Under An Island Sun – Episode 06

The main characters from the story

The village wasn’t much more than a hamlet but, thanks to the tourist trade, the pub thrived.

Built of stone and immaculately whitewashed, it had been made to withstand storms blown off the Irish Sea, as well as the snow that often came down from the mountains.

Inside, many a scene had taken place between its dark wood panelling and exposed walls.

Little did Mairi know, as she pushed open the heavy front door to be enveloped in warm air, that tonight would follow that tradition.

Her friends had claimed the table by the fire. They waved as she came in.

It was no secret that some regular teams took the proceedings seriously. “University Challenge” had nothing on them for sheer competitiveness.

As she scanned the categories on the sheets being handed out, Mairi’s thoughts turned to the earlier conversation with her parents.

She was grateful for their help, and for her cousin’s offer, but it still felt like a consolation prize.

Her friends sitting around her had steady jobs that paid the bills.

It helped that their occupations had some relevance in the area, whether teaching, building or similar skills.

Maybe she should use her degree and train as a teacher?

The trouble was, she couldn’t see herself standing in front of a class, and she preferred open spaces to the confines of a crowded school building.

Everyone looked up as the main door opened and caused a draught.

“I hope that’s Emma,” someone remarked. “We could do with her input for the history category.”

Mairi hoped so, too. Emma was easy to get along with.

In many ways she was living out her passion by working at a stately home, even if the pay wasn’t brilliant.

A chat with her might even revive hopes that her own dream was possible.

Rain started drumming at the windows and a gust of wind blew down the chimney, causing the flames to flicker, as two newcomers came in.

Neither of them was Emma. Nor were they strictly newcomers.

When she recognised Liam, Mairi’s stomach lurched.

With him, looking impossibly perfect, was Fiona.

Mairi was painfully aware that her hair was held back in a rubber band and she was wearing faded old jeans and a hand-knitted pullover designed for warmth rather than style.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the couple drew up stools to join the group.

“Long time no see,” Liam said once everyone had shuffled up to make room round the table.

“It’s like walking into a time warp, coming back in here.”

“I thought you’d moved away,” Thomas said.

“We’re moving back.” He put his arm round Fiona. “Meet the new HR assistant manager at . . .”

He named a local company in one of the coastal towns.

“I’ve landed a computer programming contract nearby that could be made permanent.

“We’re hoping to buy one of the new places outside Barrow in the next few months.”

“That’s not all.” Fiona held up a hand, complete with sparkling ring.

“We’re engaged. We got the ring last Monday.”

Monday. The same day Mairi had received the phone call telling her that she hadn’t got the job she had wanted so much.

It felt like fate at its cruellest; the outcomes of their lives on opposite poles, as if the contrast between them and her wasn’t stark enough.

Horrified to feel tears threatening, Mairi rummaged in her bag for her phone and stood up as if answering a call.

There was no way she was going to make a fool of herself in front of everyone, she thought, as she headed for the door.

She gestured to the others, indicating she had to “take this”.

Outside, darkness had fallen and the rain was coming down with a vengeance as she headed towards the fell, barely aware of where she was going.

She was oblivious to the weather and the fact that the temperature was dropping rapidly.

The only thing on her mind was to get away before anyone came after her.

To be continued…

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