Lachlan pulled up in front of the stone cottage next to the little compact car and stepped out of his truck. He walked around back and hefted the box he'd picked up with the post. Leave it to an American to expect someone to deliver packages to her door out here. She'd probably want him to carry it in for her too as if he didn't have sheep to tend or aught else to do.
Still, he'd rather have brought the package to her than have any of those gossips in Barvas bring it out here. He'd find himself fielding no end of questions about the mysterious American staying in his Granny's house. Who was she? Why did she rent for so long at the end of the season? More importantly, why was she there all alone?
So, he'd offered to bring it out to her. He'd have to tell her that she would need to pick up any more packages herself at the village store. He wasn't a delivery service.
He set the large box down by the door, and banged with probably more force than was polite. Just as before, he waited and there was no answer. He banged again even louder. Still, no answer. He could just leave the package. She would find it eventually. She really couldn't have expected more, and he had work to do.
He knocked one more time with a little less conviction and was turning back to the truck when he saw her coming up the trail from the beach. She was running. Her pace was steady each footfall keeping a rhythm as she nimbly stepped to one side or the other to avoid rocks.
She saw him and waved. Damn. Now he couldn't leave without being rude. He waved back and turned to the side, not wanting to stare.
"Hey, Lachlan," She said as she came through the gate. She stopped near him and placed her hands on her hips. She was winded and her cheeks and nose were red from the slight chill in the air. She had her dark hair pulled back from her face which combined with the rosy cheeks reminded him of a little china doll that Eileen had when they were children.
"Um...Hallo. I brought your package from the village." He waved lamely at the box resting by the door.
She smiled at him, and her whole face lit up. "Great. You didn't have to do that. I was just going to head in to get it. Thanks."
She pulled her keys out of her jacket pocket unlocked the door. She bent to pick up the box. Lachlan tried not to notice how tightly her running pants hugged every curve. She glanced over her shoulder. "Can I offer you a cup of tea?"
"Och, no. I'd better be going." He said, although he followed her into the cottage anyway.
She put the box down gently on the couch and turned back to him. “I really appreciate you bringing that by. I was actually hoping to talk to you about the fire."
"The fire?" He glanced at the stone fireplace and back.
Her smile turned shy. "Yeah, either I'm going to need more kindling, or I'm doing it wrong."
He glanced over to the basket of kindling that was next to the fireplace to see that it was half empty. She'd only been there two nights. She shouldn't have used so much in that short time. "What have you been doing with it?"
"Oh, burning it." She made an embarrassed shrug and shifted her own gaze toward the fireplace. "I've never burned peat before, and I didn't know how to light it. And well, modern girl went for the modern solution and looked it up on YouTube. I don't think the answer I found was right though, because it calls for more kindling than peat, which seems backwards, but it was the best answer I found. I'm sure you're a pro at this, so would you mind showing me the right way?"
"Right." Without another word Lachlan went to the fireplace and knelt down to set the fire. He was shaking his head and thinking how stupid does a girl have to be to not know how to start a fire. He reached over for the basket of kindling and she put some sticks in his hand. He nearly jumped out of his skin. She'd moved so quietly he hadn't know she was beside him watching everything he did.
He placed the kindling, then looked around for newspaper. "Paper?"
"Oh!" She jumped up and ran to the kitchen returning a second later with the newspaper.
He crumpled a few pages and stuck them between the sticks of kindling. As soon as he looked at the stack of bricks next to the fireplace she reached for a couple to hand to him. They worked together silently handing and placing bricks in the fireplace until he was satisfied. Then she rose to get the matches from the mantle just above where they were kneeling. Lachlan tried again not to notice the way her running pants clung to her hips, all more difficult as they were right at the level of his face.
She handed him the matches and knelt again watching avidly as he struck the match and lit the newspaper where it stuck out between the kindling. He turned to her. “Give it a few minutes to get going, and you’ll have a fine fire.”
“And with a lot less kindling. Thank you.” She smiled. Lachlan found that he had to tear his eyes away from the perfect bow of her lips. He looked up into her eyes.
They held the same warm smile, and before he knew it Lachlan was smiling back at her, a stranger, this bonny, wee American who liked to sing sad songs. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d smiled at anyone other than Derrick.
It suddenly made him very uncomfortable. He pushed up from his knees faster than he thought himself capable. “Right then. I’ll just be going.”
“Are you sure I can’t offer you a cup of tea? I really appreciate your help and bringing my package out here.”
“Och, no trouble at all.” He made the few steps to the door in record time, not waiting for her to show him out. “I’ll uh…I’ll bring by some more kindling.”
She made that embarrassed shrug again this time with a little laugh. “Ah, thanks.”
He was in his truck before she finished closing the door behind him.
By the time Ashleigh had showered and dressed, the peat fire was going strong. She was glad Lachlan had shown her a better way. She was also sure he’d gone away shaking his head at the idiot American learning how to start a fire from the internet.
She grabbed a knife from the kitchen and went to the box she’d left on the couch. She’d had to make herself go take a shower before opening it. She knew once her wheel was out, she would have to start spinning. She’d shipped it because she didn’t trust baggage handlers, and she could pack it all herself.
With the knife she slit open the tape at the ends and across the top. She pulled the flaps open. There was her wheel, surrounded by bundles of roving that she’d packed in there. The wool made the perfect padding and she would have something to spin until she found a source on the island for more fiber. She pulled out the bundles of wool and set them on the couch next to the box. Some were dyed bright colors, or multiple colors, but she’d put in some undyed fiber too.
Once the wool was out she lifted out her beauty, her Majacraft Little Gem, simple, portable and pretty as a piece of antique furniture. She set the base on the floor, unfolded it and slid the locking pin into place. Next she connected the bands and slid on a bobbin and the flyer.
She pulled one of the sturdy wooden chairs from the kitchen and placed it in front of the sliding glass door. She moved the wheel in front of the chair. Looking back at the couch she tried to decide what kind of fiber to start with. It had been a long time since she’d taken the time to spin yarn by hand. She spent so much of her time watching spinning machines in mills doing it and analyzing how to make everything move faster and spin thread or yarn smoother. It would be a welcome change of pace to sit down in front of her view of the ocean and really spin.
Since she was sorely out of practice, she would leave the finer fibers from her little stash for another time. She chose a nice soft Blue Face Leicester in a natural brown tone. It would be a perfect start. She grabbed a large mixing bowl from the kitchen and set about preparing her fiber. First she pulled it into small chunks. Then she fluffed the chunks and laid them in the bowl.
When everything was ready she sat in the chair and tested the treadle. Still smooth. The crank turned its band which turned the wheel, which turned the whorl bobbin and flyer. She made a few last adjustments to the height and tension before pulling the leader yarn through the orifice and picking up a clump of fiber.
She wrapped the fiber around the leader and pressed on the treadle. The fibers bit onto the leader yarn and started to twist and pull. It took a few tries and a few times of drafting too slow and the yarn pulling right out of her hand and wrapping onto the bobbin, but eventually she managed to find her rhythm with her left hand drafting the fiber and her right hand controlling the twist. Soon she was spinning just like she used to, before she’d started working all the time, before she’d been afraid to slow down.
The soft shushing of the drive bands in their grooves reminded her of the sound of the waves this morning as the tide slid out from shore. Her breath slowed. The muscles in the back of her neck that always seemed to be tensed eased. Time seemed to stand still for her when she heard that sound, when she felt the fibers sliding against each other as they drafted from her hand.
She remembered when she was only eight, and her grandfather taught her how to spin. He’d made her learn to draft first, with her sitting on his knee while he worked the single treadle on his old Saxony wheel. His voice rumbling encouragement by her ear as he watched her hands. No matter how old she got, she could always hear his coaching. “Easy now, pull back just a little. You don’t want the twist get in there until you’re ready for it.”
Ashleigh closed her eyes and felt the fibers sliding through her fingers. She could almost smell him, like pine needles and pipe smoke. She could be thirty-five and eight at once, sitting on her Granddad’s knee and feeling the comfort of his words, his broad smile. She felt connected to him and all the others that came before him. This was what she liked most about spinning, the connection, the twist, the grip of the microscopic barbs, rough places on each hair that made them want to grasp and cling to each other.
It had been far too long since she’d felt this. Her heart was full, and as it often did with her, it spilled out in song. She sang along with the rhythm of the treadles.