The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 44

Gwen could hear the clattering of pots in the kitchen, and suspected Ellie was annoyed or tired.

She was certainly tired – slumped in this chair, her head lolling back, she was barely able to keep her eyes open.

Ellie had brought her a cup of tea but Gwen didn’t feel she had the energy to so much as take a sip.

Doing the puzzle with Jacob and baking with Ava, pleasant as both had been, had exhausted her.

She had so little energy these days, she knew she needed to conserve it, but even so she couldn’t regret spending time with her grandchildren. It was so very precious.

A noise had Gwen open her eyes; she saw Jess sidling into the room, looking guilty.

“Are you all right, Gran?”

“Yes, just tired.” Gwen managed a smile. “What are you up to?”

Jess shrugged, her gaze sliding away.

“Oh, nothing.”

Gwen straightened, wincing at the pain in her joints.

“What kind of nothing?” she asked lightly, because it was clear even in her rather befuddled state that something was going on with her granddaughter.

She was twisting a strand of hair around one finger as she bit her lip nervously.

“Mum’s in a real mood,” she said after a moment, and Gwen smiled gently.

“She’s got a lot on her plate. I don’t think I’m helping.”

Jess just shrugged.

“How are things with Cora?” Gwen asked.

For a second something flickered across Jess’s face; it looked like an odd mix of guilt and excitement.

“She’s good,” Jess said. “She’s messaging me again.”

“That’s good. Friends go through ups and downs, don’t they?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

A wave of fatigue crashed over Gwen, threatening to pull her under. She leaned her head back.

“Perhaps Cora can visit here one day,” she said.

“Yeah . . . maybe. Or I could go see her.”

Gwen’s eyes fluttered closed as Jess darted across the room.

When she opened them again, her granddaughter had gone, but Gwen had the unsettling sensation of having missed something important.

Gwen didn’t know how long it was that she sat there and drifted into a doze; at some point Jacob came in to tell her it was time for supper, and Gwen stirred enough to say she’d eat later.

She heard the comforting sound of chatter and the clink of dishes from the kitchen; the dark cloud that had been hovering over the house seemed to have moved on.

When she stirred again, it was already dark. Someone was sitting across from her.

For a disorientating second, Gwen thought it was Seth; even though he’d been gone nearly twenty years, she could remember the way he sat, his head braced by his hand and cocked to the right.

An incredulous smile started to spread across her face when she heard her son’s voice.

“Mum?” Matthew asked, and he straightened, dropping his hand. “Are you awake?”

“Goodness, do you know, for a moment I thought you were your father.” Gwen let out a little laugh when she saw her son’s alarmed expression.

“Don’t worry, Matthew, I’m not losing the plot yet.

“It was just how you were sitting – it looked just the way your dad used to sit.”

Gwen let out a long sigh. She didn’t indulge in grief often, but in her vulnerable state she missed her husband more than ever.

Seth would have done the crossword with her when she was having her chemo; he would have brought her weak tea with just a splash of milk, the way she liked it.

He would have charmed the nurses and told silly jokes and kept her smiling – and when she wanted quiet, he would have known instinctively.

She missed him so much.

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”.