Once again the most romantic day of the year is just around the corner. And for some Valentine's Day it is a day of pleasure, when romantic hearts embrace and take a little time out of their busy schedules to celebrate the holiday with those we love.
But did you ever wonder about how it all started? Some say the day is nothing more than the ingenious invention of the gift card companies, devised to wheedle hard-working coins out of the pockets of gullible lovers. But apparently not! The day itself has its origins as an ancient Roman festival, and is said to have been created to honor Juno, the Goddess of women and marriage. The day was followed by the 'Feast of Lupercalia,' and on the eve of this feast young women would write down their names and slip the paper into a jar. The young men would then draw a single name and would be paired with that girl for the duration of the feast. Oftentimes the pairings would last quite a while, and it was not unusual for the young couple to end up married.
The day itself got it's name from a Roman priest called Saint Valentine. The Emperor Claudius had forbidden marriages in Rome because too many soldiers were pining for their loved ones. An unabashed romantic, Valentine ignored the wishes of the emperor and secretly performed marriage ceremonies, but received a gruesome punishment for the softness of his heart. The wicked emperor had him beaten and put to death on February 14, around 270 AD. Even so, the defiant priest whipped out a secret letter to his sweetheart from his prison cell. The goodbye note was simply signed, "From your Valentine."
There is another theory that February 14 is traditionally the day a bird will look for it's mate. I planned to stalk a few to check this theory (just kidding - it's bloody cold out there.)
Whatever the reason, any day that promotes love - be it to a partner, a sibling, a child or a friend - will always get my vote. Forget the commercialism, and don't let the cynical hearts put a damper on your day. Celebrate those who are special, use the day as a reminder that everyday is a Valentine's day, because every day we are loved, or have people we love ourselves. And love is too great to be contained by any single day, whatever its origin.
How long I sat there I couldn't say. Minutes became hours, hours marked by the passage of the sun's shadow as it crossed my wall. All the while I spun the wool, the rhythmic act of pulling the strands down while working the treadle with my feet put me at ease, allowing me to think. But then MacLeod returned and stood in my door; covered in the stink of animals and heather. There was a look in his eye, one I suspected matched my own, and the time for thinking was over. He crossed the room in one, maybe two strides, and a moment later I was in his arms, my passion the match of his own. He showered my face with his rough kisses, and if there were any gentleness in him, I did not see it in this moment, just a force that was stronger than both of us, filling us with desire. The strength of his kisses unnerved me; they were nothing like the polite affection of my girlish fantasies, and I backed away, needing a little distance between myself and this onslaught.
"Is something wrong?"
"You don't want me to kiss you?"
"Och, Rory if you only knew."
He smiled. "I like hearing you say my given name." He moved in closer, and this time he handled me more gently, slipping his hand on my waist, drawing me in slowly. Now his kiss was so tender, yet so ardent, that I felt my knees buckle and my spirit melt with his. But still I was afraid, and I pushed him away again.
"I'm sorry, Rory, but we must be reasonable. You and I, it cannot be. Our kinsmen would never allow it."
"Damn them all, they'll accept it soon enough once the deed is done."
"Deed?" His unromantic choice of words shocked me, and my hand went to my chest, affronted. "Aye. We'll have the banns read, and you and I can be man and wife. They can say what they like, then; it'll make no difference."
A marriage! Why I hadn't pondered the word was a mystery, but there was no avoiding it now. It was out there, never to be drawn in again. "Oh, Rory, see reason! Where would we live? Where could we go? If you stay here, my people will despise you. If I come with you to the north, yours will hate me." I wrung my hands, wretched. I feared nothing could be done.
"We'll find a way. I have some land far away in the north, where we could live free of all the fighting."
"We'll never be free of the squabbling, not so long as we live in Skye."
"Then we'll cross to the mainland. Oh, Bonnie, say you will try and find a way with me. Will you not try?" I could not think while I stared into those flashing black eyes. I lowered mine to the floor, shielding my thoughts from his gaze. I knew this to be madness, but such a delicious madness as I'd never known. In this moment I could defy them all, the MacDonalds, the MacLeods—as long as I could be with Rory, all would be well in the end. But then the image of my father came to me, my resolve weakened, and I was a torn child once more.
"I could never leave my father, never. He would be lost without me, and I without him. Please, understand; if we talk of being together, it cannot be without my father."
He turned and put his hand to his head. "We could find a way, I've no doubt of it." Then he turned back to me, and pulled me close. "But how and when it is to be managed I cannot yet say. Kiss me again, for I've been tormented by demons since you pulled away."
"I'll kiss you, and good, but do not press me further on the subject of marriage, Rory, not now. I want to be a maid when I wed. I've always dreamed of it, and I'll have my way in this, I swear."
He kissed my upturned cheeks and ran his hands gently through my hair. "You have my word as a Highlander."
"Then I know that it’s good."
"Well, for saying as much, I want you to have this." He put his hands around his neck and removed a chain hanging around it. He placed something cold in the palm of my hand and, looking down, I saw a small golden crucifix.
"Wear it for me."
"I'll wear it with honor, Rory." I stood on my toes and closed my eyes, letting him shower me with sweet kisses. There was no longer any doubt in my mind. Now I felt love, and I was sure of it. All that mattered was that we be together, somehow. I clasped the crucifix tightly in my hand and pretended for the moment that everything was going to be okay, and that nothing was going to separate us for long.
Happy Valentine's Day, and thank you for reading,