The Secret of Trefusis Cove – Episode 38

The Shanty Night at the Crab and Mermaid had become popular and the place was full to bursting, much to the delight of the landlord. Betty felt more confident as they made ready to perform.

She saw Polly was tethered comfortably in the lean-to beside the pub. Alex Grey was sitting at his usual table by the window, close to the temporary platform.

Aircut played a short tune on his concertina and the room was hushed.

“Shenandoah” was the first shanty and Val found she hadn’t forgotten the words, nor the delightful harmony that Aircut had composed. Rousing applause followed each song and everyone joined in with the “Drunken Sailor” at the conclusion.

“Sing ‘Wild Colonial Boy’!” someone shouted.

Others kept up a slow handclap until Alex rose to his feet. He had obviously gained popularity since the accident and the repairs on Tangara.

“I won’t sing this alone,” he announced. “There’s a lady here who knows the harmony as well as I do.”

He held out his hand to Val, who took it and stood beside him. Aircut played a short introduction and the pair began to sing.

Betty felt a shiver down her spine as she watched Val smiling up at Alex.

He put an arm around Val’s shoulder as they sang the last verse together and bowed to the tumultuous applause at the end.

Aircut was right – Val had gone sweet on Alex.

Betty foresaw trouble. This might only be a game to Alex, but Val was romantic and vulnerable.

She had no idea how to handle the situation without appearing an interfering busybody. They had been friends since schooldays. Betty wouldn’t stand in the way of her friend’s happiness unless she sensed a forthcoming disaster.

“Tell you what would round the evening off perfectly.” Betty heard Alex address Val. “How about I give you a ride back to Aircut’s cottage on old Polly?” He grinned.

“How will I get up on Polly’s back?”

“We’ll stand you on one of the empty barrels in the lean-to. You can mount up behind me from that. You’ll help, won’t you, Betty?”

Val looked eagerly at her friend and Betty felt she could only agree. She was not Val’s keeper but she glowered at Alex, who only grinned more.

She felt comforted by the thought that it was only a little way to the cottage. Surely nothing could go amiss in such a short time.

She would come along later in the car with Aircut when the car park had cleared of visitors and they could get out easily.

She was comforted by the thought that Sally would be there, as she had stayed back to do some work on a project for the firm she worked for.

The three went outside into the fresh night sea air and made their way to the lean-to where Polly was waiting.

She whinnied when she saw them. It was easy to roll one of the empty barrels alongside her and stand it on end.

Alex mounted easily and Betty helped Val up on to the barrel, amid laughter and encouragement from Alex. He leaned down and grasped Val’s arm, swinging her up behind him as if he’d been doing it for years.

“There, now. Comfy?” he said over his shoulder. “Put your arms around me, hold tight and we’ll be off.”

He urged Polly into a walk.

“See you later!” he called back to Betty.

“You won’t gallop, will you?” Val asked nervously, her cheek pressed close against Alex’s leather jacket.

“Of course not. It’s too nice a night to get home too quickly, don’t you think?”

The question didn’t require a reply so Val remained silent as they rode on through the dark.

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.