The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 49

Heathrow Airport was enormous. And heaving with people, everyone seeming as if they were in a very important rush.

Jess clutched her duffel bag and tried not to look as panicked as she felt.

Her plane left in three hours. It had taken ages to get to the airport; she was glad she’d left lots of time.

That morning she’d texted Sophie asking her to tell her form tutor that she was sick at home.

Admittedly, a parent was meant to ring, but Jess hoped that Sophie, being a model student, would give her some credibility.

It did, although Sophie herself wasn’t happy.

Where are you? she’d texted. And then, making Jess feel guilty, Are we still friends?

She shouldn’t have ignored Sophie yesterday, she knew. It had been a rotten thing to do, and yet she’d been so miserable.

Yes, of course we are, she texted back. Sorry about yesterday. I was just really upset.

Sophie texted again. Where are you?

Jess had replied, Just need a day off, and then she’d switched her phone off.

It was better, she decided, if people couldn’t get in touch with her.

The bus to the railway station in Abergavenny hadn’t been so bad, but the train from there to London Paddington had been endless, with two changes.

It had been hard enough navigating the stations; she wondered how on earth she would manage the airport.

Jess still couldn’t quite believe she’d done it.

She’d bought a ticket to New York’s JFK on her mother’s credit card and the train ticket to London.

She’d packed her clothes and managed the bus and train, and she’d even worked up the courage to ask a porter in Paddington how to get Heathrow.

He’d been kindly rather than suspicious, and directed her to the Heathrow Express train, which Jess hadn’t paid for.

As she no longer had her mother’s credit card, she’d had to empty her own meagre bank account to buy the ticket, but by three o’clock – just when she should have been getting on the school bus – she arrived at Heathrow.

Checking in had been easy enough, and she could take her duffel bag as hand  luggage so she didn’t have to talk to anyone who might be suspicious of a teenage girl travelling alone.

Going through security had been a bit alarming; she’d forgotten to take off her shoes, and she’d held up the queue, to several people’s irritation.

But she’d managed it, and now she was here on the concourse, everyone rushing by, and all she needed to do was find her gate and get on the plane.

Get on the plane . . . could she really do it? Did she even want to any more?

She’d Snapchatted Cora with a picture of her in the airport, but it had taken Cora over an hour to reply.

And when she had, it hadn’t exactly been encouraging – just a couple of exclamation points.

And then Cora had posted a picture on Instagram of her and Emily giving each other makeovers after school.

Jess’s stomach had cramped when she saw it.

What happened to Emily being fake?

Had Cora even told her mother that Jess was coming? And how was she supposed to get from JFK to Cora’s house in Connecticut?

It had been relatively easy to get this far, but Jess was starting to have serious doubts about the rest of her journey.

And what about her parents? It was after five now. They had to be beside themselves with worry.

Or maybe they just assumed she was out with a friend and would be home for dinner.

Jess pictured the table in Granny’s kitchen laden with food, the room warm and cosy as darkness fell.

She pictured Ava asking her to colour after dinner – Jess always said no – and Jacob doing a puzzle.

Even Craig wasn’t so bad, though he could be annoying.

This morning, as they’d got on the bus, he’d said sorry for teasing her.

Jess’s eyes stung. She missed her family . . . but how could she go back?

And the problems at school wouldn’t go away. She took a deep breath and tried not to cry.

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”.