Disclaimer: "All Creatures Great and Small" was a BBC TV show from 1978-1990 based on the books of James Herriot. No copyright infringement intended.
Thistle and Lilac
That sneaky boy. He must have had some confidence that I'd forgive him and we'd still be going to the Sapphire for our dinner date Saturday night. Before we left each other, he reached into a pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a sealed envelope.
He handed it to me, murmuring, "ah ah ah, you mustn't open it until you get home."
"All right, spoilsport. Anything else?"
"I just want to surprise you. Don't sound so cross, I'll make it up to you in the end. I'll come to call around...7 tomorrow night. All right with you?"
He gave me a quick peck on the cheek as we both got up to leave.
So the next night, with measured apprehension, I got ready for our date.
The note, in Tristan's messy hand, asked me to wear Penny's lilac dress for our date. It sounded like a strange request at first. But after I thought about it for a moment, I remembered he said he loved that dress and its colour.
Something felt different the day before, when Tristan and I met for our chat. I wasn't sure what it was, but I felt hopeful. If anything, it was the first time Tris had kissed my cheek and I hadn't immediately dismissed the action as just being friendly. Tonight is going to be our first official date, I thought to myself.
As I put on the lilac dress and looked at my reflection in the mirror, I couldn't help but smile. Penny was right.
But I wasn't sure how the evening was going to go. I was, however, chuffed that we were going to the Sapphire. It was a place I'd only heard about of course. Students like us couldn't afford such luxury.
"Mary!" my Aunt Rachel called from downstairs. "That young man that keeps coming round here has come to call. A Mister Farnon?" I was, again, grateful that my aunt didn't make a fuss about a boy coming that frequently to call. I could nearly hear my mum's muttering if a boy like Tristan were to come by our farm often and in that brief moment, I gulped, knowing that I'd be back on that farm in short order.
I tried to shake off the feeling and grabbed my purse from the bed. "Coming!" I took one more glance in the mirror and tried to put on my best smile. Still, my stomach was doing flip-flops.
As Tristan had promised, it was an unforgettable night. As the daughter of a farmer, it wasn't common for me to be wined and dined at one of the poshest places in town. Fish, duck, lamb, and lobster all made their way to our table. I was overwhelmed by the variety. More so, I was bowled over by the decadence of the Sapphire - the gilded beams, the magnificent windows framed with dark velvet curtains, the fancy china.
I was starting to get a wee woozy from the wine and champagne that flowed freely into our glasses. At the start of the night, I was concerned about how much debt Tristan was going to incur for this night out, but he waved me off.
"Remember, compared to this, next week I'll be in prison." He raised his champagne glass. "But let's not think too much about that tonight, shall we? Instead, how about we celebrate the end of term instead. And your achievements. To Mary McDonald, head of her nursing class!"
"Thank you, thank you," I said, clinking my glass against his, then taking a long sip. "But Tris, it won't be that bad. I'm sure your brother Siegfried is as docile as a pussycat."
"Docile as a pussycat? Maybe a pussycat with extra-sharp claws. He has to be seen to be believed." He thought for a moment. "Well Mary, how about you come to Darrowby one day and see Siegfried in the flesh yourself?"
I grinned. "All right. Yes, I think I will. One day."
"You will?" He sounded hopeful.
"But only when you've fully qualified," I replied smugly, sipping my champagne.
"What? Now you're the one being unfair." Tristan pretended to pout.
"No, not unfair. Just being practical. Also...it'll ensure that you'll be alive and well in Darrowby when I visit!"
Tristan rubbed his chin. "True, very true." We both laughed.
After leaving the Sapphire, we decided to take a stroll along the Royal Mile before Tristan had to walk me back to my auntie's. It wasn't too dark yet, the crisp night air was welcome after too much drink, but the street was nearly deserted.
Tristan took my hand in his. "So all the odd jobs...they were worth it? For tonight?" He gave me a questioning look.
I nodded, squeezing his hand. "Mmmhmm. I still can't believe you went to all the trouble and saved everything up for this. Thank you, this has been an incredible evening. Best night out I've had in ages. Probably my whole life, I think."
"I'm glad. It was nothing really." Then he brought out the patented smug Tristan Farnon smile. "In my mind, it was all worth it. For one final hurrah. You want to know why?"
"Tell me." I nodded.
"I see strength in your eyes, Mary McDonald. Strength I've never seen in another girl. It's like I said to you before, you're going to be successful whatever you do. Because you're strong."
"But Tris, I haven't felt strong lately. Just the other day I was talking to Penny about this - I've been thinking about things. The war, the future."
"Yes? What of it?"
"The uncertainty of it all - it's all so frustrating. Even though I've been responsible to now, where has it gotten me? If Britain is going to be taken over by a madman, it's all going to be over in due time. It's time to throw caution to the wind. You know, I've had the most fun this term spending time with you. It's like I could have gone through my entire life swotting and for what? Nowt much."
"Don't say that. You're going to be a big success one day, I know it. Me? I'll probably still be living under my brother's roof for the rest of my life, working at his practice."
"No, I was thinking, let's do something crazy. What would you say if we stole away somewhere tonight, just ourselves, where no one could find us?"
He let out a startled laugh. "Mary dear, how would we do that?"
"Couldn't you convince Duncan to lend you his motorcar? I know it's short notice..."
"Not likely. Are you sure the champagne bubbles haven't gone to your head, my dear?"
"Just think, Tris. Don't tell me you haven't considered how nice it'd be to get away from your brother, even for a little while."
"We can't just run away. You know that. Besides, I have to be on a train to Darrowby tomorrow afternoon or Siegfried will have my head."
I sighed. "It's not fair..."
"Shhh..." He quickly guided me under an awning and kissed me tenderly. Shock and excitement within me were at odds. We probably would have stayed in that exact position for a long time if I hadn't broken away from him, my face wet.
I had started to cry. It had finally sunk in that this boy, the first boy I'd ever had real feelings for, was leaving tomorrow. And I couldn't do anything about it. "Oh Tris, don't leave. Tell Siegfried you need to stay a couple more days in Edinburgh. Better yet, the entire summer."
He stroked my cheek. "I'd love to stay but I can't, you know that."
I frowned. "I know. Oh, if it wasn't for this bloody war...and even so, I don't want to go back home, back to that blasted farm...and you're going home too. Just when I've finally felt like I've found my footing. Why can't things just stay as they are for once?"
"Me leaving Edinburgh doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. For your life anyway. Even if I leave - and that I will - you'll be fine without me. Because there is 'beauty in truth, and truth is in beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"
"Yes, well, what does that have to do with anything? Besides being lovely."
"That's Keats, if my memory isn't failing me. What I mean is, life goes on but there is beauty in everything, and beauty is what I see in you."
"You're sweet Tris."
He chuckled, tightening his grip on my hand. "One tries." Tristan looked at his watch and frowned. "It's getting late. Shall I see you tomorrow? Before I leave?"
I shook my head and turned away from him. "No, I'm not good with tearful goodbyes." Fumbling around in my purse, I finally found what I was searching for and wrapped my fingers around it. "But I have something to give you." I extended my open hand - and my good luck charm - to him.
"What is it?"
"It's a charm, of the Scottish thistle. My mother gave it to me, it's been passed down through the generations. It's brought me good luck on multiple occasions. Like this term's exams."
He tried to wave me off. "I can't take this. It's yours. Your mother would be cross with me if she found out you'd given away a family heirloom."
"It's mine to give. And I want you to have it. There's nothing more to be said on the matter."
"All right, Mary McDonald." He smiled. "I'll remember this always."
"Like this term?"
"Right." By then we'd ended up at my aunt and uncle's. "Well then..."
I looked at the front door with disgust, then back at Tristan with melancholy. "Goodbye Tris...and good luck. Have a safe trip back to Darrowby."
He gave me a kiss on the forehead, then a hug. "Goodbye Mary. Stay sweet."
And then he was gone.