There’s Always Tomorrow – Episode 25

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Would you like to take some scones home with you, Wullie?” Lorna asked.

“I’m scunnered wi’ scones,” he replied.

“Some cake?”

“I’m fair scunnered wi’ cake.”

Lorna looked sadly at the scones she had baked that morning. Her freezer was already full of scones and uneaten cake.

“This is a disaster, isn’t it?” she asked quietly.

“Rome wasnae built in a day,” he replied. “We knew it would be a long haul.

“It’s only a month since we opened. It takes time for Mearns folk to thaw out.”

Lorna groaned. They were already one month into a three-month lease and heading nowhere.

The opening stock of supermarket vegetables had left her as “scunnered” with soups as Wullie was with her scones. Most of it had been thrown out and replaced.

“Don’t take it to heart, lass,” Wullie urged. “There’s two or three auld wifies starting to drop in to swap books and have a blether.

“Maybe they’re the start of better things?”

“Possibly,” she said. “But we’re meant to be a shop, not just a library.”

She sighed.

“Is there any point in me baking?” she asked dejectedly.

“Why not just defrost some scones from your freezer?” he suggested.

Lorna considered, then shook her head. It was tempting, but it would be a betrayal of her principles.

“No, I’m not giving in. If somebody calls here expecting a fresh scone and butter, I want to have a plateful of them ready to offer.”

Wullie rose from his chair.

“I’d better be getting back to watering in these new shrubs we’ve planted.”

Lorna glanced out of her kitchen window. The shrub beds had been reclaimed, front and back.

After poring over garden centre catalogues, she had chosen which shrubs to buy.

Wullie had helped her carry them back and set out the pots.

He had done it all without comment or complaint, then dug holes, scattered in compost, and heeled in the soil firmly around the roots.

Worst of all, he had done it without pay.

She blinked in shocked realisation.

“Wullie!” she exclaimed. “I’ve been so caught up in the shop that I completely forgot to pay you. How much do I owe?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Put it against my share of the opening costs.”

“We can’t have that!” she argued, distressed. “We agreed a rate of pay, plus cups of tea. How many hours have you worked here, Wullie?”

“I’ve forgotten,” he said.

Tears gathered in Lorna’s eyes.

“Oh, Wullie,” she whispered. “I can take anything but charity.”

He turned the old bonnet round in his hands, tugging its headband this way and that.

“It’s no’ charity,” he finally said. “I’m not doing it out of pity. I’m doing it for you, lass.”

The tears spilled over and ran down her cheeks.

“Please, Wullie. Let me pay,” she begged. “It’s not right that you put in all that work for nothing.”

His head came up.

“It’s not for nothing. It’s for you.”

“But why?”

This was ridiculous: her heart was going nineteen to the dozen.

Wullie’s eyes softened.

“If ye cannae work that out, then you’d better go back to school,” he stated. “I’m away to water in the plants.”

After Wullie had gone home, Lorna stood before the mirror in her bedroom, critically studying herself.

She should have taken better care of herself. It seemed that there had never been time, not with a school to run and a tide of problems to be dealt with every hour of the day.

Long ago, she had settled for minimum maintenance. As long as she looked the part of a head teacher, that was all she ever asked.

A life spent at the gallop, hurried meals and long working nights, meant she’d had no time for anything – least of all men.

Most of the men in her working life had been fellow teachers, colleagues, driven and harried like herself.

To be continued…

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