Blackberry Lane – Episode 12

A LOW winter sun was struggling to make an impression on the blanket of fog which enveloped the countryside. Not that it mattered to Jeanie − all she cared about was that every mile they travelled brought her closer to her boys.

At last they reached the station and she felt sick with anticipation. Peering through the windows, she could see two figures running along the platform. Flinging the door to one side, she leapt out. The boys laughed, and Jeanie cried.

“Come on, Mum.” They took her hands, trying eagerly to pull her along. “You’ve got to come and meet everyone.”

She let them lead her to where a horse and cart waited, with an old man holding the reins.

“This is Amos, Mum. He digs graves.” Marty’s voice was full of admiration.

Jeanie smiled in a rather bemused fashion, and shook his hand.

“Don’t you worry, it’s just a cart ride today − nothing to do wi’ me other job,” he joked, which made Jeanie laugh.

She let him help her into the cart, where she and the boys all snuggled up.

“My, you have grown,” she said. “Just look at you both.”

“Yes, Mum, but…”

Jeanie listened with a big smile on her face as they gabbled on about the friends they’d made, of how much they liked their new school, and of all the fun they were having on the farm. Someone called Archie seemed to figure largely, as did Uncle Ted and Auntie Kate.

Although Jeanie was pleased and grateful, she couldn’t help feeling a small, irrational twinge of jealousy that another woman should greet them when they arrived home excited from school, and get to tuck them into bed at night.

Amos drew the cart up in front of the farmhouse, and they all alighted. Jeanie dragged her case after her, and thanked him for the ride.

Inside the cosy kitchen, she was welcomed warmly by Kate.

“So glad you could come,” she said. “And what do you think of your two fine boys? Don’t they look well?”

Jeanie stroked each tousled head, and nodded quietly.

“Yes,” she said. “I have to say they do.”

Kate detected Jeanie’s mood and understood.

“You must be weary,” she said. Kate bustled about for a minute, placing cups and saucers, milk and sugar on the table.

“As you’re only here for a couple of nights, I’ve given you our son’s room,” she said.

“Is he away at war?” Jeanie asked.

Kate looked anxious suddenly.

“Yes − he’s in the RAF.”

Oh, goodness, Jeanie thought, not knowing what to say. She felt shame for any resentful thoughts she’d had. At least her children were safe and well and out of danger, whereas poor Kate must live in daily terror for her son’s safety.


Russ and Marty had led Jeanie all around the farmyard, showing her their favourite haunts. They found Ted working in the far barn. He removed his cap politely, and shook hands with Jeanie.

“Glad you could come,” he said. “The boys have been talking ’bout nothing else for days.”

“I must thank you, Mr Proctor, for giving them a home.”

“You don’t need to worry,” he assured her. “They’re nice boys.”

“Where’s Archie, Uncle Ted?” Marty was jumping from foot to foot, impatient to be moving on and showing his mum more.

Ted chuckled and ruffled Marty’s hair.

“He’s over at the silo, sorting out some feed for the cattle.”

Archie was absorbed in his task of filling a cart with silage, when Russ and Marty cried out, “Archie, our mum’s come to say hello.”

Archie turned around. He didn’t know what he’d expected the boys’ mum to be like – older maybe, and not with warm eyes and such a pretty smile.

“Hello,” she said simply, “I’m Jeanie.”

She was holding her hand out, and he was uncomfortably aware of warmth creeping up his neck.

“I’d better not shake hands. I’m a bit grubby.” He held his palm out as evidence.

Jeanie clearly agreed with him, for she laughed.

“Thank you for being such a good friend to Russ and Marty,” she said.

“Oh, that’s all right,” he managed to say. “I’ve enjoyed it. They’re nice boys.”

She smiled up at him again.


Stella and Maureen snuggled down in their narrow little twin beds, and pulled the covers way up round their ears.

“What you think about Christmas, Mo?”

Stella asked. “You goin’ home?”

“Dunno,” Maureen murmured sleepily.

“Won’t it be strange, though, not to see the family.”

Not to me, Maureen thought. She had no real family to speak of.

“Is your mum expectin’ you?” she asked Stella.

“Dunno, she never said.” Maureen chuckled softly into the blankets.


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!