Under The Elm Tree – Episode 05


A SUDDEN whirl of wind and a series of loud crashes from outside interrupted Susan’s thoughts. She jumped.

“My goodness!” she exclaimed. “Whatever’s that?”

She grabbed her jacket from the coat stand, and opened the front door. The evening was dark and, as she stepped outside, the security light snapped on.

“Careful, love, wait for me,” Greg called, and she waited obediently till he joined her. Together they surveyed the damage. Several roof tiles lay smashed on the patio, with more scattered on the lawn that stretched down to the river’s edge and their boat yard beyond.

“The wind must have got beneath them,” he said, peering up into the garden. “More expense!” He motioned to the patio set that was rocking ominously in the wind. “We’d better put the table and chairs in the shed. It’s time they were packed away, anyway.”

In the time it took to return to the patio, the wind had torn away a corner of the plastic sheeting. Greg secured the rope end that had worked loose.

“Come on!” he shouted above the wind, as a squall of rain drove icy needles against their faces. “We don’t want to get hit by a falling slate. We can clear up the mess tomorrow.”

When they were safely back inside, the phone started to ring again. Goodness, was there no peace, Susan thought as she snatched up the receiver.

It was a man’s voice she didn’t recognise.

“Mrs Cooper?”

“Yes?” she replied, a little abruptly.

“Dan Brooks. Brooks and Morrison, accountants.”

“Yes?” she said again, this time more tentatively. There was something in the serious tone of his voice that made her think that, whatever he was about to say, she wasn’t going to like it.

She was right.

“I’m sorry it’s a bit late in the day to be calling,” he said, “but I understand that Thompson Construction are engaged in carrying out some extension works for you.”

“They are,” she confirmed, her heart sinking. She didn’t like where this was going. She didn’t like it at all.

“I’m sorry, but I have to inform you that as from today, the company has ceased trading. Mr Thompson is no longer in a position to complete the works he’s begun. He particularly asked that all his customers be informed personally. I’m very sorry to have to give you such bad news. You’ll be receiving a letter from us shortly, explaining your position in more detail.”

When Susan had replaced the receiver, her heart was thumping wildly. However was she going to tell Greg? They’d hardly started their new venture, and already it was going wrong. They’d paid a good deal of money up front, and now the builder had gone bust.

What were they going to do?

****

The day after she’d seen her mother off on the train, Ella decided to do a proper supermarket shop. She was going to be staying at the cottage for the next two weeks, after all.

The late November morning, although cold, was bright. Despite the wintry air, she opened the back door to let in a little of the welcome sunshine as she unpacked her shopping.

She was just stacking away the last item in the cupboard above the sink when she heard a squeaking sound.

She turned round, and was astonished to see a tiny black and white kitten on the floor, staring up at her with wide amber eyes.

It miaowed again, more plaintively than ever.

“Whatever are you doing here?” Ella said, smiling as she bent down to stroke its tiny head. She was immediately rewarded with a purr.

The deep throaty sound made her laugh, for it seemed much too loud to be coming from such a tiny creature. She picked the kitten up and held it to her. It snuggled against her coat, continuing to purr loudly.

Ella walked with her new-found friend to the open door, and looked out.

“You must have come from somewhere,” she told it, cradling it gently as she stepped out into the garden.

Sure enough, peering over the untidy low hedge was a little girl, an anxious expression on her face.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.