A Debt of Honour – Episode 03

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

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They seemed to have been flying across Australia and racing the sun for ever.

Long before they headed out across the empty blue ocean, Shauna had exhausted all the reading material she had brought.

Now she was struggling with a crossword. She should have been able to do it easily, but she was finding it hard to concentrate.

An older woman sat in the seat beside her. They had exchanged smiles at the start of the flight, then Shauna had buried herself in her magazines in case the lady felt she had to chat.

There were too many things on Shauna’s mind. Too many skeletons had come rattling out of their forgotten cupboards.

After many hours had passed, Shauna was bored. As they hit some minor turbulence, and the coffee rocked back and forwards in their cups, she sighed.

“I hate turbulence,” Shauna said.

“Me, too,” the woman replied.

The seatbelts sign lit up as the plane rattled over a series of bumps.

“I know the wings are well glued on,” the woman said. “But . . .”

“Absolutely,” Shauna said, struggling to snap her seatbelt on. “Oh, dear.”

She had to help the other woman to lock hers.

The plane dropped, then the floor slammed against their feet as it soared back up – a trick it repeated many times, complete with cabin-rocking, before the plane steadied again.

“Are the wings still on?” the woman asked, her eyes tight shut.

“The one outside my window is,” Shauna replied.

Somewhere among the drops and rises, the woman had caught her hand and was clinging on.

They became aware of this at the same time.

“Sorry!” The woman released her grip. “I’m a terrible flier.

“My name’s Freda and nobody in our family will sit beside me on these flights. You seem so calm – are you a regular traveller?”

“It’s the first time in nearly thirty years I’ve been on a plane,” Shauna said.

“This one’s a lot more comfortable than the last. I’m Shauna.”

“You’re Scottish,” Freda said. “Your accent’s lovely. Are you going back home?”

Shauna hesitated: this was what she had wanted to avoid.

“Not really,” she finally said. “Australia’s my home now.”

“Are you going back to see your parents, then?”

“My parents have been dead for many years.” Shauna decided to release a little of the truth.

“My daughter’s graduating. I’m going out to watch the ceremony and maybe make a holiday out of the trip.”

They chatted for a while about families and holidays.

“You said this flight was better than the one you came out on.” Freda headed off on a new tack. “What brought you to Australia in the first place?”

Drat the woman.

“This flight’s better, because I came out on what they called the ‘Kangaroo Run’,” Shauna said.

“A series of short hops, not helped by unrest in the Middle East. A big detour there, then we stopped at Bahrain and Calcutta.

“Then another hop to Singapore. From there to Perth. Then, just when I thought I was in Australia at last . . . the grind of flying across Australia.

“One changeover at Dubai and sitting in luxury, beats that.”

“I bet it does.” Freda smiled. “But why did you leave Scotland?”

She must have served her apprenticeship in the Spanish Inquisition, Shauna thought grimly.

“I came out to get married,” Shauna answered finally. “A big sunburned Aussie swept me off my feet and took me back home with him.”

“How romantic! Is he not coming with you?” she asked.

“No,” Shauna snapped. “He died sixteen years ago.”

She spoke more sharply than she’d intended to. Freda withdrew into a book.

Shauna gladly retreated into her own thoughts.

She had managed to show only the tip of the iceberg. Correct in outline, but devoid of meaningful detail.

Like, for instance, how she had left Scotland in utter disgrace, her father threatening to disown her.

Or how she had never had enough money to fly back to try to make peace, and her parents hadn’t enough spare cash to visit her.

Nor had she mentioned that the address the man who had proposed had scribbled down was a fly-blown sheep farm – and that Davey wasn’t the owner but a stockman.

He had rallied bravely to greet the girl who had followed him home, clearly the last person in the world he had ever expected to turn up, and kept his promise to marry her.

No other marriage could have started with such shame and risk for its foundations – yet given both of them more happiness than they deserved.

In the hum of the air conditioning, Shauna drowsed. Her last thought was to check her bag for the envelope, and the debt which must be paid.

Somewhere over an endless blue ocean, she fell fast asleep.

To be continued…

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