Under The Elm Tree – Episode 32

TAM turned to face Florence and she looked up at him, a worried frown on her face.

“I’m not going to tell you off, don’t worry,” he reassured her. “I want to tell you something.”

She sat up, listening.

“It’s not so long ago that I was your age.” He smiled at her and was rewarded with a tentative smile back. “My first job was at my parents’ steel works. You’d have thought I’d get special treatment, being the boss’s son, wouldn’t you?”

Florence, her eyes wide, nodded.

“But I didn’t,” he continued. “Quite the opposite. The lads on the factory floor put me through some terrible teasing.”

Kitty listened, rapt, for she’d never heard him talk about his life at the factory before.

“But I found something out through it, and it’s this: you mustn’t let the girls at work know they’ve wounded you. If you do, it’ll make them do it all the more. If you stand up to them and let them know you’re not upset by what they say, they’ll stop.”

Florence was silent for a moment as she digested this.

“Do you promise?”

“Well, I can’t promise exactly, but I’ll eat my hat if they don’t.” He lifted his bowler from the table, and pretended to take a bite out of it. They all laughed, even Albert.

Muriel smiled gratefully at Tam, before pouring tea for everyone.

“Did you tell your supervisor, Mrs Potter, that you were coming home?” she asked, sitting at the table again and taking a sip.

“No, Mother.” Fury spent, Florence bent her fair head low again. “I just walked out. They were so horrid.” She began wailing again.

“We can’t sort anything out if you’re making that racket,” Albert said sternly, and the sobs dwindled once more to a stop. “We’ll have to get you back straight away. We can’t have you losing your place. Opportunities like that aren’t two a penny, my girl.”

“How about if I take her back to Farchester in my uncle’s car, sir? Would that help?” Tam asked, stirring a spoonful of sugar into his tea.

A look of relief flooded Albert’s face.

“What do you think, Mother?”

Muriel nodded.

“As long as Colonel Stonethwaite won’t mind.”

“I’m jolly sure he won’t, Mrs Bloomfield.”

Florence’s face brightened.

“I’ve never ridden in a car before,” she said.

“Tell you what, I’ll let you sit in the front if you like,” Tam said. “As long as Kitty doesn’t mind sitting in the back.”

Kitty smiled. So she was going, too.

“I can go in and explain things to Mrs Potter,” she said quickly, in case her parents chose to go instead. “Don’t worry, I’ll make things right with her.”

Muriel glanced at the little mantel clock on the dresser.

“It’s nearly half past five,” she said. “If you go now, you should just get there before the store closes. Finish your tea quickly, Flo. You must tell Mrs Potter that you weren’t feeling well and came home. But you must never do such a thing again, do you promise?”

Florence nodded.

“I promise,” she said, then slipped down from her chair.

“Button your coat up,” Muriel said, standing up, too, and moving towards her, fixing her hat on her head. “You don’t want to catch cold on top of everything else, now do you?”

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”.