Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 46

THE farmhouse didn’t take long to sell and, in January, they moved. New year, new start.

Suzanne was excited. But when, on a cold and dark day, she had her first proper look at the house, she had reservations.

“It’s been a bit neglected,” she observed, now wondering if she’d done the right thing.

She supposed an estate agent would say it had “potential”, with three storeys and an outhouse at the back, but it needed a lot of work.

Grace and Phil, however, were undaunted.

“You won’t remember the farmhouse when we moved in, but that was a shambles. We got that right, and we will with this, too.”

Her parents, both with far more energy that she, duly set about haunting the local DIY merchant’s. But they clearly enjoyed the project. It was a happy household, and although the original idea had been that her parents would find somewhere for themselves nearby, Suzanne wouldn’t have minded if things stayed as they were.

One afternoon, she came home from the supermarket to find Phil measuring up the outhouse.

“I thought I’d use this as a studio,” he told her, “but it’ll need bigger windows, for more light.”

Suzanne was thrilled. She wrote to Tom to make sure he was OK with it, although she knew he would be. She finished her letter with, Obviously
there’s still plenty of room for you.

The plan was that he’d spend his free time there, to be with Holly.

There was plenty for them all to do, but Suzanne didn’t intend to depend on either Tom or her parents for ever. Her mind turned to earning a living. With her background, teaching looked an option, and in September she enrolled at a local college to get some of the basic qualifications she’d need to get started.

Most of the other students were just in their teens, but there was one chap about her age – Simon – attending some of the same classes.

“Can I join you?” he said to her one day in the canteen. “I feel ancient listening to them!” He pointed to the noisy young group at the next table.

Suzanne laughed.

“Yes, please do. We mature students must stick together!”

And that was how it started, with shared coffee breaks and lunches. Then evenings out followed. They went to see “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”.

He was introduced to Phil, Grace and Holly, who all liked him.

Suzanne was part of a couple again. But was that what she wanted? Tom was the past, in one sense, but was Simon the future? She wasn’t sure, but knew she needed to decide. Simon was a nice guy and he wanted to settle down. It would be wrong to be wasting his time.

Once before, she recalled, her father’s painting of Two Shires Oak had helped her to make a big decision. Now the tree itself wasn’t far away. She had visited it once, when she’d gone with her mother to look up Evie, only to find that Evie had moved away.

Suzanne made up her mind to take another drive out to the tree and see if it could inspire her again.

It being winter, there was no-one else around as she parked the car she shared with her parents and walked up towards the old oak. What was its magic, she wondered. It had something special – you could feel it.

Endurance. The word came to her. More than anything it stood for the ability to last.

She liked Simon, but she doubted they had that ability. She would tell him so.

Returning to the car, she passed a woman with a little girl of about Holly’s age. The child was singing in a language that wasn’t English. Italian, Suzanne decided. Were they Italian?

But just then the girl nearly tripped and the woman called her name.


When Jessica replied, it was in English, with a local accent.

Suzanne changed her mind. Likely they lived nearby and Jessica had learned the song, maybe while on holiday in Italy.

Would little Jessica meet with her friends under the tree’s boughs when she got a bit older, like Suzanne’s mother had met Evie and Francesca? She supposed so. A new generation would plot and dream beneath Two Shires Oak.

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”.