The Wooden Heart – Episode 11

The River Tweed was running low, murmuring more like a stream than a river as it flowed round the outskirts of the town.

In the patchy cloud, Gabrielle went to one of her favourite places, the suspension bridge across the river, and walked halfway across to where she normally stood to watch the river run through the valley. A slight breeze lifted her dark hair and she sighed.

The strapping was due to come off her wrist tomorrow. She couldn’t wait. Why, as soon as it became inaccessible, did skin begin to itch? Unladylike it might be, but she was looking forward to being able to give that itch a good scratch.

A grumble sounded at her feet.

“Quiet, Franz,” she warned. “This isn’t our private bridge. Behave.”

The bridge began to bounce under someone’s approaching footsteps.

Even after many years, it was still disconcerting. She tightened the extending lead, getting ready to pull her terrier towards her feet.

However, Franz had other ideas. His ears pricked up and his tail wagged, then he was haring off towards the footsteps, almost spinning her off her feet.

She braced herself and, with her good hand, began to pull him back.

Franz stood on his rear legs, leaning against the lead, his tail wagging furiously. What on earth had got into him?

Shielding her eyes with her strapped hand, she peered at the approaching walker.

It was a man, and not just any man. This was the man who had helped her when she’d hurt herself two weeks before.

By now Franz was dancing, his front paws waving.

Stephen leaned down, caught his paws with one hand and ruffled his ears with the other.

“Hooligan,” he joked. “I don’t even look like a rabbit.”

Straightening, he smiled.

“We meet again,” Stephen said. “I’ve been walking up the far side of the river. How are you? Are the wrist and hand healing nicely?”

“None the better for this wild creature,” Gabrielle said, struggling to bring Franz under control.

“Let me.” He took the lead from her, dipping it under the dog to sort out the tangle and letting it rewind. “Here. Sorry for causing the disruption.”

Locking the lead, he handed it back to her.

“Thanks – once again.” She grasped the handle of the lead more firmly. “In answer to your question, the strapping comes off tomorrow. I can wriggle my fingers again and even flex my wrist slightly.”

“Good,” he said. “No lasting damage, then.”

Stephen hesitated, as if about to pass her and head back to the town.

“Your scarf,” she said. “You left it with me – the emergency sling you made.”

He looked surprised.

“So I did. It’s not a problem.”

Gabrielle smiled.

“It might be, come autumn.”

Stephen’s eyes crinkled.

“There are plenty more scarves at home. I had an aunt who always sent me a scarf at Christmas. It was her default gift.”

“You, too?” she said. “I still have a dozen boxes of hankies I’ve never used.

“Why don’t we walk back home to my place and I can give you back your scarf? I’d hate your stock of Christmas presents to be depleted.”

“That would be lovely. Shall I take Franz?”

“Maybe you’d better.” Gabrielle sighed. “Until now, I’ve only had rabbits to worry about. No, Franz, there are none in sight.”

She shook her head.

“He even knows the ‘R’ word,” she lamented. “In fact, he has a wider vocabulary than some of the conductors I worked with.”

Stephen grinned.

“But I wouldn’t trust him with a baton,” he said.

Her answering smile became a chuckle as the image grew.

“There would be a lot of prestissimo.” She laughed. “Especially when he shook his head.”

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.