The Cottage by R. A. Partain

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Edinburgh, 18th Century

"You must leave, someone is approaching," Anna said as she threw John's clothes at him and hurried to lace up her dress. "I'll be ruined if he finds you here." The military precision of footsteps sounded in the hall.

"I'll marry you," he said, pulling on his shirt and boots.

"Just leave, please. Out the window. You can climb down the tree."

There was a knock on the door, "Anna, your mother and I would speak with you."

"Sorry, father. I'll be down shortly." Anna frantically pushed John to the window. "I can't marry you, John. In the eyes of my father, you are not eligible. You're Scottish."

He should have known that Anna would never risk angering her father. An untitled Scotsman could never have a noble English wife. "I'll find a way. I'll make myself worthy of you. I promise."

"Anna, who are you speaking to?" There was the distinct sound of clinking keys.

John climbed out on the tree limb and Anna shut the curtains. As he jumped to a lower branch, the limb cracked and gave way. Grabbing the upper branch, he saw the curtains move and Anna peered out the window. He saw her eyes widen as she spotted him hanging from the branch.

He would not be responsible for ruining anyone, especially his future wife. Her father would not see him dangling outside of his daughter's room. Under his breath, he wished he could be invisible, then closed his eyes and released his hands...

Present Day, Scottish Highlands

John Fraser looked over the picturesque valley from the pine forest. The only interruption to the green grass of the valley floor was the stark white cottage near the loch.

John had lived in this valley for almost two centuries. The Highlands served as a perfect place to hide from the rest of the world. Here he was free to get on with his life without having to worry about causing fear and panic. He ventured into the city only when the loneliness was too much to bear.

Today was different, however. He watched as a young woman, carrying a large pack, made her way across the valley to the cottage.

As she passed close to him, he instinctively jumped behind a large tree. Cursing the damned fairies, he stepped out from behind the tree and watched her pass. He would never get used to being invisible.

Oddly, there was something familiar about her. Her high cheekbones and full lips were reminiscent of Elizabeth.

Dear Elizabeth. How he had loved her. Her family owned the valley and cottage. When he had tried to speak to her, she had screamed in fright and ran into the night. An hour later she was gone, never to return. He would never forget the fear he saw in her eyes.

The woman was taking stock of the cottage now, looking at the linens in the chest and the canned goods on the shelf. Would she wonder why a cottage so far from a town was stocked and clean?

"She's beautiful isn't she?" The laughing voice of the fairy startled John out of his thoughts.

"Go away, Rose." He was in no mood for fairies.

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