The Wooden Heart – Episode 39

When Ash turned up for her morning shift at Living Design, she found Tom Weir, the exhibition organiser, waiting. He handed her a letter.

“Fan mail,” he said. “Tell them to address the next one to your home, because the exhibition closes at the weekend.”

A smile took the edge off his words.

Ash settled down in her workspace.

Opening the envelope, she slid out the folded letter and read the heading: James Turner Associates. The name rang a bell. She skimmed through the short message.

Dear Asha,

I was economical with the truth when we met – I don’t just work in a design consultancy, I run it.

However, my advice holds. You do need to set yourself up in a design internship, and I liked your work so much that I am offering you just that: a two-year internship without commitment on either side; a personal development plan to be worked out with you, giving you a series of four-month stays in the different aspects of our company’s work.

Let me know within the next two weeks if you are interested.

Believe in yourself.

James Turner.

Ash blinked, read the letter through a second time, then a third.

When the other designer showed up, she tucked it hastily into her bag.

For the rest of the morning, she worked in a daze, where excitement, doubts and fears swirled round her mind.

She was so preoccupied that she headed directly home, forgetting Calum was waiting for her in the commune.

Ash found her father in the workshop, leaning against the workbench and staring with a frown at the little Austin 7.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Thinking,” he replied.

“At least that keeps oil smears off the furniture,” she said. “What sort of thoughts are making you look so grim?”

“Deep ones.” He sighed.

“Such as?”

He smiled wanly.

“Like how much would my Austin 7 fetch if it was finished, and how long would it take to finish it?”

“Is that all?” she asked.

“No. I was also thinking how beautifully Gabrielle played last night. I’m no expert, but she sounded absolutely superb.”

Her dad might not be completely unbiased, Ash thought wryly.

Stephen frowned again.

“She told me that all the other times she has tried to flex her fingers, they felt stiff and clumsy. But when she picked up that violin to show Ailish how to play, her mind was on the music and her fingers followed instinctively. Something she never thought she could do.”

“I’m glad,” Ash said. “Ailish was raving about how much she’d learned from being coached by a real professional. Maybe Gabrielle has found her new future as a tutor.”

“Maybe,” he replied.

She studied his quiet face and could read something else was troubling him.

“What is it?” she asked. “The real thing that’s worrying you?”

His head turned sharply, then a slow smile spread.

“So like your mum.” He sighed. “Straight to the heart of it.”

“Then what is it?” Ash asked.

He rubbed his neck.

“I had a phone call this morning from one of the senior guys I worked with in marine engineering.

“A couple of my old bosses have set up on their own and are negotiating contract work on big marine diesels.

“We’re talking ocean-going ships, giant power units. Doing the same as we have always done, a mixture of design and trouble-shooting. Harry wanted to know if I was interested in working for them.”

Ash stared at him. She had come running home for advice, but now it seemed that she was expected to offer some.

“And you said?” she prompted.

“That I needed a few days to think about it.” He pushed himself away from the workbench. “It would mean overturning our life and me being away for weeks on end. I don’t want that. I have too many ties here.”

Ash swallowed.

“I’m an adult now,” she said. “I don’t need child-minding.”

His eyes studied her, then their corners crinkled.

“There’s not just you,” he said quietly.


He nodded.

Ash reached out to touch his arm.

“She’s lovely – and she’s perfect for you,” she said. “Have you told her about the job?”

He shook his head.

“I was thinking about something else,” he replied, and his eyes drifted back to the classic car.

“If you want to stay here, then turn down the job,” Ash said firmly.

“Right,” he said heavily. “But I need work. I’ve been treading water for too long.”

He sighed.

“I’ll make us a mug of tea.”

Tea – his recipe for all ailments, she thought, watching his slumped shoulders as he headed across the yard.

It was hard to believe that they should both be facing the same dilemma on the same day.

She watched him go into the cottage, then she turned round, her eyes going up to the rough wooden heart on the wall.

“If you’re up there and listening, Grandad,” she said quietly, “please help him to reach the right decision.”

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.