Far From The Island – 48


January 1901

Fiona stood solemnly in front of the impressive granite monument which honoured three generations of the Cunningham family. Francis’s name was at the bottom, the letters newly etched in the grey stone. Tears pooled in her eyes as she stooped to lay a fragile bunch of snowdrops at the base.

She had tried to view his death as a blessed release from suffering, as it had been for her own dear father, but it was difficult. Her father had not been old, but he had lived a full life, and he had been ready, in the end, to join his beloved Kirsty. Francis was so young, and had only just found happiness with Emily. Brave, strong Emily who seemed determined not to allow grief to overwhelm her.

“Francis begged me to live for both of us just before he died,” she had told Fiona, “and that is what I do, because that is what he asked of me. Especially now.”

“You would be so proud of your wife, Francis,” Fiona said now with a watery smile.

She got to her feet, wrapping her shawl more closely around her, for the wind was gusty this high up above the city. Across the way, the statue of John Knox looked imperiously out over the graveyard.

Roddy had been calling on Emily almost every day, just to make sure that she was coping. Who would have thought it, Fiona thought wryly. Roddy was a changed man these days, and most protective of his brother’s widow. How he would react when Emily informed him he was to become an uncle, she could not imagine. Emily had confided her joyous news to Fiona a week ago, but though she was euphoric, she was also understandably cautious.

“I don’t want anyone to know until I’m certain the baby will be healthy,” she’d said.

Thankfully, all seemed to be progressing satisfactorily. Fiona hoped that the birth of a grandchild would finally reconcile Mrs Cunningham to her late son’s marriage, but for now, it was Emily’s secret.

“And yours, Francis,” Fiona said, laying her hand on the cold stone. The clock in the nearby Royal Infirmary chimed the hour. “I must go, for I’m meeting Matthew.” Fiona shook out her petticoats and tucked her usual errant lock of hair back under her hat. “Goodbye, Francis.”

As she made her way down through the meandering paths to the exit over what was known as the Bridge of Sighs, she steeled herself. Between the heartbreak of
Francis’s death and the pressure of work at the hospital and the clinic, both of which were stretched to the limits thanks to the onset of winter, she had been unable to find the right moment to talk to Matthew about their future. Or lack of it. If she were being honest, she thought as she made her way towards the cathedral where Matthew had arranged to meet her, she hadn’t been up to trying particularly hard. A melancholy had settled upon her since she’d returned from Heronsay.

The New Year of 1901, in stark contrast to the year before, served to remind her of what she had lost, rather than to encourage her to look forward. She missed the island, her friends and the links it had with her family. She would not allow herself to miss Euan, but Glasgow no longer felt like home. With Ella so engrossed in trying to
re-establish her marriage, Matthew was Fiona’s only friend. She hadn’t wanted to risk losing him, too.

“But it’s not fair to keep him hanging on when there’s no hope,” she told herself bracingly. And that was one thing she had grown more and more certain of, having witnessed the gentle, rock-solid love Emily bore for Francis. She did not love Matthew in that way, and she never would.

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