The Life We Choose – Episode 50

“You have a visitor,” Daniel anounced, leading Rachel Makin into the room. She was clutching a book to her chest.

“I brought my book wi’ the medicines in it, Mistress Morrison,” she began. “Wee Benjy was playin’ wi’ it and tore one o’ the pages, an’ . . .” Her eyes welled up with tears as she thrust the book at Sarah. “An it’ll get a’ wasted in oor hoose, ’cause there’s nae place to keep it. Could you keep it safe for me, Mistress Morrison, please?”

“Come and look at this, Daniel.” Sarah smiled as she began to leaf through the book. “There’s dandelion, sorrel, wild garlic – oh, look, there’s even nettle.” Settling Rachel down on a footstool with a glass of milk, they examined her book of cures, each plant sprig neatly pressed and labelled.

“This is very special, Rachel. I’ll look after it for you.” Sarah took the little girl’s hand and gave it a gentle shake.

The visitor smiled.

“Maybe when I’m big enough, I could be like Mary Ellen. A herba . . . herbal . . .”

“Herbalist,” Daniel supplied.

Later, when Sarah had made up a little parcel of cake for the Makin children and a happy Rachel had left, Daniel drew Sarah on to his knee and hugged her tightly as they warmed themselves by the fire.

“No wonder the bairns at the Wee School love you, Sarah,” he said at last. “You have a real gift with them. That struck me when I watched you with wee Rachel Makin.”

As she turned to smile at him, he kissed her.

“And watching you, I could just imagine you and me, Sarah, with our own bairns around us. That would be a happy fireside –”

Sarah gave a dreamy smile at the thought.

Mary Ellen’s voice suddenly cut through their romantic imaginings.

“Are yis in?” she called, her voice loud with urgency as the front door flew open.

The tone of her voice made both Sarah and Daniel spring to their feet.

“Sit down, Mary Ellen, and catch your breath.”

Daniel drew out a chair. Mary Ellen ignored his offer.

“I was passin’ the Wee School just after I saw you goin’ away doon to Maggie’s shop,” she told Sarah, “and there was a man at the door lookin’ for you, Sarah. A wee man wi’ a bowler hat, kind o’ offeecious in his manner. Said his name was Leadbetter.”

Sarah paled and took a step back.

“Leadbetter. I’ve heard my father mention his name. He’s from the School Board,” she said faintly.

“Said to tell you that he’ll be back the day after the morra, ten o’clock sharp,” Mary Ellen finished.

Daniel glanced in concern at his wife. She said nothing. Paler still, her hands clasped at her throat gave her reply.

* * * *

Sarah stared despairingly at the jumble of clothes scattered across the bed. What would she wear for Mr Leadbetter’s visit?
She went over the preparations she had made the previous day, checking again that she hadn’t missed anything. The children had been told that they were to have a special visitor and were to be on their best behaviour. The register and every book in the classroom had been checked to make sure that they were in perfect order. Rachel Makin, one of the older pupils, had waited behind after class to help sweep and polish the Wee School to a high shine and to lay the fire.

After a sleepless night, Sarah had risen as soon as she’d heard Daniel close the back door and go off to work and had started to prepare for the day which she was beginning to dread.

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”.