Maisie McLelland spent ten years building up McLelland Events in Glasgow and has just bought a holiday home in the relaxing small seaside town of Largs on the west coast of Scotland. She immediately befriends her elderly neighbour, the widow of a local fisherman.
When Elizabeth is in need of rescue, Maisie steps in to help. Elizabeth’s grateful son, teacher and lifeboatman, James, takes Maisie to dinner to show his appreciation. Maisie’s not looking for a relationship, and neither is James, as he’s still reeling from the loss of his son. They’re both surprised at the instant connection.
Over time, Maisie and James become friends and their closeness continues pulling them toward each other until emotion leads to intimacy. She agrees to help with the organisation of a Vilking Festival he is planning in the town.
But as Maisie approaches her 40th birthday, tragedy strikes a double blow, and she’s forced to make some important decisions about what she really wants from life.
‘What on earth have I done?’ she exclaimed as she looked about the half-empty room. This was not what she had planned, what she had looked forward to, what she had imagined in the evenings when the TV programmes were boring and she was sitting at home in her flat in Glasgow.
Where was the wee, whitewashed Highland cottage nestling into the glen, the purple heather-tinged mountains rising all around? Where was the burbling burn to supply fresh, clear water? The black-faced sheep munching close by? The sound of the distant bagpipes drifting through the quiet air? Her bolt hole, where she could escape when the pressures of her work in Glasgow became too much?
Maisie McLelland was 39, a successful businesswoman in Glasgow, with no ties and a bucket-list of what she wanted to achieve before she hit 40. Buying a second home, where she could go to relax away from the bustling city, was top priority. In fact, it was her only priority.
But here she was in another flat – smaller even than her Glasgow one – empty apart from a load of flatpack furniture piled high in the bedroom, and a sofa and two chairs wrapped in plastic sheeting in the lounge. She’d gone ahead and bought the property, despite the fact that it in no way resembled her long-held dreams of a Highland cottage far away from everyone and surrounded by hills.
Instead, this was an ordinary one-bedroom apartment, with magnolia-painted walls and a beige carpet throughout. The kitchen and bathroom were new, and white, and clean, and efficient. Nothing out of the ordinary; in fact, all very, very ordinary. Yet she’d known she had to buy it from the first moment she stepped out onto the balcony attached to the lounge.
‘Maisie McClelland,’ she had said to herself. ‘This is your idea of paradise. This is your dream.’
It was the breathtaking view that had sold the flat to her. Two flights up, she looked west across the glittering waters of the Firth of Clyde to the islands of Great and Wee Cumbrae, with the Isle of Bute behind, and further down the coast, the bulk of the Isle of Arran. Scotland in miniature, the adverts called Arran, with its mountain range at one end, and progressing gently down to rolling green fields at the other. She made a mental note to visit it one day, along with the other islands across the bay.
As she stood there, the sun was beginning its descent, and its rays bathed the islands in a golden light as they rose out of the sea. It was like no other view she had ever seen, and its beauty took her breath away.
So, there and then, she’d bought it. And now she was moving in. Except that all the furniture still had to be assembled.
Maisie wandered through to the bedroom and stared at the boxes, the packages, the pile of which would be her furniture and accessories, whenever she managed to put it all together. She’d got somewhat carried away on her visit to the large Swedish superstore in Glasgow where she’d bought it all, forgetting that most of it would have to be assembled.
First, though, a coffee would sustain her. But where was the coffee machine she had purchased, with a supply of coffee capsules? She raked through various boxes and bags, unearthing a couple of prints she’d thought would brighten up the plain walls, a large glass vase, and a magazine rack. But no sign of the coffee machine. She remembered, too, that she didn’t have any fresh milk or sugar. It might be easier to head out and find a place to sit while she gathered her strength.
Grabbing her coat, she marched out of the flat and pressed the button for the lift. And waited. And waited. Just then, the door of one of the other flats opened and a man came out, shouting ‘Cheerio!’ A large bear of a man, tall and muscular, with thick fair hair and an equally thick fair beard, and wearing a set of overalls. He was carrying a toolbox, and as Maisie spotted it, an idea struck her.
She smiled broadly at him as he approached the lift that had just arrived.
By the time they reached the ground floor, he had introduced himself as James Paterson and they had agreed he would come back the next day and, for a suitable payment, assemble all her furniture.
Meet the Author
Ann Burnett was born in Scotland where she now lives but has travelled extensively and lived in Canada and Australia.
She has published short stories, articles and children’s stories, as well as writing a novel, Loving Mother, as part of her Masters in Creative Writing. She is an experienced Creative Writing tutor and adjudicator for the Scottish Association of Writers.
Her short stories have been published in New Writing Scotland, Glasgow University Creative Writing anthologies, My Weekly, That’s Life (Australia), Woman’s Weekly and the Weekly News. Her collection of short stories, Take a Leaf out of My Book, is available on Amazon.
Her memoir, illustrated with her father’s photos, A Scottish Childhood, Growing up a Baby Boomer has just been published.
But perhaps she is best remembered for writing Postman Pat stories for a children’s comic every week for five years. A labour of love indeed!
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