The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 05

Jess had fought against moving when her parents had first floated the idea past her and her siblings back in February.

In the grip of a New England winter, Connecticut had been icy and unforgiving and her dad had seemed taken by the prospect of moving to his homeland.

“You’ll love it, Jess,” he’d assured her. “It’s so peaceful and beautiful. Green hills as far as you can see . . .”

It sounded incredibly boring to Jess.

She didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, knowing no-one. She didn’t want to leave her friends, particularly her best friend, Cora.

But none of that had mattered to her parents, who had forged ahead with the move, even when Jess had resorted to threats of never speaking to them again because they’d ruined her life.

“Jess, you’re thirteen,” her mother had said in that pseudo-patient voice that Jess knew came right out of a parenting book.

“You’ve barely begun your life.”

“I hate you!” Jess had shrieked, knowing it was pointless, that her mother would just be annoyed by her melodrama, yet unable to keep herself from it.

She’d run to her room and slammed the door as loud as she could.

Now, thinking of Cora, Jess reached for her phone, which she’d hidden under her bed.

Her mother had a strict rule that phones went on the charger at eight o’clock at night, which was ridiculous.

Cora’s mom let her have her phone all night long: an argument that had never held any water with either of her parents.

Last night, after her parents had gone to bed, Jess had crept downstairs and rescued it from the charger.

She had to see what Cora was up to, and tell her all about this horrible place.

But when she’d tried to Snapchat Cora, her friend had left her on “read” – the message received but not responded to.

The worst online insult.

Cora was her best friend. She never did that . . . except she just had.

Her stomach clenching even harder, Jess opened the messaging app to see if Cora had responded.

She hadn’t.

Feeling as if she was just torturing herself, Jess clicked on Cora’s story to see what she was up to.

A photo popped up of Cora snuggled up on a sofa with Emily Rhodes, another girl from their class, both of them in onesies and fuzzy slippers, a big bowl of popcorn on their laps.

Cora was having a sleepover with Emily? Jess stared at the picture, hardly able to believe it.

Cora hated Emily.

She was one of the snobby popular girls in the class, the kind who flicked her hair and rolled her eyes while you were talking.

She and Cora had always agreed they’d never go after that crowd, never try to be “in”.

It looked like Cora had changed.

Tears stung Jess’s eyes and she blinked them away furiously, too angry to cry.

Why was she here? And why was her best friend bailing on her the second she’d left?

She flung her phone away from her, not even caring when it clattered on to the wooden floorboards.

What did it matter if it broke? It was an old and cheap phone anyway, because her parents refused to buy her a proper phone like everybody else in her class had.

“What was that noise?” Blinking sleep out of her eyes, Ava sat up in the bed opposite Jess’s.

“Do you have your phone?” Her voice was filled with the sisterly glee of getting a sibling in trouble.

“Go back to sleep,” Jess said irritably. “It isn’t even five in the morning.”

“But it’s so bright out.”

“That’s because the sun rises at about midnight here,” Jess replied, cross now. “Go to sleep, Ava.”

Of course she had to share a room with her four-year-old sister.

Back at home she’d had her own bedroom, with cool stencils on the wall she and Ellie had done together, of dolphins and seahorses because Jess had always liked sea life.

She missed that room now. She missed everything.

And if she had her way, she’d hop on a plane that very morning to go back to Connecticut, to real life.

As it was, Jess knew she was going to have to wait and figure out a way to make her family move, as soon as possible, back to where they belonged.

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”.