The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 09

The nearest retail centre, Suzanne had informed Ellie, was forty minutes away.

Not that she even wanted to go shopping, but still.

She wanted just one thing to be familiar and easy.

“What about a paediatrician?” Ellie asked now. “Is there one in the village?”

Since her sister-in-law seemed determined to be the font of all parental wisdom, Ellie decided she might as well drink at her ever-flowing waters.

“A paediatrician?” Suzanne wrinkled her nose.

“Children just go to the regular GP in the UK, Ellie. There’s one in Abergavenny.”

Ellie didn’t think Suzanne meant to sound patronising, she just did.

“How far is Abergavenny again?”

“About thirty minutes.”

Right. She drew a quick breath, casting an eye to her beloved brood, who were milling about the roundabout, heads down as they talked to no-one.

Owen and Mairi had taken over both swings and were flying high, legs pumping.

Eventually, she reminded herself.

“What about a dentist?”

“Abergavenny.” Suzanne sounded amused, as if this should have been obvious.

“But you’ll have to go on a waiting list. Dentists are difficult to come by on the NHS in this area.”

Ellie drew another breath. Fine. It was all going to be fine.

It was just so foreign, from the names of shops and television programmes and whole swathes of life she didn’t understand.

Suzanne had started talking about boots, and it had taken Ellie several minutes to realise she meant a shop, not shoes.

And when she’d laughingly explained her confusion, Suzanne had wrinkled her nose, looking politely confused, as if she didn’t see why Ellie might have misunderstood such a thing.

Ellie honestly thought Suzanne meant well, just as Gwen did. It was just they kept missing each other somehow.

Perhaps it was a cultural difference; Ellie hadn’t realised how much of a gulf there was between the UK and the US until she’d married Matthew, and even then it had been dulled, because by the time she’d met him he’d been living in New York for three years and had become used to American ways.

But relocating to a tiny village in the far reaches of South Wales . . . well, the cultural difference smacked her in the face. Repeatedly.

“Well, I’m sure I’ll learn the ropes in time,” Ellie said with a little laugh, and Suzanne smiled at her.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I’ll help you.”

“We should probably head back,” Ellie said, with a note of apology.

Her children were looking decidedly bored – Craig kicking the roundabout, Jess folding her arms and glowering because Ellie hadn’t allowed her to bring her phone.

Jacob was standing off by himself, morose and uncertain, and Ava was hovering in front of the swings, pouting as she watched Owen and Mairi sail higher and higher.

Looking at them all, Ellie wished just one thing could be easy, or at least easier.

These kids were cousins; why couldn’t they get along?

Why couldn’t they all be tramping through the bushes, making dens and giggling excitedly, the way she’d pictured hazily before Suzanne had swooped in with all her well-meaning advice and air of superior knowledge?

Or was Ellie just imagining that? Was she simply being sensitive because of Gwen and the strangeness of this new world and, well, everything?

“You will let me know if you need anything?” Suzanne said as she rose from the bench and called to Owen and Mairi.

“Any questions, I’m happy to help, Ellie.”

“Thank you, Suzanne. I’m sure I’ll have tons of questions. I just have to figure out what they are.”

Ellie smiled humbly, now feeling guilty for thinking uncharitably of her sister-in-law.

The truth was, she was a little intimidated by Suzanne – she was trim and elegant, her dark auburn hair, the same colour as Matthew’s, pulled back into a neat ponytail.

She seemed to have her entire life under control, making organic meals from scratch, volunteering on umpteen committees at school and church, and holding down a part-time job as a chartered accountant besides.

Next to her Ellie felt like a ditzy mess.

To her surprise, Suzanne gave her a quick, tight hug as they reached the gate at Bluebell Farm.

“I know this must be difficult,” she said as she released her. “Chin up.”

“Thanks,” Ellie murmured. “I appreciate, well, everything.”

At least, she was trying to.

With a sigh, Ellie beckoned to her brood, and they all trooped into the farmhouse. From upstairs Ellie heard the sound of a drill and winced.

The renovations had begun.

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”.