Far From The Island – Episode 28

“I now pronounce you man and wife. Francis, you may kiss your bride.”

Fiona dabbed frantically at her eyes with her handkerchief. It was not so much the kiss Francis and Emily exchanged as the look of tender love, the radiance of their expressions, which touched her heart. Surely, seeing the pair so patently glowing with happiness, Constance Cunningham could not fail to rejoice in their union. But peering down the aisles as the couple retired to sign the register, Fiona saw that her ex-employer’s expression was stony, and as the mother of the groom followed the newlyweds on her husband’s arm, she cast Fiona a furious look.

“I see you are not to be forgiven for your part in this,” Ella whispered, rolling her eyes.

Fiona pursed her lips.

“It doesn’t matter what she thinks of me, but I wish to goodness she’d accept the marriage for Francis’s sake. She will live to regret it if she does not.”

“But I thought Francis looks so well. You are surely not worried that ”

“No, no, of course not. Only it’s . . .” Fiona took Ella’s arm as they made their way out of the church to wait in a quiet spot by the gate as the crowd of well-wishers kissed the bride and shook hands with the groom. “I see so many cases of consumption now that I have started nursing, and there is no cure. Even Matthew, who is the most eternal optimist, admits that his treatments can only prolong life.”

“I have to confess, Fi, I was surprised to hear that you’d chosen the Poor Law hospital to train in. I have heard that they are terrible places.”

“Terrible, and yet inspiring, Ella,” Fiona said earnestly. “I see such suffering borne so stoically. It takes so little to make such a difference to our patients. We cannot heal the worst cases, but we can make them comfortable, maintain their dignity. I see so many like my father every day, and it helps, just a little, knowing that what I learned easing his pain can help others, too.” She sniffed and conjured up a smile. “I know you think that it was Matthew who persuaded me to become a nurse, but truly, it was Dad’s experience that inspired me.”

Ella blinked furiously.

“He would be so proud of you, Fi.”

“Aye, maybe, but he’d be horrified to see me living in the big city, far from home.”

“Do you miss Heronsay?” Ella asked her cousin.Fiona’s smile was wistful.

“My heart is still there, in many ways. I miss the sea air, and the sound of the waves crashing over the rocks on the bay. I miss the smell of the moor you know, that heady mixture of peat and bracken and heather. And I miss the way everyone knows everyone, and I miss the excitement of watching the boats come in and wondering what sort of catch they have. But I’m not daft, I know that there are plenty other things I could not have if I’d stayed there.”

“Like Doctor Usher?”

“Like training as a nurse. Like having my independence and making my own way.”

Ella frowned.

“Have you given up on getting married then?”

“One day I want to have my own family. But not yet, I have other things to do first.”

“You still think I made a mistake marrying John, don’t you?” Ella said, crossing her arms defensively over her chest.

“No! Ella, you love John, and you’re happy with him, aren’t you? Things are working out at the school? I know we’ve barely had a chance to catch up, what with you being so far away and me being so busy, but Ella, you are happy?”


“Have you spoken to John about your own teaching ambitions?”

“He’s just finding his feet. We’re still adjusting to each other. I haven’t found the right time yet,” Ella said, looking determinedly down at her feet.

“I didn’t mean to imply anything. I mean, our cases are different, aren’t they? You love John, and there was no reason to wait.”

“While you chose to put your needs first and not Matthew’s,” Ella said tartly.

“That’s not fair!” Fiona exclaimed indignantly. “Matthew and I we’re not head over heels like you and John. We’re fond of each other, but it’s not the same situation.”

“No, I’m sorry, it’s not,” Ella said contritely. “Never mind me. I’ve been awful tired of late, and a bit edgy.”

“You’re not . . .”

“No! Goodness, no, I hope not . . .” Ella looked flustered. “Look, Francis is beckoning us over. Let’s go and offer our congratulations, then I must say hello to my Victoria before I catch my train.”

“I am due on shift directly. Just as well we could neither of us make the reception. Mind you, I think it would be arsenic and not sherry Mrs Cunningham would ply us with.” Fiona cast her cousin a sidelong glance. She knew Ella inside out, and she was holding something back.

Smiling broadly as they approached Francis and Emily, Fiona told herself there was nothing more to be said. Wasn’t life all about choices? Ella had made hers. All Fiona could do was hope she didn’t live to regret it.


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