The Life We Choose – Episode 12

Mrs Brodie had watched Sarah grow quieter by the day, withdrawing from the bustle of the household to spend hours alone in Jess’s old room. The books she’d brought with her lay unopened. She had even declined the offer to go rambling with Jess.

“What’s wrong, lass?” she asked gently.

Sarah cried then as if her heart would break.

“My father took our lives, our memories, the home my mother made for us, and threw it away and left without saying goodbye to me. Without even looking back. How could he do such a thing?”

Sarah let the floodgates open, put her head down on her arms and sobbed.

For a moment, Mrs Brodie waited before gently taking her hand.

“Cry a’ ye want, lass. It’s better oot than in.” She waited for a moment or two. “Dry your eyes and listen tae me. I mind the day that the master brought home his bride. Alice, the light o’ his life. He had been here for a couple o’ years on his own. Some thought him dour, but he was just a quiet lad. Alice made him come alive. But your father wanted nothin’ more than the wee world o’ the schoolhouse, Alice and you. That was enough for him.”

She paused and thought for a moment, then she sighed.

“Alice was a city girl. The country was a lonely place for her. And then, what wi’ my Jess bein’ the same age as you, she found her way up here and the two o’ ye played thegither while I taught your mither to bake.” She smiled, caught up in her memories. “Alice could sew a braw seam, but she wisna a baker in the early days. The master didna like her comin’ ower here at first, but she was firm wi’ him. So when he was left a widower wi’ you, a growin’ lassie, his safe wee world disappeared. Everywhere he looked, there were memories o’ it.

“‘We need a fresh start, for Sarah’s sake’,” was what he telt me the ither day. ‘The future belongs to my daughter’.”

As she spoke, Mrs Brodie’s eyes became very bright. There was a long silence. Then she spoke again, her voice slightly muffled.

“So you see, lass, if you have to turn away happiness or a’ the memories o’ it, you canna look back.”

Before Sarah could reply,
Mrs Brodie broke the mood of reflection by rising from the table and clearing pots and pans from the big range.

“Now, I’ve a hundred things tae get by me afore Mr Brodie and the laddies get back. Did I no’ hear Jess say that you were goin’ over there to give her a hand wi’ something or other?”

Sarah pushed her chair back.

“Thanks for reminding me, Mrs Brodie. She’s got material for cushions to match her spare room curtains.”

“So you’re back to teachin’, Sarah.”

Almost as soon as Mrs Brodie said the words, she regretted it, for a shadow passed over Sarah’s face.

“Away ye go, and tak’ that waterproof, for it looks like rain.” Mrs Brodie shooed her guest off before her mood could change.

The rain began as Sarah crossed the fields to Jess’s cottage and by the time she reached her destination, it had become a downpour. Jess opened her door to a visitor with wet shoes and bedraggled hair, despite the waterproof. Sewing was forgotten as Sarah was settled by the fire, her shoes put on the hearth to dry and the kettle singing on the hob.

As Jess bustled about making tea, Sarah settled back in her chair, feeling relaxed for the first time that day, and wishing that she could have come here rather than to the bustle and noise of the Brodies’ farmhouse, then almost immediately rejecting the thought as ungrateful to Mrs Brodie.

“You’re very quiet,” Jess said at last, handing her a teacup.

“I’m admiring this room,” was Sarah’s answer as she looked round. There were flowers everywhere, from the sprigged curtains and tablecloth, the jugs of wild flowers on the window-sill and dresser to the pretty patterned china.

“You’re a real homemaker, Jess.”

Jess was pleased by the compliment.

“I want to make it nice for Sandy. He works so hard, Sarah.”

Her voice tailed off as Sarah looked away suddenly, biting her lip.

“What’s wrong, Sarah?” Jess leaned forward, concerned.

“You and Sandy. You’re so happy. Your future is certain. I’m happy for you, and yet it hurts me, Jess. I should have gone to Edinburgh. I would have forgotten about it in time.”

Her hand shook as she put down her cup.

“It’s Daniel Morrison, isn’t it?” Jess said quietly, reaching over to take her hand.

At that, Sarah cried, and when at last she had dried her eyes, she told Jess all about Daniel, their meetings, her feelings for him and the seeming impossibility of it all.

“You stayed here because of Daniel?” Jess said at last, knowing the answer to that question as she spoke.

Sarah nodded.

“I shouldn’t have done that, because it’s impossible, Jess. I’ve avoided him for weeks because I don’t know which way to turn.”

Jess regarded her gravely for a moment or two.

“They say that true love cannot be denied, Sarah,” she said. “You must follow your heart.”

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”.