The Life We Choose – Episode 01

The schoolhouse was quiet, faint sounds and scents of a summer afternoon wafting through open windows. As she passed her father’s chair, Sarah Ogilvie glanced down at the book which lay on his knee, noting that in the past half-hour he hadn’t turned a single page. She sighed and went through to the schoolroom, knowing that he was deep in thought and wouldn’t welcome any interruption.

It had been three years now that there had been a sadness in the house. It had only been eased by the children who came to the two schoolrooms for lessons, filling the place with their laughter in the small room where Sarah taught the little ones. In the big schoolroom, Master Ogilvie had become stern and unsmiling. In the evenings, he worked with Sarah on her studies and then retreated into silence, gazing into the fire. Sarah knew that the loss of her mother had changed him, distancing him from the daughter who reminded him so much of the wife he had loved so completely.

Sarah busied herself by inspecting the schoolrooms, which had been tidied and scoured to shining perfection in the days since the children had tumbled eagerly out of the door for their long summer holiday. At last, she slid open one of the long sash windows and perched on the window-sill while she considered how she might fill the rest of the afternoon.

Her thoughts turned to the Gowan Fair and brought with them the faintest blush to her cheeks. Looking out across the fields, she could see the top of the Gowan Banks, white-edged like a wave with the profusion of flowers which ran down to meadowland. A week before, that meadowland had come alive to the sound of the cheers, laughter and bustle of the Gowan Fair.

Sarah pressed her cheek to the coolness of the window-pane and closed her eyes as she remembered the afternoon she had gone to the fair.

She had slipped out of the house to meet her friend, Jess McAndrew.

“We’re going for a walk,” she’d told her father, but he’d paid little heed.

She and Jess had gone only as far as the Gowan Banks, to where the miners and their wives, the farming folk, and even the workers from as far away as the Junction, were disporting themselves. There were stalls and sideshows; the travelling people had arrived, as they did every summer, and were selling their wares. A running track had been marked out for the races which would start later, but the usual competitions were already underway.

Jess had tugged Sarah’s hand and led her along to where two young men appeared to be having a pillow fight on a crosspiece between two lofty wooden pillars. They were wielding straw-filled bags in an effort to dislodge each other.

The crowd shouted encouragement.

“Come on, Sandy.” Jess let out a most unladylike shout before clapping her hands over her mouth and blushing.

“There’s no shame in supporting your husband,” Sarah told her. Jess and Sandy had been married for less than a month.

Hearing Jess’s voice seemed to make him double his efforts, at the same time distracting his opponent, who glanced down and met Sarah’s gaze. He hesitated for an instant and was sent flying by an almighty whack from Sandy’s bag of straw and landed at Sarah’s feet.

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”.