Under The Streets Of London – Episode 54

“Niall tells me you’ve been working in the tunnel,” Eliza said to Will.

He nodded.

“I was glad to get the work.”

“Though it’s near crippling him,” Sophie said. “He’s not like Niall and Seamus, used to hefting girders around.”

“Sophie!” Will protested, embarrassed. “I’ll get used to it and I’m managing all right, aren’t I, Niall?”

“You certainly are. Up and down all day. It’s been tough this week too, what with the rupture.”

“Rupture?” Sophie asked.

Eliza swallowed. She knew a bit about this, for her office had been run off their feet all week trying to keep things calm with the papers.

One section of the tunnel, about quarter of a mile up from Violet’s aunt and uncle’s grocery shop, ran close to the River Thames and even closer to the brick sewer that kept the one-time Fleet River underground.

Construction works had weakened the walls of the sewer and during the storm there had been fears that it would burst and run into the train trench, potentially wiping away weeks of construction work.

Men had been drafted in from all over the works to stop that happening, but until now Eliza hadn’t realised they had included Niall. She bit her lip at the thought of the danger he could have been in, and young Will, too.

“Is it all right now?” she asked.

“Seems to be,” Will said, reaching gladly for a second sausage roll, but as Eliza looked to Niall she saw far less certainty in his handsome face.

“The engineering measures are working,” he agreed cautiously, “but all the rain weakened the ground and there’s a bit to go yet. Fowler’s been there every day, though, so I’m sure it will be fine. Shall we eat? It’s going to be tight around the table but we’ll manage.”

They did and had a wonderful time. Brigid had made a huge Irish stew that tasted delicious and Seamus produced a bottle of golden firewater he made them all try, to much spluttering.

The party was crammed in, for sure, but as they all chattered and laughed it didn’t seem to matter one bit. Eliza thought of all the stuffy dinners she’d had at home and couldn’t remember enjoying any one of them as much as she was enjoying tonight.

Then she felt mean. She loved her parents and sister and she loved her home, but right now she loved this funny little gathering every bit as much. Perhaps because she loved Niall . . .

The thought caught at her breath and for a minute she was lost, then, through the steam of the stew she saw his blue eyes resting on her with such care and concern and she told herself sternly to stop making comparisons, or over-thinking the future, and just to enjoy herself.

*  *  *  *

After they’d eaten, Seamus got out a tiny fiddle and played a run of wonderfully lively tunes and little Ciara jigged around them all until she fell asleep in a corner almost as suddenly as she’d started dancing.

Then Henry decided to take her place, coercing Violet into his arms to join him, though they bumped off the walls and chairs, endangering everyone with their enthusiasm.

Eliza laughed so hard she almost fell off her chair and then Niall leaped up and caught her and they were dancing, too, and Sophie was on her feet, dragging Will with her.

Seamus hastily moved the chairs into the little bedroom and Brigid swept Ciara away with them. For some little time they danced together, but then suddenly the Irish girl, clapping from the sidelines, cried out.

At first Eliza mistook it for encouragement for the wild dancers, but then she saw the pain in her hostess’s soft eyes and stopped dead so that Niall almost fell over her feet.

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”.