Under The Elm Tree – Episode 33

THANK goodness for that!” Kitty breathed a sigh of relief as she emerged from Otterby’s department store and walked to where Tam was waiting outside.

“Was Mrs Potter all right about it? What did she say?”

Kitty gave a little shake of her head.

“Well, she wasn’t happy at all about it, as you can imagine. But Flo apologised and promised not to do it again, and I think Mrs Potter knew what the girls had been doing, because she said she’d spoken to them.” She sighed deeply, then turned to smile at him. “Thank you, Tam,” she said, pressing his arm in gratitude. “It’s saved the day being able to get her back in time for closing. I don’t know what we’d have done without you.”

“There’s no need for thanks.” He held her gaze. “It’s given me a chance to spend more time with my girl.”

Kitty’s heart raced.

“Am I? Your girl, I mean?”

He stepped back to allow a lady pushing a perambulator to pass, but his eyes did not leave hers.

“If you want to be.”

She nodded shyly. She’d never walked out with a boy before. She pushed aside the fact that Tam would be returning to Sheffield after the summer. It was enough that they were together now, she told herself. Besides, all the talk of war at the moment made the future feel uncertain anyway. Tomorrow could look after itself. It was enough to be happy today.

“Good.” He smiled, drawing her arm through his. “Come on, let’s get back to the car.”

Memories of their trip into town before Christmas crowded into her mind as they made their way up the cobbled high street. She’d felt happy then, but she felt even happier now.

“My girl,” Tam had said. How good that sounded.

A boy stood selling copies of “The Farchester Herald” beside the market cross. The hoarding slung over his shoulder bore that evening’s headlines in large black letters: Preparations Going Ahead For War With Germany!

“Wait a minute, Kitty,” Tam said, stopping. “This looks important.” He bought a newspaper and leafed through the pages to the section containing the world news. “They’ve started handing out air-raid shelters to people living in London,” he told her. “Apparently everyone’s going to get them.”

Kitty shivered as she tried to imagine what it would feel like having to sit in a shelter with bombs exploding all around her. How awful, she thought. Surely it would never come to that?

Tam read on for a moment, before folding up the newspaper and tucking it beneath his arm.

“Things are hotting up,” he said as they started walking again. “Germany’s got a new battleship called Bismarck. They’re going to launch it soon.” He shook his head.

“We’re going to have to be on our toes if we’re to keep up with them,” he added, and she felt the muscles in his arm tighten. He turned to look at her, his eyes bright with excitement. “Every day that goes by makes it more certain there will be a war,” he said.

But Kitty wasn’t excited. She was afraid. Her father was always going on about how another war would be different from the last one. It would be a modern affair with machines and science, he’d told her, and bombs dropped on people. Ordinary families like them. She shuddered.

“Did I tell you that Father’s been approached by the government?” Tam asked.

“No, you didn’t. Why did they do that?”

“They’re approaching all the steel factories. They need them to produce weapons and ammunition.”

“Oh,” she said, not liking the sound of that at all. “Has your father agreed?”

“I don’t honestly think he has much choice in the matter, but he’s terribly worried about the extra work it will involve, especially with so many men leaving for military training. I’ve asked him if he wants me to come home, but he’s adamant I stay here for the summer.”

“Things are getting really serious, aren’t they?” Kitty’s voice held a tremor.

Tam nodded slowly.

“The government’s doing its best to avoid war,” he said, “but it seems pretty much on the cards to me.”

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”.