The Life We Choose – Episode 18

Sounds from the kitchen below broke the silence. There was a scraping of chairs, a burst of hearty laughter and the boom of
Mr Brodie’s voice as he and his sons settled down to their evening meal. Sarah came to with a start and splashed cold water from the ewer into the basin on the washstand. All afternoon, she had kept to her room, pleading a headache, and had carefully packed her clothes and few belongings so that everything would be ready when Daniel came for her to bring her to their new home. The night before, she had scarcely slept, going over again in her mind every detail of her hurried wedding day, tainted by the dark shadow of guilt that haunted her.

She had kept news of her marriage to Daniel from Jess and Mrs Brodie, though deception was not in her nature.

Steeling herself to deceive once again, she put on her apron and went downstairs.

“Is your headache still botherin’ you, lass?” Mrs Brodie asked, as she brought the last of the serving plates through to the scullery. “Maybe you should get a breath o’ fresh air when a’ this is feenished. Take a wee walk ower to Jess’s place.”

Sarah smiled and nodded.

“I’ll do that, Mrs Brodie,” she said.

Later, when the house was quiet, she began to dress for her evening outing. Her best dress lay ready on the bed.

She sat on the bed and gathered her shawl to her, closed her eyes and let the memories of her wedding day spill back into her mind for a moment or two.

Daniel had come early, in the afternoon. He had looked pale, his hair damp from washing, his boots polished to a high shine. He’d told Jess that he was taking Sarah for a drive and she had lent the pony and trap for the outing. When they’d reached the little country church with the friendly old minister who had been so kind to them, they had stood there, in the church, the September sun streaming through the windows and turning the bride’s hair to a halo of burnished gold, no thoughts of past or future, but only of the present and each other.

Sarah smiled to herself, remembering the mistakes they’d made in their eagerness. They had no witnesses, their need for secrecy having eclipsed practical things.

The minister had left the church for a moment or two and had returned with the cheerful plump lady who acted as his housekeeper and the man who was tidying up the garden of the manse.

“Now we have witnesses, we can get on with the business in hand.” The minister had beamed.

At that moment, Sarah had wondered if Daniel had a wedding ring for her, and her heart sank as he searched through the pockets of his jacket and then his waistcoat.

She smiled at the memory and fingered the beautiful rose-gold ring, delicately figured with tiny hearts and flowers, that hung on a chain round her neck.

* * * *

Sarah was plucked from the past by the sound of voices followed by the slamming of a door downstairs. Mrs Brodie was scolding her sons and Sarah’s memories of her day evaporated in the noise. Smiling, she donned her best dress – her wedding dress. It was the one she’d worn when she had first met Daniel on that sunlit afternoon on the Gowan Banks.

To some, it might have seemed that the first day of Sarah’s married life was like any other day. Daniel had to be at work and their secret had to be kept for a little longer. They had decided that Jess must be first to know, so they planned to meet at their usual place, beneath the alders, then make their way up to Jess and Sandy’s cottage.

Her excitement mounting, Sarah skipped across the fields until she was within sight of the stream with its fringe of trees. Her husband was waiting.

“My Daniel,” she breathed as she threw herself into his arms.

He said nothing, but held her close for a long time, burying his face in her hair. Then he carefully undid the chain round her neck and took her wedding ring from it. He took her hand and slipped her wedding ring on her third finger, then held her hand against his heart.

“With this ring I wed you,” he said softly. “And I will honour and love you all the days of my life.”

And there, in their special place, with the trees shedding leaves of red and gold down on them, Sarah wept with happiness.

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”.