The Wooden Heart – Episode 15

It was a typical showery day among the Borders hills, and Gabrielle had been in such a hurry to catch her bus that she left her umbrella at work.

Getting off the bus reluctantly at the Melrose rugby ground, she lifted her coat collar against the heavy rain and made a quick decision.

Her favourite tearoom was across the street from where she stood, while her home was half a mile away.

Head down, she scurried across the road to the tearoom and pushed through the door.

“Rats!” she muttered, wiping rain from her face.

The tearoom was full to overflowing with day trippers, sheltering from the rain outside. Every table was crammed with people, with others waiting hopefully in the reception space in front of her.

Pushing back outside, she put her head down against the slanting torrent and ran across the road to the baker’s, which had a tearoom behind the main shop.

Climbing the steps, she opened the old-fashioned door and stepped inside. The shop was empty and both assistants looked up expectantly, but when she moved through into the tearoom, it was as busy as the other had been.

She hesitated. If she bought something from the shop, maybe they would let her shelter inside until the shower was over.

Turning back towards the shop, her eye caught a face she knew. It was Stephen. On impulse, she decided to go over and say hello, and was halfway across to the table when she noticed that he had company.

By now Stephen had seen her and waved her across to join them.

“Hello,” Gabrielle said awkwardly. “I came in to escape the rain, but every table’s taken.”

She was gabbling, she thought. The presence of the young girl had thrown her on to the back foot.

Stephen settled the matter by rising and pulling out a side chair to the table.

“Then join us. Would you like tea or coffee? You’re welcome to the cakes here, but I’m afraid we’ve eaten all the best ones.”

As she murmured her thanks and sat down, he added, “This is my daughter Asha – Ash, for short.”

Ash nodded across the table.

Gabrielle smiled hesitantly back.

“Gabrielle,” she said. “But no shortened names for me, please.”

Stephen waved to the busy waitress.

Gabrielle glanced up at the hovering girl.

“A pot of tea for one,” she said. “Unless . . .?”

“No, we’re fine,” Stephen assured her.

“Speak for yourself,” Ash said. “Make that two, please.”

As the waitress withdrew, Ash sighed.

“We’ve been sweeping and scrubbing out the house all day to get it ready to go on the market. You’ve no idea how much mess the clearance men brought in with them. I’m parched and more than ready for another cup of tea.”

A nice, pure Borders voice, Gabrielle thought. She had a lovely face and dark eyes which held the same sparkle as her father’s.

“Which cake can you spare?” she asked.

“All of them, if you want,” Stephen said.

Gabrielle helped herself to a fruit scone. It was delicious.

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.