The Life We Choose – Episode 13

Sarah’s steps slowed as she approached the brow of the hill that led down to the stream and the clump of alders. Would Daniel be there, in the usual place, after her long absence?

She stopped, all at once unsure, the damp grass striking chill into her feet. It had all seemed so simple as Jess had explained her plan for this evening, as she had put on her best dress and brushed her hair up into the butterfly clasp that had been Daniel’s gift to her. She shivered.

The sun had begun to shine again after days of rain, but it had lost its summer warmth. Soon, the summer would end.

Sarah willed herself to walk on, and as she breasted the brow of the hill, she looked down and there he was. Leaning against a tree, aimlessly tossing pebbles into the stream.

She began to run, calling his name.

For a long time, they stood there, entwined in each other’s arms, Daniel murmuring endearments.

“Daniel, I’m sorry to have been away so long. I can explain.” Sarah looked up at him at last. He put a finger on her lips to silence her.

“I know all about it, Sarah. News travels fast. When I heard that your father had left but you had stayed behind at Brodies’, I had hopes . . .”

His voice shook a little as he studied her face. There was an uncertain silence for a moment or two.

“Foolish hopes, maybe, but . . .” There was enquiry in his voice.

Sarah smiled up at him.

“I have a surprise for you. I’ve told Jess about you. She had her suspicions since that day at the Gowan Fair, Daniel. She’ll keep our secret.”

“And the surprise?” He smiled at her.

“She says we can meet at the cottage.” She took Daniel’s hand. “We can go now if you’ve a mind to.”

“Aye.” Daniel took off his jacket and put it round Sarah’s shoulders. “It’s cold for you out here, Sarah. The summer’s nearly done.”

Jess greeted them as if it was the most natural thing in the world, plied them with tea, then took herself off to another room.

“Sandy’ll be late home the night,” she told them before she withdrew. “I’m goin’ to meet him later on, but you’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”

There was no answer from the visitors. Jess smiled to herself as she left them, hands touching across her little table, voices scarcely louder than whispers, engrossed in each other.

Later, Sarah couldn’t remember how they had reached the subject of Daniel’s family, but she recalled how his face had hardened when he spoke of his father.

“He’s a bitter man,” he told Sarah. “He lets his bitterness spill over now and then. It’s hard for Mother and our Katy. Maybe some day I’ll be able to put things right for them.”

He had sighed then, as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Gently, Sarah had prompted him, coaxed his life story from him.

His father, Geraint Morrison, was Welsh, a miner in the valleys at first, but branded a hothead and an agitator when he had led a strike there. He had lost his job and the family had moved from place to place as he found work in other pits, only to lose it as he spoke out against what he saw as the injustice of the pit owners directed at the men who worked for them.

“I wanted to be a mining engineer,” Daniel told Sarah. “It was fine for a while when we were out at the other side of Edinburgh. Katy and I got schooling for a while. I even started learning about mining drawing.”

He had stopped speaking for a while then. Sarah waited . . .

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”.