As she approached the tumbled ring stones, covered in reeds and grasses on the modest hill, she saw Alan, waiting for her. She smiled to see her friend. She treasured her time with Alan even more than her solitude.
Alan was her best friend and closest confidante. He helped out at the farm a lot. Though he was twelve, he was stronger than any of the girls and her father appreciated his help with the heavy work. In return, the girls sometimes went to his father’s bakery to help with large orders, usually when there was a party or wedding.
Jumping off the rock he was perched on, he came to meet Esme. He held out a loaf of bread, wiggling it in invitation. She laughed and brought out her own identical one to show him. She broke off half of her cheese and they sat and ate in companionable silence.
“Thanks for waitin’ for me. I’m dead tired after today’s work.”
Alan swallowed his bite. “You saw I waited until you were almost done, so? I didn’t want to get wrangled into the labor force.”
“Sure and you’ll have been up since dawn yourself, helping your own Da.” She looked pointedly at his eyebrow, where there was a smear of flour. He rubbed at it until it disappeared.
They sat content in the peace of the day. It wasn’t truly silent. Buzzing insects flew around her head and a cow lowed in the distance. The smell of grass in the sun surrounded them. They were too far inland to hear the rush of the sea, but they could see it from their vantage point, off in the misty distance.
Esme heard a rustling in the brush behind them. She jumped back, but as she turned, a fat, fluffy ewe burst through the bushes and gave them a long, low ‘baa’ before tossing her head and nibbling on the grass. She shook herself a few times, indignant at their presence. They looked at each other and burst out laughing. There was no good reason why, but they laughed until the tears came and Esme’s side ached.
They looked out at the view for a while, still chuckling now and again. From the hill, they could see a good portion of the land around them. To the west was the ocean, with islands dotting the grey-blue water. It wasn’t a particularly windy day, so the low afternoon sun reflected on the surface, sparkling and twinkling in yellow and orange. To either side of them were peat bogs and farms, rocky bits sticking out here and there. Donegal was a rough, wild corner of the country and any farms were hard-won and hard-worked. The village of Ardara was halfway to the shore, two streets coming together in a Y shape, buildings along each built close together.
“Why do you think these stones are here, Esme?”
This wasn’t the first time they discussed this, but it was a game with them, to come up with new explanations.
Esme screwed her face up in thought. “I think they are markers, for those who wander to find their way home, no matter if the land has changed.”
“Hmmm. Could be, at that. Maybe heroes who were in Tír na nÓg?”
“The Land of Eternal Youth! But if they set foot on Ireland, they turn to dust, so say the tales.”
“They could stay on their horses?” Alan offered.
“And how would they pass water, then?”
That set them off again and the ewe, evidently disgusted by their mirth, gave another ‘baa’ and pushed back through the bracken.
“I should be getting back, Alan. They’ll be looking for me soon.”
Alan’s blue eyes were wistful. “I suppose I should, too. Time for cleaning up at the store, now.”
“Same again tomorrow?”
“If I can. They’ve a big order in the works, for the church, I think.”
“If you can.”
They parted, Alan towards town and Esme to her farm.
I write historical fantasy novels, mostly set in Ireland, and a contemporary romance based on my parents’ 30-year search for true love. Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Better To Have Loved – Contemporary romance based on the true story of my parents’ 30-year search for love
– Legacy of Hunger – Historical fantasy set in 1846 Ireland
– Legacy of Truth – Historical fantasy set around 1800 Ireland. Prequel to Legacy of Hunger, due out July 20th, 2016!