Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 35

NEVERTHELESS, Marianne wasn’t sure how much even James would be able to do for her the next time they met. Looking at him across his desk in his office, she finished her tale of woe.

“Luc is now saying he won’t pay me and that he’s going to tell all his famous friends that I’m useless and that I’ve ruined his house! Well, it is a mess, but that’s because of all the changes he demanded!”

“Did you amend the contract, like I said?”

“No.” Marianne frowned. “I thought he’d think I was being obstructive, and that wouldn’t help anything.”

“It would have been easier to help you if you had.” James gave her a look. “As a lawyer, my advice is always to get anything important formally written down.”

“So there’s nothing we can do?” Marianne heard the panic in her voice.

“I didn’t say that.” His voice was mild. As always.

But suddenly she knew that, once again, he’d fight her case. And again the picture of an oak tree, strong and sheltering, popped into her head.

It wasn’t much more than a week after that he phoned her at the flat . . . to say Luc was paying in full and signing the job off as completed satisfactorily!

Marianne was thrilled. She would have been grateful to
get even part of the money owed.

“Fab! How did you do it?”

“Those two painters who helped you,” James said. “My mum wanted her living-room done for Christmas. I had remembered their name from their van and contacted them. Then, when this blew up, I asked if they had overheard you discussing your doubts with Luc. They had, and said they’d each give me a statement. So I was able to tell Luc we had independent witnesses to say you had advised against his changes, and that we would sue him.”


“I also mentioned that the way he was overheard bawling at you might, er, surprise some of his film stars, since supposedly he is all peace, love and calm!” He laughed. “Anyway, I must go. I’m late for a meeting, but I wanted to give you the good news.”

“Oh. Well, thanks, James.” Marianne put the phone down, wishing they could have talked longer. There were things she wanted to say to him.

Unless . . . yes! She took a sheet of paper. Anything important should always be formally written down, he had said.

She smiled as she added bits of legalese to her letter to him.

I hereby declare . . .

I solemnly swear . . .

It added a light, even humorous touch, which she thought was good since she didn’t know how he’d react. But the gist was clear.

I hereby swear and solemnly declare I’ve missed you. Very, very much.

When it was finished, she took it round to his office, asking the receptionist to give it to him when he came out of the meeting.

Returning to the flat later, after spending the afternoon at her father’s architectural office, she wasn’t surprised to see James outside.

“Hi,” he greeted her. “I got your letter.”

“OK,” she said, her attention now on one of her neighbours crossing the road. It was a thing she did in difficult situations – concentrating on something else, so it was almost like she wasn’t there.

“I’ve missed you too, Marianne, but, well, I was never sure what you saw in me. I thought you wanted to back off when you said you were going to be too busy to go out.” His voice brought her back.

“No! I thought that was what you wanted when you said you weren’t like me.”

“I’m not like you, in any way. But that doesn’t stop me loving you.”

Then she was in his arms and he was kissing her.

“Well,” she said, when they came up for air, “that felt important! But you said anything important should be written down. So why didn’t you write?”

“Because,” James said, smiling, “anything very important should be sealed in person.”

And he kissed her again.

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”.