The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 14

Back at the house, Matthew was still making alarming sounds from upstairs, hammering and ripping and generally causing mayhem.

Ellie had steered clear of the five guest bedrooms he was renovating; she was not a DIY person, and in any case, Matthew seemed to be doing fine on his own.

She ventured into the kitchen, bolstering her courage when she saw Gwen sitting at the table with a cup of tea cradled between her palms.

“School drop off went all right?” Gwen asked in a too-bright voice as Ellie sat down across from her.

“I suppose so. I felt a bit emotional, to tell you the truth.” She tried to smile but felt her lips wobble.

“I cried when I dropped Matthew off,” Gwen reminisced.

“I didn’t with Suzanne – I had Matthew at home, and I think I felt too exhausted all the time.

“But with Matthew . . .”

Ellie nodded, because she’d always suspected Gwen had a soft spot for her younger child.

“Anyway,” Gwen continued in a brisker tone, “I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

“Yes.” Ellie took a deep breath. Now was as good a time as any to tackle the thorny topic of sharing a kitchen.

“Gwen, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Oh?” Gwen’s gaze turning wary.

“It’s just, we’re going to be here for a while, aren’t we? And it isn’t good for anyone if we feel like guests, and you feel put upon.”

“I don’t feel –”

“I’m not trying to criticise,” Ellie said quickly.

“The truth is, I’m saying this for me as much as for you.

“I miss my own home. My own kitchen.”

“That’s understandable,” Gwen murmured after a moment.

“So I was hoping we could share the cooking, shopping, housework, all that.

“I want things to be easier for you, but I’d also like to be involved. I feel a bit purposeless just now.”

Gwen was silent, and Ellie braced herself for a polite rejection.

“Very well,” Gwen said after an uncertain pause.

“That makes sense. Shall we draw up a schedule?”

“Oh. All right.” Surprised, relieved and still a bit unsure, Ellie nodded.

“That sounds like a good idea.”

“I’ll get a piece of paper.” Gwen rose from the table and hunted through one of the drawers of the Welsh dresser, her movements slow and laborious, her head bowed.

Ellie watched her uncertainly, half wanting to take it all back.

She’d succeeded in her mission, but somehow she didn’t feel as if she had.

*  *  *  *

Gwen gazed down at the schedule she and Ellie had made – Ellie would cook on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Gwen would do Friday fish and chips and a Sunday roast.

Saturday was takeaway, and Tuesday leftovers. It was all eminently sensible, considering.

She took a sip of tea, deliberately trying to empty her mind.

Ellie had gone upstairs, and Matthew was still busy working on one of the guest rooms.

Gwen had been relieved to realise he wasn’t sledgehammering his way through walls, at least yet.

So far he’d just ripped up old carpets and the basins in bedrooms, getting ready for the grand plan of adding en suites.

“It’s all a bit much, don’t you think?” she’d asked faintly when he’d shown her the plans he’d drawn up in consultation with an architect.

“Every bedroom with its own bathroom . . .”

“That’s how it’s done these days, Mum. No-one will settle for less.”

“Won’t they?”

Admittedly, her bookings had dropped off a bit in the last few years, and the guests who did come tended to be long-time visitors or young people on a shoestring budget.

“I’m not aspiring to be the Ritz, you know.”

“Trust me, Mum, this isn’t the Ritz.” His smile took any sting out of the words, and when he’d shown her website after website of upscale B&Bs, Gwen had been reluctantly convinced.

“As long as you know what you’re doing . . .”

“I don’t, but I can hire people who do,” Matthew said cheerfully.

Like Ellie had said, he was happy having a project, and he seemed enthused, so she supposed that was something.

Now Gwen gazed unseeingly in front of her, as, despite her attempts not to think about it, her mind rewound to the voicemail she’d listened to that morning.

“This is the Oncology Department of Nevil Hall Hospital. If you could ring us at your earliest convenience . . .”

She’d listened to the brief message three times, and then she’d deleted it, and decided not to do anything about it. At least for the morning.

She wanted one morning, a few hours, of not knowing. Not thinking.

Except it seemed she was thinking anyway.

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”.