Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 56

SHE was with the young man and the other woman again, Ollie noticed, all of them playing guitars, but it was she who was singing.

Regaining control of his limbs, Ollie was going to beat a retreat back to his room, but Jessica, from her position behind the bar, had spotted him in the doorway and was waving vigorously at him. Feeling he had no option, he stepped fully inside. The singer noticed him, too, he realised. He felt both her eyes and Jessica’s on him as she looked from the woman to Ollie.

The woman finished the song she was singing and spoke to the audience.

“Thanks for coming tonight. I’m Holly. This is a new song I’ve written,” she told them, “in honour of the tree we call Two Shires Oak. Most of you here will already know and love it, but if anyone hasn’t yet made its acquaintance I suggest you go now, right away, because there are plans to chop it down – unless we can save it!”

She paused for a moment to allow the concerned mutterings from the audience to die down, then continued.

“That’s what this song is about, saving Two Shires Oak. If you want to join our campaign, we have CDs of the song for sale, with all proceeds going to our cause.”

She started singing then, even more beautifully than before. Holly sang, Ollie thought, with real passion. Again he thought of leaving, but again it was as though he was transfixed by her voice.

The applause when she finished was thunderous, and he would have escaped then if Jessica, now on her break, hadn’t come over to him. With her was an older woman.

“This is my gran, Evie.” She introduced the woman to him. “She and my grandad – that’s my grandad from here, not the Italian one I told you about – are staying with us while they have work done on the house they’ve just moved into.”

“The wreck we’ve just moved into, it’s turning out to be!” Evie laughed, reached out her hand to take his, then added, “Nice to meet you, Ollie. Still, I’m glad we’re all here together to help with this campaign to save Two Shires.” She broke off and turned to look behind her. “Oh, it looks like that’s them selling the CDs now. I’ll just go and buy one.”

“I think,” Ollie said to Jessica, “I’m going to call it a day. I’m extremely tired.”

That wasn’t absolutely true. With all this going on, he deemed his chances of sleeping remote. But he felt the need to be on his own, to absorb all that had happened.

“I’m sorry. But I’ll make it up to you next time.” He smiled at Jessica. “We’ll do something special.”

“Ollie,” Jessica interrupted him, “I don’t think we should have a next time. In fact, I think we should call it a day.”

He looked at her.

“It’s the tree, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s not. That may have been a problem, certainly. I would have done my best to talk you out of it, no doubt about that. But it isn’t the main reason.”

As she spoke, she smiled and her wonderful, darkly mysterious eyes, those eyes he’d noticed her grandmother possessed, too, took on a knowing look. He knew there was no point in trying to dissuade her. She would laugh to hear him say it, but beneath her flippant exterior there was something very wise about Jess.

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”.