Under The Elm Tree – Episode 21


JOYCE, who had arrived home that afternoon for the Christmas break, had sat open mouthed as her brother had spoken. Now her voice trembled with emotion.

“I just can’t believe you gambled away the money for my wedding breakfast,” she cried.

The normally cheerful young man’s eyes filled with tears.

“I’m really sorry, Joyce. I know it was wrong, but how was I to know Royal Blue wouldn’t come in?”

Joyce’s eyes blazed.

“Don’t you dare avoid taking the blame!”

“Now, now, you two,” Muriel cut in. “Arguing’s not going to help matters.” She turned back to George. “Gambling’s never the answer to problems, son,” she told him, shaking her head. “What your father’s going to say to all of this, I do not know.”

With perfect timing, there came a thump from upstairs.

“That’s him now, wanting something,” she continued. “You can go up and tell him yourself. That’ll be punishment for you.”

Joyce burst into tears.

“You’ve spoiled everything, George,” she wailed, sobbing uncontrollably. “A wedding’s supposed to be the happiest day of a couple’s life, and now you’ve gone and spoiled it. We’ve spent all our savings on furnishing the house, and we haven’t got anything left over at all. How are we going to pay for the wedding breakfast now?”

“Can’t you ask Frank’s mother to help?” George ventured, twisting his cap in his hands.

“You know she’s a widow and hasn’t got two ha’pennies to rub together. We’ll have to cancel everything. I hope you’re satisfied!” she said, bursting into another flood of tears.

As George disappeared disconsolately upstairs, Muriel crossed the little room.

“Now, now, child, don’t fret so,” she soothed, stroking her daughter’s fair hair. “Your day won’t be ruined, I promise. We’ll manage somehow.”

There was a knock at the back door, and Kitty sprang up to open it.

It was Sid. He walked in, a pheasant dangling lifelessly from his hand.

“Is this any good to you, Mrs Bloomfield?” he asked. “A mate of mine gave it to us, but we’ve already got a goose lined up for Christmas so it’s going spare.”

Kitty doubted it was going spare at all. She knew her friend’s kind heart of old, and she’d told him that morning all about the empty tea tin. He was standing where George had stood beneath the mistletoe, and suddenly Kitty reached up and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“Oh, Sid,” she whispered, slipping her arms around him and giving him a hug. “Thank you. You’re such a good friend.”

When a blush rose to his cheeks, she thought nothing of it. That was just Sid being Sid. He never liked a fuss being made.

****

Ella drove up to Norfolk on Christmas Eve morning. In the afternoon, she and Susan decided to prepare the vegetables for the following day while her sister Megan watched a quiz show in the lounge with her dad. It was only three o’clock, but already the light had begun to fade from the day.

“What do you think we should do about the letters I found, Mum?” Ella asked, making a neat cross on the trimmed end of a sprout.

“I think we should have a good look at them before we decide, darling,” Susan replied. Suddenly, she put down the potato she’d been peeling, and dried her hands. “Actually, let’s do it now.” She smiled. “The veg can wait for a bit.”

She crossed to the breakfast bar where Ella had placed the shoe box.

“Come on,” she said, lifting it up, “let’s go through to the lounge.”

The quiz show was just coming to an end as they positioned themselves on the sofa.

“Everything done in the kitchen?” Greg asked.

“Not quite.” Susan smiled. “We’re stopping to have a look at the letters.”

“Come on, then, Megs,” he said, “it’s our turn. We’ll finish off the veg, it’s only fair.”

Susan looked up in concern.

“I don’t want you overdoing it, darling,” she began.

He smiled reassuringly at her.

“I won’t, I promise. It’ll be quality time for my youngest daughter and me.”

Megan groaned.

“Some quality time, peeling spuds!” She flicked back her shoulder-length dark hair. “I can think of better ways to spend Christmas Eve, you know.”

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Greg said firmly, ushering her out. “We’ll put some carols on,” he added, and they all laughed as she groaned again.

Ella and Susan settled themselves comfortably on the sofa. They each chose a letter and began reading.

A military hospital, Somewhere in North Africa,” Ella read out. “That’s not much of an address.”

“That was usual, I think. They weren’t allowed to say precisely where they were because of security.”

There was silence as they read on, broken only by the muffled sound of singing coming from the kitchen.

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”.