The Primrose Line – Episode 40

Illustration by Ged Fay

A short while later Nicola and Laura stood on the platform in the fading afternoon light, waiting for Billy to deliver the children back from their tour of inspection.

“Thank you for the tea. I enjoyed the afternoon, and I’m sure the children did, too.

“Switzerland might seem a bit dull after climbing over railway lines and steam locomotives!”

“Thank you for coming. Say hello to your father for me.”

“I will, but I’m sure you can do that yourself.”

“Laura . . .”

Laura held up her hands, smiling.

“Listen, let’s keep this simple. I think it’s great that Dad’s met up with an old friend.

“If that develops into something else, you’ll have my blessing. He’s been on his own a long time.”

“I wish my own son could see it like that.”

“Give him time. Viewpoints are difficult to change. I should know.”

“Ah, yes, the ex-boyfriend. Your father’s mentioned it.”

“He’s worried that I’m going to fall in love with him all over again and desert my husband and children.”

“I expect he’s just being a father.”

“What do you think?” Laura looked at Nicola.

The words were blunt and a moment of empathy fused between the two women.

Nicola held her gaze and spoke from the heart.

“I think you’re a very level-headed person with a couple of great kids.”

Laura smiled.

“At least someone believes in me. Although the way Dad and I spoke yesterday has given me hope.”

“Give him some time. There’s a lot going on in his life at present.”

Emile and Adrienne ran up.

“Mum, it’s fabulous. We went up on the footplate and Billy showed us all the controls!”

“Yes, all right, tell me about it on the way home.”

“I’ll walk with you a little way,” Nicola said. “Hello, there’s an ambulance outside the butcher’s shop with its light flashing. I hope nothing’s happened to Sam!”

Nicola quickened her pace as Emile and his mother exchanged dumbfounded looks.

* * * *

Nicola ran from Laura and the children and rushed into the butcher’s shop.

Sam Herridge sat between two ambulance men.

He smiled wanly at her.

“Hi, Nicola, sorry. All this fuss . . .”

“Paramedics don’t come without a reason, Sam. What happened?”

One of the men nodded.

“Some kind of fainting fit, apparently. He was dealing with a customer and suddenly collapsed.”

“Joyce Lanfell.” Sam shook his head ruefully. “She’s such an old fusspot she didn’t give me time to get up from the floor to say I was OK, just whipped out her mobile phone. No wonder these lads are so overworked. It was a bit different when you had to go looking for a phone box!”

“I’m sure she had your best interests at heart.” Nicola turned to the ambulance man. “Can I ask how he is?”

The patient answered.

“Like I’ve been telling them, I’m fine. Just one of those things.”

“Fainting is not ‘just one of those things’, Sam. Will he have to go to hospital?”

The word “hospital” acted on Sam.

“I’m not going to any hospital! I’ve a business to run!”

“We’ve already been down this road once, Mr Herridge.” The man gave Nicola a wry smile.

“I don’t mean to be rude, I’m sure they’re very nice in the hospital, but I’ll leave it for those who need it.”

“Well, the blood pressure was low when we arrived, but that’s returned to normal and there’s nothing else giving cause for concern. On the surface, all seems fine.”

“Of course it’s fine. I told you, it’s that Joyce Lanfell who’s caused all this to-do. I’ll be fine when Ken gets back from delivery.”

“It would be best for you not to be left alone.”

“I’ll stay until his son gets home,” Nicola offered.

“Nicola, it’s very kind but there’s no need.”

“You have a choice, Sam. A ride in the ambulance or I stay until Ken arrives and he makes any decision!”

“That seems reasonable, Mr Herridge. But you need to make an appointment with your GP for a full check up very soon.”

“I’ll make sure his son knows,” Nicola promised.

“Well, that’s about as much as we can do. If you’re worried don’t hesitate to call us.”

“Thank you very much.”

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.