The Life We Choose – Episode 53

Once they were home again, Mary Ellen recounted the day’s news to her husband.

“I feel for thae young anes, Pate.” She sighed. “It’s ae thing after anither for the two o’ them, and they’ve hardly got settled inta their married life.”

Pate’s reply was suddenly drowned out by a commotion out in the street. The strains of a melodeon were backed by a ragged outburst of cheering and laughter. Mary Ellen went to investigate. She came back smiling.

“Get your crutches, Pate, and I’ll pit a chair at the door for you. Auld Sanny Black’s doin’ the clug wallop, an’ his son’s playin’ the melodeon for him.”

Pate had already reached for his crutches.

“It’s many a long day since Sanny gied us a dance.” He laughed. “This Ah’ve got tae see.”

In the street outside, the children, still in their finery, were gathered, clapping in time to the music and an old man was dancing on a square of wood, his heavy boots beating a tattoo on it. On the fringe of the crowd, some of the mothers, their skirts hitched up to their knees, were joining in the dance. As it ended, Mrs Makin smoothed down her skirt and came over to Mary Ellen.

“The bairns were a’ dressed up and disappointed about the photies, so we decided to have a wee party, even though it’s gey cauld,” she explained.

“Will we get biscuits ’n’ that?” A dishevelled Abie appeared at his mother’s elbow, just as Nellie Burnett sidled up to Mary Ellen.

“The weans were sent hame at dinner time,” Nellie, the village gossip, began. “Is there somethin’ goin’ on?”

“Mistress Morrison’s got tae go tae Edinburgh on family business,” Mary Ellen informed her. “The Wee School’ll be closed for a few days till she gets back. Now you get away and dae what you dae best, Nellie. Spread the word. It’ll save Mistress Morrison puttin’ a notice on the school door.”

There was no reply. Mary Ellen chuckled as she saw Nellie approach the nearest group of mothers at a brisk trot.

* * * *

As the Edinburgh train drew to a halt at the Junction, Mary Ellen took her leave of Sarah in the same matter-of-fact way that she’d shown all the way from Langrigg. Sarah was grateful for that. She’d done all her crying when she’d risen very early and tried to eat a modest breakfast with Daniel before seeing him off to work, then leaving a note for him beneath his dinner plate and another under his pillow before Mary Ellen had come to collect her.

“Step up here.” Mary Ellen nodded at the open door of one compartment. “You’ll ha’ company on the road to Edinburgh and company’s just what ye need by the looks o’ ye. Get in an’ I’ll hand you up yer bag.

“Safe journey to you, lass. And dinna worry about your Daniel. I’ll see he’s weel fed and has plenty o’ company wi’ me and Pate,” she added, giving Sarah’s hand an encouraging squeeze. “And gie my kindest regards to the dominie,” she added, as the guard slammed the door shut.

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”.