Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 15

ONE afternoon, Francesca returned home to be greeted by the sound of her father yelling angrily in his study and her mother making soothing noises. She wasn’t in any way alarmed – her father was like that. He made a lot of noise sometimes, but his bark was far worse than his bite. But then she caught some of what he was saying.

“How could he do it, that young man of Francesca’s? He’s a cad and a rogue. I am furious with him!”

Francesca burst into the room, her heart feeling as though it would burst.

So it was true – Oliver had just been trying to get in with her father! And now her father had found out.

“Who told you?” she asked.


“About Oliver!”

“I read it myself. Here.” He pushed an architectural journal into her hands. Then a couple of minutes later he asked, “What are you laughing at?”

“This is why you’re angry with Oliver – because he wrote this article?” Francesca handed the journal back to her father.

It seemed the reason Oliver had been deemed a cad and a rogue was simply because he’d written an article that was critical of a housing development built by Francesca’s father’s company. Very critical of it, actually, conceding that the houses were well-built, but “entirely lacked soul”.

Her father was still fuming over dinner.

“Soul! Have you ever seen a building with soul?”

Her mother urged him to calm down.

“Think of your digestion, dear.”

Francesca herself was on cloud nine. This proved Oliver was not trying to find favour with her father. He liked her for herself. And that helped her make up her mind about something else.

After dinner she started a letter to Evie, accepting the invitation she’d received to her friend’s forthcoming wedding to Alan Nightingale.

You asked if I would like to bring anyone with me. Actually, I would. His name’s Oliver. Your idea of having the ceremony under Two Shires Oak is just magical, Evie. I hope Grace can make it, so we’re all together again. But she wrote to me about how awful she’s feeling. It seems to be a difficult pregnancy she’s having. And who is this Sabrina who keeps visiting them? Grace certainly doesn’t seem to like her, which isn’t like our Grace . . .

*  *  *  *

Francesca and Oliver set off in his car at dawn on the day of Evie’s wedding, arriving early. As they approached the village, Francesca saw a solitary figure standing beneath the old tree.

“That’s Evie there,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to meeting her.”

“Oliver, could you come back for me later? Let me say hello on my own first?”

Francesca got out of the car, finding walking on the rough ground hard going in her city shoes, but still managing to run the last few yards into Evie’s welcoming arms.

As they were talking, Grace joined them, accompanied by Phil, though he, too, then left them. It was early summer – June 21, the longest day of the year, as Francesca pointed out. All around, including on the oak’s ancient boughs, was the full glory of nature’s annual renewal. It was a good time for a reunion. Good to be together again.

Grace departed first, reluctantly, saying she was tired and needed a nap before the ceremony in the hotel room they’d booked nearby.

Evie left next.

“To put me fancy frock on,” she said with her usual grin.

Alone while she awaited Oliver’s return, Francesca felt oddly uneasy. She didn’t think Grace looked well. She tried to tell herself her friend was simply tired from the journey in her condition. A little colour had come to her cheeks when she’d been telling them about this Sabrina person! Relations there did not seem to have improved, which was a puzzle to Francesca because Grace was the kindest, most welcoming of people.

But, later, Francesca laughed with everyone else when they were all assembled and the bride, beautiful in white, arrived in one of Alan’s lorries.

“Our spare money can be spent better on the business than on fancy cars,” she explained to Grace and Francesca.

It was a happy, informal affair. Afterwards, everyone sat on the grass, picnic-style, and ate the food which had also arrived in the lorry.

“I think it’s time we did this, too,” Oliver said to Francesca, looking into her eyes. “If, that is, your father has forgiven me and will let me have your hand!”


When Grace yelled out, Francesca thought it was in excitement because she’d overheard Oliver propose. But in fact Grace’s labour pains had started.

Having served as wedding car, the lorry acted as an emergency vehicle, hurtling off with Grace and Phil being driven by Alan to the local hospital.

Evie turned to Francesca.

“Earlier, you reminded us that it was the longest day. I suspect it’s going to seem even longer now, for all of us!”

Francesca’s worried face mirrored Evie’s.

“Yes, this baby is going to be very premature. I hope it – and our Grace – are going to be all right . . .”

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.