The Ties That Bind – Episode 20

Characters from the serial, Evelyn, Phil and Dan in a kitchen.

Poor Dan, Evelyn thought as she hung up. He’d sounded so helpless and unsure. She had to go to him right away.

She looked around for Simon, who wasn’t where she’d left him.

She saw that he’d walked ahead and was reading an information board about places of local interest.

He looked up when she called his name.

“Do you know, I’ve never been to the Inverness Castle viewpoint?” he called, beckoning her over.  “We could go some weekend, if . . . Evelyn?”

His smile disappeared as he read the worry on her face and he was back at her side in an instant.

“What is it? Has something happened?”

“Simon, I’m sorry, but I have to go,” she told him. “It’s Dan.”

“Dan? What’s wrong with him?”

“Nothing. I mean, it’s – it’s Phil.” She glanced at him apologetically. “Dan’s there and he’s – oh, he shouldn’t be having to deal with –”

“Evelyn, I’m lost here. Sit down for a second.” He led her to a nearby bench. “Now, tell me what’s happening.”

“Sorry. OK, Dan’s at his dad’s, but there’s something wrong with him – with Phil.

“He won’t let Dan in and he’s locked the door. He’s scared. Dan sounded scared . . .”

Evelyn knew she was babbling, but couldn’t stop herself. Concern was beginning to turn to panic.

“Take it easy.” Simon gave her shoulders a comforting squeeze. “Now, what exactly did Dan say?”

Evelyn breathed in deeply and forced herself to speak more calmly.

“He’d arranged to go to his dad’s tonight, but he says Phil won’t open the door to him.”

“That’s a bit weird.” Simon looked puzzled. “Is he sure he’s in?”

“Yes. He heard him moving about.”

“And he won’t open the door?”

“No. That’s why he called me. There must be something wrong.”

“Is he . . .” Simon hesitated. “I mean – you did say Phil can be moody . . .”

“Yes, he can,” Evelyn admitted.

“And you told me he’s been acting oddly lately,” Simon continued.

“Yes, but – what are you saying?”

“Well, do you think he might be sort of . . . play-acting?”

Evelyn considered this.

“No. No, he wouldn’t do that,” she said firmly. “Not to Dan.

“He might play silly games with me, but he wouldn’t do anything like that to his children.”

She stood up again.

“Either way, I’m sorry, Simon, but I’ll have to go to him.

“To Dan, I mean,” she clarified.

“Of course.” Simon got to his feet. “I’ll give you a lift.”

“There’s no need,” she protested. “I’ll –”

“Don’t be daft. My car is just round the corner,” Simon insisted. “Come on.”

He took her hand and the two of them set off at a brisk pace to where he’d left his car a couple of streets away.

“I’m sorry about this, Simon. I was enjoying our walk.”

“Me, too.” Simon gave her hand a squeeze.

Evelyn took comfort from his touch.

“And don’t apologise – your son needs your help. And Phil, of course,” he added gruffly.

Evelyn felt awkward. It was an odd situation, accepting a lift to her almost ex-husband’s house from her new . . .

Her thoughts stumbled. What exactly was Simon to her? A new boyfriend? A future partner?

But as she felt the warmth of his hand and saw his concerned expression, she was simply grateful to him for being a friend she could turn to.

The rush-hour traffic was easing off as they made their way through the city, but Evelyn could still feel tension rising within her as she relayed directions.

“Come on!”

She seethed as yet another light turned to red on their approach.

“Good job you’re not driving.” Simon chuckled. “We can do without road rage at a time like this.”

Evelyn couldn’t help smiling. Simon’s steady presence was calming.

“Thanks, Simon,” she said. “I do appreciate this.”

“I could hardly let you get a bus, could I?” He grinned.

“No, I mean the fact that it’s Phil. My –”

“Nonsense. It’s an emergency.”

“Thanks.” There was no doubt about it – Simon was a decent man.

“Mind you, this is a one-off,” he added. “I won’t volunteer to drive if he asks you out for dinner again.”

This drew a slightly hysterical laugh from Evelyn and she heard Simon breathe a sigh of relief.

True, this was a worrying situation, but a little humour could at least dispel some of the stress.

Also, it might go some way to helping her deal with whatever was waiting for her at Phil’s place.

When they finally turned into the right road, he found a parking spot near the entrance to Phil’s block of flats.

“Will you be all right?” he asked. “I can come in . . .”

“Best not. No offence.” Evelyn smiled at him as she picked up her bag.

“I know. I don’t suppose I’d be very welcome,” Simon acknowledged. “But if I can help in any way at all, just get in touch, won’t you?”

“Thank you, Simon.”

He bent towards her and kissed her cheek gently.

“Now, go,” he said.

To be continued…

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