11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 58

“I partly came to speak to Mel,” Ruth said to Harrison as she took a seat in his office, “but I’ve something to tell you, too.” She looked around her.

“Everything’s very shipshape. Your new assistant’s making a difference. Where is Ewan?”

Harrison glanced at the clock on his desk – a proper clock, not one of those digital things. Normally he found its tick comforting, but today it just made him feel edgy. Or more edgy than he was already.

“He’ll have gone to the post office,” he told her. “It’s his time for it.”

“Well, what I wanted to say was . . .”

“I know,” Harrison interrupted, wanting it out of the way. “I happened to be passing your office and glanced up. I saw you.”

“Excuse me?” Ruth pushed her bouncy, wilful hair away from her lean face, which was now showing complete bafflement.

“I know you’re engaged.”

“What?” Ruth laughed.

“Peter gave you . . .” Harrison paused, suddenly uncertain. “It was a ring, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was – for his long-time girlfriend, Cassie. He just popped in to show it to me because my office was nearby and I guess he wanted a woman’s confirmation that he’d picked a nice one. Which he had. No, what I wanted to tell you is that I’m going away for what will be at least several weeks.”

She went on to remind Harrison that her firm had recently merged with another in the south.

“Our senior partners wanted a branch down there, but it isn’t going as smoothly as they’d hoped and I’ve been given the task of going to try to sort things out. But I’ve left instructions that in my absence you are to remain our private investigator of choice, so work should keep coming to you, don’t worry.”

Harrison wasn’t one bit worried about that. Ruth wasn’t engaged – that was all that mattered to him.

Wanting to hear her say so again, he tried to lead the conversation back.

“I saw him going into your office with a bag from that swanky jeweller’s round the corner from you, and then when I saw you together, I thought . . .”

“You thought wrong,” Ruth interrupted him. “Maybe I once had hopes, but . . .” She broke off, a strange smile playing on her lips.

“Hopes about Peter?”

“No. Just, well, hopes that someone would ask me. But it isn’t ever going to happen. I’ve accepted that.”

There was that strange smile again, which Harrison was trying to translate when Ewan came clumping into the office. Ruth said a few words to him, then got to her feet, saying she had to go.

“Packing to do!”

Harrison accompanied her to the door.

“Good luck at the new office.”

He wanted to give her a hug, to kiss her. Surely that would be OK? If nothing else, they were friends and she was going away for a while. But the memory of that smile held him back.

“Perhaps when you come back, we could . . . have a drink some time,” was all he managed.

“Why not?” she said, with a smile more like her usual one.

Then she was gone.

“Do you want me to do anything else tonight?” Ewan asked him. “I’ve got a date, you see.”

“Ah.” Harrison had been expecting this.

But Mel had been wrong in her suggestion that it was the postmaster’s daughter – Harrison was sure about that. She wasn’t the only pretty girl to be seen on Ladysmile Lane around four o’clock.

“No, nothing else, Ewan,” he said. “You go.”

Watching his young assistant depart, Harrison reflected wryly that he was glad someone’s love life was straightforward!

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.