With Apologies to the Proclaimers
The next couple of days moved slowly for everyone. Lexie, feeling a bit put-off by Archie's attitude—and being a bit hormonal—ended up spending much time alone, questioning her life and the decisions she'd made. Putting off further still the important discussion she needed to have with her husband. Molly did her best to avoid everyone, giving her son and daughter-in-law some much needed space, not knowing that ultimately they'd spent even less time with one another. And Archie was too pre-occupied organizing surprises for Lexie's birthday to have noticed anything else.
But all of this suited Donald, Ewan and Duncan quite well.
Lexie & Archie's Bedroom, Glenbogle Estate
Lexie awoke Friday morning to a clatter and rattle as Archie tried opening their bedroom door with his elbow. Her eyes still bleary from sleep, she propped herself up against the bed's headboard. "What's this then?"
"It's your Birthday Breakfast." Archie placed the tray of food on the bed and then leaned over to kiss his wife, nearly knocking over a full juice glass and a tiny bud vase. "And that was your Happy Birthday Kiss. One of many I hope to dispense, I might add."
"Mmmm, that suits me. Hey, aren't you going to sing to me, Arch?"
"No, c'mon now Lex, you know I don't sing. So, what have you got planned for the day?"
"Well," Lexie's irritation was mounting, "I thought we'd be spending my birthday together?"
"Yup, well about that, um…"
"Archie? I know you have loads of work to do but that's all I wanted for my birthday. All I wanted was for us to be able to spend some time together."
"Yes Lexie, I know that, and I'm sorry, truly I am. It's just that I have some business I must take care of first. Tell me you understand, please?"
"Important business, is it? Oh wait, don't tell me, it's some insurance thing again, right?"
"It's just something I have to take care of, is all. But I promise we'll have a special dinner together, okay?"
"Right," Lexie sighed, shaking her head, "aye, go on with you then."
Exterior, Glenbogle Estate
It was late afternoon before Ewan and Duncan were able to coordinate their schedules for the purpose of meeting up with Donald to complete the next phase of Project Salmon Smoke. Deciding to hot-smoke the fish, they chose to work on the steps of the boat house, setting up the smoker under the protective overhang of the building's roof and running an electrical line from one of the other out buildings. As Ewan placed the deep tray of fish on a nearby bench, Duncan set up his granddad's barrel—which he'd managed to find in his croft—with an electric hot-plate, showing Ewan how to fit in a bit of steel mesh on the top to help prevent any ash from the fire blowing onto the fish.
"I was hoping to be here when Donald got back with the sawdust," Duncan explained as he quickly checked on the gathered equipment, "but I've got to run. You know what to do though, mate. Throw the sawdust in the bottom—because that's the important bit, it's the smoldering sawdust that provides the essence for the smoking, you see? Just a sec," he paused, making sure he had Ewan's attention, "Donald knows not to cut down any of these trees, right?" He motioned to those surrounding the property.
"Duncan, can you really see Donald cutting down a tree?"
"No, I s'pose not, it's just that," Duncan pressed on, "these trees are conifers," Ewan shrugged as if to say yup, what of it, "so they contain sap, sap which will produce an acrid vapour if burned."
"Aye Duncan, it's no problem, I can handle it, mate. Now off with you."
Archie, Glenbogle Estate
Having completed the important errand which had required Archie to travel back and forth a great distance, therefore keeping him away, as he'd anticipated, for the better part of the day, he'd made one final stop to the Ghillie's Rest before going home. He hadn't stopped for a quick pint or a snack, although cook and owner Dougal McCleary did make the best cheeseburger sliders this side of the pond, but instead, he left behind the bar a rather large, flat package, unattractively wrapped in brown paper.
Lexie was collecting the post which was scattered haphazardly across the black and white tiled floor of the entryway, sorting through the rather hefty lot, dividing it this way and that when Archie drove up. As he approached her, she stuck a flashy pink envelope—no doubt, a birthday card from her mother, at the bottom of her pile.
"So my lovely Lairdess, are you going to get yourself ready?"
"Ready for what, Archie? Ooooh, are you going to take me to a five star restaurant or something?"
"Well no, ha-ha," Archie could feel his face reddening, "not exactly. But I dohave a special surprise for you. Lexie, please, trust me, okay?"
Although he stepped forward to give her a hug, or at the very least a peck on the cheek, Lexie took a step back, thrusting the pile of mail toward him. "Here," she said none too amused, "sort that out while I get ready."
Entrance Hall, Glenbogle Estate
"Archie? What do you have there?" Molly met Archie in the entrance hall. "Is that the post? Oh, stop fussing with it. Here, give it to me." Taking the stack, she spread the envelopes out on the marble-topped telephone table, grimacing when she caught sight of two or three bills. "Is Lexie getting ready?"
"Have you given any more thought to what we discussed the other day?"
"Yes and no, mother but listen, now's not really the time, is it?"
"Hullo!" Golly knocked on one of the paneled double doors that led to the entrance hall.
"Golly! You made it, great."
"Aye, I wouldn't miss this for the world." He grinned, "Thanks for inviting me, son."
Archie rolled his eyes; he knew it had been a mistake to let the Ghillie in on his plans for Lexie's special day, a scheme having the potential to destroy whatever dignity Archie had, leaving him open to being mocked ad nauseam. But, he knew, it was all in the name of fun and when all was said and done, would hopefully be a memory Lexie would always treasure.
"Brilliant," Archie began pacing along the oriental carpeting, "that's two down, now let's see, we're waiting for," he started ticking names off on his fingers, "Duncan, Ewan, plus the guest of honor and Donald. Does anyone know what's happened to either Donald or Ewan? It seems I haven't seen them for days."
The Boat House, Glenbogle Property
Donald raced up to the boat house, panting and sweating, a bucket of sawdust swinging from one hand.
"Finally, what took you so long, man?" Ewan grabbed the bucket from Donald, pouring its contents into the bottom of the barrel.
"Do you know," still breathing heavily, Donald stopped for a moment to catch his breath, "how hard it is to find sawdust?"
Entrance Hall, Glenbogle Estate
Archie glanced at his watch, "Come on, Lexie. Do you see anybody else coming, Golly?"
The Ghillie was gazing out one of the windows which overlooked the front property. "Nope, sorry Archie."
"You did tell Duncan and Ewan to meet us here at the estate, correct?"
The Boat House
Ewan carefully tamped down the sawdust in the bottom of the barrel, just as Duncan had instructed him to do.
Entrance Hall, Glenbogle Estate
Duncan came barging through the front doors of the house and straight into the entrance hall, while at the same time Lexie descended the main staircase.
"Oh," Lexie looked amused, "so everyone's waiting for me, are they?" Smiling, she said thanks, as everyone shouted Happy Birthday.
"Listen, Arch," Duncan tried desperately to speak with his boss, "about Donald and Ewan…"
"Duncan they'll just have to meet us down at the Ghillie's Rest."
"But Archie, they're busy."
"Look, Dunc, I can't imagine they'd miss Lexie's party. They'll just have to meet us there, we can't hold up things any longer!"
The Boat House
Ewan was fiddling with one of the steel grates. "So Donald, where did you get the sawdust from anyway?"
"Ah, from the camp grounds, it was ingenious on my part, actually. Doesn't that Duncan chap teach some sort of tree-carving course or the like up there? Because, there were all sorts of weird sculptures all around, carved out of tree trunks."
Getting impatient with Ewan's preparations, Donald rummaged through some things and found a box of matches. He struck a matchstick on the sole of his shoe and he threw it into the barrel.
Front Drive, Glenbogle Estate
"Okay, Mother why don't you join me and Lexie. We'll take the blue truck," milling around the outside of the house, Archie took charge of deciding who would ride with whom to the Ghillie's Rest, "Then that leaves you two," he pointed to Golly and Duncan, "to go together in the Land Rover. Is that all right with everyone?"
Before anyone had agreed or had made any movements towards the vehicles, they all heard a loud explosion erupt from the back of the house.
"What the…?" Archie ran in the direction of the sound. A thick trail of blackish smoke was billowing upward.
"Wait there, Lexie," the laird yelled.
Joining him, Golly and Duncan followed Archie to the back of the house.
The Boat House
The barrel had become completely engulfed in flames. After making sure Donald was okay, Ewan had managed to tip the barrel on its side and roll it down to the water, where it sizzled and popped and threw off steam before finally being extinguished.
By the time Archie and the others had reached them, they were sitting, spent, on the boat house steps.
"I'm not even going to ask," Archie looked round at the accumulate materials, and then spotted the whiskey barrel in the loch. "Are you both all right?" Though clearly shell-shocked, they both shook their heads yes.
"It must have been the sawdust," said Ewan.
Duncan stepped forward, "You did get it from the saw-mill down the road, right? Donald?"
"I got it from the camp grounds."
"Och, you daft old man! That has oil from the chain-saw all over it! Blimey, that's what ignited!"
"Yes, thank you Duncan. That fact has become quite evident to me now."
"I guess there goes your plan then," Ewan snickered and whispered to Donald, "gone up in smoke! Hook, line and sinker!"
The Ghillie's Rest
Finally managing to get everyone settled at the Ghillie's Rest, Lexie was led to a table set in front.
"Okay, here it goes—you just remember Lexie, I love you."
"Wait, Arch. Where are you going?
"You'll see," he smiled.
Archie stood on the square platform that served as the stage and grabbed a microphone, "Hello everyone. I want to thank you all for coming together this afternoon in honor of my lovely wife's birthday." Everyone clapped and cheered. Someone called out Lexie's name. "Before I lose my nerve, I'm going to do this. With," he added, "my apologies to The Proclaimers. Happy Birthday, Lexie!"
As the lively music started, Lexie immediately recognized the song I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), by one of her favorite Scottish groups, The Proclaimers. She began to laugh while simultaneously tears welled in her eyes and the flesh on her arms erupted with goose bumps.
Starting off shaky at first, Archie gained more confidence with each line. He sang:
When I wake up, yeah I know I'm gonna be,
I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you
When I go out yeah I know Im gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you
And If I get drunk, yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you
And if I haver whatever that means
I'm gonna be the man who's havering to you
On cue with the chorus of the song, Duncan and Ewan hopped onto the stage, taking their places as Archie's back-up singers—hamming it up as only they could:
But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
To be the man who walked 1,000 miles
To fall down at your door
By the next verse, everyone was on their feet, singing, dancing and having fun, including Lexie, who joined her husband on the stage.
Having performed a rousing encore and a few hip-hip-hoorays, the crowd settled down to quench their parched throats. Molly took the opportunity to steal away to the bar, where she picked up the now unwrapped package Archie had delivered earlier and then, she herself stepped onto the stage.
"Excuse me, if I could have your attention again, please. Lexie, dear I'd like to present to you this gift from both Archie and me." She turned it around to reveal a framed painting of the MacDonald-McTavish family tree, the delicate branches stretching out with each person's name beautiful written in calligraphy.
"Oh," Lexie gasped. "It's beautiful, Molly. So," she said in disbelief, looking from husband to mother-in-law, "this is why you've been so secretive these last few days then?"
"Yes Lexie. We're guilty as charged. Archie researched all of our families, which was a little bit hard given your side is so dispersed. Then we needed to approve the artistic progress of the piece." Molly smiled, "And see, down at the bottom here," she pointed to the area on the tree, "there's plenty of room to add more names. Not that I'm putting any pressure on you, mind," Molly winked as the crowd laughed. Lexie, Molly and Archie all exchanged hugs.
"Actually, um," Lexie took the microphone this time," I'd like to say a few words if I may. First, I want to thank everyone for coming and celebrating and for my family—all of you—specifically she glanced at Golly, Duncan and Ewan. You've all meant so much to me over the years. And, I've been trying all week to have a private conversation with my husband," again she started to tear, "but, with him being the laird and all," everyone snickered, "I know you have a lot on your plate, Arch, but I've been wanting to tell you something all week. Guess now I might as well tell the whole lot of you as there isn't anywhere else in the world I'd rather raise our wee bairn then right here at Glenbogle."
"Lexie," Archie appeared stunned at first, then comprehension set in, "are you saying?"
"Yes, Archie, yes I'm pregnant!"
In amongst the post that lay on the telephone table waiting to be collected was a small white envelope addressed to Donald.
Paul Bowman, his son, had finally sent a reply.