I love Straithclyde! I really do. Not just because of the rocks and the fact that the oneads have a Home here, but the people and their kindness and their sense of humor. They tell me so many tall tales, and laugh at me for believing every one of them. But not in a way that makes me feel bad. It is like for every story I believe, they like me better. And I am making friends! Cook likes me, and Jeremy (a neighbor) likes me and even Uncle Mac likes me, though he does it in a gruff sort of way. Mackenzie is a bit jealous that Cook has served me her special bread with nuts and berries, which she won’t even serve to Mackenzie, who is after all the Laird. But I smuggle some up to her, along with butter and several others sorts of food which is not soup. Cook seems to think that a reconvalescent must only eat soup, and frankly Mackenzie is sick and tired of it.
Cassie, Vincent, Max, Henry and Alejandros went back to London with Dr Husk in chains. Mackenzie stayed behind on accord of her head injury which is still bothering her, and I stayed behind to mind her and to visit the oneads again. Cassie was none too pleased to leave. She seemed to think she could not leave Mackenzie – who really only needs rest and quiet – or me, who she apparently regard as a child, who cannot do anything without her holding my hand. No, that is unfair… She means well, but she is there all the time, ready to catch me, should I fall, or listen, should I speak, or nurse me, should I get the sniffles. I love her, but I cannot move. How am I ever going to be me, if she is there every step of the way? I cannot be! So I assured her that I was ok with her going to London, and I think she was a bit hurt, actually, and I am sorry for that. But I am so wonderfully free here! I keep Mackenzie company and have tattooed her lots! And that really got things rolling: then Uncle Mac wanted a tattoo similar to Mackenzie’s clan flower tattoo. And then he wanted a daisy on account of Cook (who’s name is Daisy), and now they have gone all silly and everybody thinks it is lovely fun (it is). And then all the young clan men wanted this or that tattoo as well. I must have made the apple flower (the clan flower) a dozen times by now. Young Jeremy came back for at couple of more tattoos. He is really nice and has shown me a bit of the countryside. We even bathed in the lake. Mackenzie made me wear clothes in the water, which felt silly. But she introduced yet another use for the wonderful tartan: that as a towel. I love my tartan!
Mackenzie and I spend a lot of time together. We talk and talk about a lot of things, and share secrets with eachother. And what secrets! But I won’t tell. The secrets I promise to keep, I keep. And I told her about the oneads and the eggs and the mates. I must return to the oneads again. I want to know more!
And I return. I walk the stone path alone, and I feel free and happy. The sky is blue above me and I am surrounded by green and the grey of rocks. I walk the path and I can really feel that every steps lead me closer to my kin. And finally I am here. They welcome me and bring me into their midst. And I ask question after question. How do I find my own kind – the kind with human blood? How does a song sound? How do I find my own song? Several of them take my hands and pull me towards two oneads sitting close together, and they tell me: these are mates. They are singing. Can you hear it? And I hear it. It is a rumbling, a tremor, a vibration in the rock of the one singing her song, and the other sing back and their songs mingle and it is wonderful and strange, and nothing at all like any nursery song that Henry could ever dream up. I feel gratified to be allowed to wittness the singing of a song. And they tell me that these two have been singing for 20 years… And I don’t understand. They laugh and say that humans are so fast and impatient, and those who mate with humans become fast and impatient as well. We may come here. We may even mate here, but we always leave again. I get that. I could not stay here. I would get bored. And I will leave again. Time for them passes slower than melasses. They did not see that Cassie and Henry came with me last time – they were there only a splitsecond to the oneads. I could never have introduced Cassie to them, even if I had wanted too. And they don’t know how to find my kind of oneads. They have never left here. And they are not sure my song still exists – they seem so sad for me that it is lost, as if there is no hope. And I feel my hope sinking. Cassie and Vincent and Henry may be sure we will find it, as if it is some treasure we can find and dig up, if only we look hard enough. But I feel it like a hole in my heart. And I just don’t know.
I walk back the stone path and I think. My song may be truly lost. And maybe it is alright. I think back on the me’s that came before me. How I must have left here, or a place similar to here, to become part of the human world. I must have decided that to survive I could not stay here, but must go forth. And I have mated with humans again and again and again, until I could pass for one. Even if I am not completely human yet. Callum said it way back when he examined me before the trial – that I had bits missing. No reproductive organs for instance, because I would never need those. But I finished my previous life – mated with a human – and then what? Why was the song lost? Why did I end up at Fosterma and Fosterpa’s place? Those questions I would like the answers to, even if I do not find the song.
As to my own song – the song from this life – I tell it. I write this down. I fill one black note book after the other with these stories. I have written since I figured out the letters, when I was five. In those days I only wrote on scraps of paper, old newspapers, the paperwrapping of sugarcones. I have apparently always had the urge to put the story down, so that this one, the story of this life, would not be lost. I must tell someone about the black notebooks. I must tell my mate.
Mackenzie ask me if I have told Callum of her head injury. I say I have. That I wrote a letter, but before we knew the severity of it. So she asks me to write to him again. Had he been injured, she would have wanted to know. So I write him again. Telling him she wants him to come back from his journey. And we must go back to London soon too. We have been here a month. Mackenzie is loads better, but still bothered with headaches. I read to her, since her eyes won’t focus on the letters in the books. I read love stories and fairytales and books on folklore. Uncle Mac reads her the crop reports. I leave the room for that. They are mindbogglingly dull.
‘Come along, lass’ Uncle MaC says to me and walks ahead of me towards a pasture. A bunch of quite large, wooly cows and horns stand in the pasture. In one smooth movement he lifts me over the railing and climbs after. He walks towards one of the cows that are lying down. I stand back. These cows are massive! And looks like bears to be honest! Uncle Mac looks back at me. ‘Come come’ he says ‘Don’t be shy’. I am not shy. I am terrified. The creatures are montrous! But I know he would never let them hurt me, so I approach him (and the cow) with caution. The cow is not alone. A much smaller cow lies next to it. It peeks through the curtain of hair that falls across its’ face. ‘Yours’ he says. ‘Flora said to give you one, and that one is yours’. It has enormous eyes and the longest eyelashes. I kneel beside it and pet it very cautiously. It is so cute! It gets up and buts me on the shoulder. I get up too, and we frolich a bit. I love my little cow! Her mom just looks goodnatured at me. I name my cow Buttercup. I have a cow!
Jeremy takes me for at stroll on our last day. He holds my hand and it feels nice. Then he asks ‘Will you ever marry, Grace?’ and I say no. I say I can’t. And he nods a little sadly and smile at me. We stop and he strokes a bit of my hair behind my ear and he kisses me softly on the lips. I feel a tingling in my body, and for a brief moment I wonder if this is what meeting a mate is like. And then I know that it is not. Meeting a mate is much bigger. Much more profound. But the tingling is nice. I like the kissing. And I like his strong arms around me. I think of Callum.