The Life We Choose – Episode 11

As your mother’s closest friend, Mistress Brodie has felt it her duty to tell me that she thinks our move to Edinburgh is too soon for someone as young as you. She feels that you should be given time to adjust to the changes I propose to make and has suggested that you remain here until the end of the summer, while I get settled in Edinburgh.”

He paused. Heart racing, Sarah was afraid to speak. Clearing his throat again, her father continued.

“That being so, Mrs Brodie has offered to let you stay up at the farm until that time.”

“You can have Jess’s old room, Sarah. You’re very welcome to stay if you’ve a mind to.” Mrs Brodie, smiling now, interrupted Master Ogilvie.

Glancing at her father, Sarah saw disapproval in his expression and knew that all would be lost if she hesitated. She avoided looking at her father as she spoke.

“Thank you, Mrs Brodie. You offer me a great kindness which I am happy to accept.”

She turned then to look at her father. His face was impassive.

“Thank you, Father, for allowing me to stay a little longer.”

He nodded, still expressionless, then turned to Mrs Brodie.

“I’ll not detain you any longer, Mrs Brodie,” he said, turning away.

As Sarah parted company with the visitor at the garden gate, the older woman took Sarah’s hands in hers.

“It’s hard for him,” she said. “You’re so like your dear mother, in every way.”

Her eyes misted over, then she gave Sarah’s hands a brisk shake.

“There’ll aye be a place for you at Brodies’ farm,” she said, smiling, and took her leave.

*  *  *  *

Sarah sat on the end of the bed, unsure of what to do next. A spatter of rain streaked across the window-pane. She sighed. Summer seemed to have died the day that her father had departed the schoolhouse without a backward glance. She and Jess had waited by the garden gate, hoping that he might turn and give a wave of farewell, but he had sat straight-backed beside the waggoner, his few boxes of possessions loaded on the cart behind him, beginning his journey over to the Junction and the train to a new life in Edinburgh. The sky had clouded over then and the sun hadn’t shone in the week that had passed since that day.

Sarah waited till she heard the scrape of chairs and the babble of voices from the kitchen below her room. That meant that Mr Brodie and the farmhands had finished their midday meal and she could go down to help Mrs Brodie with the clearing up. Sarah’s spirits lifted a little.

“They were in a hurry today.” Mrs Brodie smiled as Sarah joined her in the kitchen. “They’ve got to finish cuttin’ the silage and by the looks o’ that sky, there’ll be a right plump o’ rain any meenit.”

Sarah busied herself gathering up the dinner plates and taking them through to the scullery.

“You sit down, Mrs Brodie, and catch your breath. I’ll see to the dishes,” she called.

As usual, the lady of the house protested that, as a guest, Sarah shouldn’t be helping in the kitchen. The guest would have none of it.

“I’d rather make myself useful, Mrs Brodie.” She smiled.

“Well, you’ll take a wee bit dinner wi’ me when we’ve cleared up.” Mrs Brodie gave the big table a wipe. “There’s soup, the leavin’s o’ a nice pot o’ stew, wi’ carrot an’ turnip, and one o’ my apple-pies tae finish.”

“Just soup for me, Mrs Brodie. I’ve not spent all morning cutting silage.”

Sarah couldn’t get used to the big, filling meals produced daily in the farmhouse. By comparison, the diet in the schoolhouse had been meagre.

A silence fell as the two ate. Outside, there was the distant rumble of thunder.

At last, Mrs Brodie spoke.

“Will ye eat up that soup or leave it alone,” she addressed Sarah severely. “If I send you back to Edinburgh as thin as a rake, the master’ll want t’ ken the reason why.”

At the mention of her father, Sarah flinched.

“He wouldn’t notice, and even if he did, he wouldn’t care.” She stared at her plate, trying to hide the tears that welled at the very mention of her father.

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”.