Under An Island Sun – Episode 25

The main characters from the story

Mairi sat back and gazed at the blue ocean as she and Graham enjoyed their farewell drink at a beachside restaurant.

“If you’re in Rhodes any time over the next few months, be sure to look me up,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed our time together, and I hope you have, too.” They clinked glasses.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Mairi agreed, just as her phone burst into life, with her mother’s number on the screen.

She never phoned unless there was a reason. They always chatted on Skype.

“Mum? Is everything OK?”

“No, love, I’m afraid it isn’t. I’m at the hospital with Dad. He – he’s had a heart attack. They’re doing all they can, but it’s too early to say if . . .”

She broke off with a sob before continuing.

“I know it’s a long way, but can you get home?”

“I’m coming, Mum, don’t worry. Tell Dad to hang on. He’s in good hands.”

Even as she said the words, she shivered.

“I’m on it.” Graham was already scrolling down his phone. “If I pull a few strings, we’ll have you on your way within hours.”

He soon found her a seat on that evening’s flight to Manchester.

Mairi forwarded the details to her mother, and then texted Hilary.

She suddenly thought of Philippe. After the awkwardness of the previous evening, it seemed wrong to leave without saying anything.

As Graham wrote down her flight number, she composed a short text.

Flying home. Dad’s had a heart attack. I doubt if I’ll be coming back, so this is goodbye. Good luck for the future.

The flight home seemed endless.

In between worrying about her dad, recalling the scene when Nicole had got her alone in the restaurant was almost light relief by comparison.

“I know what you are doing,” she had said to Mairi’s astonishment.

“I have seen the way you and Philippe look at each other.

“I should be angry at you, but instead let me give you some advice.” She’d nodded towards the mirror.

“Look at me and look at you. Who do you think he would choose?”

Mairi had looked.

She’d thought she’d scrubbed up reasonably well for the meal, but it couldn’t be denied that she was no match for Nicole.

For a moment she could have been back in the Lake District, confronted by Liam and Fiona, her appearance there, too, set against the dressier woman flaunting a sparkling engagement ring.

She’d made an effort to push the memory away,
but the old feeling of worthlessness had sneaked up on her again.

Still, she’d squared her shoulders, determined not to let this woman bully her.

“Rest assured; I have no interest in Philippe. You’ll have no problem keeping him on the leash and leading him in whichever direction you decide.”

Mairi had found herself watching Philippe during the rest of the meal.

While she’d loved going out with Graham, Philippe was the person she’d felt most at home with.

But all that was immaterial now.

Manchester was cold, dark and rainy when she arrived just after midnight, to a text from Mum confirming that there was no change, and that someone would meet her, though she didn’t say who.

Mairi certainly hadn’t expected it to be Liam.

“I can drive fast and maybe it’ll make up for how I behaved,” he said, taking her suitcase before she had a chance to argue.

They hardly spoke on the journey. The lights of the motorway streamed by in a blur as Mairi checked her phone for news. There was nothing from anyone.

Mum threw her arms around her daughter as they met at the ward’s entrance.

“How’s Dad?” Mairi asked into her shoulder.

“He’ll pull through, though he’s still got a long way to go. He keeps asking if you’re here yet.”

Her father was lying back on the pillows, pale and gaunt and looking so unlike her big, dependable dad.

He opened his eyes.

“You got here, then. I knew you would.”

Mairi took his hand.

“Mum, you look shattered. Go and have a cup of tea.”

“That’s my girl,” Dad said, when it was just the two of them. “So, what have you been up to?”

To be continued…

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