After seeing Fred before he had a chance to sneak back out on to the street, Ella had spent the next couple of hours trying to find him a place at a hostel and arrange appointments for him with the chiropodist, optician and G.P.
Putting down the phone after speaking to the local Health Centre, Ella was shocked to realise that it was two o’clock already. Just a quick call to Frank to let him know the good news then I’ll grab a sandwich to take back to the office, she thought selecting Father Frank’s mobile number on her speed dial.
‘Hi Frank, good news, I have managed to convince Fred to stay a couple of weeks in the Hostel in Kings Cross and have arranged appointments for all the services you suggested in your report’
‘Ella you are an angel. How did you manage to persuade him?’ asked Father Frank
‘You know me Frank, cajole is my middle name. The poor old chap didn’t stand a chance’. Ella laughed. ‘Sorry, I must rush, I’ve a meeting back at the office in an hour and I haven’t eaten yet today. It’s a wonder you can’t hear my tummy rumbling’
‘You’re going to make yourself ill if you carry on like this. Then how much use will you be to Fred and his pals. Why don’t I treat you to some lunch before your meeting? I am on the Pentonville Road now. I could be with you in 5 minutes, unless you fancy a quick half with your sandwich?’
‘That sounds great. I’ll see you in the Skinners Arms. If you get there before me I’ll let you stand me a half of Bitter.’ Ella smiled to herself as she gathered up her paperwork, I don’t know what I’d do without Frank, she thought, he’s the best friend a girl could have. He’s kind, thoughtful, good looking and there’s absolutely no chance of sex coming along to spoil it all.
Hurriedly making his way through the crowds on the Euston Road, Father Frank smiled at the thought of meeting Ella for lunch. It would be nice to see her away from work. The poor girl spends far too much time looking after other people, and not enough time looking after herself. It ‘d been ages since we’ve been for a drink together and we both deserved a treat for managing to get Fred off the streets, even if it was only for a couple of weeks.
The pub was busy with the usual lunch time crowd and the young priest decided that as it had stopped raining he would look for a table outdoors to wait for Ella. He was just settling himself down when Ella came around the corner into Judd Street.
‘Ella, I’ve managed to grab us a table out here and I’ve ordered some ham and cheese sandwiches. I hope that is OK?’
‘Perfect, an al fresco lunch before I’m closeted in a stuffy room with my boss for the rest of the afternoon, that’s just what the doctor ordered.’ Ella said with a sigh as she settled at the table.
‘What you need is a holiday. Why don’t go and see you folks out in Spain. I’m sure that your Mum could do with the support right now.
‘Oh Frank you must be psychic ‘I was thinking the same thing myself last night. I’m seeing my supervisor later today and I was going to ask her if I could have a couple of weeks off at the end of the month. ‘Said Ella as the waitress arrived with their sandwiches.
‘And maybe’ said Father Frank tucking into one of the sandwiches ‘you could take some time out for yourself while you’re there. Didn’t you tell me that you’ve always wanted to go driving up in the mountains? Well maybe you could do that as well.’
‘What a lovely idea and maybe if Dad’s back at work I could take Mum with me. I think a break would do her good as well.’
‘There you go again’ laughed Father Frank ‘always thinking of other people.’
‘No Frank, you’ve got me wrong. I’m being selfish, I could do with the company. I don’t fancy doing the trip on my own.’
‘’Don’t you have anyone special in your life at the moment you could take on holiday?’
Ella laughed ‘No, there’s no one special. The only men I get to meet are street people and they don’t take too many holidays.’
‘I suppose most of your clients are a bit too old for the 18-30 club scene’
‘Them and me both. No, all I need is a warm evening with the sun setting over the mountains and a cold jug of sangria.’
‘That sounds great, I‘m getting jealous now.’
‘Why, don’t priests go on holiday?’
Father Frank laughed at Ella’s obvious discomfort ‘Of course we do. Everyone needs to take a break now and again. I usually go fishing in Scotland. My parents have a summer house up in the Highlands. It’s very peaceful up there and just the place to recharge the batteries.’
‘Do you ever get the chance to go abroad?’
‘Now and again. I was in Rome a couple a couple of years ago and I’ve been invited to speak at conference next month in Madrid.’
‘How exciting, what are you speaking on?’
‘I’ll give you three guesses’ laughed the Father as he sipped his beer
‘The homeless?’ guessed Ella
‘You’ve got it in one. Listen I’ve just had a thought. If you are still on your travels when I’m in Spain why don’t you and your Mum come to Madrid for the conference? Don’t worry it’s not as stuffy as it sounds. The organisers have invited some very interesting speakers and maybe after the conference we could all spend a couple of days site-seeing in Madrid.’
‘That sounds great, I know Mum would love to meet you, Oh my gosh is that the time. I’m sorry I’ll have to rush can’t be late for my supervisor especially as I’m going to ask her for time off.’
Father Frank smiled as her watched Ella gather up her bags and run down the road. Madrid isn’t going to know what’s hit it he laughed.