Blackberry Lane – Episode 11


ANNIE arrived to work punctually as ever, despite the fact that she now had her two evacuees in tow. They trailed into the kitchen behind her, looking unsure of themselves.

“Hello, m’dears,” Kate greeted them. “Welcome to Hollow Farm.”

Annie delved into her bag and brought out paper and crayons, which she placed on one end of the long table. “I’ve brought these so they have something to do while I work.”

“I reckon the boys will be in later,” Kate said, “and they can all get acquainted.”

Halfway through the morning the peace was shattered as Russ and Marty burst in the door in a state of high excitement.

“Where have you been?” Kate greeted them.

“With the cows − Archie showed us how he milks ’em. And the horses − they took a carrot off my hand and in that big barn where all the machines are…”

“Steady, steady.” Kate laughed. “I can tell you’ve had fun. Now, do you want to have a drink and get your breath back?”

“Yes, please, Auntie Kate.” The boys flopped down on kitchen chairs. They finally noticed Frances and Paul, who’d put down their crayons and were listening avidly.

“Hello,” Russ said, glancing at the pieces of paper spread out in front of them. “Whatcher doin’?”

“We’ve just been colouring,” Frances said, “but I’d rather have seen the machines in the barn.”

****

A very nervous Amy Lovejoy was expecting a baptism of fire. She must pick up the reins from the old headmaster who had gone off to war, while at the same time accommodate an influx of evacuated children. It was all very daunting to a young woman who had only been given this appointment as a last resort.

Positioning herself at the school gates to greet the pupils as they filed in, she was trying to convey an air of capability and confidence

It was quite easy to spot who was a village child, and who was an evacuee, simply by the manner in which they approached the gates. Village children ran happily into the school yard, greeted their friends, and began to engage in the games they always played. The evacuated children, on the other hand, kept themselves to themselves, and were clearly unsure where they should go.

Eventually, with everyone shepherded into their correct classroom, she heaved a sigh of relief. As she stood in front of them there was an audible hum of excited chatter. She must start as she meant to go on.

“Quiet, please,” she said, sharpening her tone.

The message was understood, and little faces all turned to her, bodies stilled.

At break time, the pupils were still sharply divided. Village children largely wanted nothing to do with “them townies”, except for a few older and more assertive amongst their number, who were setting ground rules by indulging in a bit of minor bullying.

Russ was having none of it. If he’d been able to hold his own in a city playground, he certainly wasn’t going to let these country “softies” bother him.

He could see Frances and Paul on the far side of the playground. They weren’t faring nearly so well. Then he glanced over towards the infants.

Marty seemed to be getting on just fine.

“Don’t do that!” he addressed a boy pulling Frances’s plaits.

“What’s it gotta do wiv you?”

“She’s my friend.”

“Oh – Four-eyes has got a friend, has she?”

Frances saw the hesitation. It emboldened her, and flicking her plaits back in place she stood four-square beside Russ, glaring at her attackers.

“You village lot can just leave us alone,” she retorted.

“Don’t want nuffin’ to do wiv yer anyway,” they jeered as they began to retreat.

Russ grinned at Frances.

“You all right?”

She smiled back, and nodded.

He shrugged casually. They were friends now, and you had to stick up for friends.

****

The group of women left the bus station, their lively chatter telling how pleased they were to have finished the shift. Jeanie was looking through her bag for her keys before the steps to her front door came into view. She entered and, as happened every day, the silence struck her forcibly.

She went to the sink and began to prepare her tea.

As ever when she prepared a meal, it made her think of the boys. Were they being well fed? They’d been gone for nearly two months now, and to begin with she’d regretted sending them away. Recently, though, with the bombing resumed and many lives lost, her way of thinking had changed completely. She was really relieved that they were safely away from the city. Her first visit to them was only days away now, and her excitement was mounting.

 

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!