Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 48

OLLIE climbed into his Ferrari and managed to set off, but entering a town a few miles along the road he spotted a medical centre and pulled into the car park. His ankle was really quite sore. He should have it looked at.

Passing a bearded chap who was attending to flower-beds at the front, he went into the reception area where a stunningly pretty girl with very dark hair greeted him.

He started explaining about his ankle, but she interrupted him.

“Hold on, I’m not a doctor. My dad’s one, and my younger brother’s at medical school, and Mum is a nurse, but I myself have no such skills.” She laughed. “I’m the black sheep of the family, you might say! Just helping out with some admin.”

“Could I have a quick word with your father or mother, then?”

“Nope. We’re closed at present.  But if you want to wait, my dad should be along soon.”

Ollie sat down. The girl was a chatty sort and he learned that her name was Jessica and she’d been in Italy for a year, where her grandfather lived. She had loved it there, working in a succession of cafés, just wherever she could. She might go back, but then again, might not. Meantime, she was paying her way doing bits of office work for her dad, and a few nights a week in the bar of a local hotel.

He listened, spellbound. Not just because of her undeniable physical beauty, but because of her attitude, too. Most of the people Ollie mixed with were like him – ambitious and focused on their work. This girl’s more carefree approach he found enchanting.

“How is your ankle now?” she asked him after a while when there was still no sign of her father.

He examined it.

“The swelling has stopped and it’s not as painful. I probably don’t need to bother your dad.”

He stood up quite easily, then thought for a moment.

“I might stay up here overnight, though. I don’t want to be halfway down the motorway and find I can’t continue. This hotel you work at, is it OK?”

“Yes.” Jessica nodded and gave him directions.

*  *  *  *

Ollie had a light meal at the hotel, made a few phone calls and then, mid-evening, went down to the bar. Jessica was looking even prettier tonight, he thought, in a bright-blue dress and several strings of many-coloured beads. She looked up immediately as he entered. Efficient, he wondered, or had she been hoping he’d come down?

The bar was quiet and again they had plenty of opportunity to talk. Though a reserved man by nature, Ollie nonetheless found he told her a bit more about himself, and he was rewarded when she showed great interest in the architectural training he’d done.

“The buildings in Italy took my breath away. La Scala opera house in Milan, Florence Cathedral . . .” Jessica sighed and closed her eyes as though seeing them again inside her head.

“I don’t do anything like that,” Ollie told her with a smile. “Just ordinary houses. Nice houses, though.”

“And the art!” she interrupted, her eyes open now but with the rapt expression still on her face. “I saw some wonderful paintings.”

She fell silent, while he reflected sadly that someone like her would probably never be interested in ordinary houses, however nice. People like her wanted something in their lives that was as different and beautiful as they themselves.

She finally broke the silence.

“Ollie, I’m so glad I met you.”

His heart leaped, but then she continued.

“You’ve reminded me of just how much I enjoyed visiting the different art galleries in Italy.”

“And there was me thinking it was because of my charm and charisma!” he said ruefully.

“Well, there is that, too,” she said with another smile that was just for him.

At the end of the evening he turned to her.

“I may be up here quite a bit on business. If you’ll give me your phone number, maybe we could have a meal together next time?”

He didn’t elaborate on what was his interest in the locality, partly due to his natural reticence, and also because he was almost superstitious about talking about projects before they were properly off the ground. He preferred to play his cards close to his chest in the initial stages.

But Jessica didn’t seem curious anyway, and happily gave him the number of her mobile phone.

The following morning Ollie had another look at the land before setting off. He remained pleased with it, and on the drive back to London he pondered a likely name for the development. Sometimes there was an existing feature within the site to provide inspiration – an old church, say, or a bridge.

But on this occasion he decided that that way of thinking would be of no help. The fact was that, if he went ahead with building these houses, it was likely going to mean considerable changes to the landscape . . .

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.