-- by Anne


The characters are not mine – George Sutherland is Donald Bain’s creation and Jessica is the property of MCA/Universal – but I’m borrowing them to play with for a little while.


In northernmost Scotland, the longest day of the year is quite long, and the shortest night of the year – Midsummer Eve – is very short indeed. I say this not just because the sun sets after nine in the evening only to rise again before four a.m. here at the very edge of Great Britain, but also because it is among the handful of nights I can count on spending with my beloved, and nights spent with Jessica pass by very swiftly indeed.

            In the years since we first consummated our relationship on that fateful vigil of the summer solstice, Jessica and I have made a point to be together on every Midsummer Eve since, whether it be in London, in Ireland, in Maine (aye, I did spend one there with her once), or here in my ancestral home of Wick. On that night, wherever we happen to find ourselves trysting, we repeat to each other our secret vows and spend the short hours of the evening celebrating our bond as only intimate lovers can.

            And so it is that I find myself out of doors amidst the heather that cloaks the hillside behind the castle, waiting (with no small measure of impatience) for twilight to fall and usher in another Midsummer Eve. I tilt my face toward the sky, the setting sun painting the high, wispy clouds in pastel shades of rose and pink, and think back to those Midsummer Eves past, remembering one we spent in London at the venerable Savoy Hotel…


            “Well, here we are,” I said as the porter closed the door behind him and left us alone in one of the Savoy’s magnificent suites overlooking the Thames. Although I had been a visitor to the hotel several times previously this was my first occasion to come here as an actual guest, and this distinction caused me to look upon my opulent Victorian-inspired surroundings with an entirely different sort of appreciation.

            Jessica draped her coat across the back of an armchair and did a slow turn to take in the sitting room of the suite and all its well-appointed splendor. “Beautiful,” she said. “In all my years of coming here, the Savoy has never disappointed.”

            As inviting as the chance to stay at this hotel was, I’d had some misgivings about spending our anniversary at the Savoy – misgivings that I’d harbored ever since Jessica had proposed the idea, but which I found I could only give voice to now – now, when we were already here and it was, in effect, already too late.

            “Uh, Jess,” I began awkwardly, “are you certain this is a good idea, staying here at the Savoy? I mean, this was your special place to come with … with Frank.”

            Jessica came over to where I stood and placed a gentle hand to my cheek, the sweet smile on her face reassuring me that she had not taken my question amiss.

            “George,” she said, “since Frank died, all my visits here have been tinged with sadness. I’m ready to start forging some new memories, ones that will bring us both some happiness.”

            My reticence melted away at that, as I drew her into my arms and kissed her.


            The sun continues to slide down toward the horizon, the pinks and roses deepening to lavender – but not nearly quick enough for my tastes.

            “Come on, come on,” I mutter at the sun under my breath. I am not an impatient man by nature, but there are rare occasions when even I succumb to a keenness to get on with things. Waiting for nightfall on the eve of the longest day of the year definitely ranks among them.

            It is hardly the first time I have found myself anxiously awaiting the sunset on Midsummer Eve. All of the ones Jessica and I have spent together since Kilcleer have been – for me, at least – fraught with a certain amount of frustrated waiting.

I remember in particular the year that I went to Maine to spend the Solstice with Jessica in her home town…


            Anniversaries are often marked by the traditions that spring up in their wakes; our anniversary was no different, though we did try to keep ours as uncomplicated as possible. The one tradition that we did hew to – at Jessica’s insistence, not mine – was to wait until the sun had set on Midsummer Eve before properly marking our anniversary.

            It was always an agonizing wait for me, mitigated only by the fact that I knew full well that the sacrifice would be well-rewarded. But this time was particularly difficult for me because prior to arriving I had spent six hours in an airplane with nothing to do except bask in the anticipation of what awaited me at my journey’s end. It would be fair to say that I was in quite a state by the time I reached Cabot Cove in the late afternoon. Yet Jessica, who, I am certain, was well aware of my heightened yearnings, insisted on waiting until after the sun set, as was our custom.

            “It’s just a few hours,” she told me. “What’s the harm?”

            On second thought, perhaps she didn’t realize how deeply I was suffering after all.

            In any event, it turned out to be more than “a few hours.” As the sun disappeared and twilight was ushered in I reached for her, only to be interrupted when Seth walked in the back door unannounced.

            “Jess,” he called, “they’re shootin’ off fireworks over in Boothbay Harbor for Windjammer Days. Should be able to see them from the headland, if we hurry.”

            We left the living room and entered the kitchen trying not to look sheepish, Jessica hastily straightening the collar of her shirt so as to not let Seth see that he had interrupted anything. She needn’t have worried; it was probably a futile endeavour anyway once Seth saw me following behind her.

            “Oh – hello, George,” he said, awkwardly extending his hand for me to shake. “I didn’t realize you were in Maine.”

            “Just arrived this afternoon,” I said.

            “I see. Um, would you like to come with us to see the fireworks?”

            Internally, I was laughing silently to myself - out of a sense of irony or despair, I wasn’t sure. What else could I say but yes?

            I have never quite understood the American fascination with fireworks – we use them in Britain, but far more sparingly than in the States, where every celebration and country fair seems to demand them and people come for miles around to see them. True to form, there was a fair turnout on the headland to view this event even though the rockets were being shot off miles away in another town. The sparkles were distant and small – hardly worth bothering with in my opinion – yet the children squealed with delight and the adults ooh’ed and ahh’ed as though they’d been set off right overhead. It was all I could do to not be obvious about checking my watch.

            At last, after a “grand finale” of dozens of fireworks being set off at once (and it would have been grand, I suppose, had we only been closer), the spectacle, for what it was worth, was over. Seth dropped us back at Jessica’s house, and by a small miracle, did not invite himself in for coffee and chit-chat. As soon as the door was shut safely behind us, Jessica grabbed me by the hand and fairly pulled me up the stairs; then at least I had the consolation of knowing that even her infinite patience was worn thin from waiting.


            I chuckle softly at the memory as the sun begins, finally, to slip below the horizon.

            “What’s so funny?” Jessica, who has been sitting quietly next to me watching the sunset, asks.

            “Oh, nothing, love.”

            She narrows her eyes and looks at me. “You’re thinking about that time you visited me in Cabot Cove,” she says accusingly. “When Seth made us go watch the fireworks with him.”

            “Aye, guilty as charged,” I confess. She always seems to have an uncanny knack to know what I am thinking. “I could barely keep my hands off you.”

            “Likewise. I admired your restraint, though.”

            “You made the effort worthwhile in the end.”

At last Apollo has completed his day’s journey, his horses pulling his golden chariot over the rim of the world, and twilight, soft and blue, settles over the Highlands in his wake.

“Well,” Jessica says, lying back amidst the heather, “tonight there will be no waiting. Are you ready?”

“Aye,” I say, bending to lower my mouth to hers.

The shortest night of the year has begun.


The End