The Life We Choose – Episode 72

For the first time since she’d returned home, Sarah slept soundly and awoke to find that Daniel was already up and about and had prepared a hearty breakfast for the two of them.

As they ate, he looked round the disordered kitchen, some of their belongings already packed.

“Well, Mistress Morrison.” He laughed. “Since you’ve decided that we’re flitting, I’d be as well to finish this before dinner time. You’d be well advised to go down to the Wee School and check that things are in order.”

Sarah didn’t argue.

“It seems a long time since I closed the door on it,” she said thoughtfully. “So much has happened.”

The two of them talked then of when lessons might start again.

“You’ll have rumours about it being closed for ever if you don’t put a notice on the door,” Daniel warned.

“I’ll get dressed.” Sarah was already halfway to the bedroom, leaving her husband to clear away the breakfast dishes.

*  *  *  *

As Sarah let herself into the schoolroom, she was stopped in her tracks by the warmth of a blazing fire and the smell of furniture polish. A mop and bucket stood by the fireplace.

The blackboard had been cleaned and Sarah’s books were stacked in a neat pile on her table. Young Rachel Makin was tidying the display table at the back of the room, brow furrowed in concentration.

“Rachel.” Sarah could scarcely speak her pupil’s name because of the tears that threatened to spill over.

Dark eyes met hers for what seemed a long moment, then Rachel quite forgot her good manners and rushed to Sarah to hug her round the waist.

“Are we gettin’ lessons again, Mistress Morrison?” she asked Sarah, her face alight with joy.

Sarah couldn’t speak but managed a nod. A beaming Rachel turned then, and with a sweep of her arm indicated the immaculate school room.

“I made it nice for ye comin’ back. I kept the fire lit ’n’ that, for the dampness is never far awa’ at this time o’ year,” Rachel added, sounding just like her mother, Jeanie.

There was a long silence while Sarah went round the room, noting the tidy cupboard and the little display on the table at the back of the room, with Rachel’s special book still in pride of place

“Did the man wi’ the bowler hat like us, Mistress Morrison?” Her helper was eager for news.

“I think he liked your book best of all, Rachel.”

The reply made the little girl beam with pleasure. She ran a finger thoughtfully over the book.

“Mistress Morrison,” she said at last. “If I stick in at my lessons, d’you think I could mebbe be a real doctor some day? Make folk better when they’re sick? I told Da an’ he said if I wanted to be a doctor I’d need t’go to Edinburgh an’ it would cost a lot o’ money, but he could work some doublers an’ get extra money.”

Sarah looked down at the little girl’s eager face, her hopes pinned on the strength her father would need to work back-breaking double shifts.

“I think you’d be a very good doctor, Rachel, and if you work hard, I’ll help you all I can.” She smiled.

Rachel’s face shone as she suddenly became a hostess.

“There’s tea an’ milk an’ biscuits Mammy baked. They’re ben the scullery, Mistress Morrison.” She looked hopefully at Sarah. “I wanted t’ get everythin’ ready for you comin’ back,” she explained, looking hopeful.

They drank their tea and ate the biscuits beside a blazing fire, Rachel keeping up a stream of information about the goings-on in Langrigg in Sarah’s absence.

“They said mebbe ye wouldna come back, but I knew ye would, Mistress Morrison,” Rachel told her. “An’ ye forgot to lock the scullery door when ye went away, but the key was in the inside o’ the lock.”

For a moment, she looked uneasy, then took a key from the pocket of the apron that covered her best russet pinafore.

“Here’s your key, Mistress Morrison. I hope you’re no’ angry.” She bit her lip anxiously.

Sarah looked at her earnest little face.

“You’re a very special little girl, Rachel Makin,” she said.

When at last Rachel had gone home, Sarah sat for a while by the fire, thinking of Rachel’s ambition, the determination in her face as she had spoken of it. What others might see as obstacles to advancement, young Rachel Makin, by her nature, would see as challenges. Challenges to be met and conquered.

And at that particular moment, Sarah felt a sureness, a confidence about the future, about the plans she and Daniel had made. For a while today, she reflected, she had become the pupil and her little helper the teacher.

She was smiling at the thought as she went off to find Daniel.

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”.