The Primrose Line – Episode 14

Illustration by Ged Fay

Nicola raised the coffee to her lips for one last sip, but her hand froze in mid-air as, from the stairs, a male figure walked down. He hesitated in the bar doorway and then looked towards the restaurant and at her.

It was Jim Connaught. And, this time, it wasn’t her imagination.

He walked towards Nicola and stood in front of her.

“Excuse me, but this is the second time today I’ve thought I was seeing someone from my childhood. Are you Nicola Renson, or am I wrong?”

Nicola stared at him and all the moments they’d shared flashed before her.

“You’re not wrong.” She wondered if her voice actually trembled.

“I’m –”

“Jim Connaught. I know.”

“I think we may have seen each other earlier.”

“The train, Bluebell Cottage. Yes.”

“And we recognised each other after all these years! How do you do?”

He held out his hand and she took it, half-expecting to experience an electric charge at the touch.

To add to her confusion David walked back into the restaurant, putting his phone back in his pocket.

Nicola took a grip on her emotions as David looked enquiringly at them.

“David, the most incredible coincidence. This is Jim Connaught, an old friend from my primary school days. Jim, this is my son, David.”

The men shook hands.

“Ah, first love and all that stuff?” David grinned.

“David!” Nicola was glad of the dim lighting. The images still flashed past, more intense than ever.

“I’d ask you to join us, Jim,” David said, “but it looks like I’m going to have to be up early in the morning. I’m sure you must have lots to talk over, and it would be a shame to let a chance encounter like this slip past.

“Why don’t you and Mum meet up tomorrow if you’re not doing anything? I’m going to be in London for most of the day and it’ll make me feel like less of a deserter as I’ve only just arrived back home.”

Things were moving too fast for Nicola.

“David, stop organising my life. I might have plans for tomorrow!”

She suddenly realised how insulting that might sound and flushed.

“So might Jim,” she added, not looking at the boy who was now a man and who once she’d dreamed would be her husband.

They’d spent a lifetime apart; it was absurd to feel like this because of a childhood romance.

“No, nothing. I’m staying here for a while to sort out some business, but it’s not urgent.”

“Well, then, that’s all right. You can show your old boyfriend around the town, Mum, show him what’s changed – and what hasn’t!”

Nicola wondered how Jim was finding this unexpected meeting. His demeanour radiated calmness.

“I never refuse the chance to talk over old times, though I guess that dates me.” He grinned.

Nicola managed a wan smile. The mundane remark almost put things into perspective. He was an old friend from a long time ago, nothing more.

Chance meetings like this happened all the time in life. It was nothing to get emotional about.

They would meet tomorrow, talk of mutual acquaintances and the lives they’d led since they’d last seen each other. Of childhood pranks and aspirations, some failed, some succeeded.

They’d talk as adults, with the wisdom of years, not as children feeling the pangs of young love.

At the end of the day, they’d shake hands and part, never to see each other again in this lifetime, simply grateful for having had the chance to relive and laugh at what they’d once shared.

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.