A Time To Reap – Episode 08

A Time To Reap

It was Flora’s fourth birthday, but Chris had sent a present for Libby, too. The girls tore open the parcels and brought out organza dresses – Flora’s cherry red and Libby’s kingfisher blue – with net petticoats underneath.

“When in the world will they wear those?” Tibbie sniffed.

Elizabeth picked Flora’s dress up. It was a glorious colour and Flora would look adorable in it. It wasn’t practical, but trust Tibbie to look on the gloomy side.

“Why don’t you put them on now?” Elizabeth said.

It was a shame Chris wasn’t here to see them, she thought as the girls pirouetted around the room, fluffing the petticoats to make them stick out.

Her sister hadn’t been able to get home for Christmas, either, because of the weather, but had sent dolls for Libby and Flora which must have cost most of her monthly wages.

Elizabeth stole a look at the photo of Matthew, in pride of place on the mantelpiece.

What wouldn’t she give for him to be here, to see their little girls growing up, so different in personality though looking so similar?

Both were fair; both had Matthew’s blue eyes rather than Elizabeth’s grey ones.

At almost six, Libby was dreamy and timid, while Flora was outgoing. Flora didn’t remember her father, but her sister did vaguely.

“Time to blow out your candles.” Mamie lifted Flora on to a chair and smoothed down her dress so that it couldn’t catch fire.

Tibbie had provided the birthday tea – sausage rolls, cheese sandwiches and orange squash. Mamie had made a big, pink-iced Victoria sponge with sugar roses on the top.

Libby and Flora tucked in.

“You’ll be sick if you eat so fast,” Tibbie cautioned. “We’ll have to get the doctor to you.”

“You’ll have heard they’ve appointed a locum doctor?” Mamie said, turning the conversation. “Very young, from what I’ve heard.”

“He’ll have newfangled ideas, I don’t doubt,” Tibbie said. “Doctor Struan Scott, Nancy said he was called. Not long qualified.”

“He might be able to sort out your corns with some newfangled method, Tib,” Neil said slyly. “Old Munro never managed to do that.”

Only Neil got away with teasing Tibbie. She gave a reluctant smile.

“I’ve been going to Doctor Munro for years. He and Mrs Munro will be greatly missed in the area.”

The girls stopped dancing. Flora cuddled up with her grandpa, while Libby sat on Elizabeth’s knee.

Elizabeth held her close, savouring the moment.

The doorbell rang. Elizabeth groaned as she slid Libby to her feet and went to answer it.

“That’ll be Tam. He was worried about one of the cows this morning, thought she might be having twins. Why couldn’t she wait until Monday? Give me some time with my own babies!”

It was Tam.

“I don’t think we’ll need the vet, Mrs Duncan. I’ve delivered twins before but I’ll need some help,” he said, grinning as if he relished the prospect.

Elizabeth smiled back.

“Of course. I’ll be with you in about ten minutes.”

When she came back to the sitting-room Neil and Mamie were ready to go.

“Everyone’s leaving!” Flora complained. “What will we do now, Mummy?”

Elizabeth thought rapidly.

“What about getting out your scrapbooks?”

Mamie had made them each a scrapbook from wallpaper samples cleverly sewn down one side.

Tibbie heaved a sigh but went to get newspaper to cover the table and the glue pot and scissors.

“When Granny Mamie was at the hairdresser’s they gave her some magazines to read and she gave them to me,” Elizabeth said. “You can cut those up. I’ll bring them down.”

Upstairs, she changed into her working clothes. The magazines were at the side of her bed, barely looked at. But she knew they portrayed a world different from her own.

A world of modern houses with brand-new furniture. A world where women had wardrobes full of clothes, immaculate make-up and soft, manicured hands.

Elizabeth didn’t envy them. Her own hands were about to help calves into the world, and the sight of a newborn calf, trying shakily to stand, was a thrill no matter how many times she’d saw it.

She flicked through the magazines, stopping at one advertisement, her heart racing.

She sat down on the bed. No, she hadn’t imagined it.

The willowy figure in an elegant black dress, her blonde hair in a bouffant style, was her sister, Chris.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.