Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 31

“WE’LL have Marco back tomorrow,” Frank announced a few days later.

“Back at work?” Julia was amazed.

“No! The leg’s a complicated fracture. He’s coming here for treatment.”

“I guess we’ll all have to visit and make a fuss of him!” Fay grinned.

And that was what happened. Walking past the little room in which they’d put Marco, Julia saw he had an almost constant stream of their workmates at his bed, all indeed fussing over him.

Though she’d wanted to phone and make sure he was OK, now that he was in the hospital she was one of the last to visit him. She didn’t know what it was that held her back. And when she did finally visit, the fuss she made was different from the others.

“You idiot!” she heard herself scolding as soon as they’d said their hellos.

“Wonderful bedside manner you’ve got!” he replied with a laugh. “Ouch, that hurt – I’ve cracked some ribs, too.”

Julia wasn’t amused. Here he was, making jokes. What if he’d been killed?

“You are an idiot! Going off like that without even wearing proper climbing boots! You’re reckless and far too sure of yourself, Marco, and they are not good traits in a doctor!”

She was shouting, and expected him to shout back. But when he spoke it was very quietly.

“I’m not sure of myself at all, Julia. Quite the opposite, I’m very unsure of myself. That’s why I push things, I suppose.” He paused. “But everything else you say is right.”

After that there was a change in him. She wasn’t the only one who noticed.

“He’s still self-assured,” Fay said when he was back at work with them, “but not as pushy now.” She grinned at Julia. “Maybe that’s your influence!”

Julia shrugged, not sure whether word had got out about her rant at Marco’s bedside, or whether she was referring to the fact that she and Marco had started dating. No long walks – Marco still wasn’t up to that – but they’d been to see “Fiddler On The Roof” and “The Godfather” together.

“I’d like to go out into the country again,” Marco said one evening.

“Well, I’m going home soon. It’s my mum’s birthday and there’s going to be a little party, if you’d like to come?” As soon as she’d asked, Julia wondered if she should have. Would he think she was taking things too seriously?

But he responded with, “Yes, why not?”

Changes to her shift pattern meant that Julia had only about three hours’ sleep before she and Marco had to set off in his old car. She dozed for most of the journey.

“Maybe it would have been better just to phone your mum and visit later?” Marco suggested when she finally stirred awake beside him.

“No, I want to see her. Family’s very important to me.” She broke off and twisted round in her seat. “See that tree? That’s where my mum used to meet her two childhood friends. One of them went to live abroad and the other rather posh one moved to London. She has a daughter, too – Marianne.”

Julia craned her neck for a last glimpse of the tree.

“Shall I stop so you can go and look at it properly?” Marco asked.

“Please.” She smiled. It was odd, she thought, how often he seemed to know just what she wanted.

But as they walked up to Two Shires Oak hand-in-hand, she was aware there was one thing she did want from Marco to which he never responded. Other than to say that he had no family, he would not talk about them, despite her prompting.

Standing under the tree, she looked at him. His dark looks were different from hers. More Mediterranean. And wasn’t Marco a Mediterranean name?

She decided to have another try.

“When you were a child . . .”

He cut her off.

“It’s the future I’m interested in, Julia, not the past.”

Was he hinting at a future with her? The thought thrilled Julia. That, she realised, was why his accident had affected her so badly – because of what he’d come to mean to her.

But the past affected the future. You could see it in the old tree. Reaching out, she touched it where a branch had been snapped off. Maybe by children playing under it, children who were less careful than her mum and her friends? However it had occurred, the scar would always be there. What the tree was now was the product of all that had happened to it.

She loved Marco. But she had to know – what was his story?

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”.