The Ferryboat – Episode 28

WAS it possible for a heart to sink and pound at the same time? Roberta heard Donnie open her front door and she came through from the kitchen wondering if this time he would take “no” as her final answer and disappear from her life. It wasn’t what she wanted at all the last thing she wanted, in fact but she could hardly explain to herself, never mind him, why she kept putting off fixing a date for their wedding.

Ever since the vandalism mystery had been cleared up and the bridge had begun to take shape under newly promoted foreman Jim’s management, Donnie had known that his time as ferryman was coming to an end.

Getting married would be a good way of starting a new life, a life together, he’d told Roberta more than once, and they weren’t getting any younger. What did she want, another 11 years of engagement? It would be some kind of world record.

But today he didn’t have marriage on his mind, or at any rate he didn’t say so.

“Guess what I’ve just done,” he said, looking as much like a gleeful small boy as it was possible for a ruddy-faced, middle-aged man to look. Roberta’s heart pounded even faster. She rubbed the finger where Donnie had placed the engagement ring 11 years ago. Why couldn’t she name the day?

She tried to keep her voice steady.

“Something you shouldn’t have been doing by the sound of it.”

“Walked over to North Lorn!”

“Well, you didn’t walk on water, I presume, so you must have been on the bridge?”

“Jim says he’ll take you over if you like. You can see all the way down the loch,” Donnie said enthusiastically.

Roberta nodded.

“Cool, as Eddie and Louise would say. It sounds as if Jim’s your new best friend!”

“He’s a good guy. He’s asked us for a meal in his caravan on Saturday night. And . . . here’s a piece of news for you. He wants to ask Lizzie as well, now that she’s back to normal.”

“News! That’s ancient history,” Roberta teased, quite back to normal herself now. “When Iris went to thank him for his help he asked her all about Lizzie. Whether she had a significant other, and such like. Seems when he saw her lying there Sleeping Beauty came into his mind.”

“With himself as Prince Charming?” Donnie chortled. “And how does Lizzie feel about him?”

“He called round to see her when she first came back. I would say she’s interested,” Roberta said. “Why don’t you suggest to Jim that we relocate the meal to here? There can’t be much room in that caravan. And it might be less awkward for him to see Lizzie on neutral territory.”

“You are an old romantic after all.” Donnie planted a smacking kiss on Roberta’s cheek.

She held her breath but he didn’t use the moment to discuss their own relationship.

“So, Lizzie and Jim. Where does that leave Iris?”

“You’re galloping ahead there, aren’t you?” Donnie asked. “They haven’t even had their first date yet. Besides . . . ”


“Well, this is ancient history, as you put it, too. But I’ve always thought Sandy and Iris made a good pair. I’ve seen the way he looks at her. But he won’t be her type, I suppose. He’s certainly nothing like Fin.”

“She should never have married Fin. I think she knows that now. No.” Roberta shook her head vigorously as Donnie opened his mouth to speak. “She never said that. But I can read between the lines. He was exciting, glamorous, in the eyes of a young girl. She got carried away, almost literally. Getting married was just a lark for him, I think. She’ll never regret it because of Angus, of course, but I think she’s ready to move on.”

“Roberta Roberts, agony aunt,” Donnie mocked gently.

“Hah, that’ll be the day.” Roberta changed the subject. “Jim say anything about the trial? You’ll be called as a witness, of course.”

“It’s a slow process, so it won’t be for months yet. Yes, star witness for the prosecution. Can’t say I’m looking forward to that. Jim thinks that idiot had money problems, wanted to delay finishing the bridge in case he didn’t have another project to go to.” Donnie looked at his watch. “Must go. I’ll fix it up with Jim for Saturday. And you’ll ask Lizzie? See you later, Ro.”

Roberta watched him go down the path, Iris still on her mind.

She was old enough to be Iris’s mother but there was a very solid friendship between them that Roberta did not want to jeopardise. Neither, though, did she want to stand back and see Iris not doing more with her life, whether that involved realising her potential as a musician or forming a happy, grown-up relationship. Or both.

She wasn’t sure what she could do about the first except to be encouraging about college applications, but maybe she could, tactfully of course, interfere a little to try to bring about the second.

Sandy makes me laugh, Iris had said. That was a good basis for a partnership. He had probably heard through Charlie about Lizzie’s accident, maybe even been in touch with Iris about it. But there would be no harm in Roberta taking it upon herself to keep Sandy up to date with the latest news and somehow give a little hint that he might try to rekindle his teenage romance with Iris.

She’d pop down to Charlie’s later and find out how to contact Sandy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


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