It was late when the train pulled in at Buchanan Street Station. Fiona began wearily to gather together her parcels and bags while Ella anxiously examined her face in a tiny compact mirror.
“Stop fussing, you look lovely,” she said, smiling at her cousin.
Ella snapped the mirror shut and got to her feet, pulling Fiona into a tight embrace.
“I’m sorry I spoke out of turn at the harbour.”
“And you’ve said so at least twenty times.”
“It’s a shame Euan did not come to our farewell party last night.”
“He was likely busy, and there were plenty of others who did turn up,” Fiona replied, making a show of pulling on her gloves.
She hadn’t expected him to come, and so there was no reason to be disappointed that he had not. The visit to Heronsay had done exactly what she’d wanted, in one sense at least. Whatever had existed between her and Euan, he’d made it clear it was over as far as he was concerned. What she herself felt, however, was even more confused than she’d been before she left Glasgow, for much of what Ella had said yesterday had made horrible sense.
The whistle blew and the train drew to a screeching halt at the platform, puffs of acrid steam rising up into the night air. Opening the door of the carriage, Fiona was enveloped in the noise and the smells of the city. Beside her, Ella was darting her head from one side to another anxiously.
“What if he isn’t here?” she said.
“You sent him a telegram,” Fiona reminded her, “asking him to meet you off the train.”
“But what if he still doesn’t want to see me?”
“Ella, he’ll be waiting.”
“He won’t. He’s changed his mind. He John!” Ella shrieked. “Oh, John, you’re here.” Casting her basket to the ground, she threw herself into her husband’s arms. “I have missed you so much, and I’m so sorry I’ve been such an idiot. John, darling John, I love you so much.”
As Ella kissed her husband firmly on the lips, a porter wolf-whistled and a well-dressed woman in grey silk tutted disapprovingly. John Harrison blushed, but Fiona was relieved to note that his arms held his wife tightly to him, and he kissed Ella back with equal enthusiasm.
Though she was delighted to see her friend receive such a loving reception, Fiona could not help feeling just a little bit envious and more than a little bit sad. She did not feel the same way for Matthew, she knew that with a sudden certainty, and no amount of time was going to change that.
Gathering her own luggage together, then handing Ella’s basket to John and waving goodbye to the pair of them, Fiona headed down the platform, knitting her brow. She’d have to speak to Matthew sooner rather than later, as it was not fair on him to do otherwise, though she dreaded the loss of his friendship.
She jumped, then stared in astonishment at the man standing before her.
“Matthew. How did you . . .?”
“Your landlady told me you were expected,” he replied softly.
“And you came to meet me. That was most considerate of you.”
He smiled, but it was not reflected in his eyes. Looking at him more closely, Fiona saw that there were dark shadows there, and his mouth was drawn.
“What’s wrong? What has happened?”
“I’m so sorry, Fiona. It’s Francis,” Matthew said, swallowing hard. “He passed away this morning.”