The Life We Choose – Episode 05

Daniel held Sarah close for what seemed a long time.

“We should sit here in the quietness for a while and talk,” he said gently. “I have many things to ask you.”

Releasing her, he took off his jacket and spread it carefully on the grass for her.

The two of them sat there for a while, the only sound the quiet murmur of the stream. When at last they spoke, it was to tell each other of the lives they led, lives so different that a chasm might have opened up between them. Instead, a closeness began to grow and their attraction was wrapped in the growing warmth of familiarity. As the sun began to set and the slight chill of evening made Sarah shiver, she gave a start.

“They’ll wonder where I’ve got to,” she told Daniel. “Jess and Sandy. I promised to visit them.”

Daniel calmed her, lead her safely across the stream’s stepping stones, and draped his jacket over her shoulders to keep her warm. He insisted on walking to within sight of her friends’ cottage.

“How will you get home?” he asked anxiously.

She reassured him that Sandy and Jess would take her back to the schoolhouse using the pony and trap.

“Will you come to the Gowan Banks again tomorrow?” he asked.

She nodded, and once more, he gathered her into his arms.

*  *  *  *

It was a flushed, tousle-haired Sarah who presented herself to Jess and Sandy.

“Where have you been?” Jess scolded. “I baked a cake and Sandy’s had half of it already.”

Laughing, Sandy brushed away some crumbs.

As she brought out her precious wedding china for the very first time, Jess set a cup and saucer in front of Sarah, and peered at her.

“You look different, Sarah.”

There was an enquiry in the remark, but Sarah laughed it off. Her secret was too precious to share, even with Jess.

That night, Sarah could not sleep. Again she turned over in her mind that magical hour with Daniel as they had lingered by the stream. Since she had left her childhood behind, her father had instilled in her the discipline by which he lived.

“Use your reason,” he had told her. “No matter what you encounter in this life, never let your heart rule your head.”

As she abandoned all thoughts of sleep and sat up, staring out into the night sky, Sarah reflected that her father had broken his rule only once, and he had broken it for her mother. That had shaped the rest of his life and Sarah knew, as she stared into the darkness and saw Daniel Morrison’s face, that she had abandoned reason for a feeling that she’d never had before. And she knew then that it would shape the rest of her life.

* * * *

Sarah made her first visit to Langrigg just a week after Mary Ellen Walker’s visit to the schoolhouse. Her father seemed to be anxious about it and gave her so many warnings about the place that she began to feel as if she was about to enter a new and hostile world instead of making a two-mile journey down the road that wound its way to the Junction, where the Edinburgh train stopped and where there were a few shops.

“Jess is coming with me for company,” Sarah told her father. “There’s no need for you to worry.”

In fact, Jess was going to the Junction to do some shopping and took the pony and trap down by the main road, dropping Sarah, at her insistence, on the little side road that dipped down to the mining village.

“I’ll be little more than an hour,” Jess told her. “I’ll meet you here on your way back.”

It was a bright day and yet the light seemed to fade a little as Sarah descended into a shallow valley filled with row upon row of identical houses divided by a rutted gravel street so that each rank facing the other looked like two sides of a motionless brick army. Beyond was the colliery, a sprawl of huts and conveyor belts. Above it all, dominating the landscape, was the winding gear with its massive wheel which creaked and clanked without pause.

There were few people about. As Sarah picked her steps along the gravel of the main street, a group of miners in working clothes, hunkering down at the gable end of one of the rows, glanced curiously at her. A few of them raised their caps and nodded.

Glancing at the slip of paper bearing Mary Ellen Walker’s address, Sarah realised that she had no idea where the house might be. There were no street names on walls, and the very sameness of the place had made her lose her sense of direction.

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”.