Chapter 36. Cold water.
In the end, Maeve asked if Fiona wouldn’t mind making them a late night cup of tea before talking her through what she could see. That is before she filled Fiona in on her gift, which she was still not sure was a ‘gift’. In any event what Maeve needed was to have some time alone with the spirit in the room.
The woman was elderly, not at all unhappy, and was contented settled by the fire. Maeve wondered what the spirit wanted. Maeve hadn’t tried to ‘call’ anyone, or any other kind of spirits on the other side, so she decided this woman must want something.
“Ach no dear.” She had a gentle Scottish accent, and was soft spoken. “I’m here because you have a question that you need answered.” She tilted her head slightly, as if waiting for something from Maeve.
After a full bottle of excellent wine, and a wee drop of brandy by the fire, unsurprisingly Maeve’s brain was running slower than normal.
“I have come here to talk to the dog walker, who is still alive, unless you have bad news for me?”
“No, no, he’s not on my side. Your question is about you, girl. No one else. You came all the way here to have your question answered. The rest is not important, it is more some business to do, almost an excuse, but this is fundamental. Think.”
Maeve was racking her brain, and started thinking aloud.
“Well, I am trying to understand how to control who communicates with me…..”
She shook her head.
“...and then I was having those issues with the river…?”
“Yes, go on.”
Maeve was on surer ground now, so she took a moment to form the question,
“What is my relationship to water, or rather what is its relationship to me?”
“Well done! That’s it, it’s at your core dear.” She seemed to think that was enough of an explanation.
“I don’t understand. I mean, we are all physically made up mostly of water, but that applies to everyone.”
“Ah, I see. You haven’t fully begun your study. You need to prepare yourself, there is much to be done.” Her fingertips were touching, pointing upwards and she tapped her hands together helping her think, “You are a caring person, that is part of your calling,” looking up at the ceiling, she considered how to put what she had to say next.
“The elements are all important, with one in particular being one’s guiding element. In your case it is water.” She stopped, seemingly to assess how much to tell Maeve. “You must not be seduced by your element. But you can embrace it and learn how to read it. You must take control, or you will suffer.” With that she clasped her hands firmly together indicating that this particular subject was closed.
In a more everyday tone she changed the subject,
“And tell Fiona that she will be happy here. I lived here in the Factor’s House for a long time and it gave me great pleasure.” Smiling at her memories, “I spent a lot of my life caring for others less fortunate, in some horrible foreign parts. She, like me, loves this house, makes it welcoming, and cares for the guests. It’s a refuge.”
“Should I tell her who you are?”
“She just needs to know that I am keeping an eye out for her. She has made it a happy house again, I’ll stay as long as she does.” She nodded, smiling to herself.
The door opened as Fiona came in with the tea, when Maeve turned back to look by the fireplace she was gone.
The encounter and subsequent chat sobered them.
Fiona was concentrating,
“I did hear tell of a woman living here for a long time, that was back in the eighteen eighties or eighteen nineties but I can’t for the life of me remember her name…”
“I don’t think that’s important. The bit I think is important is that she has your back. I mean she is here to help you.”
By now it was definitely time to turn in. Maeve had had a wonderful evening, really enjoyed herself, and was happy to have been able to use her gift to help her new friend as well as herself. She reflected it was strange to come somewhere new and feel so at home.
That night, whether the spirit had a hand in it or not, Maeve had a sound night's sleep.
She wasn’t expecting the early morning wake up call.
Fiona knocked on her door, with an urgency,
“You won’t want to miss this!”
It was still pitch dark, what the hell is going on, thought Maeve as she dragged herself to open the door.
Standing on the landing was Fiona, with some bathing togs in her hand, and neoprene gloves and a woolly bobble hat. Maeve briefly wondered if last night had all been too much for Fiona, and she had gone mad.
“Get this on you. I have special socks too but not till we are down there. The Mermaids are waiting, so get a move on.”
Looking back on it, Maeve thought it was the insistence that made her do it. Without really taking on board that Fiona was suggesting they go for a swim, in the sea, in winter, in Scotland. If she had taken a moment Maeve would have known that this was insane. But she didn’t. Instead, Maeve did as she was told, and within five minutes found herself, along with a group of women, gathering on the shore. Now she was awake enough to resist, but the cheery shrieks of laughter as some went in, and the stoical silence of others, plus Fiona’s “go on, go on, you will thank me for it” encouraged her. Plus she didn’t want to be the only one who chickened out, there were plenty in Ada’s age group, so age was no excuse. Making the decision, she thought, ‘if you are going to do it, better do it quickly’, and braced herself.
Maeve shrieked as she hit the cold water. Now she knew why they had the hat and gloves and socks. Her body adjusted enough to the cold to allow her to swim a few strokes. Enough to acknowledge the glimmers of dawn as the glorious landscape began emerging from the dark, revealing the hills on the other side of the firth. This water welcomed her, once in, it was warmer than the air outside, this strange space affected her senses, the boundaries in the dark were less clear, and at the same time she felt in control. More in control than she ever had before.
As soon as she got out of the water, and the blood flow returned, she felt amazing.
A shock of life. Waking up all of her senses. But something more had happened, she felt in touch with the water, with no fear.
They were all laughing now, shouting about numb toes, and who had the most stylish hat, with pink pompoms the clear winner. Glad to be alive and wrapping up quickly.
Maeve had gained a whole group of crazy new friends.
Walking, dancing, twirling in the sand. Hooting with pleasure, and there to welcome the day.
Now Fiona was hurrying her along,
“Don’t get cold. Come on, let’s go, a hot shower and I’ll have the best breakfast ready for you when you get down.”
Maeve laughed at the idea that having got her into the icy water Fiona was now worried that she was going to get cold. She was more than happy to head for a warm shower.
Later, looking at the debris of the most amazing breakfast, fresh local eggs and bacon, had followed delicious fruit compote and yoghurt with homemade honey granola, now lingering over the second cup of coffee, Maeve sighed contentedly.
“You could convert me to this cold water swimming. I may have really overeaten but I still feel great. You were right. Thank you for making me do it.”
Fiona was beaming. Things had been tough over the last year, generally activity had dropped off as the oil rigs were being decommissioned, even though most people knew that it was for the best, and alternative energies were being developed locally. It was still hard to see your income disappear. But now this pandemic hit them really hard. It was lovely to have a guest, and to have the time to enjoy their company. Fiona was still on a mission.
“Get your phone out. It’s probably better that we do this fresh anyway.” She hadn’t explained her idea to Maeve yet but the success of the early morning swim had given Fiona the confidence she needed to just do it.
Maeve had left her phone charging in her room, it was only as she picked it up that she saw the message she had missed late last night. It was from Marianne, ‘Adam went to talk to the protesters and got picked up by the police. He was held overnight. I’m sending a message to Steve to see if he can help. Xx’
‘Shit’, this was not what she needed.