“I have missed this,” the Reverend Simon Abernathy said to himself as he sat on a rock next to Lindisfarne Castle overlooking the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen, as the nearby Seals began to sing.
Simon had not set foot on Holy Island in over thirty years, but had longed to return.
This was where Simon began his ecclesiastical career, spending the entirety of the 80’s as a vicar on this island.
He would have happily stayed here forever, had the vacancy at a church in a small village in rural Warwickshire; St Gerald the Damned, not come up.
But he did not regret making the move from Lindisfarne to Lower Strangling one bit, and he would not exchange the past thirty two years for anything,
Even so, he missed the peace, the sunset, the Seals.
He had planned to return for a holiday one day, even planning to bring his congregation for a retreat, but had never found the time.
But now, following what was perhaps the most stressful year-and-a-bit of his working life, Simon felt that now was the time for a break.
So here he was, alone, sitting on a rock looking at the sunset.
Right now, he was the most relaxed he’d been since the pandemic began, maybe even since he left Holy Island before.
But then, someone disturbed the peace.
“Simon!” Someone called, running up to him.
Simon turned round, then he saw her.
He’d not seen her since leaving Holy Island and they’d both aged significantly, but he’d recognise her anywhere.
It was Marion Brown; the only woman he’d ever loved.
“Marion!” He said running up to her.
They both hugged.
“I’d know you anywhere,” Marion said.
“I’d know you anywhere too,” Simon said, “you’re just as beautiful as you were in 1989.”
“Stop it, you.” Marion said. “I’m married.”
“Oh,” Simon thought. It was over then.
“Well, congratulations,” Simon said.
“So, how are you, then?” Marion asked.
“Good, good. COVID has been stressful as you’d imagine.” Simon said.
“Yeah. It’s been pretty stressful here to. But hey, what better place to spend lockdown?” Marion said, gesturing their surroundings.
“Well, Lower Strangling has it’s benefits.” Simon said.
“I never said it didn’t.” Marion said.
“I know,” Simon said.
Marion and Simon then took a walk by the ocean.
“I take it you’re enjoying being in Warwickshire?” Marion said.
“I wouldn’t still be there if I didn’t.” Simon said. “It’s slightly more hectic, but there are worse places to be.”
“Do you ever, you know, regret moving there?” Marion asked.
Simon could sense that Marion was still bitter about him leaving her behind thirty two years ago, but he resisted mentioning it.
“No. It was the best decision I ever made.” Simon said.
“Ok,” Marion said.
“Hmm,” Simon responded.
Simon then noticed for the first time that Marion had a dog collar on, she’d been ordained since they’d last met.
“I see you’re a vicar yourself now,” Simon said.
“Yes,” Marion said, “of St Aidan’s.”
Simon’s heart sank; she was a Roman Catholic.
“Oh, how wonderful.” Simon said.
“I sense disappointment in your voice.” Marion said. “Is it because I’m Catholic?”
“No, no. Certainly not.” Simon said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
“Ok,” Marion said, deciding not to push the subject any further.
They then reached the watch tower offering views of the whole island, including the Castle and the Priory.
“So, do you have someone then?” Marion asked.
“What do you mean?” Simon said, pretending not to understand.
“Have a wife? Or girlfriend?” Marion asked.
“Oh, no, no. I’ve not been a relationship since we were dating.” Simon said.
“You’re not an Incel are you?” Marion asked.
“No. I’ve just decided to focus on serving God in Lower Strangling rather than getting on the dating scene.” Simon said.
“Ok,” Marion said.
They then walked back to where they started.
“Well, goodnight.” Marion said. “It was nice seeing you again.”
“It was nice seeing you again too,” Simon said.
“We could have a meal in the Crown and Anchor tomorrow, I’ll introduce you to Charles.” Marion said.
“That will be nice.” Simon said. “See you tomorrow.”
“Sure, bye.” Marion said.
“Bye,” Simon said.
And so, Simon walked away from the only woman he’d ever loved back to his hotel, longing to return to Lower Strangling.