They were all there – her sons, her much younger daughter, the camera crew and the over-excited presenter. He reminded her of her old pal Drew, back in the day. As she slowly put one foot in front of the other the people around her timed their steps to be in line with her. With one son on each arm, she kept her eyes on the ground in front, unable to look up. The path up the hill was as uneven as it had been when she was a young, spritely girl. The only difference now was that she couldn’t remember where to set her feet.
Two women were standing at the top, smiling at her. She nodded as they introduced themselves but didn’t catch their names. The climb up to the refurbished cottage, her cottage, had been gruelling. After an hour of doing what once took ten minutes, Josie lowered herself onto a familiar looking stone outside the house. Only then did she let herself lift her gaze. The sea had not lost its deep, ever-changing swell. It was free of fishing vessels now. With no-one to man them and the bay declared ‘over-fished’ a few years ago, the waters had been left in peace. The few fields were untouched now, taken over with thistles, nettles and ragwort. Maybe they were enjoying the rest after being dug over and re-used every year for too many years. All but two buildings were grey stone ruins. Josie strained to see where the ceili house had been, and Aisling’s and Seamus’. They were just heaped stones now.
And there were the donkeys. They couldn’t be the same ones she’d left behind could they? She liked to think they were. Sure, everyone knew: things on the island could always astonish you. If she’d been able, she would have gone over and peeked into their battered panniers to see if there was anything in there. She swallowed familiar tears. Sure, without Seamus, how else would they be filled?
One of the women crouched down beside her with something in her hand. She placed it on Josie’s lap and stepped back,
“I believe this is yours?”
Josie placed her lined fingers on the envelope and looked at her strong, practised pen strokes. She pulled the letter out and started to read.
“What does it say mammy?”
A herring gull cried out over the rippling waters below them. The clouds drew back to let the uncertain sun kiss the heather-clad hills. Memories whispered around the ruined village. The abandoned curraghs knocked against each other beside the small harbour.
Everything was waiting for her reply.
Josie gave a shaky sigh and whispered,
“It says, ‘I’ll be back’.”
The camera whirred, the shutter clicked. This was history in the making, right in front of them;
The first and last island post woman had finally come home.