- 39. Far From The Island – 39
- 40. Far From The Island – 40
- 41. Far From The island – 41
- 42. Far From The Island – 42
- 43. Far From The Island – 43
- 44. Far From The Island – 44
- 45. Far From The Island – 45
Fiona was sitting on the beach staring out to sea, her arms clasped around her knees. Her black silky hair was pinned up in the modern style, though the wind whipped long tendrils of it around her face in the old, familiar way. She wore city clothes, but had wrapped a plaid around her shoulders over her jacket.
Euan hesitated at the foot of the cliff path. It had been over a year since he’d last seen her, and still his heart felt as if it were being squeezed in his chest, just looking at her. She’d always loved this stretch of beach. How many times had they walked here, talked here, laughed here? He gave himself a shake. No point in dwelling on the past, and foolish to pretend he had not spotted her. Much better to get it over with and out of the way so that he could move on once and for all.
“Euan!” Fiona jumped to her feet, stumbling in the soft, white sand which was as fine as chalk dust. “Good morning to you.”
“I heard you were here on a visit.”
“Aye. I’m staying with Isabel.”
“I heard that, too.”
“Yes, of course you did.” She smiled faintly. “I’d forgotten how it is here.”
She was fidgeting with the fringe of her plaid. Her skin had lost some of its glow. She looked older, though he could not have said how. She looked different, unfamiliar. Perhaps it was the clothes or the hair, or perhaps it was because he had grown more used to Louisa’s classical beauty, her calm elegance. Though he’d never admit to such a daft notion, Euan had always thought Fiona to have a prettiness that was more to do with her expression than her features. Whatever she was, he’d do well to remember that Fiona would never be his. She’d made her feelings – or lack of them – perfectly clear when she left both him and the island. But he was over that now.
“Have you been up to the croft?” he asked gruffly.
She shook her head.
“I saw they’d painted the front door. I didn’t want to see what other changes they’d made. I’d rather hold on to my memories.”
Despite himself, he felt a twinge of compassion.
“But surely you’ll visit your father’s grave to pay your respects?” he asked more gently.
“That was my plan for this morning. Only I needed time to think first,” Fiona replied softly.
“Sitting watching the tide, the way you always did. Would you like me to come with you?”
He hadn’t meant to offer, and was on the point of retracting it immediately, but she blinked up at him with those big eyes and she looked so relieved that he was glad he’d asked.
“Would you?” she asked. “You’re not too busy?”
He shrugged, but he smiled, too.
“I’ve always things to do, but there’s nothing that can’t wait. Why don’t we walk the long way round, and you can tell me all about the big smoke and your nursing.”
* * * *
Fiona paused on the grassy path which skirted the moor.
“I am learning so much, Euan, and the more I learn the more I realise how much there is I don’t know. Medicine is changing so fast. New methods, new drugs. Why, only the other day . . .” She broke off, laughing. “I’ll spare you the gory details. Besides, I’ve wittered on long enough. We’ve walked the better part of a mile and I’ve barely drawn breath.”
Talking about her work, prompted by Euan’s genuine interest, she had quite forgotten to feel awkward. Now, looking up into his well-remembered face, so craggily handsome compared to Matthew’s gentlemanly looks, she felt a wave of embarrassment.
“How have you been, Euan? I haven’t even asked.”
“As I said, I’ve always plenty to keep me occupied.”
Which was as good as saying mind your own business, Fiona thought. It was tempting to leave it at that, but then she’d just have to seek him out again before she left Heronsay, for she was determined to try to put things to rights between them, if at all possible.
“When I left here . . .”
“You made your feelings perfectly clear,” he interrupted. “Don’t worry, I’ve no illusions on that score. As a matter of fact, I’ve become quite close to someone else.”
Which she knew all about, because Morag’s sister, Isabel, whose croft she and Ella were staying at, had been unable to talk about much else save the romance between the boat builder and the posh lassie staying at the big house.
“So I heard,” Fiona said, dredging up a semblance of a smile. “Louisa, I think her name is.”