The Ferryboat – Episode 24

IRIS wiped down the last work surface and dried her hands.

“Do you know, I haven’t felt sick today,” Holly said to her, looking up from the menu she was writing in her large, clear script. “I actually feel quite normal.”

“You forget all the bad bits, even the birth, once the baby’s arrived,” Iris told her.

“That’s what Mum says. Good to hear the same thing from someone with more recent experience! Angus is such a pet. You’re a great mother, Iris. It it must be difficult bringing him up on your own.”

Iris sat down beside Holly at the table. She’d been coming into the hotel every day for a few hours, ever since the time when Holly had emptied the dishwasher and found that the pattern had been stripped off an old china bowl. It didn’t seem a big deal to Iris but apparently Holly had taken it as a sign of her general uselessness and suggested to her parents that they get outside help.

“He’s an easy child.” Iris smiled at Holly. “A happy boy. And I’m not on my own. I’ve got Lizzie and Roberta, and my parents, although they live down south. But ” She concentrated for a moment on tracing the grain of the wooden table with her finger. Then she looked up, her smile gone.

“If Fin was still here I’d have two children to look after, not one. Life was just one long party as far as he was concerned. Irresponsible, my great-aunt Janet said, he’ll never grow up, and now I can see that she was right. Great fun most of the time, film-star looks, but steady husband and father material, no. Oh, he loved Angus and me, don’t get me wrong, but a proper job, staying in one place for more than a few months he thought that was boring.”

She’d never said all that out loud before. After the accident her family had tiptoed around her, the criticisms they’d had about Fin when he was alive silenced. She felt a kind of release now, as if getting the words out made them float away, not to trouble her again.

“Sorry,” she said, when Holly seemed to be struggling how best to respond. “Didn’t mean to burst all that out.”

“Nothing to be sorry about. What are friends for? I think you’ve coped so well . . . Roberta said that you’d planned to study music. Wouldn’t you still like to do that?”

“I’d love to,” Iris replied, her heart warming at the thought that Holly considered her a friend. “Playing in the hotel has made me realise again just how much. I’ve looked online at courses in Glasgow.” She got up from the table. “I must pluck up the courage to have a real talk with Lizzie about the future.”

“Does she want to stay here?”

“Oh, no. She’d much rather live in the city. It’s it’s hard to explain. It’s not that she’s bossy well, she is a bit but she’s my big sister and thinks she knows what’s best for me, and for Angus. She took care of us so well when Fin died that it’s become a habit for her to make the decisions. But I don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool any more. I want to do something with my life other than ”

“Being maid-of-all-work at the Boat and running around after Charlie Mack?” Holly finished.

“Well, yes, if you want to put it like that. Not that I’m not grateful for the work here ”

“It’s me who’s grateful,” Holly said. “My mother-in-law wanted to come to give a hand.”

“Don’t you get on?” Iris asked. She kept in touch, but only intermittently, with Fin’s mother who was as nomadic as her son had been.

“Oh, yes,” Holly said. “She’s lovely but she’s rather scary. I can’t imagine her mucking in.”

Iris laughed as she put on her jacket.

“You may need her yet. I’m going to visit my parents when the school holidays start.”

“We’ll need extra staff then, anyway,” Holly said. “We’re going to be pretty full, and not just with people to stay, but coach parties for meals. And Corin wants to do afternoon teas.”

“Even if I do apply for a course it wouldn’t be for this year,” Iris said. “Too late for that. So count me in for the summer. It sounds like it’s

going to be a busy one. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Once Angus was in bed she’d sit down and have a frank talk with Lizzie, Iris promised herself. They would have their Saturday night glass of wine and she might even tell Lizzie what she’d told Holly. But the main thing to get across was that she was ready to move forward to the next stage of her life. Why shouldn’t Lizzie give up the job she hated and go for what she wanted right now, to work in one of Glasgow’s big department stores? Then Iris would follow her when, all being well, she was accepted on to a music course.

What was it Sandy had said, even as he asked her to be Charlie’s home-help? Lorn is a great wee place, Iris, but there’s a big world out there. You’re too young to let the grass grow under your feet.

As she got within sight of Brook Cottage she realised that there was someone coming out of the gate and walking towards her. Fluffy Moustache or whatever his name was, the bad-tempered bridge worker. Why had he been at their home?

He increased his speed, almost running.

“You’re Iris, aren’t you?” he asked breathlessly. He didn’t look bad-tempered now, but concerned. He put his hand on her arm. “I’m afraid your sister’s had a fall.”


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