The Life We Choose – Episode 55

Next morning, Sarah awoke to find her aunt drawing back the curtains. A watery sun shone into the room.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Bertha,” she said. “I seem to have overslept.”

Bertha smiled.

“Ah, but your father was up very early this morning. He’s already in the dining-room, waiting for his breakfast and reading the morning paper. You’ve raised his spirits, Sarah.”

Breakfast was served by the girl who came in daily to help in the house. She was plump and cheerful and she warmed the chill of the dining-room.

“We dinna see you doon here often enough, Maister Ogilvie.” She beamed. “It’s weel seen we have a visitor.”

Master Ogilvie looked up.

“This is my daughter, Bella.” He hesitated, and finishing the introduction seemed to be an effort. “Mistress Sarah.” He stared at his plate for a moment. “Morrison,” he finished, without looking up.

After that, the days flew past, Master Ogilvie coming downstairs for meals, he and Sarah talking for hours on end, evenings spent with Aunt Bertha in her cosy sitting-room.

“This may sound strange,” Sarah confided in her aunt one evening, “but I think my father apologised for the way he behaved over Daniel. He said something that I didn’t quite understand. ‘We tend to do as we have been done by’, was what he said.”

Aunt Bertha stared into the fire for a moment or two.

“He was speaking about our father,” she said, a sigh in her voice. “A good man, but severe. We lost our mother when we were children, and from that moment, Father dictated how our lives were going to be. He had great plans for your father. He was a clever boy, and excelled in Latin and Greek. But he met your mother.” She stared into the fire again for a moment or two.

“Father didn’t approve,” Bertha went on. “Your father defied him and took himself off to a country school, made a home there, and came back to Edinburgh to be married. I was the only guest at the wedding. He and Father never met again. I set my plans aside to keep house here.”

“You wanted to be a teacher?” Sarah asked.

Bertha didn’t look at her, but shook her head.

“I wanted to study art, but Father thought it frivolous. So I kept house for him and when he’d gone it was much too late for me.”

Sarah’s glance travelled to the watercolours on the walls.

“These are yours, Aunt Bertha?”

She nodded.

“I still paint a little . . .” Her voice tapered off and she grew silent for a moment or two. “That and my tapestry are my two greatest pleasures in life, Sarah.”

“Your paintings are beautiful, Aunt Bertha. I had no idea,” Sarah remarked.

Bertha laughed.

“That an artist of sorts lurked behind the person that Father expected me to be – the severe Aunt Bertha?”

Sarah hesitated, unsure of a reply. Eyes twinkling, her aunt reached over and took her hand.

“Now, young Daniel Morrison could never have charmed that Aunt Bertha, Sarah. But the other Aunt Bertha . . . that was a different story,” she finished.

Sarah understood. Suddenly, she understood everything.

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”.