The Adventures of Lily Leigh—Elaine Bonow

The Adventures of Lily Leigh

            The dream pushed me back in time. The moon spilled it’s white light onto the frosted cobbled street. I stumbled trying to find something I had lost: an expensive set of emerald earrings, a stack of letters tied in violet ribbons, a well trained black French poodle. And then it faded. I opened my eyes. The room was cold and dark. Full moonlight brightened the rectangles of clear sky from the stone clad windows.

Oh, where am I, I thought bringing my senses back to my present predicament. The last thing I remember is standing on the train platform at Waverly. I remember I taking the night train from London up to Edinburgh.

I wanted to sit up but I could only manage to roll over on my right side facing the windows. I closed my eyes and in my foggy state the fragments of the dream floated like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. I was running across the High Street. In the distance Arthur’s Seat was dusted with snow. The cobble stone streets were black with frost. I was cold with fear. There was a man ahead of me. I felt I had to catch up with him. The dream broke and my thoughts found their way to Waverly. I had never seen his face but I knew I would recognize him instantly.

The description I had received from my cousin Ed was explicit. “He is a tall, thin man who dresses in old-fashioned garb: wide brimmed hat, long waterproof overcoat, over a three-piece tweed suit, and to add to this distinctively eccentric outfit, he adorns his figure with a long thick scarlet scarf.”  Uncle Ed added in his email,” My dear Lily, it is of vital importance that you go immediately to Edinburgh and try to find out the whereabouts of the good Reverend Bertram Leigh. You needn’t contact him, I’ll do that when I meet you there in two days time.”

There was a lamp on the bedside table. I reached over and turned it on. The fluorescent light slowly illuminated the very large and cold room. I shivered and pulled the comforter tighter around me. My mind was numb and I couldn’t think clearly. I closed my eyes.

I booked a room in a Bed and Breakfast in the Old Town, at the tourist kiosk at the station. I remember leaving the busy station. I walked up the ramp into the cold windy morning. The familiar smell from my school days hit me right away. Edinburgh reeked of breweries cooking up delicious libations in the morning air. I climbed up twisting Coxburn Street past my favorite northern watering hole, The Malt Shovel, and turned right onto the High Street. Here is where I would start my search because sooner or later everyone had to cross or shop or pray.

I couldn’t hear a sound in this place, outside or in; the walls were thick granite slabs and the windows high. I looked around for my purse and backpack. Both were on a chair on the other side of the room. I needed to get some answers. I trudged over to the chair, covers clutched around me. I felt a bit shaky. I grabbed the bags and scuttled back to the warmth of the bed.

The clothes I ‘d worn on the train were not here. I had on a very old fashioned nightgown that wasn’t mine, a pure white, heavy cotton gown with frills and lacy edges. I rummaged around in my purse. No cell and no charger just my wallet and makeup. My laptop and my notebook were gone from my backpack as well. I sat back against pillows trying to figure out where I was and why I was here.

This morning or as least I think it was this morning after settling into my garret, I ventured out with the intention of searching the town for the Reverend, or at least the part of town he was known to haunt when he was in the city, the focal point being St. Giles Kirk.

“Lily, he should be going to the Kirk on Wednesday afternoon.  Let’s hope you can intercept him there.” Uncle Ed said in the email. I planned to be in place at the right time. I wandered into the church after the noon service. I sat in an out of the way corner. I expected to see him in situ, so to speak, but stupid me, how would I know him without the absurd overcoat and tall brimmed hat, and this ridiculous long red scarf, if he was here on official business. Any man attending the service or hanging around could be him. I knew he was suppose to be tall but up here in Bonny Scotland, tall was relative.

I made up my mind. Right now I needed to find out where I was and maybe the past few hours will become clearer. What I do realize is hunger and I have to pee. I put on the sweater that was in my backpack over the nightgown. There were two doors in front of the bed. I tiptoed to the door on my right. It was locked from the outside. The door on the left opened into a nice hotel type of bathroom all white porcelain. Next to the light switch was a knob for the wall heater. I turned that up and basked in the warm forced air, which made me feel alive.

I looked in the mirror. Ooh, now I see why I feel woozy and why my head hurts. My forehead was cut above my right eye and someone had expertly patched me up. I started feeling faint and dizzy. I made my way back to the bed but before I sat down I recognized the TrimPhone on the table. I guess it registered in my addled brain so slowly because I, like most of the world these days, never use anything but my personal cell phone.

I picked up the one-piece apparatus and instinctively dialed -0-. It rang and was answered in two rings. “Miss Lily Leigh. I guess you’d be a wondering where you are?” The man’s heavy brogue rattled. “And I guess you’d be a wondering wha’ happened to you?”

The voice reminded me of what had happened after I left St. Giles. I was determined not to miss him when he came out, but the ever-changing Scottish skies were now pale grey and snow was rapidly falling. I hustled up the High Street to Deacon Brodies Pub to wait out the storm.  I found a seat at the bar where I could look out the window and search for a waterproof Macintosh overcoat, a wide brimmed hat and a red, trailing scarf

After an hour or so the storm passed but the clouds stayed and darkened. In the north winter a premature dusk descended at three as the streetlights started to glow. I guess I’d been sitting longer than I thought. I checked my mobile and left a text for my uncle letting him know the name of the B & B I’d checked into and the progress I was making here at my temporary office here at the Deacon’s.

As I looked up from my screen I noticed that the streets had been abandoned in the wake of the storm and then I saw him. There he was or what appeared to be him heading towards the Castle red scarf flapping in the breeze. I left enough pound notes to cover the bill, quickly gathered my things and ran out onto the High Street. I saw the flash of red as it turned down Bow Street towards the Grassmarket.

“Lily, Lily lassie, are you still there?” The brogue shouted on the other end of the phone.

“I’m still here. I mean where can I go. You or someone has my clothes and my phone and my…” I started crying. I was scared. I was cold and my thinking still was foggy. A key turned in the door on the left. The heavy door silently swung open. I drew myself into the pillows pulling the cover up under my chin. I felt utterly abandoned. “What the hell? “ I whispered to myself. A tall man entered carrying an enormous tray loaded with plates, cups and carafes. I smelled bacon and coffee.

“ Oh there, there Miss Lily Leigh, don’t ya be so afraid. You must be a starving. Here eat this and I’ll light the fire. You’ll be all toasty in a wee minute. That’s right, eat and I’ll tell you what’s befallen you. Don’t fret lass everything is…”

His voice faded into the background. The hot coffee put my mind in focus. I remember now. I was running to catch up with who I thought was the Reverend. I slipped on the icy stones. I took a bite of toast after smearing it with Marmalade. “I remember now. I slipped and fell didn’t I?”

“Lucky for you lass or I should say lucky for me. I saw you when you fell and smashed your wee head. You had fainted or blacked out. I put you in my van and brought you home, I mean to my house. I have your electronics. They are a charging downstairs. I thought you should sleep undisturbed for a while. Well, I must make a wee confession. I did snoop to find out who you were. And oh, by the way, let me introduce myself. Miss Lily Leigh, I am The Reverend Bertram Leigh, your very own uncle. I guess you were trying to find me?”

 

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About bbcstudiowrites

This blog is me archiving the BBC Studio Writers Workshop.

Posted on April 16, 2012, in Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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