“And you haven’t heard from him since?” Fiona asked her cousin.
They were in the parlour at Fiona’s lodgings, taking tea. Ella shook her head.
“Not in three days. Mum says that all newlyweds go through bad patches. She says that you have to work at making a marriage, but how am I to work at it if John won’t even talk to me?” She dabbed frantically at her eyes. “Sorry. I can’t seem to stop crying these days. It’s not like me at all.”
Ella dropped her head into her hands.
“I’ve made such a mess of things, Fiona. I wish I had listened to you. What on earth am I going to do?”
“Well, you can stop feeling sorry for yourself, for a start,” Fiona said bracingly. “Do you love your husband?”
“Of course I do.”
“What about your teaching? Is that still important to you?”
Ella’s expression was troubled.
“I just don’t know.”
“If you ask me, your husband is not the only one who needs time to think.” Fiona got to her feet and began to clear away the tea things. “I’ll be honest with you, Ella, for I would be a poor friend indeed if I was anything else. I have always had slight reservations about John, but it seems to me that he’s right. Trust is a precious thing, and you’ve broken it. A man who loved you less wouldn’t take that fact so seriously, but you know what my own mother used to say. Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
“Yes, but which way?” Ella asked.
“That I can’t tell you. You need to work that out for yourself. But I can help provide you with the opportunity and the space to do so. I’m planning on going home for a week.”
Ella’s eyes opened wide.
“Aye, to Heronsay. I’m owed some holidays and Matthew is working, and besides, I think it’s time I went back.”
“To see Euan?”
Fiona shook her head.
“Euan is walking out with another lass now. It has nothing to do with Euan.” That was not strictly true, but it ought to be. “Why not come with me, Ella? Fresh island air, old friends; they’ll surely help put things in perspective.”
Her friend jumped to her feet and enveloped her in a warm hug.
“That’s the best idea I’ve heard in ages. When do we leave?”
* * * *
“So you’re off to Heronsay.” Francis Cunningham smiled weakly, taking a sip of water as he recovered from a prolonged bout of coughing. “And what does the good Doctor Usher think of that?”
“Matthew is far too busy to come with me. He has your brother Roddy with him at the clinic next week, then he’s taking him out on some home visits, for a start.”
“Roddy was telling us all about your wee speech when he visited us the other day, wasn’t he, my love?” Francis said to Emily, who was seated by his side. “It’s about time he found something useful to do with himself.”
“Roddy’s been to visit you?”
“Oh, Roddy’s never been the problem.”
“Your mother?” Fiona said tentatively.
Francis pursed his lips.
“Mrs Cunningham has declined to visit us,” Emily said, squeezing her husband’s hand. “I’ve suggested that Francis calls on her himself, but . . .”
“Until my mother has the good grace to receive you as my wife, I will not cross her threshold,” Francis said angrily.
“Dearest, your loyalty does you credit.” Emily kissed her husband’s hand tenderly, before turning to their guest. “Tell him to visit his mother, Fiona, please. I would not wish either of them to have cause for regrets.”
“You don’t need to pretend,” Emily said. “We know that Francis is no longer responding to the new treatment.”
“It could be a temporary setback,” Fiona said, for once unwilling to face the truth.
“Perhaps,” Emily said, in almost exactly the same tone that Matthew had used yesterday, “but it is better not to take the chance, isn’t it?”
Francis’s wife was clearly not nearly as fragile as she looked, Fiona thought with a new respect, and it was just as well, for she was going to need every bit of her strength soon.
“I agree,” she said gently. “Do it for Emily, if not for yourself or your mother, Francis. It will set her mind at ease.”
“It would,” Emily said in response to her husband’s enquiring look.
Francis held up his hands in surrender.
“Fine. I’ll do it for you, and for no other reason. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to talk about something a bit less depressing. Tell us, Fiona, are you looking forward to going back to Heronsay? It will be good for you to see old friends. One old friend in particular will be very keen to see you, if my memory serves me right.”