Like Cats And Dogs – Episode 15

Tim was scouring the ground while Cally fumbled for her mobile phone, calling reassurances through the stout wooden door to Sheila and the other bell-ringers that they’d soon have them out.

“What are you looking for?” she asked Tim. “Shouldn’t we ring someone to open the door? Someone must have a spare key.”

Glancing up, he saw the phone in her hand.

“Do you have a flashlight app on that?” he asked briskly.

“Well, yes,” she said, scanning the screen and selecting the icon. The path at their feet was suddenly bathed in a bright white light.

“That’s better,” he said. “Just shine it over here, will you? Ah – this is what I’m looking for.”

“Oh, I see,” she said with dawning understanding as she spotted the big rock at his feet. “Are you going to smash the lock?”

It seemed like the kind of thing an action man like him would do.

He looked surprised.

“That would cost them a fortune to fix. No, I reckon this stone’s been disturbed. I’ll bet . . . yes, here we are.”

Beneath the rock was a large iron key, which he quickly slotted in the lock and turned.

“Oh, thank goodness you came by! I thought we were going to be stuck there all night!” Sheila and the other bell-ringers spilled out as Tim opened the door.

“But who locked the door? Surely they knew you were in there?” Cally asked.

Sheila shrugged.

“You’d think so, with the bells ringing and all. We don’t know who did it, or when. All we know is we came downstairs after we’d finished and the door wouldn’t budge.”

“And whoever it was knew where the spare key was kept,” Tim mused. “That must narrow it down to relatively few people.”

“Not really,” Sheila said. “Most folks round here know it’s there. I’m Sheila,” she said, holding out her hand. “I’m a friend of Cally’s. You’re the dog man, aren’t you? Cally said you were going to step in for me at the quiz night. How did it go?”

“We cruised it,” Tim said with a laugh. “Though it got pretty close at one point, didn’t it, skipper?” He nudged Cally.

Cally saw Sheila grin, and even in the dark she knew it was accompanied by a knowing look.

“I’d better watch out or I’ll be losing my place in the team,” Sheila teased, and Cally was grateful for the darkness as her cheeks flushed.

Sheila’s bell-ringing friends had been all agog about who had locked them in, but now they clustered round to add their thanks to Tim and Cally for rescuing them before setting off on their various routes home.

“Does anyone need a lift?” Tim offered. “No? Then I guess it’s just you and me, Cal,” he said, and she felt her face burn again. Honestly, the effect this man had on her!

As they walked to his car, a three-quarter moon shed a soft white light over the quiet village scene.

“It’s a great place, this. Have you always lived here?” he asked.

Glad to be talking about something normal as a distraction from the tension between them, Cally gave him a potted history of the last few years, always working towards achieving her ambition of establishing her cats’ hotel.

“I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I drive into the yard and see the sign with my name on it. I really did it!”

“I know how you feel. I get the same buzz from my place. So, you’re back on your home turf. Do you and Ged go way back, then?”

They were driving out of the village now, and he didn’t look at her; his gaze was fixed on the dark country road ahead, the headlights sweeping the hedgerows as they rounded each bend. She liked the way he drove – attentive, both hands relaxed yet sure on the steering wheel.

His question caught her by surprise. She’d thought he was avoiding the subject.

“Not really. I guess he’s always been around, but we were never in the same groups of friends back then. We only started dating when I came back.”

“And now you’re not. Is that a recent thing? I’ve seen you together . . .”

Cally was becoming used to the very direct way Tim asked questions.

“We broke up tonight, actually.”

He glanced quickly at her.

“Tonight? I’m sorry. Are you OK?”

“I’m fine,” she said brightly. “It was time.”

“So you broke up with him?”

“Actually, no. He broke up with me. Ged’s a nice guy, but he’s not the type to make long-term plans. It was only ever a casual thing.”

“I see.”

That was all he said, and Cally would have given anything to know what his silence meant. What was he thinking?

There was no time to find out. The headlights picked out the sign announcing Cally’s Cats’ Hotel, and he drew to a halt on the gravel driveway.

“Here you are – safely delivered home. It was fun tonight. Thanks for inviting me. And any time you need my general knowledge again, give me a ring.”

“I will.” She hesitated, but the noisy engine was still running, and she didn’t want to disturb her feline residents. “Goodnight, Tim. Thanks for the lift. I’ll see you around.”

“You can count on it,” he agreed, and she had to be satisfied with that.

She clambered out, and stood back to watch him turn around and drive away. She had so much wanted him to ask her out. Now she didn’t even know when she might see him again.

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”.