The Primrose Line – Episode 15

Illustration by Ged Fay

The George Hotel boasted a mediaeval alley that led from the high street to a covered courtyard. It was here that they had agreed to meet.

The morning was bright with a hint of sunshine behind the cloud cover. Jim sat at a table in the courtyard, the only customer brave enough to embrace the awakening spring through the February cold.

He sipped the hot coffee while trying to deny the sense of déjà vu assailing him. His mind was back at a spring morning in 1960.

He was outside the Plaza, Abingly’s only cinema – long since closed – waiting for Nicola to arrive. They’d arranged to meet for the Saturday matinée, a kind of first date.

She never turned up.

At school the following Monday she used her father’s old car refusing to start as an excuse. It was a big let-down in his young life and, soon after, the wheels were set in motion that would see Jim and his family move from the region.

Perhaps it would happen again today and she would not turn up. If so, he was better equipped to deal with it. In a way, it would be a relief and would remove the niggling feeling of betrayal that was lurking with regard to Helen.

She’d been a memory for many years now, but a beautiful memory and one he didn’t want to tarnish in any way. He knew he couldn’t live with himself if he did anything to compromise that.

“Hello, Jim.”

He jumped. The alley led to a back street and Nicola had come in from this way, behind him. Perhaps she was still being discreet, as in their young days.

If so, it didn’t matter. It was a day of old friends meeting, perhaps having lunch, and then leaving for ever. Nothing more.

She sat down and Jim’s heart gave an unwelcome lurch. Age had not changed her at all. Even in the harsh morning light the blossoming young girl was there again, in front of him.

The hair was greyish and the pony tail was gone but the eyes, those twinkling eyes that looked deeply and compassionately down into his soul, were the same, and he knew why he’d loved her all those years ago.

He offered her coffee. She declined. That was good. Get on with the day.

Do this extraordinary thing, get back to Switzerland and start to live the good life, free from complication.

“Where shall we start, with me or you?”

Nicola had always been quite direct. Perhaps she wanted to get this over with, too.

“You could tell me what you were doing at Miss Gurdon’s old place yesterday. I heard she passed away recently.”

Jim told her. Strangely, she didn’t seem surprised.

“I always thought she had a soft spot for you. You got away with things the rest of us didn’t.”

Jim stared and she smiled.

“You didn’t realise, did you?”

“Well, I knew she liked trains, that was one thing we had in common.”

“I liked trains, too. I didn’t get the same preferential treatment!”

“I had no idea.”

“I know, that’s why it was acceptable, why you got away with it. Because you were a . . . let’s use one of my son’s favourite phrases. Nice guy.”

Jim’s face felt uncomfortably warm. He finished his coffee with a gulp.

“Tell you what, why don’t we take a trip out to Bluebell Cottage to kick-start the day? We can fill in some background information on the way. How does that sound?

“Like you’ve led a very structured life. Civil Service?”



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.