A Time To Reap – Episode 56

A Time To Reap

Elizabeth wasn’t allowed to accompany Libby into the children’s ward, but fortunately the little girl was almost asleep when she was led through by a kindly nurse.

Mastoiditis! An acute ear infection, but the doctor hoped surgery wouldn’t be required. They would keep Libby in to see how she responded to treatment.

The last few hours were a blur. Elizabeth could hardly remember being driven home from Rosland House by Bill Brock; only Crys’s white face as she opened the front door.

Dr Scott had phoned ahead to the hospital and had then driven Elizabeth and Libby – a nightmare journey with the child screaming in the back of the car and her mother unable to comfort her.

Now, Elizabeth looked in the mirror in the Ladies’ and gave a hysterical laugh. The eye make-up carefully applied by Crys made her look like a panda now.

The hair-do remained upright, thanks to hairspray, but had slipped to one side. And the beautiful violet dress was rumpled and stained.

She cleaned her face as best she could with a scrap of soap and the roller towel, then wondered what she should do. She was in town with no means of getting home. Dr Scott had had to leave once he’d seen them into the hospital.

Elizabeth had grabbed a jacket before she left home but the pockets were empty. She would have to borrow some money from a nurse and use the public phone in the hospital foyer to call her father.

She asked the nurse who had dealt with Libby.

“I’d be happy to let you use the phone in the office,” she replied, “but a gentleman was asking about you. He’s waiting at the front door.”

Elizabeth was relieved. Her parents must have heard the news from Crys, and then Dad had come to collect her.

But as she made her way down the corridor she could see the estate Land-Rover in the car park and a figure by the door.

She was too wrung out to protest at Bill Brock’s arm around her shoulders as they made for the vehicle.

But she shrugged off his helping hand as she climbed in – not so easy in her dress and heels.

He turned to her.

“She’s gonna be OK?”

Elizabeth nodded, trying not to cry. He seemed to understand.

“Good to hear.”

Elizabeth found her voice.

“Thank you for coming.”

“Your sister asked me. She tried to phone your parents but they must have already left. They’ll be at your place now.”

So it was Crys’s idea.

“Well, thanks, anyway.”

“Obviously I’d rather be anywhere else but here with you, on our own, for the first time.”

What? Elizabeth looked at him, silhouetted in moonlight, inches away from her. Big, warm and masculine.

“I – I must get home.”

“The guy you were dancing with at the ball. He your boyfriend?”

Elizabeth shook her head.  Then, out of loyalty to her childhood friend, she added, “It’s none of your business.”

“Can I say something?”

He leaned on the steering wheel and stared out into the darkness.

“My dad had a farm on the Great Plains in the Thirties. Wrong place, wrong time. He lost everything. We headed for California when I was four with only the clothes on our backs.”

“That must have been hard.” Elizabeth recalled reading somewhere about the winds that had blown away the farmlands’ parched topsoil.

“It was. But my dad made good. The American dream. He started the business I run today.”

“I didn’t know. Thank you for tell –”

“I’m telling you to show you that we come from the same roots! Farming roots. I might be a long way from the Dustbowl now, but I’ll never forget it.” He turned towards her. “So, if that guy’s not in the picture, there’s no reason why you and I can’t –”

“There’s every reason!”

“How do you know what I was going to say?” His voice was gently teasing. “Sorry. I know it’s been a difficult evening for you. I’ll take you home.”

He didn’t speak again until they reached the farmhouse. Her father’s car was parked outside. Inside, Crys and Mum and Dad would be waiting, desperate for news.

“I’m here until next Thursday. I know your time and thoughts will be occupied with Libby, but I hope I’ll be able to see you. I warn you, I’m persistent! I won’t give up.”

“But we hardly know each other!” Elizabeth cried. “I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I think you do. But I’ll tell you properly when you’re not upset.” He leaned across. “As for not knowing each other, we could start now.”

He pulled her close and kissed her, and before she could stop herself she put her arm round his neck and kissed him back.

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.