Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 49

JESSICA rummaged for her phone which, as always, was right at the bottom of the big, red leather bag she’d bought in Italy.

“Oh, hi! Yes, that sounds good, I’ll meet you there.”

Concluding the brief conversation, she hoped she hadn’t sounded disappointed when she’d first answered the call and realised it was just her friend, Zoe. Her disappointment was not so much because it was Zoe, who’d been her friend since infants school, so much as because it wasn’t Ollie. A couple of weeks had passed and he hadn’t phoned. She suspected he was not going to.

Shame. She had liked him. But she was still pleased they had met, and especially that he’d come down to the bar to talk to her that evening.

Everyone thought of Jessica as a kind of butterfly – she was aware of that. And she supposed a part of her was. But there was another bit of her that would like a more settled course in life. By her age, her parents had been established in their medical careers, and her brother, though younger than her, was well along the road to qualifying as a doctor.

His decision had, actually, been a great relief to her. They didn’t go on about it, but she suspected her parents wanted one of them to follow in their footsteps. And, although people said she was kind and understanding, she didn’t think she was practical enough to be a medical practitioner. She flitted about from job to job, with nothing really keeping her attention. And yet, talking to Ollie about the art she’d seen in Italy, Jessica realised she had maintained an interest in that.

“The problem is,” she said to Zoe when they met up as arranged earlier on the phone, “I can’t draw for toffee!”

They were seated in the café of a local craft centre. Zoe, who had arrived first, rummaged in her bag.

“While I was waiting, I picked up some brochures, and I’m sure there was one about an art course.”

Jessica smiled. Zoe was one of those people who seemed quite unable to resist any leaflets lying around, and in summer in places like this there were usually plenty, advertising various attractions and venues.

“Yes!” Zoe had found what she was looking for and now read from it. “It’s called ‘Introduction To Aspects Of Art’ and it’s not just about drawing and painting. It covers, let’s see – art history, tools of the trade, framing, restoring old works . . . all sorts.”

Jessica had a look, too.

“One day a week for eight weeks, that’s good, not too long. And it’s in that new conference centre. Yes, I’ll make enquiries. Oh, I do hope there’s still room on the course, because it’s not long till it starts!”

*  *  *  *

“How did it go?” Jessica’s mum, Julia, asked her after her first day.

“Brilliant! I loved it!”

Her mum looked pleased, as did Marco, her father. The three of them were at the old pine table in the kitchen, where they always ate if they weren’t having guests. It was one of her parents’ few Rules Of The Household – if at all possible, they all sat down together for their main meal.

“Really interesting,” Jessica continued, “and next week we’re going to London for the day. To the National Gallery first and then the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.”

“How are you getting there?” her dad asked.

“A minibus most of the way, then a train for the last leg – you know, with London being so busy.”

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”.