Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 07

HER father suffered “just cuts and burns”, Evie heard her mother telling a neighbour. This was less than accurate. Evie doubted it was the pain of his physical injuries that caused him to scream out, night after night, as soon as it got dark.

“There’s something deeper, something none of us can see,” she told Sylvia a few days after the accident.

The villagers were speaking with admiration of this outsider who came every day to tend, without mention of payment, to the injuries of those men not hospitalised.

“There’s the shock for him to contend with,” Sylvia explained in reply to Evie’s concerns. “Some people . . . it puts a great weight on their minds, a weight that sometimes takes a lot of shifting. And one which, sometimes, cannot be shifted at all.”

Evie nodded, frowning.

“It was bright of you to realise that not all injuries can be seen,” the nurse continued.

Bright? Her? Evie swelled with pride. She followed Sylvia to where her dad was lying on an old settee in the tiny main room of the cottage. Sylvia talked with the miner for a while, then started unwrapping the blood-stained dressing on his leg.

“You might want to go now,” she warned Evie. “Maybe wait in that bit of a yard you’ve got outside.” She sighed, adding half to herself, “All the spare land here! Why couldn’t folk be given a bit more, to grow a few vegetables or something?”

Evie stood her ground, not afraid at the sight of blood, even her own father’s.

“There I go,” Sylvia continued with a wry smile, “getting on my high horse, as they say at the hospital. But the truth is, conditions here are better than in some pit villages. And none of them are as bad as they once were!”

When Evie still didn’t move, the nurse nodded at the unfolding dressing.

“It’ll be a mess under here, duck.”

“I’m not bothered about that,” Evie said. “I’m interested.”

Sylvia’s brief word of praise had breathed further life into the ghost of an idea that had been forming in Evie’s mind since the accident, mostly in those dark hours when her dad’s cries made sleep impossible.

A nurse? Her? Evie Maun?

But why not, a determined little voice in her head persisted over the following couple of days. Sylvia wasn’t posh – not like Francesca or the people at the Hall – and she’d become a nurse.

Evie’s dad’s physical injuries were getting better all the time and soon he’d be back at work. Her own summer work on the Riggs’ farm wasn’t going to last much longer. Farmer Rigg’s grandson was back and her hours had already been cut. She suspected there would be nothing after harvest.

She decided she’d make enquiries about nursing training as soon as her father was better. In the meantime, she used Sylvia’s visits to find out what she could. The nurse noticed the girl’s interest.

“You’re thinking it might be a job you’d like?” she asked Evie on what was to be her final visit before returning to the hospital where she worked.

“It might be,” Evie replied, still not entirely confident.

Sylvia rummaged in her bag and produced a well-used textbook.

“Take this to start you off. It was given to me when I began my training.”

“Are you sure?” Evie was astounded.

“I’m sure.” Sylvia put her hand on Evie’s shoulder, as she had that fateful starry night at the pit head. “And don’t forget what I said about miracles.”

Suddenly Evie was sure, too. As she watched Sylvia’s departing figure, she looked forward eagerly to meeting Francesca and Grace under the tree the following day. This time, when Francesca talked about her relatives, and Grace about her portrait, she, Evie, would also have something important to say!

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”.