Under The Elm Tree – Episode 16


December 1938

NOW, you listen to me, my girl!”

Kitty looked anxiously at her father. He hadn’t been in the best of moods since the accident on the farm. She understood why, of course. He was in pain, and worried about not working. She put down the cup of tea she was carrying on the bedside table.

“What is it, Dad?” she asked. The sky beyond the lace half-curtain of her parents’ bedroom was grey and overcast, making the bedroom gloomy. She pressed the button on the flex beside the door, and a thin electric light flooded the room.

Albert heaved himself up against the pillows, wincing as he did so. The headline of the newspaper he’d been reading glared up at her. Air Raid Precaution Exercises To Be Carried Out. Perhaps he wanted to talk about the threat of war that was hanging over them all?

But no, it was more personal than that.

“Your mother says you’re meeting that boy again,” he said, unhooking his wire-rimmed reading spectacles from his ears and staring at her.

“I’m just showing Tam around,” she said, her heart beating a little faster at the mention of his name. “There’s no harm in doing that on my half day, surely, Dad? He’s an artist. I’m showing him the best places to sketch, that’s all.”

“An artist!” Her dad pursed his lips in disapproval. “He wants to get himself a proper job.” He eased himself back against the pillows. “Don’t get tangled up with him, girl. Well-to-do folk like him don’t belong with folk like us, and that’s all there is to it.” He picked up his paper and reached for his spectacles, wincing again.

Kitty attempted a smile.

“It’s the nineteen-thirties, Dad. King George is on the throne, not Queen Victoria! We’re friends, that’s all.” She bent forward to kiss his forehead.

“Well, you just make sure it stays that way.” His voice softened, and for a moment he was her old dad again. “I’m only saying it for your own good, Kitty, love.”

She was still thinking of her father’s words as she sat on the narrow bench beneath the elm tree on the village green, waiting for Tam. Dad’s stuck in the past, she thought. He’s working himself into a lather about nothing. She adjusted her hat, re-pinning it firmly on her dark curls, and hunched herself deep into her coat. There’s no harm in Tam and me being friends, she told herself, none at all. And I don’t think Dad should go on about another war coming. There can’t be another one. The last one was to end all wars, everybody says so. He’s got too much time to think at the moment, that’s the trouble.

She jumped as Tam appeared beside her. He was dressed in a thick overcoat and trilby, his sketch pad tucked beneath his arm. She’d been so absorbed in her thoughts that she hadn’t heard him approach.

“Hello.” He smiled, his breath curling out in a little wisp of white.

“Hello,” Kitty answered shyly. She stood up, unable to repress a shiver.

“Cold?”

She nodded, looking up at the clouds that had turned from grey to yellow.

“Dad reckons it’s going to snow.”

“I think he might be right,” Tam agreed. His words caught on a cough. “Look, it’ll be freezing, sketching in this. Why don’t we do something else instead?”

“All right.” She blew on her gloved hands. “There’s not much to do in Wembury in the wintertime, though.”

“What about a trip into Farchester?”

“Oh!” she exclaimed in pleasure, thinking of the shops that would be decked out with Christmas wares. “That would be lovely.” She looked across at the clock on the church tower. “We’ll have to hurry if we’re to catch the two o’clock bus, though. There isn’t another one till teatime.”

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”.