The Ferryboat – Episode 35

HOLLY pulled a chair round so that she could put her feet up on it.

“And what about Lizzie and Jim? Wedding bells there?”

“Definitely ringing in the distance,” Iris said, tearing her mind from the past. “Jim will be moving on when the bridge is finished and she’ll be going with him.”

She changed the subject in case Holly, in the mood for romantic gossip, should turn her attention to Iris herself.

“So, what’s planned for the bridge opening next month?”

“There’s a lunch to be laid on for the MP who’s cutting the ribbon, and for the other dignitaries. And at night, not an arranged party as such, but I imagine we’ll be pretty busy. Dad’s hiring a couple of extra bar staff for the evening and we’re doing a free buffet for the bridge workers. We’ve had such a lot of custom from them. It will be quiet when they’re not here any more.”

It will be quiet at Brook Cottage, too, Iris thought, just Angus and me when Lizzie goes. Roberta will still be across the road but she’ll probably have less time for us when Donnie’s moved in. I must speak to Judy, see how much work she thinks there’ll be for me here over the winter. And I should do something else, an online music course, maybe . . . the idea didn’t exactly set her pulse racing.

She could have had a holiday in Switzerland to look forward to Sandy had mentioned it again since their evening in Oban, asking what date Angus’s October school holidays were and saying he’d arrange to take time off.

Angus always sat with her when they spoke to Sandy on Skype and bounced with excitement at the idea of flying to Switzerland. It was hard to deny him and hard, too, to look Sandy in the eye and prevaricate. Sometimes she wondered whether, if Angus hadn’t been beside her, their conversation might have taken a different turn, but that was wishful thinking there were other methods of communication, after all.

As she walked home she thought about Roberta and Donnie like Holly, she couldn’t imagine being engaged for 11 years. The future was bright for them, but what a lot of time they had wasted.

Sandy had never indicated that they might take up where they left off when Fin had swept them apart not in words, anyway. There was just a feeling in the air, the last time he was home, and when they faced each other via the computer screen as if he was trying to communicate something to her that he was afraid to spell out but hoped she would respond to favourably. She had let him down once before, after all.

Or maybe she was imagining it and he just wanted them to be friends and to be a kind of uncle figure to Angus.

There was only one way to find out.

Not the right time for Skyping Sandy would be at work. And it would be better anyway if she e-mailed, taking time to think about what to say.Dear Sandy, she typed, I don’t think I ever said I was sorry for leaving you the way I did. I’ve often wished since that I’d done it differently told you face to face. A kind of recklessness took over, which isn’t really me at all. Of course it happened years ago and we were so young and you may not have given it another thought! But it’s been on my mind and if it’s not too late, I’m saying sorry now. Iris.

She pressed Send before she lost courage.

Five minutes later the phone rang.

“Iris?’ Sandy’s voice came through a blur of background noise. ‘I’ve got a meeting in two minutes. Just read your e-mail.”

“I wasn’t sure ”

“You’ve nothing to apologise for.”

Iris tried to picture where he might be, sitting at his desk or leaning against a wall in a corridor maybe, pushing his hair out of his eyes, his phone pressed close to his ear.

“Listen,” Sandy said, “you know what I said, in Oban, about no strings attached? What an idiot! I want strings. Lots of them. I want us to be together. You and me and Angus. Will you ” He broke off to speak to someone else. “Yup, on my way, give me a minute. Iris, I’m down on one knee here. Will you marry me?”

Her heart felt as if it had jumped into her throat and her voice sounded croaky.

“Yes.” She said it again in case he hadn’t heard her. “Yes.”

“She said yes!” There were sounds of whooping and cheering at the other end of the line.

“I never stopped loving you,” Sandy said so softly she could hardly hear him words for her alone and not his audience. “There was never anyone but you.”


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