The Primrose Line – Episode 07

Illustration by Ged Fay

Nicola walked into Abingly. The shops were just opening and the pavements were quiet.

Her first stop was Sam Herridge, the butcher. She had known him since childhood, had watched him enter the family business after school, marry a local girl and have two sons, one of whom helped him in the shop and would one day take over.

The other, well, that was a different story. Nicola often heard Sam recount the latest escapade of his errant son.

But she’d no time today, with David coming home.

“Nicky, my all-time favourite lady!” Sam rather fancied his flirtation skills with his female customers.

“You had your chance at Corton Primary, Sam Herridge. You ignored me!” she bantered back.

Sam gave her a sly look.

“I was never competition for Jim Connaught. Ever hear from him?”

It was an idle question, but it flustered her after the dream she’d had.

“No, of course not. It was all a long time ago.”

“It certainly was. His father was a builder, if I remember rightly. Built Bluebell Cottage on the Corton road. Miss Gurdon lived there. You must remember her?”

“Any pupil who went to Corton Primary School back then remembers the headmistress,” Nicola said wryly. “Not always fondly!”

Sam laughed.

“I know what you mean, but she got the job done. Looking back on it, we all owe her a lot. Although you and Jim always seemed to escape the flak.”

That name again. This time she couldn’t let it go.

“What do you mean?”

He sharpened his knives.

“I don’t know. You, I could understand. You were brighter than the rest of us and Miss Gurdon liked bright pupils. But Jim was no better than me in the classroom, yet she always had a soft spot for him.”

“Sam, still jealous after all these years!”

He shook his head.

“I wasn’t the only one to notice it. If Jim hadn’t been such a nice guy and good at cricket he might have got some teasing!”

This was turning into the strangest of mornings.

“Miss Gurdon didn’t like lazy people, that’s all,” she stammered.

“Do you know she died a few months ago? Spent the last few years in a nursing home, but I heard she was still as bright as a button. Can’t say the same for the old house – you can tell there’s been no-one living there for a while.”

“I don’t use that road much.” Nicola was uneasy with all this nostalgia. “So, I think some steak?”

“Coming right up. This must be for the boy’s homecoming, I’m guessing.”

Nicola sighed. There were few secrets in Abingly.

“David’s hardly a boy.”

“No, like my two. Doesn’t seem possible they’re in their thirties. Corton Primary’s a long way in the past, Nicky.”

Yes, it was.

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.