Blackberry Lane – Episode 17


THE sleepy little village was set on its heels. Word spread like wildfire. As usual, news reached the farm by way of Annie. “Have you heard?” she exclaimed, eyes agog with excitement. “The Americans are here!”

“They are?” Maureen and Stella’s full attention was on her. “Have you seen ’em?”

“No, but Joe Boggis has. He told his mum that he saw loads of trucks speeding through Harpers Lane. She then went over to the Hall to see if the old brigadier and his wife were all right, and found that they’ve been moved out to the Dower House. The Hall’s full of troops, and no civilians are allowed in.”

“Well, I call that a cheek,” Ted said. “The Lindseys have lived up there for generations.”

“I expect they’ll get it back when the war’s over,” Kate remarked. “I mean, the Americans aren’t going to be here for ever, are they?”

“Well, if they’re as quick to leave as they’ve been to join us, I reckon they’re here till the end of the century at least,” Ted retorted scathingly.

Over the next few days there were more and more stories of people having seen troops. They were friendly, some said, others said over-friendly, as girls in the village had to run a gauntlet of wolf whistles when they passed by.

They’d brought things not seen since rationing took hold. Children who bumped into them would be given chocolate, which they’d then take to show off at school.

Young women bold enough to get chatting came away with a gift of nylons, or nicely scented soap.

Rumour had it that the men liked to spend their money in the pub of an evening.

Stella and Maureen weren’t going to let opportunity pass them by. Come Saturday night their bedroom was a scene of feverish activity.

“Will you just look at my hair!” Stella complained. “It needs a proper shampoo. That soapwort stuff doesn’t make it shine.”

“Never mind,” Maureen consoled her, “everyone’s in the same boat.”

She stood back from the mirror, and surveyed her reflection.

“Well, what d’you think? Will I get a bloke?”

Maureen chuckled.

“I think we’re going to bowl them Yanks off their feet.”

Full of feverish anticipation, they each grabbed their coat and scurried out of the door.

Approaching the George and Dragon, the girls could see a strange army vehicle parked outside.

Maureen grabbed Stella’s arm and gasped excitedly.

“They’re here!”

“Don’t drool, Mo. Play it cool.”

Both girls took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway. The view of the old wooden bar was obscured by a row of bodies: tall bodies, broad-shouldered, and dressed in military uniform.

One turned their way.

“Hello, ladies. Did you want to come through?” He stepped to one side obligingly.

Maureen stepped forward.

“Thanks,” she said sweetly. “Coming, Stella?”

Stella just stood, open mouthed. Her usual confidence deserted her, and she flushed to the roots of her red hair.

“I… um… need the loo.” She turned and fled through the back door, leaving Maureen just standing there.

“I think we’ve frightened your friend off.”

It was another of the men speaking to her, and she turned her gaze to meet large, dark, kind eyes, wearing a faintly hurt expression.

“Oh, she’s not feeling very well.”

“Can I get you a drink?” he asked.

Maureen was undecided. A slight blush stained her cheeks and she said, “I, er… I don’t really know you.”

He held out his hand.

“My name’s Marcus.”

Maureen couldn’t help smiling. She shook the hand.

“I’m Maureen, but my friends call me Mo.”

“That’s a shame,” he said. “It’s such a pretty name, Maureen.”

It is the way you say it, she thought.

“Shall we go and sit down somewhere away from these idiots?” he suggested good-humouredly.

They moved over to a small table and sat down.

Remembering Stella, Maureen stood up again.

“Do you mind if I go and see if my friend’s OK?”

He chuckled.

“No, you go and rescue her. She can’t stay out there all night.”

She scuttled through the back door and into the yard.

“What you doing out here?” Maureen hissed at her.

“Well, I can’t come back in, can I?”

“Why ever not? They don’t bite.”

“Sorry, Mo, I just came over all nervous.”

“Well, I can see that! I’m having a drink with one of them.”

Stella was staring at Maureen, open mouthed.

“You’re having a drink with one of them?”

“Yes, he’s rather sweet actually. His name’s Marcus. I’ve got a drink waiting for me in there. Now will you come back in and join us?”

Stella gave an injured sniff.

“S’pose I’ll have to, won’t I? After all, there’s no other way out of this bloomin’ yard.”






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!