The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 24

From the sitting-room Gwen heard Matthew turning on the telly, and she straightened.

Really, there was no time like the present, was there?

Ellie was out, and her son had nothing to occupy him but the dubious options of daytime television. If she didn’t talk to him now, when would she?

Gathering her courage, Gwen went back into the sitting-room.

Matthew was sprawled on the sofa, watching one of those home improvement shows from America.

“Look at that bathroom,” he said. “Carrera marble. Isn’t it fantastic?”

“Mmm.” Gwen did not want marble bathrooms in her homely guest-house, but that was a conversation for another day.

“Matthew . . .”  She took a deep breath. “Look, love, I need to talk to you about something.”

“I know you do, Mum.” Matthew grimaced as Gwen stared at him.

“Do you?”

“Yes. I’ve been wanting to talk to you as well.” He turned the television off and gave her a direct, serious look.

Gently, Gwen lowered herself on to the edge of the sofa opposite.

Could her son possibly have guessed what was going on? Had he seen the letters from the hospital?

“I didn’t think you’d realised . . .” she began slowly, feeling for the words as if through the dark. Matthew shook his head sorrowfully.

“I don’t think I wanted to realise. I’ve been so full of my own plans . . . but look how they turned out.”

He let out a gusty sigh as Gwen tried to work out his meaning.

She had a feeling Matthew was not talking about her cancer diagnosis.

“I’m really sorry, Mum. I’ve taken on this whole bed and breakfast idea without any thought to how you felt.

“I just rushed ahead as I always do.”

Gwen let out a little sigh – whether it was relief or disappointment, she didn’t know.

“You’ve been excited about the project. I’m happy about that.”

“It’s just . . .” Matthew frowned into the distance.

“Being made redundant really hit me. I thought I had it all sorted, you know?

“Good job, nice house, great life. And then, in one fell swoop, it felt as if everything had been taken away from me, because I wasn’t good enough.”

“Oh, Matthew . . .” Gwen shook her head.

So concerned with her own feelings and worries, she hadn’t realised how badly this had affected her son.

“I’m so sorry. But you still have a beautiful family, Matthew, and a wife who loves you. That’s more than many people have.”

He didn’t look at her as he answered, his face grim.

“I feel like I’ve let them down with my own failure.”

“It wasn’t your fault you were made redundant,” Gwen said gently. “It was a company reorganisation.”

“But if I’d been better at my job, maybe I wouldn’t have been cut.”

“Maybe,” she allowed, “but life is full of disappointments. Things happen, things that hurt.

“The important thing is to get back up again, and having your family around you to help you do it is a huge blessing.”

“I’m thankful for them, and you.” He gave her a quick smile.

“But I’m worried, too. The children don’t seem to be settling in as well as I’d hoped.

“You’d think they’d be fine, they’re young enough, but Jess seems so withdrawn, and Jacob is so quiet. I know Ellie is worried about them, too.”

“Is she?” Gwen felt another pang of guilt.

Her relationship with Ellie felt so fraught and confused sometimes, she forgot how difficult her daughter-in-law must be finding this.

“It’s still early days.”

“I know, but it didn’t help matters that I put a big hole in the ceiling, did it?” He sighed heavily.

“Perhaps not, but John said there was rot we didn’t know about, so really, it’s a blessing in disguise.”

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”.