Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 57

HEARING something dropping through the letter-box of her family home, Jessica hurried downstairs.

“I might have known,” she said as she picked up a leaflet advertising a meeting to update people on the progress with Two Shires Oak.

Another meeting! Over the last month the campaign had really gathered steam, and they were taking place not just in the hall of the village nearest to the old tree but also in other parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. There had been coverage in the local media.

As for Holly, the folk-singing girl, Jessica reckoned she was making the biggest difference by performing in hotels and pubs all over the area. Everyone seemed to have a copy of her CD – you could hear it being played in houses and cars everywhere.

Briefly Jessica wondered how all this was affecting Ollie. She hadn’t seen him since the night she’d told him she didn’t want to go out with him again. He no longer frequented the hotel and she suspected he rarely stayed in the area overnight any more. The drive back to London might be stressful after a busy day, but being up here couldn’t be comfortable right now, either!

She sighed, then pushed the matter out of her mind. Today was earmarked for different matters. Domestic matters. Her grandfather, Luigi, was coming over from Italy to stay with them. Her grandmother, Evie, and other grandad, Stan, were still in residence, but her parents, Marco and Julia, loved the house to be full. Her mum had gone to the airport to pick Luigi up, taking Evie and Stan with her, and Jessica had been assigned to sorting out the visitor’s room.

“So I’d better get on with it,” she scolded herself, going back up the stairs.

*  *  *  *

Jessica heard a car stopping outside. She had just finished stacking her grandad’s CDs on a shelf, in the hope that he’d play them up here rather than downstairs – they were all opera and Jessica couldn’t stand opera! Recognising the car as her mum’s, she was about to open the window and call down a cheery hello when the words died on her lips.

Her grandad was in a wheelchair. What had happened? And who was that young man with them?

Her questions had to wait until her mum, being her mum, got everyone round the big table in the warm kitchen, welcome after the cold outside, with a cup of tea and a slab of the flapjack her gran had made. Jessica’s grandmother was a great cook, though according to her mum that had not always been so! After the tragically early death of her first husband, Evie had been too busy running their transport business to spend much time in the kitchen. But now she was making up for it and had developed a particular affection for baking.

So it was with them all munching companionably that Jessica heard the story.

Luigi had been a stonemason before he’d retired, and had been very good at it, too.  So when restoration work started at an old church near where he lived, he went along to help out.

Jessica nodded. She knew the church from the time she’d spent in Italy. She also knew how tall it was.

“You didn’t go clambering up scaffolding and fall, did you?” she asked, frowning.

Luigi laughed.

“Nothing as dramatic! I was on my way there one day and a cyclist ran into me! I didn’t let you know, because you would worry, and it really is not bad.”

To Jessica’s relief, both her doctor father and nurse mother agreed with him that it didn’t appear serious.

Luigi confessed he had felt a bit daunted at the prospect of the journey.

“The busy airports, you know. And so Enzo . . .” he pointed to the young man “. . . whom I met when I was working at the church, as he was working there, too, said he would accompany me.”

Enzo took up the story.

“I had holidays due to me before the year’s end and I was thinking of coming to the UK anyway. I worked here once, and want to keep my language skills up to speed.” He put down his cup purposefully. “So I have delivered him, and now I will be on my way.” He smiled at them. A nice smile, Jessica thought, kind and genuine.

And those eyes, like brown velvet . . .

“Well, thank you for escorting him,” her mum said. “Where is it you’re actually spending your holiday?”

“I don’t know. I will just hire a car and go about. Tour, do you say?”

“Where are you going tonight?”

“I haven’t arranged yet. I will just look for a hotel, and then . . .”

“Oh, no, please stay here tonight,” Julia urged. “You must be tired.”

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”.