The Secret of Trefusis Cove – Episode 23

Val was applauded and asked for an encore of “Tom Bowling” and they both got a supper on the house. Betty felt a sense of belonging as they joined in the banter.

She noticed Alexander Grey sitting in the same corner of the room that he had occupied on their first night at the Crab and Mermaid.

He had cheered with the rest and even stood up to applaud when Val sang her solo. His horse was still tethered in the car park and it was beginning to drizzle with rain.

Poor Polly, Betty thought, there would be another wild midnight ride tonight. But at least the noise of her thundering hooves would be no longer a mystery.

“Don’t look now, Betty, but I think he’s coming over here.” Val rolled her eyes in the direction of the corner of the room where Alexander Grey was getting to his feet and smiling across at them.

“I’ll be polite.”

“We’re only here for a short while. We don’t want to make things uncomfortable, do we?” Val reasoned.

“Good evening, ladies.” Alexander Grey bowed his head slightly to them. “The shanties were delightful, and that solo brought tears to my eyes.”

“Thank you,” Val replied.

Betty just smiled.

“May I join you?” He drew a chair up to the table and sat down. “We three haven’t got off to a good start, have we? I’d like to make amends.

“I know I’m not very popular and I’m a rough guy. Can’t help it, I suppose, but I wouldn’t like to have bad feeling between us.”

He gazed at them both with deep blue eyes starred at the corners, his sun-bleached hair dishevelled as if the only comb he used was his fingers.

Betty, feeling relaxed and a little euphoric after their success with the Shanty Men, felt herself begin to warm towards him. She took a deep breath.

“It was our fault, too, on the road above Tangara. Maybe we were foolish to appear out of the dark.”

“And I shouldn’t have been a bit over the eight and riding too fast.” He held out a hand. “Shall we begin again?”

Betty hesitated, remembering this was the man who had no feelings for Trefusis Bay or Tangara and was preparing to change the lives of so many residents to suit his own plans.

Val put out her hand and took his in a firm grasp, so Betty did the same. Better friends than enemies, she thought. Maybe they could change his mind in the short time they had here, but she doubted that.

He smiled.

“Now, can I offer you a drink?”

“That’s very kind of you but we’re drinking Adam’s Ale.” She pointed to her glass of water with lemon and ice.

“Then I shall join you, and I promise to ride old Polly at a gentle trot when I return home.”

He beckoned to the landlord and asked for a glass of water with ice and lemon.

“And don’t look so stunned!” he told him.

Betty was relieved that the tension had lifted and their conversation didn’t turn to land development. They discussed sea shanties and Australian folk songs.

“One more thing.”

“What’s that?” Val asked.

“May I have the pleasure of your company tomorrow for dinner at a wonderful restaurant at Land’s End that I’ve discovered? That would be both of you, of course.”

Betty felt a little warning tingle. This was too friendly, too soon.

“I – I think I have one of those summer colds coming on,” she fibbed. “I’d better stay put for a couple of days. I don’t want to spread it around.”

“Have you really?” Val was concerned. “You haven’t said anything to me.”

Betty glanced towards her friend.

“Anyway, I think I must decline your kind offer,” she told Alexander.

“Then I must stay, too, and look after you.” Val patted her friend’s arm.

“I’m sorry to hear that. But surely your friend can cope very well on her own? After all, it’s only a sniffle, isn’t it?” He looked a little too knowingly at Betty.

“Oh, of course.”

Oh, dear, she thought, this isn’t what we want at all, and now I’ve got myself into a muddle.

Alexander Grey turned to Val.

“You’ll come, won’t you? Please. I promise not to collect you on old Polly, to drink only water, and I shall drive my car extra carefully.”

Betty looked at Val, hoping she wouldn’t say yes. Hoping she wouldn’t get involved.

There was a short silence as Val took a sip of Adam’s Ale.

“I would be delighted.”

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.