Fran should be looking back on her life with pride. She’s risen to the top of the job ladder, having left behind a council housing estate in post-war Glasgow, to forge a colourful, fulfilling career and enjoy all the trappings of success.
But instead, Fran is consumed by regret. A shocking revelation has cast her life, and her thirty-year marriage, asunder. She finds herself the full-time carer for her husband, a man she now accepts, she has never loved. The sacrifices she has made, the personal freedoms she has lost, have left Fran crushed. Her free-spirited friend Iona is her one salvation. Their friendship has survived the storms of conflict and loss since childhood, their deep affection for one another the only constant remaining in Fran’s life, a life she no longer recognises as her own.
Her husband’s new brush with death will give Fran the chance to reflect on what she has left, the choices she has made and the two men she has loved and lost.
Can Fran find a way through the ruins of her marriage and find inner peace, to make the most of what remains of her life's journey?
Somehow Fran found herself marrying Rob, a handsome airline pilot that she had met in a pub four years previously. In truth she allowed herself to drift into this relationship without any real thought or planning. Rob was decisive and determined and had rescued Fran from the clutches of her dependent mother and later from the horrors of a job in a pharmaceutical company in Germany that Fran hated. It was years later before Fran realized that although she cared for Rob, she had never really loved him, never had the same loving soul connection with him that she had shared with another man she met (and lost ) when she was working in Germany.
Fran’s early life, born into a working class family in post war Glasgow was influenced by a close and enduring childhood friendship she formed with Iona, a free-spirited Irish girl who lived in the same street. Iona had to return to Ireland with her widowed mother, leaving behind a lost and bewildered Fran desperately missing her truest friend. When Iona returned, five years later, she was involved in a passionate and ultimately tragic love affair with her Irish boyfriend. Fran was still a naive seventeen year old, but her involvement with Iona helped her to humorously navigate her way through the early challenges and a totally unsuitable relationship with a much older man. Fran was ambitious for a different lifestyle and left Glasgow for London to work in medical research. Her boyfriends were all frightened off by her demanding and thoughtless mother who followed Fran south, that is until she met Rob who proved more than a match for her mother.
Although she was quite taken with her handsome boyfriend, she was not convinced about wanting a future with him and she took off again to work in Germany in pharmaceutical research. There she had a short but intensely loving relationship which came to an abrupt end when her lover was posted to Vietnam. Fran returned to England and moved in with Rob who had pursued her relentlessly and had refused to give up on their relationship. Fran became a successful business woman running her own recruiting agency, but decided she wanted children after marrying Rob. The loss of Fran’s income forced them on an odyssey of overseas flying contracts for Rob. Back in Germany, Fran found out that Rob was having an affair. She was completely devastated, but nevertheless chose to forgive him for the sake of their two young daughters. They moved to Jeddah where Fran, now a journalist, met and had a passionate affair with a wealthy Arab. Fran’s marriage was disintegrating and after six years living a restricted life in a Muslim culture, she returned to the UK with her young teenagers and eventually retrained as a therapist and built a successful career teaching Acupressure Chair massage and running stress management seminars throughout the UK and Ireland. Her marriage to Rob was hanging on by a thread, but as he kept insisting that he loved her, in spite of another suspicious but denied relationship she uncovered; she soldiered on, always hoping that as they both mellowed into their retirement years that they might finally find contentment.
It was not to be, Rob had a devastating stroke, Fran almost overnight, had to give up her career and her freedom to become his full-time carer, gradually losing her sense of identity in the process. A few months after he had his stroke there was a shocking revelation about Rob’s life that blew apart all Fran’s aspirations for the peaceful retirement she had hung on for. Now she was trapped in a loveless relationship with no prospect of building a life outside of her caring role.
What kept her sane was her lifelong friendship with Iona. Fran had supported Iona through two tragic losses in her life and a life-threatening illness. Iona also escaped from a dangerous liaison she had with a corrupt and wealthy property dealer in Glasgow with long term devastating consequences for her and her daughter. Iona became a successful novelist and ended up in Hollywood developing film scripts for her novel and other TV shows. Throughout the years and all of their respective traumas and dramas and occasional conflicts, the two women managed to keep their friendship and their sense of humour intact. Finally, after Rob developed dementia and was admitted to a nursing home, Fran got the opportunity for some respite with her friend Iona who invited her on a luxury Atlantic cruise. Three days into the cruise, fate once again took a cruel twist for Fran…
Just One Life is dedicated to all the unsung carers who have sublimated their ambitions and plans for their own lives to look after a dependent family member. And to friendship. Where would we be without our dearest friends who know us and do not judge?
Living in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, Pat Abercromby has enjoyed a varied career - from recruitment consultant to journalist in Saudi Arabia and massage therapist - eventually setting up a training school for Seated Acupressure Massage. Today she continues to work within the field of corporate wellness with her business partner Davina Thomson with their joint company Wellbeing Direct. She also co-wrote and published Seated Acupressure Massage with Davina Thomson in 2000. In her spare time, Pat enjoys being an active member of her local creative writing group, classical music and the outdoors.