Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 23

High on the island’s solitary hill, Donnie whistled to the dog. Leaning on his crook, he stared over the sea to the mainland and its landscape of mountains. It was a sight he never tired of – only today he didn’t see it.

Nicola was over there, fighting with every trick she knew to buy time and forgiveness for a business that meant well, but was doomed.

To make it work in terms of the language understood by bankers, it had to obey the rules of the mainland rather than its own.

It must rush people through treatment to cut costs, then charge what the market would bear, probably pricing it out of reach of those who needed it, to cover costs and make a profit.

Could Annie bear to do that? Could he? Better perhaps to accept reality and close the centre. Not just better, but kinder, too.

The dog nudged his hand for attention. Absently, he reached down to scratch behind its ears. Donnie sighed. The island he loved felt empty.

What was Nicola doing, he wondered. With everything that was in him he tried to project his energy, his support, his belief in her across the miles of sea which separated them.


*  *  *  *

Nicola was sitting on an uncomfortable plastic chair in a tearoom. In front of her lay an uneaten croissant. It was coffee she needed, gallons of the stuff.

The easy part of the job was done, but now things became progressively more difficult.

She had won over the shops with her cheque book, literally putting her money where her mouth was, but now she faced a tougher proposition. In 20 minutes she was due to see the bank manager.

Again she skimmed through her handwritten accounts of the centre’s business. Then she studied the forecast figures and the cash flow they would bring in, if what she wanted to try was backed.

This was where she really started to make her pitch.

The bank would welcome the first bit of her message, but they would go over the second part of it with a fine-tooth comb.

The price of getting into trouble was that you lost trust – the most precious currency in the business world. You had to work hard for every grain of new trust which was given to you.

Putting away her forecasts, Nicola rose from the café’s table. Almost all of what she planned to do depended upon the result of this next meeting. It was make or break time.

Climbing the main street to the bank, she glanced through a gap in the buildings to see the grey sea and part of the distant island she had grown to love.

What was Donnie doing now, she wondered? If only he were here . . .

But then, what could he do? This was her territory. She was on her own.


*  *  *  *

The morning seemed endless as Annie moped around the house without enough interest to start anything. She drifted into the library and found Pamela’s book of poetry.

She sat down and tried to read. The words swam without meaning in front of her and she laid the book impatiently aside.

Go back to haunt Sandy? But he would be busy now, doing the chores of any croft; work that had to be done whatever demands were made on him by teaching weaving to the girls, or helping them to grow the barley which they would grind to mix with mainland-bought organic flour, and then use to bake their bread.

The routine of going back to basics that she had devised and which, against all odds, seemed to work. But for how much longer?

Annie wandered restlessly through to the kitchen and heard the low murmur of women’s voices and the clink of crockery. The three of them were setting out a very early lunch.

Annie glanced at her watch.

“I know,” Pamela said. “But we couldn’t concentrate on anything and it’s so grey and miserable outside, none of us felt like a walk.”

“I know what you mean.”

Annie sighed and sat at the table. Alice sat down across from her.

“What chance does Nicola have?” Alice asked directly. “What’s she doing? Can she possibly save the centre?”

Annie looked at the three earnest faces.

“That’s just it,” Annie said finally. “I’m not sure, other than she’s trying to buy us time for some idea she has. Don’t ask me what it is.”

Alice reached over to take Annie’s hand in hers.

“You’re gambling everything on her. You must trust her.”

“I do,” Annie replied. “Asking for her help was the best thing I ever did.”




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!