The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 28

“They’ve had a fab time,” Emma assured Ellie as she stepped into the hallway of the brick house on Llandrigg’s new estate at the opposite end of the village from Bluebell Farm.

“Barely made a peep, to be honest. They’ve set up an entire Lego universe. Come through.”

“All right.” Ellie’s heart lightened to see Jacob lying on the floor, Zach next to him, Lego everywhere.

“You had a good time, Jacob?” she asked, and her son grunted, too involved in his creation to look up.

“They’ve been like that for hours.” Emma laughed. “Like two peas in a pod.”

It filled Ellie with relief to see it. She’d been worried about Jacob.

He was so shy, it was hard for him to make an effort. But here he was with a kindred spirit. Now if only Jess could find a friend . . .

“Come on, Jacob,” she called. “It’s getting late.” She turned to Emma.

“But perhaps we could have Zach over some time? Return the favour?”

“That would be brilliant.”

Hopefully Gwen wouldn’t mind.

“Thanks for having him,” she called to Emma, and then she and Jacob were walking back through Llandrigg, the evening sun-soaked, turning everything golden.

Really, it was a beautiful place, Ellie thought as they passed the village green, the grey-green hills in the distance providing a stunning backdrop.

Everyone was in the kitchen when they got back, eating Welsh cakes and drinking tea.

“Suzanne brought dinner,” Gwen told Ellie, as it was her night to cook.

“That was kind of her.”

Although, in truth, Ellie didn’t know how to feel about it.

Suzanne barely talked to her when she saw her in the school yard.

She’d hoped to call her sister-in-law a friend, but she felt like a stranger.

“I’m perfectly capable of cooking,” she couldn’t keep from saying. Gwen nodded.

“Of course. I think she just wanted to be helpful.”

“Right.” Ellie glanced down at her children, all seeming contented as they ate their cakes.

“Well, I don’t suppose anyone’s going to need to eat soon,” she said with a smile. “Where’s Matthew?”

“In the sitting-room,” Gwen said. “I think he’s feeling a bit tired.”

And a bit out of sorts, Ellie suspected. Matthew had never known how to handle inactivity.

“How’s your day been?” she asked Gwen, and her mother-in-law smiled.

“It’s been nice, actually. Ava and I baked.”

“The Welsh cakes?”

“Yes, everyone’s decided they like them, after all.”

“Oh. I’m glad.”

Their snack finished, the children drifted off, and Ellie and Gwen were alone.

Gwen had started tidying up, and Ellie began to load the dishwasher with cups.

“Actually, those have to be handwashed,” Gwen said. “Sorry . . .”

“No, I’m sorry.” Ellie took the cups out of the dishwasher. “I’m still feeling my way around here,” she said with a laugh.

“I know you are.” To Ellie’s surprise Gwen put a hand on her arm. “I know this can’t be easy, Ellie. I’m sorry if I make it difficult.”

“Oh, Gwen . . .” Ellie shook her head. “You don’t, honestly. If anyone is making things difficult, I’m sure it’s me. I just feel like I don’t know how to be sometimes.”

“That’s understandable. It’s such a big change. We all have to adjust.”

“Yes . . .” Ellie was grateful for her mother-in-law’s understanding. “Shall I wash the cups?”

They worked in companionable silence for a few moments; from upstairs they heard a few thumps, followed by laughter. Gwen smiled.

“It’s nice to have this house feel properly lived in again,” she said.

“I hope we’re not too much trouble, Gwen. This is an adjustment for you, too, I know.”

“I’m glad to have you here.” Gwen bit her lip

“Is everything all right?” Ellie asked impulsively.

Gwen took a steadying breath and laid down the dish towel, her gaze low.

Ellie waited, her heart lurching as she wondered just what was going on.

Gwen looked as if the weight of the world had landed on her shoulders.

“Actually, no,” Gwen began, “everything isn’t all right.

“I’ve been trying to find a way to say this, but the truth is I’ve been scared.

“I was going to tell Matthew or Suzanne, but I’ve never managed to find a moment.”

She took a deep breath.

“I need to tell you something, Ellie. Something serious.”

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”.