Monday, 30 September 2013

FICTION ADDICTION TOURS: The Handfasting by David Burnett


ISBN-13: 978-1490320878
ISBN-10:1490320873
















Ten years had passed since they had joined hands in the ruins of the old abbey church. Standing before the high altar, they were handfasted in the Celtic custom, engaged to be married.

A rose bush had bloomed beside the ruined altar. Steven had reached out to caress one of the flowers.

“I’ll find you,” he had said. “In ten years, when we have finished school, when we are able to marry, I’ll find you. Until then, whenever you see a yellow rose, remember me. Remember I love you.”

In those ten years, Katherine had finished college, completed med school, and become a doctor. In those ten years they had not seen each other, had not spoken, and had not written.

It was what they had agreed.
For a decade, she had been waiting, hoping, praying.

Today ─ her birthday─ she finds a vase of yellow roses when she reaches home.
Steven, though, is not Katherine’s only suitor. Bill Wilson has known her since they were in high school. He has long planned to wed her, and he finally decides to stake his claim.




Theirs was the only room on the third floor of the small hotel, so no one noticed when they walked, hand in hand, down the short hallway. Katherine had never done anything quite like this before, and her hand shook as she took hold of the rail at the top of the stairs. She looked at Steven and smiled nervously as he squeezed her hand in reassurance.

Small lights gleamed on the landing below, but the stairs were dark, her steps unsteady, and she stumbled twice on the way down. Steven was holding her arm, though, and he caught her each time she tripped. They stopped as they reached the hotel’s front door.

“Are you all right?” he whispered.
“Fine. It’s just dark.” She hugged him. “Really.”
“You have the key?”  

She reached into a pocket and pulled out the ring that held both the key to their room and the one to the hotel’s door. “Got it.”

They opened the door and slipped out into the darkness. Even though it was summer, the night air was cold and Katherine pulled her sweater around her, tightly. Only in Scotland, she thought, would she need a sweater in August. It was just after midnight, and the small Scottish town was effectively closed for the night. Their hotel was dark, except for a light in one room on the second floor. The other hotel, directly across the street, was also dark.

They turned to the left and walked down High Street toward the central plaza. They passed two pubs, one on each side of the street, both closed. Farther down, a third one, the Golden Lion, appeared to be open—lights were visible through the window at least. Katherine thought it unlikely that many patrons were still inside. If so, they were surely sipping their last pints for the evening.

They reached the plaza, the one part of town that was brightly lit. It was surrounded by shops—a candy store, a shop that carried Scottish woolens, two cafés, and one filled with what Katherine called tourist junk—stuffed Nessies, t-shirts with cute slogans, tartan ties, plastic swords, anything that might induce a tourist to part with a few pounds or dollars.

The Mercat Cross, the ancient symbol of royal authority, stood in the center of the plaza. Some fifteen feet high, it had occupied the same spot in the center of town for over five hundred years, witnessing the town’s gradual change from a place of pilgrimage, to a bustling market town, to the tourist attraction that it had become in recent years.

The tourists came to see the ruins of the great abbey, much as the pilgrims in centuries past had come to see it in its glory. Katherine and Steven were going to the abbey, tonight.

High Street ran through the plaza and they continued for two more blocks before turning left on the B road that ran toward the ruins. The buildings blocked the lights from the plaza and they had to watch their steps to stay on the sidewalk that ran beside the narrow road. Since it was late, there was no traffic—if a car should come speeding along, the driver would be as surprised to find them on foot, as they would be to see the car.

The walkway ended abruptly and they stepped off onto the grassy shoulder.

When Katherine looked up, she could see the stars. She had been in Scotland for almost six weeks and this was the first time she had seen them. Perhaps it was a good omen.

Ten minutes later, they reached the abbey. The floodlights that illumined the ruins had been turned off and a single streetlight in front of the visitor center provided the only illumination. A chain hung across the entrance to the abbey grounds. Few visitors would walk out from town,and since there was no place to park, other than in the car park, the chain effectively closed the site to visitors.

Steven started across the road, but Katherine held back.
The abbey seemed ominous in the darkness, and Katherine could easily envision that the spirits of the monks who had once lived within its walls still hovered about.

Steven must have felt her hesitate because he squeezed her arm.

Katherine looked up into his eyes. Coming here had been her idea and she wondered if he still thought it was a good plan.
“You’re sure?” she whispered. “You want to do this?”

Steven nodded and hugged her. “Positive.”

They crossed the highway, stepped over the chain, and hurried across the brightly lit lawn, stopping when they reached the shadows of the abbey’s walls. They had to walk slowly because the ground was uneven and littered with stones, but they finally reached the side entrance to the abbey’s church.

The church had held up better than the rest of the abbey. 

When the abbey had been disbanded in the mid fifteen hundreds, the church had continued to be used as the parish church for another two centuries. The walls were mostly complete, and the stone floor was still in place. A roof and windows were all that would be needed to make the building serviceable again.

Katherine switched on a penlight when they entered the church, confident that it would not be seen by a passing motorist. Walking through the nave and the choir, they approached the high altar—the altar itself was gone, but the raised platform, on which it had stood, remained.

To one side, a yellow rosebush was in full bloom. The fact that it could survive in the abbey was amazing on its own, that it bloomed each year in August, even more so. It was said that a sixteenth-century abbot had removed stones from the floor in order to plant the bush and that it bloomed once each year, on the anniversary of the last mass said by the monks. Its water source was a mystery. The yellow rose had been adopted as the symbol of the abbey, and later as the symbol of the town itself.

Together, they knelt in front of the space where the high altar had stood. Katherine unfolded a sheet of paper, placing it on the ground. Steven held the light as they joined their right hands and Katherine wrapped a purple cord around them. She picked up the paper, and Steven began to read.

“I, Steven Andrew Richardson, take thee, Katherine Lee Jackson, to be my betrothed wife, as the law of the holy Kirk shows, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

Katherine looked into his eyes. “I, Katherine Lee Jackson, take thee, Steven Andrew Richardson, to be my betrothed husband, as the law of the holy Kirk shows, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

A smile spread across Katherine’s face. She wanted to jump and shout, but she remembered that they were not supposed to be in the abbey. She put her arms around Steven and squeezed as hard as she could.

He hugged and kissed her in return. “We are engaged now?” he whispered.

“According to Celtic custom we are. I am bound to you forever, unless you release me. You are bound to me.”

They knelt in silence and she whispered a prayer, asking that they would be able to carry out the plans they had made. When she had finished, she raised her head and looked at Steven. Her eyes followed his toward the rosebush. The moon had risen behind the abbey and its light streamed through one of the small round windows on the side of the nave, falling on a single rose at the end of an especially long cane.

He reached out and pulled the rose toward them. The fragrance was sweet, reminding Katherine of a perfume that had once been her favorite.

“Whenever you see a yellow rose, Katie, think of me.” He said quietly. “Every time you see one, remember that I love you.”
Steven released the rose and took her hand in his. “Everything will work out. You’ll see.”

After another minute, he helped her to her feet and they retraced their steps to the entrance. A light raked across the door just before they reached it, and he peered around the wall.

Two police officers stood at the chain, shining lights around the ruins.

“They couldn’t have seen my light,” she whispered.

“Just a routine check. If they had seen the light, they would have come in.”

After several minutes, the officers drove away. Katherine and Steven hurried down the road and returned to town.

The police car was in the plaza as they turned onto High Street.

“Good evening, Officer,” Katherine said as they passed.
“Good evening, ma’am. It’s a bit late for a stroll.”
“We’re going in now, Officer. Good night.”
“Good night, ma’am.”

Reaching the hotel, Katherine looked back down the street. The officer was still watching them. She inserted the key, opened the door, and carefully, they climbed the stairs.


Reaching their room, they changed clothes and kissed good night. Then, as they had for the past two weeks, Katherine lay under the covers, Steven on top. He put his arm around her and they slept.



David Burnett lives in Columbia South Carolina, with his wife and their blue-eyed cat, Bonnie. The Reunion, his first novel, is set in nearby Charleston. The Handfasting is his second novel. While most of the events in the story take place in New York City, psychologically, the story is set in the rural South of the 1970’s.
David enjoys traveling, photography, baking bread, and the Carolina beaches. He has photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, and a Native American powwow. David and his wife have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During one trip to Scotland, they visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen
David has graduate degrees in psychology and education and previously was Director of Research for the South Carolina Department of Education. He and his wife have two daughters.



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