The Life We Choose – Episode 66

“Daniel might find work, but it’ll tak’ a wee while to find a place for the two o’ ye to stay. Sandy’s been keepin’ the cottage through the wa’ weel fired up and it’s got a fresh coat o’ paint forbye. Sandy’ll bring a wagon doon here by the end o’ the week an’ do your flittin’. Mother says she’ll help.”

Sarah was beginning to feel dizzy at the very thought of all Jess’s plans.

“But Miss Bunty’s sacked Rushforth and she hasn’t said anything about being out of here by the end of the week,” she protested.

Jess shook her head.

“Daniel’s a proud man,” she said. “He’ll no’ come back, even for Miss Bunty. And Sarah . . .” her rosy face grew serious, and she leaned across and took her friend’s hand “. . . to us, you’re family. You have to trust us to do what’s best for you and Daniel.”

There was a heartbeat of silence, then Sarah nodded.

“You must think me ungrateful, Jess, and I’m not. I’m just not thinking straight. And this –” she waved a distracted hand at the room “– this isn’t home any more since Daniel went away. The heart’s gone out of it. Without him, it’s no more than a roof over my head.”

Jess eased herself out of her chair.

“A new house would be a new beginning for both of you. If Daniel finds work, you can stay here till he gets settled and I’ll be glad o’ your company when the bairn comes.”

She gathered Sarah into a hug.

“Now, are you goin’ to make your visitor a cup o’ tea or will I have to do it mysel’?”

The mood lifted and Sarah laughed.

“Perhaps you’re right, Jess. And for me to sit here worrying isn’t doing any good. Mary Ellen keeps telling me that it’s best to be busy at times like this. No good can come from sitting worrying about things that might never happen.”

“Wise woman, that Mary Ellen.” Jess smiled. “We have a bargain, then? A flittin’ on Friday?”

Sarah nodded. Then, teapot in hand, she paused.

“But the Wee School!” Alarm sounded in Sarah’s voice. “What’ll happen to the Wee School if the School Board let it continue?”

Jess beamed.

“Pony and trap. Sandy an’ me thought o’ that, an’ he says you’re to have the use o’ the pony an’ trap every day, if you need it.”

She held out her teacup.

“Now, could I have a cup o’ tea, Mistress Morrison, afore I die o’ thirst?”

At that, laughter eddied round Sarah’s kitchen for the first time since she’d come back from Edinburgh.

It was barely noon when Sandy came to take Jess home. After a whole morning of making plans, of talking of new beginnings, the house, empty again and silent, became oppressive to Sarah, the tick of the clock unusually loud.

The sounds from the pithead floated in now and then. Once, she heard the clip-clop of hooves and supposed that it would be Miss Bunty on her way back from the pit office after her visit. But the narrow street outside was quiet – as if an invisible barrier had been put up just outside Sarah’s front door. The clatter of pit boots as shifts changed still made her start awake in the early morning and into the night, but the sounds of children playing seemed distant.

When she ventured out to Mary Ellen’s house, the knots of gossiping women gave only muted greetings and turned away quickly. She had mentioned it to Pate and he’d tried to explain the silence to her.

“They’re angry at what happened, but dinna want tae upset you any mair than you are. They’re drawing back a wee bit oot o’ respect for you, and for Daniel. Mind you, if Miss Bunty hadna dismissed that Rushforth, I think the womenfolk would ha’ done the job for her.”

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”.