City Of Discoveries — Episode 22

Jennet Marshall and Mistress Wightman were in the market inspecting the butcher’s counter. It was late morning and there wasn’t a great deal left to view, but he still had a good pile of bones for stock.

“Aye, that ane at the back, son.” Phemie Wightman leaned heavily on her stick and pointed to the one she wanted with her other hand.

Jennet shuffled in the cold February morning, but could see a break in the cloud high above them.

Perhaps, she thought, it wouldn’t snow again today.

They continued their walk and arrived at the outside door.

Jennet kicked a couple of cabbage leaves into the gutter and waited while Mistress Wightman shuffled along the passage to her door.

“Thanks for your company, lass. I appreciate it.”

“And me. I am enjoying being at home again, making a home again. I’m off to Aberdeen Road this afternoon because Miss Smith has arranged a separate lesson for me with Mr Lochead.

“She says I’m getting ahead of the others and it’s a shame to hold me back.”

“She’s a great one for organising a’body else’s life,” Mistress Wightman said. “I don’t know what would have become of me if she hadn’t stepped in when Tam was killed.”

“That was an accident in Sooth’s, wasn’t it?”

“Freak, a freak accident. Tam wis one of the foremen, and he’d been a great weaver in his time. He was outside on a break when one of thae big horses bolted.”

Jennet rubbed her hand along Mistress Wightman’s arm.

“Tam was clouted by a bale of jute. He never came roon’ again. Aye, it could be said it was Sooth’s at fault.”

“That’s awful,” Jennet breathed.

She thought about how big the bales were and shuddered.

“Aye, but it’s a wee while ago now. Miss Smith was only nine, but she persuaded her pa tae make me a payment. It keeps me going.”

Jennet left the older woman and went up to her own room. The fire was burning low as she’d left it, and she set her bone into the big stock pot with a covering of water.

She quickly chopped up some vegetables and pulled some dried herbs out of a bundle she had hanging, before tipping everything into the pot and swinging it over the fire.

A little while later, she was striding up the hill towards Aberdeen Road, with her books tucked into her cloth bag, when she saw a gaggle of men coming away from Keiller’s jam factory.

At two o’clock, it wasn’t a shift change for anybody.

She recognised her man’s figure and turned back to their room.

“William?” she asked quietly as she pushed open the door.

“Aye, is that you, pet?”

William was prodding the broth.

“Nae mair oranges,” he said simply.

William held out his arms and she fell against him.

They’d always known that the Keiller’s job would only last as long as the inflow of fruits.

What now? Jennet had known a short month of peace, but she would have to look for another mill job while William tried for anything that might come up.

She was not going back to Sooth’s, though, because she’d seen Drew Fleming, the foreman who was bullying her, in the crowd the night William had picked up the old wife and her purse.

Jennet was sure Fleming had been involved in the attempted theft, but she’d kept that to herself.

“Well, I’m hame now, and I think that broth is going tae tak a wee while to cook,” William was saying.

His hands were unwrapping her outdoor clothes and Jennet shivered with anticipation. How long was it since William had shown such an interest?

All thoughts of her writing lesson left her head as she reached up to her man’s kiss.

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”.