriona was wont to let her be the heroine whenever possible. Try as both would, though, nothing could really assuage his anger at his youngest, his grief at his loss, his resentment at life. Interesting that he lived with such a bright light in his own home, but never let it shine in the dark corners of his soul until it was too late.
The girls would eat as quickly as possible and then do their favorite chore of the day: head to the hills. Rain or shine. Winter or summer. Actually, we can scarcely call such an enjoyable activity a chore.
Just like the day before, and the day before that, Catriona gave her sister lessons on the herbs. Surely even through Elspeth’s simple headedness, she would’ve known the lessons by this time, but the two enjoyed the words. The words were a balm, liturgical—like they were a daily mass. For Elspeth, tiring of her sister’s lessons would’ve been akin to tiring of a meadowlark’s song.
When the sun was high overhead, they’d start to turn back.
“Oh,” Catriona said, “I forgot one herb, a necessary one for old man Cameron’s poultice.”
Elspeth nudged Catriona in the special fashion that signaled one thing: Shane was near.
“How’s Shane today?” Catriona sang out.
Shane never saw Elspeth give the signal, so he must have assumed Catriona had eyes in the back of her head.
“We’ll be here for a while yet, so we’ll meet you back in the village, aye?”
He hesitated, but took her cue. Instead of heading back to the village, however, he walked further up the mountainside.
“Yes, my love,” she said without looking up to meet Elspeth’s look. She knew the glare was there, however. “I’ve told you before. My words are not an invitation. I’ve done everything I’ve thought of to do—I’ve put a sphere of love around me, I’ve put on an armor of light, I’ve put up shields of metal like the warriors, but the only way to truly ward him off is to give him what he’s looking for. I bring him straight into my heart. I give him love. And then he’s satisfied for a bit and not flitting about like a moth at a candle.”
Elspeth’s expression registered that while she was not happy with her sister’s actions regarding this man of the shadows, she understood.
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