The Primrose Line – Episode 32

Illustration by Ged Fay

“Grandpa, the Railway Lady’s coming. And she’s got quite an old-fashioned bike!”

Adrienne’s doubt about the bike made Jim grin.

“Bikes like that were the last word in fashion when I was a teenager, Adrienne. Must have cost nearly twenty quid, that one, I should think!”

The observation disguised Jim’s questioning mind. Over the years he’d developed a sense of knowing when trouble was about from the minutest detail. Today, it was the way Nicola rode the bike, more determinedly than usual.

“Nicky, you’re an early bird. We’ve just finished breakfast. Cup of tea?”

“No, I can’t stop, Jim. I’ve got rather a lot to do over the next few days. I suddenly remembered these complimentary train tickets and wondered if you could use them with the children while they’re here.

“As a shareholder I get a certain number allotted to me each year. These are valid for next week.”

“That’s extremely generous of you. Isn’t it, kids? How’d you like to travel in a train pulled by a steam engine?”

“Wow,” Emile said. “I’ve only ever seen pictures of steam engines. We haven’t had them in Switzerland for a long, long time!”

“Thank you very much, Mrs Railway Lady,” Adrienne said, though clearly she didn’t know what a steam engine was.

Nicola smiled.

“You can call me Nicola, if you like. It might make things easier. That’s if I don’t seem too old?”

“No, you don’t,” Adrienne said seriously.

“That’s settled then. Right, best be on my way!”

“Everything OK, Nicky?” Jim asked.

Nicola sighed.

“That obvious, is it? No, we had another break-in last night. The usual mess, but this time the souvenir shop was looted.

“We can’t replace the goods in time, so that means profits will be down. But we’re all going to knuckle down for a big clean-up operation to make sure we’re up and running for the holiday.”

“That’s terrible.” Jim thought for a moment. “If you need some volunteers, well, how about it, kids? If your mum agrees, that is?”

All eyes were on Laura, who had appeared behind them, and Jim’s eyes narrowed again. Nicola wasn’t the only one who had something bothering her, he could see.

“It would make us feel we’ve earned those tickets,” Jim said.

“Actually, that might be a bit of a problem,” Laura said. “I’ve just had a call from Sean, who’s invited us down to his place next week. I said we’ll go.”

Jim hardly heard her words. He was being transported back in time to when Laura had first become infatuated with this man, and how he and Helen had argued about the best way to handle the situation.

And how, for the first and only time in their marriage, they had been threatened by an isolation that came close to destroying a solidarity they had thought impregnable.

Now, watching history repeat itself once again, the question faced him starkly. Should he stand by, the helpless onlooker, as the family he loved hovered on the precipice, or should he continue with his policy of non-interference and let Fate take its course, in the belief that love would inevitably triumph?

At the end of the day, how much of a gamble was it?

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.