The Life We Choose – Episode 62

The Morrison house looked somehow brighter and more cheerful than Sarah remembered it. There was a blazing fire, a scarlet hearth rug, and a knitted throw hid the shabbiness of a fireside chair. As Daniel’s mother made tea, Sarah was suddenly overcome by fatigue. Mrs Morrison disappeared for a moment or two and returned bearing a small bottle and a large spoon.

“Take this,” she ordered her guest. “It’s brandy. It’ll warm you more than the tea.”

Sarah had never tasted brandy and coughed a little as the fiery liquid hit her throat. But as she accepted tea and a slab of buttered bread, she stopped shivering and felt warmth for the first time that cold morning.

“He was making for Leith Docks at first,” Daniel’s mother told her. “Said the work at South Queensferry had all but dried up now that the big bridge is built. I tried to stop him.”

She turned a suddenly tear-filled gaze on Sarah.

“I was afraid he’d sign on and go to sea in desperation, just to get a bit of money together. There’s more money in sea voyages than just loading and unloading the ships . . .” Her voice tailed off and she stared into the fire for a moment or two. There was a long pause.

“Then his father came in from work, and I expected trouble,” Daniel’s mother went on. “But there was no trouble. Daniel and his father talked for a long time, and they’ve never done that. I left them talking and went to bed. Next morning I was up early, but Daniel had gone.”

Sarah’s heart sank.

“The best thing for you now is to go home, get your affairs in order and wait,” Daniel’s mother went on. “Your name was never off Daniel’s lips as we spoke. He promised me that he’d come home to you as soon as he’d found work. Told me that your friend Mary Ellen would know what to do if he was delayed. Now you go home and wait for him. He’ll be back before you know it.”

Sarah waited long enough to ask about Daniel’s sister Katy and how she’d settled in Edinburgh. Mrs Morrison allowed herself a smile for the first time that morning.

“She’s working up at the infirmary. A ward maid already. And she has good lodgings. All the anger’s gone out of my husband. We talk more now, and he listens when I read Katy’s letters to him.” She hesitated for a moment. “It’s easier, somehow. Just the two of us, like we were at the start.”

As Sarah took her leave, Mrs Morrison reached up and brushed a lock of hair back from Sarah’s brow.

“Don’t you fret now, Sarah. Your Daniel will be back in no time.”

Sarah turned towards Langrigg. Until Daniel returned, she would fight for what belonged to both of them.

*  *  *  *

Sarah went first to Mary Ellen’s house. Mary Ellen was putting the finishing touches to a letter, and two of Sarah’s pupils, Rachel and Abie Makin, were standing by the table eating bread and jam and consuming large mugs of milk.

“That’s us ready, then. Finish yer pieces and drink yer milk, you two, afore ye deliver these letters.” Mary Ellen sounded severe. “Abie, take this to Mistress Brodie up at the farm and run as fast as you can. Nae wanderin’, now.” She wagged her finger at him in severity and he nodded obediently.

“Rachel. Your letter is for Miss Bunty an’ naebody else. It’s important, so be as quick as you can.”

Then, in the same breath, she added, “An’ you sit yoursel’ doon at the fire and get warm, Sarah. There’s much to be done an’ you’re needed here. You’ll be a bigger help to Daniel if ye bide here and start to get things in order.”

She put a soup pot on the range with a clatter and when she turned again to speak to Sarah, her eyes blazed with anger.

“But I can tell ye one thing, Sarah. The folk in Langrigg here’ll no’ put up wi’ this. They’ve told me that a hundred times in the last day or twa. You an’ Daniel have the respect o’ the folk here and hereaboots. You’ve made your place here.”

Sarah felt a little warmth creep into her bones.

“An’ I can tell you that there’ll be mair than Daniel Morrison lookin’ for work afore the day’s oot, if I have anythin’ t’dae wi’ it,” Mary Ellen finished, setting a bowl of soup in front of Sarah.

“Now you eat that. Ye have to keep yer strength up,” she commanded.

As warmth flooded into her, Sarah Morrison managed a real smile for the first time that day.

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”.