The Primrose Line – Episode 30

Illustration by Ged Fay

Nicola left the shop, not quite sure what to make of Sam’s passionate reaction.

Her original idea had been to contact some of the other shareholders to see where they might stand, but an inner voice was telling her that it might be better not knowing.

She was behaving like a politician trying to gauge public response to predict a result, and everyone knew how wrong that could be.

At best she would be seen as a busybody, at worst as a manipulator, neither of which tag was particularly flattering.

“Hello, Miss Renson.”

Ken Herridge, Sam’s eldest son, pulled up at the kerb in the butcher’s delivery van. He always addressed her as “Miss”, as Nicola had reverted to her maiden name after the acrimonious divorce. It made her seem like an old spinster.

“Hi, Ken, how are you settling into the business?”

“Well enough for Dad to talk about early retirement, so I might have to step up a gear soon.”

“He’s been talking about that for years.” Nicola laughed.

“This time he seems serious.”

“Will you be able to manage on your own?”

He shrugged.

“We’ll see. Might have to take someone on. Uncertain times.”

“They always are. Don’t let that stop you. What about that brother of yours, still no contact?”

“Funny you should say that. I ran into him recently. That travelling commune he’s living with has parked itself on the edge of Corton Wood. We had quite a chat. I got the impression the hippie lifestyle is losing some of its appeal.

“Just him growing older, I expect – or growing up, as Dad would say. Can’t be fun spending your life waiting to be officially moved on. Perhaps there’s a chance he’ll come back into the family fold!”

Nicola made her way back home, but the day wasn’t finished with her yet. As she turned into Station Approach she saw Jim. And he wasn’t alone.

Nicola felt the colour rise to her cheeks once again and was furious with herself. They’d had their talk and come to an agreement. There would be nothing except friendship between them.

She really should stop behaving like the proverbial schoolgirl!

“Jim, what brings you here?” She was determined to brazen it out.

“Just showing the family around the town. We’ve been waiting for a train to arrive at the station; no luck, though!”

“The next one is at four o’clock,” Nicola said automatically.

Jim looked at his watch.

“Ah, a bit too long to wait, I’m afraid. It’s already late for lunch for these two guys. Oh, this is my daughter, Laura.

“Laura, Emile, Adrienne – I’d like you to meet a very dear friend of mine, Nicola Renson. We went to school together.

“This is the lady who’s going to help me knock the garden at Bluebell Cottage into shape soon.”

The two women shook hands, Nicola doing her best to ignore the questions she saw in the other’s face. Surely Jim had spoken about her to his daughter?

“So, you’re the gardener?”

“Strictly amateur, I assure you. We’re old friends from way back. Don’t tell me your father hasn’t mentioned me?”

“Oh, yes, we have heard about Nicky and how lucky he is to have found you. The thing is . . .”

“What?” Nicola asked, keeping the smile pinned to her face. This was definitely not the way she’d envisaged meeting Jim’s family.

“We assumed that you were a man, that’s all!”

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.