The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 42

A headache banded Ellie’s temples as she walked to the village hall with Jacob by her side.

They were already late, thanks to Ava having a sudden tantrum, although Gwen had managed to distract her with the promise of baking.

She’d had a text from Suzanne, fired off in anger, for it simply said Ellie could handle all of Gwen’s chemo appointments from now on.

Ellie didn’t know what that meant for Gwen and Suzanne’s relationship, or hers and Suzanne’s.

And meanwhile she would have to take on even more, in addition to working on the B&B plans and managing her family.

It was selfish to be thinking this way, she knew, which only made her more anxious.

Her mother-in-law had cancer, after all. Of course she was going to do whatever she could to help and support her.

But why did it have to feel so hard?

It didn’t help that Matthew was being monosyllabic; Ellie suspected he was still in a huff about the change in direction for the B&B.

Or that Jess was sporting some serious teenage attitude.

Sudden tears stung Ellie’s eyes. All right, so life was a bit challenging right now. And she was homesick.

She wanted her circle of friends and a caramel macchiato from Starbucks and the New England sunshine streaming down.

Never mind. This, too, would pass . . . she hoped.

But her gloomy mood remained as she dropped Jacob off at the village hall and headed home again.

Gwen had got Ava involved in a big baking project, which was wonderful, but the kitchen was now a mess and Ellie had both to tidy up and sort out dinner.

Craig and Jess had got in some sort of argument about some noticeboard on the way home, and Craig was now flinging his stuff all around the kitchen, and Jess had stomped upstairs, slamming her door.

Ellie’s headache got that much worse.

“I’m sorry; I’ll tidy up,” Gwen said, looking exhausted.

“No, no, it’s fine, I’ll do it. Ava will help. Can you switch the kettle on, love?”

Ellie smiled at Ava, who hopped off her stool, eager as ever to help.

“Go have a sit down, Gwen. I’ll bring you tea.”

Gwen went off gratefully, and Ellie set about tidying the kitchen before she decided what she was going to do with a kilo of mince on its sell-by date.

“Craig, don’t get out those crisps,” she said, spying her son hunting through a cupboard.

“Dinner will be soon.”

“Mummy, you said crisps, not chips,” Ava piped up. “You’re sounding British!”

“So I am,” Ellie agreed with a tired smile.

The kettle clicked off, and she brought Gwen her tea, and fried the mince up with a jar of tomato sauce.

“Where’s Daddy?” Ava asked, and Ellie tried to answer pleasantly.

“I don’t know.”

Matthew had the irritating habit of going AWOL during the busiest hour of the day.

“Craig!” She picked up the open packet of crisps. “I told you!” But her son was nowhere to be seen.

Jess slunk into the kitchen as Ellie was laying the table.

“Ew, bolognese,” she said, and Ellie tried to keep her voice light.

“I thought you liked bolognese.”

“No, of course I don’t.” This, despite Jess having asked for seconds of it only last week.

“Well, I’m afraid it’s all there is tonight,” Ellie said cheerfully.

Jess grimaced.

“I won’t eat it. I’m not hungry anyway.”

“Jess, you need to eat.”

“I told you, I’m not hungry!” Her daughter’s eyes flared with anger.

“Jess, is everything OK?” Ellie asked in a gentler tone, which had the effect of making her daughter more furious.

“Why even ask that?”

“Because you seem –”

“What? What do I seem?”

Ellie stared at her in helpless bafflement.

“Oh!” Ellie hurried to the stove, where the simmering sauce was now smoking.

“None of us is going to like bolognese tonight,” she muttered as she took the pan off the Aga.

She’d never got the hang of cooking on it.

Jess huffed theatrically, and something in Ellie snapped.

“That’s enough, Jess,” she said shortly.

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You’ve been moaning and whinging since you came in the kitchen,” Ellie retorted, knowing she should stop. “And I’ve had quite enough, thank you.”

“You’ve had enough!” Jess repeated in a half-snarl, half-sob. “I’ve had enough! I hate it here! And I hate you!”

With another sound that was definitely a sob, she stormed out of the kitchen.

Ellie heaved a sigh and started scraping burned food into the bin.

She shouldn’t have lost her temper, but sometimes it was so hard, one thing after another, all of it feeling so relentless.

The front door opened, and Matthew’s voice floated through.

“I’m home!”

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”.