A “Short Story” By D. R. Hamilton
One spring I was called back to Edinburgh for training and the date happened to coincide with my manager’s birthday. Naturally we planned a celebration, but what thrilled me more was that I would meet Mac’s three grown children- a physician and two attorneys. Mac had made no secret of the fact that we were seeing each other and that he found me attractive and interesting.
I was finishing university and working part-time in a pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile when I met Mac. It happened that every afternoon this tall distinguished gentleman in his early 80’s would stop in for his customary whiskey after leaving the office. He was well over 6’ tall, solidly built, and his arresting shock of silver grey hair gave him the appearance of an aging lion. Mac was in the real estate investment business and when he understood that I was an American, he plied me with all sorts of questions about US land values. What I didn’t know, I made up. We became friends and I looked forward to his silver pennant sailing through our doors in mid afternoon.
Eventually I did graduate. But before I could make further plans, Mac offered me a job as his North American agent. I’d live and work on the east coast returning to Scotland several times a year for instruction and planning. I felt genuine affection for him as I would for a father.
Mac would make occasional trips to the US, and I’d usually meet him in New York City. Naturally it was not all work and we frequently found ourselves as dinner companions with occasional visits to the opera or symphony which we both enjoyed. I grew to enjoy his company as the reality of our status as employer and employee faded.
By the time I reached 50 years old, I thought I had the world and my place in it all figured out. Now, as I sat across the table from Mac, 30 years my senior, I realized how much I didn’t know. My life experience, sheltered and a little impoverished, seemed a poor comparison to the richly embroidered fabric of his. As a boy, he had helped his father rescue British troops from that terrible debacle at Dunkirk. As a young man, he became a local Laird, building roads and schools for his tenants. He founded and ran several businesses including a whiskey distillery.
He rose above the tragedy of loosing two wives and now seemed at peace with the world. He was such a contrast with the men in my age bracket that I had known. These men were fixated on the latest pill, what the government owed them, the ingratitude of their children and their latest pain. Mac was dynamic. He talked about his latest business plan, the charity that he was supporting, the upcoming symphony, the accomplishments of his 3 adult children and even his latest fly fishing victory. I was falling for this man’s charms and it was going much farther that filial piety.
I noticed that habit and tradition play a big part in a man of this vintage. He always wore a tie, sometimes carried a stick and gloves, and he had a vast collection of hats. On his first trip to New York City, we spent half a day going to every liquor store in midtown to find the exact same single malt whiskey that he drank back home.
“Its nae ‘at Ah hae th’ taste fur the whiskey Lass, but th’ bottle looks sae braw oan th’ table”, he said in his thick brogue.
Once at the symphony as the lights went low, he slipped his hand over mine in my lap. We held hands and he caressed my leg. When the lights came up, I was astonished to see my hose in tatters. It seems his rhinestone cuff links that he always wore had lost a stone, and the setting had snagged and torn my hose. Rhinestone cufflinks-the only flaw I saw in this man.
He was a gallant in the old world sense. When he was with me I felt like a queen. Opening doors and taking my arm came naturally to him. On one occasion we were walking down a city street at night past a group of young toughs in a doorway.
“Hey girl, I got somethin for ya that ole dude don’t have”. Mac sprang at their leader like a tiger. His huge gnarled fist smashed down on the man’s head and literally floored him. Mac took my arm and we strolled off down the street.
“Them ‘at dornt respect their elders will damn well respect their betters” was his only response. I was ashamed to have been frightened, but to see this 80 Year-old guy spring to my defense without a moment’s hesitation. I had turned the corner. I loved this man.
Naturally intimacy eventually entered our relationship. I had felt like a spinster for so long I hardly recognized the feelings. But it was different now. The old athletic lust to satisfy ourselves was gone, replaced by the desire to pleasure our partner. Pleasure was pleasure and the young had no exclusive hold on it. I did learn however, to start early in the evening.
I arrived in Edinburgh for his birthday a day early and spent my time getting my hair styled into the usual layered bob, my nails done and even a trip to the spa for exfoliation. I selected a long red plaid skirt, black turtleneck sweater, and elegant black leather boots- just the thing for a daytime affair at a Scottish manor house in the country. Mac picked me up at the little B & B where I usually stay, and we were off to the countryside. The house at the end of a little country lane overlooking the Firth of Forth was at least 200 years old. Its grey stone walls and tiny crenellated windows gave no clue that little children once played in its shadows, and I was about to meet them.
We swept into a baronial entrance hall to meet the children before a cracking fire that made the stone walls dance a lively jig. The young man was tall and craggy like his father, excepting that his arresting shock of hair was coal black. The elder daughter was tall, slim and elegant, and wore a royal blue velvet skirt that added to her regal appearance.
Surprisingly, the younger daughter was a petite blond who wore a hacking jacket and riding breeches. After the usual paternal greetings, Mac put his arm around my waist to introduce me.
Nothing could have prepared me for the icy reception I received. They offered their hand without an embrace. Their eyes were cold and penetrating and they made no effort to engage me in conversation. Dinner was more of the same. I had overstepped some boundary and my mind raced to identify the problem. I excused myself as early as I possibly could and Mac drove me back home. He was silent and clearly as troubled and bewildered as I.
I guess I figured it out on the plane returning to the US. The children viewed me as an adventuress out to get the old man’s money. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Marriage would have been so obvious an attempt to enrich myself that I never could have followed through with it. I would have been content to have Mac for the few times a year that we could be together and from all he said, that was his intention as well.
Still the children were troubled and I know this weighed on his heart. I felt I had no right to come between this man and his children at this stage in his life. We would have to end our affair- and that’s exactly what we did.
Some will argue that love should triumph, that the children were selfish, and an old man’s happiness should be paramount. But society judges differently. This man and his family by blood were the most important. I had the good sense to realize that – or perhaps I loved him enough to give him up