The Life We Choose – Episode 61

Once home, Sarah busied herself raking out the ashes and lighting a fresh fire, tidying and putting Daniel’s working clothes in the scullery sink to steep. At last she sat by the fire, her bag still unpacked by her feet. Taking out the two envelopes given to her by her father, she studied them for a moment or two. A small voice inside her told her to open them.

The first one contained a list of places in Edinburgh where Daniel could begin to study to realise his ambition to become a mining engineer. There was also a list of courses which might suit Sarah and which were available at the university.

Sarah’s father had added a footnote in his neat handwriting.

Should you decide to take up studies, Bertha has agreed to give over part of the house to the two of you, so that you can have your own household, and privacy. You will be made welcome here.

Biting her lip against the sudden warmth of tears at this unexpected offer, Sarah took up the second envelope. It was bigger and bulkier than the first.

She gasped, and her shaking hands let a flutter of banknotes fall at her feet. She stared at the contents of the envelope in disbelief. There was more money than she had ever seen – money and a letter. Carefully, she gathered up the banknotes and put them on the side table. The letter, again in her father’s handwriting, read:

Dear Sarah,

This money was saved for your education, but, as you are now married, I have decided that you must use it as you see fit. It will give you a start in life and perhaps a chance of success. Use it wisely.

Your loving father.

Almost disbelieving, Sarah read the letter again, remembering how her mother had sewed and mended and wasted nothing, how she and her parents had led a simple, almost frugal life in the schoolhouse. Now she understood. Her parents had been saving for her future.

For a long time, Sarah sat there. There had, after all, been no need for Daniel to leave home to look for work.

She spoke his name aloud, startling herself in a house that seemed suddenly so very empty. As she spoke his name, the tears fell afresh.

In the morning, when Mary Ellen let herself in at the back door, she found the house tidy, the fire banked up and no sign of Sarah. There was a note on the table.

I’ve gone to look for Daniel.

* * * *

Sarah’s search for Daniel began at the Junction. Clutching a small bag of the bare essentials, and with her father’s two envelopes tucked safely into the lining, she went first to the wooden shed at the end of the platform where she knew she’d find the man who waved the trains in and out. He was drinking tea with a newspaper spread out in front of him.

“I mind my ain business,” he told her. “Folk get on the trains, get aff the trains – I pay nae attention. Dae ma job, that’s a’.” He applied himself again to his newspaper and Sarah was forced to stand for a while on an empty platform, at a loss about how to continue her search.

Pulling her shawl tighter against the piercing wind, she decided to wait there until the next train was due and Chisholm arrived to do his daily collections. Great gossip that he was, he would surely have some news about Daniel.

“Sarah.” A quiet voice spoke behind her and made her jump She turned and there was Daniel’s mother, basket in hand.

“I saw you from the road,” she explained. “Are you looking for our Daniel?”

Before Sarah had a chance to reply, Mrs Morrison took her arm.

“You’ll catch your death of cold standing here. I was going to the shops but that can wait. You come home with me now, and we’ll talk.”

She tucked Sarah’s arm securely into hers.

“Daniel came to our door the day before yesterday,” she said, looking straight ahead. “We had a long talk.”

Sarah fell into step beside her, the warmth of rising hope making her heedless of the chill of a sudden downpour.

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”.