Under The Elm Tree – Episode 38

TAM left Kitty looking at it while he cleaned his brushes.

“Do you like it?” he asked, coming back to stand beside her.

“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.

He took her in his arms, and lifted her chin. He looked deeply into her eyes.

“That’s because you are beautiful,” he said. “An artist’s brush never lies.” He smiled.

She laughed.

“That’s a camera, silly . . .”

The rest of her sentence was cut short as Tam pressed his lips to hers.

“I love you, Kitty,” he murmured. “With all my heart, I love you.”

His words filled her until she thought she would overflow with joy. Suddenly the world was painted anew with colours as bright and vibrant as the ones in Tam’s picture.

“I love you, too,” she whispered, and she knew in her heart it was true. “I think I’ve loved you since the day you came into the shop.”

Her words were lost as his lips pressed down on hers once more.

When finally they drew apart, Tam began clearing up. He put tops on to tubes and wiped his palette with a rag. Finally, he closed the lid of his paint box, and the letter he’d placed there earlier for safe keeping was exposed.

He picked it up and slipped his finger beneath the envelope flap.

“Better just see what he says.”

He slid out a single sheet of paper and Kitty watched as his face grew serious.

“What is it, Tam?” she asked, moving towards him. “Tam?” she pressed, when he still did not reply.

“Father’s been asked to increase production,” he told her. “The government want us to make small aircraft parts as well as the other things. He says he’d have liked me to stay a bit longer here, but he can’t manage without me any more.”

He turned to her, a stricken look on his face.

“I’ve to go home,” he said.


“Kitty! Florence! The Prime Minister’s on in a minute!”

Kitty plucked the runner bean off its stalk and dropped it into the bowl at her feet.

“Come on, Flo,” she called to her sister, who was picking on the opposite side of the row. “It’s time for Mr Chamberlain’s announcement. We don’t want to miss it.”

She hurried along the garden path towards the house, the sun hot on her head and arms.

“Mind the bees!” she called as she pushed past a lavender bush and a cloud of them lifted, humming, into the air.

“I don’t know what the fuss is all about.” Florence’s voice sounded crossly behind her. “There won’t be a war.”

Kitty half turned to look behind her.

“How do you know that?”

“Cousin Edie said so.”

“And cousin Edie’s an expert, is she?” Kitty retorted as they made their way indoors.

“Well, she is. She’s joined the WVS.”

“So has Mother.” Kitty smiled. “But it doesn’t mean they know anything more than anybody else. Nobody knows except the Prime Minister and his cabinet.”

“I’m just saying,” Flo said, flouncing past her.

The scullery was dark after the bright sunlight outside and she paused for a moment so that her eyes could adjust. When she went through to the little sitting-room, her father was sitting at the table, twiddling a knob on the polished wooden radio.

“Come on,” her mother called above the crackle and hiss that filled the air, gesturing at the empty seat at the table which Kitty quickly took. “Now, everyone be quiet or we won’t be able to hear what he says.”

Florence opened her mouth to speak, but her father held up his hand for silence and she quickly closed it again. The static on the radio diminished to a soft hiss and there was a slight pause before a grave voice came into the room.

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note . . .”

Kitty’s heart began to thump as the importance of what she was hearing hit her. They were about to find out if their country was at war or not! The Prime Minister’s serious tone made her feel afraid and, despite the warmth of the sun-dappled room, she shivered.

She glanced at her father for reassurance as she had done as a child, but for once none was forthcoming. The only show of emotion was the stiff set of his body as he sat upright in his chair.

As Mr Chamberlain’s speech unfolded, the stillness and tension in the little room grew. Then came the momentous and irrevocable words that Kitty had been dreading so much.

“I have to tell you now that . . . this country is at war with Germany.”

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”.