The Primrose Line – Episode 24

Illustration by Ged Fay

Nicola’s ankle was not broken, but it was badly sprained and needed rest. David made her incapacity more bearable by acting as the perfect servant.

He cooked elaborate meals with confidence and cleaned and performed general chores with an efficiency that made her believe that this new David was the complete package.

At the same time, he took full advantage of his captive audience by recounting his whole history with Jackie: how they’d met and how a fun friendship had developed into something much more over the months.

Above all, he made sure that his conversations were laced with their plans for the future and how she, Nicola, would blend in with them.

There was no doubt that he made the whole scenario credible and exciting. Nicola knew what he was doing and there was no doubt that it was effective, especially as she had time to reflect upon her uncertain future.

From her railway carriage home she watched the mysterious men from the consortium wander about the station and she reflected upon how much of her future was being decided by these well-dressed strangers.

David used their presence as more ammunition in his quest to convince his mother that her future was away from here.

“Mum, you can’t want to put yourself in the hands of these cynical business players. I’ve spent a lot of my life around people like that and, believe me, I’m glad I’m not involved with them any more!”

Nicola did her best to resist.

“Really, David, you don’t know any of them any more than I do and you certainly have no right to judge them. They may not even decide to go ahead with any takeover proposition and, even if they do, not all change has to be for the worse.

“Your career has made you very cynical.”

“My previous career, you mean, and I don’t mind telling you that without some healthy scepticism I wouldn’t have survived long in it. Happily, those days are past now.”

“Are they, David? You may have moved on from the job, but has your mind-set moved on from its outlook?

“You’d hardly arrived here and you were heading for London for a meeting with some banker.”

Normally, Nicola wouldn’t have been that blunt, but David’s dream was getting in the way of another, even more spectacular one.

How many people got that second chance in life? There could be no denying what had transpired the other day between her and Jim, even if not a word of commitment had been uttered.

She’d seen it in his eyes and she knew that he’d seen it in hers. You didn’t need volumes of poetry.

She and Jim had walked back into the past together and were now facing a door that, if opened, would lead them to a future together. It was terrifying and unbelievably exciting.

“I think I’ll go out for a walk. This is not quite the week I was expecting we might enjoy together.”

“I’m sorry, David. I didn’t mean to be sceptical.”

“No, you’ve every right to be. How many people say they’ve changed and expect those closest to them to believe it?

“By the way, the meeting with the banker was to transfer funds to our new life. I mean it, Mum, hedging bets is a sure way to failure.

“I’m committed to Jackie and to Canada. It’s too far to commute regularly back here and the nature of our business, when it’s fully up and running, will make holidays very much a secondary priority. That’s why I hope you’ll be part of this commitment. I shan’t be long.”

Nicola bit her lip as he went out of the door. If she wasn’t careful an agonising choice might be looming on the horizon, a choice which, if left to develop, might break her heart.

She’d known it was lurking in the background since the fall in Jim’s garden. All her resolution and reasoning had vanished in those electric moments in his arms.

Like a virus for which there was no known cure, there might still be a chance for both of them if they caught it early and isolated it, put it back in the past where it belonged.

But she couldn’t do it alone. If Jim decided to pursue this second chance she would be helpless, because she knew she loved him, absurd as that was after all these years.

He was coming to see her today to see how she was. She wondered if he knew that he held her future happiness in his hands.

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.