The Primrose Line – Episode 28

Illustration by Ged Fay

Sean had changed a lot, appearance wise. The long hair that had once been the trademark of a rebel was now expertly trimmed, flecks of grey at the temples complementing the distinguished look he cultivated with the expensive coat and shoes.

Before anyone could react he had hugged Laura and turned to Emile and Adrienne as though he’d known them for ever.

“Thought I’d surprise you and welcome you all to England. I’ve been in town on business for a few days, which I managed to tie up neatly this morning. Next week I’m giving myself a little holiday that will work in nicely for your visit.”

Jim moved forward with what he hoped was a smile. Laura needed his help.

“Good afternoon, Mr Barry. Remember me, Laura’s dad?”

Memories of the past, and how close this man had come to dismantling his family, ran through him like fire. He had to summon all his self-discipline to control his emotions.

Offering his hand would be a step too far, but he hung on to the smile.

“I do indeed remember. How are you, sir?” Sean’s enthusiastic answer knocked him more off-balance.

“I was so sorry to hear of the death of Laura’s mother. It’s true what they say – we need to live for the moment, and make the most of our time in this unpredictable world.”

He looked around.

“Aren’t we missing someone? I don’t see Martin anywhere.”

“He couldn’t come because of Uncle Marc’s accident,” Adrienne said.

Sean’s look became politely enquiring, but Jim did not miss the sudden glint that flashed through the dark eyes and was controlled instantly.

Emile explained.

“Our uncle was going to look after the hotel for us while we were away but Daddy has to do it now.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. Everyone must be disappointed.”

Perhaps not everyone, Jim thought, and again had to stifle the cynicism that threatened to engulf him.

Like he’d told himself, it was none of his business. He needed more confidence in his fellow man if he was going to get this retirement game right.

“Well, it was kind of you to welcome my family to London, Mr Barry.”

“Please, call me Sean.”

He grasped Jim’s hand in a conciliatory grip, obviously intended to dispel any bad blood between them, and gave the children and Laura a smooth goodbye hug each.

“See you around; bye!”

It had all happened so fast it was Laura who broke the silence.

“Dad, I had no idea he knew which flight we were on. I must have mentioned it . . .” she began to apologise.

“Oh, well, it was a nice gesture,” Jim said, pleased he sounded magnanimous and missing his daughter’s look of shock.

It wasn’t that hard, this impartiality game.

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.