Under The Elm Tree – Episode 30

KITTY and Tam walked along silently for a while.

“Is he being any more friendly towards you?”

Tam smiled.

“He’s like a bear with a sore head around me. It’s even worse since you let on to him that I’m not getting paid. He seems to think it’s an insult to people who need a job and can’t get one.”

“But you’re doing it to keep Dad’s job open for him!”

“He doesn’t know that, though, does he? And he mustn’t either,” he warned. “Mr Pagget told me that if the men learn about it, it’ll cause trouble and I’ll have to leave.”

“Dad mustn’t know about it, either,” she agreed. “He’d look upon it as charity, and we’d never hear the end of it.” She reached down and took Tam’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “I’m really grateful, though. If it wasn’t for you, Dad’s job would have gone to somebody else by now. It would be the end of him not to work on that farm.”

They reached a little stile at the entrance to a copse. Tam leaped over then turned back to hold out his hand to Kitty.

“Did I tell you that Mr Pagget’s getting a tractor?” he asked.

“Is he?” She balanced for a moment on top of the stile. “Harry must be pleased – you know what he’s like with engines,” she said. She jumped down to land beside Tam. “What’ll happen to the horses?”

“They’ll gradually be phased out, I suppose. Mechanisation’s got to come. It’ll increase production, and if there’s a war coming we’ll need to produce more food at home.”

“I hope Dad doesn’t get to hear about the tractor,” Kitty said. “He’s worried enough about his job as it is, and he loves those horses. I’d better have a word with Sid and ask him not to mention it until he’s better.”

Tam fell into step beside her on the path that led beneath the trees.

“Has the doctor said when your father can go back to work?”

Kitty nodded.

“At the end of the month if he carries on improving.” She paused. “What will you do when you finish at the farm? Will you go back to Sheffield?” Despite the warmth of the evening, she shivered.

“Not yet. I’ve promised my parents I’ll stay for the summer, and get completely well again. Father’s managing to run the business without me all right. And besides,” he added, reaching out and drawing her close to him, “I’m enjoying myself too much here.”

Kitty smiled up at him and together they walked along the shaded path towards Hamton, their steps in time and their arms around each other.

“You know what’s really the matter with Sid, of course,” Tam murmured. “He’s jealous.”

“Jealous? I don’t see why. He gives orders to you, not the other way round.”

“No, I mean he’s jealous of us.” He stopped and lifted her chin, looking deep into her eyes. “He likes you, you know.”

“Well, I would hope so. We’ve known each other since we were babies,” Kitty pointed out.

“No, I mean this sort of like.” He bent his head and pressed his lips to hers.

“Oh,” she said when her racing heart had steadied a little. “I wondered about that before Christmas, and he was certainly acting strangely at the dance, but he’s been the old Sid ever since so I thought I’d got it wrong.”

Tam shook his head.

“You haven’t got it wrong.”

They reached the end of the wood and turned up a lane hung with dusty hazel catkins, the grass verges thick with white shirt-buttons and bluebells.

When they arrived at Hamton Halt, they leaned over the fence to watch the big steam locomotive that stood puffing beside the platform. The smell of oily steam and the sound of doors slamming drifted across to them as a crowd of soldiers made their way on board.

“Good heavens!” Kitty said suddenly, staring at the platform. “Is that our Flo? Whatever is she doing here?”

She watched as her young sister pushed open the little wicker gate at the side of the ticket office. Even from where they stood she could see that her cheeks were blotched from crying.

“Flo?” she called, running swiftly towards her. “Why aren’t you at work? Have Otterby’s given you a day off?”

“No, they haven’t. I’ve run away!” Florence put her hands on her hips, staring at Kitty challengingly. “And I’m never going back there, neither, so you needn’t try to make me. Never!”

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”.