It’s on the odd, very rare occasion that you can find the sunshine in Scotland… okay, that’s not entirely true… it’s only rare whenever I’ve made the long trek up there that the Sun has, miraculously, decided to go away for a break, leaving the cold, muggy rain in charge of the weather forecast.
On one of these rare occasions, however, the Sun was shining, and was radiantly glowing across the Scottish, country landscape that framed the little red brick cottage with ivy trailing up along the drainpipes of the McFarlow’s family home.
Despite the numerous times I’d been welcomed into this charming little house, I always found myself still in awe of the beauty its surroundings processed, and the perfection it portrayed by nature alone.
However, I very rarely go all the way to Scotland to look at fields, trees or the rain. I go to Scotland to see the one thing in my life that makes my life worth living… the one living thing… one person… James.
Ever since I brought that little boy into the world, my whole life has been turned upside down – for the good. I’ve learnt that there’s more to love in the world than going out to parties, meeting boys and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol illegally.
He’s shown a new side of me I never knew existed and a side that I’m proud to call my true self from now on. At the moment, he’s the only little man in my life.
“Casey!” called mum from the kitchen door to the rear of the cottage, “Ben’s on the phone.” I turned to face her and smiled. Well, James is the first little man in my life; Ben is the second… or you could say he’s the first big man in my life, I guess.
I jumped up from the black painted, nearly rusty, iron garden seat on the patio and half skipped, half ran into the house, brushing past Mum in the doorway and commencing to the hallway where the telephone was off the hook and resting against the wooden dresser top.
I took the handset in my hand and placed one end to my ear and the other to my mouth: “Hello?”
“Hey, Case, how’s ‘Kilt and Haggis Land’?” came his voice through the speaker in my left ear. I rolled my eyes at his stereotypical joke but grinned to myself all the same. He hadn’t changed a bit during the time I’d left ‘til now.
“Scotland is fine, thank you. The Sun’s out today.” I replied, twirling the phone coil around my little finger, and dropping myself slowly onto the old, woven seated, wooden chair beside the dresser the phone stood on. I crossed one leg over the other and began to bob it up and down; a habit of mine I’d grown up with due to my mother.
“Sunny, is it? It’s pouring with rain here.”
“Well isn’t that a shame, Mr. Russo. I’m sure the Sun will be out again tomorrow once it’s done up here.”
“I sure hope it does, Miss. Stewart,” there was a brief silence before Ben or I said anything else, “how’s Jamie?”
“He’s fine,” I answered, resisting to correct him on his son’s name. He’d soon slipped back into calling James by the abbreviation Jamie and, although I’d never told him, I didn’t like it, “Teresa and Jerry have taken him into the village for a walk, Mum and I decided to stay here for a little while.”
“You should try and spend as much time as you can with Jamie as you can, Case. Isn’t that the main reason you go all the way up there to see him?”
“Yes, it is, but you know how Teresa gets. She gets so maternal around him and I hate to see her in one of her droopy states, it brings the whole mood in the house down.”
“But he’s your son – our son – and you deserve to be his mother when you visit him, not Teresa McFarlow.”
“I know, I know, Ben,” both of us had risen of voices ever so slightly and tension could be heard in them, “look, they’ll be back home soon and I’m going to spend the whole evening with just James and no one else.”
“I’m sorry, Case, I didn’t mean to shout.”
“I know, Ben. You’re right I do need to spend more time with him. And so do you. Are you sure you can’t make it up here sooner?”
“I can’t. All train tickets for Glasgow are fully booked until August and I’m not going to spend the ridiculous price for petrol and drive. Besides, it’s far too far away to go by car on my own.
“I’d love to get there sooner, but I just can’t. Besides, I can’t get off work until then so you and Jamie are going to have to wait a little.”
“I love you, Ben.” I smiled to myself, pulling one foot up onto the seat, tucking my knee under my chin, unravelling the cord from my little finger, letting it drop to the floor and then hugging my leg with my free hand. A car could be heard pulling up around the corner and onto the driveway outside.
“I love you too, Casey, forever and always.”
“You’re a sucker for romance, really, aren’t you Ben?”
“Yeah, yeah, just don’t let the guys at football know that, okay?” I chuckled to myself.
“I won’t. I think Teresa and Jerry are back, I’ll call you later.”
“Okay, say hello to Jamie for me, will you?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I?”
“Just reminding you, that’s all. Well, talk to you later. I love you. Bye.”
“Bye, I love you too!” I placed the phone back on the receiver when the front door opened wide revealing the great Scot, that he was, Jerry, carrying two organic ‘Save the Environment’ bags that the local super market sold. Each bag was filled to the brim with various food and drink and, upon his pink face, sat a wide, cheeky grin.
“Why, Casey, I never knew you felt that way about me,” he announced, smiling away like a hyena, “though, I must say, I think your mother would not approve of the age difference.” I laughed at his joke and got up from the chair I’d been sat on.
“Oh Jerry stop being silly. You’re old enough to be her father!” followed Teresa’s voice as she shuffled through the door behind her husband with a toddler by her side. I looked down at the plump, round, gurgling face at her knee and smiled from ear to ear. He, in response, sang a cry of laughter.
James had recently found his feet and had, to my disappointment, taken his first steps on the very floorboards we all stood upon a month before my current visit. Although it pained me to know that I was missing my little boy grow from a tiny baby into a child, I knew that my education was the most important thing at that time and getting the right grades would enable me to provide a better life for him in the future.
“There’s my big boy,” I cooed, crouching down on one knee and holding my hands out towards James. He removed his tiny hand from Teresa’s, who had been aiding him up the driveway, and toddled over to me in a quick hast. Once he was within my reach I held onto him tight, lifting him up to my chest and tickling him all over. He squealed in delight as he kicked his legs and waved his arms about. I kissed his cheek and stood at my full height, with James propped against my waist, and glanced over at Teresa stood by the open doorway.
She stood with both her hands on her hips and an annoyed expression on her face. I looked away from her glare and turned to face Jerry who was making his way into the kitchen where Mum was reading one of her gossip magazine. After closing the front door a little too harshly, Teresa brushed by me slowly, so not to accidentally bump into James, and joined her husband to help unpack the shopping. I rolled my eyes and entered the doorway, which lead to the living room, opposite the kitchen.
The carpet was littered with various toys, both old and new, and attempting to cross to the other side of the room without tripping or standing on anything was nearly impossible. I managed the test, however, and set James back down on the ground. Once he was back on his own two feet, he jetted across to the toy chest beside the television to retrieve whatever toy wasn’t already strewn on the floor already. I sat myself down on a clear spot of floor, leaning my back against the front of the dark green sofa.
As James played and abandoned toy after toy, I looked on at his carefree fun, envious at the fact that he could be carefree and get away with it. How long would it be until he came to the age where he’d have to become more responsible and be expected to act a certain way? When you think about it, it’s not very long before a child has to learn to become an adult, sending childhood away and living as a distant memory in the back of their mind.
My thoughts were interrupted when I was prodded in my left arm by a very sharp, pointy finger… James needed to get his fingernails clipped… I turned my head to face him and smiled. He thrust an item close to my face, making me retreat in reaction. I focused my vision on the item he was showing me and sighed. The teddy bear Ben had given him for his first Christmas had been sentenced to life in the toy chest , even though I’d personally placed it in his crib. I’d loved what the bear represented on first sighting of it that Christmas morning and to know that Teresa could so easily throw it into the toy chest with the rest of the ‘not as important’ toys, whilst her old, mangled bear sat grimly by James’ pillow, upset me dearly.
Teresa and I had, had our differences since James’ birth and my authority as his biological mother meant very little to her. In her eyes, she was James’ mother and, although the terms were made very clear to her when I agreed for her and Jerry to be his guardians – to a point – she still resisted in allowing herself to hand over James whenever I was in the picture. I accepted that she had lost her own little James but that didn’t mean she had the right to take mine away from me.
I pulled James onto my lap where he crossed his legs and sat obediently, clapping his hands and mumbling to himself an unrecognisable string of words – if you could call it that. I kissed his forehead and stroked his forever growing, thick head of dark brown curls.
“I love you, baby,” I told him, as he began to pull at the silver locket around my neck – the locket Ben had given me the same Christmas he’d given James the bear, “I love so much. Do you love Mummy too?”
The response to my question came as a dribble filled babble, similar to his previous mumbling. It was good enough for me. I took Ben’s bear in my hand and brushed my thumb across the still soft fur, smiling to myself glad that it hadn’t gotten matted or ruined. I pulled my phone from my jeans pocket and slid it open. My screen wallpaper photo appeared in milli-seconds. I showed it to James, who studied it curiously, poking at the little boy in the photo.
“Yes, that’s you; and Mummy; and Daddy,” I told him, turning the screen slightly to look at the first ‘family photo’ of the three of us that Mum had taken on his first birthday, “Daddy loves you too, James. Daddy loves you lots and lots and misses you every day, just like I do when you’re not with me. But you’ll be with me always soon… very soon, I hope.