Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 27

WHICH was more, Marianne suspected, than James had done with the clothes he was wearing when they met up for the party. Certainly he hadn’t tried them all on together!

“What do you think?” he asked anxiously.

“Individually, they’re all
fine . . .”

She took in his ill-matched attire of denim patchwork jeans, elaborate kaftan-like top, embellished suede jacket and curious-looking cap. Oh, and over the kaftan he was wearing an ordinary, woollen V-neck sweater. In case it got cold later, he confided.

“Yes, fine in themselves. But I’m not sure they work together.”

“I have to say I don’t feel entirely comfortable,” he agreed.

“Look, come to my flat. It’s not far.”

“This feels better.” In the flat, James stood back from Babs’s enormous mirror that she’d bought from a boutique that was closing, and nodded.

Marianne had got him to abandon the kaftan and just wear the V-neck jumper with the jeans. The fancy jacket, of paper-thin suede, was unlined and at her suggestion he turned that inside out, and had to admit that it did actually look OK.

“I’d leave the cap off, too,” she advised.

“But I was worried about my hair.”

“It’ll do.” Marianne stood on her tiptoes to give it a ruffle. She paused a moment, lips pursed. “But you look too plain now. I know!” Taking a brightly coloured scarf from round her neck, she threw it round James’s. “Perfect. Come on, it’s getting late.”

“The trouble I’ve caused you! You must wish you’d invited someone else with you,” he said as he ushered her into the taxi he’d hailed.

“Not at all.”

Marianne wasn’t just being polite. She’d enjoyed the time in the flat. Leaning back in her seat, she recalled the feel of his hair when she’d tousled it. Of his face when her hand had brushed against it as she threw her scarf round his neck.

She wouldn’t have thought he was her type at all, but she rather liked him. In some ways, he seemed quite hopeless. But nonetheless he’d sorted out her most difficult client with apparent ease.

Again, the image of an oak tree came into her mind . . .

The evening passed off pleasantly. James admired her handiwork in the house.

“It’s absolutely splendid – I mean, fabulous!” he shouted to her over the too-loud music as they danced together. She’d expected him to have two left feet, but in fact he was quite graceful.

Babs was peering out of the window when James left her at the door of the flat later.

“Mmm, he’s groovy!” Babs said.

Marianne smiled to herself. If only she’d seen him earlier!

“And did you have a nice evening?” her flatmate probed as they sat together in their tiny kitchen a few minutes later, eating toast. It was a joke between them that most people had toast in the morning, but they’d got into the habit of having a couple of slices and chatting before they went to bed.

“Yes,” Marianne said. “I did.”

*  *  *  *

How could two days, right next to each other, be so different?

Marianne shook her head in confusion. Yesterday, she had been so happy, but today . . .

Opening the door to James’s office she burst in, having been told by the receptionist that he wasn’t engaged.

“I’ve lost it, James! That necklace of my mum’s, with the leaves! I wore it for the party, I’m sure I did, but I can’t find it now! I’ve been back to the house, but it’s not there, and . . . I don’t know how to tell my mum!” The last words floated in the tears she could no longer hold back.

“Sit down.” James leaped to his feet and helped her into a chair. “And don’t worry. We’ll get it back.”

Marianne looked at him, into his calm grey eyes. And she knew that they – that he – would.

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”.