Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 26

“ARE you out tonight?”

Marianne looked up from her drawing pad to see her flatmate Babs, mascara wand in hand and clearly in the process of getting ready for a date, standing in the doorway of their living-room.

She shook her head.


Coming from the solicitor’s she’d seen a poster advertising the Tutankhamun exhibition in the British Museum. It had got her thinking about Egyptian-inspired designs and she wanted to get her ideas down while still fresh.

“Can I borrow your velvet jacket, then?”


“Thanks.” Babs beamed, then nodded at Marianne’s papers. “Working again? You’re a real career girl!”

Marianne considered those words after Babs had gone. She didn’t see it that way. She hadn’t planned a career, it had just happened. Her architect father, Oliver, always made little models of the buildings he was designing, and as a child her favourite amusement had been “decorating” them. Which had led her to what she was doing now.

It was true she put long hours in, keen to prove that her growing reputation wasn’t just because of her family name. She had moved into the flat with Babs to further show her independence.

But she missed her parents, especially tonight, so putting her pad aside she set off on the fairly short walk to their house. Dreamed up by her dad all those years ago, it was still spectacular, but homely, too.

“We were just talking about you.” Her mother, Francesca, greeted her with a hug. “Did the solicitor help?”

“I’m sure he will,” Marianne replied.

She smiled as she thought about James. Different though he was to her other associates, she had felt she was leaving her problem in safe hands.

* * * *

“You were right about your shoe-seller,” James said to her a couple of weeks later, again in the gloom of his office. “A very awkward man! But I got him to cough up. The pop-singer chap, too, though that was easy. He had simply overlooked it. Said he was sorry, been very busy.”

Marianne nodded, admitting that the singer had phoned her to apologise for his oversight. He had also invited her to a party at his newly decorated house.

“A peace offering, I think.”

She was impressed about getting full payment from her other customer. James Jones might look mild, but she had the impression that underneath he was as strong as . . . what? For some reason the image of an oak tree popped into her mind.

“Yes, a bit of a heel really, your shoe chap!” James grinned, pleased with his little joke.

Marianne thought how much the smile changed his face. He was really quite handsome when he looked less earnest. He should have more fun, she decided.

“Would you like to come with me to that pop singer’s party?” she amazed herself by asking.

“Oh!” James looked surprised. “Em, well, yes, since you did the decorating of his house it would be interesting for me to see it. Perhaps useful, too, in our future dealings. Thank you,” he finished, the surprise on his face now changed to delight.

Marianne gave him the date and they made an arrangement to meet beforehand.

“I should tell you there probably won’t be many people there in suits,” she added as she got up to leave.

She didn’t want him to feel out of place.

“Right. Sports jacket and flannels, perhaps?” Then he smiled again – and once more she thought how nice he looked. “Ah, I see. Thanks for warning me. Probably something . . . trendier.”

He said the last word slowly, as though trying to see if it suited him.

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”.