"Wuh? Did I miss something? You could hear a pin drop in here!" Carrying a large tray of sandwiches, cakes and coffee which Lexie had asked him to prepare, Ewan edged his way into the library through the connecting dining room door. The commotion of his presence unaffecting the stunned family and guests, the chef searched for a clear spot to put down the tray and finding none carried it back into the dining room. His curiosity peaked he returned himself to the library door to have a listen.
Golly MacKenzie moved further into the library toward one of the desks, gently closing a large leather and gold embossed photo album before carefully laying atop it his cherished items. "There was something you said outside," Golly addressed Paul, "about your mother being interested in the origin of peoples' names." The ghillie held up a tiny red dictionary. "This was what started your mother's fascination; my Grandmother MacKenzie's dictionary." As Golly spoke Donald walked over to the fireplace at the opposite end of the room and idly poked his foot along grate before taking a seat in the adjacent armchair. The burgundy-toned leather creaked faintly as he positioned himself, the wooden frame giving way a little under his weight.
"There's a list of names and their meanings in a section at the back," Golly continued, "Megan had once found it in amongst my things and would request I bring it along when we'd all gather together for picnics and such. The wee book she called it," the ghillie chuckled. "And she'd keep us all entertained. Do you remember those times, Donald?"
Donald, seeming to be lost in thought and perhaps also lost in memories, nodded, then whispered to himself, "Megan—a pearl."
"When she exhausted the contents of this book," Golly put down the dictionary, "she wished to move on to surnames and family names which, upon Donald's suggestion, led her here," he pointed to the ceiling-high bookshelves surrounding the library, "to this very room."
Opening the notebook he had also brought along Golly retrieved from it a fragile, ivory-colored envelope. This he handed to Paul, who, recognizing his mother's flowery handwriting, ran a finger over its surface, tracing the letters. It was addressed to Douglas MacKenzie. There was no return address.
"What's this," Paul asked quietly.
"Open it, Paul."
Collectively holding their breath the others drew closer to gain a better view as Paul lifted the triangular flap on the back of the envelope and slid out what appeared to be a blank piece of paper in a heavier stock. Glancing surreptitiously at Golly he steeled his resolve and slowly and ever so carefully turned the card over. Revealed was a small portrait of Paul as a newborn, drawn in soft charcoal but tinted a rose-pink on his lips and chubby cheeks with light brown locks of wispy hair about the baby's crown. Paul read aloud what was written beneath the drawing:
Born 14 November 1966
Paul Donald Bowman
"I only slept with her once," said Donald softly, clearly stunned. Then he realized the absurdity of his remark.
Leaning closer to Golly, Paul spoke to him in a lowered voice, "So what does this mean? Does it mean what I think it means?"
"Aye, I didn't make the connection at first," Golly explained, "but then I realized the "D" she refers to in her journal isn't me, it actually stood for Donald. I remembered something I'd saved of your mother's, a book she must have left behind in her rush to escape from Glenbogle." Golly picked up Meagan's notebook, "She used it to record her research on names." Turning to a marked page the left side showed a rather vivid and striking drawing of a young, dapper Donald and on the right was wording. He handed it to Paul.
Paul read out loud again, more for himself than for the benefit of any other:
Donald: Ruler of the World
My heart will always belong to you, my first.
"Fantastic," whispered Ewan, "This is better than a flippin' episode of EastEnders."
Putting down the envelope, card, and notebook, Paul started backing away from the desk, bending his elbows and splaying his hands and fingers out in front of him, he shook his head and exited the room through the side door that led outside.
Motioning for Duncan and Ewan to help her, Lexie readied the prepared food on the dining room table. Chances were no one would have much of an appetite in light of the shocking circumstances but at least it had given them something to do.
"Golly," still in the library, Archie approached the ghillie, speaking to him discreetly, "can you tell me honestly, did you think father, my father, was Paul's father too?"
"Aye Archie, aye, I did. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply I thought your dad had been unfaithful to your mum."
"No, Golly, I understand now. Before, you were trying to warn me, trying to protect mother from getting hurt. Thank you. A noble man you are, Mr. Douglas MacKenzie."
Glenbogle Estate Grounds
Banks of the Loch
Paul had made his way down to the edge of the loch and though he was looking out over the calm waters and misty, mountainous horizon, he wasn't really seeing any of it. He turned around as he heard someone approaching.
"Mrs. MacDonald, listen, I'm sorry to bring all of this on you, especially now. Donald told me about your husband. I'm so sorry for your loss."
Molly shook her head, saying a quiet thank you. "My husband liked to sit by the loch. Well he would have called it fishing but honestly I don't think Hector ever caught a fish in his life. There was just something about the water. It calmed him." She crossed her arms against the cool air drifting gently across the loch. "Paul, your mother was a lovely woman. She was attractive, talented, kind and she was also a dreamer. I didn't begrudge her the use of the library one bit. What good is storing years of history if only to be locked up and hidden away. It should be shared. That's how civilization progresses. But our personal histories are quite a different story aren't they? When your mum became pregnant—and I did know about it, the walls do sometimes have ears—well Hector was always so secretive and Donald so darn persuasive, I guess I drew my own conclusions. Jealousy got the best of me I suppose." She shrugged and smiled. "I left for a spell, just before your mother did and when I returned she was gone and so too was Donald. When we didn't hear from either of them again the matter was dropped. Dropped but never forgotten, that is." Pausing briefly, Molly reached out to Paul and laughed, "You know sometimes it pains me to admit this but underneath all that pomp and ceremony Donald really is a decent chap as my dear Hector would have said."
Paul smiled back and breathed deeply, though it didn't do much to clear his head. "Aye, Mrs. MacDonald. There is just so much to consider. I've waited my whole life for this very moment to happen, to find out the truth about whom my father really was and never really knowing what to expect. Now that I've done so I feel almost paralyzed. I should be rejoicing, embracing my family, asking all kinds of questions, but I believe I've never felt so lost."
Molly marveled at the inner strength this young man possessed, keeping his composure and displaying such fine manners when facing something so life-altering. She gave his arm a reassuring, motherly squeeze. "Give it time, Paul. Give it time."
"Thanks, Mrs. MacDonald, that's just what mi'mum would have said!"
"Well let's not be so formal then, yes? I insist from here on out you call me Molly."
"Right and again thanks for everything Molly."
"You're a fine man, Paul Bowman. Welcome to the family. I'll see you inside, dear."
Interior, Glenbogle Estate
While Donald watched the interaction between Molly and Paul through the library windows everyone else had piled into the dining room. Lexie stood at the head of the table banging a glass and silver salt shaker on its polished walnut surface, calling those assembled to order. "Ahem! So, Mr. Douglas Golly MacKenzie," snickers arose, "Let's see here what the name Douglas means, shall we?" Someone had started a drum roll as Lexie flipped through Megan's notebook. "Oooh, Golly, I always knew you had a mysterious side. Douglas comes from the Gaelic name Dubhghlas, meaning Dark River or Blood River. Eeeww," she wrinkled her nose, "Oh, wait, wait, there's more! It was the name of a river where a very bloody battle took place!" Comically dramatic ooohs and aahhs were verbalized around the table.
Entering the dining room Molly took off her gardening apron and laid it on a corner table then sidling up to Golly's chair she placed her arm comfortably across its back.
"Oh aye not so fast there, lass," Golly's head was tilted up; he raised his right eyebrow and pointed repeatedly at Megan's notebook. "Tell me then what's the meaning of the name MacKenzie, 'eh," he goaded, "Please read that derivative, too!"
"Aye-aye, Captain!" Lexie flipped through the somewhat alphabetized notebook and found the title MacKenzie. "Okay, the Gaelic surname, Mac Coinnich, literally means Son of Coinneach?" She wasn't sure of the pronunciation, but continued, "It's an Irish name meaning—och get this everyone—handsome! Oh, m'handsome man, look at ya!" Golly grinned from ear to ear, the dimples on both his cheeks magically appearing while the others laughed and hooted and Molly gave him a friendly kiss.
Returning to the library Paul joined Donald by the windows. As he approached, Donald began to say something, but Paul hushed him and slapped him between the shoulder blades. "Donald, I haven't even begun to process all of this yet, but c'mon, let's go Rule the World together, okay?"
"Ah-ha," grinning, Donald replied, "Now that's my boy!"
Glenbogle Estate Grounds
Estate Ghillie's Croft
Later that evening Golly sat alone in his croft huddled amongst the scattered bits and pieces of his life still emptied from the shelves, thinking about his own legacy while he waited on the line. "Hello?" He spoke into the receiver as he gazed at the framed photo of his daughter. "Could I speak to Jessica, please? Mm-hmm, yup, you can tell her it's her father ringing."