Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 43

“THERE’S plenty of time to sort everything out – you aren’t going till the New Year!” Marianne said to her mum a few weeks later when she visited and found Francesca already packing things away.

“I know, but it’s amazing how quickly it will come round,” Francesca replied, “and I don’t want any last-minute hitches. Now, do you remember our friend, Tony?”


“I’ll reintroduce you before we go, because he’s going to come and live here while we’re away. It’s best someone is here to keep an eye on the place and send our post on to you.” Suddenly looking about 10 years younger, Francesca clapped her hands.

“Oh, I’m so excited!”

Entering into the spirit of the moment, little Ollie also clapped his hands and cheered. Marianne managed a little laugh but still fretted.

They finally got on their way in the middle of February, the day it was announced that sixpences would shortly cease to be legal tender.

“Everything will be changed when we get back,” Oliver joked, sensing her mood, she suspected, and trying to brighten her up.

But it only made her feel worse.

* * * *

 The phone call came just weeks later, when Marianne was at her office. As soon as their receptionist said it was David from her father’s firm she knew – in the same way that she just knew what would look right in a room – that this was what she’d been anxious about.

“Marianne?” He launched straight in, not bothering with opening pleasantries. “I and the new partners would like to discuss with you how the firm will be known and run while Oliver is away.”

“Why does anything need to be different?” she asked.

He didn’t answer her directly, merely repeated that he and the others wanted to meet her and have a talk. In the end, she said she’d call in and see them that evening on her way home. Ollie was staying over that night with James’s parents so it was a good opportunity.

She told David she’d be there about six o’clock, but left her office nearer five and set off to her father’s office. What had David meant about how the firm would be “known” in her dad’s absence?

Suddenly, nearly causing a collision with a woman walking behind her, she stopped, turned and cut down a back street leading on to quite a different main road . . .

“Is he in?” she asked Michelle, the receptionist at James’s office. As she spoke, she had a vaguely familiar feeling that she couldn’t place.

Moments later Marianne was sitting at the other side of James’s aged, ink-stained desk telling him about David’s call, and her fears that they were going to try to make changes, including even the firm’s name.

“There’s my position as well. Maybe they want to stop using me as design consultant on their projects and get someone else!”

James didn’t speak at first, just quietly listened, his grey eyes calm and thoughtful. That, too, rang a bell somewhere, but Marianne was too involved in her present anxiety to be dredging her memory.

At last he spoke.

“You needn’t worry. I drew up the new partnership agreements for your dad, and there is no way anyone can do anything sneaky while he’s away. They can’t change the name, either. Besides, they’d be fools to do so because the firm’s name includes Oliver’s, and he’s known to be a rare talent. The real thing.” He paused a moment. “David might have ideas, but when it comes to it, none of the others will back him. They’re just scared because Oliver isn’t here.”

There was another, longer pause.

“Just like you are, Marianne.”

“Me, scared? What are you talking about?”

The words of protest were on the tip of her tongue, but they got no further. Because it was true. Even though she’d never cashed in on his name, Marianne had been scared that her father wasn’t going to be around.


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”.