Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 61

“THE problem,” Jessica’s mum, Julia, said, “is going to be tracing Francesca.”
Jessica and her gran, Evie, had arrived home full of the startling news that Ollie, the developer with intentions of cutting down Two Shires Oak, was almost certainly going to turn out to be the grandson of Evie and Grace’s old friend, Francesca.

“You’ve no idea where she is, Mum,” Julia continued, nodding at Evie, “and you say Grace hasn’t, either?”

“No, we all eventually lost touch.” Evie looked despondent, but then brightened again. “Oh, Julia, it was wonderful seeing Grace again. At least we’re back in touch now, and if we could find Francesca that would be the three of us together again.”

She turned to Jessica.

“You said you have a phone number for Ollie, duck?”

“Yes.” Jessica nodded. “He normally contacted me, but I will have his office number somewhere. He gave it to me that time I bumped into him in London when I was there doing the art galleries with the summer school. I’ll go and look now.”

After a rummage through her many handbags – she’d always felt you couldn’t have too many, but now she wasn’t so sure! – she finally found it and hurried back downstairs.

“Right, I’ll tell him I recently happened to meet an old friend of his grandmother’s, which is true, and will he ask his gran to phone Grace.

“I’ll say Grace and not you,” she explained to Evie, “because he’s met you already and knows your feelings about the tree.”

With even her mum now filled with hope and chattering excitedly in the background, Jessica called Ollie’s office.

He wasn’t in.

“But I’ve left a message with his PA for him to phone me right away,” she told the others.

“Will she pass it on? Does she sound efficient?”

“Oh, yes, terribly efficient.”

Jessica awaited his call, realising she was more eager to hear from him than she’d ever been when they’d been dating.

She had liked him, yes. But maybe it was as well things had turned out as they had. No point in them prolonging a relationship that she now believed would never have led anywhere. It hadn’t been the real thing.

*  *  *  *

He didn’t call her back! She phoned again, a couple of times, and left further messages with his PA woman, which she was assured would be passed on.

But still no response.

Then, at last, her phone did ring. But it was just Holly, after an update.

Jessica explained what was happening.

“Probably he hasn’t been back to the office. And it’s late now, so I guess it might be tomorrow.”

“You haven’t got a mobile number for him, or his home number?”

“No, just his office. I’ll try again tomorrow, but I’m driving Enzo to the airport. My grandad’s here till Christmas but Enzo has to be back in Italy.”

“Give me the office number and we’ll keep trying it here, too,” Holly offered. “I suppose you’ve tried Directory Enquiries for his home number?”

“Yes. He seems to be ex-directory. As does his grandmother.”

Jessica tried Ollie’s number again several times the next morning. But it was the same thing – his PA saying, increasingly impatiently, that she would pass the message on to him “as soon as I possibly can . . . as I’ve already told you.”

Then Jessica started having trouble even getting to speak to his PA.

“I’m sure the receptionist has been told to fob me off,” she fretted to Enzo.

“Just calm down,” he said. “It is not like you, Jessica, to be fraught.”

It wasn’t! But she felt totally rattled, and not just about the tree. It was Enzo’s last few hours here and she had wanted it to be a good memory for him, with them all having a leisurely, laughter-filled breakfast together. Instead, it had been everyone asking whether she had managed to speak to Ollie yet.

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”.