Her name was Heather, like the heather that was scattered endlessly across the beautiful moors.
The moors of Dartmoor called to Heather, both in her waking hours and in her dreams. They beckoned as she slept in the comfortable bed that had once belonged to her parents, and each morning as she awoke, the smell of heather along with a fine mist seemed to permeate the room. She knew well enough, however, that these things were merely the remnants of her dreams that lingered so.
Born in 1928, Heather had been named for the purple, flowering plant that grew upon the haunting moors, and thus, she longed always to be near them even though she was now fifty years in age. The moors were a part of her, and she, a part of them, and she would sure it would always be this way. It was as if they co-existed and their beauty filled her with purpose and motivation. Her heart was most at peace only when she was near them.
This early, enchanted September day, she was packing the same thing she packed each and every Saturday. Inside the old wicker basket, she placed a small blanket, a book, an egg sandwich, two wine glasses, and of course, a divine bottle of homemade wine. Although she took the trip to the moors alone, she always packed a spare glass in case anyone came along in need of refreshment. Thus far, the extra glass had remained unused, but then again, she never knew who she might encounter.
Despite the temperature of nearly 21°C, Heather pulled a knitted sweater from where it hung upon a hook near the cottage's door. Sometimes it grew chilly as she lingered on the moors in the afternoons, reluctant to leave. As she exited the cottage, she paused at the corner of it where she pulled a pear from the blooming pear tree that grew just outside her bedroom window. She smelled of the fruit’s sweetness before she added it to the basket.
The walk was a goodly distance, so it was a while before she cleared the moor’s crest. She paused, admiring the lushness of the lavender heather that covered its lush greenery. It was a wild and perfect arrangement of nature painted upon the landscape. She always thought that no artist could truly capture the actual beauty, and she knew this to be undeniably true because the moors’ beauty was something one inherently felt in addition to what one saw.
Placing the blanket on the ground, she unpacked the basket. Choosing to partake of the wine before eating, she pulled the cork from the bottle and poured herself a small glass. Immediately and despite the overwhelming, earthy scent of the heather, she could smell the blackcurrant and spices infused in the wine. As she tasted of its rich, velvet sweetness, she sighed, enjoying the sensuous warmth that invaded her body. Picking up her book, she read several chapters before stopping to eat a bite of food.
As she finished the sandwich, he appeared in the distance just as he did each and every time she came to the moors. She lifted her hand to wave, and he responded with a slight nod of his head. He never ventured any closer, but despite the distance, she thought him an interesting character. Even though he looked very much at home upon the moor, he also looked displaced, as if he had landed in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was tall and slender with dark, wind-tousled hair. His clothing was always the same; he wore brown riding breeches and boots along with a jacket that she envisioned was a woolen, hounds tooth one. He carried with him a riding crop even though he had no horse. She wished he would draw nearer and introduce himself. She would very much like to meet him. After all, they were almost friends as they had seen each other on the moors every weekend for over a year now. Like always, however, today she watched as he disappeared over the crest of the moor. There would be no introductions again today despite her desire to the contrary.
Much later, after finishing the glass of wine, she placed her book on the blanket and stretched to lie down beside it. Her dreams had been intrusive the previous night, causing her to toss and turn, so she had not slept well. She yawned and it was not long before her body relaxed, and she was lulled to sleep by the wine, the wind, and the redstart birds flitting across the skies above.
“Miss. Are you unwell?” a deep voice invaded her afternoon slumber.
Heather reluctantly stirred and opened her eyes. Her mouth formed a perfect O of surprise as she realized he was kneeling over her, obvious concern etched across his handsome face as he studied her.
Quickly she lifted herself up and replied. “Oh, my,” was all she could respond with before she found her voice. “Thank you, but I am perfectly fine. I am so sorry that I gave you a fright.” She was completely unaware of the lovely picture she made as her red hair that had loosened from its bun cascaded and fell in charming disarray about her shoulders. Her cheeks, slightly reddened by the sun, were flushed a soft, pink hue.
The stranger leaned back on his haunches and smiled at her. It was a beautiful smile. “I’m so glad,” he said, the thickness of his accent marking his words. Without a doubt, the timbre of his voice was both alluring and melodic. She wondered for a moment if she was still sleeping and dreaming. If so, she hoped she would not awaken for a long while.
The dawning awareness of embarrassment flooded her with his words, making her cheeks a brighter shade of pink. “I’m so sorry. I am fine – I promise,” she managed a smile in response to his as she straightened to a seated position on the blanket.
“Aye, I can see that you are, lass,” he said with a touch of humor in his green eyes. She thought to herself that she’d enjoy finding what secrets lurked in their depths, and her cheeks grew pinker still at the thought.
Heather hurriedly pulled the extra wine glass from the basket. “Where are my manners? Would you like a glass of wine?” she asked. She had been waiting for just this moment, and she pulled her spare glass from the basket. Thank heavens she’d packed it.
“Yes, indeed, I would. Thank you very much,” he said and settled down to take a seat across from her. “Tis a most beautiful day for a picnic, is it not?”
Heather nodded and studied the stranger beneath her lashes as she poured his glass of wine. She could see that her assumptions about him were true. Up close, he was very attractive. But just as from afar, he looked strangely out of place as though he had leapt from another span of time. She noticed that his clothing was not something that the average gentleman would wear. Instead, it appeared dated and was unlike any she’d seen before except in old pictures. It seemed, however, to suit him quite well. Perhaps he wore the old clothing on his walks in case he dirtied it beyond repair. Yes, that must surely be the case.
He graciously accepted the offered drink and said, “My name is Colin. It’s nice to meet you.”
“My name is Heather, and it’s very nice to meet you, too.” Heather smiled at him as she settled herself more comfortably on the blanket. She was delighted to at long last meet the stranger whom she’d only admired from afar.
“Indeed? Heather? As in the beautiful heather that grows all about us on these very moors? How enchanting.” His voice was like honey as he spoke and his eyes were bright with admiration as he spoke. In response, Heather’s smile grew by leaps and bounds.
Heather eyed the riding crop by his side. “Have you lost your horse, Colin?” she teased.
“Aye, but I’m sure she’s awaiting my arrival back at the stable. Molly’s a bit of a spirited, strong-minded one.”
Heather immediately wondered where he lived – she’d never really thought about it before. Surely he lived nearby, but she wouldn’t ask such things of him now.
Colin sipped his wine, his green gaze rarely leaving Heather. She was aware of his regard, and where she’d thought the wine had warmed her before, she now knew that this man’s gaze held much more intensity and warmth. Indeed, he was akin to a full bottle of the luscious French wine, invading her senses and making her acutely aware of all things.
The two continued to chat although a calming silence settled between them, and they found a peace in each other’s companionship with little need to speak. It was strange, but Heather felt as if she had known this man for a long time, while in truth, it had only been an hour or so.
As the afternoon passed, they drank the entire bottle of wine, and Heather found herself laughing more than she had in the long months following her mother’s death. There was a vitality that seemed to emanate from Colin, and she was fast growing accustomed to it.
“As much as I don’t want to, I’m afraid I must be going,” Colin said much later.
“Of course,” Heather said, though reluctant for their enchanted interlude to end. “Will I see you again?” she asked, hope evident in her voice.
“That, Heather, is entirely up to you,” Colin replied.
Perplexed, Heather gave him a quizzical look. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Aye, but you will know soon enough, lass,” he said as he rose from the blanket. His green gaze intensified as he tipped his hat and added, “Next weekend, if not before, my sweet Heather - just like the beautiful flower.”
Heather shivered as her mind searched for answers. A chill went down her spine even though the temperature had not yet dropped enough to put one in the air. What on earth could he mean she would know soon enough? And that it was entirely up to her?
Confusion and surprise were etched across her face, but she regained a measure of composure and spoke, her voice a soft whisper in the afternoon breeze. “Well, if it’s to be my choice, Colin, I shall eagerly await next Saturday when we shall meet again. Until then?”
Colin’s smile broadened, and he winked at her. “Aye, my sweet Heather. But until then, I shall be seeing you in your dreams,” he said before diverting his gaze, picking up the riding crop, and heading out across the moor.
Heather watched him walk away, more perplexed by his mention of her dreams. She watched as he turned to glance back at her with every few steps he took, as if he, too, did not wish to part. When he neared the spot where he had always stood and tipped his hat to her, his visage completely disappeared from her sight, before he had crossed the crest of the moor.
Surprised, Heather quickly stood. What had just happened? Where had he gone? Had he vanished into thin air? Was this man a manifestation of something her heart desired? A ghostly figure from long ago or a figment of a dream that exceeded the spectrum of reality?
Her heart beat rapidly in her chest as she repacked her basket and folded the blanket, preparing to return home. It seemed she had indeed beckoned this kind man from her dreams to fill her lonely days. But if so, she was not the least bit sorry. Indeed, she was happy beyond measure and only wondered why it had taken so long for him to come to her. Either way, in her heart, she knew Colin had been real, at least to her. Her thoughts thus, she began her trip home, a lovely blush upon her face.
Stopping as she neared the moor’s edge, Heather picked several stalks of the earthy smelling heather. They would make a charming addition to the antique vase beside her bed, and each time she looked at the heather, she would see the warm regard in Colin’s green eyes. It would seem like an eternity before next Saturday, but she knew she would see him again. She felt it in her soul just as she felt the life and breath of the moors. Indeed, she already knew that he, like her, was a part of the moors she so loved, derived from the many long years they had stood upon this earth.
It would be a long while until the next Saturday, but Heather would await the day with patience. And while she waited, she would seek Colin in the midst of her dreams. The arms of Morpheus had never been so appealing before this day.