The Primrose Line – Episode 05

Illustration by Ged Fay

It was a long time ago, but it was no exaggeration to say that Sean Barry had come close to splitting Jim’s small family in two. It had been a tricky time, and Laura probably never knew how deep a challenge he had represented to her parents.

Jim played it lightly.

“I sure do. You were besotted with him. Mum and I thought the two of you might even run away to Gretna Green!”

He laughed, but inside that sense of apprehension and helplessness he’d felt at the time surfaced with the same intensity as though it were yesterday.

He hardly dared ask the next question.

“You’ve seen him, after all these years?”

“He walked into the hotel bar about three months ago. I recognised him right away.”

“What a coincidence.” Jim had spent his career being wary of coincidences. “What’s he doing these days? Still driving an ice-cream van for a living?”

He tried to keep the hostility from his voice, but it was difficult. Sean Barry was bad news.

“Far from it. He’s got several companies, most in the transport business, and a headquarters in Kent. I went on their website.”

“What’s he transporting – illegal immigrants?”

“Dad, please. I know he came across as a bit of a rebel in those days, but I was young. I’d never met anyone like him.”

“You were still at school. He knew that.”

“It was a summer fling. Nothing bad happened.”

Jim was quiet. It was a short period of which he had no fond memories and he didn’t like the way it had suddenly resurfaced.

“I guess I was the typical teenage rebel in those days. I’m sorry I was a bit deceitful, but Mum was keeping an eye on things, trying to let it fizzle out naturally. Which it did.”

“Yes, when he found out that your father was a policeman. And now, out of all the bars in all the world, he walks into yours? I hope that’s the end of the story.”

“I thought so. Then, last week, I got an e-mail asking if Martin and I would like to spend some time with him and his family in Kent. What do you think?”

“I think you know what I think. More importantly, what are Martin’s views?”

“He’s leaving it to me. It’s a part of England he’s never visited.”

“Is he aware of the history between you and Barry?” Jim couldn’t bring himself to use his Christian name.

“He might have an idea, but we’re mature people and we’ve been married a while. If an old boyfriend from the past creates a problem, then there’s something wrong.”

“In my experience, the past is best left where it is. I can’t see the point in raking up history. I’m surprised that Martin’s dismissing it so easily.”

“There’s nothing to dismiss. It’s just me being curious to see how life worked out for him.”

“If it were just that, Laura, you wouldn’t be running it past me first. And be careful with curiosity – you know what it did to the cat!”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.