A Place Of Healing – 33

Paul Bryant sat at his desk in the manse. In front of him were two sheets of paper. He only needed to sign them.
Many written documents have changed the course of history – charters, treaties, job applications and letters. Letters of condolence, of congratulations and love letters.

These were letters of reference for Mary Jordan, and as love letters they must surely be the strangest ever written.

Ever since Mary had told Paul of her job application in Edinburgh the young minister had thought of little else but her leaving Skerrabost, and being lost to him.

It was strange. He was quite happy to get up in a pulpit and address a crowded church; he was happy to be approached for personal and spiritual advice by anyone. But in front of Mary Jordan he was like a schoolboy, reticent, shy and tongue-tied.

Well, here was the last throw of the dice. Faint heart never won fair lady, Cassie Shelley kept telling him.

And she was fair, this maid of Skerrabost. If he made his feelings clear and she rejected him, at least he wouldn’t spend the rest of his life wondering what might have been.

She had phoned him an hour ago. Would it be convenient to call for the reference, or did he prefer to post it direct to the Edinburgh school?

“No, please call by,” he’d said. “I want you to read it.”

“OK.” Her voice had been slightly husky. “Will I come over a little before eight? I know you have to be in the hall around then.”

“Do I?” He’d glanced quickly at his desk calendar.

“The prize bingo. For the church repairs? Maura said you were calling the numbers.”

“Good heavens.” His hand had gone to his forehead. “I’d forgotten about the blessed bingo.”

“If it suits you better we can rearrange this.”

“No!” he’d said emphatically. “This is more important than the bingo and even the church roof.”

“Is it?” Her voice had sounded small.

“Yes. Come as arranged.”

Paul had put the phone down. He’d experienced a sudden surge of confidence which seemed now to ebb away as the doorbell rang.

He took a deep breath and signed both sheets of paper. Folding them, he placed them into two creamy envelopes and wrote Miss M.M. Jordan on each.

Two very different messages, but each, in its own way, a love letter.

The doorbell rang again. She was impatient. Impatient to be gone?

He opened the front door. There was a slight drizzle in the air, like sea drift, and in walking from her car a few drops of rain had caught in her hair like sequins, a halo of tiny diamonds from the sea.

“Come in, Mary, come in.”

She followed him into his study.

It had grown gloomy whilst he’d been sitting at his desk and he switched on the green shaded desk lamp. A cone of yellow light splashed down on the two envelopes.

“Your reference,” Paul said.


“Yes.” He picked up the first envelope and handed it to her. “Read it.”

She took out the single sheet of paper, unfolded it and glanced at him before she read the contents.

To whom it may concern, re Miss Mary Margaret Jordan.

Miss Jordan has been employed as a teacher at St Margaret’s, Skerrabost, for three years. As Chairman of Governors of the school I have known Miss Jordan for a period of ten months.

I have found Miss Jordan’s punctuality very unreliable and her absences from school frequent. It is also quite evident that she dislikes children and in return the children in her care are wary of her and seem reluctant to seek her advice or help.

She looked up at him, her eyes wide.

“Paul!” There were tears welling in her eyes.

“Finish it,” he told her.

Her eyes returned to the piece of paper in her hand.

In short, this young lady is not at all a suitable candidate for the position advertised in your school.

Finally I must point out that, should you offer Miss Jordan this post, it will mean that she will leave Skerrabost and break the heart of Paul Bryant, Chairman of Governors.

Her eyes returned to his, confused.

“What does it mean?”

His face was determined, his eyes looking into hers steadily.

“It means that I love you, Mary. I will always love you, now and for ever, and I can never imagine there being anyone else but you.”

She opened her mouth to speak but he held up his hand.

“I know I’ve been slow, shy. The truth is, Mary, I couldn’t imagine that such a wonderful girl as you could ever tie herself to a parish minister. I thought I was out of your league.”

He shook his head.

“I’ve got that wrong. I thought you were out of my league. But I do love you, Mary Jordan.”

He smiled.

“I wrote two references. The other is the genuine one, and it’s good, I promise. I took hours over it. It will get you the job, if that is what you want. That reference comes with all my love and wishes for your future happiness.”

He stopped.

“So, Mary Jordan, which reference do you want?”

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!