THERE was a page glued onto the inner side of the front cover, obviously added more recently. It had the date February 18, 2019, written at the top. There was a short paragraph underneath, written in uneven and shaky handwriting.

“Finn, my son,” were the first words.

He stopped reading and looked up, taking a deep breath. He looked for Izzy. She was playing with Ceilidh on the beach, although he didn’t know she was discreetly keeping an eye on him.

He took a gulp of wine and continued to read:

“If you are reading this then you have come to see me, and I am so sorry I am no longer here to welcome you back in person. This journal contains my story of my time with you on the trip along the Road of Legends with Izzy, although you didn’t know then that I was with you. It was never our intention that you would discover my presence and I am deeply sorry for the way that happened and the terrible distress it caused you. I just wanted to be close to you. I hope one day you will find a way to understand, and forgive us for the deception. I wrote this journal, partly for me to record and cherish the memories, but also to share with you if ever you wanted to.”

He looked up again, Izzy noticed his expression and came to him.

“You OK, sweetie?”

“When exactly did dad die?”

She sat next to him: “Third of March last year.”

He gazed into the sky as he scrolled his memory to remember what he was doing that day, but couldn’t. He opened Facebook on his phone and searched for posts on that date. There was a photo of him with his daughter Eilidh, feeding the ducks and swans at St Margaret’s Loch. Now he remembered the day.

“You want me to sit with you as you read?”

Finn gave his aunt a smile. “No, it’s OK. Maybe some more wine?”

She went to get another bottle, put it next to him, then went to collect more driftwood.

“I’ll stay nearby, just say if you need me.”

Finn gave a slight nod. She had been right when she’d said he was now a grown man. But inside he was a hurt and bewildered child. Now he was on the threshold of new truths.

He was afraid of what they may uncover, but he knew he needed to hear them before that damaged child could heal.

He returned to his dad’s words.

“We are, in the end, our stories. Although I cannot now tell you mine in person, we live on if our stories are shared.

“I love you Finn. Never stopped. Never will.

“Dad xxx.”

Finn turned to the first page. It had the same handwriting but much neater. There was a heading: “Samson’s Stone, Thursday, September 8, 1994.”

An old photo was underneath. It was a photo of him and Izzy next to Bess, taken from a distance.

A memory flashed before him, of watching a man walk up to Samson’s Stone after they had been there. “That man was dad?” Finn wondered out loud to himself.

His father’s words seemed to predict his question:

“Yes, Finn, that was me wandering up the hill to Samson’s Stone. I saw you watching me and took this photo of us looking at each other from a distance.

“I had got there before you and hid in the tall bracken and willow herb by the path. I felt like an outlawed Macgregor! I will be honest, I was feeling very emotional and nervous as I had to make sure you wouldn’t see me, but I was desperate to see you.

“You walked up the path and came so close, my heart was racing and I had to crouch down to keep hidden. Then you almost sliced my head off with a stick!”

Finn stopped reading, confused.

“Sliced his head off with a stick, what?” Then the memory came: he had picked up a stick to vent his anger on the tall flowers and bracken by the side of the path.

“Oh my God, he was hiding in there!”

The image made him laugh. He continued to read.

“Thankfully you made it to the stone and I saw you scramble to the top of it. That made me smile because you had been to Samson’s Stone once before with me, when you were three years old.

“You probably won’t remember but at that time you were disappointed because you wanted to climb to the top, but it wasn’t really safe for you at that age.

“I promised then I’d bring you back when you were older. So I’m glad you made it this time. There was a moment I thought you’d seen me, but you were looking at the rainbow.

“Samson’s Stone is a special place for me. I was taken there when I was a boy by my father, your grandfather. He told me the story of how the boulder was thrown there by a giant. You never knew him of course because he died before you were born.

“My father told me many tales of giants, I used to love them as a boy and in a strange way even more so when I grew up. It took me some time to figure out what kind of giant Samson was!

“My father loved the Highlands, he would take us on camping trips as often as possible.

“We had an old Morris Minor car and nanna would pack delicious picnic food. We would always stop at a different place each trip and spend time exploring.

“Then he would tell us stories around the camp fire. When I asked where we were going, he would often say ‘The Road of Legends’, which was his name for the route to Loch Ness.

“When you were born, I knew one day I would take you along The Road of Legends and tell you those stories too. But life sometimes doesn’t work out the way you hoped. But Izzy is a great storyteller and she told your grandfather’s stories brilliantly in my place, sure you’d agree.”

As Finn read the words, he tried to remember the sound of his dad’s voice but it was lost in the mists of time. Ceilidh’s barking distracted his thoughts. His aunt was carrying a large bundle of driftwood and Ceilidh was trying to snatch one of the sticks to play with.

He went to help her.

The sun was now beginning to set behind the distant mountains, painting a reddish fringe on the clouds. The breeze had dropped, Loch Linnhe was stunningly still, reflecting the sky and frame of mountains, but the midges were now out in force.

Izzy added wood to the fire. “The smoke will keep them away,” she said optimistically.

They huddled as close to the fire as they could, watching and listening to the crackling flames as they licked the darkening sky.

Finn lay the journal carefully on the beach and covered it, keeping it safe from the fire’s sparks. Then his heart spoke.

“For years I believed my dad had left me and didn’t love me, because that’s what I was told. I thought something was wrong with me, I wondered what I’d done. I remember he didn’t turn up for my eighth birthday party as he’d promised. He never even sent me a present or card. I remember being so hurt but also angry.

“I was told I was better off without him, that he was no good, and I believed that because it helped me cope better.

“The trouble was I missed him so much it made my stomach ache and my heart sore. It was like a fight inside me. But I couldn’t tell anyone.

“If I mentioned dad or talked about him to my mum she would get upset, so I learnt not to, unless, you know, it was negative, that would make her happy.

“I remember I wrote a secret letter to Santa, begging him to bring my dad on Christmas Day. That didn’t happen of course, so that’s when I stopped believing in him. It was the last time I remember wanting him back, after that I hated him.”

Finn stopped for a moment, shaking his head.

“Nobody actually told me to hate him. But I knew I had to, you know, because hating him was a way of keeping my mum’s love for me. I remember saying such bad things about him, comparing him to Darth Vader and believing he was evil.

“But I was still so confused. I had so many happy memories of my dad that didn’t fit with what I was made to believe about him. So I had to bury those memories, well, not just bury them, but put a heavy lid of hatred over them, so their truth would never escape.

“When I met him in Glencoe, when he was suddenly just standing there in front of me, I knew I couldn’t run into his arms, because if I did I would betray my mum and lose her. That’s why I couldn’t listen to him or you then. I had to run. I had a truth I had to hold onto, I had to hate him, and so after that I had to hate you too. I knew mum was the one who loved me. But…”

Izzy sat with listening silence.

“Why was my dad taken from me Izzy? I’m 37 years old and I still don’t understand why.

“I’m so afraid I will lose Eilidh in the same way. It was difficult before the lockdown but at least we were together at weekends, but now we’ve been separated for over four months.

“I’m terrified history will repeat itself, so I need to understand. Mum won’t speak about it. I mean, was dad abusive or something?

“I know some men are. But that’s not my memory, although I’m still not sure what’s real to be honest.

“Were there things going on that I didn’t know? Was I to blame? Please tell me the truth; I need to know the truth.”