Little Sailboat on Loch Leven


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Chapter 1


Tilly was sick of everything, her job, her "friends", and herself. Working day after day, invisible for all her hard yards. She stayed late every night, because Bella couldn't do her work, yet would clock off every night at no later than 5, sometimes 4 if she felt like it. No matter the state of time urgent things needing to be finalized, Bella would go home, leaving Tilly to finish it for her. Saturdays news articles wouldn't wait until Monday, when Bella clocked off on Friday without her work done. Tilly had her own daily article to write, and one for Sunday, Bella only had a Saturday column and menial administration work to do and she still failed utterly.

Tilly was also working for a boss who objectified and harassed her whenever he got the chance, a thing which was made all the easier by Bella who had lied through her teeth about her and got her performance managed. Time alone with Mr. Asshole was previously avoided at all costs, but a meeting once a week to check in on her, alone, in his office, was now unavoidable. That dreaded weekly meeting was thanks to Bella, who's favourite act in her play book, was crying in their bosses office and lying about things to twist them against Tilly.

How did people like her stay employed? She was toxic, emotionally manipulative of their boss, a chronic professional lier, and if all else failed, flirted with anyone she thought could get her what she wanted; or get her out of a situation she'd lied herself into.

The worst of all, was the fact that Tilly's co-workers saw this little narcissist for what she was, but never made a report on her laziness, incompetence or lies. Not one of them ever stood up for Tilly against Bella herself, or their boss, nothing, years of friendly working together, knowing Tilly never put a foot wrong and not one of them spoke up for her. All those good, kind, cowards; Tilly's former work friends, had left her in the trenches alone, afraid to be the next targets of Bella's lies and incompetence, or their bosses unsolicited advances. Well it was enough, she was leaving, and one of them, likely whoever took over her role, would be their next victim.

Months ago she'd hired a professional to do all the paperwork for a long, extended period in her Ancestral homeland of Scotland, and it had all finally come through approved.

Tilly was hoping to get work in the summer, but until then, she'd spend the winter digging into her savings, long service leave compensation and trying to recover her obliterated workplace confidence. She thought if she went there early, made herself useful and got to know the town and people, she'd get a job far easier come the busier summer season.

Truth be told, she needed the break, was a little afraid of it, what would happen when she stopped? When there was nothing to do for 3 whole months but breathe, and live? She was afraid she'd come apart at the seams, be completely broken and never recover. After a kind woman who worked in the same building on a different floor, found her one morning in the carpark crying, Tilly briefly explained her situation and the woman gently pointed out that; that ship had already sailed if you were crying before your work day had even begun. -the woman wasn't wrong, and her words had served as another wake up call. Tilly had already fallen apart.

She hadn't told anyone about hiring someone to do all the paperwork needed to apply for the Ancestral Visa, she didn't know if it would be approved, she hadn't even been sure she'd go if it was.

Honestly, up until she'd gotten the last set of documents to sign, she'd been so stressed that she'd forgotten she had started this process in the first place. It was that moment of clarity, which made her realize how bad things had gotten, that moment she realized she'd forgotten this huge plan for change, because she was in survival mode, and deeply depressed, it woke her up and made her decide it was time to walk away.

So as spring in Australia wound to a close, she had planned her exit. Her apartment was now empty, she'd sold everything she didn't need, which had no sentimental value, and had only kept all her favourite personal things, shipped a box of heavier trinkets and photos and invested in a few extra things for a Scottish winter.

Breaking the news to her friends had been interesting, there wasn't much of a reaction, other than the typical remarks about finding a well-to-do man over there, getting a big diamond and popping out a baby. They never saw each other anymore, least of all her closest friend of the group Heather, they'd met in their late teens clubbing and had slowly grown apart in later years. As everyone but Tilly settled down, married "well", had kids, she'd been the only one not interested in the type of men they'd somehow all chosen. Wealthy, meat heads, who only wanted trophy wives who would take care of them, their kids and their houses. That was not Tilly's idea of a happy life, money or no, she wanted to be free, she wanted the option to pick up and leave with no responsibilities. So at 36, adding the awful work environment and lack-lustre friendships, plus no family to speak of together, it was all she needed to have the courage to finally go and be free.

As time had gotten closer to her leaving she honestly wondered if they would even notice once she was gone, she doubted it, they'd be more concerned with planning their next fancy party, or charity event, to notice that Tilly wasn't there.

They say in order to have good people in your life, you have to make room for them; well Tilly was making 16,950+ kilometers worth of room.

She was ready for Scotland, for a fresh start, for freedom and an adventure. She would leave her workplace that day in a blaze of glory, and be gone before she could talk herself out of it.

Tilly had power dressed for her last day, none of the flowing pretty hair styles she usually wore adorned her head. As the stress had intensified the past few months she'd lost hair and stopped having the energy to take pride in herself the way she used to; all signs she had no longer been able to ignore.

Friday 3:30pm came, her flight to Scotland was at 6:30pm and that gave her 2hrs to get to the airport, check herself in and refresh herself. She'd given her boss a handwritten letter for her 2 weeks notice, which he scoffed at and didn't open, so that same day she'd also emailed it to the HR woman downstairs and cc'd him in, so he couldn't deny she'd done it by the book, she'd get her long service leave pay, and everything else she was entitled to.

She put on her black coat, and took her bag, she'd slowly been emptying her desk over the last week so she could have this moment, without a box to carry on her way out. She'd been to the bathroom to make sure her hair and bright red lipstick was perfect, her hair was pulled straight back into a French bun and she had sunglasses tucked into her coat pocket.

'You can do this, for every woman who can't and most importantly; for yourself' she spoke to her mind the words of courage that she'd repeated countless times now over the last few days, preparing herself for this moment.

She left the bathroom and walked straight to her bosses office, she let herself in and left the doors wide open. He had to excuse himself from a call and sat back in his desk surveying her with a crude look. She left the doors wide open so anyone nearby could hear and make of it what they would, she also did not step too far into the room, so she could make a timely exit.

"Goodbye Jason' she took a wad of folded papers from her purse and dismissively threw them in front of him on the desk, 'these are my emails of notice, to you and HR from 2 weeks ago, in case you'd forgotten today was my last day. Underneath you'll find the report I've filed with The Human Rights Commission in Sydney, against you, for your unsolicited behaviour towards myself. I took the liberty of contacting other women who used to work in this office, to encourage them to make reports too, all of these women left your toxic workplace for the same reasons I'm leaving. At lunch in the staff room today when you put your hand on my backside, and said "nice dress", that was the last time you get to sexually assault me. You are on notice, if you have an issue with this conversation, or my report, take it up with the Human Rights Commission, because I don't work here or live here anymore. You are no longer my problem, I hope that any woman who you remain a problem too knows they too can make a report, and add it to the stack of others the Human Rights Commission now have on you. Good luck with everything" Tilly said, managing the last 4 words without sounding bitter or amused. She slid her black sunglasses on, then turned and left, with her boss looking utterly bewildered and thankfully, speechless.

Downstairs she thanked the receptionist who had allowed her to store her travel things under their desk, she took her traveling suitcase and overnight bag from the kind young man behind the desk, and left. She'd made sure her favourite Uber driver would be waiting, she'd promised a handsome tip, and he was there waiting for her. Michael helped her into the car with her luggage and they left for the airport, she'd freshen up after she'd checked in and find a comfortable lounge to unwind in before her flight, she had dropped her bomb and now she wanted to be well-clear of it going off.

She'd made sure to say she didn't live here anymore, lest her boss decide to go the whole hog with his toxic masculinity, and show up on her doorstep to abuse her for her action against him. She'd paid rent for another two weeks, just in case he did decide to show up, he wouldn't traumatize some other unsuspecting tenant, because it would be empty for long enough for him to spiral and then realize she hasn't lied, she did not live here anymore.

"How did it go then" Michael asked, once she was settled in the back seat.

"Gloriously, victoriously, devastatingly..." Tilly replied, she felt freed and so she felt in herself full of possibilities. She wasn't out to maliciously destroy anyone, but it sure felt good to serve a little justice before she left.

"So basically, if this were a Disney film, the villains; furious, outraged, scream, would be shaking and echoing through the whole city" Michael replied.

Admittedly, she'd been drinking too much, and called Michael for his driving services a lot lately. In many an inebriated state, she'd drunkenly disclosed all her woes, and he'd listened, been kind and made sure she got home safe, it was why he was getting $250 tip before she left today. He deserved it, he likely knew more about her current mental and emotional states, than her friends did; the latter whom never bothered to ask.

Michael reached into an esky on the passenger seat and pulled out a cider, handed it to her, and took one for himself, held it back a little and said "to freedom"

"Michael you're driving" she said.

"Non-Alcoholic, of course, never fly remotely drunk, being hungover whilst also being jet lagged should be avoided at all costs" he said, smiling at her in the rear view.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have assumed, should have read the label first" Tilly said, feeling guilty about judging him, wrongly and all.

"All good, can you open mine?" he asked, keeping his eyes on the road.

Tilly took the glass stubby and opened it as a reply, then placed it back in his hand, and opened her own.

"Thanks" he said, sipping it and then placing it in the cup holder.

"No; thank you. I needed this, I think spring is most definitely giving way to summer' she said, sipping her bottle, and sighing with the cool sweet taste of it. She found a cup holder for her bottle and started to remove her coat, which was far too thick for a warm Australian spring day. "I wore this coat as a message, 'I'm out the door', it was supposed to say, now it's just saying 'look a mad woman in a woolen winter coat on a 27°c day'" she huffed a chuckle at herself.

"Going to get to 30°c apparently" he said.

Tilly realized she could take down her hair, so she did, brushing out the backcomb and letting it fall down her back "Oh I needed that" she said, massaging her head in places.

"So where you off to and for how long" Michael asked as he checked mirrors and indicated before changing lanes.

"Scotland, not sure for how long, I actually forgot I hired someone to make the paperwork happen for me. Then the last lot of papers to sign came after a few months of no word, and the woman said, I should start preparing, because she was sure they'd approve the Ancestral Visa, my Grandmother was Scottish, born there and everything, I think she'd be really happy to know I was going back. I started preparing and here I am, I think I've got a few years before I have to decide and extend my visa or to apply for indefinite leave to remain, if I love it I probably will stay"

"Wow, that's ah, a lot to take in. Good for you though" Michael said.

"Thank you, I'm terrified to be honest, but my life the past few months has actually been pretty awful, so it has pushed past my fear, to make me go for it" Tilly said, a little proud of herself and grateful for the shitty state, which had been her life and relationships, for pushing her to do something she had always wanted to.

"I'm sure it'll be exactly what you need" Michael said.

They took the rest of the drive in peaceable silence, mostly due to the fact that Tilly fell asleep.


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Chapter 2


"Tilly? Tilly, wake up, we're here" Michael's voice woke Tilly. He kept is hand on her shoulder, and steadied her as she took off her belt and got out the car.

"Oh, I'm sorry I didn't mean to fall asleep" she said.

"Don't stress, you must have needed it" he smiled.

"As a good bye and thank you, for all the kindness and assistance you have provided for me the last few months, I wanted to say thank you, and because I promised you a tip for waiting for me from 3pm" Tilly said, putting an envelope of money into his hands, the $100 that the fare to the airport cost and the extra $250, to say thank you for everything.

His face dropped, he took the envelope and took the $100 for the fare and shoved it gently, but resolutely back into her hand "I didn't show up today for the bonus you promised, I showed up for you, because it was potentially going to be a big day and you don't have anyone and, I wanted to see you before you left" he said, he was upset, but not raving, though it still took Tilly aback.

"I, I didn't want to offend you, I'm sorry" Tilly said, unsure of how she'd gone wrong.

"Christ-Jesus Tilly, I haven't said anything because you were being sexually harassed at work. I knew you felt safe with me, that you'd call me when you were most vulnerable; intoxicated and in need of a ride home. I didn't want to change that for you, so I never, fuck" Michael said, looking pained, sad and frustrated.

"Oh my god" Tilly said, as she realized, what he was not saying.

Michael reached out his hand and cupped her face, brushing his thumb against her cheek, he removed it quickly and looked away.

Tilly stood there dumbfounded, she'd been so stressed, tired and downright traumatized that she hadn't seen this great young guy right in front of her, trying to be noticed by her, without crossing any lines, specifically because he knew she was already vulnerable at work and didn't need that from anywhere else.

Michael moved away to get her a trolley, he loaded her things on and then turned back to her and said "Maybe I shouldn't have said that, just know you have someone to come home to Australia for, if it doesn't work out over there, you won't be alone if you come back. Call me of you need anything" Michael said.

Tilly stood there mouth open a little in shock, she was not prepared for this today, not that she'd have been prepared tomorrow either.

"I'm sorry, I never thought you'd look at me like that" Tilly said, wondering when she'd lost her confidence in herself. She quickly realized it was these months of slow but steady spiralling down, taking less and less care of herself, as beauty routine gave way to much needed extra sleep.

"Don't think of it. Go, have your adventure, enjoy yourself and for god's sake, make those Scotsmen crazy for you, you deserve attention and love Tilly, from a man of your choosing" Michael said, he lent down and kissed her cheek, just next to her lips.

Tears spilled out of Tilly's eyes, from the sheer kindness of his words, he could have said anything, begged her to stay guilt tripped her into it, but that's not what he did and she was grateful for it.

"Ah, don't cry, I didn't mean for you to cry, just go and be, that's all I mean. Go with blessings, from a fool with a crush' he said, pulling her into a hug. Car horns sounded behind him and he could see a traffic monitor approaching 'fucken people, can't see others having a moment and be patient, whatever happened to allowing people to be human, and have human interaction without rushing them. God forbid we slow down someone's day giving them the time to enjoy the sunshine" he said.

Tilly laughed a little, and said "Thank you, for everything. And in the kindest sense possible; don't wait for me, find someone worthy of you. I'm touched that you thought that could be me" she said.

He gave a half smile, the half which smiled was the half that wouldn't let her leave without a kind smile, and the half which didn't was the half of him that was a broken crush.

More horns sounded and they both yelled some profanity and lamenting the impatience being shown them, as they did, whilst he was distracted, Tilly threw the envelope through his passenger side open window, and hoped he'd take it as a compliment and with her gratefulness.

"Take care of yourself, stay cool this summer" Tilly said.

"You too, but stay warm in the Scottish winter" he said.

"I will. Would it be too forward to ask for a kiss goodbye?" she said, taking a chance.

He smiled a beautiful full teethed smile, that reached his eyes and cupped her face, before he began to kiss her goodbye, and then stopped and looked at her "Christ-Jesus, that was like kissing my big sister, no offence I'm sure you're a great kisser, but wow"

She smiled, that was what she was looking for, to let him down easy. He was too young for her, not in maturity, but in life, he needed to live more, have adventure, finish school, love and lose, crush and be crushed. She understood, she'd had crushes through her life and learned that a crush isn't the same as like, let alone love. A crush never worked out, because you built it in your mind to be something it was not, so there can only be disappointment in the end. She had hoped for this when she'd asked for the kiss, she thought she was right, and it would be the best way for him to go on with his life and not think about her again, not like that anyway.

"Thank you, and goodbye little brother, may we meet again as the best of old friends, if you're ever in Scotland, you won't be alone" Tilly said, giving his words sincerely back to him, then turned and pushed the trolley with her suitcase, travel bag and handbag.

"Goodbye, Sorry and have fun" he said a little awkwardly.

She turned and said "None of that, we're good, go take the rest of the day off and YOU have fun too" she winked at him and looked at the car behind him.

"You didn't. When? Tilly, you might need it!" he said, realizing what she'd done when he saw the money.

"I've got more than enough to last a Scottish winter or two, I'll be just fine" Tilly said, speaking truth as she waved goodbye with a reassuring smile.

He shook his head, smiling and waved back. She'd gotten closure at work and given it to Michael, she had thought goodbyes would be difficult, but it turned out, goodbye was just another kind of conversation.

Tilly quickly realized there was a fatal flaw in her plan; she needed her suitcase to change clothes after the shower she intended to take post check in; which required giving up your luggage.

She cued up and figured she still had an hour or so before she had to check in her luggage, she could ask for advice and then make a plan, and re-cue if need be.

After a very reasonable 10 minutes wait time, she was at the front of the cue, handing over her ticket. The lady behind the desk, made an exclamation and said "Lucky lady, you've been upgraded to first class. There's a note here on the system regarding the change "Tilly, enjoy your time away, I'm sorry things haven't been the best between us, just know I love you as much as ever and I'm sorry. David said I could upgrade your ticket as our sending off gift, I hope you don't mind, he says good luck. Again, I'm sorry, I know I haven't been my normal self, I hope we can get back to what we were, one day. Much love, David, Heather, Isabella, Hamish, Imogen and pets. -Genie made me say the pets. xoxoxo", those are some friends you have, sure you want to leave?" the attendant said.

"Yes, on both fronts" Tilly said, her heart warmed by the generosity, perhaps she had more here than she'd realized.

"Well let's check you in then, suitcase on the scale" the woman pointed to her left.

"Oh, I almost forgot, I wanted to shower and change, I've just come from work but my clothes are in my suitcase" Tilly said.

"No problem, we'll check you in here, then you can make your way to the first class lounge with your luggage. You can enjoy the amenities in there and then when you're ready, give your luggage to an attendant in there, and they will see it's checked for you. Is there anything else I can help you with?" she asked.

"No that sounds perfect, thank you so much" Tilly said, first class service was lovely indeed, she was starting to see why some women only considered marrying wealthy men. For her though, money could never be a deciding factor, it was nice sure, but not necessary.

From that moment until she landed in Scotland, Tilly had the easiest journey of her life. Everyone was so accommodating, and treated her well, she had her own pod, she could shut herself away and relax, watch movies, eat lovely food. She'd even wet, rolled her hair and wrapped it up in a silk scarf, so that when she landed in Scotland, she'd have her hair just the way she liked it. She sent Heather and David an email of thanks and organized a Skype call for later so she could thank them face to face.

When Tilly disembarked the plane, she was ready for a walk, solid ground and fresh air. She had enjoyed the drive from the airport to Glasgow, but by the time she paid, and was standing with her overnight bag, ontop of her suitcase and hang bag in hand, she was well and truly ready to stretch her legs.

Tilly had asked to be dropped at a square she'd chosen, so she could have a walk to her hotel, without getting lost. There was so much to see, the countless old buildings were detailed and imposing, so beautiful compared to the City of Sydney. Naturally all cities which have thrived for hundreds of years had historic buildings, but the number and scale of them in Sydney paled in comparison to Glasgow. She knew she was still on earth, and everything was familiar, but it also felt like a different world, the axis of her reality had shifted, and the subtle changes of culture around her could be felt in the historic aesthetics, and the way people spoke and interacted.

The walk was shorter than she'd hoped for, but that was just as well, because she wanted to try and sleep, so she could start looking for a car the next day. She wanted to drive up to Glencoe as soon as possible, she had a room waiting in the township Hotel for her from Monday at 2pm and she was determined to make it. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were allotted to spend time adventuring around Inverness, seeing Loch Ness, Glen Ord Distillery, Culloden, and whatever sights she found which intrigued her. Then on Friday she was scheduled to drive farther north, to Thurso, ready for the Ferry journey from nearby Scrabster to Stromness, where she'd find somewhere to bunk, until she could find something more permanent.

The big city of Glasgow was lovely, but she longed for a change away from that fast city pace, to the easy country lifestyle, which she hoped was the scene in the Scottish Highlands.


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Chapter 3


Tilly didn't expect to be hit so hard by the jet lag, she had planned on choosing a car on Sunday, so she could leave by Monday morning. As it was by Monday she just barely dragged herself out of bed before noon, got herself ready at a snails pace, checked out and made it to the Aussie Expat car dealer. She'd found a lot of valuable information in an expat group on Facebook; How to exchange your money online with little to no fees, the best guides, reliable expat accommodation & services; including the used car dealership.

It had been a while since Tilly needed a car, living in the heart of a big busy city, didn't require a car for an active lifestyle. In the country up on Orkney mainland however, she would definitely be needing her independence. So Tilly chose a small but reliable run-around, having been assured that it ran well, including upgrades on the heat system ready for Scottish winters. Tilly test drove the car, along with the; automatic gearbox, lights, indicators, windscreen wipers, and the heat, once satisfied, she bought the 1975 Volkswagen Beetle. She chose the car upon remembering the sage words of her late grandmother, 'an old beetle will never do you wrong, if you get into a bingle, it'll be the other party who comes off badly". -her grandmother had owned a beetle, and swore by the old thing. They were small, but solid, nudge an old Volkswagen Beetle and you'll regret it. The newer ones weren't the trick, they like other new cars, had given way to cheap, light metals, plastic and fiberglass but the old bugs, were as sturdy as little rocks and reliable too.

She returned to her hotel, eternally grateful that for whatever reason, Australia had decided to utilize the same road laws as the UK, not the opposite way like the US. Being behind the wheel again for the first time in a while, and in a foreign country, was made easier for the fact that she didn't have to reverse the road rules in her mind to drive. Tilly was useless at left and right, so she was incredibly grateful that everything was the normal way round for her. When she arrived at the hotel, after some careful, albeit slow driving, as agreed the door man bought her luggage out, and helped her get it under the Beetle's hood.

By 2pm she was behind the wheel with her overnight bag, and handbag next to her, with some essentials for her 2 and a half hour drive to Glencoe. It would be dark not long before she got to Glencoe, but she was eager to get to her adventure before her new life; if she was honest; impatient.

Tilly's new car didn't have much in the way of mod-cons, but she ran well, so Tilly enjoyed her ride out of Glasgow, and the sights of country Scotland. The heating in the car left a little to be desired, but she had her coat and gloves, and she didn't plan on getting out until she got to her hotel at her destination. So with her heater directed to her feet, which she'd only clad in low heeled vintage leather pumps and the stockings clipped to her garter belt, to keep them warm, she needed the heat there most. The skirt and top layers beneath her heavy fur trimmed coat, was plenty to keep her warm on her drive. She'd summoned all her energy late that morning to do her hair and subtle make up, and climbed into the outfit she'd planned for stepping into her new life. It was important to her that she felt more like herself than she had in a long while; to start by putting the right foot forward.

On the drive Tilly drank water, nibbled nuts, candy and a sandwich she'd bought before leaving Glasgow. She also had some champagne and whisky in her over night bag, she wasn't sure which would get the first honours for celebration when she got up to her room. She favoured champagne, but standing at the register it had seemed wrong not to buy whisky for celebration in the home of liquid gold; plus they had a nice drop on special so why not?

As Tilly drove, something truly magical happened; it began to snow. To Tilly who loved cold, dreary weather, it was a good sign, because how could something that makes you so happy be anything other than a sign of blessing. Tilly giggled and screamed with joy, rolling down the window, not caring about the cold, or the snowflakes drifting in the window.

She enjoyed the cold for as long as she could stand, and then rolled the window back up, noting the snowfall increasing in density and speed. A part of Tilly panicked, she hadn't expected snow this early, so she hadn't bothered to check the weather. She checked the time and whilst it was very nearly dark she didn't panic, as she was so close to her accommodation and the headlights worked just fine. So she took a few deep breaths and calmed herself, knowing that Glencoe was only another half-hour away, probably less. So even if she had to slow a little in the deluge of snow, she would be there before she knew it.

Tilly's panic began to set in when she realized 30minutes had passed and she still hadn't reached Glencoe, with the snow becoming steadily more angry.

Tilly pulled over to read a sign, she needed to get her bearings, she felt completely at sea in this unfamiliar place, and that was not how you got to where you planned. As Tilly squinted to read the sign, her stomach dropped, she wasn't on the right road, she'd taken the A85, instead of the A82, and now she was somewhere between Oban and Glencoe, with what she guessed was over 30 minutes left in her journey. Tilly was scared, she could only guess, but she had no idea how long it would take for certain, she was likely wrong because it was in the middle of an unseasonable snow storm and she now couldn't drive the speed limit.

Tilly pulled back into the road, going as fast as she could, whilst also being safe. She thought she might be getting close, but she felt stopping again would waste precious time, which she didn't have. She prayed she was close, it was most definitely dark now, between that and the snow, she was definitely starting to panic.

Just as Tilly thought she had leashed her panic, her car began to slide over the road rather than roll, and that was it, her hold on her fear snapped as she couldn't retain control of the car. Screaming as the car tipped down off the road into a ditch, she hit what she supposed was the embankment of the upside of the roadside ditch, she hit the steering wheel and passed out.

Tilly came to in darkness, headlights off, she figured on broken in the crash, and snow drift howled around the car. She sat up slowly, incredibly glad she was a stickler for wearing a seatbelt. Her head throbbed, touching it she realized she'd hit her forehead in the accident, as she felt warm sticky moisture on her fingers.

"Fuck" she said to herself, as she realized how much trouble she was in.

She wasn't where she was meant to be, she hadn't bothered to buy a new phone before she set out, nor even called ahead to the hotel so that they'd know to send help, if she didn't show up by 5pm. She kicked herself mentally, she was a stupid, Australian foreigner, unequipped for a Scottish winter and it's unpredictable weather.

There was nothing else for it but to get out, find the road and walk. She couldn't stay in her car, what if this storm lasted longer than her car had petrol for heat? -beetles were known for being poorly heated anyway, and whilst the upgrades hers had were a necessary luxury for the climate, they wouldn't keep her warm enough if this blizzard persisted.

She felt so dizzy, and cold, she knew she had to get moving if she wanted to survive the night. In the distance, she saw a feint glow, through the whipping snow, that was it, she had to shoot for that light and pray it was somewhere to hunker down through this freezing storm and not just a random street light.

Tilly knew she would be an idiot to attempt taking her suitcase, so she took only her over night bag and put her handbag into that. She stuffed her useless phone from Australia into her coat pocket, took the umbrella she'd bought off the back seat, not to shield herself, that wouldn't work, but it was sturdy enough to lean on.

Tilly pulled her coat collar up, and tied her hair into a bun, then got out, and stepped into a slushy pie of freezing muddy snow. She pulled her bag with her, using the umbrella already to steady herself. She slammed the car door, leaving the keys inside; if someone wanted to attempt to steal it, good fucking luck to them.

It took a few attempts, but Tilly made it up the small but slippery ditch, she had pushed the bag up first, then fought her way up. Using the toes of her shoes to dig in and the umbrella as a pick, driving it into the earth and hauling herself up. She rolled next to her bag and stood, she turned her phone flashlight on, for what little good it did. She ended up using the umbrella to tap the road in front of her, making sure to stick to it, otherwise she'd be climbing out of the ditch again. When Tilly was almost parallel with the glowing light, she started to branch off the road, and found a gravel shoulder beside the road. Tapping the ground, and swinging the umbrella in front of her she found a metal post, she held her phone light up to it and found that she was at a mooring. The light she could see was likely someone hunkering down in their boat, she prayed to a god she hadn't spoken to in years that they'd leave their lights on.

'If they turn that off, I'm dead' Tilly thought to herself, quickly followed by 'well that was dark', which made her laugh. She was so cold, her mixed fiber woollen gloves had been soaked through with the rest of her when she'd crawled out of the ditch. She spared a sad passing thought for her vintage leather shoes, as she used the umbrella and her phone to find the path which lead to the mooring. The uneven path tilted down, and she could see the metal gate barring her from crossing onto the dock. She pushed her bag over the metal gate and then the umbrella, then began the task of getting around it her self. She almost gave up a few times, in the struggle, but the idea of death if she failed, spurred her on. She struggled through the freezing metal biting into the skin on her legs, ankles, and feet, as she hauled herself up and over.

Finally clear of the gate, Tilly used the umbrella to find the boat, which had it's lights on. The boat was large, bigger than she'd expected, and she managed to throw her bag into the deck, she was glad she didn't miss, as it held all she had in the world at that moment and for as long as the storm lasted.

Tilly couldn't see if the boat had railings, wasn't sure how to get on board; if she missed, she'd plunge into freezing water and then she'd be in serious bloody trouble.

"Hello?" a voice called in Scottish Gaelic from a little to Tilly's left.

Tilly cried out as she burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably, as relief and the tension of mortal fear released it's tight grip around her heart, and nerves.

"Stay where you are, I'm coming to get you" the voice called back, to her nonsensical crying, in words she didn't understand.

Tilly sank to the ground and huddled in a ball, she was so cold, and spent, she'd fought to get here and someone was coming for her.

Big hands grasped either side of her and hauled her up and over a wide strong shoulder.


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Chapter 4 (*!NSFW!*)

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Chapter 6 (*!NSFW!*)

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