As Liam walked slowly toward The Abbey, bringing his emotions back under control, he thought to himself that the last time he remembered crying was around the same day he last prayed, when his little brother died. Liam didn’t cry. Life had taught him to build walls around his heart, to keep emotion at bay, to focus his energy on accomplishment and pleasure.
He paused for a moment, pulled his phone from his pocket thinking of Isabella. No signal. Liam wondered where she was, who she was with, what she was doing, and if she was thinking of him in that moment too.
Making his way down the path past the massive stone Celtic cross and through the arched entryway of The Abbey, Liam approached Stag and Christie as they stood talking with one of the caretakers.
“We’ll be staying here for the night Liam. I’m afraid your accommodations at The Abbey will be austere compared to your penthouse back in Glasgow. I hope you don’t mind, ” warned Christie.
“I suppose I can adjust for a night,” Liam replied with half a smile. “What’s the plan for the rest of the day?”
“The time is yours. You can relax in your room, or walk the grounds, there’s a nice common room and a library. We’ll have a shared evening meal later. And at 9:00 there’s an evening service every day, if you’d like to join us, “answered Christie.
Liam chose to spend most of the rest of the day walking around the island. He couldn’t remember the last time he walked, just to walk, and see, and feel, and listen, and notice anything other than himself or that day’s conquest.
He took his shoes off and felt the grass under his feet. For an hour or so he sat, simply leaning against a tree near the cemetery, noticing the clouds passing overhead, and the occasional contrail of a jet. He wondered about the people on that jet. Who were they? What were their names? Where were they going and why? What were their lives like? Did he know anyone on that plane? Had he at some point passed by one of them as a random stranger in an airport somewhere a week ago, or a year ago? Could one of them have stepped in front of him in a line somewhere, perhaps just to get a cup of coffee, and forever altered his life? Was Isabella on that jet?
Even as he sat alone, on a tiny Island off the coast of Scotland, far from anything or anyone familiar, Liam began to not feel alone. Somehow he felt as if he knew the people passing thirty-two thousand feet above. The forty-eight kings were a few yards away and they had touched his life as he touched their headstones. He ran his hands through the grass where he sat and felt grounded, rooted, and an inexplicable oneness with the soil beneath him, like he belonged to the earth and the earth belonged to him.
Liam left the tree and walked down the grassy hill toward the craggy coast where sea meets stone and birds dip from the sky to pluck insects from the water’s surface and small colorful boats bob in the waves. As the abbey sits at an inlet, the waves aren’t large, as one might expect next to the sea. They roll in quietly, almost undetectable, from some distant place, before slowly building to a gentle whitecap that rises from the surface to kiss the stony shore.
Liam was mesmerized by this. What started the wave? Did someone a thousand miles away drop a stone into the water, setting ripples into motion around the world to become gentle lapping whitecaps at his feet on Iona but a tsunami destroying towns and taking lives in another place? What if he dropped a stone into the water? Where would his ripples go? What would they do? Would they lull someone to sleep by their shore in a distant place? Would they become a tidal wave killing 300 people in another? Liam stooped to pick up a stone and toss it into the water, but paused, and let if fall from his hand back to the ground, not wanting to take a chance on being responsible for the destruction of a village in Thailand.
The afternoon passed quickly, and as the sun began to dip below the horizon Liam walked back to the abbey for the evening meal. Two weeks ago he would have never imagined himself having dinner, in a monastery, with a half Italian concierge, a short, dark-skinned Scot, a handful of monks, and a dozen or so people from around the world who had come here on some kind of spiritual pilgrimage. Yet here he was. And it didn’t feel strange, or uncomfortable, or threatening. It just…felt.
Liam skipped the evening service as “church” never really seemed to make much sense to him, and instead settled into his small, quaint bedroom for the evening. Again he looked at his phone only to find no bars, no signal, no hope of speaking with Isabella. He began to worry that, had she been trying to reach him, perhaps by now she was thinking that he’d lost interest in hearing from her. He rolled onto his side, and for the first time he could remember, felt himself drifting to sleep before ten o’clock.