Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 30

“I JUST love weddings!”

At the pay-phone in the social club of the hospital, where she was training to be a nurse, Julia heard the eagerness in her mother Evie’s voice.

“Honestly, Mum! Emily Nugent and Ernest Bishop in ‘Coronation Street’? It’s not real, you know!” She laughed. “Oh, there are the pips, I’ll have to go.”

Still grinning, Julia replaced the phone. She teased her mum about the TV soaps she watched. But she was pleased that Evie now at last had time to relax.


She turned to see Marco, one of the junior doctors, coming towards her.

“Are you doing anything next Sunday?”

Julia felt her eyes widen in amazement. Marco was the one all the girls liked, with his gypsy good looks, hair and eyes even darker than her own.

And didn’t he know it! That was Julia’s opinion. To her mind, he was too conceited by far.

So why, then, was her stomach now doing somersaults?

“Next Sunday? No, I’m not doing anything.”

“Good. I’m trying to form a hospital walking club, with next Sunday as our first trip. Just into Derbyshire, since it’s on our doorstep. So if you’re free –” He broke off, looking closely at her, then smiled a slow, knowing smile.

Julia felt her face redden. He’d guessed, no doubt, that she had thought he was asking her out. Oh, what a fool she was! He wouldn’t have chosen her anyway – there were far more glamorous female staff. Fool, fool!

As Sunday approached she considered not turning up. But that might make her misunderstanding more obvious. So in the end she went down to the mini-bus that Marco had hired and would be driving.

*  *  *  *

“So beautiful,” Marco said when, after they had walked for a good couple of hours, he at last announced they should stop to eat their packed lunches.

That was how it was. It was his idea and he was very much in charge.

Too confident for his own good, Julia thought again, half wishing he’d go and eat his sandwiches beside someone else.

They had climbed quite high and Julia looked round at the surrounding dales.

“Yes, beautiful,” she agreed. “I like living in the town, and I have to for my training, but I do miss this.”

“You’re local?”

“Not too far away. Nearer the border with Nottinghamshire. What about you, are you from round here?”

Marco didn’t answer her question, seeming more interested in finding out about her. She told him how her father, Alan, had died when she was just a tot. How her mum had worked incredibly hard to keep their little business going.

“Now she has remarried, to one of our drivers, and she finally has the time to relax and watch soaps on telly, and that’s just great.”

“I’m sorry about your father,” Marco said. “I know what it’s like to lose a parent when you’re young.”

Julia saw a flash of pain across his face and felt a surge of sympathy. With anyone else, she might have touched their hand or arm. But not Marco.

The walking club’s next outing was a few weeks later. It was the Lake District this time, and tougher terrain than that first trip. Work in a busy hospital kept one fit, but all of them were soon feeling pretty exhausted.

“The way you have to walk with such care – that, in itself, is tiring,” Julia said to her friend, Fay.

“Doesn’t seem to bother him.” Fay pointed to Marco who was bounding on ahead. “Look at him – he’s like a mountain goat.”

Ahead was a rocky outcrop around which the rest of them intended to detour, but he was climbing up it.

“He only has plimsolls on, too, not proper boots. Oh, no!”


They all watched in horror as he came plunging down to the ground from near the top of the outcrop.

“Let me look at him,” someone said as they crowded round his prone body. “Give me some space.”

Everyone moved back except Julia. She had taken Marco’s hand and he wouldn’t let go. He was conscious, alternating between moaning softly and yelling out. They all had their medical training but no equipment to make an accurate diagnosis. Cuts and bruises were plain to see. A broken leg was suspected. That there might be internal injuries was a troubling possibility.

“There was a farmhouse not far back,” Fay announced. “We’ll get them to phone the emergency services.”

An ambulance was called and was able to get close enough for Marco to be taken to it on a stretcher, and from there to a local hospital.

“We’ll have to let his parents know,” Fay said.

“He hasn’t any family,” a chap called Frank, who seemed to know Marco best, said. “I’ll keep in touch with the hospital and make sure he’s OK.”

Julia would like to have phoned herself, and more than once she was on the point of doing so. But since Frank was delivering a daily bulletin on Marco’s condition, it seemed unnecessary.

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”.