HISSAC Highlands and Islands Short Story Association and Writing Competition

The Long Field

Lucy MacRae grew up in St Andrews. She studied English Literature and Gaelic at Glasgow University and spent time living in the Outer Hebrides and the west of Ireland before completing a PhD on Scottish ballads at Edinburgh University. She now lives and works in Highland Perthshire, sharing her home with a husband, a large white hound and a host of invisible and unruly characters she is attempting to corral into her first novel.


THE LONG FIELD


The Long Field That night, the dark lay lightly in the long field. She moved slowly, her arms slightly raised from her sides. With the backs of her fingers she brushed the overgrown stoop of undergrowth, dense with the abundance of late summer. Her bare ankles were streaked with wet. She stole a glance over her right shoulder; no light shone in the house. The moon rode high along the line of beeches on the curve of the hill. Her own pulse pounded in her ears. She could hear the music from here, faintly, and paused, imagining herself turning and walking back.

She pressed on. The ground sloped and became uneven and thick with rushes. The boathouse stood in the gloom, and beyond it the black shining water. She climbed down to the shore, holding onto the young saplings that clung to the edges where earth became silt. One foot slipped suddenly down into boggy water and nearly brought her to her knees. The music was loud, and she could hear the stamping feet.

It was a reel they were playing. Excitement tightened in her chest. She thought of the boys of Hogmanay, a smoking taper carried aloft and a gabbling rabble of voices: open the door, open the door and let me in. She thought of the first time she’d laid eyes on him, standing on top of the cart loading hay, the rasp of the fork and his face turning around, golden, his steady gaze. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. She opened the black tarred door.

They were playing The Grey Bob, the third part where the notes strut from one side to the other like rungs on a ladder. The air was warm, filled with the dank reek of loch water, petrol fumes and sweat. As she entered he rose to his feet in a light movement. His pale shirt, his jaw white. He said something, quietly; she could not speak at all. She went forward into his arms and they danced. Pressing her hands to his back, palms to damp cotton, she felt the dense interplay of muscles stringing his shoulders. His stubble was grit against her cheek as she turned her face to his neck. She turned in his hands and he lifted her lightsome and airy towards the rafters. The thought spun in her mind: I will remember this, always, how near to me, how long unknown and how close now.

Yet in years to come she found it was to be the glance behind that had made the imprint onto the innermost chamber of her mind. The darkened house at her back, the boathouse before her, the moon careening through the night like a pallid horseman and the knowledge she could turn around. To this she would return, time after time, silently moving through the memory fronds of that small journey. How lightly the dark had lain, in the long field.