The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 08

Gwen could tell it had cost Ellie something to invite her along.

Regretfully, she shook her head.

“I’m so sorry, Ellie, but I have an appointment.”

Instinctively her gaze moved to the letter tucked in its envelope on the toast rack she’d used to hold post since Matthew and Suzanne had been babies.

She’d tried to move the date of the appointment when she’d learned of Matthew’s arrival, but it hadn’t been possible.

“Perhaps you could go with Suzanne,” Gwen suggested. “She’s looking forward to welcoming you all to the village.”

Ellie nodded, looking less than thrilled. Gwen knew she didn’t know her sister-in-law very well, but surely this was a good opportunity to improve their relationship?

“I might,” Ellie said slowly, before rising from the table. “I’d better get dressed. I’m sorry about the coffee. I’ll use instant next time.”

“Really, there’s no –” Gwen began, but Ellie was already walking out of the kitchen.

With a sigh, she slumped against her chair, feeling as if every conversation with her daughter-in-law was doing the opposite of what she wanted it to. When would things get better?

Slowly, inexorably, Gwen’s gaze moved back to the letter lying so innocently in the toast rack.

When was she going to tell Matthew about that?

* * * *

Of course, you can get your uniform from one of the high street shops, but the ones the school sells through its online shop are much better, and five per cent of the profit goes back to the school.”

“I’m sure,” Ellie murmured.

She had no idea about either – she wasn’t even sure what a high street shop was – but even if she’d had firm opinions about where to buy school uniform, she knew she wouldn’t share them with Matthew’s older sister, Suzanne.

Suzanne had been giving them a tour of Llandrigg for the last hour, talking the whole time.

Ellie had heard about organic veg boxes, after-school cricket club, how the Rainbows had lost a leader and wasn’t the same, and the dangers of the new skate park by the river, which included broken glass and teenagers who smoked.

Her mind was seething with information and worry.

Her own children had been completely silent as they’d trooped from post office to church to school, listening to Suzanne inform them on every aspect of village life.

Suzanne’s two children, Owen and Mairi, had been openly curious about their cousins, but had also stayed silent, until they’d reached the dilapidated play park, and Suzanne had prodded Owen.

“Go on, then. Show your cousins the play park.”

The play park was nothing more than a couple of swings and a rusty old roundabout, but with a decidedly unwilling look, Owen and Mairi walked off, and after an awful second’s hesitation, Ellie’s children followed morosely behind.

“There,” Suzanne said with satisfaction as they sat on a bench. “They’ll get along eventually.”

Eventually, Ellie decided, being the operative word.

She glanced around the village green, a lovely stretch of velvety grass surrounded on two sides by charming whitewashed buildings, and on the third and fourth sides by the Norman church and a pub.

The pub’s colourful sign, indicating the three crowns of its name, swung in the breeze.

Everything about Llandrigg was impossibly quaint and so different from suburban life in Connecticut, with its giant car parks and box stores and general lack of charm, outside a small designated historic area.

But it had also had multiplexes and a playground ten times the size of this one, and drive-in restaurants, banks and pharmacies all within five minutes of their house, and no need to leave the air-conditioned sanctuary of their car.

Ellie had never thought of herself as particularly materialistic, but right now she felt a sweep of homesickness for the convenience of her old life.

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”.