The Primrose Line – Episode 31

Illustration by Ged Fay

“Grandpa, is that lady your girlfriend?”

Adrienne’s question hung in the air while Jim and Laura finished their coffee.

Laura had to admit that her father handled it well.

Until this moment the subject of “the gardener” had not come up, but if her father thought that he was going to get away with it as easily as that, especially with Adrienne around, he was very much mistaken.

Laura had seen for herself the looks that had passed between the two of them.

“Well, perhaps ‘girlfriend’ is not quite the right term, but it seems that she was once, when Grandpa was much younger and still at school, if that answers your question,” Laura said for him

She hadn’t quite worked out her own reaction to this, or how it might influence the decision her father had to make.

On the way home he’d explained the history between them and the decision that Nicola herself was having to make regarding her future.

If you looked at it logically it would change nothing.

But Laura was at a point in her life when she knew how meaningless logic could be.

“But then she wasn’t, and you married Grandma.” Adrienne was persistent.

“Something like that. Many, many years later.” The answer was not comfortable.

“So, will you marry her now that Grandma’s gone to heaven?”

Emile, nearing the age when the whole girlfriend business was becoming embarrassing, could take no more.

“Adrienne, stop asking such stupid questions. Nicky is just someone helping with the garden so that Grandpa can sell the house for more money and then come and live with us. Isn’t that right, Grandpa?”

“It’s not quite as simple as that, but yes, along those lines, Emile.”

Emile was also at an age when he could spot an adult being evasive.

“But Daddy’s doing up the chalet for you.”

Laura decided it was time to step in.

“He would be doing that anyway, darling, whatever Grandpa decides to do.”

“But I thought it was already decided!” Emile protested.

“Yes, you had good reason to believe that. I did, too, but that was before this house suddenly became mine. Now I have to decide what to do with it.”

Jim was conscious of how complex his life was becoming.

“And now he’s met the Railway Lady and that makes things even more difficult to decide, doesn’t it, Grandpa?”

Adrienne was enjoying this. Usually, it was Emile who was always right.

“Look, why don’t you two go and play in the garden while the sun’s still out?” Laura interrupted with a wry look at her father.

“Grandpa’s got enough unexpected problems without you adding to them with impertinent questions.”

“What’s ‘impertinent’?”

“You are,” Emile told his sister. “Come on, I’ve seen lots of old wood at the bottom of the garden. We could build a den with it!”

“Watch out for rusty nails!” Jim called out, for once thankful to see them go.

“So, is it more of a problem than it was?” Laura looked directly at her father.

“What do you mean?”

“Come on, Dad, an old girlfriend walks back into your life at a critical moment . . .”

“What are you saying, Laura?”

“Doesn’t it strike you that we might both just be in the same boat?”

Father and daughter looked at each other.

* * * *

Nicola was just making her first cup of tea when Billy Boswell rapped on her door. She glanced at the clock. Even for Billy the time was a little enthusiastic.

“Come in, Billy,” she said, opening the door. “I know it’s a busy weekend coming our way, but –”

“We’ve been done over again, Nicky, and this time they’ve trashed the booking hall and robbed the souvenir shop!”

“Billy, no! How bad is it?”

“Bad enough. We can clean the mess up, but we can’t get the books and stuff back!”

“I’ll get my coat. At least the insurance should pay for the stolen goods.”

Billy made a cynical noise.

“Yes, but when – and will they? They could say that, in light of recent events, our security is not up to scratch.”

They began to walk towards the station.

“That means me, I guess,” Nicola said. “I never heard a thing last night.”

“And that’s what worries me. They managed to do an awful lot of damage without anyone hearing anything.

“No-one’s blaming you, Nicola; you’re not an official security guard here.”

“No, but it makes a good case for appointing one!”

Billy said nothing. It was true there had been rumblings from some committee members concerning Nicola’s vulnerability.

They entered the booking hall.

“Oh, my!”

An aerosol spray had redecorated much of the paintwork and a can of black paint meant that the smooth flagstone floor would require some diligent scrubbing.

The old railway posters, so painstakingly collected over the years, were now only fit for the bin.

The small shop adjoining the booking office had been virtually stripped of its books, magazines and toys.

Billy shook his head.

“They didn’t even break a window. Crafty, no noise.”

A car pulled up outside.

“I called the police; looks like they’re here. I suppose we’d better get ready for some questions. Not that the answers will take long – we don’t have any!”

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.