The moors of Dartmoor called to her both in her waking hours and her dreams. Each night they beckoned her as she slept in the comfortable bed that had belonged to her parents. And each morning as she awoke, the smell of heather and a fine mist seemed to permeate her room, although she knew well enough that it was merely the remnants of dreams that lingered so.
Born in the year of 1934, Heather had been named for the lovely flowering plant that grew upon the beautiful, haunting moors of Dartmoor, and as a result, she longed always to be near them even though she was now thirty-eight years of age. The moors were a part of her, and she, a part of them. It was as if the two were conjoined, co-existing. Their beauty filled her with a purpose and determination, and her heart was most at peace when she was near them.
This early September day, she was packing the same thing she packed every Saturday. Inside the old wicker basket, she carefully placed a small blanket, a book, an egg sandwich, a pear, two wine glasses, and of course, a lovely bottle of French Merlot. Although she took the trip to the moors alone, she always packed the spare glass in case anyone came along in need of refreshment.
Despite the temperature of nearly 21°C, Heather pulled a knitted sweater from where it hung upon a hook near the door and exited the stone cottage. Sometimes, it became quite chilly as she lingered in the afternoons, reluctant to leave as she read.
The walk was a goodly distance, and a bit later, she cleared the moor’s hill and inhaled of the lavender colored heather that was scattered across its lush greenery. It was a wild and perfect arrangement of nature painted upon the hillside. She always thought to herself that no artist could truly capture the actual beauty. She knew this to be undeniably true because the moors’ beauty was something one inherently felt in addition to what one saw.
Placing the blanket on the ground, she carefully unpacked the basket. Choosing to partake of a glass of wine before eating, she slowly pulled the cork from the bottle and poured herself a glass. Immediately and despite the overwhelming, earthy scent of the heather, she could smell the blackcurrants and black cherries infused in the Merlot. As she tasted of the wine’s rich and velvety sweetness, she sighed, enjoying the sensuous warmth that invaded her body. Picking up the book, she read several chapters before pausing to eat a bite of the food.
As she finished the sandwich and continued to sip her wine, he appeared in the distance just as he always did each time she came to the moors. She lifted her hand to wave at him in greeting, and he responded with a slight nod of his head, never venturing any closer. From what she could make out about him despite the distance he was from her, he was tall and slender with dark, wind-tousled hair, and he always wore riding breeches and boots along with a jacket that she imagined was a woolen, houndstooth one. He carried a riding crop even though he had no horse. He made an attractive figure, at least from afar, and she wished that he would draw closer and introduce himself. After all, they were nearly friends as they had seen each other on the moor each weekend for over a year now. She watched as he disappeared over the crest of the moor. There would be no introductions today despite the desire for such by her.
A bit later and after finishing her glass of Merlot, she placed the book she’d been reading on the blanket and stretched to lie down beside it. Her dreams had been particularly intrusive the previous night, and she had tossed and turned, not sleeping well. Yawning, it was not long before her body relaxed. Lulled to sleep by the wine, the wind, and the redstart birds flitting across the skies above, she slept for a long while.
“Miss. Are you unwell?” a deep voice invaded her afternoon slumber.
Heather reluctantly stirred and opened her eyes. Her mouth formed a perfect O of surprise as she realized he was kneeling over her, obvious concern etched across his handsome face.
Quickly she lifted herself up and replied. “Oh, my goodness. I am perfectly fine. I am so sorry that I gave you a fright.” She did not realize the lovely picture she made. Her red hair had fallen loose from the bun at the nape of her neck and was now in charming disarray as it fell about her shoulders. Her cheeks, slightly reddened by the wind and sun, were flushed with a soft, pink hue.
He leaned back on his haunches and smiled at her. It was a beautiful smile. “I’m so glad,” he said, the thickness of his accent marking his words. She noticed that, while English, he had a bit of a stronger accent than her own. Without a doubt, the timbre of his voice was both alluring and melodic. Was she still asleep and dreaming? If so, she hoped she would not wake for a while.
The dawning awareness of embarrassment flooded her, making her cheeks a brighter shade of pink. “I’m so sorry. I am fine – I promise,” she managed a smile in response to his.
“Aye, I can see that you are,” he said with a touch of humor in his green eyes. They were the color of the sea and penetrating in their depths. She thought to herself that she’d enjoy finding what secrets lurked therein, and her cheeks grew pinker still at the thought.
Heather hurriedly pulled the extra wine glass from the basket. “Where are my manners? Would you like a glass of wine?” she asked, mentally wincing at the nervousness in her voice.
“Most certainly. Thank you,” he said and settled down to take a seat beside her. “’Tis a most lovely day for a picnic, is it not?”
Heather shyly looked up at him through her lashes as she poured the wine. Thank heavens she’d packed that extra glass.
He graciously accepted the offered drink of Merlot and smiled as he said, “My name is Colin. And it’s nice to meet you, although I feel as though we’re already acquainted.”
Heather settled into her spot on the blanket and grasped her glass. She smiled at him, a lovely smile, nearly as intoxicating as the fruity scent of the wine. She was more than delighted to at long last meet the stranger whom she’d only previously admired from afar.
“My name is Heather,” she told him.
“Indeed? Heather as in the beautiful heather that grows all about us on the moors? How enchanting.”
She smiled at him and sipped her wine. She noticed that his clothing was not something that the average gentleman would wear; it was dated, but somehow, it suited him quite well. She thought that he must wear the old clothing on his long walks in case he dirtied it beyond repair.
Heather eyed the riding crop. “Have you lost your horse?” she teased.
“Aye, but I’m sure she’s awaiting my arrival back at the stable. She’s a bit of a spirited, strong-minded one.”
Heather immediately wondered where he lived – she’d never really thought about it before. He must live nearby, but she wouldn’t ask such things of him now. At least not while their acquaintance was so new.
Colin sipped his wine, his green gaze rarely leaving Heather. She was keenly aware of his regard, and where she’d thought the wine had warmed her before, she now knew that this man’s gaze held much more intensity and warmth. Indeed, he was akin to a full bottle of the luscious Merlot, invading her senses and making her acutely aware of all things.
The two continued to chat a bit although a calming silence settled between them, and they found a peace in each other’s companionship with little need to speak. As the afternoon passed, they drank the entire bottle of wine, and Heather found herself smiling more than she had in the long, preceding months since her mother’s death. There was a vitality that seemed to emanate from Colin, and she was fast growing accustomed to it.
“As much as I don’t want to, I’m afraid I have to be going,” he said much later.
“Of course,” Heather said, though reluctant for their interlude to come to an end. “Will I see you again?” she asked.
“That, my dear, is completely up to you,” Colin replied.
Heather gave him a perplexed look. “I’m not exactly sure what you mean.”
“Do you not know?” he asked, his green eyes never straying from her blue gaze.
She slowly shook her head. “No, I am confused,” she admitted.
“You beckoned me from the depths of Morpheus, and I eagerly complied with your summons, enjoying our interlude more than you shall ever know. I am but a dream and a figure from the past, always searching for something although I’ve not known what it was until today.” His glance intensified as he smiled and added, “I thought my search hopeless, but now I think I have been enlightened. I’ve been roaming the moors in search of you, my dear, sweet Heather.”
Heather shivered as her mind searched for words. A chill invaded her body even though the temperature had not yet dropped enough to put one in the air. Was this man truly a figure from her dreams and from the past? Was he a ghostly apparition or a manifestation of something her heart desired? Either way and whatever the truth, she wished never to awaken.
Amazement clearly reflected on her face, she finally regained a measure of composure and spoke, her voice only above a whisper as a sweet smile hovered on her lips. “Well, if it’s my choice, we will assuredly meet again, Colin. I shall consider next Saturday to be our second date. I hope you can make it.”
Colin’s smile broadened, and he winked at her. “Aye, sweet Heather, I know I can. Until then, I’ll see you in your dreams, my sweet,” he said as he stood and picked up his riding crop.
Heather watched as Colin walked away. He turned to glance back at her every few steps, as if he, too, did not wish to leave. Eventually, as he neared the spot where he had always stood from afar, his visage slowly grew more faint until he eventually disappeared completely before crossing the crest of the moor.
It was true. She felt it with every beat of her heart. She had beckoned this handsome, kind man to fill her lonely days upon the moors, and she was not sorry that he had answered. Indeed, she was pleased beyond measure that he had come to her and only wondered why it had taken so long. Slowly, she repacked the picnic basket and headed home, a lovely smile upon her face all the while.
Stopping along the way, she picked several stalks of the earthy smelling heather. They would make a lovely addition to the antique vase beside her bed. And each time she looked at them, she would see his face and feel the intensity in his eyes. Indeed, it would seem like an eternity before next Saturday, but she knew she would assuredly see him again. She felt it in her soul just as she felt the life and breath of the moors. Indeed, she already knew that he, like her, was a part of the moors she so loved.
It would be a long while until next weekend, but she would patiently wait. The arms of Morpheus had never been so appealing before, and tonight she could not wait to find him in her dreams yet again.