The Life We Choose – Episode 34

Sarah looked round her kitchen without the usual lifting of her spirits at a job well done.
It was Saturday and she had been up early to do the cleaning, the polishing, the setting of things in perfect order that had always brought her a glow of satisfaction. Not so on that particular Saturday.

Wearily, she poked the fire into life and sank down in the fireside chair. Daniel had gone out more than an hour before without saying where he was going, but for once Sarah was pleased to have the house to herself so that she could set her thoughts in order. Her sewing box sat on the side table. Lighting the lamp against the gloom of a wintry afternoon, she took out some scraps of cambric, skeins of thread and a sliver of pink ribbon.

Turning them over in her hands, she smiled to herself, her spirits rising.

“A little dress for the new baby,” she said aloud, already looking forward to the task she had set herself. Turning the delicate materials over, imagining what the finished dress would look like, she thought again of the tumult of the day that Lily’s baby had been born, the day when she had been thrown headlong into an unfamiliar, almost terrifying world which had left her emotionally drained and fatigued.

“Aye, you did well. A great help you were to me and to Lily,” Mary Ellen had told her that very morning.

Sarah leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, the memories of events as they had happened just a few days before unfolding in her mind.

Lily, a little slip of a girl, pale and fearful, had been suspicious from the start. She hardly knew Sarah, and had come to rely on Mary Ellen. She had refused to eat, resisting Sarah’s attempts to coax her into having a little broth.

“There’s somethin’ wrong. I can feel it. Too quiet oot there . . . There’s been an accident.

“An accident!” She had almost screamed the words, searching Sarah’s face with enormous, frightened eyes. And before Sarah had time to think of a reply, Nellie Burnett’s voice floated into the room.

“Aye, there’s been an accident. A man hurtit,” she called to a passer-by in her usual anxiety to be first with the news. At that, Lily had slumped into Sarah’s arms.

“Ma Jackie. It’s ma Jackie,” she had wept. And that was when it had all begun . . .

Mary Ellen had arrived as Sarah was struggling to calm Lily. Setting down a large portmanteau and wrapping herself in an apron, she took charge.

“Sarah, I need you to help me. The doctor’s comin’ once he’s seen to Jackie.”

So Sarah had boiled water, fetched linen from the big press, carried out a multitude of small tasks, while a sort of calmness had begun to fill the house. Then, just as the doctor arrived, came the first cries of Lily’s baby.

“A fine, healthy wee girl,” was Mary Ellen’s announcement as she had emerged from the bedroom, making way for the doctor. She was smiling, but her shoulders drooped with weariness.

Sarah made tea while Lily slept. As Sarah helped Mary Ellen clear up, she was told that Jackie’s injury was a bad one. There were arrangements to be made, she said, while Lily’s mother would be summoned to help.

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”.