The Wooden Heart – Episode 30

Gabrielle nodded so Stephen led her gently by the arm outside and over to the long wooden shed.

“Close your eyes,” he said. “Let me switch on the light and take off her cover, then you can open them and see the most beautiful car in the world.”

“Must I?” she asked, knowing nothing of cars and afraid she might say something wrong.

Nevertheless, she closed her eyes and listened to the light being switched on, then his footsteps across the floor.

She heard a heavy rustling noise, which was no doubt the cover coming off the old car. Then there was a pause before she felt his hand on her arm.

“Come in, Gabrielle, and look,” he said quietly.

She opened her eyes, blinking in the strong artificial light.

At one side was a tiny boxy car with light blue bodywork, black mudguards and running boards. It was lovely in its own way, like all ancient and precious things.

On the right was a long joiner’s workbench, a neat rack of tools above it, and a freshly made wooden bedside cabinet lifted to sit on the far end of the bench.

Then, on the far wall, something which had such a powerful impact on her it made her grip his arm.

“What’s that?” she asked. “The carving on the wall?”

Stephen’s smile faded.

“Oh, that?” he said. “A wooden heart. Goodness knows why he carved it, but he did. I meant to chuck it out, but left it there.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

He shrugged.

“Rough and ready, compared to his other work. Well, what do you think of my old car?”

Gabrielle tore her eyes away from the wooden carving.

“It’s very nice,” she said inadequately. “Did it look like that when you found it?”

“Much worse. But it’s slowly coming back to life again. One day soon it will look like new.”

Gabrielle felt her reaction was less than overwhelming.

Stephen frowned and walked over to Calum’s cabinet. He held it steady before tugging out the top drawer.

The drawer slid out smooth as silk. As did the second drawer.

“Calum’s a good workman,” he muttered. “A nice lad, but . . .”

“But what?” she asked quietly, feeling at ease with the natural change in conversation.

He turned to her, all at once looking troubled.

“Nothing,” he said. “Just the normal worry of any father. They’re always together, the two of them. Living in each other’s pockets, relaxed and happy in each other’s company.”

Gabrielle smiled.

“They’re young,” she said. “Ash will break many hearts before she settles down. Look on this as mere skirmishing before the serious battle to find a life partner begins.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But maybe not.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“For him, this is real,” Stephen said quietly.

“Maybe that’s what he feels right now,” Gabrielle acknowledged. “But they have so much growing up still to do.”

Stephen sighed.

“At around Ash’s age, I met and married her mother. And the last time I saw a look like the one in Calum’s eyes was from the face staring back at me in my mirror.”

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.