On Distant Shores – Episode 34

The weather was turning cold, the leaves long gone from the trees, when Maggie took the lessons at school by herself for the first time. Margaret remained at home with Charlotte, who had a fever that did not appear life-threatening but still kept the poor girl abed. Margaret had wanted to close the school, but Maggie insisted she could do it.

“I’ve seen you teach the older ones times enough,” she said, “and I’m almost seventeen.”

Margaret looked as if she wished to protest, and Maggie wondered if her aunt was thinking about her being alone with Seamus. Not that they would actually be alone; Henry’s man was always positioned outside the school, and there were plenty of other pupils there besides. Yet Maggie knew, although her aunt had never said anything, that she was not entirely comfortable with Seamus Flanagan’s presence at the First School.

Seamus had always acted with grave politeness, studying with determined diligence, and only last week he’d read beautifully from Emerson’s second-class reader. Maggie had been ebullient, but Margaret had simply pursed her lips and nodded.

Now, alone in the classroom waiting for the first pupils to arrive, Maggie felt a flutter of nervousness. She’d spoken confidently to her aunt, but in truth she was uncertain if she could teach all the lessons. She’d barely had much schooling herself! It was one thing to teach little ones to read, quite another to talk about history and science to pupils only four or five years younger than herself.

Then there was Seamus. For some reason Maggie began to blush when he arrived, his smile turning into a frown as he registered her aunt’s absence.

“Where is Mrs Moore?” he asked as the younger pupils settled themselves.

“Her young daughter is unwell,” Maggie explained. “It is not too dangerous, but she wished to be on hand.”

“Of course.” His expression lightened and his mouth quirked in a smile. “Are you our teacher then, Miss MacDougall?”

Maggie pretended to look officious, knowing she never could truly be so.

“I am indeed, Mr Flanagan.”

His smile widened, his eyes glimmering with humour.

“I shall be sure to be on my best behaviour.”

In fact, Seamus’s behaviour was better than best. Several times during the day, when Maggie was in a muddle, whether it was over a maths problem, or a bit of rascally behaviour by two young boys, Seamus dealt with the matter and earned her deepest gratitude.

By the end of the day Maggie was exhausted, and glad to see the last of the pupils trickle out the door. Seamus remained, looking far too big crammed into one of the desks meant for a much smaller child.

“You should have a proper chair,” Maggie said impulsively, and his eyes crinkled.

“It would be better for my knees, I suppose.”

She nodded, knowing she should look away, yet unable to keep herself from staring at him. With his blue eyes and dark, curling hair he was a most handsome man. Maggie was never more aware of that than now, when he walked slowly towards her.

“Miss MacDougall? I wonder if I might ask you something?”

“Of course.” Maggie smiled in what she hoped was a friendly fashion, although her heart began to thud with hard, heavy beats at the thought of what Seamus might ask.

“My sister Aisling is but eleven,” Seamus began hesitantly. “She’s had no schooling, but she wishes to learn. She couldn’t come every day, but I wondered if she might come to the school and learn what she might?”

Maggie blinked, suppressing the needling sense of disappointment she felt at the rather prosaic nature of Seamus’s request. Goodness, what had she been thinking he might ask? She felt herself begin to blush yet again.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.