Under Two Shires Oak

Illustration by Michael Thomas.

Episode 45

“YOUR parents will get a shock seeing you back so soon,” Tom said a few days later, as Suzanne repacked the bag she’d so recently unpacked.

Suzanne nodded, thinking that the real shock would be when she told them she and Tom were separating. There was still affection between them, still respect, but somewhere, in among all the angry words, their love had died.

“Is it their plan to stay in France?” he then asked, surprising Suzanne.

“Yes. That’s their home now. Why?”

“Just something I’ve occasionally sensed, talking to your mum. Anyway, remember there’s a house outside Manchester if you need it.”

Suzanne nodded again. She already knew about the house that had been Tom’s family home before he lost his parents, when he was just small, on a lonely mountain road in Switzerland. He’d somehow survived the accident, but had been injured and alone for a full night before being found.

Maybe, Suzanne wondered, that was why he was so good at what he did – he’d once felt beyond hope himself . . .

They were interrupted by the sound of the Land-Rover coming to take her on the first leg of her journey. At the top of Suzanne’s bag was the little silver frame containing the leaves her mum had taken from Two Shires Oak. Grace had given it to Suzanne when she’d joined the organisation, “to keep you safe, my darling.”

Blinking back tears, Suzanne now removed the frame from her bag.

“You take this,” she said, pushing it into Tom’s hands.

* * * *

Suzanne settled easily back into life with her parents in France. She had, after all, grown up in the lovely old farmhouse, and being with her daughter full time was just . . . She had tried once to find the words to describe her feelings, but had ended up crying tears of joy. It was all working well, yet she often found herself considering taking on Tom’s house outside Manchester, near where Cheshire changed into Derbyshire. It had been rented out for years, but was presently untenanted.

“What are you thinking?” a voice said behind her.

It was her artist father, Phil, come out to join her on the terrace.

She told him and he nodded.

“How about if we came with you? I suspect your mum would like to return to the UK, especially now Peter’s gone,” he added, referring to her brother’s recent move to Paris. He was silent a moment. “She still has this idea that I gave up everything to marry her. That’s nonsense, because from the moment I saw her she was everything to me. I suspect your mother believes living here makes up for it in a way, but I reckon she’s been homesick for some while. She doesn’t even write to those two old friends of hers any more, you know, probably because it upsets her. Come on, let’s go and see what she says.”

Suzanne followed her dad inside.

“I, em, you mean? Oh, my!” At first Grace seemed barely able to say anything. But it was all there in the delight on her face.

Cancel

Find a Stockist

Enter your postcode below (with a space) and click "Find" to search for your local stockist.