Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 03


The narrow road was rough, but it was a motorway compared to the path he turned on to.

“A shortcut,” he threw over his shoulder. “That’s the Big House up there, under the trees.”

She stopped to look at a big, stone-built house. It sat below a thick belt of dark trees and the bare hillside stretched up behind.

It should have seemed cheerless. Instead, in some way, it spoke of peace and quiet – and welcome.

“Where now?” she asked when they came to a small stream running down and across the long steep field.

“We cross,” he said. “Over these stepping stones. Then it’s easy walking.”

He had to be kidding! In her smart business heels there was no way Nicola could trust herself on these slippery stones. She glanced up to see the guarded eyes were watching her.

“I can put down the case then come back and carry you over,” he offered.

“No!” Nicola snapped.

She hesitated, and then reached down to slip off a shoe. The damp surface struck through her stockinged foot. Then the second shoe.

She stepped lightly across the stream from stone to stone. Like a child showing off she turned and skipped back, to cross it for a second time.

“Satisfied?” she shouted.

A slow smile appeared.

“Yes.”

As they walked up the path Nicola stayed in her stockinged feet. The turf here was springy but fairly dry, with myriad small flowers, and it was easier to walk near barefoot than having heels dig in.

“Was that a test?” she accused his broad back. “We could as easily have walked round by the road?”

“Yes.” He turned to face her, his eyes twinkling.

“Why?”

“To see what you were made of.” Suddenly, the blue eyes were serious. “We don’t want Annie hurt. She sees only the best in people. She’s too otherworldly for her own good. Sandy and I are her protectors, her shield. We make sure that nobody who gets close will hurt her.”

He grimaced.

“Annie’s more than capable of hurting herself! She twisted her knee badly while out walking, worrying more about the centre than where she was putting her feet. She lay on the hill in the rain and wind for hours before we found her.

“She caught pneumonia and the complications nearly killed her. She wouldn’t go to hospital in Fort William. I don’t know when she last left the island – it must be years ago.”

Nicola was tall for a woman but she found herself looking up to meet Donald’s eyes.

“How is she now?”

He sighed.

“Healing, but still weak. She’s impatient to be up and doing. At times, Annie forgets her age.”

From up high a curlew called. A lonely sound.

“What does she want of me? Her letter didn’t say.”

Donald turned away.

“Better let her tell you herself,” he said quietly.

*  *  *  *

The old kitchen was homely and warm after the wind outside.

From the door Nicola saw her aunt rise slowly from the well-worn armchair at the fire. The rug which had been wrapped round her legs fell to the floor.

A tall old man behind her reached out as if to steady her, then drew away.

“Nicola?”

“Yes. You must be . . .”

 

lucycrichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 150 years of 'Friend' fiction!