- 16. Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 16
- 17. Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 17
- 18. Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 18
- 19. Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 19
- 20. Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 20
- 21. Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 21
- 22. Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 22
THE evening itself went fine. Phil did mention the financial problems they were facing and that he intended to look for a job. Grace didn’t want him to do that, and Jefferson backed her view that Phil had too much artistic merit to abandon his passion. Then Mary amused them with stories about a trip to France, made by her rather hapless brother.
“But he loved it,” she concluded. “Good food, wine and weather. Old farmhouses going cheap.”
“Maybe we should go,” Grace suggested to Phil. She noted the dark look in Sabrina’s eyes. What was troubling her? That she wouldn’t get to see Phil?
The rest of the evening continued with Mary and Jefferson’s tales of painting together and disagreeing over who was better, and Grace and Phil’s stories of their beloved daughter’s antics. Sabrina had yawned openly at these, and it took Grace all her strength not to lose her temper with her.
They all retired to bed and Grace dozed off looking at her framed picture of the leaves from Two Shires Oak that Phil had made for her.
She was wakened early morning by a noise. Thinking it was Suzanne, born so prematurely but now a robust four-year-old, Grace had got up to investigate. Suzanne was sleeping soundly, but she heard voices in Mary and Jefferson’s room.
“It’s Grace’s fault,” Sabrina was saying in her haughty way. “She’s to blame for Phil being nearly penniless! She’s ruined his life.”
Grace covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a sob. The words stung, as deep down she still wondered if marrying her had spoiled Phil’s future.
“Sabrina, what an awful thing to say!” Mary chided. “Remember where you are and have some respect. Grace and Phil are happy. She hasn’t done anything of the sort.”
“She’s tied him down with that child now!” Sabrina retorted.
That was it. It was one thing to take a bite at her, but not at her child.
“Get out!” Grace yelled, bursting into the room.
Sabrina stood frozen in shock, then she opened her mouth to speak.
“You are going to get your things together this instant and leave my house,” Grace ordered.
Phil came into the room, still in his pyjamas.
“What’s going on?”
“Your friend Sabrina was just telling Mary how I’ve ruined your life!” Grace said, fighting back tears. She would not cry in front of this wicked woman.
Mary looked uncomfortable to be caught in the middle of such a situation. Jefferson, who had been up early and drinking tea in the living-room, also appeared.
“I think we should leave, too,” Mary told her husband.
“There’s no need for that,” Phil said. “This must be some sort of misunderstanding.”
Mary looked at Sabrina, then at Phil. She shook her head.
Grace heard Suzanne’s tiny footsteps running along the hall. She immediately left the room and swept Suzanne up into her arms halfway towards her bedroom.
“Mummy, I heard voices.”
“It’s all right,” she soothed, kissing the child’s forehead. “Let’s put you back to bed.”
Two children’s books later, Grace went into the living-room to find Phil sitting in a chair, staring out at the dawn sky and the whispering waves. He didn’t look up.
“I’m sorry, Grace, you were right.”
“About what?” she asked him.
“Sabrina. Jefferson and Mary share your opinion that she
may . . . have feelings for me.”
Her instinct had been right – she could tell when someone felt the same way about her husband that she did.
“Jefferson and Mary have taken her to the train station.”
“Are they coming back?”
“No, they said that they would eat breakfast somewhere before they moved on to Scotland.”
“Oh.” Grace felt bad that the couple had left early. After all, they hadn’t done anything wrong, other than perhaps been aware of Sabrina’s feelings for Phil.
In an instant he was by her side, touching her cheek softly with his hand.
“Grace, my darling, you don’t believe what she said, do you?”
She couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Don’t you see that you make me happy?”
“But the money, your home, your family . . . you lost it all because of me.”
Tears were running down her cheeks as all of the guilt and insecurity she had felt for years came pouring out.