The Life We Choose – Episode 41

Sarah sighed as she drew the curtains against a bleak evening that sent showers of sleet against the window and a wintry wind that made panes rattle.

She turned to glance at an unusually silent Daniel. He was sitting, elbows on knees, chin in hands, staring into a fire which was burning low. She sighed again. Her husband seemed in no mood to talk. For days now he’d been locked into long periods of silence.

“The fire’s burning down, Daniel,” she said.

“I’ll see to it.” With a curt reply, he disappeared into the scullery to fetch coal.

Sarah glanced at the clock. Time to go and make up his piece box for next day, to set the tray for his breakfast. She sighed.

There was usually a lightness, a sort of joy in these little tasks, but without Daniel’s presence, they were simply part of a relentless round of duties, where that clock on the mantelpiece ruled every minute of her life. And Daniel, for the last few days, had not been present in their little house. In his mind he had been somewhere else, in a place where, try as she might, she couldn’t reach him.

Was it the result of his visit to his parents, Sarah wondered, before dismissing the thought when she remembered the laughter and chat of their visit to Mary Ellen’s house just a week before. He had been the same loving Daniel when she’d related her experience at the wash house, had gently rubbed the knots out of her aching muscles as she had tried to recover from washday.

She sighed again as she prepared slabs of bread and cheese, all of it smothered in blackcurrant jam, for the piece box.

“Miners like jam on their bread and cheese,” he’d told her when she’d questioned what she thought to be a strange mixture. It was almost as if he wanted to be a miner in every way, down to the smallest detail And as a miner, Sarah reflected, glancing at the boots sitting ready at the door, at the half-filled piece box, all his ambition would be crushed, and with it her plans for the future. He would turn into his father.

There was the sudden scrape of metal on stone as the piece box was swept from the draining board and spilled its contents across the scullery floor. Sarah stood there, heedless, trying to still the fear that rose in her like a black tide.

“What’s wrong? I heard a noise.”

Daniel stood there, roused from his reverie, anxious.

Sarah turned.

“It was an accident. I knocked over your piece box.” There was a beat of silence as the two looked at each other. “I was upset. Upset because I’m worried, Daniel. You’re keeping something from me. And it’s something important to you, I know. Daniel, we promised each other that we’d share everything for the rest of our lives. The good and the bad. So why are you harbouring a secret?”

Her husband took Sarah’s hands in his.

“I’m protecting you,” he said quietly. “Just as all the men are trying to protect their wives. There’s no sense in meeting trouble halfway. Besides, if we’re to succeed, we must be sure to give no warning to the enemy.”

At that moment, Sarah Morrison knew what her husband was keeping from her.

“You insult me by keeping things from me, Daniel. And, worst of all, you betray my trust. We made a bargain, and I’ve kept my side of it. You must keep yours.”

Daniel took her hand.

“Come and sit by the fire with me, Sarah, and I’ll keep my side of the bargain,” was all he said.

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”.