The beach was deserted as was normal shortly after dawn on a chilly spring morning. The serenity of the place suited the beach’s only occupant for it was here that he came to plan, think and have quality time alone.
Hamish George sat on the sand dunes and pulled his coat close around him as he stared out across the cold grey North Sea through a thin veil of mist. As a boy his mind had been filled with visions of long haired Viking invaders pulling their long boats into shallow waters and wading ashore, cloaks flapping around them and horned helmets piercing the mist as they called to one another in a harsh sounding guttural foreign tongue. Now it was occupied with visions of himself a few years older wearing a white doctor’s coat. Hamish had been offered a place at a prestigious medical school in Edinburgh and he was contemplating following in his father’s footsteps.
Hamish stood and picked up a flat stone. He was an impressive height almost six feet in stature and of lean yet muscular build with dark curly hair and piercing gunmetal grey eyes. He had many female admirers in Aberdonian society. The wind blew spray into Hamish’ face as he sent the stone skimming across the small waves. Hamish made his way home as the wind turned into a fine drizzle.
Dr Alexander George, Hamish’ father, was in the kitchen talking to Flora MacLeish the housekeeper. Mrs George had died three years before when Hamish & his twin sister, Morag, were just fourteen. Mrs MacLeish, the widow of a Church of Scotland clergyman preached the mantra that cleanliness was next to godliness; in fact Hamish and Morag privately joked that one could eat food off floors she had cleaned without worries of being poisoned by dirt.
“Good morning Mister Hamish.”
“Good morning Mrs MacLeish.” Hamish said.
“Breakfast is about ready.”
“Thank you.” Hamish said.
They ate a breakfast of porridge. Hamish poured his sister more tea. Morag was seven minutes younger than Hamish so he jokingly called her his little sister. She lacked his height but had the same grey eyes and dark curly hair.
“Have you decided about Edinburgh yet Hamish?” Alexander asked his son.
“Aye, I will go.” Hamish said.
“All the lassies will love your bedside manner Hamish.” Morag said.
“Aye, well I cannae help being so handsome.” Hamish’ mouth crinkled into a broad smile. “I just wish I could follow you there.” Morag sighed.
Hamish knew that it would be his sister’s dearest wish to study medicine but women were not permitted to do so. Hamish could not understand why for in his view women possessed qualities he saw as essential to a good doctor, compassion intuition and common sense which sometimes eluded men. He placed his hand over Morag’s.
“It may be possible one day, lass.” He said.
“It’ll be too late by then for I will be tied to a husband, family and a myriad of social committees.” Morag sighed.
“Whatever you do lass, you will excel at it.” Alexander said.
“Donnae give up hope.” Hamish said.
“Hamish, women are not even allowed to vote. If the government will not trust us with something as simple as voting how will they ever trust us to wield a scalpel or stethoscope?” Morag said. “It’s just a dream and that is all it will ever be.”
She blinked away tears and Hamish knew how difficult it was for her although he had never been forbidden anything on account of his gender.
That evening Hamish accompanied his father to a dinner dance at a club for professional men. Morag had remained at home with Mrs MacLeish.
He noticed a young woman standing in the corner. She wore a soft blue gown and walked noiselessly with such grace that she seemed almost to glide. She was at a distance pale and delicate looking with long dark hair but Hamish felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle.
“Who’s that pretty lassie?” He whispered to his father. Alexander followed his son’s gaze.
“I donnae ken.” He replied.
Hamish slipped through the crowd and reached her side. She turned to face him and her blue eyes lit up with her smile.
“Hello.” He said shyly, hoping that his arousal was not immediately apparent.
“Hello.” She said her tone coy as she looked at him from beneath her long dark lashes.
“My name’s Hamish.” He whispered his breath catching in his throat. She was beautiful.
“I know. My mother was one of your father’s patients.” She said. “Are you a doctor too?”
“I intend tae study medicine, aye.” Hamish replied. “But I need some life experience first.”
“You mean you need tae practise your bedside manner.” She licked her lip.
“Something like that, aye.” Hamish laughed.
“Anyway, you know my name.”
“Meredith McCrae.” She said, taking hold of his hand her grip deceptively strong on account of her apparent fragility.
“Would you like tae dance?” he asked her.
“Yes I would.” She said.
They danced for most of that evening and sat together at dinner. Hamish was aware he was falling under her spell and they found they shared many opinions and tastes in art and literature.
“Can I see you again?” He asked her.
“Yes. You may call on me. Just because you are not yet a doctor I assume you can make house calls.” She teased. “
Aye, I certainly can.” He smiled.
“I expect lots of lassies will fall for your beside manner.”
“That’s what my sister says.” Hamish replied.
“You have a sister?”
“Aye, my twin, Morag, is younger by seven minutes.”
“Does she look like you?”
“Same hair, same grey eyes but I am taller. Sadly she cannot be a doctor and I know she would be a good one were women permitted.”
“They won’t let women do something as simple as vote, Hamish what hope do women have of ever being able to practise medicine?”
She leaned very close to him and he felt himself stiffen as her warm breath caressed his neck. He resisted an urge to pull her into his arms and hold her close for he had never met a woman who had had this effect on him before. He left that evening convinced he had found a soul mate but he had no idea as yet of the turn his life would take.
I have finally started work on the novel proper trying to put recent issies behind me.
The wonderful cover design is, as always, courtesy of the wonderful Jacoba Dorothy.