"I don't have a choice."
"Of course you have a choice. There's always a choice. For weeks you've been choosing not to go to work. You can choose not to go to the island. Just tell them no."
"Fin, if you get on that plane tomorrow . . ." He waited for the ultimatum while she screwed up the courage to make it. But it didn't come.
"What, Mona? What'll happen if I get on that plane tomorrow?" He was goading her into saying it. Then it would be her fault and not his.
She looked away, sucking in her lower lip and biting on it until she tasted blood. "Just don't expect me to be here when you get back, that's all."
He looked at her for a long time. "Maybe that would be best."
* * *
The two-engined, thirty-seven-seater aircraft shuddered in the wind as it tilted to circle Loch a Tuath in preparation for landing on the short, windswept runway at Stornoway Airport. As they emerged from thick, low cloud, Fin looked down at a slate-grey sea breaking white over the fingers of black rock that reached out from the Eye Peninsula, the ragged scrap of land they called Point. He saw the familiar patterns carved into the landscape, like the trenches that had so characterized the Great War, though men had dug these ditches not for war but for warmth. Centuries of peat cutting had left their distinctive scarring on the endless acres of otherwise featureless bogland. The water in the bay below looked cold, ridged by the wind that blew uninterrupted across it. Fin had forgotten about the wind, that tireless assault blowing in across three thousand miles of Atlantic. Beyond the shelter of Stornoway harbour there was barely a tree on the island.
On the hour-long flight, he had tried not to think. Neither to anticipate his return to the island of his birth, nor to replay the dreadful silence that had accompanied his departure from home. Mona had spent the night in Robbie's room. He had heard her crying from the other end of the hall as he packed. In the morning he had left without a word, and as he pulled the front door shut behind him he knew that he had closed it not only on Mona, but on a chapter of his life he wished had never been written.
Now, seeing the familiar Nissen huts on the airfield below, and the unfamiliar new ferry terminal shining in the distance, Fin felt a rush of emotion. It had been so very long, and he was unprepared for the sudden flood of memories that almost overwhelmed him.
Excerpted from The Blackhouse by Peter May. Copyright © 2012 by Peter May. Excerpted by permission of Silver Oak. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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