The Wooden Heart – Episode 09

Minutes passed, then Ash stirred.

“Dad?” she said.

“Yes?” The length of the pause which followed made him turn to look at her. “Spit it out.”

Ash’s eyes dropped.

“Do you ever mind the racial mix thing?” she asked quietly. “The fact that I’m half Scottish, half Indian?”

“What has race got to do with it?” he asked. “You’re my daughter. The most wonderful treasure your mother could ever have left behind for me.”

Gently, he squeezed her arm.

“We married because race didn’t matter to either of us,” he said quietly. “I loved her for the wonderful woman she was. She loved me for the man she saw inside me.

“What has the colour of skin got to do with that? Your skin is only what you happen to be wearing.”

Tears stung Ash’s eyes.

“So it’s all right, then,” she said. “Me being half and half?”

“All right?” He smiled. “It’s more than all right.”

Reaching for his glass of wine, he added, “Every night, I thank God that I’ve been blessed to have you as my daughter.”


Ash walked along the riverside, her eyes searching the buildings opposite. Most streets in Hawick generally led to a derelict mill, relics of what had once been a prosperous past.

She was chasing up a contact address which her college tutor had given her.

“It’s a producers’ commune,” he had told her. “Some very good young people, all working at their own thing. It might give you a place to start.”

Maybe so, Ash thought. The trouble was that she still wasn’t clear how she wanted to develop herself as a textile designer, or which aspect of design she wanted to specialise in.

But a start had to be made somewhere, and today she was simply prospecting, having a look at the place and its people. No commitment, no real plans as yet.

She was simply taking time out to search for a first possible step in her own career, before looking for part-time work over the summer.

She found the building, an old dyeing mill within a scatter of low brick-built premises in wasteland under the shadow of a gaunt riverside mill.

It looked pretty grim, but she could commute here easily from the cottage, catching the bus through the village to Hawick.

The flaking brown door hadn’t seen fresh paint for centuries, and there was no sign of any bell to ring.

Ash hesitated, then knocked on the door. Its timbers were so heavy that she made no real noise at all.

With the heel of her fist, she hammered on the door. Still no answer.

She could scarcely turn back at this stage. Ash took a firm grip of the old door handle and the door opened with a series of tortured squeaks.

She stepped inside into relative darkness and shivered.

There was almost total silence, then she heard the faint sound of someone whistling.

“Hello?” she called, but the whistling continued.

Carefully, she edged across the dark floor, lit through small, grimy windows, most of which had been broken and stuffed with newspaper.

The floor seemed clean enough, but she was glad to get to the far side of the space, where another door had patches of light showing round the edges of its frame.

Taking a deep breath, she opened it and stepped inside.

This was the main space of the dyeing works, with a long area with a few desks and tables set under the grimy widows, using what light there was.

On these tables were some textiles, folded and with a scatter of scribbled drawings beside them; on another, what looked like decorative leatherwork.

A couple of tables had a mix of metalwork and jewellery tools stacked neatly at their sides.

At the far end, under a bare light bulb, the whistler was hunched over something he was working on.

“Hello?” she called again.

The man started in his chair and looked up.

“Don’t creep up on me,” he complained. “I nearly lost a finger there.”

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.