11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 55

Neil! She felt her stomach do a somersault. What was she going to say? Barely had she read it – certainly she wouldn’t have had time to reply – when another text from him arrived.

It would be a correction to the first one. That was what she thought as she opened it. But this second one simply said: Dinner tonight OK?

And yet, he couldn’t have meant what he said in the first one, could he?

“Georgia, are you all right?” Mel’s voice returned her to the kitchen.

“Yes, fine.”

But that first text from Neil – truly it had taken her breath away! She looked at it again, certain she must have somehow got it wrong. But it was there, clear enough:

I realise I undervalued your building. Quite innocently. I didn’t mean to trick you, I’d never trick YOU, Georgia.

It then went on to quote a new offer for Number 11, which he had increased, Georgia quickly calculated, by nearly 30 percent!

“What I was wanting to ask you,” Mel resumed, still looking in a concerned way at Georgia, “was if I could stay on here permanently. Alex suggested taking space here right at the start, but I said I didn’t think it would be suitable. But it has worked out a lot better than I first expected.”

Mel explained how she’d thought storage would be a problem.

“But it isn’t – the cellars are proving great for that.”

Georgia nodded, remembering going down to look round them the day after she and Alex had reached their new understanding at the top of the steps. He’d accompanied her – his suggestion.

“I’ll scare the spiders away, though I’m not making any promises about the tiger, if one should happen to be there!”

“Oh, I’m OK with tigers,” she’d said as they descended the stairs.

In fact it had turned out to be a lot better than she’d expected down there. Dusty, but dry, free of tigers, and extremely spacious. The main problem had been Alex repeatedly banging his head on the rather low ceiling!

“And as for my concerns about parking, the chap next door, Vincent, his backyard is all paved but he doesn’t use it. He’s agreeable to me leaving the vans there. Alex sorted it out and I think Vincent regards it as a favour to him. He said to me that Alex has helped him greatly with his accounts and also with general business advice.”

Again, Georgia nodded. On more than one occasion, now relations were better between them again, she’d considered taking her present quandary to Alex for his opinion. But she hadn’t.

Apart from anything else, she’d thought it best not to discuss the matter with any of the tenants of Number 11, not wanting to alarm them perhaps unnecessarily.

But this new offer of Neil’s wasn’t one you could just turn your back on. So, not wishing to mess Mel about, she felt she now really had to come clean.

“The thing is, Mel, I might be selling up. I’ve got an offer that . . . well, I don’t know if I can refuse it – it’s very good.”

Looking again at Neil’s text, she told Mel the new amount.

“Wow!” Mel, too, was amazed. “Goodness me! Who is it that’s interested? Though I understand if you don’t want to say.”

“No, it’s fine. A businessman called Neil . . .”

After keeping it to herself for so long, it felt to Georgia like the lifting from her of a physical weight, and she was glad to talk about it with someone.

She told Mel how it had all happened and about Neil. Although, apart from his taste in food and wine and suits, she realised as she spoke that she did not actually know that much about him or his business activities, other than that they were, as he’d put it, “varied – fingers in a lot of pies round here and elsewhere”.

It was enough for Mel’s mouth to drop open in renewed surprise.

“Georgia, love,” she said, looking round for a seat. “Hang on a minute – I think I know him!”

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.