The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 02

“Here we are,” Matthew called out as they pulled up to the rambling, white-washed house that looked charming but as if it had seen better days.

Paint was flaking off the walls and the ivy climbing across the front looked as if it was completely obscuring the upstairs windows. A few slate tiles were missing from the roof.

Ellie could see under the steadily falling rain that it needed some serious maintenance.

Well, she told herself, that was why they were there.

That was why they’d completely uprooted their lives – to help Gwen out, to give Matthew a focus after being made redundant, to experience new things, to have an adventure . . .

She’d spun it a dozen ways to her children and friends, as well as her own abject parents, but right now all of it rang false.

She didn’t want to be here; that was the thorny truth of it that she kept thrusting aside, pretending she didn’t feel.

Really, she had to stop thinking like that, for the sake of her family’s wellbeing.

It didn’t help matters, especially considering they were already here.

“Come on, guys,” she called to her four children, who were eyeing the house uncertainly. “Let’s go see Granny!”

With determined cheer, she flung open the door of the car and got out, then went to the back to unbuckle Ava, who was at least one member of the family eager to begin this new chapter.

She scrambled past Ellie, pelting towards the house, yelling for her granny.

Over the roof of the rental car Ellie’s gaze met Matthew’s and he gave her a sympathetic smile.

“It’s going to be OK,” he said quietly, and while Ellie appreciated the sentiment, she wondered how on earth he could know that.

Still, at least he could acknowledge, in a roundabout way, her concerns, which she had admittedly verbalised to him on several occasions.

“Come on, guys,” Ellie called. “Out of the car.”

Silently her children trooped out of the car and towards the cottage – shy, quiet Jacob, rambunctious Craig and sulky Jess.

Ellie gave them all bolstering smiles before falling in behind them with Matthew.

“How long has it been since we were last here?” she asked.

“Six or seven years?” Matthew hazarded a guess. “Jess was about seven.”

“Craig was three and Jacob just born,” Ellie recalled with a mock shudder. She’d been so tired that trip.

“And Ava just a gleam in my eye.” Matthew gave her a teasing smile, seeming practically buoyant now that they were finally here.

After months of tension and uncertainty surrounding his redundancy, mounting bills and increasing worry, Ellie was glad to see him looking more cheerful, even if she still felt anxious.

Her one pervading memory from that trip seven years ago, besides the complete lack of sleep, had been her mother-in-law’s decided chilliness towards her.

With her curly grey hair, wide smile and warm Welsh accent, Gwen Davies should have been the kind of easy-going, relaxed mother-in-law anyone could get along with.

Ellie prided herself on being able to get on with just about anyone, yet somehow, when it came to Gwen, it had never worked out that way.

Now, facing the prospect of living in her mother-in-law’s house indefinitely, Ellie wanted that to improve . . . even if she didn’t hold out much hope.

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”.