The Primrose Line – Episode 21

Illustration by Ged Fay

“Nicola, I’ve been thinking along these lines myself. I think I can save us both from putting unnecessary pressure on our new friendship by saying that I entirely agree with you.”

“Do you?”

Was she disappointed?

“Yes. We should give priority and respect to our old friendship and not let this chance meeting colour any decisions we have to make. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?”

He saw hurt in her eyes and it cut him like a sword.

His words should have relieved her of the burden of telling him that she preferred to remember the old days as they were, not risk trying to disprove the adage that lost loves did not return.

It was disconcerting to feel this new sense of loss. His head wanted her to agree, his heart was begging her not to.

“Yes, of course. More or less, anyway.”

Her agreement was miserably unconvincing. But he continued to discipline his mind over his heart, as he had been doing for the last few days while back in familiar surroundings.

He’d enjoyed the rewards of a deep love and lifetime shared with Helen. He ought to move on to the second part of that story, not start a whole new one.

Nicola was making it easier for him, so why wasn’t he feeling better about it?

Nicola spoke again, in a voice that was neutral.

“Well, I’m glad that’s cleared up. It could have been difficult working together with an elephant like that in the garden.

“Have you any idea about plants or designs, or is it just a question of tidying up and letting the new owners create something?”

The phrase “the new owners” didn’t sit well. Jim had spent his career working with deduction and logic, but he knew when to listen to that inner voice.

“I’d like to leave a bit of myself here before I leave the place. For Dad’s sake. Does that sound stupid?”

“Not at all. That might take more time, though.”

“We’ve got all summer. My last summer in England, and yours, too, probably.”

“A swan-song?”

“If you like. Of course, I’ll pay you for your work.”

“That wasn’t the deal, but I must be honest and tell you that my circumstances have suddenly and dramatically changed.”

She told him about the closure of the post office.

“It looks like Canada has come at the right time.”

“It’s certainly more leverage for David.”

Jim glanced at her.

“Do you need leverage?”

“No, of course not –”

She never finished the sentence. Suddenly the world consisted of winter grass and damp earth as her foot found a concealed rabbit burrow and she tumbled to the ground.

She tried to reach for Jim, but only succeeded in dragging him down with her. It resulted in a very compromising situation, with their faces inches from each other.

Jim looked down at her as the warm sun dissipated the years. The last few days of inner argument counted as nothing, as empty as the professional arrangement they’d just made together.

Nicola struggled to get up and let out a yelp of pain.

“My ankle!”

Jim scrambled to his feet and gently pulled her towards him, ignoring the emotions pouring through him and forcing himself to focus on the emergency.

“We’d better get you to a doctor.”

“I’m sure it’s a sprain.”

“We’ll get it checked, anyway. Lean on me.”

They hobbled to the car, Nicola with her arms around him through sheer necessity, while Jim stared straight ahead and tried to think of the garden.

For both of them it was like trying to plug a leaky boat with chicken wire.

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.