11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 07

Mel listened as Sandra described what really did sound like a nightmare client. She knew Sandra wasn’t the sort to make a fuss about nothing.

“I’ll come and see them now,” Mel said once she’d listened to the tale of woe. “Don’t worry. You did the right thing to call me, Sandra. I’m not having you being treated like that. See you there; I won’t be long.”

As she was finishing the conversation Harrison came in, looking in better spirits. Without knowing much about him, Mel frequently found herself feeling sorry for Harrison.

“I’ve got some new work,” he said when she remarked on his cheeriness. “I doubt it’ll be industrial espionage, but . . .” He saw her puzzled expression. “It’s just something Alex said.”

“Right.” Mel was none the wiser, but she did have a strong suspicion about who the work had come from.

“Is the job from Ruth’s firm?”

“It is.”

Mel smiled. Perhaps she should be a private detective herself! But it didn’t take much to put two and two together. Her company also did the cleaning for the firm of solicitors where Ruth worked.

Ruth had once seen Mel at 11, Ladysmile Lane and when they’d next met, she’d talked a fair bit about Harrison. It was clear to Mel she had quite a soft spot for him.

Though she didn’t doubt that Harrison was good at his job, Mel suspected Ruth’s feelings about him also influenced the frequency of the work she passed his way.

Ruth had confided to Mel that a new solicitor, senior to her, had started at her firm. It seemed he had a brother who was in the same line of business as Harrison.

“He’s pushing for us to give work to his brother, but I’ll do my best to make sure Harrison still gets some,” Ruth had finished, her delicate-featured face determined.

It seemed she’d succeeded. What Mel didn’t know, however, was how Harrison felt about Ruth.

“A nice woman, Ruth, isn’t she?” she said now, casually.

But Harrison didn’t reply, muttering instead about needing to call a taxi.

“My car’s in for its MOT today, so I walked here.” He grimaced. “Thank heavens for this work, because otherwise I might be biking to my assignments.”

Mel laughed.

“Wouldn’t be much good if you needed to make a getaway! Is it Ruth’s office you’re headed for now? I’m going to see a customer out that way. I can give you a lift.”

“That’d be great, Mel! A new customer, is it?”

“Not exactly.” Mel frowned as she thought back to her conversation with Sandra. “In fact, it could easily be an ex-customer before the day’s out! But if you want that lift, you’re welcome.”

“Can you give me a couple of minutes to get my things?”

“Of course. I want to have a quick word with Georgia anyway, about whether she wants me to keep coming. I’ll wait by the door for you.”

Standing up, she went to wash her cup, and glanced out of the window by the sink . . .

“Mel, what’s wrong?”

Mel started. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been standing there, frozen, at the window. She turned and shook her head.

“It’s nothing. I just saw a person who reminded me of someone, that’s all.”

*  *  *  *

What on earth was the man doing? Mel tapped her foot as, ten minutes later, she waited at the front door for Harrison. But her impatience was countered by the memory of Georgia’s response to her query.

“Oh, Mel, you must keep coming, please!”

It was a pity all her customers weren’t as appreciative, Mel reflected. Taking her mobile from her pocket, she dialled Sandra’s number to reassure her that she was on her way.

Sandra replied immediately, but before Mel could speak she heard another voice in the background shouting at Sandra that she wasn’t paid to “chat on the phone all morning”.

“Sandra, is that the one you told me about earlier?” Mel asked, horrified. “Let me have a word!”

But Sandra had ended the call. Mel was going to phone back, but just then Harrison came galloping along the corridor.

“I’m so sorry! The garage phoned about my car. New this needed, new that. You should have gone on without me.”

“It’s all right; you’re here now. But come on, I’ve got an emergency.”

They scurried out the door, down the steps and along the road to where her little van was parked. It was in a space with a limited time allowed which, normally, was more than enough for her. But the way things had been today . . .

She was glancing anxiously about for a parking attendant when a voice came from behind.

“Could I speak to you for a minute?”

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.