A Place Of Healing – 14

The Harbour Café and Bar was the place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions, weddings and wakes. It was the most upmarket establishment on the island and especially popular with tourists in summer. But at this time of year it was usually quiet, so Paul had had no difficulty booking a table upstairs by the window, looking out on the harbour.

He couldn’t see the moon but it was up there somewhere. Its light rippled and danced on the black harbour water with its small bobbing boats.

Paul wasn’t looking for the moon, because he was looking at Mary, sitting opposite him in a blue dress with shining golden hair and large eyes of blue . . . or grey. The meal was good. Fish. You couldn’t go wrong on Skerrabost with fish.

They’d both gradually relaxed and after the meal they sat in the cocktail bar, Mary with a glass of white wine and Paul with tonic water.

“This isn’t your first parish?” Mary asked.

“No, I was in Glasgow for a couple of years. Quite different but good. The people were fine. I was sorry to leave at the time.” He smiled and glanced at her. “Is St Margaret’s your first school?”

“Mr Bryant, do you think I’ve never been off the island? I trained in Edinburgh. If I ever chose to return to the mainland it’s to Edinburgh I’d go. Beautiful, for a city. Still, if I did go away I think I’d always want to return here one day.”

They said nothing for a moment.

“Shortly after I arrived on Skerrabost Murdo MacKenzie said something to me. You know Murdo? Och, of course you do. ‘You know, Paul, with you being a man of the cloth you may not countenance what I say. But Skerrabost has a spirit of its own – a magic, if you like. If you are here long enough it will enchant you, bewitch you. In a good way, you understand.’ That is what he said.”

Mary was smiling at him. They were looking into each other’s eyes.

“Mary!” A loud, cheery voice interrupted the moment.

They both looked up. Donald Gowrie stood there, a glass of lager in his hand.

“What a lucky chance.”

Paul Bryant wouldn’t have described it as such.

“Paul, you know Donald, don’t you?” Mary said.

The men nodded to each other.

“We have met,” Paul said.

“I just popped out for a drink,” Donald said, looking only at Mary. “You don’t mind if I join you for a few minutes?”

He sat down opposite Mary and was still sitting there
30 minutes later. He frequently stroked his handsome golden beard and regaled them with tales of silly things that had happened at the distillery over the years. And had Mary heard about the distillery’s ghosts? Oh, yes, the distillery was definitely full of spirits!

Paul found him loud and irritating, but to his annoyance Mary seemed to find him amusing and no doubt attractive.

Eventually Paul spoke.

“I think it’s about time we were going.”

“Yes,” Mary agreed. “School in the morning. Must be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”

“You’re always that,” Donald said. “I’ll phone you mid-week. OK?”

It was as if Paul wasn’t there.

*  *  *  *

On the drive to Mary’s parents’ home which was partway up the glen Paul was quiet.

“It was a lovely evening, wasn’t it?” Mary said.

“It was,” Paul replied, “for part of the time.”

Perhaps he should have just agreed.

“Part of the time?”

“Yes, until Donald Gowrie turned up and settled down.”

Mary laughed.

“Oh, that’s just Donald. He’s always full of fun, full of life.”

“Actually, I thought he was rather full of himself,” Paul said.

They had reached Mary’s house. He knew that he should have just let the matter drop.

“Actually,” Mary said, now on the defensive, “Donald is gentle and kind. He gets a bit nervous when he is with people he doesn’t know very well. And I am surprised, Paul, because to be honest I find your attitude . . . well, a bit uncharitable.”

She opened the car door.

“But thank you for this evening. I’m glad you found part of it enjoyable.”


She walked up the path and disappeared into the house without looking back.

Paul sat in the car for a moment. A great moon like a duck egg sailed above the glen. It was a beautiful moonlit night that should have been full of romance and he’d just upset a girl he was in love with.

Uncharitable, she’d said. Yes, he had been. And jealous.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!