I woke up to the sound of voices a couple hours later. I remember coming down stairs to find Robert's sister grabbing a light colored beer I was unfamiliar with and heading outside. Robert looked over his shoulder and saw me.
"How are you, alright?"
"Yeah," I replied. "How long was I asleep?"
"About two hours," he said to my amazement. "I came up to check on you and you didn't move. That's my sister just over to visit. We're out back at the patio table if you'd like to come out with us."
I wiped the sleep from my eyes and slipped into my shoes. I had wanted to meet her in person for so long. We had emailed back and forth a few times and I had liked her from the very begining. Finally I was going to get a chance to meet the woman who would later become as dear to me as a sister. Excited but nervous, I headed out to the table.
I don't remember what she said, but the first words out of her mouth came as a complete shock to me. I couldn't understand what she was saying at all! It sounded like she was speaking another language! In all the emails and messages we had passed back and forth, I always read everything in my head as though it were me saying it. That meant, that until that very moment, Louise had an American accent to me. She sounded nothing at all like I had expected. It wasn't long before she voiced the same thing in reverse to Robert.
"It sounds funny," she said, "but whenever I looked at my emails she was writing with a Scottish accent! That's how I read it anyway!"
All evening I marveled at the way it felt like I really had walked through a photo frame into another world - a special, fantasy world I had made up in a story book. The people were a little hard to understand, but I hoped with time I would get used to that.
We sat and chatted for a couple of hours before Louise's husband John showed up. He had brought their three children with him and I knew for months that he had been dying to meet me - Robert's mystery woman with the American accent. In the year 2006 Robert had sent me a video of John singing an Elvis song - which he is quite good at - but with his faded green shirt pulled up over his head and his belly exposed as he patted it while singing. I laughed so hard I cried. I remembered that video as I sat across the table from the two of them and suddenly told that story to everyone. Even their two older children laughed.
"Mom," the middle child, a girl named Amy, said as she tugged at Louise's sleeve, "is she from the telly?"
Amy was used to watching American programs on television and wanted to know how it was that I had an American accent. She was so convinced that I was famous that her eyes grew wide and she became very shy for a bit. She even sat in her dad's lap for a while and watched me, as if trying to figure me out.
"Ach, no," Louise tried to explain, "America is a real place just like England and France. It's just farther away. It's not just a make-believe place on the telly." Louise looked up and smiled at me - a big, broad, heart warming smile. Amy blushed and hid her face.
The smallest of the three children was little Emily. At that time she was barely 6 months old. She had the biggest blue eyes I had ever seen and my heart was instantly in her hands. I had seen photos of her, but even the photos didn't do the little angel justice. She was the most gorgeous little thing on Earth. When I was offered the chance to hold her, I jumped at it. It wasn't long before she slumped over and fell asleep in my arms. Louise ofered to pick her up and put her in her carrier, but I refused. I didn't mind holding on to her at all. She was such an angel. A dead weight when sleeping, but an angel none the less.
Before long Robert and Louise's mother Ina came over for a chat. It seemed word had gotten out somehow and everyone wanted to know who the mysterious redheaded American just down the road really was. It was a very unusual feeling, being right at home with the whole group of them and never once feeling out of place - but only understanding every fourth word that someone would say. Robert would have to repeat much of the conversation several times so that I would keep up, and even then I spent most of the time lost completely. Ina said a few things that I had never heard before in my life and before long my head was spinning. The look on my face must have given me away, because suddenly Louise started roaring with laughter.
"Mom," she said to Ina, "she'll not understand what you're saying!"
"Oh!" Ina proclaimed. She started to laugh. "I'm sorry! I didn't even think about it!"
"So, Big Man," John said on his way out from the house, two beers in hand and another stranger following behind him, "What are yous two up to tomorrow then?"
Without missing a beat, Robert said hello to his father and then told John we were going into Edinburgh for two nights. It was at that moment I realized that I was sitting with the entire family and felt completely comfortable with them. I had never known that feeling before.
A couple of days later I found myself to be the most uncomfortable I had ever been in my life. I ended up with my first ever hangover after our first night in Edinburgh...
TO BE CONTINUED...