Far From The Island – 43

He was staring out over the moorland, above which the vast expanse of sky hung silver-grey like a mirror-image of the sea.

“Aye, that’s right.”

“Godmother to the wee boy you rescued, apparently.”

“Edward. You have been doing your homework, haven’t you?”

Fiona blushed.

“It came up in conversation over dinner.” And at breakfast and at supper, but she would not tell Euan that. “Isabel’s husband Gavin was saying that you’ve really turned a corner with the laird.”

“Gavin tends to exaggerate.”

“And you always were one to play down your successes,” Fiona said tartly. “He said that you’ve managed to stop at least two more evictions since poor Fraser McGowan was forced to leave the island. That’s two families who still have their homes and their livelihoods thanks to you.”

Euan laughed, running his fingers through his dishevelled hair, pushing it back from his face.

“I’d forgotten what a wee fishwife you could be when it comes to defending your own.”

“If that’s your idea of a compliment . . .” Fiona crossed her arms over her chest and struggled to bite back her answering smile.

“Oh, if it’s compliments you’re after . . .” Euan touched her cheek.

The contact stilled them both. Their eyes met, and Fiona caught her breath at the unexpected and unmistakable frisson of attraction which flared between them. The world seemed to narrow and focus, so that nothing existed other than the two of them standing inches apart on the windswept moor.

Without meaning to, she took a step towards him. His fingers slid from her cheek to the nape of her neck, making her shiver as he urged her gently closer. Her heart was racing. She could feel his breath on her cheek, he was so near. He tilted his head, and she lifted hers in the most natural of preludes to a kiss.

They both sprang apart at the same time. Blushing furiously, Fiona made a play of rearranging her plaid while Euan went back to staring out over the moor, his face implacable. What on earth had she been thinking? Was this her idea of putting things right between them?

“I’ve met someone, too,” she said abruptly, her voice sounding quite odd to her own ears. “A doctor. Matthew Usher.”

Euan dragged his eyes back to her, his face shuttered, unreadable.

“I heard. I wish you every happiness,” he said.

“Nothing is decided yet. We are going to wait until I have finished my training. I’ve still two years to go.”

Euan raised an eyebrow.

“Two years. He’s a patient man, then. I’m pleased for you, Fiona. You deserve to find happiness.”

He didn’t look pleased. Until now, she had not questioned the fact of Matthew being prepared to wait such a long time. It seemed no hardship to her, so she’d assumed he felt the same.

“And you? When will you be married, Euan?”

“Married!” He looked quite startled. “I’ve no plans in that direction as yet. Louisa is only a visitor at the big house. She will not remain on Heronsay for ever.”

“From what I’ve heard, she has already extended her stay several times.” She had no idea why she was pushing him. It was not because she had any feelings of that nature – she had had her chance – but because she wanted him to be happy, Fiona told herself. “At least this Louisa has proven that she likes our island,” she continued brightly. “There should not be any difficulty in persuading her to move here permanently.”

“With respect, that is no longer any of your business, Fiona. Your life is in Glasgow now, with your doctor friend. Things might be on a better footing with the new laird now, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, and until he rids himself of that vicious factor of his . . .” Euan broke off angrily. “There is no need to concern yourself with either me or Heronsay.”

“This will always be my home, Euan. My friends are on Heronsay, my roots are here. Of course I care what happens on the island.”

He shrugged.

“You left and have no intentions of coming back, you’ve made that perfectly clear.”

Fiona stared at him, her eyes smarting with tears.

“Heronsay will always be in my heart,” she said.

Euan’s face softened.

“I don’t doubt it, but unfortunately we can’t always have what’s in our hearts.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“Nothing,” he said, and held out his hand. “Come on, it’s going to rain. Let us go and pay our respects to your father.”

She did not move.

“I had to get away, Euan.” She looked up at him, pleading for understanding.

He sighed.

“I know,” he said with a twisted smile. “You needed to get away from the memories and you needed to spread your wings. And your new life suits you, I can see that, Fiona. You clearly love nursing. Your face lights up when you talk about it.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Are you happy?”

He grinned.

“Och, when we’ve finally managed to rid ourselves of Factor Morrison and the laird gives his tenants ownership of their lands, and the sea is for ever calm and the catch swims freely into the nets and the fishermen want a new boat from me every year, then I’ll be happy. In the meantime, I’ll settle for not getting a soaking. Come on.”

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”.