The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 36

Sunlight filtered through the gap in the curtains as Gwen lay in bed and listened to the thumps and thuds that meant her four grandchildren were up and getting ready for school.

Normally she would have been up as well, usually for an hour already, at least.

This morning, however, she felt as if she could barely lift her head from the pillow. Her limbs felt leaden, and her empty stomach churned.

It was five days since she’d started chemotherapy.

“Mum, Jacob took the last of the Weetos!”

“Mum, where’s my school jumper?”

“Ow, Mum, don’t brush my hair so hard!”

Gwen listened to the familiar chorus and felt a flicker of sympathy for Ellie, racing from one near-crisis to the next.

Matthew would be helping, too, as best as he could with his arm in his cast, but Gwen knew well enough that when children wanted something done they asked their mum.

Usually she tried to help in the mornings, although she always ended up feeling in the way.

This morning she wouldn’t be. Although she’d intended to get up half an hour ago when she’d first woken, she hadn’t stirred.

Why did her head feel so heavy, her stomach so empty?

She closed her eyes, telling herself it would just be for a moment.

She woke to Ellie’s soft voice at the door.

“Gwen . . . Gwen?”

Gwen blinked the world into foggy focus. Her stomach still churned and her head felt as if it were full of cotton wool.

“I’m here,” she called, her voice little more than a croak.

“Sorry . . .” Ellie peeked round the door. “I wanted to let you sleep, but your chemo starts in an hour.”

“An hour?” Startled, Gwen eased herself into a sitting position. “Is it really that late? I only meant to close my eyes for a few minutes . . .”

“You need the rest.” Ellie smiled sympathetically. “Can I get you something? A cup of tea? Some toast?”

Gwen’s stomach revolted at the thought of food, but she hoped a cup of tea might help.

“Thank you, Ellie. A cup of tea would be lovely. I’ll just get dressed.”

“All right.” Ellie slipped out of the room, and Gwen forced herself out of bed, even though she struggled not to pull the duvet back up over her head.

When she made it downstairs, Ellie had a pot of tea made, and some toast.

“Just in case,” she told her. “I’ll eat it if you don’t.”

“I’ll try some,” Gwen promised. “Thank you.”

She perched on the edge of a chair, feeling about a million years old, as Ellie poured her a cup of tea.

“The effects of the chemo starting?” she asked, and Gwen grimaced.

“I suppose so.”

“Shall I drive you to the hospital this morning? I’m free, and I thought it might be nice to have a chat.”

A chat? Gwen barely felt capable of stringing syllables together, but she managed a weak smile.

“That’s very kind of you, Ellie. Thank you.”

Suzanne had been driving her every morning, but she didn’t think she could face her daughter’s well-meaning brand of officiousness today.

Suzanne would no doubt tell her what she needed to eat, do or even think in order to beat the effects of the chemo and the cancer.

She would also be nervous and edgy, snapping at nurses and fussing with the IV.

Gwen reached for her phone and sent a quick text to Suzanne, whom she knew would be getting ready to pick her up.

Would Suzanne be hurt by what she might see as a brush-off? Gwen hoped not.

In any case, she felt too tired to worry about it. It had been hard enough to get out of bed.

A short while later they were in the car, and Ellie was keeping up a cheerful patter while Gwen tried not to slump against the window. Goodness, but she was tired.

“Matt and I had some thoughts about the bed and breakfast,” Ellie said a bit hesitantly as she turned into the hospital car park.

“I wanted to share them with you, but we don’t have to talk about them now.”

The last thing Gwen wanted was to hear about her son’s plans for marble en suites or a fitness gym.

She didn’t think she could take any of it now.

“I’m sorry, Ellie,” she said. “I’m feeling so tired today. Do you mind if we have that chat a bit later?”

“Of course not.” Ellie smiled, but Gwen could see both the disappointment and worry in her eyes.

“Whenever it’s convenient, Gwen. There’s absolutely no rush at all.”

“Thank you,” Gwen said, grateful for her daughter-in-law’s understanding.

She didn’t think Suzanne would have felt the same, as guilty as that thought made her.

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.