Blackberry Lane – Episode 06

THE girls sat silently as they took in their first sight of the farmhouse. It was large compared to any houses they’d lived in previously, and the wisp of smoke which drifted from the chimney pot promised warmth inside.

Clambering from the back of the cart, they hauled their cases down and made for the door.

“Just go straight in,” Amos called after them. “Mrs Proctor’s expecting you.”

They entered a large square porch, its walls hung with a jumble of coats and its floor lined with wellington boots.

Kate popped her head round the inner door, beaming a smile of welcome.

“Hello, dears, welcome to Hollow Farm. Come on in to the warm, and take your coats off. How was your journey?”

For the first time the girls smiled. You couldn’t really do anything else in the face of such a cheery welcome.

“It wasn’t bad, thanks,” Stella replied, shrugging her coat from her slender frame, and removing her beret to reveal a striking head of silky hair.

“We had to stand first half,” Maureen supplied chattily, “but the crush thinned out as we got more this way.” She was shorter than her friend, and fuller figured, with mischievous eyes.

Kate beckoned to the girls to sit down, and arranged milk, sugar and mugs on the table. Plonking the heavy teapot alongside, she took a seat and began to pour slowly.

“So,” she said, “you thought you’d do your bit by working on the land. Do you like the outdoor life then?”

Stella shrugged.

“Dunno. Never tried it before.”

“Oh, my!” Kate said. “Well, you are brave. I dare say you’ll pick it up quick enough. Ted and Archie will soon show you the ropes.”

“Who are Ted and Archie?” Maureen enquired with interest.

“Ted’s my husband,” Kate replied with a fond little smile, “and Archie’s our young farmhand.”

Both girls’ ears pricked up. So there was a young man working on the farm! That could make things more interesting.

“How how old is he?” Stella asked.

“Archie? Oh, he’s nearly thirty now.”

The girls looked at each other and smiled.

Maybe life out here wouldn’t be so bad after all.


Raymond sat on the end of the bed and clutched Jeanie’s hand.

“What am I going to do?” he asked in a low, hoarse voice. “I don’t think I can go through with this.”

Ever since Ray had received his call-up papers, she’d been aware of his mounting anxiety. It had been quite a good period for her, because with him feeling vulnerable and insecure he had changed completely.

Far from lashing out with cruel words as he usually did, he’d turned to her in the hope that she could sort everything out and make his worries go away.

“It’ll be all right, you’ll see,” she said, resting a hand on his shoulder in a comforting gesture. “I bet it won’t last long, and you’ll be home before you know it.”

She knew she was just paying lip-service, saying what she thought Raymond wanted to hear. In a way she was glad that he’d been called up. It often amazed Jeanie that Ray didn’t realise how she felt about him. He seemed to think that she’d love him, simply because he was her husband. It didn’t occur to him that the way he treated her and the boys had long since killed any affection they might have felt for him.

When Jeanie had left school she’d become a hotel chambermaid at the Stag, earning a decent wage and sharing a room with a couple of other girls. It could have been a good life − if she’d just been smarter.

The trouble was, Raymond Pryce had been a porter at the hotel.

He’d since told her, with a self-satisfied air, that he’d seen her on her first day at work and had known immediately she was the one for him.

Of course, Jeanie now realised, he must have seen how green she was − what a little innocent. He’d turned on the charm, and she’d been hooked. They’d soon married, and just about the same time she found out she was pregnant, she also found out what Ray was really like.

It was funny, really, that here he was quivering like a jelly at the thought of going to fight, when at home that was all he ever did. Of course, it was easy with a woman and kids. It would be a different story when he had to face up to a man.

He had the nerve to sit there and tell her he was frightened and expect sympathy.

Well, she’d been frightened all these years − frightened of him, and his petty, spiteful temper.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!