1 NEGATIVE I don’t know how long I had been on the edge of the bath glaring at the white plastic

stick. Negative again. This was the third one I’d tried this morning. Maybe if I stared at it long enough it might change to a positive. I willed it to. I had sat in the same position on countless occasions for the last 4 years. Each and every time it had been negative, never a doubting result, always clearly negative. My stomach heaved at the idea of having to tell Pete the unsurprising news again when he got back tonight. We had spent all of our savings paying for IVF. Despite the doctor’s recommendations to give up 18 months ago and accept the fact, we had carried on with another 2 courses. In between treatments we would have sex religiously, three times a week, just like the doctors suggested. It was emotionless and empty now, more like a mechanical process. The excitement and eagerness to try for a baby, the spontaneity, the experimentation, our suggestive pressing hands and the element of surprise were long gone. We had read pretty much every book going, done everything we were told by doctors, listened to everyone’s advice, but nothing had worked. It wasn’t just the money though. I struggled to look Pete in the eye these days, always feeling I had let him down. We had talked so much about starting a family before we were married. We had prefabricated the perfect little family. But it was not to be, our dream of three children had dwindled down to the hope for one precious miracle. Just one. My eyes were burning. The pressure in my throat was building from trying Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

to keep the ritual onslaught of grief from engulfing me. A deep guttural wail erupted from my chest; I slumped and curled onto the bathroom floor, my body shook with misery. My arms wrapped around my empty womb, grieving for the child I would never have. My already raw wounds ripped apart again. Our life was in tatters. We had wasted the last 4 years together making ourselves miserable. We were hopelessly blinded by a fog of disappointment. I knew I couldn’t do this anymore; it was killing me. I had lost most of my close friends along the way and our families were disillusioned with our obsession. We had to start accepting that I would not and never be able to have a baby. It was my fault we had ended up here. I had begged Pete to keep trying, pleaded with him not to give up on me. My mantra: ‘Next time, next time it’s our turn’. I couldn’t make myself believe it anymore. I was full of empty. Who wants a barren wife? I was giving up. I’d convinced myself that Pete would walk away from me. What’s the point in staying together? Every way I thought about our future together I had always imagined there would be children there, I had become so obsessed with the ideal that I couldn’t even fathom what kind of future we would have without. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t keep mourning over what I don’t have. Maybe Pete would take advantage and make his escape from me when I told him I was giving up. He wouldn’t need to make excuses and I wouldn’t put up a fight. The waste of the last 4 years, no savings left, and credit cards maxed out with nothing to show for it but a futile marriage, were excuse enough. I knew Pete would never react in such a way but some sick part of me wanted him to. I was angry with myself and wanted him to react. Show some kind of emotion at least. Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

The rage was building inside me, I was angry at Pete for letting me carry on vain attempts to get pregnant. WHY hadn’t he stopped me? I knew he just didn’t have the heart to say ‘no more’. He didn’t want to be the one to break my heart. It was a dream we had once shared but I could feel it slipping away. Pathetic, lying on the bathroom floor, cheeks soaked with tears, full of self pity and loathing. I couldn’t even muster up the compassion to imagine how Pete would feel. All I could think of was me. So Selfish. However Pete might react I knew he couldn’t hate me anymore than I hated myself. The phone ringing downstairs stirred me from my smog of depression, but there was too much swirling around inside my head to concentrate on anything. The panic was starting to set in while I contemplated the future. One without children, but no matter how much I tried, it seemed a worthless existence. More worrying was that I couldn’t see Pete next to me anymore; it was just me, alone, enveloped in darkness. The phone started ringing again downstairs, I pulled my lifeless body toward the ringing, whoever it was, wasn’t getting the hint. I took my time trudging down the stairs, cursing whoever was on the other end, hoping they would give up before I got there. I had more important things to worry about. “Hello…I am not interested in whatever it is you’re selling!” I declared. There was silence on the line, just the crackle of some background noise until a doubting voice started to speak. “Hi I’m looking to speak to Heather Campbell?” “Speaking” I barely managed to whisper. “Oh hi, my name is Sylvia Blair. I’m a nurse at...” Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

I cut in realising that it was a nurse from the IVF clinic. I’d forgotten they were going to phone to find out the test result “I’ve just done the test...I… I” My throat tightened as I struggled to hold back more tears. “…it’s negative again and…” This time the Nurse interrupted. “I’m sorry, I think you’re mistaken. I’m a Nurse at Belvedere Respite Home in Glasgow. I just want to check I‘m speaking to the correct person? I’m looking for April Chalmers’ granddaughter” “Respite Home….” I was taken aback “Eh... Yes April is my Gran. Do you know her?” “Well of a sort, yes. Your Gran was transferred here last night and she had given me this number to call and ask for you. She wasn’t able to call you herself cos the mobile payphone’s out of order just now.” “I’m sorry, I don’t understand, you’re calling from a respite home, my Gran was transferred there…transferred from where?” What? My mind was muddied trying to figure out what she was saying. I recalled the phone conversation we had a few days ago. She had a bit of a cold but apart from that she was ok. I was scared to ask “I’m sorry, it’s just…well Gran lives on the Shetland Isles, what’s she doing in Glasgow. Is she ok?” I could tell the Nurse was choosing her words carefully, she wasn’t giving anything away. She paused, before replying “Well she took a bit of a turn in the Taxi yesterday when she left after her hospital appointment. She is quite poorly. To be on the safe side her doctor advised that she come here for some rest. She asked that I call you. She wants you to come and see her. She asked me to tell you that it’s important.” Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

She really has lost it, what appointment? “I’m sorry I think you might have the wrong person, my Gran wasn’t in Glasgow yesterday, she would have told me. Are you sure you‘ve got the right number” I still wasn’t convinced it was my Gran she was talking about. “I’m sure... I dialled the number from the address book she gave me. You can come in anytime, visiting hours are open, no restrictions. She’s quite eager to see you” The nurse continued giving me the directions I would need to get to the Home and where to park. I hung up the phone gently; my thoughts rushed trying to figure out what was going on. My mind swirled with questions. I dropped into the chair next to the Phone. I was stunned, unsure what was going on. I grabbed a notepad from beside the phone and scribbled a quick note to Pete explaining where I was going and to not wait for me to make dinner. He would be back tonight after a 3 day business trip and would expect me to be here when he got in. The phone trilled jolting me from my thoughts again. I grabbed the receiver, for a moment hoping it was the nurse calling to say she had made a mistake. “Hey” It was Pete’s voice this time. “It’s me. How are things?” I wasn’t prepared to have this conversation yet. Just the sound of his voice flicked a switch inside me taking me back to where I was before the nurse called. “I...I just” I choked. I was unable to get the words out; instead sobs started catching on my breath. I was a nervous wreck. I struggled to keep my hands from trembling and dropping the phone. My heart was pounding in my chest. I didn’t know where to start. “Heather. Heather? What’s wrong?” there was panic in his voice. Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

I forced myself to take a deep breath in an attempt to prevent having a panic attack, but before I could compose myself enough to start talking. “You’ve taken a test haven’t you?” It was a rhetorical question. He didn’t need me to answer. He already knew the result. It didn’t take a mind reader to know my sobs were not ones of joy. There was a long silence. “Are you ok?” “I’m sorry.” My voice was strained. It was all I could manage while I tried to hold back the tears. “You’ve nothing to apologise for.” His voice was a soft whisper. I could hear the disappointment in his voice. There was silence on the line. I didn't want to do this just now. I had to tell him about the phone call before I bottled it and started freaking out again. "No Pete, that’s not important just now. I just had a phone call from a respite home in Glasgow. It's my Gran. She’s…she's staying there for a few days.” I was bewildered by what I was telling him, the news hadn’t quite settled yet. "What? A respite home in Glasgow? What's she doing down here?” "I don't know!" There was an edge of panic in my voice now. I told him about the phone call and he rhymed off all the questions I had had myself. "I'm heading over just now, I'm not going to be here when you get back, and I was just leaving you a note" "Listen, that's why I’m phoning, we’ve had technical problems installing the server at this end and I’m going to have to stay another day till we troubleshoot and get things resolved. But if you need me to come home I’ll leave just now, just say the word, I can catch a flight and be there in a couple of hours if you need me. Tell me where it is and I can meet you there." Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

"No." I replied so quickly I surprised myself. I wanted to speak to Gran on my own. She wouldn't open up if Pete was there. "I need to go just now. Stay where you are, get things sorted. I'll phone you when I get back, let you know what’s happening. Send me a text to let me know when you're back at the hotel" "Ok." He sounded dejected. "Just don’t panic. As long as you’re sure you're ok to go on your own, but call me as soon as you know. I'm sure she's fine." he was trying to reassure me, stop me from worrying. "I'm not convinced Pete, what kind of appointment would mean she had to come down to Glasgow and not tell me? Something’s going on and she’s keeping it from me." My mind was already racing with the possibilities. "Listen, there's no point jumping to conclusions until you've spoken to her. I’ve got to go just now, the techies at this end are about to burst a blood vessel. I’ll speak to you soon. I’ll speak to you tonight. Bye". "Love you." But the line clicked and was dead. I put the phone back on its cradle. The silence in the house was deafening. All I could hear was my thoughts racing and my heart thrumming in my throat. I grabbed my car keys and was heading for the door in a matter of seconds. I hesitated when my hand reached for the door handle. I could feel it in my bones, everything was about to change.

Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

2 THE BEGINNING OF THE END The car journey to the home was straightforward; the directions the nurse had given took me on the route I usually headed for the IVF clinic appointments. The Respite Home was 5 minutes from my usual destination. As I drove past the clinic my stomach sank. I had already made up my mind that I wouldn’t be going back there. I promised myself and Pete Never again. I pulled into the Home’s Car park, it was bustling and I had to circle a few times to find a space. The home sat on top of a small incline, surrounded by wild flower gardens dotted with benches. People who I assumed were patients and visitors were seated on the benches enjoying the fresh air and the watery March sunshine. It was an old traditional sandstone building, Very Nice. I imagined it had once been a stately home, donated to the Hospice when its owner had passed away. I locked the car and made my way toward the reception. As I walked toward the entrance I intentionally slowed my pace the closer I got. Something unknown was approaching. Whatever Gran had been keeping from me wasn’t going to be good. I felt unbalanced, my legs not quite attached to my body, my muscles tensed and I pursed my lips. Tremors ripped through my body, running down my spine and out toward my fingers. My nerves were getting the better of me. I had to keep it together. Pete was right, there was no point in jumping to conclusions until I spoke to Gran. I tried to concentrate, counting in my head how long it had been since Gran’s came to visit. 5 months. I recalled her having lost weight the last time I seen her. Her sturdy plump frame had become bony and her usually rosy cheeks looked pale, her fragile skin Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

had withered and was starting to take on the appearance of crumpled paper. It was the first time I had noticed how quickly Gran was getting old, it seemed so sudden. She had always been so stalky and unstoppable, but recently she had been plagued by chest infections and colds. Gran had assured me it was just old age creeping up on her. When I had pushed her for an explanation she had kissed me on the forehead and told me to quit my worrying. Looking back now I regretted letting it go so easily. Dread swept through my body realising something was seriously wrong, all the signs had been there. I stepped over the entrance threshold and the fresh flowers mixed with the warm air wafting from the fan heater infected my nostrils. Inside the home was an unexpected stark contrast to the exterior. Whitewashed walls met exposed brickwork, glass partitions and sliding doors, it was an impressive contemporary mix of old and new. Definitely not National Health Service! What in the Hell is Gran doing here! The receptionist head popped up from behind the desk. “I dropped my pen!” She lifted her hand like she had just won 1st prize. She emerged from below the desk. “Hello there, you’re a new face! How can I help you” her voice rang like a bell in the tranquil surroundings. I explained the phone call I had received less than an hour ago. She called through to the nurses’ station and requested Sylvia Blair come to reception to meet me. “Sylvia will be with you in a moment”. I was sure no less than 30 seconds had passed when the sliding doors next Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

to the reception opened slowly with very little noise. A nurse with a soft lilac uniform approached me, her hand outstretched to greet me. She had a wide toothy mouth and sparkling eyes. Her hair pulled back. The severe dark twist of curls on top of her head was so tight it pulled her temples and eyes into a constant smile. “Ah you must be Heather.” I just nodded a reply. She shook my hand gently. Smiling at me she clasped her hands and leaning back to get a good look at me. “I’m Sylvia. We spoke on the phone. You are just as your Gran described you. I’m glad you came so quickly. Your Gran was so pleased when I told her I had managed to get you when I called. She’s been telling me all about you. Truthfully you are the only thing she does talk about. Follow me; you must be anxious to see her. I’ll take you to her.” I deliberated with myself before I followed her. Maybe I should quiz Sylvia first. But I thought better of it and followed her through the doors she had come from. She led me through a large open space full of plump sofas and armchairs where patients and their families sat. As we walked in silence I noticed that most of the patients had a Drip in tow and their visitors sat relaxed around them. The building had a very serene atmosphere, full of light from the sun cascading through the windows, reflecting off the white walls. No one looked up to see who was walking through; they all seemed thoroughly invested in their conversations. We went through another set of sliding doors opposite the ones we had come through rounding a corner that lead to a line of individual rooms. My mind was wondering, I still didn’t understand. I reached out and toughed Sylvia’s shoulder “Eh Sylvia… before I see her. Is everything all right? I mean is my Gran Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

…ill?” my voice broke on the last word. I couldn’t bare to think it never mind speak it. Sylvia turned to face me, dipping her head in thought for a moment. She looked at me still smiling but her eyes deceived her. “I think you and your Gran need to have a chat. If you have any questions once you have spoken to her then I’ll be just next door”. Well that didn’t do anything to reassure me. It was going to be bad. Really bad. Sylvia motioned to the room just behind her. The door was open and I could see Gran’s name scrawled on the whiteboard mounted on the wall. I clung to the handbag at my waist and braced myself. I took a deep breath, walked over to the door and peered in. My eyes searched the room before I stepped in; stopping when they found the bed. Gran was sitting upright propped up with an abundance of pillows, her head nodded forward while she slept. I crept in, shutting the door silently behind me. I paused for a moment taking in the surroundings. The room had a welcoming feel. Whitewashed walls were teamed with dark wood furniture. The hospital style bed seemed a little out of place in the comfy hotel like surroundings. Large windows framed the city view outside and let the watery sun dazzle the room with light. As I tip toed toward the bed I noticed how small Gran’s frame looked swaddled in the bed sheets, she looked tiny, her feet barely reaching halfway down its length. She was hooked up to a drip, another machine, and a monitor blinked silently reading her heartbeat. She was still, only her chest moving with breath showed any sign of life. She looked so fragile. I pulled a seat from the corner of the room to the side of the bed trying to make as little noise as possible. Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

The noise seemed to stir her a little but her head simply nodded and she continued her quiet slumber. Looking at her arms and shoulders I could see she had lost more weight, there was no fat left on her bones. I took her small hand and stroked her work beaten fingers. She had done the same for me as a child. She would sit by my bed every night while I had the same recurring nightmare, stroking my hand with hers, letting me know she was there. It had always been the same dream. Mum and Dad standing at the edge of the harbour shrouded in mist. I would run toward them, never seeming to close the gap between us. They simply waved until they were completely enveloped in the mist and then they were gone, me running toward them screaming for them to wait but I was always too late. They had died in a ferry crossing when I was 4 years old. I had clung to my Dad’s neck that murky morning, crying and begging for him to take me with them for their shopping trip. They were planning on buying me some new clothes for school and a new dress for the Island’s annual 'Simmer Din' festival. They had been adamant in refusing to take me with them, their excuse that I had school. When Dad had eventually managed to pry my hands in their vice like grip from his neck, they each kissed me goodbye and boarded the ferry. Gran and I had waved them off from the harbour. They stayed on the top deck waving back until we were out of sight. Twenty minutes into the one hour crossing the weather had turned. Violent winds had whipped the ferry into shallow waters where its underside had been ripped open on rocks; before they had a chance to evacuate they had been swept back out to sea where it had sunk. The weather had been too severe to send out the rescue boats and helicopter, by the time the storm had Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

calmed enough for them to start the search it was too late. Every member of the crew and passengers had drowned. 102 people, a mix of tourists, crew and Island residents. Gone. They had never found my parents bodies. Gran was strong for me, full of hope and never a waiver in her cheery outlook from that day on. She had become my best friend. We would talk about school, boys, girlfriends, television. She had supported me through the fallout from boyfriends, puberty, and finally scraped together every penny she had to send me to Glasgow to study Textiles at the Art School. I looked down at her insubstantial body in the bed. She looked so vulnerable in her sleep. I gently stroked her weathered forehead with the back of my fingers and she stirred. She blinked her eyes awake. “Gran…Gran” I whispered. I had never been so delighted to see her old twinkling grey eyes. “Heather sweetheart…some water” She croaked. Her voice was hoarse. She was struggling to sit up on her elbows. I poured some water from the jug on her bedside and cupped her head in my hand, letting her sip like a child with a glass at its mouth for the first time. “That’s better.” She puffed out and then slumped back into the pillows. She sighed; smacking her lips together “let me see you” her eyes scanned my face. “You look awful Heather. Are you eating?” “Gran, I’m fine. Just not sleeping very well. Anyways, you’re not looking so great yourself”. I brushed off her concerns; she was trying to sidetrack me. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on? Or do I need to go shout at the nurses?” I was joking only slightly, if she didn’t start talking I was ready to press the issue Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

with Sylvia. “You leave those nurses alone. They are amazing. They take good care of me. I…I don’t know where to start Heather. I-” She faltered trying to choke back some emotion swelling in her throat. She was distressed. This wasn't the Gran I knew. I took one of her hands in both of mine, and gave it a gentle squeeze assuring her I was here. “Gran tell me.” I urged her on. She took a moment to gather her thoughts. Her eyes were rimmed with tears. It wasn’t like Gran to let her emotions get the better of her. She was starting to frighten me. She lifted her frail weighty hand. I leaned closer so that she didn’t have far to reach. I closed my eyes as she stroked her fingers down my cheek, cupping her hand under my chin. “Gran your killing me here. Just tell me ...whatever it is” I pleaded with her. She paused, taking a deep breath. She parted her lips and spoke slowly “its cancer." My brain couldn’t process the words. I shook my head. “What. No! What are you talking about Cancer? Gran?” “Heather, listen to me.” Her voice was cracking. Her eyes never left mine as tears escaped from her watering eyes and cascaded down her wrinkled cheeks. No tears came for me, I was still in shock. The word rang in my ears. A bright red alarm was flashing, emblazoned with the word CANCER. “Heather, I’m sorry I’ve been keeping it from you. I just… I wanted to find out how bad it was first. See if there was anything they could do. But they’ve tried and…” She faltered, dropping her hand taking deep breaths. “They’ve tried and it’s no use. The cancer ‘s spread too quickly.” Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

“Gran… I don’t understand How long have you known.” She didn’t tell me. “Why didn’t you tell me straight away? There must be something they haven’t tried yet. Cancer’s not a death sentence these days….” “Heather” She interrupted “It’s too far gone; they didn’t catch it in enough time. I didn’t catch it in enough time.” “Where is it?” “It started off in my lungs, now pretty much every organ is joining the party!” She grimaced. I stared at her old face, my mouth gaping in disbelief. My Gran. My rock. I couldn't find words. My mind was whirling ahead of me, words wouldn’t form. Cancer? No. I don’t understand. How? Why her? How long..? “How long have you known?” “Since September.” I reeled at the number of months that had passed since she had found out. “Gran. How long…. I mean how much time do we have?” My voice was grave. “Not so much. Weeks, maybe months. They say I have a tough stubborn heart. It will keep me going a while longer. They can’t put a definite time on it.” “Are you in pain?” My voice was quivering. “No Pain. I’ve got one of these things.” she lifted up a small plastic button, attached to a tube that was wired into a machine. “If I start to hurt then I press the button and it gives me more pain relief. Morphine. It’s magic!” She was starting to put on her brave face probably due to the horror painted on mine and Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

my stunned silence. “Could you loosen the grip on my fingers? You’re cutting off the circulation sweetie!” Her face crumpled into a smile “S...Sorry” I hadn’t realised my grasp had tightened with the shock. I let go and rubbed my forehead. Rubbing, trying to make sense of everything. “Heather I need to ask you to do something for me.” She was serious now. “Anything. What is it?” I tried to focus on her eyes. “I want you to take me home.” “Aren’t you better here? They can take better care of you here Gran. You’ll need to stay for more treatment.” “Heather. I am not having any more treatment. I’ve stopped it. It was making me so ill. I want to go home. I don’t want to die in this place.” “Gran…” Her declaration was like I had been shot in my guts. “There must be something else they can try. Please.” “I can’t do it Heather. My body’s not strong enough. It’s giving up. I want to go home and enjoy the time I have left.” “You can’t give up.” She can’t give up. The same question buzzed through my head over and over. Why didn’t she tell me? I could have helped her, done something, anything. “Heather. Please …the decision wasn’t easy. Even looking at you now makes me want to change my mind again, I know you are hurting but I need you to accept this and do what I’m asking” Her pleading eyes bore into my soul. I couldn’t deny her this. She had never asked anything of me but had given me so much freely. “Gran I…I don’t know. What about the pain? Will you be ok to travel?” Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

“I’ve already spoken to the hospital. They can make all the arrangements to ship me back, and they can arrange a nurse to be with us 24 hours at home. But I want you to come with me Heather. Do you understand? I want you to be with me. At home in Sandwick. If you don’t want to go then I’ll stay here. But please consider it.” My mind raced. Will work let me take the time off? I don’t know how long I’ll be off for. Gran needs me. I need to be with her. I can’t say no. I have to go with her. Will a nurse be enough to look after her? “I’ll take you home Gran” My voice was sombre. Her face washed with relief and she gave me a contented smile. I stood and kissed her forehead. Then I squashed her into a tight hug. I didn’t want to hurt her but I didn’t want to let her go either. She was fighting sleep, struggling to keep her eyes opened. I whispered into her ear “I’m going to go and speak to the Nurse. I need to phone Pete as well. I’ll not be too long. Try and get some sleep. I love you Gran.” Now I could feel pressure behind my eyes, tears rising. I didn’t want her to see me lose it. I kissed her forehead again and left the room quickly without letting her see my face. I flew down the corridor heading for the reception. People looked up alarmed at my hurried movements as I swept through the normally tranquil surroundings but I couldn’t stop. I had to get out and was headed to the car to have a meltdown. After struggling to get my shaking fingers to open the car door I threw myself in and slumped my arms over the wheel. My body shook as I sobbed. Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

Everything my Gran told me was starting to penetrate. I was going to lose her. She was dying and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Then I completely lost it. My body convulsed with racking sobs. My heart was thudding in panic. Tears came in floods. How could she keep this from me? She was too scared to tell me. She must have been too concerned about me and how I would react. Me, so wrapped up in my own torment she had been suffering on her own. I was the one person she should have been able to tell. That let way for another onset of sobs as I cursed my selfishness. Then the anger washed over me, I shook the wheel in my hands, punched it repeatedly until my hand scorched with pain. I’d never believed in God but I got angry at him. I dammed him for taking everyone from me. Wasn’t taking my mum and dad enough for him? I couldn’t have a family of my own, and just to finish me off he was taking away the only anchor I had in the world. I gasped trying to take deep breaths in an attempt to pull myself together. I couldn’t let the darkness pull me under yet, I had to be strong for Gran. Once I got over the sudden outburst and my breathing went back to normal I stared out the car window at the patients and relatives in the grounds. My head was swimming, everything hazy. Are they all facing the same death sentence? I couldn’t get my head around how serene the home was when all around people were dying. Not that they might die, that there was a chance, but that they had been told that they were going to die. This time next year they wouldn’t be here. That bullet twisted deeper into my guts with the realisation that Gran wouldn’t be here in a matter of months.

Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

3 SECRETS In the week that it had taken for all the arrangements to be made, Gran’s spirits improved, but her body wouldn’t tow the line. The doctor’s had been resistant to send her home so quickly, thinking she wasn’t strong enough for the journey. They had asked her to wait a few more days to let them give her more antibiotics in the hope it would build up her system enough to cope, but she wouldn’t listen to them. She had threatened them with checking herself out of the home and getting the ferry back on her own. “With their help or without, I’m going home. Tell them Heather. I won’t back down. Let them wave their white flag. The longer I stay here the more chance there is of me not making it back alive. I’ll be damned if I’m making the journey in a coffin!” Her words ripped at my heart. I wasn’t ready to think of her in that way, but she had planted the seed now. Realising it was a fight they were never going to win the doctor’s eventually gave in to her demands. I wasn’t entirely happy with the situation when her health was at risk, but it was what Gran wanted, and right now I could deny her nothing. I had so much to make up to her for not being there when she needed me the most. Despite Gran’s promises that I hadn’t let her down the guilt hung over me like a dark shroud, unbearably heavy to lift. She had assured me that she would have kept it from me no matter the situation until she knew for certain what the future held for her. But I couldn’t let myself believe it. I knew she had kept it from me because she thought I would fall to pieces, just like I had every Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

time I had phoned her to tell her the IVF had failed. She thought I had enough going on without her worries and that was where my guilt was rooted. I had become so blinded by my own failings, consumed by my obsession to have children that I hadn’t been able to see. She was the one person that meant more to me than life itself; she had needed me more than she ever had. In my heart I had failed her. My thoughts were plagued, imagining her being told by the doctors that she had only weeks or at best months to live, and her being left to deal with it on her own. I wanted so much to be able to go back and be there, to hold her as she was given her death sentence.

Gran was doped up to the eyeballs for the journey back home. An ambulance had taken us to Glasgow Airport, and we were to change over to a helicopter that was flying us to the Shetland Isles. We were accompanied by two paramedics and Gran’s doctor was going to take over when we landed in Sumburgh airport. My body was clenched on edge for the whole journey. I never let go of her hand while we were in the ambulance. With every pothole that the ambulance bumped over I would jerk, nervous it was doing more damage to her already ravaged body. The paramedic riding in the back with us had seen my distress and went out of his way to assure me. Apparently Gran was so out of it with pain relief that he doubted she would feel a head on collision with a tank. His analogy had put me a little more at ease. But the fear that she might not wake up at the other end was eating away at me. The doctors had taken me aside the day before to make me aware that the Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

journey and the medication they would have to give her to make her comfortable could finish her off. I think it was in the vain hope that I would be able to talk some sense into her. They really had no idea of how stubborn she could be! I felt like I was being pulled in every direction. I was consumed with fear of loosing Gran and my mind would no let go of the conversation Pete and I had had two nights ago. I wandered over the words we had exchanged trying to come to some kind of resolution over our future. Pete had automatically assumed that we were going to try again with the IVF when I got back. I was shocked, he expected me to carry on as we had been, knowing that when we came back my Gran would be dead. How could I? He was struck dumb when I told him I wasn’t going through it again. “Pete I can’t keep putting us both through it time and time again. We need to face facts.” I don’t know who I was trying to convince more. “Sounds like you’ve already made the decision without me. What about what I want?” “What do you want Pete, tell me?” I couldn’t remember the last time I had asked him. “Honestly, I don’t know. For so long we’ve been focused on trying for a family that I’ve never really thought beyond it.” He was shaking his head. “Do you still want kids?” It was a question I had to ask even though I knew he would edit his words so as not to hurt my feelings. “I want us to be happy. I still want us to have a family. There are other ways…adoption, fostering. It might not be how we always imagined having a family, but does that really matter?” He sounded so sure that we had a future Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

together. Something else was gnawing at me “Do you still want me though?” I honestly wasn’t sure anymore. "That's a stupid question Heather." He was annoyed. "Do you really think I would let us go through...all this? If I didn't want you? I love you so much. How I feel about you hasn't changed. Your everything to me” He buried his head in his hands; his emotions were spilling over, when he looked back at me his eyes were rimmed with tears. "But am I enough for you? What…What if there are no kids? Are you going to be happy with just me? I know how much you want a family. I don't want you to look back in 20 years and regret not leaving when you had the chance." My words hung in the air; this was his opportunity to walk away. "I only ever wanted a family if I could share it with you.” I was slightly stunned. We sat in silence for a moment. “What about you Heather?” "I don't know what I want anymore; everything’s gotten so messed up.” "That's not what I meant. Do you still want me? Am I enough for you? Do you still love me?" My stomach churned. I didn't know what to say because I didn't know the answer anymore. Do I still love him? "It's not a difficult question Heather. You shouldn't have to think so hard about it. Be honest with me!" He was annoyed. "I don't know anymore. I just don't know if we still have a future together. I don't know who I am anymore. I've changed and it’s not for the better." "You're not sure that you love me?" His eyes were pleading with me. I Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

couldn't look at him. Couldn't speak. I was choked. I couldn't think straight. I tried to force myself to speak the words he wanted to hear, something was stopping me. Nothing was making any sense. He took my face in his hands forcing me to look at him. I recoiled when I seen his pained expression. "I still love you; please don't give up on us. We can get it back, how we used to be. I know I can still make you happy. You need to give us a chance to get back on track. We've been through so much the last few years it's no wonder we've ended up where we are. I doubt most would have survived." “I can't do this, not just now. I just found out that my Gran is dying and I don't know how long I’ve got left with her. I don't want to do or think about anything but her just now. I still have feelings for you Pete, I care about you, but I’ve changed, my feelings have changed. Your no fool, you know I'm not the same person you married.” I was getting upset; I’d managed to hold it together for a little while to speak to him, to shut out everything that was happening with Gran to concentrate on us before I had to leave. But I was loosing the battle. The threads of my life were ripping apart at the seams. As soon as I had let Gran invade my thoughts I had lost control again. Before I could pull it back I was sobbing. I was surprised I had anything left after my endless torrents in the last few days. I wanted him to hug me and tell me everything was going to be ok. I kept praying that the last few days were just a bad dream and I was going to wake up. “I Just ... I need to concentrate on Gran, I need to take care of her. I think the time away from each other will do us good.” "I don't know what to say. If it's time you need then I'll still be here when Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

you get back. I know you’re in hell just now. Remember I'm here for you. You don't need to go through this on your own." "Yes I do. I'm going to be in Sandwick and you’ll be here." He didn’t try and argue the point. He hugged me like I hoped he would. But there were no words of reassurance. He knew like I did that where Gran was concerned there was no happy ending to hope for. We knew how it was going to end so there was no use in pretending that everything was going to be ok. He curled his arms around me and held me tight to his chest while I cried. I grasped onto him smothering my face in his torso. I was so exhausted that my body eventually gave in and shut down into a dreamless sleep. When I wakened in the morning he was gone. He had left a CD on the pillow next to me, along with a note:

Come back to me. Remember the good times. I love you. P

I didn’t listen to the CD. I stowed it away in my suitcase for later. I had to get ready for the journey home with Gran the next day. I busied myself with packing trying to block out the world pressing in on me.

The rhythmic whooping of the helicopter blades and the blurred rolling ocean passing below me was hypnotic. In every direction I looked I was surrounded by a monotone seascape. On the horizon the slate blue grey ocean met heavy white clouds; there was no land in sight. It was hard to believe that this same black ocean served the cool aqua waters of Sandwick beach. Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

The longer I was on the helicopter the more anxious I was becoming. My head was spinning. Every memory I had kept locked away was being thrust into the fore. I tried to swim against the current of panic swelling inside me, but I was being swept toward my past and I no longer had a choice in the matter. My best friend and one time lover, Callum, harassed my every thought. I searched through the last few years looking for some indication of whether or not he was still on the island. But Gran had never mentioned him and I had never asked. We had not seen each other since my last night in Sandwick before I left for Art School. What had, for a short time been the best night of my life, I winced recalling now. Every time I thought of his face a dagger twisted in my heart. The repercussions of that night had altered me so drastically that I doubt he would recognise my soul today. He didn’t know what had happened to me after I left him. How could he? I had sworn Gran to secrecy, a secret she was taking to her grave. I had spoken of it only once to Pete not long after we had started dating. After that I had never mentioned it again. I had agonised over whether or not to tell Callum. In the end I had decided that it was my cross to bear. I didn’t want him to feel the same aching loss as I did. My only hope now was that he no longer resided so close to my childhood home. I had to believe I had the strength to see him; I couldn’t surrender to the fear. I had kept such a tight hold on those memories for the last 6 years that I was not going to allow them destroy my resolve now. I had to find the strength from somewhere. I know Gran would have warned me that I might bump into him if he was still in the area. I tried to put the fear behind me, it was too much for me to try and comprehend for the moment. I would worry about it if or when Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

I had to. Instead I focused on the cottage on Sandwick Beach. With everything dissolving around me it was the one place I could count on never changing. If I were to loose my sight tomorrow I could walk in and manoeuvre my way around the surroundings safe in the knowledge I would know where everything would be. Not since I was a child could I remember Gran even reorganising the furniture. Everything had its place. She took great pride in her home. It was immaculately clean. The wooden floors were bleached silvery and pale with her rigorous scrubbing over the years, weathered like the driftwood that was buffeted by the sea, spat out and washed up on the beach. The light crystal blue walls echoed the fresh aqua waters on our doorstep. The crystal wind chimes that hung from the window frames would catch the afternoon sun, casting spellbinding orbs of sunshine across the walls. As a small child I would lie with my back on the floor staring at the walls and ceiling for hours, my eyes mesmerised by dancing light display. Then, there was the eyesore of a sofa. It was such an assault on the eyes compared to the rest of the décor. A reject of the 70’s, oversized, khaki with garish lime green embroidered flowers on. It had the texture of a tired towelling house robe, worn and weary, but Gran refused to part with it. “They don’t make them like this anymore Heather; we shall make do and mend”. She wouldn’t even have it re-covered for fear of whoever was working on it would somehow tamper with its frame. I was sure the dust it had gathered over the years was the only thing holding it together inside. Where the fabric wore and the stuffing would burst through, Gran would poke it back in and bind it with a needle and thread. Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

It was fast becoming Frankenstein’s monster of couches. Tired of visitor’s grimaces and them precariously lowering themselves onto the sofa for fear of it falling apart, Gran had given in and covered it with an oversized sandy coloured throw, much more in keeping with the sofa’s surroundings. Yet, despite its appearance, when I missed home, it was recalling late nights sitting on that hideous sofa with Gran that had given me comfort. I was looking forward to seeing the ugly old battleaxe, it had been too long. I felt a smile tug at the corners of my mouth remembering the cottage and its little quirks. I had been dreading going back for all the obvious reasons, now, unexpectedly I was yearning for the comfort and familiarity of home. I was looking forward to spending time there with Gran; it was a chance to make more memories before she left me. My smile quickly dropped when I remembered why we were going back, but I could think of no other place I would want to be headed to. The reasons for going back were all wrong but somehow it felt right. I was in a haze when suddenly the pilot buzzed in my headset, making me jump out of my skin. “We’ll be landing in 10 minutes.” I followed his pointing finger and realised that land was now in clear sight on the horizon, rising out of the sea. I looked behind me and saw that Gran was in a peaceful slumber, swaddled in blankets. I looked to the paramedic riding in back with her for reassurance. He was busy checking her pulse and making notes. He glanced at me, nodded and gave me a smile. I took that as a ‘yes she’s fine’. “We’re nearly there Gran” I whispered. I was anxious to land and get to the cottage, I wanted Gran awake, to know that she had made it home. The pilot Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

radioed the control tower letting them know we were approaching. They replied telling us the ambulance crew and her doctor were at the helipad awaiting our arrival. As we approached the land I could see the ocean loosing its dark demeanour, it changed, fading from black to blue then to a halo of aqua lapping at the shores. Everything was in miniature, the harbour boats bobbed around on the water, the model houses curved round the bay. As we moved inland towns and farms dotted the sprawling green landscape below. The land was rushing by, but it felt more like an eternity was passing. I sighed with relief when eventually the airport came into view. The black tarmac intruded on the green multi hued terrain. I could make out the yellow helipad, there was an ambulance waiting on the edge of the tarmac. There were people hovering around next to the ambulance, the paramedics and the doctor I presumed waiting to take over from our escorts. The helicopter hovered above the pad as it placed itself to land on target. My foot was tapping in anticipation, I was eager to feel the ground below my feet, to hold Gran’s hand and make sure she was ok. The helicopter slowly lowered itself then bumped to a standstill. I could hear the whir of the blades instantly slowing above me. The pilot told me to sit tight until they got Gran off and handed her over to the other team that was waiting. I was struggling to unbuckle myself from the harness that held me in place. My hands were shaking and I struggled to control them to undo the metal clasps. Seeing my distress the pilot leaned over and helped me out. He pressed a button on the fastening around my waist and instantly the other straps loosened and fell from my shoulders. I thanked him. He just nodded and then got out to go assist his colleagues. I shook myself free from my restraints and looked around Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

me. I wasn’t sure if anyone was coming to tell me when it was safe to get out. The blades had stopped rotating and Gran had been taken away to the waiting ambulance. I decided to try the door myself, I tried the handle and it clicked as though it had unlocked. I pushed it open, the wind made it resist against my force taking all my strength to get it open wide enough to get out. I swung my legs round. I hadn’t realised how high off the ground I was, my legs dangled as I peered down realising I would need to jump. My elbows were locked pushing at the door to keep it open. A sudden gust of wind whipped the door and I jumped out of the way to stop my legs from being caught as it slammed shut. My feet collided with the tarmac and a sharp sear of pain ripped through my left ankle. I fell in a heap. I cursed myself for being so clumsy and impatient; I should have waited for the pilot to come back. I pulled myself up to sit and rubbed at my ankle. I was thankful that everyone was busy with Gran ensuring no one had been witness to my idiocy. My ankle throbbed but I urged myself to try and stand before anyone found me. I was working up the courage when I heard footsteps approaching behind me making me freeze. They stopped. “Need some help?” I could hear the amusement in the male voice. I winced with embarrassment, refusing to turn and see my rescuer, I was mortified. My face burned with humiliation “Dammit” I whispered to myself. “Please, I hurt my ankle trying to get out.” Suddenly two arms hooked under each of my oxters and hoisted me up onto my feet. The strong arms held me in place as I tried to put some weight on my foot; I flinched as the pain jolted through my ankle unbalancing me. “Steady” The voice warned me. His safe hands steadied me in place and Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

rested on my shoulders. I tried again; the pain was more bearable this time. “Try and walk a little, make sure there’s no damage done”. I took a few limps forward. My ankle burned as I forced it to take more weight. “I think I’ll live” I whimpered, assuring my rescuer. I was feeling sorry for myself but thankful for the assistance. I turned to thank him for helping me but as my eyes took in my rescuers face I froze. My eyes had to be betraying me. I stood dumbstruck, my eyes picking out the recognisable lines of his face, his translucent blue eyes, and his dark mass of messy curls, the curve of his grinning lips. The only thing that gave me any doubt was his broad frame, he had been a bag of bones last time I saw him. “Heather, are you okay?” He chuckled. I couldn’t take my eyes from his face. How had I not recognised that too familiar voice? His voice pushed me over the edge as the horror swept through me. The full force of recognition hit me, I felt unstable and I staggered backwards. He rushed toward me as my body threatened to collide with the tarmac again. His hands grabbed my shoulders pulling me forward, steadying me. “Whoa, are you okay? Did you hit your head when you fell?” His smile was gone, instead his face was painted with concern. His face suddenly so close to mine, I could feel his breath on my face. I couldn’t speak. He dipped his head searching my eyes for a reply. I could only manage to shake my head. Bile burned my throat. What is he doing here? He can’t be here. My eyes followed his hands as he reached into his jacket. He pulled out a pen. His thumb pressed on the end igniting a beam of light where the nib should have been. He rested one hand on my head; the other hand holding the pen directed the light in my eyes. Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

“Do you feel dizzy? Sick?” His questions seemed to bring me to my senses. “What are you doing?” I swatted his hands away. “I didn’t hit my head. I’m fine. I’m just surprised. Callum what in the hell are you doing here?” My voice was louder than I had intended. For a moment the only noise was the wind blowing. He took a step back obviously sensing my unease. “She never told you?” His brow furrowed in question. “Listen I appreciate your concern, but you really shouldn’t be here” “She never told you.” It was a statement this time, not a question. He stood with his hands on his hips, shaking his bowed head. “Never told me what?” “April” He paused, choosing his words carefully. “She-” he cut himself off. I couldn’t understand. He seemed so upset. “I AM required to be here Heather. I’m your Gran’s doctor.” His words pierced me like a pick axe to the chest. My body swayed with the crushing blow. My head was spinning trying to make sense of it. My vision fogged, I could feel my grip on reality slipping away and my body responded in the same way. I could no longer feel my limbs, I was numb. It was too much, I couldn’t take anymore: The shock of seeing Callum, Gran’s deceit. My brain was shutting down in defence to the horror engorging my senses. I felt my body timber to the side and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I waited for the impact of my bones on the tarmac; I wanted the pain to come, anything but this psychological torture. How could Gran keep this from me? Why didn’t she warn me? But the pain didn’t come. I could hear only a buzz in my ears. Everything Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

shook around the edges and gradually faded to a pinhole. Darkness

Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009


Lonely Shores © Sara Kelly 2009

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