The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 34

“They’ll be fine.”

Matthew gave Ellie a smirk as she drove along Llandrigg’s high street.

Matthew had scrubbed up nicely, broken arm and all, and she hoped she had, too. It had been ages since they’d been out together.

“I’m more worried about your mum,” she told him as she turned on to a narrow lane. “She’s so tired, and they can be a handful.

“Ava had already turned on the waterworks before we were out the door . . .”

“And she can turn them off just as quickly. My mum is made of strong stuff. She’ll be OK.

“I think she’d like some time alone with the kids.”

“Would she?” Ellie wasn’t so sure. Gwen hadn’t exactly been clamouring for quality time before now.

Or had she, and Ellie had missed it?

Even after their heart-to-heart the other week, Ellie found her mother-in-law hard to read, and hard to communicate with.

“Let’s just concentrate on having a nice time,” Matthew suggested. “I can’t remember the last time we were out.”

“It was back in Connecticut, before . . .” Ellie trailed off, not wanting to mention Matthew’s redundancy, knowing he could be sensitive about it.

“Yeah, when we had more money.” He sighed.

“It was very nice of your mother to make us this reservation and pay for the meal,” Ellie said.

“You’re right. We should enjoy it.”

The pub was lovely, tucked at the end of a country lane, its courtyard wreathed with fairy lights.

Inside it was all aged oak and open fires, with a delicious smell of food, wine and woodsmoke. Ellie felt her cares falling away.

It had been so long since she and Matthew had had any proper alone time. She was longing to reconnect.

So much had conspired to keep them apart emotionally – Matthew’s redundancy, the move to Wales, the renovation of the B&B, and more recently his broken arm.

“What are you going to have?” she asked as she perused the menu. “Are we getting starters, too?”

“Why not?” He gave her a crooked smile, but Ellie could tell he had something on his mind.

They ordered their meals and a bottle of wine, and as Ellie sat back and watched the flames flicker in the fireplace, she let out a contented sigh.

“This really is nice.”

“Yeah . . .” Matthew toyed with the stem of his wine glass as he looked around the room.

Ellie took a sip of wine and waited. He definitely had something on his mind.

“What is it, Matt?” she asked after a few minutes had passed.

“What’s what?”

“Something is on your mind. Why don’t you let me in on the secret?”

“No secret.” Matthew gave her a wry smile before sighing. “But I do have something on my mind.”

“OK.” Ellie gave what she hoped was an encouraging smile. “What’s up?”

Matthew paused.

“I don’t think the renovation is working out.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not qualified to do it all myself, as much as I wanted to.” He gestured to his broken arm.

“And I couldn’t get started for weeks, anyway.

“The truth is, I think Mum dreamed up the whole idea of a renovation to try to keep me busy. I don’t think she really needed it.”

“I don’t know about that. Some of the rooms were pretty shabby.”

“Yes, but she doesn’t even want the en suites and all the rest.

“I should have consulted with her before, I realise that. It’s her place. But I don’t want to do it just so I can be kept busy.”

“It still needs to be done, Matt,” Ellie reminded him. “Especially now the rooms are all in such a state –”

“I can put things back easily enough. But I think I’ll tell Mum I’m going to try to get a proper job. Maybe in Cardiff.”

“Oh, but . . .”

The vision they’d all had when they’d moved to Wales was a family business, working together.

A slower pace, a quiet life. Even with the hardships they’d had so far, Ellie didn’t want to let go of that dream.

“Maybe we could rent a place. Give Mum some space.”

“Matt, I don’t think it’s space your mum needs –”

“We’d still be close. We could stay in the village.”

Ellie hesitated. The thought of having their own space was tempting, but she knew that Gwen would be hurt if they all moved out just a few weeks after they’d arrived.

She also knew that Matthew’s vision of the B&B as some upscale boutique wasn’t shared by Gwen, and wasn’t feasible to begin with.

“I agree with you,” she said, “that the vision you had isn’t really workable.”

“So . . .”

“But what if . . . what if we did it all differently?”

An idea was forming in Ellie’s head.

“What if, instead of glamour and elegance, we tried for something more friendly and home-grown? What if we changed our vision?”

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”.