The Life We Choose – Episode 19

The kettle was singing on the hob and the best china was laid out, but Jess’s expected visitors hadn’t arrived. Sandy had gone next door to check the other half of the cottage, empty since old Robbie the ploughman had left to live with his daughter. Glancing at the clock, Jess sighed in exasperation. Tonight, she had news and there was much to talk about. Tonight of all nights, she didn’t want Sarah and Daniel to be late.

Looking out of the window, she saw two silhouettes, dark against the gold of the setting sun, standing motionless as they breasted the hill, pausing before they came down the gentle slope that led to the cottage. As Jess watched, the two silhouettes became as one in an embrace. She turned away, feeling like an intruder, and busied herself with cups and plates.

When the door opened at last, she turned and was met by the sight of her friends, hand in hand, Sarah’s hair tumbled around her shoulders, Daniel’s tie askew, both of them flushed with excitement, their smiles spilling over into laughter.

“We have news, Jess.” As she spoke, Sarah held out her left hand. Rose-gold gleamed in the firelight. “We’re wed, Jess. Man and wife.”

For a moment, the room seemed to tilt and Jess gripped the back of the nearest chair to steady herself. Tears and embraces greeted Sandy as he came through the door. He restored order by placing Jess in a chair, then solemnly shaking hands with Sarah and Daniel, remarking that the bridegroom was “a dark horse and nae mistake.”

For a while tea was forgotten as Jess plied the newlyweds with questions. Deep inside, she felt the tiniest knot of disappointment that Sarah hadn’t confided in her.

“I would have liked fine to be your bridesmaid,” she said wistfully.

“Sometimes a secret can be a burden, Jess, and I didn’t want to burden you,” Sarah told her. “And if there’s trouble about it in any quarter . . .” She paused and Jess suddenly thought of Master Ogilvie.

“If there’s trouble,” Sarah repeated, “you can’t be blamed in any way at all.”

* * * *

Sandy fetched a bottle of port wine left over from his and Jess’s wedding, and a toast was made. At last Sandy mentioned the house next door and Jess seized on the idea.

“It’s a fine dry house,” she told Sarah and Daniel. “It wouldna take much to set it to rights. The two of you could stay here till it’s ready.”

Daniel’s face darkened.

“Thank you, Jess, but Langrigg’ll do us fine. There’s a grand wee house there a’ but ready. Everything’s arranged.” He placed a protective hand on Sarah’s arm. “Sarah’s content to go there.”

Sandy shot a warning glance at his wife and there was no more talk of the house next door.

The time seemed to fly past and Daniel’s mood brightened again as he told the story of the wedding ring, which had been much admired by Jess.

“I had said nothing to Mary Ellen or Pate about our wedding,” he related, smiling. “I was polishing my boots yesterday, when Mary Ellen came through with the ring in her hand. She told me it was her ‘keeper’ ring that Pate had given to her with her wedding ring, but she’d never worn it and she told me that she and Pate wanted me to have it.”

Jess’s eyes grew round with wonder.

“How did she know?”

There was a sudden reflective silence. Then Sarah spoke.

“I think it’s called intuition, Jess, and Mary Ellen seems to have more than her fair share.”

After hasty plans were made to tell Mrs Brodie the happy news, the couple left and were waved away from the door by Jess and her husband.

“I never got to tell them our news.” Jess sighed a little as Sandy’s arm came protectively round her shoulders.

He gave her a little squeeze.

“It was their night, Jess. You did the right thing. Our news’ll keep.” He dropped a kiss on top of her head. “You’re tired out wi’ a’ the excitement. I’ll clear up and it’s straight to bed for you, my girl.”

Jess didn’t answer. She was thinking of Sarah and in the corner of her mind was a little knot of worry.

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”.