A Place Of Healing – 16

Murdo had both hands on his walking stick, looking at the sea.

“He wanted to go to the fishing. His mother was against it, but his heart was set on it.” He looked at Andrew. “It can be a fine life, you ken, for I have done it myself. The freedom of it, the excitement of it; the sea, the wind, the sky. Just you and the boat and the elements and the great space around you. And at the end of the day you are bringing home your catch to feed people. How many can say that?”

“So you let him go?”

Murdo sighed.

“Aye, eventually. He loved it. I can see him now, his sunlit smiling face and the curly black hair he got from his mother. Then one day the Lady Ann never came home, never returned to harbour. All hands lost.”

“How terrible,” Andrew said quietly. “A storm?”

“A sudden squall. You can see a storm coming, run before it; but a squall can spring up and take you aback. Perhaps one freak wave thrown up by a sudden blast of wind. For three days and nights we waited, my wife never off her knees, and then the sea that had taken him gave him up. He was sixteen years old.”

“So he’s buried here?”

“Aye. In the churchyard behind St Margaret’s. His mother, too, my darling Jenny. Three years later. You’ll tell me, Doctor, that no-one can die of a broken heart, but with respect I’d have to say you’re wrong. To lose a child is like a stab in the heart.”

Andrew stared at Murdo.

“I know,” he whispered. “I know.”

Murdo looked back at Andrew, and waited.

“We lost a son. His name was . . . his name is Thomas. He was two months old. He was perfect, Murdo! Perfect.”

Murdo laid a hand on Andrew’s shoulder. Andrew went on, his voice almost a whisper.

“You know when you look at a baby and everything is tiny but perfect? Tiny toes, tiny perfect fingernails. He grips your finger . . .” He could feel the hot tears in his eyes spilling over.

“What happened to the wee laddie?”

“Meningitis happened. I was his father. I am a doctor. I didn’t see it quickly enough. He died. Cassie was broken.”

He angrily dashed a tear from his cheek.

“Murdo, you couldn’t have saved your son, but perhaps I could have saved mine.”

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!