A Time To Reap – Episode 43

A Time To Reap

“I want to go up there!”

Flora pointed to the fairground part of the show where the gaily decorated swing boats carried their passengers back and forth.

“Those are for big boys and girls,” Tibbie replied for her, “and cost too many pennies.”

Flora held out her palm.

“I’ve got pennies!”

Elizabeth had given them six each to spend.

“Shall we go and find a ride for girls of six and four?” Elizabeth suggested quickly. “Do you remember last year there was one with little cars?”

“I remember,” Libby said. “We liked them, Flora. You sat in the driver’s seat.”

Flora brightened up.

“Can we, Mummy?”

“I’ll take them,” Elizabeth said to Tibbie. “Why don’t you go to the SWRI tent and we’ll join you there?”

“I’ll come too, Tibbie,” Peggy said. “See if I got placed for my jam. Would you like to come, Donna?”

“What is this tent?” Donna lifted her right foot and twisted round to inspect the spiky heel of her white sandal which had sunk into the grass.

“It’s competitions,” Peggy explained. “The ladies in the Rural Institute put in their handicrafts and baking and jam. Tibbie always wins prizes for her knitting and sewing.”

Donna looked interested.

“Like a county fair at home? I’ll check it out. Bye, Hughie.”

“See you later, honey.” Hugh kissed her.

Alec looked relieved that the womenfolk were leaving them in peace.

“I’ve some old cronies who remember your father,” he said to Hugh.

“Really, Uncle Alec?” Hugh’s face lit up. “It would be great to talk with them. Enjoy your car ride, girls.”

Just then a skirl of music made him turn round. He shaded his eyes.

“Hang on. It can’t be!”

Elizabeth followed his gaze. Preceded by a piper, Lady Annabel and her house party were being shown to their seats in the covered stand.

“That’s the estate owner,” Elizabeth said to Hugh. “She always has guests for fishing and shooting at this time of year.”

“That big guy, on the left,” Hugh said, pointing. “I know him! Bill Brock – I mentioned him to you? He’s responsible for my state of matrimony!”

He turned to Alec.

“I must find out what he’s doing here. Wanna come?”

“You go on. I’ll wait here.”

Hugh hesitated, unsure.

“I’ll come with you to introduce you,” Elizabeth said.

She took Libby and Flora by the hand.

“You’ll have a ride on the cars in a minute, girls. We’re going to see those people over there. Answer nicely if they speak to you.”

* * * *

As they approached the stand the man caught sight of Hugh. He looked almost comically surprised, waved, then spoke to Lady Annabel before bounding down the steps.

“Hugh Mackay, you old son of a gun!” He slapped Hugh on the back. “How d’you come to be here?” His accent mirrored Hugh’s own.

“Meeting my wunnerful Scottish family, my dad’s folks.” Hugh indicated Elizabeth. “This is Elizabeth Duncan, my . . . a kind of cousin. She works for Lady Annabel. Elizabeth, Bill Brock. Bill was one of my first clients. It was through him I met Donna.”

Elizabeth remembered the name and the story. Donna had been taking photographs for this man’s construction company.

He held out his hand, his smile crinkling his face.

“Good to meet you, kind-of-cousin.”

“How do you do.” She couldn’t help noticing the colour of his eyes, somewhere between dark blue and grey.

“My name’s Flora. I’m a cousin, too,” Flora piped up.

Mr Brock crouched down.

“You’ve got a lovely name, Flora. Is this your sister?”

Libby nodded shyly.

“I’m four and Libby’s six. She’s at school. I’ll go when I’m five. I –”

“Flora, stop being a chatterbox,” Elizabeth chided. “Hugh wants to talk to Mr Brock.”

The man stood up.

“It’s Bill.” He glanced at her left hand. “Mrs Duncan.”

“I hope you enjoy your stay in the Highlands,” Elizabeth said. “How do you know Lady Annabel?”

“I didn’t until earlier this week. A friend asked me to join his fishing party.” He smiled at her. “You’re lucky to live in such a beautiful spot. I’ve fished all over, but this beats the band!”

There was a burst of music from the direction of the swing boats. Flora tugged her mother’s hand.

“I want to go on the swings!”

“When you’re older.”

Then Libby joined in.

“Is six older?”

“Not enough.” Elizabeth sighed. “No arguing, girls. Come along.”

Bill Brock grinned at her.

“Is thirty-four old enough, d’you reckon, Hugh?”

Hugh understood and nodded.

As the two men strode off towards the swing boats, the girls capering joyfully beside them, Elizabeth was aware of someone beside her. It was Andy Kerr.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.