Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 33

IN London, the same song was playing from the room of Marianne’s flatmate, Babs.

“Babs, are you decent?” Marianne called.

Moments later, Babs opened the door, completely decent in a fringed suede skirt in the new midi length, but clearly startled when James Jones pushed past her into her room.

“I’ve lost that necklace of my mum’s,” Marianne explained to Babs, following him in. “The one made from the leaves from the tree where she used to meet her friends when she was a girl –” She broke off as James, on his knees beside Babs’s huge mirror, let out a triumphant cry.

“Here it is!” He held up the necklace. “I knew you definitely had it on when you met me to go to the party,” he explained to Marianne. “I saw it under your scarf. Then we came here to sort my attire out. You took your scarf off to give to me, and it seems the necklace came off with it!”

“Wonderful!” Marianne was genuinely grateful. She smiled at James. “I must take you out for a meal, to say thanks.”

“You don’t have to,” James protested, but then accepted and they set a date.

“I suppose it is just a thank-you, is it?” Babs said after James had left. “I mean, he’s not your type.”

Marianne knew what Babs meant. She’d told herself the same thing the evening before, at her client’s party. Still, she’d enjoyed the evening with him.

She enjoyed their meal together, too. He became her first choice to accompany her to the various functions to which she was for ever being invited – parties in houses for which she’d done the décor; reopening nights at restaurants that now displayed her special touch; gallery events held by her many artistic friends.

But she was aware that, as a couple, they did cause comment. From remarks she overheard it seemed everyone was of the same view as Babs. A trendy interior designer, like herself, and a frankly rather old-fashioned solicitor like James just didn’t match!

She raised it with her mum one afternoon, when they were out shopping. Winter was advancing and a cold wind blew. They were in a café, warming up.

Francesca smiled.

“I imagine people thought that your dad and I weren’t suited when we first met. He was so sure of himself, but I was painfully shy.”

“You? Shy?” Marianne gaped in disbelief at her mother, poised and beautiful as always.

“Yes. We’d not been in London long and I was lonely and miserable. I missed meeting my friends under the oak tree.” She frowned. “I got over it. But what about James? How does he feel about it all?”

Marianne was thoughtful now.

“I don’t know,” she eventually said.

That was the truth.

Soon after, she found out. With 1973 just a few weeks away, she bought a new diary. What would the new year hold? Oh, she had plans for her business. When James arrived at the flat to collect her for yet another party, she was scribbling away on the blank notes pages.

“I won’t be a minute,” she said. “I’m just jotting down some aims for next year.” She caught his expression. “Don’t you do that?”


Marianne continued looking at him.

“I suppose it’s different for you, working for someone else. Do you never think of setting up on your own? You’re good enough.”

“No!” he repeated with a grin. Then his tone became serious. “I’m not like you, Marianne. We’re not at all alike.”

His words returned to her later. So that answered her mum’s question. James was the same as everyone else in feeling they weren’t right for each other.

He always seemed happy enough to accompany her, but it was true that it was she who invited him out. She put it down to the fact that she was the one with the stream of invitations, but maybe it was more than that. Maybe she’d been dragging him along with her, when he hadn’t wanted to? Or he’d simply gone along because he’d nothing better to do.

Neither was satisfactory.

She didn’t contact him over the next week. And nor did he phone her. That spoke volumes, didn’t it?

Calling at his office a few days later to collect a contract he’d prepared for her, she explained she wasn’t going to be around much for a while.

“I’m going to be very busy with this.” She held up a contract for the total refurbishment of a large private house on the outskirts of town.


“So, see you around some time,” she said and hurried out.

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”.