She didn’t seem real, the first time I saw Fiona. The taxi pulled up at the double doors of the hall of residence and bulging black bin bags, followed by the thin plastic of Low’s supermarket bags tossed energetically out. At last, onto these tumbled a person. She landed like a fragile bird on top of the forgiving heap of belongings, her tartan cape gathered around. She untangled herself amidst squeals and laughter, her wispy blonde hair caught in the breeze across her eyes. The girl swished it aside, an action I came to associate with Fiona and her constant battle between the sea wind in St. Andrew’s and her long hair.
The taxi driver reluctantly stepped out of his car, muttering, obscenities no doubt. It was the same guy who had brought me here yesterday — one of 3,500 students descending on the town; the sleepy silence broken by the exuberant excited youths.
Years later I’d be on the other side, older, dreading the return to classes; an American gal settled in the deep dark depths of the north-east of Scotland — all for love, or so I convinced myself for many years.
Back then the sun gleamed through the windows, the corridors bustling with chatter, nervous giggles, hormones and alcohol; all to the backdrop of Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson and Runrig.
From below the angry voice of the taxi driver drifted up to me.
‘That’s six pounds? Do you hear me? Are you quite all there?’
The girl stood stock still, her gaze firmly upon the edifice of McIntosh Hall, or Chatham as I quickly learned the slang name for my new abode. Across four floors the impressive stone-built building curved in a long crescent around the garden to the front. This was the view from my shared room; from others, I learned their rooms overlooked the infamous West Sands. I coveted these rooms until seeing them soon after for myself. The beach view was but a corner snippet only visible by leaning out of the sash window at a sharp angle. A sash window that one day crashed down on its own accord just as I’d safely pulled in my head.
On this my only second day in St. Andrews, unaware of the dangers of the windows, I leant out and called down to the dazed girl.
‘I’ll be right down to help you. Don’t move!’
The latter words were superfluous I realised; Fiona remained motionless, oblivious to the wrath beside her, unaware of the stares and glares circling her.
Dashing down the wide wooden staircase I deftly dodged new arrivals hauling up suitcases, and grappling with backpacks. I soon arrived on the pavement outside.
‘Here’s your fare … thank you!’ I said to the driver handing him six crisp £1 Scottish notes, all the time eyeing intently the girl in front of me.
‘I’m here,’ she whispered. ‘Truly arrived!’ Her tranquil awe was infectious and in tones much quieter than my usual robust way of talking I replied cautiously to her.
‘You have indeed arrived! Welcome! What’s your name?’
‘Fiona the Fey,’ I uttered unintentionally.
With a gasp, I tried to reach out, and grasp back my thoughtless remark. To no avail. Yet fey suited Fiona perfectly.
Not tall myself, she barely reached my shoulders, her face and hands beyond pale, a translucent white. Upon her wrist dangled an old silver watch, her limbs skeletal and resembling the build of a young child. Her face looked gaunt, the cheeks sucked into themselves but it was the eyes that held my stare. Vivid hazel-green orbs shimmered, as striking as a baby’s large eyes on their smaller head. Eyes that rarely seemed to blink, eyes that would unsettle many around her.
With a start Fiona roused herself and flung her body towards me, enveloping me in a hug.
‘Thank you! Thank you for this wondrous welcome! We will be the best of friends,’ she declared with force.
©Annika Perry, June 2022
I hope you enjoyed the above which I hope to develop into a longer piece of fiction told with an alternating dual narrative perspective of Gail and Fiona. Happy Writing!