Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 05

Annie stared at her niece. Such a direct approach was not the island way.

Once, many years ago, before she had learned the Highland courtesy of sidling up to a problem, she had been just as direct herself.

“Please keep eating, my dear,” she said quietly. “I’ll tell you, but let me come at the story in my own way. We will get there in the end.”

Frowning, she picked up a buttered scone and then set it aside.

“Many years ago,” she said quietly, “I was walking on the shore when I found a woman sitting on a rock, crying. I went over to her and started talking.

“She was a woman in her late fifties, who had run away – run blindly until she ran out of money. Now she was left here, stranded, with nowhere else to go.”

“What was she running away from?” Nicola asked.

“Her life. Her husband had left her and her family had grown up. They had their own families and problems and were too busy to do more than sympathise.”

Annie sighed.

“She, who had spent her whole life looking after people, suddenly realised that there was no-one left who needed her – and no-one willing to look after her. She felt lost and neglected.

“One day, she walked out of her house, locked the door and didn’t stop walking until the ferry dropped her here on the island.”

A coal settled in the fire, sending up a shower of sparks.

“What did you do?” Nicola urged as the silence lengthened.


“I brought her here and fed her,” Annie said. “Then I listened as her story poured out. When she had finally run out of words I told her she could stay here until she wanted to leave, so long as she helped me about the house.

“I taught her how to grind the flour, how to bake her own bread rather than buy it from a supermarket shelf. Sandy and I taught her how to card and spin the wool, then weave it.

“She started helping Sandy with the hens, then the sheep. And that was how it all started.”

“What did?” Nicola asked.

“The idea of setting up a respite centre – a place where older women who had lost their way could come to find themselves again.

“Somewhere to strip away all the frills and worries of modern living and get back to basics; to discover that, whatever blows life has dealt them, they still have the greatest asset of them all – themselves. Their own strength, their creativity, their joy in life, their interest in others, their capacity to care.” Her eyes shone.

“It has worked time after time. They come here in pieces, then start again.”

Annie smiled.

“When they do, it’s often to make something completely different from their lives. Something they’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because they were too busy looking after others. The centre gives them back their life, and another chance to live it, Nicola.

“But we make them work to find their own solutions. The cure has to come from within; from the mind and from the soul, not just by accepting what other people say or offer you.”

She smiled quietly, noting that Nicola had finished the plate of sandwiches.

“How many . . . patients do you have right now?”

“Three. Pamela, Ellen and Alice.”

The coals settled even lower in the fire.

“Why are you asking for help?” Nicola asked. “And why ask me?”

A slow, tired smile flickered across Annie’s face.

“Because you’re family. The only family I have left. That’s the easy question answered. Now the difficult one. Why do I need help?”

She turned away to look blindly into the embers of the fire. “I’m asking because I think the centre’s finished. And, if that is so, then it has left me bankrupt.”


Lucy Crichton

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 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!