Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 16


Nicola looked at them sadly. The women before her were the centre in microcosm: full of good intentions and wonderful spirit but without the faintest idea of how a business was run. Or how one could survive with a millstone of debt around its neck.

Too little, too late. Even while they worked to pay their debts they would still be eating and adding to bills that couldn’t be paid.

Ellen came over and placed a hand on her wrist.

“I know every business has to cover its costs,” she said hesitantly. “But my Bert always said that if the product was good enough, then the business couldn’t fail.”

She frowned.

“You can’t fault the product, Nicola. What the centre is doing for people like us is wonderful! And the world out there is full of women just like we were. If we could only find a way to reach them.”

There came a knock on the door, and then it opened. Annie stood there.

“What’s this? A feast in the girls’ dorm?”

Nicola laughed.

“You’re too late; we’ve scoffed all the grub! The girls were asking me how I got on over at the Singing Sands. I was telling them, and we started talking about the island as a whole – its people, the way they live and how peaceful it is here compared to the mainland.”

Nicola stood up.

“Now, I’m off for a shower! I’ll see you all later.”

 

*  *  *  *

In the harsh light from the uncovered office bulb Nicola sat on the creaking wooden chair, staring thoughtfully at the stacks of paper in front of her.

Their new, neat order spoke of a problem which was not yet under control, nor even close. Whatever decision she took, these piles of invoices and scribbled notes would have to be reduced to a series of financial accounts, covering the last two or three years.

A few days ago, she had skimmed through them. It had taken less than rocket science to interpret that far more money was going out than had ever come in.

A creak on the floor behind made her turn. It was Annie again.

“What were the girls really up to?” she asked. “They all looked so guilty!”

“Sit down,” Nicola said, rising. “They’re worried about you.”

“I’ll stand, actually. If I sit any longer, I shall grow roots!”

She studied Nicola.

“You play better poker than they do,” she said. “But you’re still fibbing.”

“Only in part,” Nicola said. “They wanted to know what they could do to help save the centre for you.”

Annie’s smile went lopsided and her eyes filled up.

“A bit too late for that, isn’t it?” she asked quietly. “The truth, please.”

Nicola turned to lift some of the scribbled notes.

“If you had asked me that two days ago, I would have said ‘far too late’. But now I’m not so sure.”

Annie leaned her head against the office doorframe.

“Do you mean there’s still hope?”

“I don’t know,” Nicola replied honestly. “But Ellen said something that somehow brings together a lot of other thoughts which have been drifting round my head. ‘The product is good and, if the product is good, the business should never fail,’ she said, or words to that effect. And the product is good, Annie. You and Donald are miracle workers.”

“Donnie, mainly,” Annie said. “He was the brightest boy who ever left the island to go to secondary school, then university. He took a starred degree in medicine and was fast-tracked to head a behavioural unit.

“He had an unbelievable record there . . . until he lost three wild kids. That broke him up. So we have one of the best psychologists in Scotland here at our centre, but we have run out of funds. We’re beyond rescue, surely?”

 

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!