The Life We Choose – Episode 35

Somewhere a door banged and a woman, her voice shrill with exasperation, called her children in from play. Sarah, roused from her reverie, smiled to herself. If she had learned anything from that tumultuous day, it was that Langrigg was a village that looked after its own.

Sarah’s smile remained as she thought of the moment when, for the very first time in her life, she had held a newborn child.

With an anxious glance at the clock, Sarah stood up and started to coax the fire in the range to life. She was checking pots and hoping that dinner wouldn’t be spoiled when she heard Daniel coming in at the back door. She waited for the usual clatter as he took off his boots in the scullery and started as he wrapped his arms round her waist.

“I’m sorry I’m late back, Sarah,” he said, but his wife was looking at his boots.

“Your boots are all muddy, Daniel, and you’re tracking mud all over my clean floor,” she complained. With a sigh, he retreated and took off his boots, coming back to sink into one of the fireside chairs. He looked flushed and seemed restless.

“Have you been to see Jackie?” Sarah asked.

“No. They took Jackie back home today. His leg’ll take a while to mend, but Lily’s mother came from the city last night, so he’ll be in good hands. What wi’ that and the new bairn, he’ll be better in no time at all. Besides, I had bigger fish to fry today. There’s been a meeting at the pit gates. The men have had enough.”

His voice sounded suddenly loud, his words bearing a coarser edge than usual.

Sarah tried to stay calm.

“You can tell me about it while we eat. You must be starving.” She set two plates down on the table, trying to still the shaking in her hands.

“It a’ started yesterday,” Daniel began, pushing food round his plate. “Rushforth spoke to every shift as they came off. Said the tonnage had to improve or he’d cut the wages. Wouldna listen to the complaints about the fact that workin’ in water’s slowin’ the men down. Wouldna listen to the worries about safety.”

He looked at Sarah, his eyes blazing with resentment.

“We’ve decided that it’s time for action. I called a meeting at the pit gates today. You should have seen the crowd.” He leaned forward. “No sign o’ Rushforth, of course. He sent a message, though.”

Sarah waited with bated breath.

“Aye, all meetings banned on pit property and that’s the whole o’ Langrigg. And he said that if the Langrigg men dinna want their jobs, there are plenty who do. Threats, of course.”

Sarah took a deep breath and placed a calming hand over her husband’s.

“Daniel, have a care, please. This protest is getting out of hand and somebody’s going to end up being the scapegoat for the whole thing. Worst of all, nothing will change for the miners. But you’ll be the scapegoat, and everything will change for us, Daniel.”

As Daniel searched for a reply, Sarah’s tears spilled over. Despairing, she put her head down on her arms and sobbed. Her husband’s anger seemed to evaporate. He was at her side in an instant and took her in his arms. She looked up at him, her eyes bright with tears.

“I’ve tried so hard, Daniel, to be a good wife to you, to fit in here. Now everything could be ruined. You could lose your job, we could lose our home. Where would we go? I don’t think I’m strong enough to start all over again.”

As she wept, Daniel held her close, his anger ebbing away.

“Hush, Sarah. Don’t cry.”

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”.