Under The Elm Tree – Episode 36


WHEN they’d finished their meal and paid their bill, splitting it equally as Ella insisted, they went through to the public bar. It was packed and they had to squeeze their way through the throng.

In a lull between songs, Martin went to order drinks.

“Hi, Ella,” a voice sounded beside her. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

She turned round. It was Joe, who lived next door to her gran’s cottage. He was dressed in jeans and a charcoal grey shirt, and looked relaxed and smiling. It surprised her how pleased she was to see him. Being with Martin again had rocked her boat, and seeing someone she knew acted as an anchor.

“We’ve just had a meal here,” she explained.

He looked around.

“We?”

“Martin, my ex-boyfriend, and me,” she explained and Joe raised his eyebrows. “He’s come down for the weekend. He’s staying here, at the pub.”

“No need to explain, Ella.”

“I wanted to.”

Martin returned from the bar with two glasses. He handed one to Ella, then slipped his arm around her.

She introduced the two men, and Martin released her to shake Joe’s hand.

“Excuse me,” Joe said. “I’d better get back to my mates. See you around, Ella.”

She nodded.

“See you around.”

“Didn’t think you knew anyone here.” Martin frowned when they were alone again.

“Joe was Gran’s next-door neighbour,” she told him. But then the band launched into another song and it was impossible to talk further. They stood there, physically close but emotionally distant, and she couldn’t help wondering if they could ever be a couple again. Was it possible to mend the trust that was broken between them, as Margaret Foster had suggested?

She honestly didn’t know.

****

Susan danced round the kitchen.

“Hooray!” she cried, waving aloft the cheque Greg had just handed her. It was from Brooks

and Morrison, the accountants. She stopped by the table and sank down into one of the chairs. “I can hardly believe it.”

“Don’t get too carried away,” Greg warned her as he sat opposite. “We’ve only got half our money back.”

“I know, but it’s more than I thought we’d get. Oh, Greg, something good’s happened at last.” She leaned across the table to kiss him. “We can move ahead again with the renovation work. Isn’t it wonderful?”

“Steady.” He laughed.

She sat down again, and he passed her the letter that had accompanied the cheque.

“The accountants say that’s all there is, so we’ll have to spend it carefully.”

He got up from the table, beckoning to Susan to follow him through to the lounge. They stood side by side looking at the blue plastic sheet that still covered the end wall.

“It’ll have to go on getting the house finished,” Greg stated. “That’s a priority.”

“Definitely,” she agreed. She still felt a little light-headed, as if a burden had been lifted.

“And the sooner the better, too. Then we can get going with the B&B advertising.”

“Why don’t we get the ads in now?” she suggested. “I know it’s a bit early, but we’ve got to spread our net a bit and people always start thinking of holidays when Christmas is over, don’t they? We could advertise the narrowboat, too.”

“I think advertising Bella is a bit risky. What if we can’t get the refurb done in time?” Greg scratched his head. “It’s no good accepting bookings if we can’t deliver the product.”

Susan gave him a hug.

“We’ll manage it. You wait and see.”

“Well, if you say so.” Greg’s voice held all the doubt she was secretly feeling.

“I’ll do the ads,” she offered. “It’ll be one less thing for you to worry about.”

They managed to find new builders sooner than expected and arranged for them to start the next week. Then they turned their attention to Bella.

“It’ll be tight, time-wise,” Greg warned her as they stood in the boatyard, staring at the neglected narrowboat in their little inlet.

“I know, I know,” she agreed, trying to bolster his confidence. “But we can do it, darling, I know we can.”

Greg’s brows creased together.

“We’ve got to do it if we’re going to make a go of the business this year. We could do with some help, really.”

“I thought we couldn’t afford it?”

“We can’t,” he replied with
a sigh.

“Well, then,” she said as cheerfully as she could. “We’d better get cracking, hadn’t we? Come on.”

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.