Every customer in the pub leaned forward a little to hear what diagnosis would be offered by the man who had come all the way from London to find a job.
“You have carpal tunnel syndrome, Mr Lewis,” Andrew told him. “It’s not serious. Actually, it’s very common. Just a little pressure on the median nerve between the thumb and forefinger. It’s often brought about by repetitive work, like pulling pints, for example. It usually disappears after a while. If not, a very simple operation can relieve the pressure.”
“Well, isn’t that grand.” Jock Lewis was beaming. “You’ll take a dram of our malt whisky, Doctor.” He placed a glass on the counter. “Welcome to Skerrabost.”
Andrew picked up the glass.
As Andrew made his way back he realised he had made a mistake. He had shown off, partly to silence the truculent bearded man. He should have told Jock Lewis to make an appointment at the surgery.
Any doctor going on holiday or even attending a social event didn’t readily make their profession known. He’d have to be quite firm in the future with the inhabitants of Skerrabost.
* * * *
As arranged, Miss Mary Jordan had come out to meet mother and daughter with a smile and a cheery “hello” and had conducted Jess into the school building with a light hand on her shoulder, chatting to her as they walked.
Cassie stood at the school gate. She hadn’t felt as nervous as this since Jess’s very first day at school. She’d brought her this morning to St Margaret’s Primary School.
Cassie had a lump in her throat as Jess turned and glanced back. Cassie waved and tried to smile brightly.
She had to keep busy. There was so much to do – the house, of course, and she couldn’t wait to get started on the garden.
Jess would be fine. She was a confident little girl. Yes, she’d be fine.
Andrew had gone to his surgery just down the hill. He was still sorting that out, but as he said, sickness and aches and pains don’t wait, so he would see any patients who turned up.
Cassie knew that he, too, would want to keep busy, and not just because of Jess’s first day at her new school. She hoped that their new surroundings would help them both to rebuild their lives.
* * * *
Somehow she’d got through the day, and now she was waiting for the end of school. The bell rang and a few minutes later the children tumbled out in joyful release.
Where was Jess? Would she be with another little girl?
She was there. She was alone.
Cassie put on a bright smile.
“Hello, darling.” She took Jess’s hand. “How did it go?” She said a silent prayer, not the first that day.
“It was all right, really,” Jess said. “Quite nice.”
“What did you do?”
“School things. Miss Jordan’s nice. She said my reading was excellent but my writing is a wee bit untidy.”
Cassie smiled to hear her daughter picking up the dialect already.
“Who are you next to?”
“Diane Moor. Her father has sheep. She says I can go and see the lambs when they’re born.”
“That’s very nice of her. Did you meet anyone else?”
“At playtime a boy called Danny asked me if I was a Sassenach.”
“Really?” Cassie felt a little stab of anxiety. “What did you say?”
“I said no, I was Church of England and he started laughing. He said would I like a kick aboot – that means play football. I scored a goal!”
Cassie smiled down at her.
“Mummy, what’s a Sassenach?”
“It just means someone who’s English.”
“Sassenach,” Jess repeated. “I like it.”
Cassie felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. If Jess could be happy at school then they could really put down roots. They had decided at the beginning that if Jess was unhappy they would return to London. She hoped Andrew had had a good day.