Under An Island Sun – Episode 26

The main characters from the story

In another hospital, albeit in a warmer climate, Hilary was also in bed, propped up against the pillows and surrounded by flowers and cards, with Antonio at her bedside.

She had come out of the accident with concussion, cuts, bruises and a broken wrist.

Antonio, too, had mainly escaped injury, beyond a few cracked ribs.

“To think I had a ride in an air ambulance and hardly knew a thing about it.” Hilary shook her head.

“I shall never forgive myself. You could have been killed!”

“I’m still here, aren’t I? These things happen. That’s why Land-Rovers have roll bars, and we were wearing our seat belts.

“Honestly, at this rate my family should qualify for a frequent user discount at this hospital.”

She giggled at her own joke, still feeling woozy. Whatever they were giving her, it was good stuff.

Since news of what had happened had got out, she had received a constant stream of visitors, including several of her neighbours and members of Isabella’s family.

Thankfully Mairi’s dad was out of danger, but she still felt bad for not being around.

She, Jan and Mairi had spoken briefly, but they’d had to stop after only a few minutes as the nurse had insisted Hilary wasn’t to tire herself.

“Don’t worry,” Antonio kept telling her, as she fretted about them all.

“It sounds as though Mairi is coping admirably. You should be proud of her.”

Chris visited frequently, of course, and was able to inform them that the accident hadn’t been Antonio’s fault.

“I know that beach, so I drove over to check.

“The gully has a new channel down one side, probably caused by that heavy rainfall we had a fortnight ago.”

Hilary remembered it. Rain, especially heavy rain, was enough of a rarity to be a remarked-upon event.

“That will have made the rock slip down and block the way, just where you can’t see it till the last minute.

“I’d have been caught out if I hadn’t known about it.”

The look of relief on Antonio’s face was so intense, Hilary’s heart went out to him. It did so even more when he finally opened up about his past.

They soon found themselves talking about the way the strange beauty of the island had a healing quality that had to be experienced to be understood.

“It probably saved my life, coming here after my wife died, four years ago,” Antonio confessed.

“Italy is a wonderful country, and my daughters stayed because it is home and they want their children to grow up there, but I could not bear to be in the places where Caterina and I were happy together.”

Hilary squeezed his hand, and felt warm inside as he squeezed back.

“When I came here, driving for Chris, I lost myself in work and in exploring the island. I made new friends, but did not dare let myself love anyone.

“Even though Caterina said I should find somebody else, I didn’t want to be disloyal to her memory, or risk more heartbreak, until the day I met you, at Chris’s house.”

He looked directly into her eyes.

“It was like a thunderbolt, but I could feel you had your own reasons to hold back.

“As we spent more time together, I knew more strongly that you had been wounded, and I wished I could heal you, but didn’t know how.”

He sat back.

“And that is my story. If I have said too much, I am sorry.”

“Don’t be. I always knew there was something more about you and, yes, you were right about me.”

Hilary told him about her marriage to Ray and how it had seemed outwardly happy enough but was ruined by his recklessness, as well his habit of undermining her self-confidence.

“Although I can only really see that second point now, with the benefit of hindsight,” she added.

“After he died, I had to sell the house to pay off the debts it turned out he’d accumulated.

“It was a long, draining process. I’d just moved into my own little place when Chris asked me to help out here, and so I came.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to you from the beginning, but I held back because I was frightened of finding myself in that situation again.” She hesitated.

“To be honest, your driving brought Ray’s reckless nature back to mind at first!”

“I will try to remember. From now on I shall drive very slowly.”

He hunched forward, holding up his hands as if gripping a steering wheel for dear life, while gazing intently and comically at an invisible point a few feet in front of him.

When Hilary, glad to see his old mischievous side back, had stopped laughing, she made a decision.

To be continued…

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