A Place Of Healing – 35

“Andrew, look over there.”

He glanced in the direction being indicated by Cassie and saw Maura and Gideon sitting together at a nearby table. There was a bottle of white wine and two glasses on the table. Gideon was wearing a smart grey sweater and a tie.

Cassie leaned forward.

“They’re on a date,” she whispered.

“They’re two middle-aged people.” Andrew shook his head and smiled. “A date! The word sounds odd.”

“What would you prefer? Walking out together?”

“For Skerrabost? Yes.”

“Well,” Cassie went on, “on Sunday Maura was playing the organ, as usual, and there was Gideon in the front pew, in a suit. So there! It’s good to see that some people are finding each other. I only wish . . .” She stopped and shrugged her shoulders. “Oh, well.”

Cassie glanced again towards Maura and saw her look at her watch, and then say something to Gideon.

Maura stood up and came towards them.

“Perhaps she’s bringing a wedding invitation,” Andrew whispered.

“Shush!” Cassie slapped his wrist. “Hello, Maura. It’s a good turn-out.”

“It is,” Maura agreed. “But where’s Paul? He’s supposed to be our caller and there’s no sign of him.”

She looked around.

“I don’t like to do it myself.”

“Give him a couple of minutes,” Andrew said, “and then if he’s still not here, I’ll do it.”

Cassie, Jess and Maura just stared at him.

“Be serious, Andrew. You can’t!”

“Actually,” Andrew said, “I can. When I was at university I had a summer job one year in a burger bar in Southend. There was a bingo place across the way.

“For the first two nights I couldn’t sleep; that caller’s voice rang through my head all night. I know all the right phrases, believe me. ‘Kelly’s eye’, ‘legs eleven’ and so on.”

“Well, if you’re sure,” Maura said doubtfully. “Thank you.”

So, to the trepidation of his wife and daughter, Andrew went to the microphone.

“Good evening, ladies, gentlemen and children. Welcome to St Margaret’s Grand Bingo. Mr Bryant has been delayed, but if you don’t mind putting up with me we’ll begin with a line. So, eyes down and look in!”

He turned the handle of the drum beside him. The coloured balls tumbled and one presented itself. Andrew smiled.

“How appropriate. Doctor’s orders, number nine!”

There was a burst of laughter.

Andrew was true to his word. He knew all the calls. Jess was delighted to win a line and chose a small box of chocolates rather than a pair of knitted bed socks.

For a full house Mrs McGregor won a large haggis from the local butcher’s.

There was a break halfway through the evening for light refreshments. Paul Bryant arrived at the same time.

He hurried over to Cassie and Maura, flustered and full of apologies.

“I’m awfully sorry, Maura. I had to attend to something that couldn’t be put off any longer.”

“Not to worry,” Maura assured him. “Andrew stepped into the breach, and very well, too.”

“Andrew? Well, well. Still waters run deep.”

Paul grinned at Cassie and then, over his shoulder, she saw Mary Jordan step through the door. There was colour in her cheeks and a brightness in her eye.

Cassie pulled Paul to one side and spoke urgently.

“Tell me!”

The grin was still on Paul’s face.

“I’ve never been so happy in my life, Cassie. Mary and I are engaged.”

“Oh, Paul, that’s wonderful! I’m delighted. I must go and congratulate Mary.”

Paul held her arm.

“Quietly, Cassie; we’re not saying anything yet.”

Cassie nodded.

“I’ll be discreet.” She slipped away.

Andrew came up to Paul.

“You can take over for the second half, Paul.”

“You know, I don’t think I could concentrate, Andrew. No, you’re the man. It seems you’ve made your mark in Skerrabost.”

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!