A weak light glowed from within her aunt's cottage in the middle of a vast landscape as the young woman approached it. A fine sheet of squally weather was sweeping down the brown mountain ahead of her. She wrapped her coat closer around and bent her head with its woolen hat into it as the sleet arrived, drenching and freezing.
Shona hurried to the door and knocked loudly on the old wooden door. It creaked open eventually.
"Hi ya," she shouted to be heard. "My aunt asked me to bring some food for you."
"Oh please come in," said the man, opening the door slightly to let her in. "What a storm."
The warmth of the room touched her face like a warm woolen mitten. Fire from the kitchen fireplace reflected in the man's large eyes, as dark as his lanky hair.
"We were afraid you would not be able to cycle to the village shop in this weather maybe for days, so I brought some bread and black pudding. Do you like black pudding?"
"I love it," said the man with a shy smile. "I wonder how your aunt knows? But you shouldn't have come in this weather."
"I t'ink that all she had handy," she said, smiling. "I didn't know that it was going blow in like this. I should have expected it, I suppose."
"It's so kind of her anyway. Please thank her very much, and thank you for your trouble," he said, with a very disarming smile.
Shona wondered why this man spoke English so well.
"I just bought some Guinness earlier, my favourite drink now. Will you have a glass with me? I'll fry the black pudding straight away for us to eat with the bread. Please stay."
"Em, I wasn't planning to eat your food, but it sounds good. Must say I am hungry. And I never refuse a Guinness," Shona found herself saying.
"That's good to know, for future reference."
She watched the man cook and serve her on plate stocked by the aunt for guests.
The peat fire in the grate burned without a sound. It smouldered red and orange and the spicy aromatic smell and warmth from it filled the kitchen. Fierce wind rattled and banged something outside. Sleet was hitting the glass with venom. Shona thought of her drenched bicycle outside.
"Looks like you will have to wait for the squall to blow away, if it will ever," said the man. Looking into his eyes, Shona felt disoriented by an unfamiliar feeling. She had never seen anyone who was so good to look at, especially this close on the other side of the table. She had to sit back to retreat from him.
They ate quietly, listening to the wind.
Shona was normally shy but not with this man. His eyes were kind and enticing. Their hands touched accidentally on the table top but then held on to each other. Without words he stood up and led her over to sit on the rug in front of the fireplace. She held on to his hand firmly, not wanting to be detached from it.
She felt so good seated next to him and her head soon leaned on his shoulder. His hand moved to touch her breast under her thick jumper her aunt knitted for her. Then it felt underneath it to her warm skin. She was kissing him now, the first one the gentlest of brush of the lips, then quickly hard and thirsty. She held him now equally hard, already protective and possessive as a sister.
She could hardly believe what she was doing. Warm and flushed from the direct heat of the peat fire, and warm by the stout inside, she laid down on the rug and let her man pull her woolen skirt up to her waist. Both looked at each other then down to her pure white underwear.
Straddling her now ever so gently, the man slowly pulled down her thick cotton underwear down her thighs, pass her knees to her feet. He untied her boots, leaving her woolen socks on. Kneeling over her, he unbuttoned his trousers and pulled his clothing down to his knees. Shona opened her thighs further and saw the visitor's remarkable face move close to hers from the ceiling.
The wind howled and battered. Two hungry bodies were entwined on the rug in a struggle of their own, as passionate as the west wind outside. Shona had never felt anything like this and she was soon tossing uncontrollably, pulling on the man's waist and small muscular buttocks with shut eyes oozing tears.
As his shuddering also subsided, Shona enfolded her strong country-woman thighs around his hips and waist, keeping him prisoner. She held him even tighter as they both fell asleep to the wailing of the storm.
"Won't anyone miss you?" the visitor asked as they woke to a cold and dark room, the fire having burned out.
"No. I have my own cottage. No one will miss me."
"Let's go to the bedroom," whispered her man as he helped her up.
"Let's take our clothes off here first," said Shona.
They quickly did, both starting to shiver uncontrollably, and raced each other up the narrow stairs. The bed was as cold as a freezer when they tumbled in.
Shona got up again and skipped to the window to open the curtains. Sleet was still battering the glass panes and the wind howled something fierce.
"I love laying in bed and watching the weather fly in from my own bed," she said, cuddling him tightly now. "But it's a pretty lonely business, doin' that on your own."
"It does fly in around here, and often, I expect. And you don't have to do that on your own around here," the man said.
"I'm sure glad about that. I'm Shona. What's your name," she said , laughing.
"Amir. I am pleased to meet you," he said, making to shake her hand.
"I don't usually jump into bed with a man before I know his name or have shaken his hand," Shona said, laughing. "But I couldn't help meself!"
"I'm glad you couldn't."
Shauna has never experienced such night. Even the house, made of solid stones, appeared to tremble in the storm which became even more violent. Many such long nights Shona has spent alone and sometimes timing the pleasures that her own fingers gave with the gusts blowing in from the Atlantic.
Likewise tonight. Her body welcomed this stranger in the way that she had ever thought possible, as if she had known him all her life. Her cries of pleasure rose through the ceiling to the tortuous night sky to be whipped further into the surrounding mountains.
Amir's place on the bed was empty next morning when a grayish blue light woke Shauna, who tiptoed over naked to the window.
Ballinskelligs Bay was like a pane of blue glass and the beach and the towering mountains behind were brightly lit.
In the end she saw the tiny figure of Amir at the far end of the white beach. He was standing still and facing the Skelligs. Her lover.
Shona fried a huge serving of Irish breakfast in the enormous black iron pan hanging in the kitchen. More rings of black pudding, pork sausages, bacon are sizzling gently in aromatic oil. When she saw Amir approaching the house, she broke in two eggs and drop small slices of bread to fry.
"Can you help me to get to the Skelligs," asked Amir over breakfast.
"Sure, love. I adore it there. I'll go there anytime. Looks like a good day for it today as well. I'll ask me uncle Sean. He has a boat. I'd love to take you there and show you its secrets."
"Oh, yes please," said Amir.
In the crystal clear afternoon, the Irish mainland glowed viridian green like a golf course. The dark blue sea between its rocky shores and the grey island of Skellig Michael frothed with the white caps of the waves.
Lying face down on the warm grass in the monks' cemetery perched near the top of the pyramid-shaped rocky island, Shona and Amir waved goodbye to the girl's uncle on the boat as it heaved and dipped in the roughening sea, taking back to the mainland the last American tourists.
The two were alone for the night. It was Amir's request to spend the night there, something Shona has never tried to do, as it normally was not allowed. Her uncle reluctantly agreed to break the rules.
The two chose one of the many cells that the Christian monks lived in when this was their remote monastery in the 14th century. These cells are made from the flat grey rocks that littered the island, stacked one on the other and tapering to a peak like an Eskimo igloo but more pointed.
A round hole is left open on top for the smoke of the peat fire to escape. A narrow opening used as a door all faced away from the almost continuous squalls from the Atlantic Ocean in the west. These cells were found near the peak of the pyramid-shaped island and commanded an all-round view of the wild ocean.
Here the monks lived in seclusion for long harsh years until the dragon-headed long boats of the Vikings loomed above the waves. The fierce blond warriors killed and pillaged, taking with them the monks's life work: the hand-illuminated manuscript of the words of God.
In one of the monks' cells, the lovers placed their food and sleeping bags. They have brought a bag of peat for a fire. Then they found themselves a secure niche near the peak, snuggled together with a blanket around themselves and let the night fall on the vast and awesome vista before them.
It was a still night. Distant sounds from the giant gannets' rookery on the other island on the near horizon can be heard for the first time. A bright bouquet of stars covered the vast sky.
"Come, it's light enough to see. I'll show you something," whispered Shona. She pulled Amir along by the arm. They walked carefully long a narrow path in the grass which skirted along the edge of a cliff. In the dim light of the stars, the white foam of waves breaking on dark rocks below showed how high they were.
At one place the path came to an end at a sheer drop into the ocean. Ahead of them stood a pillar of rock with a convenient ledge, inviting you to jump to it across about two metres of dark empty space.
"When the monks wanted to test their faith in God, they came here and jumped over to that rock and back again," explained Shona.
The lovers looked at each other, feeling the warmth of their bodies next to each other. Their arms locked tighter.
On that fine morning, Sean docked his boat again very easily and unloaded more tourists. The comical puffins popped up from their little burrows in the rocky hillside to cheekily greet their human visitors as usual. Some streaked off to fish and others land back with fish in their beaks to feed their young.
In a rock cell, Sean found that the sleeping bags of Shona and her friend had not been used. Nor had they eaten their food or lit the fire. Sean looked and called. But only the cries of gannets and puffins answered him.
Down on dock, Sean noticed immediately that the coracle, the black canoe made of leather that was on show to tourist as museum example of the open boat that the monks used to travel to and from the mainland, and its paddles, had apparently been washed away in the night.
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