Under An Island Sun – Episode 02

The main characters from the story

The sudden brightness made her blink and look round as Jan Braithwaite took off her coat and hung it up before shifting the old kettle on to the hotplate.

“What a day. Hectic doesn’t even begin to describe it.” She stopped. “Is everything all right?”

Mairi rubbed her eyes.

“I didn’t get that job.”

Her mum put her arm round her shoulders.

“Oh, never mind. You did well to get that far, if you ask me. Be proud of that, at least.”

It was a sentiment echoed by her father over dinner, with Jess and Archie keeping a hopeful eye out for scraps.

“They don’t know what they’re missing,” he said.

He had always stuck up for his family.

At primary school, when Liam Jones had pushed her over, causing a cut knee, he’d stormed in demanding to know what they were going to do, Mairi remembered with a smile.

The incident made it all the more ironic that she and Liam should both end up at the same university and dating each other.

Dad had never taken to him, an instinct that had been confirmed when she’d found her long-term so-called boyfriend with Fiona, someone she’d never liked, three months ago.

“It’s one of those things,” Liam had said when she’d confronted him.

“You meet someone and you just know they’re right for you.”

Doubtless the fact that “someone” was blonde, manicured and long-legged helped in that knowledge.

If Mairi had got that job in Scotland, that would have shown them both, helping her rise, victorious, above the humiliation.

At least Liam and Fiona were in Carlisle, far enough away to be off her radar.

Her parents’ words did have some effect, as did the comforting familiarity of the kitchen, with its battered armchair in the corner and the wooden dresser with her grandmother’s faded dinner service.

“You need a holiday.” Her mother broke into her thoughts. “How about going to Fuerteventura and visiting your cousin, Chris?

“Isabella and little Hugo will be pleased to see you. A bit of sunshine does wonders for the spirits.”

For a moment, Mairi let herself picture the deep blue ocean surrounding the island, a place of arid beauty, open spaces and extinct volcanoes.

“But there’s the air fare, and I’d have to pay Chris something for putting me up.”

She was saving up as much as she could to have some money put by if she ever left home.

“We’ll pay,” Dad offered.

“No.” Mairi was firm. “I have to stand on my own two feet.

“Anyway, I think Chris has enough on his plate with running his tour business. I’d be in the way.”

“Well, you’re not in the way here,” her dad told her. “You’ve been a real help on the farm.”

“And around the house,” her mother added. “It’s nice to come back from work to find the breakfast things tidied and the cat fed.

“Don’t worry. The right job for you is out there somewhere.”

But Mairi still couldn’t help feeling bleak about her prospects.

Whoever said that night was darkest before dawn had probably no experience of how long the nights in this part of the world could be.

Philippe Durand’s grandmother had always maintained that the fact he was less than average height was no bad thing because it made him stand up for himself.

“Walk as though you are tall, and you will always be respected,” she used to say when he spent childhood summers on his grandparents’ small farm in south-western France.

“My father was small but determined – and a brave fighter with the Resistance,” she explained.

“He was a wonderful man with a good heart, though he could also be stern.

“When we did wrong, we knew we would be punished.” She chuckled at the memories.

“You remind me of him. You’ve inherited his green eyes, deep as the ocean.”

Philippe saw the ocean most days, working and living outside La Rochelle.

It seemed he had also inherited his great-grandfather’s temperament.

It was needed for some of the classes he taught, drumming the basics of the English language into reluctant teenagers.

Nicole, his ambitious girlfriend, thought he was crazy to try.

“All that effort, and for what reward?” she’d ask.

The reward was helping another generation master a different language, as he had been helped, but that cut no ice with her.

In some ways, he could see her point. Even after four years, his job often felt like an endless feat of juggling a range of objects while spinning plates at the same time.

Today was a prime example.

To be continued…

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