Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 08

IN the early morning quiet the distant seabirds’ cries drifted over the sea towards them. Nicola stared at the man she had thought to be simply a local who did casual work for her aunt.

“A behavioural psychologist? But I thought you were just . . .”

Donald grinned.

“A local yokel, from a culture fifty years behind the times? You would be surprised at how many islanders made a career on the mainland, then came back home because everything was so much better here.

“You’ll find writers, composers, painters and explorers in the Hebrides – not retired, still working, many still-famous names.”

“Oh, dear,” Nicola said. “As a lifelong townie, have I put my foot in it?”

“Both feet.” He smiled.

They resumed their stroll to the Big House, no longer enemies.

“What made you give up your career as a behavioural psychologist? Where and when and why?”

“Where? One of the top hospital trusts in Scotland. When? About three years ago. I came home in such a mess that I became Annie’s second patient. She put me together again and gave me a job acting as art tutor to her patients.

“Then, two years ago, she asked me to help her with a deeply traumatised patient. I found it made a real difference, and that it felt good to work in the field again. Now I help with counselling, too, if Annie feels the case is too complex to handle herself.”

Nicola jumped as a cold wet nose touched her hand.

“Ignore him, he’s an attention seeker.”

The sheepdog nudged her hand again. Nicola stroked the dog’s head.

“And why did you abandon your career? Especially if you have found a new use for it here?”

Donald pointed over the sea towards the distant mainland.

“People love the view of Skye and the islands from the mainland. What they don’t realise is that we have a much better view of Scotland from over here. Views, opinions and experiences all differ with perspectives. I went into medicine as a young man, keen to help and change the world. I came back disenchanted. End of story.”

Nicola felt comfortable standing beside him.

“Wait. Disillusionment was the result, not the detail, of your story. Tell me more.”

Donald sighed.

“OK. I worked with badly disturbed young people – kids with horrendous family histories of neglect and bad role models. Most found that gangs provided more support than their families, even with all the anti-social consequences that gangland life brings. Some were beyond rescue, others not.”

He grimaced.

“The only way to help them was to get close and gradually win their trust. Lead them back to safety and get them to accept that what they were doing was self-destructive. That there were other options which could reshape their lives.”

Nicola nodded.

“I had to encourage them to make a fresh start, to try something different and better – much as Annie does with her patients. It takes endless time to get to the bottom of the problem and build a patient’s trust, be it a wild kid or a neglected woman.”

Donald’s blue eyes stared into the distance.

“As a consultant in the NHS you never get enough time, because there aren’t enough hours in the day or week to deal with the stream of disturbed children being referred for treatment by the courts. It’s an endless queue, growing daily, each individual desperately needing help.”

Donald’s sigh came from his heart.

“After years of feeling like a juggler, I cracked up,” he said honestly. “We were barely starting to help people before leaving them to work on another emergency. It’s a vicious circle – because we can’t deal with them properly the kids go back and reoffend, returning to us even more hardened and resistant.

“The final straw came when three of my kids got into major trouble. They did something crazy which cost them their lives. That devastated me. I could, and should, have saved them. Instead, I wasn’t there when they needed me. I let them down, Nicola.”

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!