Under The Elm Tree – Episode 24


BUT that’s just the trouble. I don’t know what it is telling me.” Ella’s eyes stung with tears, but she blinked them away. “The only thing I know for certain at the moment is that I wish I didn’t have to leave Wembury.”

“Well, that’s a start, my dear,” Margaret said encouragingly. “In the meantime, why don’t you carry on baking? These scones are delicious.”

This made the girls laugh and Ella, glad of the change of subject, told her about the exercise book of recipes written out by Kitty that she’d found.

“I’ve been trying some of them,” she told her.

Margaret nodded.

“Your grandmother was a marvellous cook. She had a real feel for it.”

This was the opening Ella had been waiting for.

“I found a painting of Gran,” she ventured.

“A painting, you say?” Ella could feel Margaret’s steady gaze on her.

“Yes, a really lovely one. She’s sitting under an elm tree, with sunshine coming through the branches. She must have been about twenty or so at the time. Leanna’s taken it away to be evaluated, otherwise I’d have brought it to show you.”

“There’s no need for that, my dear. I know exactly the painting you mean.”

“Do you?” Ella’s heart began to race and she sat up attentively. Was she going to find out something about the picture at last?

Margaret’s spectacles winked in the rosy glow from the fire as she nodded.

“Oh, yes, though it’s a long time since I’ve set eyes on it. Your grandmother never knew how lovely she really was,” she murmured, placing her cup down.

“My, my, what a to-do there was when the artist came to stay at Wembury House,” she continued, leaning back in her chair. “It caused such a lot of trouble between your grandparents. Sid thought he’d lost her for good when she took up with Tam.”

“Gran looked very happy in the picture,” Ella ventured.

“That’s because she was in love, my dear.”

So her instincts had been right!

“But not with Grandad?” Ella spoke the words softly, her heart going out to her lovely, kind grandfather. How hard it must have been for him.

“Not then. No, they had to wait for that.”

****

“I just can’t believe how much we don’t know about Gran’s life,” Megan said as they made their way back through the village.

A cold gust blew against them and both girls shivered. Ella tucked her scarf in more tightly.

“I suppose you can’t know everything about a person,” she replied. “Even members of your own family.”

As they reached the gate to the cottage, a van pulled into the drive next door and a man dressed in jeans and open-necked blue shirt jumped nimbly out.

“Hi!” he called.

Ella lifted her hand in a wave.

“Hi!”

“Who’s he?” Megan whispered, her eyes widening theatrically.

“Oh, that’s Joe. He lives next door.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you had a hunk for a neighbour?” Megan ran her fingers through her hair, fluffing it up. “Introduce me!” she demanded.

Ella forced a smile, trying to think of a reason to refuse. When she couldn’t, she reluctantly led the way towards the fence that divided the two properties. Despite the cold of the day, Joe had his sleeves rolled up, and Ella could see the muscles in his strong forearms ripple as he lifted a toolbox from the van.

“Joe, this is Megan, my sister. Megan, meet Joe,” she said, and her heart twisted inexplicably as she intercepted the friendly smile that passed between them.

“Come on, Megs, it’s cold,” she said, turning away. She beckoned her sister to follow her into the cottage. “Let’s go in. See you later, Joe.”

As they made their way indoors, she gave herself a stern talking to. If Megan and Joe liked each other, that was their affair. It had absolutely nothing to do with her!

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”.