I stood before David, tears running down my face. I felt so terrible about what I was about to do, but I had to be done. I held out the sparkling ring that he had worked so hard to give me. The agony in his face was almost unbearable as he took it back.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, putting my hand gently on his shoulder. He shrugged it off.
"Don't," he said roughly. He turned his face away. I couldn't stand there, knowing I had been the one who had broken his heart, and hurt him so much. I fled.
As I ran, a lightness came over me. I was free! I had not realized how heavily my engagement to David had weighed on me until I was free of it. It felt as if a great weight had fallen from my heart. I could almost float away! A sudden conviction came over me. Neil. I had to tell Neil. The sooner the better. I had to tell him that I loved him, that I couldn't marry David. And something was telling me that I needed to tell him right now.
I saddled Buttons as one in a dream, hardly knowing what I was doing. I didn't awake to myself until I was well on the road to the MacNeill cabin.
"Thank you, Jesus," I whispered. "Thank you for making my path clear to me at last! No more being confused, no more second guessing. I am in love with Neil MacNeill!"
Just to say it out loud was so wonderful. I spurred Buttons into a gallop, just for the sheer joy of feeling the wind against my face and seeing the path rush away from us on both sides. I felt as if I could do anything, be anything. And there was nothing holding me down. David would never patronize me, never ignore my opinions, or treat me like a child again. I was free of him!
It wasn't until I galloped up to Neil's cabin that I realized I had no idea what I was going to say to him. I swung off Buttons, but hesitated to go up to the cabin. What in the world was I going to say to Neil? What if he didn't want me any more? The thought made my blood run cold. Now that I had realized I was in love with Neil, I knew that there could be no other man in the world for me but the rough-and-tumble Scottish doctor. Maybe I should just turn back and go home to the Mission. No one would know. I wavered.
Neil solved my problem for me. He appeared at the door of his cabin, holding his lantern aloft.
"Who's there?" he called.
I stepped closer, into the circle cast by the light.
"Christy?" he asked. "Is that ye, Lass? What's wrong? Who's sick? I'll come at once." He was already reaching inside for his medical bag. Dearest Neil. Always thinking of others before himself, always ready to be there for those who needed him.
"Neil," I said, stopping him. "Nobody's sick."
"Then what are ye doing out here in the dead of night with only that thin shawl?" he asked, skeptically.
I looked down at myself. He was right- I was only wearing a summer shawl over my dress; I hadn't even noticed until now, so great was my eagerness to see him. Now that he had mentioned it, I felt the cool of the evening, and shivered.
"Ye shouldn't be out. Especially after yer fever. Come in the house, Christy."
I did as I was bid. His cabin was bathed in light, and deliciously warm. Neil scrutinized me as I walked in.
"Something is wrong. Ye've been crying. Don't try to hide it from me, Lass," as I shook my head, trying to deny it, "I can read ye like a book."
"I…" I tried to think of something to say, some excuse for being here of all places. "David and I… are no longer engaged, Neil," I blurted out.
Neil's eyes grew round with surprise.
"He broke it off?" Before I could deny it, Neil's face grew stormy. "He did, didn't he? That stupid fool! Doesn't he know what he had? I ought to go over there and thrash some sense into him for hurting ye like this!" Neil's Scottish accent grew stronger with his anger.
But I didn't want him hurting David. Whatever his faults, David didn't deserve that. I laid a hand on Neil's arm. He stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes finding mine and holding them.
"No, Neil. I broke it off, not David."
"Why?" Neil asked. His eyes pierced me, and I was sure he was looking right into my soul.
"It wasn't fair," I whispered. "To him or to me. It wasn't fair to marry him… when I was in love with another man."
Neil was frozen to the spot. I swallowed, and continued. I knew if I stopped now, I might never be able to finish telling Neil what I had come here to tell him.
"I love you, Neil. I have for so long, I just couldn't see it. I know you said you loved me, but I don't expect you to still love me, after I slapped you, and treated you so horribly. I know that…"
But I never finished my sentence. Neil pulled me to him and effectively silenced me. I was so surprised at first that I couldn't react to his kiss. Kissing Neil MacNeill wasn't at all like kissing David Grantland. All of David's many kisses didn't add up to this one of Neil's. Neil's was passionate and possessive, claiming me as his own.
"Are you going to slap me again?" Neil asked, leaning his forehead against mine and grinning.
My answer was to pull him in for another kiss. This one was more gentle, and I felt the full extent of Neil's love for me flowing through it.
"How could you think I wouldn't want you?" Neil asked. "If my love for you were any greater, the mountains would crumble under the weight of it."
We both smiled.
"You're a poet, Dr. MacNeill."
"For ye, Lass, I feel like I could be."
I buried my face in his shoulder and marveled at the feeling of being held by him.
"I was going away," he said, his voice rumbling in his chest. "I was going to go back to Baltimore and never come back. I couldn't stay, not with ye marrying David, and my last chance gone. I was going almost this very minute."
"Something told me to hurry," I said. "Something told me I had to come to you right now and tell you."
"Perhaps it was God," Neil said.
I drew away from him so I could see his face, searching it for the usual signs of mocking amusement that accompanied his comments about God. But none were there.
"Neil, you don't believe in God," I said cautiously.
He looked down.
"Christy, Lass, things have changed."
I stared at him in wonder. Whatever did he mean? Was it possible, just maybe, that this confirmed atheist had found Jesus?
Neil drew up two chairs by the fire, and led me to one. He sat in the other, and took my hands in his. The flickering light of the fire threw his craggy face into sharp relief, and made his red hair seem even redder.
"That night, when ye had the fever…I thought I was going to lose ye. I knew there was nothing I could do to help ye. I… I couldn't bear the thought of losing ye, even if ye were going to marry Grantland. A life without ye, Christy, is blank. I know. I've tried it. So I called out to Him. The only one who could help ye. I gave Him my life, and yers, to do with what He would."
"Oh, Neil," I said softly, filled with wonderment. I lifted my hand up to his cheek.
He turned his head and kissed my palm.
"I was stubborn and pig-headed, and I refused to see Him, and I ran away. But I couldn't run any farther. Not while ye were lying there, so helpless, and I could do nothing. I knew ye were in the hands of the Great Physician. He gave ye back to me. And I will serve Him all my days."
There were tears shining in Neil's eyes, as well as in my own. I was so proud of him, and so happy at his decision. A tear spilled down my cheek. Neil wiped it away with his thumb. I gave him a watery smile.
"I'm so glad, Neil. So glad," I said.
He looked earnestly at me.
"Christy, I… I know I've done nothing to deserve ye," he said, his brogue growing stronger with his emotion. "But I love ye and I always will. Marry me, Lass?"
This time there was no hesitation. No need to think and ponder and examine my heart. I knew my answer right away.
"Yes – absolutely! Yes!"
The barrier of his lack of faith had been swept away. There was nothing to stop us now! Neil caught me up in his arms, laughing, and waltzed me across the cabin floor. I was laughing too, and crying, and holding on to him as tightly as I could.
"How could ye love me?" Neil asked, when we were both so out of breath that we collapsed into our chairs. "How, when I scold ye and disagree and argue with ye all the time?"
"I love it! You take me seriously. You listen to me. You don't treat me like a child who's opinion doesn't matter. We have disagreements, yes, but you always listen and respond to me as if I am an intelligent adult."
"And Grantland doesn't?" He asked, his face stormy.
I shook my head.
"David was more interested in kissing me than listening to me. And he always made me feel like I didn't know anything."
"Then he was a greater fool than I though," Neil answered. He shook his head, his eyes soft. "Never did I dream that ye would actually be mine. God has given me a very great treasure."
He leaned forward and kissed me gently.
The clock on the mantelpiece chimed, startling us both.
"Is that really the time?" I gasped. Two in the morning! It couldn't be!
Neil laughed his loud, warm laugh.
"We lost track of the time, I suppose. It was worth it, for this night. But ye should get back. It's not good for ye to stay up late when you're recovering," he said, suddenly back in Doctor mode. "Come on, I'll walk ye back to the Misson."
We walked hand in hand, holding the reigns of Buttons and Charlie in the other hand. The moon was out, and I watched it as we walked in silence. Silence with David had always seemed threatening. I chattered to fill it up. But silence with Neil was different. It was a comforting, companionable silence, as if we didn't need words to communicate. As we came in sight of the Mission, I stopped.
"I had better leave you here. I don't want to wake anyone up," I said.
"Always thinking of others, aren't ye? My dearest Lass."
He put his arms around me and kissed me once more.
"Ye have given me the world," he said, leaning his forehead against mine.
"I love you too," I whispered, giggling.
"And I love ye, Miss Huddleston."
"You like calling me that, Don't you?" I teased.
Neil's face softened, and he smiled at me.
"Someday I hope to call ye Mrs. MacNeill. And that will be the greatest joy."
Author's Note: I waited all that time to get the Christy TV movies after that terrible cliffhanger on the TV show, and then waited all the way through three movies, and then what do they do to me? They don't show the scene where she tells Neil! I was so mad I could have screamed. But instead I wrote this story, of how I think it might have happened.
Ths based more on Kelly Martin's Christy, since I liked her better than Lauren Lee Smith's more sedate version. I tried to recreate Neil's Scottish accent a little, since it's one of my favorite things about him.
I would like to say that all the waiting was worth it to see Christy walking down the aisle to Neil MacNeill in a kilt. Hurrah!