Under The Elm Tree – Episode 18

ELLA pushed away her sketch pad and sighed. Every other thought that morning had been of her ex-boyfriend Martin. She just couldn’t clear her mind of him. The time of year didn’t help, she supposed, for she couldn’t help remembering the wonderful Christmases they’d spent together.

She got up and went through into the hall. She’d do some more clearing out. It would be therapeutic, she told herself. She opened the hall cupboard and looked inside. Shoes and umbrellas were mixed up with feather dusters and old newspapers, spare light bulbs, clothes pegs and string. It was a complete jumble.

“Perhaps I should just scoop it all into a bin liner,” she muttered to herself after trying to decide whether to keep an old dustpan and brush.

She drew out a battered cardboard box.

Tiddlywinks,” she read. “Oh, my goodness, I remember playing with this.”

She took the game through to the kitchen, brushing off the layer of dust that had accumulated on the lid. Through the window she could see Joe’s daughter in the adjacent garden, wrapped up against the cold day and riding her bike up and down the path. She opened up the back door.

“Cathie!” she called. Immediately the little girl left what she was doing and ran up to the low hedge dividing the two gardens. “Would you and your daddy like to come round to play this game one afternoon in the Christmas holidays?”

Cathie peered at the box Ella was rattling.

“What is it?” she asked. “Is it a jigsaw?”

“No.” Ella smiled. “It’s a game. It’s called Tiddlywinks.”

Cathie burst into laughter.

“Tiddlywinks?” she said. “What a funny name. What’s Tiddlywinks?”

Ella couldn’t help but laugh, too.

“It’s a very old game. My sister and I used to play it with Gran – Mrs Bloomfield,” she explained.

“I really would like to play it,” she said. “Can I go and ask Daddy now?”

“Of course you can.” Ella smiled.

She waited as the little girl skipped indoors. She was soon out again, a delighted smile on her face.

“Daddy says yes,” she said, jumping up and down. “He says we can play it this afternoon if you’ve got time. Mummy’s coming to collect me after work,” she finished in a rush.

Ella thought of the chores that still awaited her indoors. She hadn’t actually meant that very day! But she needed some fun, too, she reminded herself.

“This afternoon it is,” she confirmed. “See you later. I’ll make some cakes for us, shall I?”

“Are you good at making cakes?” Cathie asked, frowning. “Dad’s not very good. His taste is yuck sometimes.”

Ella couldn’t help laughing.

“I promise they won’t be yuck,” she said.

Back indoors, she continued with the cupboard. Most of the contents would have to go straight down the tip, she decided. She reached into a shelf at the top and drew down another box. This time it was an old shoebox.

She lifted off the lid. Inside was a small bundle of letters. She leafed through them, peering closely at the faded envelopes. They all bore an official frank and were addressed to her grandfather, Sergeant Sidney Bloomfield, at various BFPO military addresses.

Each one bore the name of the sender on the outside, but the envelopes were faded, as if they’d been in the sun. She peered at each in turn.

“The name looks like Fappet or something,” she murmured, not quite making it out.

I’ll take them up to Norfolk with the other things for Mum to look at, she decided, placing the letters to one side. They must have been important to have been kept.

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.