The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 29

Something serious. Gwen’s sober words echoed through Ellie’s mind as she stared at her mother-in-law.

“Of course,” she finally managed to say when Gwen just continued to look at her sorrowfully.

“Anything, Gwen, of course. Should I . . . should I get Matthew?”

“No, no, not just yet.

“I’ll need to tell him and Suzanne, too, of course, but right now I think I can only manage one person.”

And that one person was her? Ellie’s stomach swooped at the thought of whatever Gwen was going say, and the responsibility of being the one to hear and respond to it first.

“Of course,” she said again. “Shall we sit down?”

Gwen nodded and they both sat at the big table in the centre of the room.

Outside, twilight was falling, and more thuds sounded from upstairs, followed, thankfully, by more laughter.

Gwen sat very still, her hands folded on the table in front of her, her expression composed.

“I don’t know where to begin,” Gwen finally said.

“So I suppose I might as well just say it. I . . . I have cancer. Breast cancer.”

“Oh, Gwen.” Ellie’s stomach swooped again. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Gwen nodded, her expression now resolute.

“I put off doing it for too long, I know. It just felt like so much was going on . . .” She shrugged helplessly.

“But there’s no escaping it now. I start having chemotherapy next week.”

Ellie swallowed, trying to feel for the right words.

“The prognosis . . .?” she finally managed, her voice hesitant, unsure if she should be asking that.

“I don’t really know. The consultants can never make any promises, can they, but he sounded . . . somewhat optimistic?”

She sighed.

“At least, I think he did. But the truth is I was in such a state of shock I’m not sure I even took in what he was saying.”

“I wish you’d told us,” Ellie burst out. “Someone could have come with you.”

“I know.” Gwen smiled sadly.

“But I never like any fuss, and somehow, with you moving here, and then Matthew’s broken arm and all the palaver about the house, I never found the right moment.”

“Well, I’m very glad you’ve told me now.

“And of course you must tell Matthew and Suzanne. I’m sure Suzanne will want to go with you.”

In fact, Ellie thought, Suzanne might insist on it.

“Yes, I suspect she will.” Gwen sighed. “The thing is, I don’t want to be treated like a patient, or a child.

“I’ve managed this
B and B on my own for years, and I can manage this.”

“There’s no shame or weakness in wanting a bit of support,” Ellie said, but she knew what her mother-in-law meant.

Suzanne sometimes made her feel like a child. She hadn’t realised Gwen might have felt the same.

“I’m just not used to it,” Gwen confessed with another sigh. “But I know I’ll need help, if not now, then certainly later.”

She grimaced.

“I’ve read about the chemotherapy, and it doesn’t sound at all nice.”

“No,” Ellie agreed, because there was nothing more she could say to that.

She looked at Gwen, who seemed so small somehow, her shoulders hunched, her face looking careworn, and her heart squeezed with love and concern.

“Oh, Gwen,” she said. “I really am so sorry.

“I don’t know whether having us lot here makes it better or worse for you, but I’m glad we are, so we can help you. I just hope we’re not too much trouble.”

“Of course you’re not,” Gwen said quickly, and Ellie couldn’t keep from giving her a sceptical smile.

“Are you sure? Because I know we’re terribly loud. Craig alone is enough to give you a headache.”

“It’s fine,” Gwen said, smiling. “It’s good to have the house feel full again.

“Grandchildren are different from guests.”

“I doubt you’ve ever had any guests as loud as us.”

“That’s probably true.”

Clumsily, wanting to hug her, Ellie patted her mother-in-law’s shoulder.

“Thank you for telling me, anyway,” she said.

Before Gwen could respond, another thud sounded from upstairs, and this time it wasn’t followed by laughter.

With a sigh Ellie rose from the table.

“I’d better go see to all that commotion,” she said, and Gwen nodded.

Their cosy moment was over, at least for now.

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”.