Under The Elm Tree – Episode 37


I THINK your father’s changing towards me, Kitty.” Tam smiled. “He’s much more friendly than he used to be.”

They were sitting beneath the elm tree on the village green.

“Well . . . yes,” she agreed tentatively.

“But?”

She sighed.

“He still doesn’t think we’re right for each other.”

“Look, Kitty. Our families aren’t so very different when you get down to it. My parents own a steel works, not a country estate!”

“Dad doesn’t see it like that, though, Tam. He thinks that because you’re related to the Stonethwaites, you’re above us somehow, and that we’re not suited.”

He stood up, and an unopened letter fell from his pocket. He picked it up, looking at it absently.

“It’s another letter from Father. He’s been writing a lot lately, and I’m a bit worried about him. It’s this government scheme. He’s finding the production change all a bit much to cope with.” He placed the letter beneath his paint box. “I’ll read it later. Then I’ll write back to him tonight.”

He opened up his easel and set it just within the shade of the elm tree’s long branches. Kitty came to stand beside him, and he slipped an arm about her waist. They stood there together for a moment before he eased away and set out a blanket for Kitty to sit on.

“There, like that,” he said, arranging her arms. “Now, don’t move . . .”

“How long have I got to stay like this?” She laughed.

“For as long as it takes! Every painting’s different.” He opened his paint box. “I’m glad you wore your green dress. I’ll never forget when I saw you in it at the Christmas dance.”

He smiled at her, a smile so intimate and deep that it set her pulse racing.

“Stay like that,” he said.

“Like what?”

“Smiling that smile. I want to capture it.”

A stillness fell upon the afternoon as Tam painted, absorbed in his task. Kitty listened to the soft rustle of the branches above as they lifted gently in the warm breeze, then the sonorous bong of the church clock as it sounded out the quarter hour.

Kitty thought she had never been so happy. To be in Tam’s company like this, just the two of them, was wonderful. And when a lark began its melodious song high above a meadow beyond the church, she thought the sound would lodge in her heart for ever.

The sun, high in the sky above them, dropped through the gently lifting leaves, and shifting patterns of light and shade played across her dress. A lawn mower began whirring gently from one of the cottage gardens surrounding the green and the sweet scent of newly mown grass drifted across to them.

Occasionally she shifted slightly, but she tried not to break Tam’s concentration by speaking. Every now and then he would stop and allow Kitty to rise and stretch her legs, but he was always insistent she sat back down in exactly the same place in exactly the same pose.

Finally, with the shadows beginning to lengthen, he stepped back.

“I think that’s it,” he said. “It’s not finished, but I’ve got everything I need for now. I can complete it at home. Do you want to see it?”

She nodded, getting up stiffly.

“As long as you haven’t painted a donkey’s head on my shoulders!” she added, and he laughed.

She walked out from the shade of the tree into the sunlight, and stood staring at the painting.

For a moment she couldn’t speak.

The brush strokes were of a bolder style than she’d seen before and for a while all she could see were daubs of blue, green, yellow and brown. Then she stepped back, and the picture slipped into focus. She held her breath as she looked at it. The girl in the picture was beautiful, radiant with happiness and her face alight with love and life. Was that truly how Tam saw 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”.