A Debt of Honour – Episode 02


Shauna and her children and Neil, the man she is searching for. The main characters from A Debt of Honour

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At last Calum’s old Ford came streaking into the car park and drew up at the pick-up point.

“Sorry!” Calum said. “Got caught by a student at the last minute.

“Why do they always have to come just when I’m rushing out?”

“One of Nature’s little foibles.” Ellie smiled.

She had known Calum for three years, since they had reached for the same book at the same time in the university library.

Then they had found themselves with the same favourite reading table, and had eventually begun to have the occasional coffee together.

Now he had finished his Masters degree, a few days after she had completed her own undergraduate studies.

He was a warden in the student residences, subsidising his stay there.

Good friends had become close friends when she was dumped by Ralph, and Calum had sympathised.

He’d given her a shoulder to cry on throughout all the stresses of her final year, when she had felt that she would never make it.

He was a touchstone in her life, someone she could always rely on. Ellie smiled.

It was so refreshing after years of batting off boys back home in Australia.

“Any word on your mum?” Calum asked, driving back to Bridge of Allan.

“She’ll have taken off by now,” Ellie said. “But Charlie hasn’t got round to e-mailing me and I’ve been too busy to check flights.”

“What should I do?” Calum asked, smiling. “Rent a chauffer’s cap for when we go through to pick her up tomorrow? It’s kind of scary, meeting someone’s mum.”

“She’s not scary – not usually.” Ellie laughed. “She’s been twenty-five years in Australia, and we’ve never naturalised her – she still sounds as Scottish as you.”

Ellie fell silent, looking out the car window.

“Well,” Calum said. “You can’t leave it at that! What did ‘not usually’ mean?”

Ellie sighed.

“She’s had a pretty rough deal from life. She and Dad had Charlie out at the sheep ranch – Dad was a stockman there.

“Then they moved into the big city, and Dad got a job as a truck driver. He was . . .” Ellie shook her head.

“He was a man of his time, one of the boys.

“He liked to party, and he liked to party with his mates.

“But he was a great dad to have, full of fun, took nothing seriously . . .

“He died when I was about six. Mum had to bring us up on her own.

“For years, she worked in a store in the day, then as a part-time waitress or barmaid at night.

“She was bright and a hard worker in the shop, was promoted a couple of times, and ended up running it for the lady who hired her.

“When Bessie died, she left her the business.

“That was the first time in our lives things were easier. But she worked her tail off, like most single mothers.

“We owe her, Charlie and me, and we’ll never forget what she did for us.”

“You’ve made her sound scarier than ever!” Calum groaned.

“You’ll be fine . . .” Ellie’s phone chimed as they passed the university. “That’s Charlie’s e-mail,” she said, opening it.

Posted our parcel. She’s scared stiff but putting on a tough face.

Should be there on time, provided the changeover at Dubai goes to plan.

She is up to something, Ellie. When I asked, she stared at me and said, ‘One day, maybe, I’ll tell you’.

Look after her and let me know she gets there.

I’m busy getting our car ready for Coffs. Love and kisses.

They drove in silence for a bit.

“Have you got a tent yet?” Calum asked.

“Penny’s promised me one.”

“If you’re stuck, I’ve one I use for wild-walking.”

“What’s that?” Ellie asked.

“You leave your car out in the middle of nowhere, like Caithness or the Cairngorms.

“Then just hoist up your backpack and walk, carrying all the food you’ll need for two or three days living wild.”

Ellie glanced sideways. She had never known that side of Calum.

“Have you camped before?” he asked, drawing up outside her flat.

Ellie shrugged.

“Not really.”

“Then get your tent up and pegged down in daylight, before you head off to listen to the bands – and pick a high spot.”

“Why?”

“Mud.” Calum smiled. “Acres of it, from all the tramping feet.”

“Maybe it will be dry,” she argued.

“And maybe pigs will fly. See you at six o’clock tomorrow.”

Calum waved and drove off. Ellie watched him, smiling. Then she sighed, and climbed up the stairs to do a deep clean of the lionesses’ den.

To be continued…


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