Under An Island Sun – Episode 05

The main characters from the story

The next few days more than lived up to their promise, filled as they were with walks along sandy beaches backed by windswept pines as the ocean pounded nearby.

There were visits to chateaux and vineyards, and hearty meals round the table, involving animated conversation, good food and wine, making Hilary glad of those long walks.

The combination ensured she slept better than she had for longer than she cared to remember. It was just the tonic she needed.

All her cares seemed far away, until an unexpected call from Chris towards the end of her stay set worry fluttering in her chest.

Answering, she was relieved to see his face appear on the screen wearing the gleeful expression he’d had as a boy when bursting to tell her something.

“Am I the best person to interview someone for a driver’s job?” Hilary asked once he’d explained.

“I’ve chatted with him and he has the right experience, though he hasn’t made up his mind yet.

“It seems sensible to see what you think of him. I think our luck could be changing!”

“It’s like serendipity,” Hilary told Jan when she called her afterwards.

“Of course, I may take an instant dislike to this Philippe, but it does seem a happy coincidence.

“That’s not all,” she went on. “I told Chris about Mairi’s situation.

“When we were last there, he was very impressed with her driving.”

She hesitated.

“Now, it’s only till he can get sorted with more local drivers, but Chris wondered if she’d be interested in driving for him, taking some of the English clients.

“She knows her way round the island and has a smattering of Spanish. If nothing else it would be something to put on her CV.”

Call over, Hilary sighed as she closed her laptop.

After the meeting with Philippe in La Rochelle, and a quick trip home for a few days to check on the house, she would be travelling on to sunny Fuerteventura.

Already she felt as if her old life, her marriage of over 35 years, and her job, were things in the distant past.

Whether or not that was a good thing, she wasn’t yet sure.

As with her life, the landscape would be a complete contrast to what she was used to: an eerily beautiful place of long-dead volcanoes, where goats picked out green plants from dry, volcanic soil for both sustenance and water sufficient to survive.

Day after day, focused on their purpose. Sometimes that was the most effective way. Sometimes there was no other choice.

What Jan hadn’t foreseen was how Mairi would react to being employed by her cousin.

In all fairness, she wasn’t to know that Mairi had had a trying day, sorting and packing in a warehouse, or that she had come home to another rejected job application.

The job had been a long shot, not suited to her specific area of study, but the rejection still stung.

“It feels like charity,” she said when her mother told her about Chris’s offer.

“It’s not like that,” Jan argued. “You’ll be doing him a favour. He needs drivers quickly.

“Your help will be appreciated as much as the other way round.”

She explained the current situation with the business and Isabella’s pregnancy.

“So they’re having more than their fair share of bad luck, too.” Mairi felt guilty.

“Poor Isabella. Chris must be tearing his hair out with all the stress. And six months on Fuerteventura does sound tempting.”

Never a big talker, Mairi’s father didn’t say anything, but nodded every now and then as the women each made their points.

Mairi turned to him.

“What do you think I should do, Dad?”

For a moment the only sound was the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner as Ross Braithwaite took a gulp of his tea and sat back.

Even in the cold weather, when most people were sheltering indoors as much as possible from the elements, his cheeks were permanently pink from spending most of his time outside.

Unlike many of his acquaintances, he still had a full head of hair, though now slate grey.

When he spoke, he did so in a quiet voice that somehow filled the room with his Cumbrian accent, making Jess, lying in front of the Aga, look up with questioning eyes.

“I was in town earlier and bumped into a couple of your friends from school.

“There’s a quiz on at the pub in the village tonight. They asked if you fancied coming along.

“They could do with someone to answer the science questions. There will be nibbles, apparently.”

“Probably crisps nearing their use-by date, knowing that landlord.” Jan snorted.

“To be honest, I was thinking of a bath and an early night,” Mairi admitted.

Her dad took another long draught of his tea.

“You need to get out and have a good time. Fretting around at home never did anyone any good.”

Mairi smiled. While Mum bustled around, Dad was always there, quiet, steady and wise, and as much a part of the farm as the ground beneath it.

“The pub’s only half a mile away and the rain’s cleared. I’ll walk. Thanks, Dad.

“And Mum – I’ll think about it.”

To be continued…

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