Under The Elm Tree – Episode 27

WHEN they walked into the cottage, Muriel’s anxiety turned to amazement.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, for nestling between the sandwiches were plates of ham and brawn, pickled cabbage and dishes of chutney. There were mounds of steaming creamed potatoes, too, and on the dresser stood several fruit pies and a large jug of thick cream.

George appeared beside them, grinning from ear to ear.

“Everyone’s given something,” he told them. “It’s been a devil of a job keeping it a secret.”

So that’s what he’d wanted to tell her, Kitty thought with relief. And there she’d been thinking he was up to no good!

Muriel reached up and laughingly kissed him on the cheek.

“It’s wonderful, son,” she whispered. Then she went from neighbour to neighbour, thanking them for their contributions.

Someone had brought their gramophone for the occasion, and soon the voice of Fred Astaire was filling the air.

“They can’t take that away from me,” he crooned, and the party mood was set.

When Tam arrived and smiled through the crowd at her, Kitty felt the day was complete. The feeling didn’t last long, however. She watched as Sid crossed the room to stand beside Tam. She couldn’t hear what was being said, but from the stiff set of Sid’s shoulders and the angry jut of his head, she was sure there would be fisticuffs if she didn’t do something quickly.

She pushed her way through the guests and took him by the arm. If the two of them couldn’t be friends, then she’d just have to keep them apart.

“Would you rescue Flo?” she asked Tam, gesturing with her head to where her sister was being fussed over by two elderly aunts. She knew her little sister would keep him occupied for a while with her chatter. Then she led Sid through to the scullery where a barrel of ale had been set up for the guests.

“Come and help me with the drinks,” she said.

George followed them in, and stood watching as Sid drew golden liquid into a glass before handing it to one of the guests.

“You know I told you I had something to tell you?” he said, turning to Kitty.

“Yes.” Her mind was still on the problem between Sid and Tam. “Wasn’t that the surprise about the food?”

“No.” He grinned, shaking his head. “I went down to Portsmouth dockyard yesterday to see about a job.”

“Oh, George, you didn’t! Whatever will Mother and Dad say? You can’t give up your apprenticeship.”

“Don’t get in a lather, Kit. I went about a Sunday job, so I could pay Mother and Dad back quicker.”

She breathed out a sigh of relief.

“Oh, thank goodness.”

“But that’s not it.”

“What isn’t it?” She looked into her brother’s dark brown eyes. “George, what are you on about?”

“It was seeing the Naval ships in the harbour that did it.” His words came out so quickly they tumbled together. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while. All my mates have, haven’t we, Sid?”

“Don’t you bring me into this,” Sid protested, drawing another pint from the barrel.

“I just decided, there and then. Don’t worry, Kit. Mother will still get the money back. I can send something home each time I get paid. It won’t be much at first, though she won’t have to feed me any more, and that will help.”

“George, for goodness’ sake stop gabbling and tell me what it is you’re on about.”

“I’ve joined the Navy!” he said, beaming at her. “There! What d’you think of that?”

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”.