The Ties That Bind – Episode 16

Characters from the serial, Evelyn and Simon walking in front of a castle.

Phil groped for the alarm clock and fumbled to switch it off, the piercing beep driving relentlessly through his head.

When at last it was silenced, he flopped back on to his pillows, savouring the quietness once more.

Phil had always hated alarm clocks. It was the one thing he’d always refused to pack for family holidays.

He remembered how it had amused Evelyn, she being a morning person.

But nowadays, the early morning disturbance was more than an irritation to him. It was becoming
a real torment.

Sleepless nights were becoming more and more common and it was difficult to summon up the energy to start the day.

He allowed himself a few minutes’ extra lie-in, letting his mind wander back to long-ago family holidays.

Like most memories of summer holidays, they seemed to be bathed in golden sunlight, with laughing children and a smiling, happy wife.

But of course, it wasn’t always sunny. He recalled them sitting in a caravan on a muddy campsite, with rain battering down on the roof and streaming down the windows.

Then there was the time he and Dan braved a biting wind to fly a kite on the beach and the string snapped and carried it out to sea, leaving the poor little lad with tears rolling down his freezing cheeks.

There was also the year that Janie discovered a passion for tennis and wanted to play every day, rain or shine – and it certainly seemed to rain more than shine that year.

But they’d been happy days, back then, whatever the weather.

Clearly the old axiom was right – into each life, some rain must fall.

He wasn’t on top of the world just now, but things would get better.

With a sigh, he threw off the duvet. Time to get up.

Dan felt nervous as he approached the manager’s office at the end of the day. He took a deep breath before he knocked.

“Come in.” Marcus didn’t sound quite as angry as Dan had expected, but he fought down any faint glimmer of optimism.

He had mixed feelings as he pushed open the door.

This job was so far from what he wanted, yet faced with the sudden possibility of losing it, he realised that he didn’t hate it quite as much as he’d thought.

It was infinitely preferable to having nothing to get up for in the mornings.

He was pretty lucky to have Marcus as a manager, too, he acknowledged. He was pretty approachable.

At least, he had been up till now.

“Ah, Dan. Sit down.” Marcus said.

“Thanks,” Dan croaked. He perched on the edge of the chair and faced Marcus across his desk.

“I won’t beat about the bush,” Marcus began. “I could be wrong, but as my online conference ended and the CCTV clicked on my screen again, it looked as if you took today’s rota off the stockroom wall.

“Was that what happened?”

“Er – yes.” Dan couldn’t deny it. He’d been caught, fair and square.

“Would you mind explaining exactly why you did that?”

Dan cleared his throat. There was nothing else for it, he’d just have to tell the truth.

So he told Marcus exactly what had led to his actions in the stockroom.

He described finding his younger colleagues, all with sulky looks on their faces, and explained what had led to their resentment.

“I’m not pointing fingers – they’re all young. They all try it on and they get fed up – we all do. It’s crazy on the shop floor sometimes.”

Marcus said nothing, so Dan barrelled on.

“I could see I wouldn’t get anywhere unless I changed the dynamics in some way.

“Maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I didn’t feel I had much choice. I had to take the chance. And it worked.”

“Yes. It worked.” Marcus nodded. “On this occasion. But what would you have done if it hadn’t worked?

“What if you hadn’t managed to convince them to return to work?”

That was a tricky one.


Dan shrugged.

“I suppose I’d have pointed out to them that they’d be caught on CCTV and would end up in the manager’s office,” he said.

To his surprise, Marcus gave a bark of laughter.

“Well, you’d have been right, wouldn’t you?”

“Looks like it,” Dan said wryly.

Marcus drummed his fingers on his desk.

“Dan, I’ve been watching you for some time. You’re organised. You’re honest.

“You work flat out when the shop’s busy and when it’s quiet, you get on with other things without being told – you have initiative.

“And today you defused a potentially explosive situation.”

Dan nodded.

“I think you’d be an ideal candidate for our management training programme,” Marcus said. “What do you think?”

To be continued…

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