It was our socially distanced writing group today; the topic was ‘What if?’ It had taken me a while to write, a while to think about writing my piece. I had various ideas I rejected as unoriginal and then from nowhere came a story. I’d been working on my 2012 novel Farholm, getting it ready to publish as a paperback, and I guess being on an island, being able to get back to the mainland with one ferry a day… and I started to write.As often with my short stories, when I got to the end I wondered what would happen next, might this turn into something longer? I think probably not in this case!
“What if we don’t make it in time?”
“We will make it in time, and if we don’t we don’t.”
“For goodness sake, will you hurry!” Martin wanted to rush on ahead, even though he knew she was struggling.
“I can’t go any faster, Martin, I can’t manage these bags and walk quickly!” In her head she thought, why don’t you take my bags, your arms are longer and they will be easier to carry for you? – and Róisín repeated to herself what he’d said – I can’t carry them, I’m not carrying pink bags round the bloody island!
“Why did you have to bring so much stuff?” Martin called back over his shoulder. “What if we don’t get there in time, then what? I have to be back at work tomorrow!”
Róisín refused to argue, refused to say if I hadn’t brought this stuff you wouldn’t have had a towel because you didn’t read the information properly, and you wouldn’t have been able to open the wine because there was no corkscrew, and you would have had to suffer your headache because you guzzled most of the wine and didn’t bring any paracetamol.
She refused to argue because she knew it wasn’t worth it. This afternoon, after she dropped him off back at his place, she would never have to see him again. Their relationship had been teetering on the brink of collapse for too long, she realised, and this week away on Farholm Island proved it. It proved it to her; as far as Martin was concerned everything was hunky-dory… hunky-dory, yet another of his annoying phrases.
Róisín really wanted to stop and take off her waterproof, even though it was spitting with rain but then she’d never catch up with him. He would turn round, see she was lagging behind and start another barrage of nagging. It was a metaphor for their relationship, her lagging, him nagging, and all she could think was thank goodness it was only going to last another three or four hours… Unless they missed the ferry, in which case they would have to find accommodation for the night and get the boat back to the mainland in the morning.
This thought spurred her on and she forced herself to trot along, really hurrying to catch up with him. The wind began to gust and she bowed her head into it, trying to keep her face down to avoid the stinging rain.
Suddenly she was on sand and looking up she realised she’d taken a path down to the beach. It was only a matter of yards back up to the road and as she rushed back to the road, she had a sudden thought. What if I just stop, what if I stop trying to catch up with Martin who caused us to be late leaving the cottage anyway, what if I let him get on the ferry and he sails away back to the mainland, what if I wave him goodbye, wave him goodbye forever.
She hitched her bags and began to run after him. She could hear his voice even though she was looking down at the path again.
The whistle on the ferry tooted twice, this was the signal that departure was imminent, three toots and she would have to virtually leap from the dockside to the gunwales.
She couldn’t hear what Martin was bellowing at her and she realised she actually didn’t care. She stopped and looked up, he was almost at the little kiosk which served as the ticket office. She stood panting, trying to catch her breath, swapping her bags around. She undid her waterproof, she was so hot, and with a deep breath, set off again, head down, watching where her feet were going as she raced along the uneven paving.
This was ridiculous! She was never going to make it! Then what? Then she would catch her breath, take up her bags and head for the pub. If they didn’t have a room for her for the night, there were plenty of B and B’s and surely someone would have room for a single guest.
The ferry tooted three times. Dammit!! Or… maybe not… maybe not dammit.
Róisín stopped, dropped her bags, pulled off her raincoat and jumped with surprising alacrity onto the sea wall. She could see Martin was by the iosk waving his arms at her.
She waved back, a mixture of gestures, go on, you go on, get on the ferry, go on, get on, I’ll be ok, I’ll be alright, I don’t have to go to work tomorrow!
He flung up his arms again, fury, despair, and then giving in to his need to get on board, he turned and ran and disappeared as presumably he jumped onto the small ferry.
Róisín took a deep breath. Goodbye Martin… She took out her phone and messaged him. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine, I’ll find a B and B and catch the ferry tomorrow. It sent but before it could have arrived a message pinged through from him… she barely glanced at the first few words and didn’t bother to read the rest.
She watched the ferry chug slowly out of the harbour then buck as it hit the open sea. Goodbye Martin.
She jumped off the wall and picked up her bags. What if she didn’t go back tomorrow, what if she found a place where she could stay for a couple more days, see the things on the island she hadn’t been able to see with Martin? Go round the castle ruins, visit the church up on the hill, go to the commune up on the tops… they had loads of crafts there apparently, so the guide books said, , nice paintings, a silver smith, pottery… What if she had a little holiday before she went back home, back to work?.
What if she didn’t go back at all… Róisín swung her bag over her shoulder and headed for the village, the rain cool and refreshing on her face.
Here is a link to Farholm, soon to be a paperback as well as an eBook: