Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 17

Nicola frowned.

“You need recapitalisation, major restructuring and a massive campaign to bring all your creditors onside. But all of that is pointless unless we find a better way to deliver the product.”

“It is not a product – it’s about helping people!” Annie argued.

Nicola blinked.

“I was talking business shorthand to myself. Sorry.”

She held out the handful of papers.

“Whatever we do for the future, whether it means closing down and finding a way to settle debts, or going out to find a whole new shed-full of capital, our first step must be to sort out where we stand financially. But how do I make sense of these?”

“Let me see,” Annie said, reaching out. “Oh, this one. That was when . . .” She launched into a description of the flow of transactions and the payment system agreed, rattling off amounts as she went along.

Nicola held up her hand.

“Hold on a minute. Tell me that again, but slower this time.”

As Annie repeated the details, Nicola scribbled frantically.

“Are you sure of these numbers?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Annie said. “These notes are really aides-mémoires. I had a near-photographic memory when I was younger. It’s just that I never was any good at keeping proper records and accounts.”

Nicola stared at her aunt, open-mouthed.

“Can you do it with this one?” she queried, snatching another piece of paper from the table.

Annie frowned and then nodded.

“That was when we . . .”

“And this one?”

Annie glanced at the scribble.


Nicola leaped to her feet and hugged Annie fiercely.

“Annie, you’re a genius!”

“Me? What do you mean?”

Nicola waltzed her round the limited space of the cramped office.

“The first stage in any fightback is to know exactly what you’re fighting,” she said. “If you have the strength to come here for an hour a day, we can go through all these bits of scrap paper, and I can write down what they actually involved. Then I’ll arrange them by date and build up a set of accounts from them.” She took a deep breath. “We can plan what to do from there.”

Annie stared at her.

“Can you really make up accounts from these?”

“With your help. Otherwise, they would have defeated Stephen Hawking!”

“An hour a day?” Annie repeated. “Make that two. No, three.”


*  *  *  *

“What are you doing over here?” Sandy demanded, opening the door of his sturdy stone cottage. “Come in, sit down. What on earth were you thinking about?”

He reached out to take her arm.

Annie batted away his attempts to guide her into the house and a chair.

“Leave me, I’m fine,” she said. “I’m taking control of my own life again. I felt like a walk and a breath of fresh air, so I came over here.”

She walked past him and then touched his arm in silent thanks to take the defiant sting out of her words. Then she sat down in the chair at the side of his fire, the one opposite his more worn and threadbare one.

His sheepdog thumped a lazy tail on the floor, then climbed to his feet with a yawn and came over for attention.

Annie fondled the soft ears and looked around. It was a quiet room – with walls over a metre thick and small windows to hold out the winds, it couldn’t be anything else than quiet – but instead of gloom inside, there was a sense of hard-won peace.

Everything in the room, on its shelves and in its cupboards, was neat and spotless. Not a thing had been moved since Sandy had lost his wife.

It was still her room, kept in silent homage to the woman he had loved. A loyal man, sound to the core.

“I’ve been working with Nicola on the notes and receipts,” she said. “She thinks she can make up the accounts for the last three years from them. Don’t ask me how!

“I feel ashamed. I’ve made such a mess of things, Sandy. I tried so hard to keep proper records for the centre, but it was all beyond me, so I just started taking notes, thinking I would do the books later. Then everything drifted and spiralled out of control.”

Sandy filled the kettle at the sink.

“You built up the centre from nothing other than helping a poor lost woman you found on the beach. Then you found a way to reach out to others, and how many women have you helped since then?

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!