Under The Elm Tree – Episode 34

ELLA jumped up from the armchair. She was sure she’d heard the sound of an engine.

She drew back the curtain an inch or two, and a car door slammed. Yes! She peered into the semi-darkness. It was Martin. She could recognise his loping walk in the light from the outside porch as he made his way up the path towards the front door.

She smiled as she glanced at her wristwatch. He was such a stickler for time. He’d said that he would arrive at seven o’clock on Friday evening, and he had. On the dot.

She waited until he’d knocked on the door before going to open it. She mustn’t appear too eager.

“Hello, Martin,” she said.

He stood on the step, his short, dark hair gelled neatly into place, his black woollen work coat topped with a striped red scarf.

“Hello, Els.” He gave her a crooked smile, then pulled out a bottle of wine from behind his back and held it out to her.

“Thanks. Come on in. Good journey down?” She tried to ignore her racing heart. Best to keep things normal, she told herself, ushering him into the sitting-room.

A log fire was burning in the grate, and despite the cardboard boxes stacked on the floor, with the soft light from the table lamps, the room had an old-fashioned, cosy feel.

“Not too bad a journey,” he said, shrugging out of his coat and handing it to her. “It was a bit clogged up on the M25, but I expected that so I left a bit early.”

“You left work early?” She smiled. “That’s not like you. You’re usually the last to leave.”

“I’m a changed man.” He grinned. “I’m beginning to learn that work isn’t everything. And besides,” he continued, his face becoming serious, “it’s not the same at work now, without you.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to say, “You should have thought of that earlier”, but she held back. The last thing she wanted was for them to start arguing.

“Coffee?” she asked. “Or I could open the wine, if you like.” She went through to the hall with his coat. “I’ve booked us in to the Fox and Hounds at seven-thirty,” she called out as she hung it on a peg. “We can walk there. It’s not far, so there won’t be a problem with driving.”

When she went back in, Martin was sitting in her grandmother’s chair beside the fire, his long legs stretched out in front of him.

“That’s good. In that case I think I’ll have a glass of the wine.” He smiled.

He reached out and brushed his hand against hers as she passed through to the kitchen, and his touch sent a familiar shiver of pleasure through her. She’d really missed him, she admitted to herself. How easy it would be to slip into their old ways. Or would it? Something deep inside caught at her and held her back.

She glanced in the frameless square of mirror propped behind the taps. Her fair hair cascaded silkily across her shoulders, setting off the electric-blue of her dress. She’d taken great care with her appearance tonight, and she knew she looked good. Somehow it gave her a measure of control, and control was just what she needed at the moment.

She returned to the sitting-room with two glasses and the bottle of Merlot. She twisted off the cap and splashed the ruby liquid into the glasses, a generous one for Martin and a smaller one for herself. She had to keep up her defences. The purpose of the visit, she reminded herself, was to find out if there was a way forward, and at the moment her feelings were all over the place.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.