The Wooden Heart – Episode 06

“There’s only tea,” Ash called back.

When she came through with two mugs, he was sitting down with a stiff, unfolded sheet of paper in one hand, while his other hand was running fingers through his greying hair.

He looked up and she could see he was distressed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, putting down his mug. “It can’t be a final demand, because we’ve paid everything, haven’t we?”

“So far as I know,” he replied absently, his eyes on the letter.

“Then what is it?”

“The biggest surprise of my life – both the content, and how sad I feel.”

She waited, puzzled. When his eyes came up, it looked almost as if he had been crying.

“Somebody you never knew has just died,” he said slowly. “Somebody who refused to have anything to do with you, or your mother . . . or me.

“I haven’t heard from the man in over twenty years. My own father, who disowned me.”

He blinked, and she saw tears trickle down his face.

“He lived and died in isolation. Mourned by nobody. It could have been so different.” Stephen shook his head. “He was a bitter, stark, narrow-minded man. So why do I feel such grief?”

Handing her the lawyer’s letter, he reached blindly for his mug.

“He’s left me everything in his will,” he finished.


“So this is the house?” Ash asked.

Stephen nodded.

“I grew up here. Scarcely anything has changed in the village.”

She studied the old house. It was a stone cottage set directly against the pavement, in a small grey village which could have been anywhere in the Borders countryside. It had a rough track which led up the side of the cottage.

From what she could see, this turned into a yard behind the cottage, and the only green grass was the long stuff waving at the sides of the track.

“He wasn’t a gardener, then?” she said weakly.

“Too frivolous for him, I’m afraid.”

“He can’t have been that bad,” she protested.

Stephen shrugged.

“He was a creature of his strict upbringing, and that was pretty grim.”

“And you were brought up in that atmosphere?” she asked quietly.

“Not quite. I was saved by my mother. She died just before I went to university and met your own mother.”

“Poor Dad,” she said, gently squeezing his arm. “What’s round the back?”

“A simple yard, over what once had been a garden. He used to stack his timber out there to weather. Then there’s an old shed where he did all his carpentry.

“Let me show you. We can get in the back door of the house as it’s easier than the front. He never used the front door.”

They walked up the rough track and turned into the yard. It was as her dad had described, but with a small drying-green area and clothes poles outside the kitchen window.

“Such a stark place,” she said quietly. “He didn’t spend much money on his home, and he didn’t have much money in his bank, either.”

It had sounded so exciting to be left everything in her grandfather’s will, but the reality was that there had been nothing to leave but this old cottage.

“He didn’t believe in wealth,” Stephen said. “So long as his work kept him out of debt and with some food on the table, he was content.”

“Poor man,” she said quietly. “Can we see inside the house?”

They opened the door and stepped inside. It was cool and there wasn’t much light. There was an old sink nestling into the neatest wooden cabinets she had ever seen, with the same dark carved doors on the wall cupboards.

Scarcely “Ideal Home”, but there was a timeless quality about this kitchen.

The same was true about the rest of the house: stark, simple, but with the woodwork and cupboards made by a master craftsman. Even the wardrobes and dressers in the two upstairs rooms were hand-made and of excellent quality.

Whatever the man had been, there was real love in the remaking of this old cottage, she thought.

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.