Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 02

“HE isn’t the nicest of men,” Grace agreed, her face clouding.

“Philip’s mother seemed pleasant, though,” Francesca continued. “Why on earth has she married that man?”

“I suppose it was because she was widowed, and on her own,” Grace ventured.

“She would have been better off staying that way!” Francesca insisted, nodding so vehemently the little hat she was wearing fell off her head.

They all laughed, as they always did when they were together.

They had first met because of another of Francesca’s hats. In a savage wind it had blown off her head and into the branches of the tree. With a “leg up” from Grace, who had been passing, tomboy Evie, who’d climbed trees since she could walk, had easily shinned up Two Shires Oak and retrieved it. From there, a deep bond had grown up between the three, despite their different backgrounds.

“My uncle telephoned this morning,” Francesca told the other two. “He, and my aunt and cousins, are coming to visit us again soon.”

“Your aunt and cousins from London?” Evie asked, winking at Grace.

“That’s right.” Francesca nodded again. “I’m looking forward to hearing from them all about the shops, and the shows, and the theatres and the art galleries . . .!”

Grace caught Evie’s eye and smiled. Both girls were aware that in due course they, too, would hear all about the shops and the shows!

Evie had once said to Grace that Francesca reminded her of a moth.

“The way them fluttery things is drawn to bright lights.”

The comparison had been apt, but it had left Grace uneasy. Those bright lights sometimes did not bode well for the moth.

“Talking about art galleries, I’m going to be in a picture soon,” she said.

The other two looked at her.

“Phil is an artist and he wants to paint me.”

“What sort of picture?” Evie asked, noting Grace’s abandonment of “Mr Philip”.

“An oil painting.”

“Yes, but . . .” She broke off.

“Oh, I know what you’re thinking, Evie Maun,” Grace railed, pointing an accusing finger. “It’s a portrait. Head and shoulders, nothing more!”

“That’s all right, then.” Evie grinned. “But I’ve seen pictures in the museum, when I went to my nan’s. Women perched on rocks, or standing beside them marble pillars with a scrap of silk draped round them and not much else!”

“It’s a portrait!” Grace repeated, and they all started laughing again.

“Plenty on t’plate me’sen, yowth. Got me muck heap to turn afore t’back end,” Evie said when they’d recovered, mimicking Farmer Rigg, for whom she was doing some casual work. This promptly set Grace giggling again. She had helped Evie find the work as the farm was on the Alderarche Estate, and Evie had mimicked perfectly the kindly farmer’s way of speaking.

“Well, there’s you on about having your picture painted.” Evie pouted. She turned to Francesca. “And you gabbing about your posh relations. I wanted something to say, too, but that’s about all that’s happening to me right now!”

It was true, but Evie Maun was determined that was going to change!

And the sooner change came, the better, Evie thought the next afternoon as she sweated in one of Farmer Rigg’s fields. She was grateful to Grace for helping her find the work, but it was hard going in the glare of the sun. It didn’t help her mood to know that, over in the Hall just about now, Grace would be having her break, sitting on a nice, soft chair with her feet up . . .

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.