Far From The Island – 02

As she made her way purposefully through the crowd, Ella couldn’t help comparing the way the two of them were dressed. Her own skirt was black, but it was full, long and belted tightly at her waist, and the little black jacket she wore over her prettily ruffled white blouse had leg of mutton sleeves, copied painstakingly from a drawing in a magazine.

Fiona’s skirt, made of brown wool she had woven herself, stopped short of her ankles, showing off her black hand-knitted stockings and clogs, and she wore the arisaidh rather than a jacket, the shawl draped around her to form large pockets where the Heronsay women habitually kept their knitting.

On Heronsay such clothes were ubiquitous, but here in the city they looked quite out of place. Fiona was such a pretty creature, she could dress in an old sack and people would still notice her, but it would be a shame, Ella thought, not to have her rigged out in something a bit more fashionable.

Having ordered a pot of tea from the uniformed waitress, Ella leaned over and touched Fiona’s arm.

“I can’t tell you how sorry I was to hear the news of your father. He was a good man, Uncle Sandy, and his death must have been a shock, no matter how much you were expecting it.”

“Aye,” Fiona replied softly, and Ella’s heart twisted as she saw how hard she was working to stop her tears from falling. “It was very hard. You know how it is with consumption – there were days when he looked much improved, and we started to hope, but . . .” Fiona’s voice trailed away as she searched in her basket for her kerchief. Blowing her nose hard, she gave Ella a watery smile. “And you know my father, he was cheerful up to the end, kidding us all on and – och, you know.”

Ella sniffed.

“I do.” Her mouth tightened. “I also know that it’s a disgrace that awful man threw you out of your home like that. Uncle Sandy not even gone a week and he gave you notice on the croft.”

Fiona’s fingers curled tightly around the handle of her teacup.

“Things have changed on Heronsay since the new laird came along and appointed Finlay Morrison as his factor,” she said bitterly. “The Lord of Heronsay has a mind to reclaim his land for himself, rather than let us farm it as we always have, and my father’s death presented him with a perfect opportunity. He cares nothing for the traditions he’s destroying, nor the people he’s crushing under those hand-made London brogues of his. Finlay Morrison seems only too happy to do his dirty work for him.”

“It’s not right, though, is it?” Ella said indignantly. “You’ve lived on that croft all your life, and your father before you.”

Fiona grimaced.

“Aye, and his father before that, but all that’s in the past now.” With a sigh, she rubbed her hand over her face, smoothing out the frown.

Ella pressed her hand sympathetically.

“It’s not the only thing that’s in the past, I gather,” she said softly. “What happened between you and Euan? I thought you would soon be wed.”

“So did he,” Fiona muttered, distractedly tracing a pattern on the table with her teaspoon.

Ella stared.

“You mean he offered you his hand and you turned him down?”

Fiona nodded, her pale cheeks flushed.

“But why? I thought that you liked him.”

“I don’t know,” Fiona burst out suddenly, making Ella start. “I thought it was what I wanted, but when he asked me to marry him I realised I wasn’t sure of my feelings, or my motives for saying yes. With Dad gone it felt like the end of the world and Euan’s proposal was tempting. It would have solved everything, I know that. But when it came to it, I realised it needed to be about more than that, for both our sakes, so I said no. Then Morag and Donald announced they were emigrating to Canada and it felt like there was nothing to keep me on Heronsay. So when you wrote offering me the position with the Cunninghams, I leaped at it.”

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.