Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 63


OLLIE did not want it still hanging over him next year. By getting it done now, with Christmas fast approaching, people would be busy, have other things on their minds and forget about it more quickly.

Yes, this was the time to do it, he was sure.

He’d reached his car by now. But before getting in, he took out his mobile phone to call his office.

“Hi, Sarah, I’m on my way back. Any problems?” he asked his PA.

“No problems,” Sarah confirmed. “Or, at least, nothing unexpected. I’ve had loads of calls from the group protesting about the tree, wanting to speak to you. They don’t say that’s who they are, but I know it is them, because when I got the first call I could hear someone talking about it in the background.”

“Lots of calls?”

“Gosh, yes! The first woman, and another who also sounded young, must have phoned twenty times each. Then there’s a man who has been calling, and a woman who sounded older – posing as an old family friend, would you believe, and asking for home phone numbers! I’ve fobbed them off but it’s very wearing, Ollie!”

He held the phone away from his ear while Sarah ranted on loudly. He felt considerable sympathy for her.

His PA did an excellent job for him and was normally not at all the type to complain. This business over the tree was definitely causing her stress and wasting her time, too.  Definitely he’d done the right thing in arranging to get the tree out of the way, literally, today!

He told Sarah to relax and not to worry, said goodbye to her and was just about to get in his car when his mobile phone rang.

He thought it would be Sarah again, but it was the foreman of the contractors he’d hired, sounding even more stressed than his PA had moments earlier!

“Will you come to the tree? Yes, now, right now, quick as you can . . .”

* * * *

Holly took a break from singing to accept the burger in a bun that a man, whose name she didn’t know, kitted out in a knitted hat, two scarves and a thick, quilted coat, was pushing into her hand.

“There you are, love,” he said. “I haven’t put mustard on because I didn’t know whether it would interfere with your voice.”

She didn’t quite follow his reasoning, but she thanked him very sincerely for his kindness. Earlier, she’d been given a cup of soup from another stranger’s flask, and tea and coffee were constantly being passed to her, too.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, she laughed. Then, finishing the burger, she started singing again, with those who weren’t eating or drinking joining in with her with gusto.

This was, she was sure, the strangest performance she’d ever given. Beneath the beloved oak, bare of leaves now in the cold December day, she reckoned it possible there were close on a hundred people here with her. And intending to stay till the end – that was clear from the extent to which they’d come equipped.

But, then, it had been a pretty strange day from the start . . .

“That was my Friend With Connections, the one who first told us Two Shires Oak was under threat,” her grandad, Phil, had announced after he’d taken the phone call that had come for him that morning. “He now says it’s going to be cut down today!”

Luckily, they were all still at home and the family had immediately set about hurriedly calling everyone who’d given their support to the campaign to come out to the tree.

With the weather forecasters mentioning the possibility of snow, Holly hadn’t known how many would turn up. But she was very satisfied with the turnout.

When the workmen had arrived and started advancing with their tools there had been a sufficiently large crowd, all singing, gathered protectively round the old oak. The men had had no alternative but to retreat.

Nevertheless, they hadn’t actually left, simply backed off, and Holly had noticed one of them, who seemed to be in charge, using his mobile to make a phone call. To contact Ollie?

Hearing a sudden new noise, she turned her head to look towards the road, and there was Ollie himself, running towards them.

After that, everything seemed to happen at once.

Jessica appeared in the distance, also running.

Their confidence presumably boosted by Ollie’s arrival, the workmen started moving again towards the tree.

Led by Holly, the crowd sang louder still.

“Wait!” Holly heard Ollie yelling to the men. “Stop!”

Moments later, the word came again.

“Stop!”

She thought it an echo, then she saw it was someone else calling to the workmen.

A large car had pulled up, and an elderly woman was climbing out of it.

“Do not touch that tree!” the newcomer continued to command the workmen, though they were now departing anyway.

“Gran!”

Holly stopped singing, shocked to hear Ollie greet the woman this way.

Then suddenly there were more cries. Cries of joy.

Evie and Grace, from their positions round the tree, had recognised Francesca.

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”.