On Distant Shores – Episode 02

“People are beginning to talk.” Caroline stood framed by the French doors, her graceful figure swathed in pale blue silk, her blonde hair arranged in artful clusters of curls. Looking at her, Ian marvelled again that she was his.

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t stand another diatribe from Doctor Henderson, and I didn’t want to say something I’d regret.”

“I know.” Caroline joined him. “I’m sorry, too. I had no idea he’d bluster on like that.” She let out a tiny sigh. “Although I suppose it’s too much to ask of the man to express the most common courtesy.”

“Indeed.” Ian lightly rested his hand over hers and they remained silent for a moment, the cool evening air blowing over them.

“Do you suppose,” Caroline asked after a moment, her voice soft, “that ether will be accepted one day?”

“I pray so.” Ian tightened his lips as he thought of Dr Henderson’s swaggering assurance. There was so much ignorance and hostility to fight against, even within the allegedly enlightened medical community.

“I imagine sometimes it must be similar to what the first settlers thought upon coming to these shores,” Caroline said with a rueful smile. “Who could imagine that there would be towns and cities built on such rugged and untamed land? Yet they persevered.” She squeezed his shoulder. “And you must as well.”

Ian lifted her hand to his lips and brushed her fingers in a kiss.

“Thank you, my darling. Your support means more to me than that of a pompous old windbag like Doctor –”

“Ian.” Caroline suppressed a scandalised smile. “Imagine if he heard you!”

“He’s talking too loudly,” he murmured, “to hear anything but his own voice.”

She shook her head, her expression growing serious. Ian smiled and kissed her fingers again, letting his lips linger this time.

“Ian . . .” His name was a gentle reproof. “I want to support your research –”

“And you do –”

“More tangibly,” Caroline continued, her voice turning firm. “Even after buying this house, there is still a bit of my inheritance left –”

He stilled, straightening slowly.

“You want to use your inheritance to fund my research?”

“Yes. With the money you could take time away from the hospital and conduct more research. Perhaps acceptance will come more quickly if –”

“No.” Ian didn’t mean to sound so flat and cold. He saw the hurt flash in Caroline’s blue eyes and wished he’d tempered his reply. He caught her hands in his, and felt how cold they’d become. “Caroline, my darling, I could not take that money from you. It was held in trust for you, from your uncle, and it was meant for you to do with as you wish.”

Caroline looked hurt, a wrinkle marring the pale smoothness of her forehead.

“It’s not because it’s my money,” she said, slipping her hands from his, “but because it comes from my uncle. Edward Rydell.”

Ian did not pretend to deny it. How could he, when the fact that he’d accepted anything from that man cut so deeply, a wound that had been made 20 years ago, and festered still? Nineteen years ago Rydell had swindled him out of his family farm back on the island of Mull. Bitterness and a desire for revenge had driven Ian for far too long, yet he’d relinquished those vengeful dreams when he’d met and married Caroline, Rydell’s niece and ward.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, “but I cannot countenance taking a penny from that man.”

Caroline let out a trembling laugh.

“Ian, this house is from that man.”

“Pray do not remind me.”

She stared at him, her eyes wide with shocked comprehension.

“You resent this?” she whispered. “Why did you not tell me?”

“I do not resent anything you wish to do with your inheritance.” Ian cut across her words sharply. “It is your money, to do with as you see fit, and I will not stop you from using it as you wish.” Even though it cost him to know they were only living in this style because of the man he’d hated. He might have let go of that hatred, yet the knowledge still rankled.

“And if I wish to use it for your research?” Caroline asked, her eyes flashing.

Ian shook his head.

“Caroline, the research is mine. I could not bear the thought of Rydell’s money being involved in any way.”

Caroline let out a soft sound of hurt and Ian tried to reach for her hands again. He hated the thought of them arguing, or that Rydell could come between them even now.

“And I thought I was yours,” she said quietly.

A peal of feminine laughter sounded from the salon and, shaking her head, she slipped from the terrace, leaving Ian alone, and more frustrated and restless than before.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.