Under The Elm Tree – Episode 46

I’M sorry, Kitty, honest I am. It was cowardly of me. But when I heard you and Tam had got engaged, I just couldn’t take it.” Sid looked pointedly at the sapphire and diamond ring on Kitty’s engagement finger. “Don’t worry, I’m over it now.” He smiled. “It was just a bit hard to take at the time.”

He leaned forward to give her a peck on the cheek.

“I hope you’ll both be very happy.” He paused. “How is he? Tam, I mean?”

“He’s well, thanks,” she replied, returning his smile. “The year he spent down here did him good, and he was passed at his medical. He’s stationed up at Duxford at the moment. He’s got his wings,” she added proudly.

“On ops, then, is he?”

She managed a nod as a sudden wave of apprehension threatened to engulf her. She tried not to think about Tam being involved in aerial battles with the Luftwaffe.

“He talks about it in his letters as if it were nothing,” she confided in a whisper. “It’s almost as if he enjoys it!”

“I expect he does, in a way.”

Ivy burst out laughing at something Harry had said, and Sid turned back to join in the general conversation. Kitty’s eyes lingered on him for a moment. Something about her old friend had changed. There were shadows in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. I suppose no-one could go through an experience like Dunkirk and not be changed, she reasoned.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Ivy suddenly held up her hand and called for their attention.

“I’m going to join up!” she announced. “The Wrens,” she added, looking at each of them in turn. “I’ve been fancying it for a while.”

“Well, if you’re going then so am I!” Margaret said. “I say, Kitty, why don’t we all go and sign up? It’d be enormous fun if we ended up together.”

Slowly, Kitty shook her head.

“I’ve thought about it,” she replied, “but the thing is, I don’t think Queenie could cope without me. She couldn’t possibly run the shop on her own. If things get worse, of course I’ll join up, but providing people with food is important work, too, isn’t it? And besides,” she added, “the war will be over soon.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that,” Sid said grimly, and Harry nodded his agreement.

A sailor sat down at the old upright piano which stood in the corner of the bar, his square white collar a sharp contrast to his short black hair. Amid cheers of encouragement, he began playing,
rocking backwards and
forwards to the beat of the song as he thumped out the melody.

“Roll out the barrel,” he roared, to the delight of the people in the bar. “We’ll have a barrel of fun.”

Soon, everyone was singing with him at the tops of their voices. Kitty and Sid stood up, followed by Margaret, Ivy and Harry, and they shuffled round until they were linking arms.

“Roll out the barrel, we’ve got the blues on the run,” their voices rang out.

When last orders had been called, they made their way together back through the village. The sky was dark and cloudy with only a few stars peeping through here and there, so that they had to use their dimmed torches to illuminate their steps.

“I don’t think your dad will have much to do tonight, Kitty,” Ivy said. “No moon to tempt the Luftwaffe across.”

“Not a chink in any of the windows either,” Margaret added, looking around her as she spoke. “So there won’t be anyone to give one of his famous sermons to for breaking blackout regulations.”

Albert was becoming renowned for the zealous way he carried out his ARP duties in the village.

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?” they chorused together, bursting into laughter.

Margaret was the first to leave the little group, calling out goodnight as they reached the cottage where she lived with her parents. Soon after, Ivy turned up her front path, too, and Harry headed off at speed for the farm, saying that he wanted to stretch his legs.

Sid and Kitty walked back companionably, arm in arm.

“Will you write to me when I’m away?” he asked her. “I know you’re going to marry Tam, but it would mean an awful lot to me if I could hear from you.”

His words tugged at her heart and she looked at him.

“You’re my dearest and oldest friend,” she told him with a squeeze of his arm. “Of course I’ll write to you.”

With the world spinning upside down, there was all the more reason to hold on to the things that mattered. Precious things like family and friendship, for instance. They were the things to get you through difficult times.

“We’ll always keep in touch, Sid,” she promised.

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”.