Paul Bryant was in the vestry of the church taking off his surplice when there was a polite knock on the open door. He looked round. It was Mary.
“May I come in?”
“Yes, of course.”
“It was a lovely service. I know Murdo planned it, but you conducted it beautifully, with real feeling. Murdo would have been pleased.”
“Thank you, Mary. I hope so.”
They smiled at each other, each thinking of the old man who had had such love for this place.
“And thank you for solving that little problem at the talent show,” Paul told her. “Donald really was very good. He did a much better job than I could have done.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Mary said. “We all have our different gifts. Actually, Paul, there was something I wanted to discuss with you. To see what you think.”
“Well, a couple of weeks ago I saw a job advertised for a teaching post that I thought might suit me. It’s in Edinburgh.” She looked at him.
“And you like Edinburgh, I think you once told me.” Paul had a sinking feeling in his stomach.
“Yes. Anyway, I applied for the job, just on the off chance. They want me to go for an interview and provide a reference. Do you think you could?”
He forced a smile.
“Why, yes, of course. As the Chairman of Governors of
St Margaret’s I’ll be delighted to give you a reference.”
“Thank you. Of course, it means leaving Skerrabost and the school and . . . everything.” Her voice was a little husky.
“Yes,” he said quickly. “And what does Donald think?”
“Donald? It’s got nothing to do with Donald.”
“No, of course not. It’s entirely your decision. You know I wish you well.”
“Thank you. That’s it, then. If you do the reference I’ll . . .”
“Certainly. Just . . .” He stopped. “Of course.”
“Thank you.” She turned and left the vestry quickly.
Paul stood for a moment. Then he went into the church and kneeled in prayer in the front pew in front of the altar.
He prayed at first that Mary might not get the job, then stopped himself. Better to pray that she decide not to leave Skerrabost. No, that was selfish! He was praying for his own happiness, not hers.
At last, he prayed that she make the right decision for her happiness and welfare.
He prayed for a long time.
* * * *
On the evening of Murdo’s funeral Cassie was sitting at the big kitchen table with a notebook designing a new series of yoga exercises to keep her clients interested and stretched. Jess was in bed, fast asleep.
Andrew came into the kitchen and watched her. He bent and softly kissed her neck. She looked up.
“What was that for?”
“To say I’m sorry about the tree. I was quick tempered and unreasonable as usual, and I’m sorry.” He sighed. “Sometimes it’s as though something touches a raw wound and I jump. And usually it’s you who is in the way. I’m so sorry.”
She took his hand.
“I know, and it’s all right. We’ll get through it.”
“We will. And of course we must have the rowan tree. I’ve looked it up and it has white flowers, and ‘red berries much loved by the birds of the air’.”
Cassie half turned in her chair to look up at him.
“We are putting our roots down here, Andrew, aren’t we? Jess loves the island, the school – everything.”
“I know. I was very proud of our daughter today. Like a tree, she’s growing and flowering. I’m so glad she’s happy. And I want you to be happy.”
Cassie stood and held both his hands. It was unusual for Andrew to be so forthcoming with his feelings. She felt that Murdo’s passing had stirred the pool of sadness in him.
“And you, Andrew? Do you want to be here on Skerrabost, to make it our home?”
“I want to be where you are, and where our daughter is happy. Will that do?”