The sun was making a late appearance on Heronsay, as if to mark their last day on the island. Fiona and Ella were sitting on the harbour wall, watching the fishing boats come in. The gates to Euan’s boatyard stood wide open, though only his apprentice was visible, hard at work inside. The scent of wood shavings, tar and varnish could be detected intermittently on the breeze, a counterpoint to the tang of salty air and fresh fish.
One of the smaller boats was unloading its catch a few yards away. The empty fish boxes were stacked neatly in the stern.
“You were right about the fresh air up here clearing my head,” Ella said. “The one thing I’ve realised I know for certain is that I love John, and I’m prepared to do anything to make my marriage a success. I don’t know what that entails, but I do know that that is what’s most important.”
Fiona turned towards her and pressed her hand reassuringly.
“I am so glad.”
“I was an idiot to keep things from him, but I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve some making up to do, but the thing is, Fiona, when you love someone, you can always find a way to fix things, and I do love him so very much. I haven’t told him that enough lately. I haven’t told him that he’s the most important thing in the world to me. I intend to do that just as soon as I get home.”
“What about your teaching ambitions?” Fiona asked.
“I really don’t know, Fiona. I still want to teach, but not at the cost of everything else.” Ella scrubbed at her eyes with her hanky. “So, is it true that Euan is going to marry this Louisa?” she asked.
“It seems so, though he said nothing was settled.”
“And how do you feel about that, Fi?”
“I’m happy for him, of course, if that’s what he wants,” her cousin replied, not quite meeting her eye.
“It’s definitely all over between you, then?”
“Ella, I haven’t seen Euan in over a year. And now there’s Matthew on the scene . . .”
“But you’ve not actually said you’ll marry him, though, have you?” Ella asked.
“We’re waiting until I finish my nursing training.”
Ella frowned, taking the time to choose her words carefully.
“Do you honestly think you’ll feel differently then? Fi, if you loved him, truly loved him, would you really be content to bide your time? I didn’t want to wait three months to marry John, never mind three years.”
“It’s only two years,” Fiona said stubbornly.
“You’re deliberately missing my point.”
“And what is that, then?” Fiona said impatiently.
“If you loved Matthew, it wouldn’t be this easy to wait,” Ella blurted out.
“Ella Harrison, just because you’ve decided to set your own world to rights doesn’t mean that I need you to try to sort out mine. Besides, there’s no comparing John and Matthew, they are entirely different cases.”
“And what about Euan? If you loved Matthew the way I love John, you wouldn’t have to pretend that you’re happy Euan is getting married,” Ella said recklessly.
Fiona jumped down from the harbour wall.
“I am not pretending, I am happy for him. And anyway, he hasn’t asked her to marry him yet. I’m going for a walk.”
She strode off towards the cliff path without waiting for a reply. Ella watched her go, annoyed with herself for having upset her cousin. Fiona was such a self-contained wee thing, for all she looked like a puff of wind would blow her away. She did not take kindly to having her feelings exposed.
“And she was quite right,” Ella muttered ruefully to herself, “I was preaching and I’m the last one to be doling out advice on affairs of the heart.”