The Call Of The City – Episode 04

All the main characters Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

When Kerry reached the main road towards York her mobile phone beeped with missed calls and voicemails. There was little reception at any of the farms she visited.

She saw two calls were from her mother, and pulled over to hear them.

“Kerry? It’s Mum. Grace has just given me the most astonishing news, but I’ll leave it for her to tell you.

“Can you and Daniel come for supper tonight? I know Grace wants to share her excitement.”

Kerry frowned. It seemed Grace had good news, but why had their mother sounded as if she was holding back tears?

With a sigh Kerry called Daniel. She listened to the house phone ring endlessly.

He was probably out in one of the barns.

She left a message on the answering machine, hoping he’d remember to check it, telling him she’d meet him at her parents’.

She didn’t have time to go home and change, so she headed straight to the house she’d called home until just three months ago.

“So, what is all this excitement?” Andrew came into the kitchen, where Meg was putting the finishing touches on the cake she’d baked for the occasion. “Your voicemail didn’t explain much.”

“I didn’t want to spoil Grace’s surprise. There.” She nodded in satisfaction at the iced cake. “I’ll just check on the roast.”

Andrew watched her bustle about the kitchen.

“Are you all right, love?”

“I’m fine.” Meg peered into their rumbling old Aga, glad to avoid her husband’s gaze. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I don’t know.” Andrew nodded towards the cake. “It looks like it’s good news, whatever it is.”


It was good news; exciting news for Grace. The fact that Meg felt so ambivalent didn’t change that.

“How was work?” she asked brightly. “You were in York today, weren’t you, for some meeting?”

“A conference for rural GPs,” Andrew confirmed. “More bad news about budget cuts and things being centralised. Same old story.” He sighed.

Meg scanned the lines of strain around his eyes and from nose to mouth.

Andrew had been a country doctor all his life, but the changing nature of the health care system meant his job had far more demands and challenges than when he’d started out 35 years ago.

Meg had urged him to think about retirement, but Andrew loved his work too much for that.

“Hello?” A voice sounded from the front hall.

Meg hurried through.

“Kerry.” She gave her a quick hug and then stepped back. “Where’s Daniel?”

“Probably checking on a ewe,” Kerry returned slightly sourly. “He didn’t answer the phone when I called and I hadn’t time to go home. What’s Grace’s news?”

“She’ll tell you herself. She’s upstairs, changing from work.”

Meg eyed Kerry. She didn’t look or act like a newlywed, but then, she and Daniel hadn’t had a honeymoon; they’d just settled into the business of daily living right away.

“You could have gone home and fetched him. We would have waited.”

Kerry shrugged.

“I don’t know if he would have come. He’s barely out of the barn these days. Shall I boil the kettle?”

Meg knew better than to press. Kerry had never liked to talk about her personal life: not in secondary school dealing with mean-girl antics, nor in university when struggling with a subject.

Things hadn’t changed now that she was married.

Meg followed her into the kitchen while Andrew went upstairs to change.

Kerry leaned against the counter, her arms folded.

Meg tried to keep up a stream of bright chatter, but it was hard with Kerry so preoccupied and Meg trying to hide her own worries.

A few minutes later Grace came down the back stairs. She was, Meg thought, the opposite of her sister in every way.

She was a dreamer, where Kerry was practical; jumped wholeheartedly into every enterprise while Kerry stood back, assessing the situation.

Grace would jump into Juilliard, Meg thought with a cold pang of fear, if she was accepted.

Was it wrong to half wish that Grace wouldn’t get in?

“Are you going to tell me this news of yours?” Kerry asked as Meg scalded the teapot.

Grace bit her lip.

“I wanted to wait until everyone was here.”

“I think everyone is here,” Kerry said. “Daniel’s most likely stuck at the farm.”

“Let’s wait until we’re settled,” Meg suggested. “I’ll bring the tea into the sitting-room. Supper won’t be for another half-hour.”

Her daughters trooped out of the kitchen and a few minutes later Meg brought the tea tray through.

For a moment she studied her family gathered on the old, overstuffed settees, the room’s faded elegance comfortable and so beloved.

She’d given her life to her family. First, when she’d taken care of her father, and then, when she’d married Andrew and they’d moved into her family home, the next generation taking its place.

This room had so many memories: nursing Kerry in the armchair; the girls jumping up and down on Christmas morning, the tree placed by the large window; toasting Kerry’s engagement with her mother’s crystal flutes . . .

Perhaps she should have opened a bottle of champagne rather than made a pot of tea. This was a celebration, after all.

“So?” Kerry asked.

To be continued…

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.