The Life We Choose – Episode 33

Sarah had just got in from the morning session at the Wee School when Mary Ellen arrived for her usual daily visit. She was carrying two covered dishes in a large basket and handed one to Sarah before subsiding into a chair by the fire. She looked tired.

“No’ much dryin’ the day.” She sighed. “The sheets’ll likely end up on the pulley in my kitchen, and when I get them dry they’ll smell o’ Pate’s pipe smoke wi’ a wee touch o’ Scotch broth flung in for good measure.”

Sarah made some tea and watched as her friend slowly revived.

“You’re worried about somethin’, lass.” Mary Ellen directed a penetrating look at Sarah who, caught unawares, sighed, and told her about Miss Bunty’s visit and Daniel’s outburst about a strike.

“He’ll end up like his father, Mary Ellen. He’ll be branded a troublemaker. All our plans will be in ruins, and then what will we do?” Sarah’s voice broke with strain, and her gaze was tear-filled.

There was a small silence. When at last Mary Ellen spoke, she chose her words carefully.

“He’s young, Sarah. Full o’ passion. But when a’s said and done, he cares more for you than anythin’ else in the world, and that’ll keep the both o’ you safe. Miss Bunty knows the way o’ things and she’ll see to it that Rushforth puts things right for the men. She’ll no’ let it come to a strike.

“That Miss Bunty’s a right wee bag o’ tricks, believe me. She cares about the folk here in Langrigg. Just like her father afore her.”

Sarah wiped away a stray tear.

“But the colonel . . .” she began.

“He owns only half the pit, Sarah. Miss Bunty owns the other half. Folk dinna know that, but I was told that in confidence a while back. I’m only tellin’ you to put your mind at ease. Daniel will never let harm come to your door, Sarah, an’ Miss Bunty’ll set things straight hersel’.” She glanced at the clock. “Now, I’ll need to away.”

As she put on her shawl and gathered up her basket, Mary Ellen wondered if she had done the right thing in reassuring Sarah. In doing that, she had broken her lifelong rule of absolute honesty and it didn’t sit easily with her. The worries that had kept her awake in the watches of the night swirled around in her mind.

Suddenly, the door burst open with such force that it slammed against the wall. Daniel stood there in his working clothes, his helmet in his hand.

“Pate said you’d be here,” he said to Mary Ellen. “There’s been an accident. It’s Jackie Begg. Roof fall. He’s conscious, but his leg is smashed. He wouldna let me go to Lily, her being expectin’ an’ all. Said to tell you, Mary Ellen.”

Mary Ellen didn’t hesitate.

“Tell them to bring Jackie to my house, Daniel, and send a man to fetch the doctor. Hurry,” she added, but Daniel had already gone, without as much as a glance at his wife. As Sarah fought a little jolt of disappointment, Mary Ellen handed her the basket.

“Sarah, lass, you take that to Lily. I was just headin’ to see her. No’ a word about Jackie’s accident, mind. I’ll get Magrit to send the bairns home for you and close up the school. And remember, no’ a whisper o’ an accident.”

With that, Mary Ellen had gone. For an instant, Sarah leaned against the door jamb to still the sudden dizziness that overcame her, then stepped out into a different world.

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”.