Under The Elm Tree – Episode 52


October 1940

KITTY had been dreading telling her mother about her decision. She wasn’t at all sure she’d approve, yet she so badly needed her support at the moment. She took a deep breath.

“I’m going to join up!” she announced.

A gust of wind rattled the steamy kitchen window as Muriel turned from the sink. She placed a colander of curly kale on the draining board then reached for a striped towel that hung beside the door.

“Are you now?” she said, nodding at Kitty as she dried her hands. “You’d better sit down and tell me about it, then.”

At the table, they were silent for a moment as they sat looking at each other.

“You’re not rushing into this because of Tam, are you?” Muriel asked. “Don’t you think you should give yourself a bit longer to recover first?”

At the mention of Tam’s name, Kitty’s heart twisted.

“I’ll never recover,” she said quietly. She knew her mother was only protecting her, for it was less than a month since Tam had died, but the pain was as raw as ever and she didn’t see how it was ever going to be any different.

“You will, my girl.” Muriel reached out to cover Kitty’s hand with her own. “You just can’t see it yet.” She gave her hand a pat before letting go.

The kindness of her mother’s gesture made Kitty’s eyes sting, but she knew the tears wouldn’t fall. Not once since reading that awful telegram had they spilled over to give her grief some relief.

And even if she could cry, she thought, tears didn’t change anything, did they? The important thing was to be strong. She wasn’t the only one having to cope with the death of someone they loved.

“I hate this war!” she murmured.

Muriel shook her head as she sighed.

“We all do, love. War is a dreadful, wicked thing. But Dad’s right, we’ve got to remember that we’re fighting for a better world.”

A better world! How could the world possibly be better without Tam?

“Anyway, I want to do my bit, Mother, and I don’t want to wait until I get called up.” She managed a smile. “I thought I’d join the ATS. Ivy says they like practical people like me. If I catch the seven-forty train into Farchester tomorrow, I can go to the recruitment office and make it back to the shop before it gets too busy.”

“Good heavens, the shop! However will Queenie manage on her own?” Muriel was quiet for a moment. “Perhaps I can have a word with my WVS group,” she murmured. “We could draw up a rota till she finds somebody to replace you. Yes, that’s the thing.”

She gave Kitty an over-bright smile before standing up and turning to the sink once more.

“Now, then, lay the table will you, love?”

****

After six weeks’ training, Kitty was given a short leave before taking up her posting. She’d been planning to spend it with the girls from her dorm who were going to Brighton, but eventually the pull of home was too strong. No wonder Flo had found it so hard to leave, she thought. Home was part of who you were.

The light was already fading from the dank November afternoon when the train slowed to a stop at Farchester Station. The dim carriage bulbs had been switched off as they’d approached, so it was safe to lift the black-out curtain a little to peek out.

The platform was pitched in gloom because of wartime regulations, but she could still make out the familiar dark outlines of the station. Only one more stop, then Hamton Halt and home.

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.