“NANNA, you can’t come in, please, I’ll walk you home and call you later,” pleaded Fiona.

Her gran stood, looking into the house: “What’s going on?”

She was now in her nineties and in reasonable physical health. She lived in her own home a few streets away and hadn’t ventured out for nearly four months because of the virus. Fiona had been talking on her mobile as she delivered the shopping for her. It seemed a dramatic conversation and Finn’s name was mentioned, but Fiona wouldn’t explain, then rushed away. Her gran felt something was being hidden from her so she decided to find out.

“Please nanna, I’ll walk with you.”

“I’m not daft you know, something has happened.”

Fiona took in a deep breath.

“It’s Finn, he’s suddenly turned up here.”

“Finn?” her eyes looked around. “Finn?” she repeated.

Fiona nodded.

“Can I see him, where is he?”

Sally had already ushered him out the back door and came back into the hall.

“I shouldn’t have let him in Fiona, I’m so sorry, it was just such a shock, I didn’t think.”

“It’s OK mum, I wasn’t thinking either, we just need to keep Nanna safe, I’ll see her home.”

“But I want to see Finn,” her gran insisted.

So on the street outside, with the background sound of traffic, Finn and his grandmother met. They stood metres apart, unable to come close or hug or even properly talk.

Beneath the extra wrinkles, Finn saw the kind and beautiful face that smiled at him from his memory. She clasped her bag and Finn noticed her wedding ring that used to fascinate him. She had always refused to take off, but instead would place her hand on her kitchen table and tell stories about her past and his grandad, who had given her the ring.

“Hello nanna.” Two simple words, yet she had waited 30 years for him to speak them.

“Finn,” she replied, looking him up and down. “You… you are the image of your dad when he was your age.” She spoke in a matter of fact way, there were no happy tears or wild joy of reunion. It felt awkward, with a sense of unreality; what to say after so long, after so much hurt?

The breeze gave Finn a faint scent of his nanna’s perfume; it was the fragrance of memory. He remembered how she used to greet him with a huge smile and granny bear hugs, always wearing that perfume. She’d cover him in kisses and leave lipstick stains on his cheeks.

He made to come closer to her, but Fiona raised her hand in a gesture to stop him. He nodded and stepped back. But it wasn’t just the virus keeping them apart.

“Nice to see you Finn,” said his gran and turned to Fiona: “Can you take me home now darling?”

“Course nanna.”

Finn watched her walk away for a moment, then called out: “Nanna, I’m sorry. I am so sorry, I’m more sorry than words can say.”

She stopped, then turned round and gave him an affectionate look of understanding, not quite a smile.

He watched her leave, walking slowly with her stick, with Fiona walking two metres from her side.

“It needs some time,” said Sally. “She has suffered so badly from what happened. Maybe even more than your dad. We know it wasn’t your fault but…” she looked down as if to stop the words coming.

“It will take time to heal and we will do it together as a family, that’s what Ewen said he wanted, you know, if ever this moment came. No recriminations, no blame, just joy at re-connection. But…”

“But I came too late,” said Finn wistfully.

Sally shrugged her shoulders.

“I’m sorry, Sally, I wish I could find a way to turn back time, to have understood the truth and what was really happening.”

She pointed to the large box she’d given him: “That contains what your dad wanted to say to you. Ewen devoted a lot of time and effort to it. As I said, he had hoped to share it with you in person but, well, you have it now as he wished.”

A coldness had returned to the way she spoke to him.

“Fiona will be back in five minutes, she wants to talk more with you. I need to go back in now.” Sally was visibly trembling as she returned to the house, leaving Finn standing on the pavement.

The moment she was inside and closed the door, her emotions erupted. She screamed at the coats and plant pots. She had wanted to scream at Finn, tell him of all the hurt and suffering he had caused by his cruel words and rejection of his dad. Years of buried rage at having to appear understanding came to the surface.

She yelled at the framed picture of Ewen with Finn when he was three. “And now he just turns up like some Biblical lost son expecting us all to just forgive and forget! Well Ewen, you are dead and I don’t know if I can do it, I don’t know if I can be understanding any more. I saw what he did to you and your mother, I was the one who had to pick up the pieces.” Tears came and she sat on the floor feeling so much better. They were words so deeply felt but she had never been able to say them out loud before, not even to herself.

Fiona arrived back in the street to see Finn standing alone, with his father’s box on the pavement. She burst out laughing. He looked at her quizzically.

“Sorry Finn, but standing there with your box you look like Paddington Bear!” She held her hand over her mouth to try to hide her continued amusement.

“Dad, our dad, used to say a day without laughter was a day wasted. I think it was a Charlie Chaplin quote. Even in sad times he’d laugh with us. I miss him so much…” She paused for a moment, realising that may have been insensitive. “I know it’s awful you came after dad died, I can’t imagine how you feel or what you’ve gone through, but he never forgot you, we all know stories about you, from when you were wee.”

She gave him a piece of paper.

“Give her a call. She might not answer, but she’ll phone back if you text her. I’ve already left her a message. She will be so happy to see you.”

Finn’s face lit up. It was Izzy’s mobile number.

“Aunt Izzy! How is she?”

“Oh, she’s living her dream! Love her to bits. She’s helped out so much but she needed time with her trees and mountains.”

Finn shook his head.

“She has this cool self-built camper van and lives all summer in it. Now that lockdown has eased she’s somewhere up north, so she currently has no reception. Last message I got from her was a wee rant about wild campers leaving rubbish and littering one of her favourite places.”

“Aye, that sounds like aunt Izzy,” smiled Finn.

“As I say, text her and she’ll call you back. She will be so happy to hear from you Finn.”

Finn nodded, looking at the paper with his aunt’s name. He had said such cruel words to her as well. Fiona sensed his feelings.

“You must get in touch with her, I mean when you feel ready.”

Finn nodded, now looking visibly upset.

“Mum and nanna are so pleased to see you too, Finn, they just need some time. Mum had to support dad, she had to be the rock and it took its toll on her. Nanna just couldn’t talk about you because it was too painful for her, so she will need time to feel safe to feel those buried emotions again. We are all still affected by grief as well, it’s only just over a year since dad died but it feels like yesterday and mum hasn’t grieved properly yet. It’s like she’s afraid to let go.”

Finn was still looking at the piece of paper and she wasn’t sure he was listening, but he was. She opened her arms and gave him an air hug.

“Anyway Finn, it’s amazing to finally meet you, big brother! Wait till you meet our wee brothers, they were so annoying when we were children but we are close now. Oh, and you can come to my 30th birthday party, that is if we are allowed parties and you’d want to. It’ll be in the garden anyway.”

She winked and gave him a smile.

They exchanged mobile numbers and found each other on Facebook.

“I’d better go and check on mum, let’s speak soon, don’t be a stranger… again,” she winked. Her sense of humour lifted Finn.

He sat in his car not knowing which emotion to give attention to first. His dad’s box of memories sat next to him on the passenger seat.

Then his mobile rang. It was an unknown number, but then he realised: it was Izzy’s number.

He briefly hesitated, then answered.

“Hello, Finn here,” he said nervously.

“Finn sweetie, it’s me, aunt Izzy. Oh my God darling, how are you? Can we see each other? I’d love that. Can you come join me, or can I come see you?”

He set off later that day. He was on furlough, with time on his hands and a Pandora’s box of emotions swirling in his mind. He headed north, to journey along the Road of Legends, for the first time in 26 years.

Izzy was waiting for him by the beach where she was camped.

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