The Wooden Heart – Episode 26

“Nice lad,” he said. “OK, what is it?”

Ash took a deep breath.

“Advice,” she said. “There’s a big exhibition of young designers’ work being set up in Hawick.

“I went with my portfolio to pacify Calum, who had set a meeting up with its organiser.

“To be honest, I never thought the guy would be interested . . .”

“But he was,” Stephen finished.

She nodded.

“He wants me to exhibit some of the fashion designs from my final year’s work at college. Then he wants me to have my portfolio there, and be willing to go through it with visitors to the exhibition.

“He wants me to take all my sketching stuff with me and try to work there on design patterns – a living artist among the exhibits.”

“And?” Stephen prompted, smiling.

“And I don’t think I can,” she blurted out.

“Why not?”

Ash gathered her thoughts. It was always easy to talk to her dad. Since her mum died, they had worked together as equals – their only way to cope.

Now she wanted him to clear the confusion and gathering panic in her mind.

She forced herself to put her fears into words.

“First,” she said, “I don’t see how I could ever interact with the public. Design is something that comes from within. Crazy suggestions would only derail the entire process of thought.”

“Not necessarily,” he said slowly. “You must have had some experience of tutors at your elbow, helping, prompting you?”

“Yes,” Ash admitted. “But these were constructive suggestions, and came when I was dancing to the college’s tune, not following my own thoughts and ideas.”

“I don’t see too much difference,” Stephen argued. “Most people will want you to explain things, not push forward ideas.

“And, even if they do, some of their ideas might strike sparks. Like brainstorming sessions. It needn’t be disruptive.”

Ash was unconvinced.

“Maybe,” she said. “But there’s a second problem.”

“Which is?”

Ash ran her fingers through her hair.

“I simply don’t know what I want to do yet,” she finally said. “I don’t know whether to work on textiles only, or branch out into other types of design.

“I don’t know whether I want to strike out entirely on my own, or whether I should settle for working with others as part of a team.”

Stephen reached for the kettle.

“Don’t,” she said. “You have paint on your hands. Go and rescue Calum.”

He paused at the kitchen door.

“It seems to me,” he said, “that this exhibition is exactly what you need. Mixing with other designers, hearing about their experiences.

“By the time the show’s finished, you’ll have a whole new raft of information, and that can only help you to decide what you want to do.”

Filling the kettle with water, she nodded.

“I’m scared that I’ll make a fool of myself.”

She heard his footsteps come closer then felt his hand on her shoulder.

“My darling,” he said quietly. “You’ll be many things in your life, but a fool won’t be one of them.” He squeezed her shoulder gently, then went out to the workshed.

There would probably be paint fingerprints on her shoulder, she thought, her eyes blurring.

But even if it had been her favourite top, fingerprints didn’t matter.

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.