The Wooden Heart – Episode 02

Gabrielle Madeley picked her way carefully down the track which led from the rugby field to the River Tweed.

Even in early summer, the dry debris of winter leaves was thick on the ground, covering a multitude of roots and potholes waiting to trip the unwary.

She pulled her Border terrier aside to make way for another dog walker and his springer spaniel, the latter straining on the lead as if its life depended on delivering its human load somewhere.

“Lovely day,” the man called as he passed.

“Yes, it is,” Gabrielle replied after a moment’s hesitation.

The pause was due not so much to reluctance to talk to a stranger, but rather because she had been too preoccupied to notice what a nice day it was.

She paused, savouring the sunlight sliding down towards late afternoon, the brisk, coldish wind and the crystal clarity of Borders air which showed every twig on every tree for miles.

A tug at the lead reminded her that the main purpose of the walk was to let her dog free to run around like a mad thing until lack of wind reminded him that such displays of energy had to be given more carefully nowadays.

“Sorry, Franz,” Gabrielle said.

She bent down, unclipped the lead and the little dog hurtled off in a blur.

She smiled. Franz had become the sole focus of her life now that her other life was over.

For such a small dog, he had a giant’s capacity for love and loyalty, plus he was ever-sensitive to her moods, recognising when she wanted to be left alone, or needed the companionship of a small warm body snuggled against her on the sofa while she was watching TV.

Walking along the path beside the river, Gabrielle smiled, transforming her face, which had become set recently in sombre lines. That smile made her look years younger, just as she had always looked before the accident.

She pulled her mind away from that.

“God gave you eyes in the front of your face to make you look forward,” her wise old grandmother had always told her. “Never look back. Move on and try to do better next time.”

“I hear you, Gran,” she said quietly.

A shrill yipping tore her from her reverie.

“Oh, no.” She sighed. “Not again.”

The white scud of a rabbit flashed across the path in front of her, bringing Franz to a skidding halt. Then, with a sharp turn, he headed off in blind pursuit.

In a public park this would be embarrassing. Out here in the semi-wild, it could be dangerous – not least because only a few yards away the Tweed was running high and fast.

Before she could stop herself, Gabrielle set off after her dog.

“Franz!” she called. “Come back!”

Her eyes on the trees and moving river beyond them, she didn’t see the tree branch, hidden by the long grass at her feet. She caught her foot in it and tumbled headlong.

With the extending lead in her right hand, her left came out to stop the fall. It was an instinctive action which cost her dear.

She felt a blinding flash of pain, then she was rolling across the ground, trying to shield the damaged hand and wrist from further impact.

Then there was silence. She had a feeling that she might have passed out for a moment or two.

She became aware that someone was gently easing her up into a sitting position. A man.

“I’m all right,” she protested. “My dog . . .”

Then everything went black.

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.