Chapter 5

As promised, the weather was pleasant in the morning, but with high winds and rolling clouds, that promise could change at any moment. At the top of Berwick Law, dark clouds in the north showed shower activity. And while the sun shone over North Berwick during my climb, clouds hovered in the west, over Edinburgh, casting Arthur's Seat in dark shadows.

My eyes turned to Fife Ness, where the north shore of the Firth of Forth opened to the North Sea. Looking east, the sea stretched endlessly, mixing with more cloud and precipitation on the horizon. My gaze always sought Bass Rock, the lonely volcanic plug just off the southern shore line. From there, I could plainly see the stone curtain of Tantallon Castle. As a child, that was my playground. It had been almost ten years since I last stood on the grounds, the memory all but lost. Kristen and I knew each other back then, but it would be a couple of years until we started dating, a couple of years more until we were wed.

Take this in through my eyes, Kristen. This is a view I love, a view that I'd give anything to be seeing with your hand in mine. Laura could play in the remains of the lookout that stood just below the summit, that has stood there since the Napoleonic Wars. This was my other playground.

The whale jawbone was looking rough. Standing like an arch, it could be seen from miles away. One had stood here for centuries. I didn't know how old this one was, but it looked old, had probably stood since before I was born. How much longer before it collapsed? Would it still be standing here when I returned? No telling when that would be. I was going to be in Korea until at least the end of this year; my contract ended December 31, but perhaps I would stay until the following March, when I would officially be a non-resident of Canada for two years. I would be exempt from income taxes. Wouldn't owe for my total time in Korea.

Still thinking like money was an issue. Taking after my dad. Would I ever stop thinking that way?

After Korea, what? Where would I go? What would I do? When my obligations in Korea ended, I would have a clean slate, would be able to go anywhere, do anything. Did I want to return to Canada? Would I settle in Scotland, convince my mum to sell her house and return to Edinburgh or North Berwick, move in with me or Siobhan, or find her a place of her own in either town? So many questions, but plenty of time to figure it out. For now, I had to think about the year ahead. Ninteen-Ninety Eight was going to be my year. Last year, I had learned to stand on my feet again. To move forward. I was in recovery mode and my recovery occurred at a faster pace than I expected. I had made friends, fallen in love—something I hadn't thought possible a few months earlier. I earned the respect and admiration of colleagues. And, most importantly, I had learned to cope in an unfamiliar culture, in an alien environment. During a time of economic hardship. I didn't come out unscathed, but I survived. And I developed a craving for more.

This is your time, Roland. Thrive. The words in my head came behind Kristen's voice. She was with me. I squeezed my hand in a fist, imaging hers in it.
The clouds moved overhead and showers were in the air. It had been a good workout in climbing The Law. It was best that I descended before the path became slippery, proving to be a hazard to navigating. By my estimate, if I left now the rain might hold off until I reached Law Road. From there, a short walk into town and then perhaps an early lunch at The Ship Inn. And another visit to The Auld Hoose afterward.

Perhaps Lyle's daughter, Katie, would be in again. In this bleak February weather, she had shown to be a spot of sunshine in the town.

Still moving forward.

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