Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 24

THE next day, Ginny came to take Julia to her and George’s house. Seeing the other two, she happily took them as well.

Oliver arrived at midday and Phil shortly after. Evie felt an odd twinge, seeing her friends greeting their husbands. Not jealousy, just wistfulness, and maybe a bit of selfishness that the support they had been giving her would now have to be shared.

But it wasn’t like that. The men stayed in the background, leaving their wives to escort Evie into the church, one either side of her, linking her arms.

At the arched doorway she suddenly froze, not wanting to go in, perhaps because the funeral made it final and she didn’t want to face that.

She stood there, as immobile as the stone angel regarding her with indifference from an ancient tombstone. It was Grace and Francesca who got her moving again, and she doubted anyone else could have.

Afterwards, they went to the village hall. A fair number had turned out, Evie noted, for Alan had been popular. Her Alan. Was it so final, then? He’d always be hers and, in a way, always with her.

She was grateful for everyone’s good wishes, but still glad when it was over, apart from the fact that Grace and Francesca, too, would be going.

“I’m going to stay on a while, with Marianne, until you get on your feet, if that’s all right?” Francesca asked her when they returned to the house.

“What about Oliver?”

“He’ll be fine,” Francesca replied with a dismissive wave of her hand.

But later, seeing her kissing Oliver goodbye, Evie was aware how much Francesca would miss him, despite the new independence she now so obviously had. She considered telling her not to stay, but she doubted Fran would listen.

“You’ll be all right,” Grace told Evie, as she climbed into the car with Phil and Suzanne later. They were leaving for France the next day. “I know it may not seem that way, but you will. You’re strong and you’ll make a new life for you and for Julia.”

From somewhere inside, Evie knew she would have to find the strength to carry on.

“Where am I going to get a decent job to support Julia?” she asked Francesca later as they sat with mugs of tea, still dressed in black. “I’m not qualified in anything.”

“George told me at the hall about all the work you put into Alan’s business. It wasn’t only his business, it was yours, too. You helped build it from the start. Couldn’t you keep it going?”

Evie shook her head.

“Not without Alan. I just did odd bits here and there.”

“I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit,” Fran said, placing her hand on top of Evie’s.

“What about Grace going off to France? She’s so brave,” Evie said, changing the subject on purpose.

Francesca looked at her.

“You’re brave, too, Evie. I had a problem recently, and thinking about you and how you’ve coped with so much in your life helped me.”

For a moment Evie’s face wakened, as though she had perhaps found the strength she was going to need. Then Julia, who had gone for a nap, called out in her sleep and Evie went to her side right away.

Francesca knew it would be a long road to recovery, but her friend’s heart would start to heal in time. Yes, as she looked at her own daughter, who was busy drawing a picture of her daddy, she knew that Julia would bring Evie through this.

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”.