Blackberry Lane – Episode 08

ARCHIE peered out from under the shelter of a broad old chestnut tree as two planes circled and weaved furiously overhead. Fighters didn’t usually make it this far, but a stray Messerschmitt had broken away from the main pack and headed north, and a Spitfire had followed in hot pursuit.

Archie wished they’d not picked this particular bit of sky to settle their differences. He’d several more acres to harrow before he could head home for some tea.

As he watched, the Spitfire climbed, then banked, dived, and opened fire. He heard the bullets raking the side of the Messerschmitt. For a moment it seemed to hang motionless in mid-air, before finally turning on its back and diving to the ground.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Archie came out of his hiding place. His mind dwelt for a moment on the fate of the German pilot, quite probably a man younger than himself.

His eventual return to the farm was witnessed by Stella and Maureen.

“Hey, Archie,” Stella yelled out, grinning. “I thought the Jerry ’ad gotcher.”

Dismounting wearily from the tractor, Archie glanced their way. He attempted a laugh, but the sound died nervously before it could reach his lips.

“No,” he replied. “They were overhead, but they didn’t bother with me. Too busy fighting each other.”

“Poor old Archie,” she said back. “You don’t never get a bit of glory.”

Abandoning his pretence that he thought they were being friendly, Archie stalked off towards the farmhouse.

Entering the kitchen, he was greeted by the welcoming sight of Kate working at her range. She was wearing her customary floral overall, and her face was flushed rosy from the heat.

“Archie, you’re late. I was getting worried about you. I heard the planes in the distance, and Ted said you were working over that way.

“No, I was all right,” he said, as he lowered his tall frame on to a kitchen chair. He knew Kate would be thinking about Ken, and he didn’t want to give her extra cause to worry.

Kate patted his shoulder and smiled fondly.

She blessed the day Dorothy Sims had turned up on the farm with her lad in tow. Poor old Dotty had begged them to take her boy on as she could no longer afford to keep him.

Over the years he’d grown to be a fine man, strong and well-muscled – a very different figure from that poor little schoolboy who’d been the butt of bullies and spiteful name-callers.

Kate could tell, though, that the passage of time had done nothing to lessen his hurt. His gentle eyes, as they looked out on the world, were wary, and at times a touch bewildered. It was such a shame, she thought, for he was actually rather handsome. Surely somewhere there was a girl with the sense to see him for what he was.


A dance in the village hall wasn’t much in Stella and Maureen’s opinion, but it was the first “social” they’d been to for ages, and as such was better than nothing.

The atmosphere in the hall was lively as people made a determined effort to forget about the war for one evening. Women in bright cotton dresses stood about in groups, chatting and laughing as they exchanged snippets of village gossip.

Every so often some brave man would break in self-consciously and suggest a dance. The couple would take to the floor, while the church organist thumped tunes out of the old piano with enthusiasm.

Maureen and Stella were standing on the sidelines, taking a breather and Stella scanned the room disconsolately.

“What I wouldn’t give for a decent bloke to walk in the door.”

“Well, if that’s what you’re after, there’s Joe over there making eyes at you. Bet he’s plucking up courage to come over and ask for a dance, Maureen said.”

“Well, he can forget it. I want a man, not a boy.”

“Oh, go on, Stella,” she teased. “You could at least give the lad a chance.”

“Whatcher think then, Mo?” she asked with a gloomy expression. “Shall we hang about here, or get back to the farm?”

“Ah, it’s not so bad,” Maureen said. “I’d like to have at least one more dance before we go home.”

“Oh, yeah? Who you gonna dance with?”

“I’ll wait to see who asks me.”

Stella grimaced.

“All right, we’ll give it one more try. But if I don’t get a decent offer, I’m off.”

Maureen grinned at her friend.

“That’s the spirit, gal. Let’s show ’em what we’re made of.”

Arm in arm, they made their way into the fray.


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!