Far From The Island – Episode 30

Fiona sat on the bench in Kelvingrove Park, enjoying the late summer sunshine. Behind her, the gracious mansions of the West End looked so clean and bright compared to the dark, dingy tenement closes of Govan she’d become used to. The air on this side of the river was so much cleaner, too, and the park so very green.

She lifted her face to the sun, closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Much as she loved the hospital, the frantic bustle, the constant demands for her to do everything from change beds, scrub down operating theatres, dress wounds, comb out lice, apply salves, administer medicines, or just to sit quietly by the bed of a dying patient, there were times when she would give anything for a bit of solace, a bit of respite.

She’d spent her day off just walking aimlessly, and now she should be getting back, but her feet simply didn’t want to move and the very thought of getting on that horrible underground tram made her shudder.

“Fiona? Fiona Matheson? Is that really you?”

“Eilidh?” Startled, Fiona jumped to her feet and embraced her friend. “My goodness, what a lovely surprise! What on earth are you doing here?”

“I’ve an interview for a job with a domestic agency.”

“Here in Glasgow? You mean you’re leaving Heronsay? But what about you and Colin? The croft I thought . . .”

Eilidh grimaced as she sat down on the bench.

“Changed times, Fiona. The new laird has put the rent up so high that Colin can barely make ends meet for himself and his mother, let alone take on a wife. We considered following Morag and Donald out to Canada, but have you heard from Morag recently?”

“She sent me a letter about a month or so ago. She didn’t say so, she’s far too loyal, but I got the impression that things weren’t going so well for them over there.”

“Aye, her heart was never in it the way Donald’s was. Canada is so far away from Heronsay. Glasgow is far enough for me. At least if we settle here, I’ll be able to go home for visits every year.”

“So you still intend to get married?” Fiona asked.

“Colin has landed a job with a shipbuilders on the Clyde. We’re not the only ones leaving, Fiona. Ever since Fraser McGowan’s eviction you’ll have heard about that?”

When Fiona shook her head, Eilidh told her the sorry tale.

“Euan saved the boy’s life. You would have thought the laird would have been grateful, but he went ahead with the eviction, though he did have Euan brought back to the big house. Unconscious as he was, and the doctor away from the island as usual, Euan was out of it for all of three days. We thought he might die. If it were not for that Louisa . . .” Eilidh broke off suddenly.

“But there, I’ve said more than enough. Tell me about this nursing you are doing. And more importantly, tell me about this Doctor Usher of yours. Your last letter told me next to nothing about him.”

“Who is Louisa?” Fiona asked.

“She’s a friend of the laird’s daughter, and is godmother to the wee boy, apparently. She was staying at the big house when Euan was brought back and she has some experience of nursing. So she looked after him he claims she saved his life. Anyway, that’s enough of that. Tell me ”

“Are they walking out?”

Eilidh plucked uncomfortably at her heavy tweed skirts and shrugged.

The news hit Fiona like a physical blow in the stomach, so unexpected was it. Euan was walking out. With someone called Louisa. A woman who was no doubt beautiful as well as clever. A woman who had saved his life.

Louisa was such a sophisticated name. Would Euan walk with her on the beach and gather queenies to boil up in a bucket as he’d once done with Fiona? Hardly. A woman like Louisa would expect to be properly courted with flowers and pretty speeches. Euan was not a man for pretty speeches.

A vision of Euan as he’d been that day when he’d proposed to her, his black hair wild, standing up in peaks, the dark shadows under his eyes, came to her. His eyes were such a deep blue. And the rugged lines of his face were so different from Matthew’s boyish good looks. Euan looked like he was part of the scenery. And that day, he’d looked at her as if he would do anything for her.

But he didn’t love her. And she didn’t love him, though she did care for him very much. As a friend. Fiona took herself to task. As a friend, she should be wishing him well, not wishing the woman he was walking out with gone from the island and his life.

“Fiona, I shouldn’t have mentioned it. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Only I thought I mean, we all knew that if you’d wanted him you could have had him. When you left well, he’s not been seen with any other lass.”

“No. It’s fine. Of course

I’m pleased for him.” Fiona gave herself a little shake. “Tell him from me tell him that . . .”

Eilidh laughed.

“Tell him what?”

Fiona missed him. She missed him very much. She loved her life here, but, oh, right at this moment, looking at Eilidh in her old-fashioned tweed skirt and her plaid shawl and her heavy black shoes, how she longed to be back on the island of Heronsay. But it was impossible to say any of that to her friend, for it would imply she had made a mistake by leaving.

Fiona shook her head. She’d made her choice, and she was happy. And she was happy for Euan, too. Or she would be, when the news had sunk in.

She forced a smile.

“Just tell him that I was asking very kindly for him,” she replied.


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