Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 55

OLLIE considered his reply.

“I haven’t finally made up my mind. Certainly this would be the best route by far for the new access road the development will require. But how do you know about any of that?”

Although Ollie now thought of Jessica as his girlfriend, he hadn’t said anything to her about the detail of his plans. That was how he was. Wary of tempting fate, perhaps? That was what his dad put it down to. James, himself a cautious lawyer, approved. Whatever the cause, Ollie never talked about future projects, even to his own family, until they were well off the ground.

“How do I know about it?” Jessica was laughing. “Ollie, clearly you’ve never lived somewhere like this. Everyone knows!”

Her laughter pleased him – she sounded more like “his” usual Jessica, but then she became serious again.

“People won’t like it,” she began, then she broke off to look at something over his shoulder.

Ollie turned and saw three people approaching the tree, a man and two women. One of the women left her companions and came on, alone, towards him and Jessica.

“See, I’ve done a dryad for you. They’re wood nymphs. Little sprites who live in trees.”

The voice in his head was that of his mother, Marianne! Since she was an interior designer, Ollie had slept in some wonderful bedrooms as a child, all lovingly decorated by her. The room he was thinking of at this moment had a mural on one of the walls showing a woodland scene. With her coppery hair and the moss-green knitted garment she was wearing, the woman now walking towards him reminded him strongly of the gentle fairy-tale creature his mother had called a dryad and had painted in the foreground of the mural.

“You’re the guy who’s bought the land?” the girl demanded, now standing just inches from him.

Gentle fairy-tale creature? Ollie began to have doubts.

“Why do you think that?” he replied warily.

“Just a feeling. But I’m right, aren’t I? Well, I warn you now, if you’re thinking of cutting down our tree you’d best be thinking again!”

Not once did she raise her voice as she spoke. That at least retained the image of the dryad. But at the same time, Ollie was aware she meant business. He caught and held her gaze, a tactic he’d learned to unnerve his opponents in the negotiations that were part of his professional life.

To his annoyance, on this occasion it was he who blinked first. She was aware of it, too. He saw it in her face as she returned to her friends.

“Who was that?” Ollie asked Jessica.

“No idea. But it’s like I was about to say. Feelings will run high . . .”

* * * *

Later, Ollie paced about his room at the hotel where Jessica worked. As it had turned out, he needn’t have been staying overnight, as the meeting that he’d driven up from London to attend had finished early.

He had booked a room, hoping to have dinner with Jessica, only to learn that she’d agreed to do an extra evening in the bar.

“We’re having music and the manager’s expecting it to be really busy,” she’d explained to him. “Come! It’ll be good.”

Ollie hadn’t intended to. The time could be better used catching up on paperwork. Except he couldn’t concentrate. Instead, he kept thinking about the confrontation under the tree.

Maybe listening to music might help him relax? Not rock, but a bit of jazz or folk might be OK. He decided at least to go and see.

It was folk music. As he went down the stairs, he heard a woman singing a song he thought he’d heard before somewhere. A poignant tale of separated sweethearts. But he had never heard it sung so well before. In fact, he had never heard anything sung so well before. There was something about her voice . . .

Entranced, he opened the door to the bar, then found himself frozen, unable to move. It was her! The tree woman!

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”.