The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 45

“Mum, are you OK?”

“Yes, just feeling a bit sentimental, I suppose.” Gwen dabbed at her eyes.

“It happens once in a while, you know. Is everything OK? Ellie seemed a bit bothered earlier.”

Matthew shrugged.

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Well, perhaps you should, Matthew,” Gwen said rather sharply.

“Ellie has been working hard helping me and keeping the family going. I’m not sure you always appreciate that.”

“Not you, too, Mum.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Ellie’s already had a go at me. She’d asked me to pick up Jacob from his Lego club and I forgot.”

Gwen sighed, and Matthew shifted restlessly.

“I know I should have remembered.”

“It’s not that, Matthew.”

“What is it, then?”

Gwen paused, wanting to choose her words carefully. It was difficult when her brain felt as if it were shrouded in fog.

“I think you feel lost,” she said at last. “Your job was so much a part of who you were, and it’s hard to lose so much of your identity.

“I think you’ve been trying to find it with the renovations, but that wasn’t really working.”

“You mean because I stoved the ceiling in?” Matthew joked, although there was a bitter edge to his voice.

“Because it wasn’t making you happy. You’re not a handyman, Matthew.

“You’ve always been happier behind a computer than holding a hammer.

“But you have to remember Ellie is lost, too. She gave up so much to move here, and she wasn’t from here like you are. It’s all foreign and strange to her, and most likely more than a little scary. You need to support her.”

“I am . . .” Matthew sounded half-hearted at best. “Just because I forgot to pick up Jacob . . .”

“You know it’s not just that. You haven’t been really here, fully present, for anyone.

“And I do understand why. It’s hard when you don’t feel like you have anything to offer.

“But you do, Matthew. And your family needs you.”

Exhausted, Gwen rested her head back once more and closed her eyes. She felt so very tired . . .

“Mum?” Matthew leaned forward and touched her arm, and then he laid a cool hand across her forehead.

“Mum!” he exclaimed, his voice full of alarm. “You’re burning up!”

*  *  *  *

“She’s picked up an infection,” the consultant explained as Ellie and Matthew sat in a little room off the oncology ward that evening, having rushed Gwen to the hospital.

“It can happen easily at this stage, because the white blood cell count is so low.

“It should respond well to antibiotics, and she can be home and resuming treatment in a few days.”

“I didn’t even realise . . .” Ellie couldn’t keep the guilt from curdling her stomach.

“She must have picked it up from one of the kids.”

The consultant shrugged, smiling in understanding.

“It happens. You caught it quickly, before it became too serious, so well done.”

But she hadn’t caught anything, Ellie thought.

She’d been feeling annoyed and hard done by, overwhelmed by her children, Suzanne’s sudden aggression, her husband’s absence, and Gwen’s need.

And she’d let all of that keep her from seeing what was in front of her: that her mother-in-law was very ill.

Matthew put an arm around her and Ellie leaned into his solid warmth.

“It’s going to be all right, Ell,” he said quietly. “And in any case, you don’t need to blame yourself.

“You don’t have to carry the world on your shoulders.”

Except she sort of did, because who else was going to do it?

Gwen was sleeping peacefully, so they left the hospital, with Ellie promising to come by in the morning.

“I hope it hasn’t all kicked off at home,” she said wearily as she climbed into the car.

They’d left Jess in charge, which usually meant an argument broke out between her and Craig.

“Hopefully not,” Matthew said as he started the car.


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”.