Blackberry Lane – Episode 26

As Archie bathed Jeanie’s sore knees, and salved them with a petroleum jelly from a large pot, she gazed around the room. It was a quaint little kitchen, in some ways typically masculine, but here and there relieved by homely touches.

“Let’s look at those hands,” he said at last, and she offered up her scuffed palms. “You certainly made a good job of it,” he said. “You’ve even managed to graze your chin.”

He cleaned it gently before tidying the bowl and cloths away.

“I’ll make us a nice cuppa. See if I can even find you a spoon of sugar.”

She watched him filling the kettle, and setting out mugs and a milk jug.

“Did you know about Ted and Kate’s plans?” she asked at last.

“Yes.He did tell me, but we had words about it, and he never brought the subject up again.”

She nodded silently. So Archie had obviously not been a fan of the idea. She wondered why not. He clearly got on very well with the boys. She’d have thought he’d want them to stay here.

The tea was made, and he placed the pot on the little table.

“What will you do now?” he asked.

“Oh, I’ll go back to Southampton, work, visit. All the things I’ve been doing for the past five years.”

“I don’t want to speak out of turn, but if the boys are not going to where you are, then why don’t you move out here?”

“Here? But I’d have to give up my job and everything!”

“Yes, but I’m sure you could find another. We do have garages in the country you know. Buses, too.”

The way he said it made her laugh for the first time that day.

“Yes, I’m sure you do. But as to whether they’d want me working for them…”

“Well, why not? You’re as good a mechanic as the next man, and you drove buses with bombs dropping all around.”

“Well, yes, I suppose I did.”

She actually sounded like she was giving the idea some serious thought, he was pleased to note.

There were so many things Archie wanted to say, but didn’t dare. No woman – much less an attractive one, with such a lovely smile – had ever shown any interest in him.

They drained their tea, and he washed up the pot and mugs.

“We’d better get you to the station,” he said, trying hard to keep any hint of reluctance from his voice.

She looked so at home, seated in his little kitchen, he could almost believe that she belonged there.

Summer, 1945

The Americans returned to the camp in dribs and drabs. Carl turned up at the farmhouse one day and received a rapturous greeting from Stella. He was thinner, and had lost some of his swagger; it was evident he’d been through tough times. He was still confident, though, having brought a ring home to put on her finger.

“Glad you’ve come home safe,” Maureen told him with sincerity. “Do you know how Marcus is?”

“Sorry, honey, haven’t got a clue. It was pretty crazy out there. I’d like to give you good news, but I’m afraid I can’t.”

It was late one evening when a knock came on the farmhouse door.

“What’s Annie got to tell us now?” Kate said, huffing as she went to answer it. It wasn’t Annie though, it was a weary and worn Marcus.

Kate was so pleased she flung her arms round him.

“Oh, come on in, love! There’s someone here who will be so pleased to see you.” She raced to the bottom of the stairs.

“Maureen!” she bawled loudly. “Someone for you down here.”

Footsteps clattered down the stairs. She appeared, dressed in pyjamas and flung herself into his arms.

“Oh, Marcus,” she murmured. “What took you so long?”

He didn’t speak, and when she pulled away his face was wet with tears.

“What is it? Talk to me,” she pleaded.

“Oh, my dear,” he said finally, his voice no more than a whisper. “I never again want to see things I’ve seen or do things I’ve done.”

He breathed a huge sigh, like a man putting down a heavy load.

“You won’t,” she said, wiping the tears from his face with gentle hands. “I’m never letting you out of my sight again.”

The room was full of people all trying to mind their own business and not gawp. They couldn’t help hearing, though, and they all had tears in their eyes.

“Look here,” Kate said loudly. “I’d like to say let’s break open a bottle, but a cuppa will have to do.”

Her words made Marcus laugh, sounding again like the happy young man they remembered.

“Now I know I’m back,” he said. “You and your cups of tea!”

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!