Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 59

“THIS tree, it has many friends.”

Jessica had been thinking about Enzo, and whether he had been going to kiss her, when her thoughts were interrupted by his voice.

They were all relaxing in the large lounge, and Enzo was looking through some CDs. He came upon the one by the folk-singer that her grandmother, Evie, had bought in support of the campaign.

Well, Jessica mused, at least it wasn’t one of her grandad’s operas!

“You’re right, duck,” Evie replied to Enzo. “It has many friends. But that man still won’t back off. He says his plans have been finalised and it’s not economic . . .” she mimicked Ollie’s southern accent “. . . to change them. Ooh, what I’d do to him!”

Julia nodded, but Jessica remained silent. It upset her, all the venom that was being directed from everywhere at Ollie.

She knew he wasn’t the uncaring monster people seemed to think.

Her honest belief was that he just didn’t realise how important the tree was to people. Perhaps there had been nothing like Two Shires Oak in his own life, and he thought everyone was just exaggerating to be awkward. Or something like that.

“This picture here, this is of the tree?”

Once again, it was Enzo speaking that brought Jessica back to the present. He had removed the insert at the front of the little box that contained the CD and held it out to Jessica. On it was a picture of the beloved old oak.

She hadn’t particularly looked at it before.

“Yes, that’s Two Shires,” she replied.

“It is a very nice piece of work. Reproduced from a painting? I wonder.” Enzo turned over the insert. “Ah, yes, from a painting. Here is the name of the artist.”

As he read it to them Evie let out a yell and looked so startled that her husband leaped up and hurried over to her.

“Are you all right, duck?” Stan asked, taking her arm.

“Yes, yes. But the artist, that’s Phil!” Evie turned to them all. “Phil, who married my old friend, Grace! They went to live in France, and we somehow lost touch with the passing of the years.”

“Phil? But I know him, too!” Jessica said, now taking the insert from Enzo. “They did live in France for a long time, he told me, but they’re back now. Phil was the teacher on that course I did over the summer, that’s how I know him. He lives out towards Manchester with his family.”

“Oh, goodness!” Evie was on her feet now and practically dancing in joy. “Have you got their address?”

“No, sorry. Not a phone number.”

Jessica saw the disappointment in her grandmother’s face. She seemed to slump. There must be something . . .

“Where’s the local telephone directory?” She got up to look for it. “There was another teacher who knew him well who lives nearer here. I think I know where.”

* * * *

Holly smiled at Grace, her grandmother. Although music was Holly’s chosen art, just for a moment she wished she had followed in her famous grandad’s footsteps. She would have loved to have captured in a picture the excited expression on Grace’s face.

It was so thrilling! The phone call, out of the blue, the previous night. And today Grace’s old friend, Evie, whom she hadn’t seen for years, was coming to visit.

“I think . . . yes, the car’s pulling in. They’re here!”

For the first time that morning, Grace left the chair by the window where she’d been watching and waiting, and hurried to the door to let them in from the cold.

With Evie was a young woman and young man. After much hugging between the old friends, and removing of thick coats, the pair were introduced.

The man, Holly learned, was a friend from Italy.

“Your English is very good,” she said to him.

“Ah, I once worked here for a while.”

Holly liked him immediately. She liked the look of Evie, too, who was just as her gran had described her.

“She’s straightforward – says what she thinks.”

Holly was particularly flattered, therefore, by Evie’s praise for her CD.

But the young woman, whom Evie introduced as her granddaughter, Jessica – “my girl Julia’s girl” – Holly was far more wary of.

For Jessica was also the girlfriend of the man who was intending to cut down Two Shires Oak!

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”.