The path remained empty. The long grass on either side swayed and sang in the wind, mocking me with every blade that rustled. Any elation I had felt before arriving at Bosta to meet her was beginning to wane with the realization that she might not show. I looked at my watch again. Her five minutes was up, twenty minutes ago. Five more minutes, I promised myself, knowing it was just another lie.
The rock was stiff and chilled, even through the fabric of my clothes. I turned away from the empty path and looked down to the bottom of the valley and the loch below. The clouds hid the sun, and in its absence, the water’s surface was murky and uninviting. I tried to imagine how the valley had looked when Isla and I had gone swimming, but it felt like a different place entirely. The shadows of the clouds above moved quickly over the landscape, painting the stillness of hillside with ghostly movement; the only movement.
There was a rustling in the long grass. I sat up confused and disoriented by the missing light from the afternoon sky. My eyes were heavy with the sudden sleep that had found me. The wind ripped over the ledge, pulling intensely at my clothes as if trying to wake me up before the thing rustling in the grass pounced, or maybe it was just the wind tattling on itself.
I looked at my watch. It had only been half an hour since the last time I remembered looking at it, and in that time the storm resting on the horizon had been pushed inland by the wind and was directly overhead. Grey clouds spun overhead, pregnant with rain, and I could feel the wetness looming in the air. Still, she hadn’t come.
I crouched on the south side of the outcropping and ducked out of the wind. Any hope that I had been harboring foolishly was gone, swept away by the winds biting at the landscape. It would be a race against the elements to make it home before the rain, but that wasn’t enough to energize me to move. I sat against the rock, pathetically unable and unwilling to move, stuck inside my inability to understand why Isla hadn’t shown.
I stared down to the valley floor aimlessly. The wind pushed small ripples and white caps over the water’s surface. The grasses bent over, pulsing with the flux of the winds intensity. The only thing that didn’t move was the remains of the stone croft. Through the beginnings of tears, I saw something move against the steadfast croft. Something human.
My feet tore through the bending grass, and I was halfway down the path when I lost sight of her. I questioned how she’d missed me sleeping the afternoon away on the ridge but banished the thought almost immediately. It didn’t matter. The closer to the bottom I bounded, the more forgiving the wind became, allowing me to move faster toward what was waiting for me.
The ground was soggy, like it had already rained. My boots squished and sank in the sodden dirt creating the sound of suction every time I pushed off for another step. Once on the valley floor, I picked up speed. My heart raced, pounding so loud I was sure she would hear it when I finally found her, and laugh. I’d forgive her for it, and being late, and anything else she did in life.
“Isla!” I yelled, bursting through the mouth of the croft, thinking she’d taken refuge from the elements inside its unshakable walls. But it was as empty as the path had been.