Blackberry Lane – Episode 03


HALFWAY down a narrow farm lane, overlooking nothing but fields of grain and beet and corn, stood an old farm cottage.

Although it looked forgotten by the rest of the world, to Archie Sims it was the place he called home. Not that the farmhouse wasn’t like a home to him – he ate there, could wander in and out at will, and was treated as family. But this little cottage was his and his alone, somewhere he could have privacy and do as he liked. When the Proctors had given it to him it had been standing empty for some time, and was sadly run down. Over the last few years he’d done what he could to make it comfortable.

Archie’s mornings always began in the same way. Attuned to the rhythms of day and night he would wake naturally and know that it was time to get up.

Striding up the lane purposefully, a torch lighting his way, he’d make straight for the cattlesheds. The animals knew his routine as well as he did, and would be standing at the gate waiting. As he approached they’d begin to low in anticipation, knowing that he would bring relief to udders heavy and aching with milk.

He’d then drift over to the farmhouse. Kate would be there, and more than likely Ted would have gone out to start his work for the day. She would never allow Archie to join him until he’d had a mug of tea, and a slice of toast with butter and jam.

It would be dark by the time he saw his own little cottage again.

****

January, 1940

The back door burst open and Raymond bustled into the kitchen. Dumping his gas mask on a chair, he shrugged off his overcoat and hung it on the hook behind the door.

“I’m home,” he called out.

Jeanie came through.

“Hello, love, how’s your day been?”

“Not bad.” He plonked a kiss on her cheek. “Dinner smells good.”

“I’ve made a nice stew. Boys, teatime! Put your things away and come down.”

Ray eased himself into his seat at the kitchen table.

“Saw another accident today up at the junction. Some bloke got sent flying off his bike. He had one o’ them little lights on the back, too. This ruddy black-out’ll kill us all without Hitler lifting a finger at this rate.”

“Mmm,” she agreed. “I tried to buy some new batteries for our torches today, but Clarence’s had run out. I had to travel all the way into town before I could find some.”

Raymond glanced up at her searchingly.

“See anyone in town?”

“No.” Her shoulders tensed under his scrutiny.

Their conversation was interrupted by Russ and Marty arriving in the kitchen.

Jeanie set plates of steaming food in front of first Russ, then Marty, before bringing her own plate to the table and sitting down.

Raymond again shot an enquiring glance at her.

“Anyone been round?” he asked.

She sighed inwardly.

“Daphne popped in,” she said. “Wanted to let me know how her Brian got on.”

“Did she? What was the verdict then?”

“He’s being conscripted on to a farm up north. Seems he’ll spend his war working on the land.”

Ray and Jeanie had moved in next door to Daphne, Ernie and their family soon after they married. Daphne’s son, Brian, was of an age to fight, but had applied for exemption on religious grounds.

“Got let off too light, if you ask me.” Raymond snorted. “He should be locked up − all them Conchies should.”

A sudden movement from Ray made her jump nervously. He had turned his attention to Marty.

“Hold that fork properly,” he barked.

Oh, heavens, here we go, Jeanie thought. A hard knot of tension formed in her stomach.

Marty was trying to position the handle of the fork in his hand. He made no sound, but a tear rolled down his nose and dripped on to his plate.

Jeanie could sense Ray about to explode again and she acted swiftly. Making a pretence of reaching out for her drink, she jerked her hand and knocked her glass over.

Water ran along the tablecloth, oozing under Ray’s plate and dripping on to his lap.

“Oh, sorry, love!” she cried out.

“Can’t you be more careful?” His eyes were turned on her like daggers.

Russ understood only too well that this was his cue. Grabbing Marty’s hand, he dragged his little brother after him, and they beat a hasty retreat while their dad’s attention was diverted.

Happy that her sons had left the room, Jeanie turned to her husband and prepared herself for the harsh words she knew would come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!