The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 23

Emma ordered a hot chocolate with whipped cream, and Ellie did the same.

“So, you’re new,” Emma remarked once the waitress had gone and they were alone in the tearoom. “That’s difficult.”

She stated it so matter-of-factly that Ellie felt a rush of relief. Someone understood.

“Yes,” she said. “It is a bit difficult at times.”

Emma arched a sceptical eyebrow and Ellie laughed.

“All right, yes, it’s been incredibly hard.

“Much harder than I expected, to be honest, although I’m not even sure what that was.”

“It always is harder than you expect, isn’t it? We moved here three years ago from London – Zach starting year one, my younger daughter Izzy in nursery.

“Perfect timing, I thought, for them and for us, and my parents are only an hour away.

“I had this image of living in the country – it involved loads of delicious things bubbling on top of the Aga I don’t actually have, and joyful tramps through the countryside in wellies.”

She laughed and shook her head.

“The trouble is, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking or walks in the countryside, and that didn’t change when we moved.”

“I suppose I had a similar image,” Ellie said slowly. “Of everything falling neatly into place. The word ‘idyllic’ comes to mind.”

Emma nodded and their hot chocolates arrived.

“So what brought you to little Llandrigg, anyway?” Emma asked.

Ellie explained about Gwen, and Matthew, and the bed and breakfast.

“I felt it was only fair, to spend some time in his home country,” she said.

“And when he was made redundant . . . we were at a loose end, and it seemed like the right choice.”

“And does it still?” Emma asked shrewdly.

“Well . . . I don’t know. I feel like we’ve had a lot to deal with.”

With a grimace Ellie explained about the ceiling crashing in – their bedroom, although much improved, was still a construction site – and Matthew breaking his arm.

“And I don’t know why, but I don’t feel like I can get along with my mother-in-law,” she confessed. “Even though she’s lovely.

“And my oldest daughter is in year nine and seems to hate everything . . .” Ellie let out a trembling laugh. “Sorry, I might cry again.”

She brushed at her eyes.

“I wouldn’t blame you,” Emma said.

“It sounds like you’ve got far too much going on, when everything feels so new and strange. But it will get easier.”

“It already has,” Ellie told her. “I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me just to have someone to listen to me moan a bit.”

She gave her new friend a watery smile.

“I’m so glad,” Emma said, and Ellie knew she meant it.

*  *  *  *

“Is there anything else I can get you, love?”

Matthew gave his mother a wry smile.

“You’ve been amazing, Mum, but I don’t need to be coddled.”

He sighed as he looked at his plaster-encased arm.

“I just want to get out and do something. I hate feeling so useless.”

In the week since Matthew had come home from the hospital, he’d been slowly but surely going stir crazy.

Gwen couldn’t blame him; her son had always been the type of person to thrive on activity and busyness, and here he was, stuck watching TV while John, the local handyman, repaired the mess he’d accidentally made.

Matthew and Ellie’s bedroom was still uninhabitable as they waited for the floor to be finished, but they could hopefully move on with freshening up the bed and breakfast, although she hadn’t spoken to Matthew yet about her concerns . . .

Gwen sighed as she slowly wiped the counter, the weight of her diagnosis settling on her once more.

Sometimes, for a moment or two, she forgot about it, only for it to come back in a fearful rush.

Yesterday she’d had an appointment to discuss her treatment plan; she was due to start chemotherapy next week and she knew she needed to tell Matthew and his sister Suzanne, but somehow the moment never came.

Suzanne was busy with her children, and Matthew was brooding over the B&B as well as his broken arm.

And Ellie seemed busy, too, rushing about after the children, doing errands or maybe just trying to stay out of her way.

Still, Gwen knew she was just making excuses.

She didn’t want to be fussed over, or be seen as someone who was nothing but a patient, a problem to be dealt with. There was so much going on already . . .

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”.