Under The Elm Tree – Episode 43

KITTY looked up from the letter she was reading.

“Tam wants me to go and visit him, Mother,” she said. “He’s got a few days’ leave next week.”

She was sitting with her parents in the little parlour at the front of the cottage. The evening was blustery, and rain blew in fitful gusts against the window-pane. Albert, tired after a long day at the
farm, was relaxing in his chair beside the fire. Muriel sat on the other side, with Kitty on a dining chair between them.

“What about the shop?” Muriel asked. “Can Queenie manage without you?”

“I’ll ask her if she can spare me for a few days. I didn’t take my week’s holiday in the summer, so I’m sure she won’t mind.”

“I thought it would be the end of things between you when he went back to Sheffield,” Albert intervened, puffing hard on his pipe and sending swirls of smoke into the air.

“I was scared it would be, too, Dad, especially when he went and joined the Air Force. I thought he’d forget all about me. But he hasn’t.” She smiled. “We’ve been writing to each other.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Muriel said drily. “Twice a week at least, by my reckoning.”

Kitty blushed.

“We’re good friends, Mother.” She couldn’t bring herself to tell them it was more than that. The kisses she and Tam had shared were private.

She hadn’t told her parents about the portrait he’d painted of her, either, for they’d want to know how serious it was between them, and the truth was that she hardly knew that herself.

Muriel reached for her knitting which lay on a little table beside her. She was making a navy-blue balaclava helmet for George.

“To keep him warm when he’s on night watch at sea,” she told people.

“Well, if you say so, my girl.” She gave Kitty a long, knowing look as she twisted the wool around her needles.

Kitty avoided her eye. Her mother was far too perceptive for comfort sometimes.

“I feel a bit nervous about meeting Tam’s parents,” she continued, keeping to safe ground. “They’re bound to be grand, owning their own factory and everything. I shan’t be sure how to go on.”

“You just be yourself,” Muriel told her firmly as her needles clacked rhythmically together. “You’re good enough for anybody.”

“That’s not what Dad thinks.”

“I never said you weren’t good enough,” Albert chipped in. “I only said that the lad’s not one of us, that’s all.”

“If Kitty and Tam want to be together, then it’s up to them, Albert,” Muriel said firmly. She finished her row, turned her knitting around and began another. “I don’t know about travelling all that way on your own, though.” She frowned. “Especially in wartime.”

Kitty laughed.

“Mother, I’m twenty-two. You were married to Dad with a baby on the way at my age. I’ll be perfectly all right. I’ve got a tongue in my head to ask if I’m unsure of anything.” Carefully, she folded Tam’s letter and eased it back into its envelope.

“Besides,” she added, “it doesn’t really feel as if we’re at war. Nothing much has changed, apart from all the fuss and bother!”

“You don’t want to be fooled by that,” Albert warned. “War always takes a while to get going. It’ll all start soon enough, you mark my words.”

Kitty shivered and moved a little closer to the fire, putting her slippered feet on the brass fender and holding out her hands to the flames.

“Perhaps the politicians will change their minds and everything will go back to normal again?” she ventured.

Albert shook his head, slowly and solemnly.

“That won’t happen,” he said authoritatively. “We’re in far too deep.”

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”.