Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 50

“HECTIC” would have been a better word than “busy”, Jessica decided as, with the rest of her group, she pushed her way through the crowded and swelteringly hot city streets. They had been to the National Gallery and were now on their way to the Royal Academy.

“Might you have been better in more sensible shoes?” Phil, one of the course tutors, asked her with a smile as she stopped to try to render her high-heeled strappy sandals a bit more comfy. “London always goes for your feet.”

“These are my sensible shoes!” she said, smiling back at him.

Phil was her favourite tutor. With his beard and wide-brimmed hat he looked like a real artist, and she knew that he was actually a very good painter, with a fine reputation. He had lived in France for years, but she believed he was now staying out somewhere towards Manchester with his family.

Her deliberations were interrupted by someone behind calling her name. It was not one of the group – they were all now ahead of her. She turned.


“What are you doing here?” he asked after they’d exchanged hellos and he’d explained his office was just a few streets away.

“On a day trip.” She gave him more details.

“Well, I’m glad I’ve seen you,” he said when she’d finished. “There have been lots of delays with this new deal I’m trying to arrange in your area. But it seems to be moving now, and I’m going up there this evening. Will you be back by then?”


“How about that meal we talked about?”

Jessica wasn’t sure. She wanted to, but the way the invitation appeared to have been prompted solely by this chance meeting troubled her.

“You never phoned like you said you would,” she said, speaking aloud her thoughts before she could stop herself.

“I did. Or I tried to, this morning. I was intending to have another go before I set off.”

Jessica wasn’t sure whether he was just making this up. But she had switched her phone off before going into the National Gallery. Now, when she looked at it, she saw that she had missed a call.

“Yes, I’d love to have a meal tonight,” she replied. “All this walking – I’ll be ravenous!”

They fixed a time. Then, realising he’d be arriving quite a bit before Jessica, they arranged that he would collect her from the Royal Academy and she could drive up with him in his car rather than return in the minibus.

“Hey, you didn’t tell me it was a Ferrari,” Jessica said later when she climbed into the luxury vehicle. “Wow!”

Imagining that, with a car like that, he must normally eat in all the best London restaurants, she wasn’t sure where to suggest they dine that evening. There was nothing particularly special near where she lived. But he seemed more than happy with the little place that her family often went to for celebrations; indeed, he seemed to her to be enjoying the evening hugely.

That was good, because she was enjoying it, too. Having said this, even if she hadn’t bumped into Ollie she would still have considered this to have been a brilliant day. At long last she had a feeling of her life becoming more focused. Seeing all the wonderful paintings had strengthened the idea she’d had about working in the art world, and for the first time in her life Jessica believed she would be prepared for the long slog of gaining qualifications.

None of that reduced the pleasure of seeing Ollie, she thought as they walked out into the warm, fragrant evening after the meal. That, too, played a big part in her new mood. After all, it hadn’t just been a suitable job that she’d not so far found, she had never yet met a man who she could envisage becoming important to her, either. But with Ollie, maybe that, too, was about to change?

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”.