Under The Elm Tree – Episode 48

ELLA felt a rush of excitement.


He nodded.

“It’s definitely by the artist she thought. His name’s Thomas Dodd.”

So Mum was right, she thought. It wasn’t Stonethwaite at all!

“She’s going to bring the painting back when she drops Cathie off to me tomorrow after school,” he went on.

“That’s brilliant, Joe. Please tell her thanks from me, won’t you?”

“I will. She’s pretty impressed by it, actually. I wouldn’t be surprised if she offers to buy it from you for the gallery.”

Ella shook her head vehemently.

“No,” she said. “It’s definitely not for sale. It means too much to all of us.” Then she smiled. “Mum and Dad have got plans for it. They’re going to hang it in their new extension.”

“Tell them not to put it anywhere it gets too much light then, or it’ll fade,” he said.

Her heart gave another little jump. But this time it was nothing to do with the painting. It was the way the corners of his eyes crinkled as he smiled.

She was going to miss Joe when she left Wembury. She was going to miss him very much indeed.


Susan pressed her mobile to her ear.

“Are you sure you can manage to fit everything in your car, Ella?”

“There’s not that much, Mum, just a few boxes. Oh, and the painting, of course. I’ll bring it all up with me at the weekend.” Her voice began to fade.

“Hang on, darling. The signal’s playing up again. I’m just walking through to the kitchen. There, is that better? Good. Now, when did you say you’d be arriving?”

“At the weekend. Sunday, probably. You don’t mind if I stay with you for a bit until I sort out what I’m going to do, do you, Mum?”

Susan drew out a stool from beneath the breakfast bar, and sat down.

“Of course I don’t. Dad and I were only saying the other day how lovely it’ll be to have you home again for a while.” And it was true, she thought. They’d both missed their girls terribly since they’d flown the nest.



“You know how I’ve been doing some designs based on Wembury House?”

“Yes.” Suddenly, Susan’s stomach was full of butterflies. That wretched place again. Whatever was Ella going to ask her?

The question was worse than she’d feared.

“Did something happen there, Mum?” Ella asked. “Only, you always avoid the subject when it comes up.”

“Do I?” The butterflies increased as she sought a way round the subject without success.

“You know you do, Mum.”

Susan gave a deep sigh. She’d always known she’d have to tell the girls eventually. It seemed that time had come. But still she paused.

“Are you sure you want to know?”

“Of course I do. I wouldn’t have asked otherwise.”

Perhaps it was the fact that the kitchen was in semi-darkness, or perhaps it was that her daughter’s tone was sympathetic, she wasn’t sure, but suddenly the story of what had happened began to tumble out.

“You know that Wembury House used to be owned by Colonel Stonethwaite, don’t you?”

“Yeah. He always sounded a nightmare to me.” Ella laughed. “Gran always said he was a right stickler for the rules.”

Susan was glad she was doing this on the phone. It would have been much harder face to face.

“Well, the thing is,” she began, then she stopped.

“What?” Ella prompted. “Spit it out, Mum.”

You can’t stop now, Susan told herself, and she took a deep breath.

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”.