11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 01

“Your beautiful hair is fiery as the sunrise.”

Georgia threw the memory of her ex-fiancé’s words back into the dustbin of memory, where they assuredly belonged, and angrily banged down the lid. Russ hadn’t meant them.

Neither, for that matter, could they possibly have been true. No-one’s hair could match the blaze of searing coals now creeping over the horizon as she turned into Ladysmile Lane.

Driving past Number 11, she was surprised to see lights in some of the old sash windows. Georgia had been sure she’d be the first there. It seemed the various tenants were hard-working, whatever their previous landlord – her grandfather – had said about them.

And he had said plenty!

She had always loved the place, but the prospect of coming to its warren of rooms and passageways as the owner had robbed her of anything like a good night’s sleep.

Parking her car at the bottom of the lane, she glanced over towards the canal. Once, it had been important to the mills further along, whose redbrick walls the sun now seemed to have briefly set afire. These days, like them, it was largely unused.

A mist still hung over the water, but through the blur she could just about make out a figure coming over the rickety bridge. As it got nearer, she saw it was a teenage boy.

A paper lad on his early morning round, she speculated as she walked back towards Number 11.

She climbed up the short run of steps and opened the stout but elegant double doors with their big brass hinges.

Inside, all was quiet, the only sound her own footsteps on the old wooden floor. Peering round the doors open on the ground floor, she saw no sign of anyone.

Suddenly she was a child again, a freckled tomboy in dungarees, visiting her grandad there back in the 1980s.

He’d never had the place modernised.

“Built in the days when men made their jobs into a fine craft, Georgie,” he’d once told her solemnly. “A craft at which they were masters. A more fitting place for fine tailored shirts and suits like mine you couldn’t ask for.”

No doubt true, but what she’d loved most was tiptoeing along its dark-panelled corridors, imagining all sorts of strange sounds and sights . . .

Hearing a real clanking noise behind her, Georgia nearly jumped out of her skin.

“Sorry, did I scare you?” The voice was warm, its tone kindly but with a hint of no-nonsense about it, Georgia thought.

She turned to see a woman a bit older than her mum, with silvery-blonde hair loosely caught up in a brightly coloured scarf.

“You’re the new owner, aren’t you?” the woman continued, letting go of the vacuum cleaner she’d been pulling along and taking Georgia’s hand. “I saw you with the agent last week and he said who you were. I’m Mel – my firm does the cleaning here. Did he mention me to you?”


Mel shook her head.

“That doesn’t surprise me. To be honest, he wasn’t much good. It was obvious he wasn’t really interested because this wasn’t what he called ‘prime office space’. Anyway, he explained that you’re planning to look after the running of it yourself from now on.” She paused. “I normally come in of a morning, but I appreciate that you might have arranged for someone else.”

“To be honest, I hadn’t given it a thought.” Georgia frowned, wondering as she spoke what else she’d neglected to think about.

“Well, come along to the kitchen,” Mel said, taking her arm. “I’m going there now to sort out that fridge of theirs. We can have a cup of tea and talk while I’m about it.”

Georgia soon found herself relaxing as they chatted in the kitchen that served all the individual little office suites.

“Were you very close to him?” Mel asked sympathetically after Georgia had explained that it was from her grandfather that she’d inherited Number 11.

“I am close. He’s still alive and kicking!”

Mel looked embarrassed.

“Sorry. I never met him, you see. The agent was involved by the time I came along.”

Georgia nodded.

“He used to run a business from here himself, but he retired from that some while ago and got the idea of renting out the rooms to people wanting small offices. But now he says the tenants are ‘too much hassle for a man of my age’.” She smiled. “So, are they a troublesome lot, the occupants?”

“I wouldn’t say troublesome.” Mel smiled, too, but rather enigmatically…

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.