Under The Elm Tree – Episode 44

THE journey to Sheffield was uneventful, and although the trains were packed full of service men and women, they ran strictly on time. At one of the stations they stopped at there were posters asking: Is your journey really necessary? These made Kitty feel guilty.

Well, my journey’s necessary to me, she thought, fixing her gaze instead on an enamel sign advertising Camp Coffee and clutching the box containing her gas mask tightly to her.

When she reached London, she took the underground train to St Pancras for her onward journey. Everywhere was crowded and busy, and she felt lucky to find an empty seat by a window.

A young sailor lifted her suitcase on to the corded rack above, and she placed the sandwiches Muriel had made for her on the small shelf beside her. Then the carriage gave a shudder, and they began to move.

The train chugged its way north, and the further away from Wembury she travelled the more excited she began to feel, for everything was novel and new to her.

All the signposts and station names had been taken down, of course, so for much of the time she was never sure exactly where she was.

But it didn’t really matter, for the conductor walked along the corridor from time to time, shouting out the name of the stations they were approaching, so she had a good gauge of their progress.

At long last, the conductor called, “Next stop Sheffield!”

Her heart beat hard. A few more minutes and she’d see Tam again!

The kindly sailor who had lifted up her case now took it down for her, and she smiled her thanks before taking her place in the queue waiting to alight.

A hub of noise and activity hit her senses as she stepped out on to the platform. It seemed even busier here than in London. Trains screeched and announcements echoed, people called to each other, and engines hissed steam from beneath their big iron wheels.

She breathed in the familiar smell of scorching and burning coal as a cloud of steam enveloped her, and stood for a moment until it had cleared.

Then she turned in the direction of the exit, joining the throng of people streaming from the train.

She looked around for Tam as she was carried along, sounds echoing beneath the clear canopy overhead.

He’d said in his letter that he’d meet her at the station, but he hadn’t said exactly where. She hadn’t realised that it would all be so big and overwhelming. What would she do if he wasn’t here? How would she find her way to where he lived? Would she have to travel home again?

Suddenly the crowd of passengers thinned and she saw him. He was dressed in his uniform, his Air Force blue tunic and trousers immaculate, his peaked cap set just a little to one side atop his head giving him a glamorous air.

Her steps slowed. She suddenly felt shy. In his uniform he seemed like a stranger. But, oh, how handsome he looked!

Then their eyes met and he smiled, and he wasn’t a stranger any more. He was her Tam. It was a smile so full of joy and pleasure at seeing her, it made her heart contract in her chest.

Then he was pushing his way against the flux of the crowd towards her and she dropped her small suitcase on to the ground as he took her in his arms.

“Kitty,” he whispered, hugging her tightly before taking off his cap to kiss her. “I’ve missed you so much.”

Then he picked her up and, with a whoop of delight, swung her round, much to the amused delight of passengers passing by.

“Put me down.” She laughed, and he abruptly did so, kissing her again, this time more thoroughly.

Eventually he let her go and held her at arms’ length, and they stood, laughing with joy at seeing each other.

Then his smile faded and his face became serious.

“What is it, Tam?” she asked. “Is there something wrong?”

He shook his head.

“There’s nothing wrong,” he said. He hesitated as if he was weighing something up. “I wasn’t going to ask you yet, not till you had met my parents. But it can’t wait,” he finished decisively.

“Ask me? Ask me what, Tam?”

She gasped as he took off his cap and dropped down on one knee. He looked up at her, his brows drawn together, his eyes endearingly anxious.

“Darling Kitty,” he said, “will you marry 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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.