FINN stood looking at his dad. He was confused and didn’t understand.

“But… how?”

He turned towards his aunt. Her drained expression offered no explanation.

He looked back at his dad. It had been over four years since they had last seen each other and during that time Finn had learnt to forget what his dad had once meant.

They stood looking at each other, only feet apart, yet separated by years of untruths.

Ewen’s heart and mind had no preparation for this moment. Both he and his son were in shock at the sudden and unexpected meeting. He wanted to rush to him, hold him tight in a hug. But he knew he couldn’t.

Ewen spoke, his voice breaking with emotion: “I’ve missed you so much Finn… I love you.”

The words challenged and unbalanced his son’s world. Finn stood frozen, disorientated.

Ewen’s arms opened, offering a hug, but he had to resist moving closer to his son.

An eternity followed. Drizzle began to fall from grey clouds; the sound of the river filled the silence. Forgotten memories began to flicker in Finn’s mind; no, not forgotten, buried. Ewen’s posture, with his arms outstretched, rekindled a distant memory for Finn: how he used to run into those arms when his dad picked him up from school. It was a lost lifetime ago.

“Dad,” said Finn, taking a step forward, raising his arms to accept the hug. “Dad!” He took another step.

But suddenly a curtain came down on Finn’s emotions. He stepped back and shook his head, looked at Izzy and then back at Ewen. He was torn.

Izzy couldn’t hold the truth in any longer.

“Finn, sweetie, your dad does love you, very much, he always has. He never left you, he’s always tried to stay in your life.”

He stared at her in disbelief. How could this be true? If he believed this then he would betray his mum. So he mustn’t believe it.

“No,” he cried, “it’s not true, I know it isn’t. He doesn’t love me, he’s useless and left me, and I don’t love him.”

“You can love your mum and your dad, sweetie. It doesn’t have to be a choice; they both love you.”

This was too much for Finn. He could not accept this; it made him terrified he’d lose his mum’s love, that she would think he didn’t love her. Why was his aunty telling these lies

Then the realisation hit him: Izzy and his dad knew each other, so she must be on his side. His mind raced as he hid his face in his hands.

He looked up at Ewen. “I hate you!” he screamed, then turned to Izzy, “and now I’m going to have to hate you too.”

Ewen tried to speak to his son but Finn couldn’t listen. He ran across the river in his bare feet, holding his hands over his ears. Ewen made to follow but Izzy stopped him.

“No, Ewen.”

“But he’s my son, he’ll hurt himself, it’s a dangerous path; we can talk so he understands the truth.”

“He’s running from the truth, Ewen, because it’s unbearable for him. You can’t comfort him. Neither of us can. Let me at least try and keep him physically safe. Oh my God, what have we done?”

She dropped her rucksack and ran across the river and soon vanished from sight as she sprinted down the path. Ewen stood motionless in the rain, unsure what to do. His legs gave way as if temporarily paralysed and he sat on the rocky riverside trying to take in what had just happened.

After some time, he gathered himself together and picked up his son’s socks and boots, and Izzy’s rucksack. He set off down the path, with a faint hope that he would find them, that his son would remember how much they had loved each other, that they could be reunited.

But deep down, he knew why this wouldn’t be. Finn had remembered they had loved each other, but in the world made for him he couldn’t acknowledge that love and keep his love for his mum. He did have to choose. So those memories, and the truth they held, had to be unremembered.

Ewen walked slowly, partly because he was laden, mainly to avoid another unplanned meeting. When he reached the vantage point at the end of the gully, he could see them both far below in the distance.

Izzy was carrying Finn, piggyback style, along the final section of the path. He watched them as they reached the car. Midges swarmed round him but he didn’t notice their attempts to annoy him. Instead, his entire being was focused on Izzy’s car as it headed south, up the glen and soon out of sight.


Twenty-six years later, in June 2020, Finn stood on the doorstep of his dad’s house. He was now 37 years old and a dad himself. He stared at the old doorknocker, the same one he remembered, with a leaf design and welcoming hand you hold when knocking on the door.

He held it for a moment, heart racing. The last time he walked over this threshold he was seven years old, almost eight. He remembered how excited he was, as his eighth birthday was the following week. His dad had promised to be there but he didn’t turn up.

Finn heard voices inside, so with his heart in his throat he knocked, then stood back. The door was opened by a woman. It took a few moments for Finn to recognise her. Her hair was shorter and she looked older, of course. But yes, it was her.

“Sally, it’s me, Finn.”

She stood staring at him, shocked. Then her hands covered her mouth as she let out a cry. 

“Finn! Oh my God, yes, I recognise you now, you have less hair but you look even more like…” The brightness of her expression suddenly changed. Then she smiled again, but this time it seemed less genuine.

“Well, I know it must be a shock, you know, me arriving on the doorstep after all these years and with all that has happened. But, I, erm…”

“You want to come in?”

“You OK with that, you know, social distancing an’all?”

“No hugs, but we can talk,” said Sally.

The moment he entered the hall he was engulfed with memories. The rack where he used to hang his coat after a walk. . . and Bruce’s dog lead. The wallpaper was different but he noticed small details, like the same lampshades and landscape pictures.

He stood at the entrance to the living room. The big armchair was still there. He could see himself, cuddled up on his dad’s lap as he told or read stories in the evening. Sally noticed his gaze.

“You want to sit in the armchair?”

Finn gave a smile and slight nod, then walked to the chair.

“It seems smaller than I remember,” he said.

“Well, you were much younger then, so it will have seemed bigger,” Sally said. “Ewen wanted to keep it so we had it repaired. It’s seen many years of storytelling,” she smiled.

Finn sat on it, laid back and put his hands on its arms.

“You want some tea or coffee?”

“Coffee, please.”

There was a tense atmosphere, as if Sally was avoiding conversation. She left the room and picked up her mobile phone and started texting. Finn peered out of the window to the garden to see if his dad was there. Minutes went by and he could hear Sally speaking on the phone.

He stood up and went to the French windows. The garden looked different: less wild than he remembered, more organised and with flowerbeds and a trimmed hedge. But the silver birch tree was still there in the corner, draped with early summer green. He remembered he used to make a den under it and play pirates.

“Coffee,” said Sally, returning. “Wasn’t sure if you took milk and sugar so brought both.” The awkwardness was still in the air.

“How’s dad?” asked Finn nervously. It seemed abrupt but he didn’t know how else to approach the topic.

Sally seemed angry. “Well, Finn, I’m afraid you’ve left it too late to ask that question: he passed away last year.”

Her answer hit him, then slowly sank in as they sat in silence. After all those years, he’d left it a year too long. He didn’t know how to respond to that, how to feel. He felt a wave of grief, but for what? For the loss of something that was taken from him, something he could have had? Finn was already consumed with guilt for his part in that. He had wanted to say sorry to his dad, hear and understand the truth, make amends if that was possible. Now it wasn’t.

He felt he had better leave but the front door opened and a woman called out “hi, mum” and came into the room. She was young, probably in her mid-twenties, and came and sat by Sally, who was rubbing the top of her nose with her finger and thumb to relieve her stress.

“You OK, mum?”

Sally nodded unconvincingly.

“I’ll make you some tea, darling,” she said, then left.

The young woman looked up at Finn and gave him a big smile.

“Hi, I’m Fiona, I’m your sister, well, half-sister I suppose, I don’t think you know about me but I’ve heard lots about you.”

Finn sat speechless.

Fiona stood up and beckoned him to her.

“Come see.”

She took him to a wall of the living room with framed photos.

“This is our family. That’s our dad, of course, with my mum, that’s me, and that’s Adam and Jamie, my, I mean our, younger brothers, and there,” she pointed to the corner of the frame where a small cut-out photo of him as a child was added, “that’s you.”

Fiona turned to listen to Sally in the kitchen, who was taking a long time to make the tea. 

“I’m just going to check on mum, she’s in a bit of shock just now, you know, you turning up suddenly like this, especially at this time. She will be fine, though. Back in a minute.”

Finn studied the photo, then looked at the others which decorated the wall. Pictures of his family he didn’t know, of memories he didn’t have.

Then he saw one of his dad sitting by a huge boulder with a young boy on his knee. He peered at it, recognising the location. “Samson’s Stone,” he said to himself.

“Yes, it is,” said Sally, who had come back into the room.

“And that young lad is you. Izzy took that photo of you both when you were three years old; that was before I knew your dad, of course.” Sally gave him a smile, this time warm.

“I’m so sorry, Finn, for my reaction. The thing is you turning up like this was so unexpected. I should have been more sensitive in how I told you the news. This is your old home and if your dad was here he would have welcomed you with such joy and love, just like the prodigal son, and so let’s start again.”

She turned towards Fiona as she walked in, carrying a large box.

“He always hoped you would one day come back into his life. He left this for you. He had hoped he would be able to share it with you in person, but, well, you’ll see, he will still be with you in another way, as he always was.”

Finn opened the box. It had photo albums in it and large leather-bound note books, each one dated and titled. One was titled ‘Road of Legends September 1994’. He opened it. It was full of his dad’s handwriting, with rough drawings and photos.

“Your dad was with you on that trip. I know it ended badly but for four days he felt close to you and this is his account of his time with you. He speaks to you. He never forgot you, Finn. Your siblings know you through his stories about you.”

There was a knock at the door. Fiona answered. Finn recognised the voice of the old woman as she entered.

“Nanna!” Finn called out.