Under An Island Sun – Episode 04

The main characters from the story

Philippe drove home in a daze.

That morning, he had been a teacher of English at a secondary school. Now he was in limbo, his life turned upside down.

All because he had dealt with two bullies who in turn had taken their revenge.

For all his gloominess, the headmaster’s suggestion about travelling grew like a seed in his mind over the next few hours.

Perhaps a few months of doing something different would be a rewarding experience.

He might even persuade Nicole to come with him.

Opening his laptop, he browsed for possibilities.

After a while, something appeared about Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, and vacancies for drivers with language skills to take guided tours around the island.

He spoke French and English. His Spanish was a little rusty, but he could soon pick that up.

He’d driven on mountain tracks in the Pyrenees and had visited Fuerteventura a couple of times for some winter sun, too.

It wouldn’t do any harm to have a look. After all, looking wasn’t the same as applying.

He clicked on the link and began to read.

Around 30 miles north of La Rochelle, someone else whose life had been turned upside down was also using a laptop.

Hilary, too, had taught languages in England, until events had made her rethink her priorities and take early retirement.

Hilary was having a Skype conversation with her sister, Jan, discussing Mairi’s latest setback.

“I’m concerned about her,” Jan was saying.

“Her self-esteem has taken so many knocks recently, I don’t know how much more she can cope with.

“She puts on a brave face but she’s clearly down. I feel powerless.

“Obviously, it’s not as bad as all you’ve been through, but still . . .”

Hilary nodded. This was the first time she had ever really seen worry lines on Jan’s face.

They were usually more of a feature for herself, she thought ruefully.

“It’s hard to watch your children struggling, isn’t it? You’ve just got to stick with it and keep plugging on.

“Her luck’s bound to change. You can’t rush these things. Look how long it’s taken me to get on an even keel since Ray died.”

She paused. Even now, some of the memories could stop her in her tracks.

“It was only once I’d sold the house that I was able to see light at the end of the tunnel,” she continued.

“That place never felt like home, anyway.

“The cottage I’ve got now is much nicer. If it hadn’t been for my teaching job, and the money I’d saved from that, I don’t know how I’d have managed.”

“I always said Ray didn’t deserve you,” Jan put in. “At least Chris hasn’t taken after him.”

Hilary’s face softened at the mention of her son.

“Thank goodness. I was worried when he moved to Fuerteventura, but he’s really settled there.

“Marrying Isabella helped, not to mention the sunshine. It was all going so well, but recently another company’s been trying to buy him out.

“They’ve even tempted away two of his drivers.

“He hasn’t found replacements on the island with the right combination of driving and language skills, so he’s advertising more widely.

“Now he’s having to take some tours himself in order not to lose custom, just when Isabella needs him,” she finished.

It never rained but it poured, apparently, even on Fuerteventura. Isabella was expecting the couple’s second baby, and her pregnancy wasn’t running smoothly.

“The poor girl’s exhausted. She needs to rest, but that’s easier said than done, with all the paperwork and little Hugo to deal with.

“Three-year-olds aren’t easy at the best of times.” Hilary shook her head.

“When I’ve finished my holiday here, I’m going to the Canaries to help them out.

“Chris has hinted I might be involved with the tours, too, as he gets a lot of German clients. Not that I’ll be driving.”

Hilary was looking forward to a fresh start, though she hadn’t expected life to be quite so busy after giving up teaching.

That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

Keeping busy had helped her retain some sense of perspective among the complications after her husband’s death.

Although involved in her town’s twinning association for a while, Ray would never have agreed to hosting a French family, for instance, as she had done this summer.

Hilary had thoroughly enjoyed showing her guests some of the local sights.

Her hospitality was now being rewarded by a stay with the same family in the Vendee region on the western Atlantic coast.

She sat back and gazed round the room.

Small and simply furnished, it was still comfortable and calming, perfect for this welcome interval in her life, even if only for a holiday.

To be continued…

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