The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 17

Gwen stood in the school yard a little bit by herself, watching the other mums gather in tight knots, chatting away merrily.

She wondered if Ellie had felt alone this morning, and a shaft of sympathy went through her.

None of this was easy.

She thought of Matthew looking so pale and worn in the hospital bed, and her heart lurched. At least he was safe.

Which made her think, unfortunately, of the wretched voicemail she still hadn’t returned.

She needed to call the doctor’s office, and she really didn’t want to. But never mind that now, she told herself.

She could hardly make the call in the schoolyard, with her grandchildren about to emerge.

Her heart lifted at the thought of them.

Wasn’t this what she’d wanted all along, to be there for her grandchildren, picking them up from school, plying them with biscuits and milk when they returned home?

Never mind the voicemail or even Matthew right now. She had this moment.

The classroom doors opened and pupils trotted out, reunited with their parents or, as was often the case, grandparents.

Gwen had always felt a bit envious of her friends and neighbours who had grandchildren locally.

Of course she had Owen and Mairi just one village over, but Suzanne was always so busy, scheduling them with afterschool activities and treating visits to Bluebell Farm like sporadic fly-bys.

“Granny?” Jacob walked slowly towards her, a frown puckering his little brow. “Where’s Mom?”

“She had something to do with your father,” Gwen improvised. “She’ll be back a bit later.”

“She didn’t want to see us right after school?” Jacob sounded shocked, and his lower lip wobbled before he quickly looked away.

“She did, Jacob, of course she did. It was just . . .”

Already Gwen felt out of her depth.

“Something came up. Now, where do you think Ava could be?”

“She comes out the Infants door,” Jacob said with a nod towards the other end of the school. “I’m in Juniors.”

“Oh, of course.” She should have remembered that from picking Owen and Mairi up on occasion, if not her own children years ago.

“Shall we go and find her?” She reached for Jacob’s hand but he sidled away.

Gwen tried not to feel hurt. It was early days. She had plenty of time.


Ava was already waiting, holding the teacher’s hand, when Gwen reached the Infants door.

She looked anxious, and even more so when she saw Gwen and not Ellie.

“Where’s Mommy?”

“She’s busy, darling. How was your first day at school?”

Gwen gave the teacher, a woman she didn’t recognise, a harried, grateful smile as she reached for Ava’s hand.

Thankfully, the little girl let her hold it.

“I had chocolate cake at lunchtime!”

“That sounds lovely. Now, where do we pick up Craig and Jess?”

She glanced at Jacob, who just shrugged.

“The bus stop by the green, I suppose,” Gwen said. It had been a long time since she’d done this.

She navigated the crowded schoolyard, Ava clinging to her hand, Jacob sloping along behind.

She tried to ask them both more about school, but Jacob didn’t want to talk and Ava was more intent on skipping ahead.

Gwen felt exhausted by it already, along with thinking about Matthew and the state of the house.

She hadn’t even been back yet to see how bad the damage was, never mind John’s assurances that he’d “seen worse”.

The bus from the comprehensive was pulling up as Gwen approached with Jacob and Ava.

The children spilled out of the doors in a flurry of coats, bags and boisterous chatter, but she didn’t see either Jess or Craig.

Then, finally, when most of the children had started to wander off, Jess came off the bus, holding her bag in one hand, her blazer tied around her waist.

She glowered when she saw her grandmother there.

“Hi, Jess,” Gwen said as brightly as she could. “How was your first day?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Your mum had something important to do,” Gwen said yet again. “I’ll explain at home.”

“Explain?” Jess looked suspicious.

Craig came off the bus behind her.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Gwen assured them.

She didn’t want to tell them what had happened right here on the street.

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”.