The Life We Choose – Episode 70

Standing in the middle of the kitchen, still wearing her coat, Sarah took the envelope from Daniel and tore it open. As she read the letter from the School Board, she began to smile. The smile remained and when at last she handed the missive to her husband, her eyes were shining.

“Mr Leadbetter was pleased, Daniel. He was satisfied with my explanation about the older children coming to the Wee School.”

Daniel had begun reading.

“This is better than anything you hoped for, Sarah,” he said. “The School Board’s even offered to let you have a pupil teacher for the little ones, if somebody suitable can be found.” He looked at his wife, his expression one of astonishment. “They’ve even mentioned payment for your services.”

For a moment, the two of them basked in the glow of good news. As Daniel hugged her and the letter fluttered to the floor, Sarah felt almost faint with a mixture of relief and sheer pleasure.

“Our luck’s turned, Sarah, love,” Daniel said at last. “Now all I need is for Miss Bunty to give me my job back, and we can stay here in our wee house.”

Sarah suddenly pulled away from him.

“No, Daniel. My father’s offers, the money we’ve been given for our future, the letter from the School Board – all of it coming together like this is a sign. A sign that we can move on.” She pulled away from him and when she spoke her voice was firm with conviction.

“I want to take up Jess and Sandy’s offer, Daniel. I can still see to the Wee School, build it up and make it strong. You can move away from the dark and danger at the coal face and start your studies in whatever way seems best. And if you have to go back and forth to Edinburgh, I’ll have Jess’s companionship.”

Daniel’s gaze locked into hers and there was a long silence.

“We’ll be free, Daniel. Free to make our own choices. But we’ll still be part of Langrigg.”

He drew her close to him.

“You have the right to decide, Sarah. Who knows what the future has in store, but we have to take the first step together.

“And now . . .” he held her away from him, laughing “. . . if you’re staying, you might be as well to take off your coat.”

*  *  *  *

Tricky, with a furtive glance to left and right, left the stables and made his way round the outside of the house to the front door. Mrs Goudie was in such a black mood these days that it was no longer safe to go in by the kitchen door.

The front door was unlocked. Giles was sitting on the stairs, a rail timetable in his hand.

“I’ve been given notice by dear Bunty. Or should I say the Warrior Queen.” He sighed. “It’s back to Edinburgh for me in the morning, I fear. She’s had a letter. The colonel and his lady wife are on their way back from their travels, it seems, and I’ve to disappear before they arrive.”

He wrinkled his nose.

“Take off your boots and leave them out on the step, there’s a good fellow,” he told Tricky. “There’s a distinct smell of stables wafting around.”

Tricky began to unlace his boots.

“Mr Goudie gave me your message, Mr Giles. He wasna’ best pleased, an’ made me feenish the muckin’ oot first.”

Giles got up. He looked dishevelled, his trousers soaked to the knees, his cravat adrift.

“Bunty made me walk the dogs,” he said mournfully.

There was a scrabbling sound from behind the drawing-room door.

“I’ve shut them in the drawing-room,” Giles told Tricky. “Mrs Goudie refused to let them through the kitchen. Something about her clean floor.”

Both of them jumped as there was a sudden sound of crashing pots from the kitchen. It was Tricky’s turn to sigh.

“Aye, she’s in one o’ her black moods,” he said.

“Library?” Giles suggested.

Tricky nodded gloomily.

“There’s no fire lit in there, but it would seem to be the only safe place in the house. Bunty’s upstairs doing her accounts again so we won’t be disturbed.”

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”.