Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 39

“A JOINER we had in has realised he’s left some tools,” Alison explained to Julia. “He’d like to collect them over this weekend. If I leave you a key, would you let him in, please?”

“Of course.”

“Poor thing,” Julia said to Marco when Alison had gone. “It must be awful. Honestly, Steve’s a rotter.”

“We can’t say that,” Marco said. “When relationships break up, well, it’s often very tangled. Things aren’t always as they appear.”

Julia nodded. It was true. She was aware that she tended to react emotionally, whereas Marco was more reasoned in his responses.

Julia had just sat back down when the door went again. This time it was her mum, Evie, who went straight over to the pram.

“Oh, she’s sleeping!” Evie was disappointed.

Julia smiled. That was another reason she and Marco had been so pleased when he got this particular job. Evie and Stan, Julia’s lovely stepdad, lived no distance away. With Jessica having no grandparents on Marco’s side, it was good that she’d see a lot of this pair.

“I can’t stay,” Evie said. “I just came to drop in this old nursing textbook that you wanted to show them at work, Marco.” She handed him the tattered volume. “Just be careful with the leaves that are pressed inside, won’t you? They’re the ones I took from Two Shires all that time ago and they’re getting old and flaky.” She laughed. “Like me!”

“Not at all!” Marco laughed, too.

Julia, who really could have done without their chatter as the tennis match reached its climax, was nonetheless pleased to hear her husband and mum together.

Even so, when Evie had departed, Marco said, “I’ll just have an hour in my study,” and promptly disappeared into the little room he’d claimed as “his”.

That Marco was every bit as happy with their life as she was, Julia did not doubt for a moment. But it did seem he needed more time to himself than some people. She suspected it was to do with his unhappy past. Just sometimes – and it was only occasionally these days – there was the same closed-off quality about him that had been there all the time when they’d first met.

A ghost still walked, even if only on tiptoes now . . .

Her thoughts were halted by a little sigh from the pram. Julia went across to check on her little girl. Jessica was awake now, but just lying quietly. As though pondering some great universal mystery, Julia thought with amusement.

She was about to pick her up when the doorbell sounded yet again.

“It’s like Piccadilly Circus today!” she told Jessica. “Who’s that now? Alison’s joiner, I bet. You just stay there another minute. I won’t be long.”

A grey-haired man was standing on the step when she opened the door.

“Is Marco in?” he asked, in a voice so soft she could only just hear him.

“Yes.” Julia hesitated a moment. “He is, but who are you?”

And yet she knew. Impossible though it was, she knew, even before he opened his mouth what he was going to say.

“His father. I am Marco’s father.”

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”.