A Place Of Healing – 24

Andrew could not remember the last time he had been fishing. As a boy he’d done quite a lot with his father, who’d believed that fishing was good for the soul. It taught patience, endurance and acceptance of disappointment.

Andrew remembered with a smile the last bit. That had featured a lot!

As a boy he’d often fished in a canal outside Birmingham, not in surroundings like this.

It was an overcast day, good for fishing. It had rained overnight and now the water was running down from the purple hills into the river splashing through the glen towards the sea, the water brown with peat.

Andrew stood knee-deep in the river, casting his line in an easy, rhythmic motion. Relaxing; meditating. Better than yoga, he decided, especially if, at the end of it, you went home with a brace of fat, brown trout to pop in a pan!

He’d had a phone call that morning from Philip Latimer. The couple had seen the consultant and were hopeful of early and successful treatment. That was good. And at this moment the wellbeing of Skerrabost was in the capable hands of Nurse Alison Hughes.

Still, Andrew mused, the island really did need more.

“Yes!” A cry some ten yards away to his right indicated that Paul Bryant had a bite. His line whizzed out and the top of his rod bent slightly.

Andrew grabbed a landing net and waded towards him. He slid the net into the water. A few minutes later the trout was landed. At least one of them would be going home with a reward.

It was Paul who had suggested the fishing trip to Andrew and had provided him with the rod and waders. Andrew didn’t care if he caught nothing. He was content to look at the hills and the sky, and the river, carrying the tang of the sea with it.

“How about a spot of lunch?” Paul suggested.

They settled on the bank with flasks and sandwiches and ate in companionable silence for several minutes. Then Paul cleared his throat.

“You know, Andrew, the other day, Cassie told me about your great loss. About Thomas.”

His voice was low, hesitant and he glanced at Andrew a little anxiously. Cassie had told him how Andrew avoided the subject. That whenever she wanted to talk about it, whenever she mentioned Thomas, he would turn away. She said it was as though he was afraid of uncovering a wound, a raw place in his mind.

Andrew sat staring at the river.

“The loss of a child is a dreadful thing,” Paul said gently.

“Especially when it could have possibly been avoided,” Andrew snapped.

“So you blame yourself?” Paul said.

“I don’t blame God, if that’s what you mean. I should have been more diligent. I should have recognised the signs earlier. I was responsible for the care of my son.”

Paul shook his head.

“Some things in life just happen and no matter what we do they still happen. There’s a passage in Ecclesiastes that says something like, the wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound but don’t know where it comes from, or where it blows. And that’s the way it is with life.”

Andrew threw the dregs of his tea on to the grass.

“Cassie shouldn’t have told you.”

“Andrew, I’m her friend, her priest, her spiritual advisor. She needed to talk to someone. You must know that Cassie doesn’t blame you.”

Andrew sighed.

“She says not. But deep down? Anyway, I appreciate your concern for her, thank you. Now, shall we go back to the fishing?”

Andrew caught nothing, and the mood of the day, his contentment, had gone. They drove back in silence.

When Paul dropped him off Andrew thanked him and said that he hoped he would enjoy his trout.

When he went into the house Cassie was standing at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes. She looked at him over her shoulder.

“Hi, Alison Hughes rang. I’ve left the message by the phone. She’s visited Mrs Conlon. The expectant lady is in good health but you’ll probably want to look in on her in the next week or so. How did the fishing go? Is there anything for me to cook?”

“The fishing was fine, but no, there’s nothing for you to cook. Why did you tell Paul, Cassie?”

He saw her back stiffen. She paused in her peeling for a few seconds and then gave a little shrug of her shoulders.

“I was feeling low one day and he was kind, and . . . I just wanted to talk about it.” Her voice was small, a little unsteady.

Andrew knew he should put his arms around her, hold her close.

“You know I don’t like people knowing. I don’t want their sympathy and the pity in their eyes.”

Cassie turned from the sink the potato scraper in her hand her face anguished.

“Andrew, darling, you must forgive yourself. I have.”

Andrew stared at her. She shook her head frantically.

“No! No! I didn’t mean it like that. There is nothing to forgive. It was a terrible tragedy. A tragedy.”

“Where the wind blows,” Andrew said quietly. Then, “I have some work to do. Call me if you need a hand.”

He walked out of the kitchen closing the door behind him. Cassie stood alone. A tear trickled down her cheek.

“He was my baby, too, Andrew,” she said quietly. “He was my baby, too.”

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!