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Penicuik, Scotland. 1995.

I saw them as old maids when I arrived, Flora smirking as Cora,her twin,  played angelically on her harp. Cora’s hair was golden and whispy, a sweetness fixed upon her face. Flora’s a wheat colored brown, with strands blowing near to her down turned mouth. It was my 36th year and Flora, wrongly named, was a great bully of seven.

The farm at Penicuik was owned by the mother of my lighting designer, a blond and ponytailed bag of bones who had invited us for the day, the brother of the twins – his name I’ve forgotten. We toured the small farm and watched the baby piglets frolic in pens, then ran through the long, narrow tracks of wheat, up and down the hills. At the top, we bellowed over the town. Then we, the twins and I, with the grown ups walking far behind, ran ahead shouting, and climbed up and across the tops of huge rolled hay bales, set in a line one after another in a long highway of hay rounds exuding a sweet and ancient yellow scent as our bare feet broke the straws. Then suddenly, up ahead, Flora disappeared: fell through a crack between the bales.

When I finally arrived behind her, weeping was her only friend.  She had made an enemy of me all day, jealous that I was taking her mother’s  and sister’s attention, jealous of the fervent blue eyed actor I had come with. “Come on, Flora, take my hand,” I said. I reached for her and hauled her up from the crack between the hay bales – her legs were sticking straight up and she was caught- and put her on my back, where she clung to my neck as if she remembered me for the first time and I was good. Still she cried uncontrollably, red tracks streaking her white Scottish skin. The little sobs marked the tragedy of a loneliness felt only by little Scottish girls born in the hills, far from the city. I wondered, then, how we are formed, how we become who we are, why Cora was so calm and gentle, and why Flora was so naturally furious.

At dinner, so many flies hovered over the table, and the barnyard scent was strong in the cheese. Homemade bread and a butter knife, resting on a wooden board, the butter sinking in the sullen summer heat.

” I thought you were coming for tea and then leaving,” Flora hissed at us, the “l” in the ‘leaving’ dipping and then leaping ferociously as if it were a dagger foisted from a side halter and flung underhand at the guilty prisoners who had missed the afternoon bus.

Flies buzzed over the milky Scottish tea as we blushed our apology. My actor’s blue eyes flashed, flickered, sensitive to the child’s reddened fury. Cora’s face was smiling and placid as a saint’s, her invisible halo hovering, her pale face flawlessly gentle, Flora’s cheeks were burnished with a scarlet 7 year rage, begun at birth. The streaks of the tear tracks were now smudged with an edge of dirt from the farm. I was swung back to being her enemy.

And I was thinking: will he change when we get home, will he open now like the buttercups in these fields, like the one that Cora held beneath my chin to see its yellow glow, or will he melt like the snow by the sea, subsiding? Would he be off as soon as we returned, off to the pub to take that trick of drink and after, to walk the streets that sew that crack of heart he straddles, the crack making and remaking itself without mending, mending in bits and fits but breaking again, the crack making and remaking itself?100_0119

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