The Wooden Heart – Episode 24

Gabrielle felt confused. Part of her felt like the fourteen-year-old to whom someone had sent an unsigned Valentine’s card. Years later, she discovered it was her Selkirk granny, in case nobody else had sent her one.

Another part of her was uncertain: she had lived for so long as a single, travelling professional musician that she wasn’t sure how she would adjust to a new relationship.

The rest of her simply liked the man across the coffee table from her. He had brought friendship and warmth into her life.

He had been the unexpected confidante she could open up and talk to without reserve.

“Where do we go from here?” she repeated quietly. “I think that we’ve both been caught out by what we’ve found in each other.

“Where it will take us, I just don’t know. All my instincts are to let it grow at its own pace.”

Stephen nodded.

“That’s exactly how I feel. Let it find its own path forward.” He smiled. “Ash would never forgive me if I ran off with you before the painting was finished.”

She grinned.

“Would it help if I came to Denholm with a pot of paint?” she asked.

“And a brush,” he replied. “I’ve worn out two already.”

His smile faded.

“But I really would love it if you came to Denholm to see the cottage,” he added. “Get to know us both a little better.”

Gabrielle nodded.

“I’d like that,” she said. “And please come to Melrose any time. I’ll be here most days.”

He stood up and held out his hands.

“Until the next time,” he said quietly. “Hopefully that won’t be too long.”

She rose and found herself taking his hands. He pressed them gently, then turned to go.

She watched him walk through the garden, then turn to wave to her before he walked up the street.

At her feet, Franz whined. Slowly, she returned to her front room, gathering up the empty coffee cups and putting them on the tray.

It had been a strange day. Looking out through her kitchen window, a halo of light seemed to hang over every flower. There had been other men in her life, but none of them had lasted. Nothing had ever felt as serious as this.

She was letting her heart take over from her head and was in danger of allowing the fourteen-year-old with the mystery Valentine’s card to run amok.

She was too old to be swept off her feet, too anchored in her routine. Wasn’t she?

Why did it suddenly feel that some sunshine had spilled into the grey shadows of her life and was warming her heart?

One step at a time, she thought. She was embarking on a journey she had never expected. It was too soon to guess where it would take her.

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.