The Life We Choose – Episode 46

Sarah laughed.

“Who’s winning?” she asked.

“Even if I knew I wouldna dare say, Sarah,” Jess replied. “But one thing’s for sure – our bairn’ll be the best-dressed bairn in these parts if it goes on much longer.

“Now,” Jess went on with mock severity, “I want a’ the news from Langrigg. How’s Daniel? And how are ye managin’ all ye have to do? Have ye made any friends down there? Are the folk friendly? And did Daniel take you to meet his folk ower at the Junction?”

Sarah laughed and held up a restraining hand.

“Oh, Jess, you’re still full of questions. Some things never change.” Her face grew serious. “Langrigg is a fine place and the Wee School’s going well, but . . .” her face clouded over “. . . I still feel like a stranger there, Jess.

“The menfolk pass the time of day when I meet them, the womenfolk ask me about the children and their lessons, but when they’re gathered round the doors chatting, they stop speaking till I pass.”

Her voice faltered a little and she stared into the fire.

“They’re showin’ respect, Sarah. To them, you’re still the Dominie’s daughter. Maybe that’s a good thing,” Jess suggested.

Sarah nodded.

“But I’ve got one good friend. You know her. Mary Ellen Walker. She’s keeping me right about all the customs and habits. Daniel calls her the Uncrowned Queen of Langrigg.”

Jess had been waiting for a mention of Daniel’s name. She pounced.

“And what’s the news about Daniel? The last time I saw him, he was charming that terrifyin’ aunt o’ yours.”

Sarah seemed to wince at the mention of her husband’s name. There was a moment’s silence, before Jess went on.

“I heard about the meeting, Sarah. Has a’ that passed last night made trouble between you and Daniel?”

Sarah could only nod before tears overcame her.

In an instant, Jess was beside her, her arm round her shoulder.

“That’s the menfolk for you,” she told Sarah. “Big bairns, the lot o’ them. Never you heed, Sarah. He’ll cool in the same skin he heated in. And when he does, he’ll be proud o’ you. When I heard what you’d done at the meetin’, I was proud o’ you. Give Daniel time. He’ll see the sense o’ it when he takes time to think.”

They sat there for a while and talked the whole thing through. Jess was pleased to see the colour coming back into Sarah’s cheeks, to see her smile.

“Just think, Sarah,” she said, “that was your first quarrel. And it’s ta’en you a while to have it. Sandy and me had our first quarrel a week after we were wed, and every week since, come to think o’ it.”

Sarah stared at her in disbelief.

“You and Sandy? Quarrelling? Jess, you’re just making that up to make me feel better.”

Jess shook her head.

“I’m no’ makin’ it up, Sarah. The thing is, it’s aye the same quarrel aboot Sandy’s mother interferin’.” She smiled to herself and gazed into the fire for a moment. “But it’s very near worth it to have a quarrel for the makin’ up again,” she added.

“But is there somethin’ else, Sarah? I canna put my finger on it, but you seem bothered. No’ yoursel’.”

There was a silence for what seemed a long time. Eventually, Sarah took an envelope from her pocket.

“I got this days ago,” she said. “It’s from Aunt Bertha. Read it, Jess, and tell me what you think.”

Eventually Jess looked up, her face serious.

“Master Ogilvie’s no’ very well and your aunt thinks you should go and see him. She disna mention a doctor, so his illness is no’ serious. Maybe he just wants to see you to put things right between you. Why does it trouble you so much, Sarah?”

Sarah took a few moments to answer.

“I’ve kept the letter a secret from Daniel. How can I turn away from him and go to Edinburgh after all that’s passed between me and my father? Daniel might feel betrayed, and he might forbid me to go.”

Jess waved the letter at her friend.

“No secrets, Sarah. Never keep secrets frae each other. You have to tell Daniel, talk it over.” She allowed herself a chuckle then. “When you start speakin’ to each other again, that is.”

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”.