11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 04

The sun had burned away the mist over the canal as Amy stepped outside on to Ladysmile Lane. She hefted her rucksack into a comfier position and prepared for the walk.

It being a nice day after several wet ones, she decided to take the route along the pathway that followed the canal. It only added five minutes to her journey.

Amy could get a bus straight to school from where they lived, but she liked getting a lift with her dad, enjoying the leisurely coffee and chat they had in his office.

Not that she’d talked to him much today. She’d been busy with Mel and the new owner, Georgia, who seemed nice. She taught languages, then? Maybe she could help Amy with her French!

Her pronunciation was awful. She was too self-conscious, she knew. Probably another reason, she reflected gloomily, why she’d never make it as a television presenter, even if she did dye her hair red.

She was about to free a strand from the ponytail she’d pulled it into for school, to reassess its present colour, when she noticed a boy outside the newsagent’s.

He was looking in the window where they had adverts on postcards – items for sale, casual work like gardening and babysitting jobs, that sort of thing.

He was half-hidden by a parked car, but her heart skipped a beat anyway. Was it Josh? She was sure he liked her. It was true it was her friend, Michelle, that he talked to most at school. But in a way you couldn’t avoid that – Michelle was so pushy!

On the rare occasion when Amy had managed to get a word in edgeways, she’d mentioned to Josh that she came this way with her dad en route to school, and where her dad’s office was. Maybe Josh had come to meet her to have time with her alone!

*  *  *  *

It wasn’t Josh – Amy saw that as soon as she got a bit nearer. He was of similar height and colouring, but that was all. And Josh would never wear an old anorak like the one this boy had on. Josh dressed cool, even for school.

The boy had a pleasant smile, though. And the way he was smiling over at her, maybe her hair was fine the colour it was!

Amy felt quite chuffed as she joined the narrow canal pathway. It was never busy – just a few people taking their dogs for a walk, that sort of thing.

Her thoughts returned to the row she’d heard in the kitchen between Brett and Eloise over her dog, Tarot. They were always arguing, those two. Amy wondered whether it was because, secretly, they were in love with each other . . .

“Argh! Oh, my shoe’s stuck! This is ridiculous!”

Amy turned to the section of rough ground between the path and the edge of the canal. A woman was tottering along – sliding, really, for with all the recent rain it was very muddy. She was dressed in a pencil skirt and yellow shoes with heels at least six inches high.

One of the regulars along the pathway, an oldish chap called Mr Johnson who Amy knew by virtue of her dad doing his shop’s books, was looking in the same direction and grinning.

“Will you just look at her!”

Flapping her arms about and making such a fuss, she did look comical.

“Not exactly dressed for it, is she?” Amy said, laughing.

“Him neither,” Mr Johnson replied, “in that expensive suit.”

It was true that the man accompanying the woman looked equally out of place in his smart business pin-stripes.

Amy frowned briefly, remembering when her dad had worn suits like that. But she smiled the moment after as a woman dressed in a tracksuit came running past them, greeting Amy by name.

“Hi, Ruth!” Amy called back.

“Looks like she could be blown over,” Mr Johnson commented, watching Ruth’s departing figure.

“Runners often are thin,” Amy replied. “Not like fashion models or anything, but Ruth used to run in competitions. Top-level, too. Then she got injured so she decided to be a solicitor instead. She comes to Dad’s office – she gives work to another guy there.

“And she may look fragile to you, Mr Johnson,” she added to herself, “but if I ever got into any kind of trouble I’d want to have her on my side. Not that it would ever happen. Apart from anything else, Dad would explode.”

Leaving the canal pathway, she glanced back to see if the odd couple were still slithering about. They were. What on earth were they doing here?

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.