The Life We Choose – Episode 45

Back in the warmth of her own kitchen, Sarah was suddenly overcome by the weariness of a sleepless night, and sat by the fire for a long time in that no-man’s land between wakefulness and sleep.

When at last she realised the time, she gathered up her books in a rush and was greeted by a line of hopeful children waiting at the door of the Wee School. For the first time that day, she smiled.

For a while, she shook off the fatigue that threatened to engulf her, but eventually admitted defeat by setting the children to work on their copy books and becoming enmeshed in her own thoughts of Daniel and of the gulf that had suddenly opened up between them.

“Mistress Morrison.”

Sarah started. Rachel Makin was standing beside her.

“Mistress Morrison, I’ve brought something to show you. It’s my special book.”

Rachel held out a book which looked like her copy book. On the cover, in bold black letters, was inscribed Rachel’s Book Of Flowers.

Sarah opened it. Each page bore a pressed flower and was inscribed with the name of the flower in neat handwriting. Snowdrop, primrose, harebell, candytuft – all the flowers of hedgerow and field, a calendar of the unfolding seasons.

“Rachel, this is beautiful,” Sarah said at last.

The little girl beamed.

“Mary Ellen showed me how to press flowers. And she helped me wi’ my other book,” she said. “That’s the one that’s got plants in it – plants that make medicine. Plants that make folk that are no’ well feel better. Mary Ellen sometimes goes out to gather special plants and she lets me help her. She teaches me a’ about them.”

Slight sounds of restlessness were beginning to come from her pupils, but Sarah, absorbed in what Rachel was saying, didn’t notice.

“There’s feverfew, which is good if ye have a sore head. And wild garlic. Mary Ellen crushes that up in warm milk if anybody’s got a bad cold.”

There was a crash from the back of the room. The cupboard door had swung open.

“I’ll bring my medicine book and let you see it, if you like,” Rachel offered as she turned away, preparing to restore order at the cupboard.

Sarah gathered up her books and placed them in a neat stack on the table, suddenly aware that she was letting her day unravel and was having no success in pushing away the problem of Daniel and his hurt feelings.

Rachel, eager to learn, to get on with her life, had somehow brought her back to reality. Best to keep out of Daniel’s way until he had thought things out for himself, she decided, remembering her mother’s way of coping with a betimes difficult husband.

“Pay attention, children,” she said and the room fell silent. “As a special treat, I’m letting you go home early today.”

* * * *

Mary Ellen on her usual daily visit, found a resolute Sarah setting a single place at the little table, a note tucked under the dinner plate.

“I think it’s best to keep out of Daniel’s way for a little while,” she said. “I’m going up to see my best friend, Jess. She and her husband Sandy are expecting and I haven’t seen her for weeks and weeks.”

Mary Ellen nodded approvingly.

“You’re learnin’,” was all she said.

As Sarah approached Jess’s door, it flew open and there was her friend, plump and wreathed in smiles.

“Oh, Sarah, it’s right guid to see you! I thought I’d have to come lookin’ for you, it’s been so long.” She engulfed Sarah in a warm embrace, then stood back and directed a critical glance at her friend. “You’ve got thin, Sarah Morrison. You’ve aye been slender, mind, but no’ thin. Have you been workin’ too hard?”

She drew Sarah into her cosy kitchen and pulled a chair up to the fire, studying Sarah as she did so.

“You’re pale forbye. Sit here and warm yoursel’ and I’ll put on the kettle.”

Bustling off, plump and rosy, Jess felt a tremor of misgiving. There was something different about her friend, she reflected. The long walk from Langrigg on a cold day would have made her pale; working at the Wee School and running her own house could have made her thinner, but there was something else amiss. It was as if a light had gone out in Sarah Morrison.

“Now, give me all the news,” Jess ordered, returning with the tea things.

‘You first!” Sarah laughed.

“Well, as ye can see, I’ll soon be as broad as I’m long.” Jess giggled. “Sandy’s makin’ me eat far too much – eatin’ for two, he calls it – and he’s ta’en up woodwork in his spare time. Makin’ a cradle for the bairn. And my mother and his mother are havin’ a knittin’ competition.”

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”.