11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 06

Mel, finishing the entrance area, briefly turned the vacuum cleaner off as Harrison hurried past, speaking into his mobile phone. He gave her a grateful wave as he disappeared into his office, which she returned with a nod before returning to her task.

Ladysmile Lane was not the easiest place to keep straight. The new open-plan places were best from that point of view. Effectively one big room, all on the same level, you could whisk through them in no time.

But as she’d told Georgia, Mel liked Number 11, with all its nooks and crannies and steps where you didn’t expect them. Even so, she thought as she returned the cleaner to its cupboard in the kitchen, she couldn’t envisage Georgia’s idea of turning the place into a house.

Closing the cupboard door, she saw that the tea she’d made for herself earlier was still on the table, now stone-cold. They’d been too busy chatting.

“I’ll make myself another,” she said aloud, switching the kettle back on. “I’m my own boss and I can have a break whenever I want!”

Her own boss. Yes, she was, with a successful business. The thought still gave her a thrill.

Sitting down with her fresh cuppa, she recalled the day she’d taken the plunge . . .

“Mel, are you glad you came back to live up here when you took your early retirement?” her sister, Carol, had asked.

They’d been out shopping together and were walking back to Carol’s.

“Yes,” she’d replied, then sighed. “Of course I’m glad – it’s where you all are, my family. But, and this might sound odd, I think I miss being at work.”

“Well, with you widowed early, you’ve worked full-time longer than, say, me with a husband and kids to look after.”

“Maybe that’s it. I’m just not adjusting to having so much free time. But I can’t see anyone rushing to employ me at my age, especially as things are.”

“Could you start your own business?”

“Doing what?”

Just then – like an omen, she’d thought later – a van had come towards them with a firm’s name emblazoned on the side and Office Cleaning underneath.

“I could do that!” she’d said to Carol.

Within weeks she’d been up and running with her first van. Carol’s husband ran a garage and he’d customised it for her with her name and cheery pictures of buckets and mops. She also rented an outhouse from him, at the back of his premises.

She’d dropped off leaflets and had called in person to companies round the town. More quickly than she’d expected, she’d started getting work. She was still very much hands-on, cleaning several premises herself, but she now had a small staff, too, nice women who had become friends.

“I know I can depend on them,” she mused now as she finished her drink, “just as they know they can depend on me.”

At that moment, her mobile phone sang out, as though to challenge her assertion.

“Mel?” It was her first-ever employee, Sandra. She sounded upset. “I’m sorry to bother you, but this new job – it’s terrible!”

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.