11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 48

Georgia stared at her grandad. He didn’t mind if she sold Number 11!

“Are you sure?”

“Totally. That idea you had of turning this place into a house is mad. You say everyone you’ve ever mentioned it to has said so, too. But I think it’s understandable you would like your own home. So, sell this and use the money to buy somewhere –”

He broke off as Georgia’s mobile phone started ringing. Suddenly she was wondering if Eloise and Jason were right about omens. It was Neil calling, the very man who wanted to buy Number 11 from her.

“Georgia? Remember that business meeting I told you I was going to? I said it might mean I had to be away for a few days, and actually it’s going to be nearer a couple of weeks – something urgent has come up. I’ll miss you. But I’ve an hour now before I set off, if you’ve time for a drink?”

Her phone had gone on to loudspeaker mode – it was new and still unfamiliar to her and she must have pressed a wrong button. From the corner of her eye she saw her grandad nodding eagerly.

She knew all her family were keen to see her with a new boyfriend. Maybe they were worried she was just saying she was over Russ and they needed this extra development to convince them, though she herself was absolutely certain, no doubt about it, that her ex-fiancé was now firmly in her past.

“OK,” she agreed into the phone, with her grandad still mouthing, “Go on, say yes!” at her side.

“Brilliant!” Neil did sound very pleased. “I hoped you would be free so I’m ready and waiting just round the corner. I’ll pick you up outside in two minutes.”

Scurrying round to get her things, Georgia pondered telling her grandad about Neil’s offer to buy Number 11. But in the rush she didn’t.

Neil was there on the doorstep, and she had to smile when her grandad nodded approvingly. With her dad, it was always if a prospective boyfriend supported the same football team, he was deemed OK.

“A good ’un – stick with him, Georgia,” he would say.

With her grandad, the ex-tailor, it was how well-dressed they were. And here Neil, immaculate as always, scored high.

Tonight, though, in the popular bar of a hotel by the station decorated with assorted railway memorabilia, Neil seemed to her to be back to making a play for Number 11 rather than for her.

She was glad. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she still felt a reticence about getting romantically involved with him. She was more than half-decided to stop having even these casual dates with him.

Though she’d never at any point encouraged his attentions, she nonetheless feared he had hopes for them on a more serious level, and this she did not want.

Also, for some reason she didn’t entirely understand, she didn’t mention to him that she now had the green light from her grandad to sell. Instead, she batted aside his questions about why she wouldn’t accept his offer with the simple and true explanation that she loved the old building.

“There’s a big stained-glass window in one of the offices. Beautiful, even though it’s got a crack in it.”

“That’s another advantage of selling. You won’t be bothered with tenants wanting repairs done. Even from the brief guided tour you gave me, it was apparent it needs a fair bit of work doing to stop it falling into rack and ruin,” he told her. “There may be some safety considerations, too, if you don’t get the work done and you’re renting it out. Sell it to me, Georgia, and I promise you I’ll get the very best people to restore it to its full magnificent glory – stained-glass windows and all!”

Neil was smiling, but not Georgia. It wasn’t falling into rack and ruin, nor was it a dangerous place to work, and she told him so.

At the same time she was aware that, though he was exaggerating, there was some basis to what he said. Work was needed, and to retain the original features that had enchanted her from childhood would not come cheap.

“It’ll cost a fortune,” he said, as though reading her mind, “and have you got that kind of money, Georgia? Think about it in the fortnight I’m away.”

In fact, it took her about two minutes to think about whether she had that kind of money. She hadn’t, and she suspected he knew it, but she said nothing.

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.