Under The Elm Tree – Episode 22

ELLA finished her letter and picked up another envelope, drawing out a single sheet of paper.

“This one’s from a training camp here in England,” she said. “It’s dated the twenty-ninth of September, 1940. Listen.

I’m sorry I had to give you bad news from home last time, mate,” she read. “Poor blighter, eh? I know there’s no love lost between you two, but I thought you ought to know that Kitty’s taken it very hard.” She looked up. “Do you think he might be talking about the artist guy?”

“He might, darling,” Susan replied, “but I think we’ve got to be careful not to put two and two together and make five. The letters all seem to be from the same person, though – this Harry someone or other.” She paused. “I wonder if it could be Harry Pagget? I can remember Dad talking about them both being in the Army.” She frowned as she peered closely at the envelope in her hand. “I think it is, you know. Yes, it’s not Fappet like you thought, it’s Pagget.”

“The family who own Wembury Farm?”

Susan nodded.

“When Harry was de-mobbed after the war, he took over the running of the farm from his father.”

“So Chris, the guy I’ve been dealing with about the cottage, he’s Harry’s son, is he?”

“Yes. When Harry retired, Chris moved into the farmhouse with his family and the old man went to live with his daughter in Hamton. As far as I know, he’s still there.” She opened another letter, and bent her head again. “It seems he and Dad served in the Western Desert campaign together,” she said. “I didn’t know that.” They were quiet for a moment. “Listen to this, Ella.

Who’d have thought our Divisions would end up in the same sand-ridden hell hole? Not that I’m complaining, mate. I wouldn’t be here today if you hadn’t come along! I wonder what he means by that?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t think we should read any more,” Ella said. “Not now we know who they’re from. It doesn’t feel right.”

Susan nodded.

“I agree, darling.” Susan folded her letter, slipping it back into its envelope.

“Do you think Mr Pagget might like the letters back?” Ella asked. “I could always take them over to him.”

“That’s a wonderful idea. You’d better check with Chris to make sure he’s well enough for a visit, though.”

“I will. Oh, I nearly forgot,” she added. “I found a photo of Gran in her ATS uniform. It’s here somewhere,” she said, fishing in the shoe box.

She drew out a black and white image, and a young Kitty looked back at her. The military style uniform suited her, with its jacket and tie and peaked cap set atop her dark hair.

“Look,” she said, showing Susan. “Wasn’t she glamorous?”

Susan smiled.

“She certainly was. I don’t think the work was very glamorous, though. Mum was a driver in the war, stationed up at Aldershot. She knew more about engines than Dad did when they got their first car.” She laughed.

The room grew cosy as the afternoon deepened. The Christmas tree lights twinkled in the growing darkness as they talked.

“I had a look round Wembury House,” Ella announced.

Susan didn’t answer immediately.

“Oh?” She paused. “The conversion, you mean?”

Ella looked at her mother’s hands. They were clenched tightly together.

“Why do you always seem worried when someone mentions Wembury House, Mum?” she asked. “I’ve noticed it before. When you stayed at Gran’s cottage with me after the funeral and we walked to the village, you didn’t even want to go past it. Are you scared of the place or something?”

Susan took a deep breath.

“Not scared, exactly,” she said. “It’s just that something happened there when I was young.”

“What?” Ella looked at her curiously.

Susan sighed.

“Something I wish had never happened, that’s all,” she replied. “Now, let’s go and help Dad and Megan in 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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.