- 4. Far From The Island – 04
- 5. Far From The Island – 05
- 6. Far From The Island – 06
- 7. Far From The Island – 07
- 8. Far From The Island – 08
- 9. Far From The Island – 09
- 10. Far From The Island – 10
Alone in her bedchamber, Fiona sank on to a chair, suddenly exhausted. So much had happened, her head was whirling. Was it really just this morning she had arrived at the Glasgow docks? Had all this change been necessary?
Closing her eyes, Fiona forced herself to consider the question seriously. Had she just been reacting to her father’s death, running away to avoid confronting the evidence of his absence?
A trail of tears trickled down her cheeks as images of their little croft fluttered into her mind. The brilliant blue of the sky merging with the sparkling glitter of the sea, the sound of the waves pounding on to the sand, and her washing flapping on the line.
Her father’s chuckle when Dolly, their elderly brown cow, stuck her head over the kitchen door and lowed, reminding them she was due to be milked. The tender smile on her father’s face when he looked at that most treasured of his possessions, his wedding photograph. He’d been holding it against his heart when he drew his last, rasping breath, Fiona’s trembling hand held tightly in his other huge fist, calloused from years of hard physical toil.
The trickle of tears became a flood. He’d been ready to go in the end, exhausted with the suffering, so sure he’d be with his beloved Kirsty. Fiona’s tears fell not just for her father’s death, but for the loss of their way of life, of all the everyday little rituals and customs that made up the sum of their existence. Factor Morrison had put paid to any hope she’d had of keeping it going on her own. And Euan . . .
Exhausted and emotional, Fiona couldn’t prevent that last encounter with Euan playing out in her head. It had been so much more painful, with so much more left unsaid than she’d let on to Ella earlier today . . .
* * * *
Factor Morrison had just given her notice only five days after the funeral. Sitting distraught at the scrubbed table, Fiona had been staring distractedly into space when Euan’s familiar tap on the door of the croft announced his arrival.
“I just saw Morrison leave,” he said grimly, sitting down opposite. “I can see from your face what he told you.”
“What am I going to do, Euan?” Fiona said, sniffing and scrubbing at her eyes with the back of her hand.
She should have known from the way he hesitated. The way he looked at his hands, got up to pace the tiny room, ducking his head to avoid the low rafters, for Euan was a tall man. He was broad, too, with the kind of muscle that comes from hard work. But she’d been too frozen with grief and anger to notice until he stopped suddenly and sat down again, taking her hand between his own work-roughened ones.
“What is it?”
The irritation in her voice shamed her as she recalled it, but at the time there were plenty of excuses for it. But still, she regretted her sharpness.
Euan’s hair was standing up in little peaks. Black, the same colour as her own, but wiry, and he had a habit of running his hand through it when he was upset, or when he was thinking.
“I want to ask you to marry me,” he said abruptly. “Ach!” He pushed the chair back so that it clattered on to the stone floor of the cottage. “You see what I mean?”
She could see herself sitting motionless at the table, her mouth open in surprise.