The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 46

They drove through the car park and out into the rainy autumn night.

“Look, Ellie . . .” he said after a few moments.

“What is it?”

“Before I realised Mum had a fever, she was giving me a real talking-to,” Matthew said, flashing her a wry smile.

“Which I realise I deserved, even though I didn’t like to hear it.

“She said I wasn’t supporting you enough, that I’d been distant from you and the kids since we moved to Llandrigg.”

Ellie was silent, unsure what to say.

“No denials there, I guess.”

“No, not really,” Ellie admitted. “I know it’s been hard for you, Matt, losing your job . . .”

“That’s what Mum said. But it’s been hard for you, too, I know, and I haven’t really acknowledged that, or helped out enough.

“I’m sorry. I want to do better.”

His heartfelt apology made Ellie’s spirits lift, just a little. She realised how much she’d needed to hear those words.

“It’s OK,” she said. “I know you do.”

“What I mean is,” he said, “I will do better. That’s a promise. With the kids, and with us. And the bed and breakfast, too.

“Your idea is a great one, and it also makes the most sense. I’m sorry I didn’t get behind it before.”

“I understand why you were reluctant to.”

“I’m going to stop throwing my own pity party now.”

“Good,” Ellie teased, and they shared a smile.

Amazingly, the children were all settled when they went into the house – Ava and Jacob in bed, Craig and Jess doing homework.

“Thank you for managing everything so well, sweetheart,” Ellie said softly in the kitchen.

Jess was at the table, books spread in front of her, along with her laptop.

“I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

“It’s OK.” Jess ducked her head.

“I’m sorry for losing my temper earlier,” Ellie said.

“It’s fine.” Jess’s gaze was focused on her laptop and so, with a sigh, Ellie decided to leave it. She’d had her quota of heartfelt moments for the day, it seemed.

She was optimistic as she went to bed, and she held on to that feeling the next morning.

The children seemed in good spirits; Jess in particular was practically buzzing with energy as she bumped a big duffel bag down the stairs.

“Goodness, what is that for?” Ellie exclaimed with a laugh.

“Sophie and I are going to try on different outfits for the autumn concert,” Jess explained. “So I brought loads of stuff.”

It cheered Ellie to think that her daughter had made a good friend, and was singing in the concert.

They were settling here, she thought with a sense of grateful relief.

“I can’t wait to see you both,” she said, and Jess mumbled something before grabbing her coat.

Ellie held on to her optimistic mood all day; Gwen was alert and cheerful when she and Matthew arrived at the hospital, and the consultant said she was responding well to the course of antibiotics.

When she went to pick up Jacob and Ava from school, Jacob had another playdate set up with Zach, and Ava was enraptured because she’d been invited to a birthday party.

As they headed back to Bluebell Lane, Ellie decided to wait by the bus stop for Craig and Jess.

She’d ask Jess how she got on with the outfits. She needed to make more of an effort with her eldest.

But when the school bus pulled up to the stop, only Craig got out with a bunch of other kids.

Ellie frowned as he sloped towards her.

“She didn’t get on the bus.” He shrugged.

“What do you mean?”

“Dunno. I didn’t see her at school all day, either.”

“What . . .” Ellie’s stomach hollowed out and she reached for her phone, calling Jess, but it went right to voicemail.

“Does she have a rehearsal?” she asked anxiously. “Or maybe she went to Sophie’s house . . .”

But why wouldn’t Jess have told her? She didn’t know where Sophie lived, or even her last name.

“Craig, did she tell you anything?”


Ellie ground her teeth as she tried Jess’s phone again. It went to voicemail once more, and Ellie left a harried message.

“Jess, it’s Mum. Just want to know where you are. Please ring or text me. Love you.”

“Mum, is Jess going to be OK?” Jacob asked, anxious as ever, and Ellie tried to give him a reassuring smile. Ava tugged on her sleeve.

“I need to have a wee.”

“All right, let’s go home. Hopefully Jess will be in touch soon.”

Perhaps she was overreacting. There had to be an innocent explanation.

Yet as Ellie headed back to Bluebell Lane with her tribe in tow, she couldn’t keep worry from cramping her stomach.

Where was her daughter?

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”.