The Wooden Heart – Episode 08

“Can we really afford this bottle of wine, Dad?” Ash asked doubtfully.

Beside her in the garden seat, Stephen smiled.

“My daughter has just graduated, so if we can’t celebrate with a bottle of discounted white wine from the local Co-op, then what’s the point?” He raised his glass. “To you, my beautiful daughter.”

Ash’s face felt warm.

“Embarrassing,” she said. “But thank you.”

It was one of those rare perfect Borders summer evenings, when the sun had real warmth and was pouring down on to the rarely used garden at the back of their house.

She basked in it, her Indian genes soaking up the heat, while her Scottish genes were fanning themselves.

“We should be preparing dinner,” she said.

“Later,” Stephen replied. “First we’ve got to reach a decision about the old cottage my father left us.”

“Left you,” Ash corrected.

“Us,” he repeated firmly. “That’s why what we do has to be a joint decision. I think we should sell it, using the money we get to pay off our overdraft.

“We can keep some back for you to start up your own design business, then live on what’s left until I find another job.”

Ash sipped her wine.

“Why are you so keen to get rid of it?” she asked.

“It carries too many bad memories.”

Slowly turning her glass, Ash watched the sun reflecting through the wine.

“Was your childhood miserable?” she asked.

Stephen looked round.

“Not always. There were good times as well as bad. I was a mother’s boy, and my father had little to do with me, except glower when I made a noise or annoyed him.

“He was so wrapped up in his work that we barely got a word from him for days on end.”

“Then it was only the final argument which was truly bad?” Ash asked.

Stephen looked away.

“Maybe. It wasn’t all a bed of roses after my mum died. We were always annoying each other.”

“Still,” Ash said, “your main reservations about the cottage are based on memories of that final row, aren’t they?”

“I suppose so.”

“But those would have happened anywhere. They were relationship issues and had nothing to do with the cottage itself.”

Stephen sipped his wine, his eyes never leaving her.

“What are you driving at?” he finally asked.

Ash sighed.

“I don’t think selling the cottage is the best way forward,” she said. “It’s big enough for us to stay in, and that old shed would be perfect for working on your car. We would probably get at least twice as much for selling this house.”

“I don’t want to sell it,” he said gruffly. “We were happy here.”

“Then don’t sell it,” Ash said. “Rent it out and use the money as a source of income until we both get a job.”

Stephen’s frown deepened.

“I don’t like the thought of other people using our furniture,” he said. “Your mum bought most of that and was so proud of it.”

Ash reached across and gently touched his hand.

“Silly,” she said. “Mum’s furniture – and anything else that you want to keep – would be coming with us to the cottage. Anyway, it’s our memories of her which are important.”

He turned slowly, a wry smile on his face.

“You are so like your mum,” he said. “Able to see straight to the heart of any problem.

“She could always look at the most complex issues, then tell you exactly what they meant.”

He paused.

“You make good sense,” he admitted. “Both of your options are better than running blindly away from the cottage. It’s big enough for both of us and carries no outstanding debt.

“OK, so we seriously consider keeping the cottage. That means we have to decide whether to sell or rent this house, then get the lawyers to sort out whatever paperwork is involved.”

He raised his glass again.

“To my bright and practical daughter.”

“And my open-minded father,” Ash added.

They clinked glasses, and settled back to enjoy the evening sun.

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.