The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 01

It started raining as soon as they passed the sign for Wales.

“Cro-ee-so I Gym-ru,” seven-year-old Jacob sounded out slowly. “What does that mean, Mummy?”

“I don’t actually know,” Ellie admitted with a laugh. “Daddy never taught me Welsh.”

“I never really knew much Welsh,” Matthew responded. “But I do know that one. It means ‘Welcome to Wales’.”

“So we’re almost there?” This was an excited squeal from four-year-old Ava as she bounced up and down in the back seat.

“Cut it out, Ava,” Jess demanded irritably as she stared out of the
rain-streaked window from the other side of the car.

They’d been in the car for over three hours and she’d refused to say a word, maintaining a stubborn silence that infuriated and saddened Ellie in turns.

At thirteen, Jess, Ellie feared, would have the hardest time of them all adjusting to life in a tiny Welsh village.

Although it wouldn’t be easy for Ellie herself, either.

After 15 years of marriage and a lifetime in the US, she wasn’t sure she was at all ready to embrace country life deep in rural Wales.

Right now, as the car trundled along a lane that seemed far too narrow, with high hedgerows on either side blocking the view, she longed for all the conveniences of her old suburban life in Connecticut – wide roads, easy parking spaces, sunshine and a Starbucks on every corner.

“We have about another forty-five minutes until we get to Granny’s, Ava,” Matthew called back from the driver’s seat. “But at least we’re in Wales.”

Yes, at least they were in Wales.

Trying not to feel as dispirited as her daughter, Ellie turned to look out of the window at the impossibly green countryside.

All right, it was beautiful, she could certainly acknowledge that.

And yes, she’d agreed to this move because, well, it had seemed fair.

Matthew had spent 15 years in her country; she could spend a little while – length still to be determined – in his.

But right now she was fighting a deep-seated terror at the prospect of this new life of hers, never mind the beautiful, misted hills that rolled on to the horizon, dotted with sheep.

You could take a photo of the scenery and put it on a postcard. It didn’t mean you wanted to live there.

Eleven-year-old Craig let out a bored sigh as he kicked the seat in front of him, which happened to be Ellie’s.

“Why is this car so small?”

The rental car was decidedly smaller than the eight-seater they’d had back in the US, and had reluctantly sold.

“We could keep it,” Ellie had suggested at the time. “You know, just in case.”

“In case of what?” Matthew challenged with a good-natured smile. “This is a new start, Ellie. We need to embrace it.”

Which meant selling their house, their car and most of their belongings.

OK, fine, Ellie told herself. She wasn’t attached to possessions.

Yet right now she wanted to hold on to something familiar, and it felt as if there was nothing.

But never mind. She needed to have a good attitude about this, especially if she wanted her kids to have one, too.

She’d been telling herself that all along, and she certainly needed the reminders now, as they drew closer and closer to their destination.

“How about we play the alphabet game?” she suggested.

They’d played it three times already on the motorway from Heathrow, but a fourth round surely couldn’t go amiss.

Jess let out a long-suffering sigh and Craig didn’t bother to reply.

Jacob and Ava at least gave it a go, and with determination Ellie scoured the very few signs visible along these rural roads.

“I see an A in Abergavenny,” she called as cheerfully as she could.

“B in Brecon!” Jacob said excitedly a minute later.

They’d got to M by the time Matthew pulled into Bluebell Lane.

The quaintly named rutted track was devoid of any flowers on this late August afternoon, on the edge of Llandrigg village, population eight hundred.

Ellie had been to his mother’s house only twice before.

Once shortly after they’d married, and then a big trek across the Atlantic when the children were small. Those two weeks had passed in a slow, sleep-deprived blur.

More frequent visits had never seemed practical, since Gwen preferred to visit them in America in the down season.

In summer the house Gwen operated as a bed and breakfast was always booked, so there was no room for Ellie and Matthew and their children.

She’d always made that very clear.

Except, now, of course, there was plenty of room, because Gwen had decided she couldn’t manage the B&B on her own.

Matthew was going to renovate it and take over.

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”.