The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 07

As soon as Gwen said the words, she knew they were wrong.

Yes, she saved that coffee for the guests, but there weren’t any guests at the moment, and there wouldn’t be for months while Matthew renovated the place.

She saw Ellie stiffen and cursed her clumsiness.

Why didn’t she think before she spoke? Why did Ellie make her prickle so much?

“It doesn’t matter,” she said quickly as she came into the kitchen.

“I only meant that I usually use instant. But you must feel free to use whatever you want.”

Her smile was forced.

“Think of this as your home now.”

Ellie didn’t reply, and Gwen couldn’t blame her.

She wasn’t sure she wanted Ellie thinking of this as her home, even if it was for the foreseeable future.

She supposed Ellie didn’t, either.

“Would you like some?” Ellie asked after a moment, her voice carefully polite.

Gwen suppressed a sigh.

“Yes, please. Thank you.”

Ellie poured the coffee while Gwen got the milk out from the fridge.

This was her favourite time of day – the dawn light.

The quiet, save for the pleasant twitter of the birds, the sense of solitude and peace that fell on her like a comforting blanket.

The tension in the room felt both unavoidable and unwelcome.

“You’re up early,” she remarked as she poured milk into the coffees and then took her own cup to the kitchen table.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“I thought jet lag went the other way?” Gwen remarked.

Ellie just shrugged.

Should she apologise for the coffee remark again? Somehow she couldn’t quite make herself do it.

Last night had been stilted, to say the least – the children had all picked at the supper she’d made.

Toad in the hole, one of Matthew’s favourites and a childhood classic.

“I’m sorry, we don’t normally eat sausage,” Ellie had said when Ava folded her arms, refusing to try it.

“Don’t you?” Gwen had been startled. Who didn’t eat sausage?

“You’re not vegetarian, are you?”

She tried not to sound appalled; loads of people were vegetarian these days.

“No, we just . . . don’t eat sausage.” Ellie shrugged helplessly, so Matthew chimed in.

“People don’t really eat sausage in the States, Mum, except at breakfast, and then it’s usually doused in maple syrup.”

“Maple syrup!” Gwen was taken aback. “You never have sausage for tea?”

“You have sausage tea?” Jacob exclaimed in surprise.

“Tea is the evening meal,” Matthew explained easily.

He seemed to find it all so amusing, while Gwen had struggled not to feel dismayed and hurt.

“I suppose,” Gwen said to Ellie now, “this is all bound to feel a bit strange.”

She was conscious of how much Ellie had given up by moving to Wales, even if her daughter-in-law didn’t realise that she was.

“Yes, it is,” Ellie admitted after a moment. She tried to smile, and almost managed it.

“But we’ll get used to it in time, I’m sure.”

“I hope so.”

They both lapsed into silence, and Gwen wished she could think of something more to say.

“Matthew mentioned some of his renovation ideas to me last night,” she finally said. “They seem quite ambitious.”

In fact, she hadn’t been sure about half of them – whirlpool tubs and infinity showers? En-suites for every bedroom? It all sounded terribly expensive.

“He’s really excited about it all,” Ellie said as she took a sip of her coffee. “I’m glad he has a project to focus on.”

“Yes.” Gwen didn’t know the details of Matthew’s redundancy; he’d brushed it all aside when she’d asked last night, assuring her that everything was fine, so she hadn’t pressed him.

“He seems as if he can’t wait to get started,” she added.

Last night he’d talked about starting to bash through walls, which had alarmed Gwen.

She’d been thinking about a fresh lick of paint, maybe new carpets.

Her son seemed to have a different, and far grander, vision entirely.

“I thought I’d take the kids around the village today,” Ellie said brightly. “Help them to settle in. They’ll start school in a week . . .”

“Oh, that’s a good idea.”

“Would you like to come with us?”

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”.