Far From The Island – Episode 33

“Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong, Ella?” John Harrison set down his cutlery and pushed his half-eaten dinner to one side.

“Aren’t you hungry?” his wife asked, eager to change the subject. “There’s rice pudding to follow. I’ll just go and get it.”

“Ella, sit down. Talk to me. Please, tell me what’s wrong.”

He looked tired, Ella thought. He was working long hours in an effort to make his mark in the school. Working for their future, she reminded herself. She should be grateful, not resentful.

“It’s nothing,” she said, avoiding his eye. This was the third time this week he’d asked her, and the third time she’d brushed him off. She should be happy. Any other woman in her place would be happy. “It’s nothing,” she repeated, and got to her feet, gathering up the plates.

John caught her wrist.

“Is it me? Have I done something to upset you?”

He was not the kind of man to let his emotions show, but she caught a glimpse of her own misery reflected in his face, and her heart contracted.

“It’s not you. It’s me. I love you so very much,” she blurted out, “but I’m so unhappy.” Dropping the plates on to the table with a clatter, Ella burst into tears.

She had never been one who believed in the benefits of a good cry, and she did not change her mind now. She had no right to feel sorry for herself, and the storm of emotion, so long held in, which made her feel as if she were being wrung out like a wet dish cloth, made her quite inarticulate, incapable of saying anything, which only served to deepen the anxious frown on her dear husband’s face.

Ella took a deep breath, and then another, dabbing frantically at her eyes with the large, clean square of John’s handkerchief. She’d embroidered it herself with his initials, very badly.

“I’m a terrible wife,” she said to him shakily. “I can’t cook, I can’t knit or sew. It takes me for ever to get the fire going in the morning. I’ve nothing in common with the wives of the other schoolmasters.”

He pulled her over to her chair by the fire and kneeled before her, holding her hands.

“Give it time, Ella. We’ve only been here for a few months.”

She bit her lip.

“Fiona was right. I should have told you before.”

“Told me what? For goodness’ sake, Ella, you’re scaring me.”

And then it all came tumbling out, all her pent-up frustrations and suppressed ambitions, all the resentment she had tried so hard not to feel at having to put her own desires second, at having to put John’s career first.

“I’ve been so bored, John. I’m capable of so much more than just keeping house,” she admitted.

“Do you think I don’t know that? Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” her husband asked softly.

“I don’t know,” Ella said wretchedly, “I didn’t know how to.”

John jumped to his feet, running his fingers through his neatly brushed hair.

“I don’t understand, Ella. You’re telling me you’ve always wanted to teach, that teaching is the most important thing to you, yet you’ve not once mentioned it in the whole time we’ve been married! Do you have any idea how that makes me feel, knowing that my wife was too feart to tell me of her dreams? Did you think I’d trample on them, and tell you it was me or the teaching?”

That was exactly what she had thought. Ella stared at him, aghast. How could she have got him so wrong? She’d thought herself miserable before, but now she felt as if the very foundations of her world were cracking beneath her feet, and it was her own fault.

John shook his head, his temper replaced by a deep sadness that nigh on broke Ella’s heart.

“I can see by your silence that’s exactly what you thought.” He shook his head, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. “One of the reasons I loved you was for your intelligence. When we talked about me taking this post we both knew it would be a sacrifice, living out here with no opportunity for you to teach, but I don’t recall us saying it would be for ever, any more than I recall you raising a single objection.”


“What?” John frowned.

“You said loved. Not love,” Ella pointed out sadly. “Don’t you love me any more, John?”

“Oh, Ella.”

He pulled her into his arms, holding her so tightly that she could hardly breathe. The familiar scent of him, his tweed jacket, his soap, the Macassar oil he put in his hair, made her ache with longing.

“Say you love me, John. Say you forgive me.”

Gently, he pulled her from him.

“It’s not about whether I love you, Ella, or even whether I forgive you or not. It is a matter of trust. You couldn’t tell me what was in your heart. You married me knowing that you were compromising yourself, and by doing that, you have compromised me. You’ve hurt me. I need some time to think about all of this. I don’t want to make it worse by saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment.”

Ella swallowed hard.

“Tomorrow, then?” she asked, smiling tremulously.

John shook his head.

“I think we both need some proper time to reflect on things. Maybe it would be best if you went to your mother’s for a wee while.”

“A wee while? How long? John, you can’t mean are you saying you don’t want to be married to me any more?”

He shook his head, but Ella did not feel reassured.

“Ella, I’m saying I need some time and space to think. You go to your mother’s. I will come and get you. I promise.”


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