A Time To Reap – Episode 41

A Time To Reap

June put a sleeping Sadie in her pram and lifted it over the back doorstep. She pulled the hood up and fixed a net in front of it in case of insects.

Today, she was going to paint their kitchen cabinet. It needed smartening up.

Both she and Tam hoped that the rumour about Lady Annabel selling up wasn’t true – or if it was, that the estate would be bought by someone who would keep all the staff on.

Propped up on the kitchen table was the script for the SWRI drama, “For Love Or Money”. As June drew the brush up and down the doors of the cabinet she muttered her lines to herself.

Peggy was right – she did have a lot to say. But, with Tam’s help, she was almost there. His rendering of the other characters’ lines had reduced them to helpless laughter, but at the end of next month the SWRI would start up again and rehearsals would begin in earnest.

It was some time before June realised Sadie must be awake. There were chirruping sounds coming from the pram – and a springy noise, as if someone was rocking the pram handle up and down.

“Tam? Is that you?”

June laid the brush down carefully and crossed the kitchen to the back door.

Outside, holding on to the pram, was Mrs Duncan’s daughter, four-year-old Flora. She was alone.

“Flora! What are you doing here? Does your mummy or your granny know where you are?”

Flora shook her head.

“I walked all by myself.”

“Stay there. You can rock the pram again, if you like.”

Inside, June flew to the phone. The estate numbers were on a pad. She dialled the farmhouse. No reply.

She ran outside again.

“Would you like to push the pram, Flora?”

She removed the net, took down the hood and propped up Sadie, gummily smiling, on her pillow.

“Look, Sadie’s pleased to see you,” she said, anxious to hold on to Flora until she delivered her safely back.

Flora steered the pram round to the front of the house and out of the gate. Isa was in her front garden, pulling up weeds in a desultory fashion.

She never usually showed much interest in gardening, so it was clearly an excuse to see what was going on.

As June and Flora passed her gate, Isa stood up and put her hand to her back in an exaggerated fashion.

“Taking her home?”

June was going to pass by without a word but Flora stopped to beam at Isa.

“I’m pushing the pram!”

“I saw you going past a few minutes ago, you little madam. Did you run away from your granny?”

“I wanted to see the baby.”

Just then her mother ran round the corner.

“Oh, thank goodness. You little monkey! You’ve given your granny and me a dreadful fright.” Elizabeth grabbed Flora and hugged her. “You must never, never do that again. Promise?”

“A good spanking, that’s what she needs,” Isa put in.

June could see Elizabeth literally biting her lip in an effort not to retort.

“Come into the house, Mrs Duncan,” she urged.

“I must tell my mother-in-law – ”

“We can phone. She may have gone back home to see if Flora’s there.”

This time Tibbie answered and sounded very thankful when June told her Flora was safe and with her mother.

June took Sadie out of the pram and asked Flora if she’d like to hold her. But her mother frowned.

“Not today, Flora. You’ve been a very naughty girl. I must get back to work – the vet’s here to see Bonnie Boy. At least he was, until he set off to look for you.”

Elizabeth looked up.

“Is Isa still there?”

June peered out.

“She must have gone inside.”

“I hope you don’t believe everything she tells you,” Elizabeth begged.

June wouldn’t repeat Isa’s scandalous stories, some of which concerned Mrs Duncan’s own family. But she wished to alert her to some gossip that Isa would likely be spreading about Tam and herself.

“You may hear some news about us, about Sadie. I’d like to tell you myself, rather than you get Isa’s half-baked version.”

She told Elizabeth briefly about the photograph Isa had seen, that clearly showed June could not be Sadie’s natural mother, and about the baby’s adoption.

Elizabeth gave her a hug.

“If I hear one word about this that I can trace back to Isa, I’ll have something to say to her.”

June shook her head.

“Actually, I feel better for telling you! It was bound to come out. Let Isa do her worst. She’s a poor soul.”

“That’s generous of you.”

Elizabeth reached for Flora’s hand.

“I’m sorry you had your morning disrupted. Now, miss, let’s get you home. I can’t imagine what Granny Tib is going to say to you!”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.