The Life We Choose – Episode 09

As Sarah ran down the hill, Daniel was waiting in the usual place on the far bank of the stream. He came to lead her across the stepping stones. They didn’t speak for a while as they reached the shade of the trees. It was enough to rest in each other’s arms, for Daniel to trace the outline of Sarah’s cheek with a finger.

When at last he spread his jacket on the grass and they sat down together, they talked about Langrigg.

“Life seems so hard there,” Sarah ventured. “Why did you choose such a life, Daniel?”

He laughed, but it was a bitter laugh.

“I didn’t choose it, Sarah. It was chosen for me by someone. Someone who should have known better,” he added with a sigh.

Then he gathered her into his arms again.

“But I won’t be there for ever. I have plans,” he said.

He smiled at her for a moment and then went on in a serious voice.

“I have the best reason in the world to make those plans work.”

Sarah’s heart leapt as he said the words. There was a small silence as they smiled at each other, knowing that a pledge had been made. But in that silence, she remembered her father.

“Daniel, I must go,” she told him. Giving a hurried explanation, she bade him a reluctant farewell. He watched her retreating form until she was out of sight.

Her father was waiting, formality threatened by the fact that he had chosen to sit at his writing desk by the window. Before him lay the three letters which Sarah had seen him conceal between the pages of his book in recent days. He looked up and cleared his throat.

“You are eighteen now, Sarah, and time is getting on. You have your studies to consider in the very near future. As you know, a university education was planned for you, but since your . . .” He faltered for a moment. “Since our circumstances changed and you became a pupil teacher and took over the household, these plans have had to be postponed.”

Sarah held her breath. This was a bolt from the blue.

Her father looked up at her.

“I have tired of this place, too,” he went on. “The sameness of the teaching and the quietness of the house will eat up the years when much could be achieved.”

He rubbed his eyes wearily.

“For you at least,” he added.

Sarah knew better than to try to interrupt her father. Heart pounding, she waited.

“I have resigned my position here,” he said. “And my resignation has been accepted.”

He handed Sarah one of the letters. Her hand shook as she read it.

The words began to blur as she read the letter again, and her father’s voice suddenly seemed to be coming from a great distance away.

He went on in measured tones.

“Your aunt Bertha has a large house near the university in Edinburgh. She is happy for us to stay with her for as long as we want. I will apply myself to finding a new situation in one of the city schools as soon as possible.”

Sarah could keep silent no longer.

“You said nothing to me, Father. This is my life, too. Do I have no say in the matter?”

She stared at him, halfway between anger and tears.

Master Ogilvie gave his daughter a look which would have quelled the most unruly pupil.

“You are a child, not a woman grown, Sarah,” he said calmly, gathering up the letters. “You are my responsibility. And that responsibility includes making decisions for the future. This is the best way forward. I have given it much thought, I can assure you.”

But as he spoke, Sarah turned away and fled to the sanctuary of her room, where she threw herself on her bed and cried her heart out.

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”.