Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 22

A knock sounded on the kitchen door and Sandy looked up from preparing his breakfast. The door opened and Annie stepped in.

“Put another egg in the pan,” she said. “I was restless and couldn’t sleep.”

“Fine.” Sandy smiled. “You can set the table.”

“Does that mean I’m officially fit again?”

“Call it therapy.”

Annie pottered back and forward to the table, as much at home in his kitchen as her own. It was a reflection of recent years when their lives had drifted together as naturally as autumn follows summer.

“Nicola will be starting her campaign this morning,” she said. “I wonder what she’s doing right now?”

“Wheesht,” Sandy said. “I’m timing the eggs. I don’t usually, but you’re picky.”

“I am not!” she argued.

He turned to her.

“Well, a bit,” she admitted. “On things like tea, maybe.”

“And the rest!” he said. “Drat it! You’ve made me overboil them.”

They sat opposite each other and ate in silence as daylight built in the early morning sky. The peace of his cottage was good for Annie. She felt it seep into her restless bones.

She could take a lot of this quiet love, which had grown through the tests of time until it could stand whatever storms might bring.

“That teabag tea wasn’t bad,” she said.

Sandy’s craggy face eased into a smile.

“That was tea-leaf tea – I bought a packet at the village store.”

“Why?” she asked. “You only use teabags.”

“You don’t,” he said simply.

He began to clear the table. She rose to help.

“Don’t,” he told her.

“But I’m restless. I need something to do to occupy my hands and mind.”

She gazed out through the window to the moving grey clouds in the sky.

“What will we do if Nicola can’t manage it – if she can’t put things right? We’ll have nothing left.”

Sandy stared at her, then he set down the dishes he was carrying and came to stand behind her. His gnarled right hand rested gently on her shoulder.

“Wrong, lassie,” he said. “We’ll still have each other.”

Blindly, Annie reached back to cover his hand with her own.


*  *  *  *

The B&B breakfast sat like a lump of lead at the bottom of Nicola’s throat.

She got these nerves before every presentation. She welcomed them because they brought adrenalin and clarity of thought, plus the energy to project her ideas and win over people.

Her business skills would be needed today. Four shops and a bank to visit, win over and bring them back to help the cause.

What she intended to do should be enough to win some breathing space – if they gave her time.

This would be a long day. After these Mallaig visits she’d catch the first of two trains to Inverness, where the first big nut waited to be cracked.

Then another B&B before an even longer journey to the toughest nut of all – Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes.

Nicola stood at the top of the slipway down into the harbour, the smells and sounds of the sea around her – seaweed and gulls.

She once heard a piece of music by Judith Weir in the Albert Hall in London, where the sweep and texture of orchestral music painted a scene exactly like this.

Suddenly London seemed so far away. Another world and a different life.

Nicola swallowed. No time today for flights of fancy. She needed focus, to find the hard edge that every negotiator must bring to their argument. It would be a battle of wills every bit as much as a battle of facts.

She checked her watch. Time for her first appointment.

She was ready.


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!