Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 08

CLOUDS were gathering above the big tree’s branches as the three girls sat beneath them. Evie, getting in first, thanked the others for coming to the pit after the accident, even though she hadn’t been absolutely certain she’d seen them until later. Then she gave her news.

“A nurse? How wonderful!” Grace said when she’d finished. “Don’t you think so, Francesca?”

“Yes, of course,” Francesca began. She started to say something else, but Grace could wait no longer to tell them about Phil.

“So I decided I have to leave the Hall,” she finished. “It’s the only way there’s any hope of me and Phil being together.”

She turned to Francesca.

“I was wondering. You mentioned your maid is leaving. Might there be a job going? You’ll need a replacement maid, won’t you?”

A patter of rain on the leaves above broke an awkward silence.

Francesca looked from one to the other of them. Then she burst into tears.

“We’re moving!” she said between sobs. “To London, now that the pit’s finished.”

“Finished?” Evie stared at her.

Francesca swallowed.

“It isn’t being reopened, my father said. I’m so sorry, Evie. Your father’s job . . . all the men’s jobs, I know. But . . .” Tears stopped her saying more.

“You don’t know,” Evie said in a hard voice.

“I think I’m beginning to.” Francesca told them about the expression on the face of the woman who’d snatched away the lost child she’d tried to comfort.

“I think a lot of the village folk hate working in the mine, and they hate my father for owning it. And now things have been finalised, he’s letting them know today that they’re out of work, and they will hate him even more!”

Even as she tried to comfort the distressed Francesca, Evie struggled to take in the enormity of the news. It seemed cruel that one catastrophe for her village was following so swiftly on the heels of another. It meant, too, that her plans to train as anything were ruined.

“It’s not your fault,” Grace said to their friend.

“I’ve spoiled everything for both of you!” Francesca wailed.

“Grace is right,” Evie said. “There’s nothing you could have done.”

Grace tried to smile.

“Concentrate on the good things. At least you’ll finally be in the big city!”

“I do w-want to go to London,” Francesca confessed. “Everything’s there – except you two! I don’t want to leave my best friends!”

Then they were all three crying, arms round each other. Captured raindrops fell from the oak’s branches, as though in sympathy with their tears. And it was the rain that stopped first, though eventually their own sobbing subsided.

“We’ll keep in touch,” Francesca said, “won’t we? You two will still have each other, but you won’t forget me?”

“We’ll keep in touch,” Grace promised.

“We’ll all take a leaf from the tree.” Evie pointed to a dripping branch above. “To make sure we don’t forget each other.”

“Three leaves,” Francesca insisted. “We’ll all take three leaves, because there are three of us.”

Solemnly they each removed three leaves, choosing carefully. The news was terrible for Evie, Grace mused as she selected hers. But though, goodness knew, Grace had enough problems of her own, she would be there for her. Besides, Evie was tough. Francesca, on the other hand, was more fragile, and she’d be on her own. Grace remembered Evie’s description of the other girl as a fluttering moth. Finally Francesca was going to get her bright lights.

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”.