The Life We Choose – Episode 82

Fleur Grant shivered slightly and drew her chair nearer to the fire in the library. Here at Grant House, it had seemed a rather miserable day, with cold cuts and preserves for lunch in a draughty dining-room, followed by the colonel and Bunty locked in conversation in front of a blazing fire in the drawing-room. Why, she asked herself, did Roderick have to give the day off to the Goudies at Christmas?

“The lunch is laid out, the fires are set. All you have to do is put a taper to the fire in the library if you don’t care to join us in the drawing-room. And as for dinner, well, we can fend for ourselves,” he’d told her brusquely.

She sighed, glancing again at the hole in her lovely Persian rug and thinking fleetlingly of Giles. If only he’d stayed a bit longer, she’d said to Bunty in a bad-tempered moment, he would have brightened up the house with his constant talk of Edinburgh society.

Roderick Grant put his head round the door and made his wife jump.

“Still sulking, Fleur? Why don’t you come through and join us in the drawing-room? I’ll pour you a small sherry and you can listen to Bunty’s tales of Tricky Binnie’s escapades.”

“No, thank you. I have letters to write.”

Colonel Grant withdrew without comment. Fleur stared after him resentfully. All he seemed to care about these days was the pit at Langrigg. There would be no more travelling for a while, he’d told her. She went to the desk in the corner and took out her writing case. A shopping trip to Edinburgh and a few days of socialising with Giles’s friends suddenly seemed like a good idea.

“I must write a letter to Giles,” she said to no-one in particular.

Down at Langrigg, the pit had been cleared, made safe again, the engine shed brought to life and the winding gear tested. But the wagons that ran on a single-gauge track to carry coal down to the Junction were piled high with snow as they awaited their burden. Work would start again, the miners were told, on the second day of the New Year. Christmas over, Hogmanay in prospect, Langrigg all but disappeared under a thick blanket of snow, a fresh fall each night adding to its white perfection.

The children shrieked in delight as they sledged on dustbin lids and tin trays, had snowball fights, built snowmen. Fires were piled with extra coal, lamps were lit early and the festive dumplings were made in the wash-house with some difficulty and much grumbling about the cold.

Sarah stayed at home, made meals for Jess and Sandy and hoped that Mary Ellen’s services would not be required until the first signs of spring.

On Hogmanay, Ella and Dreels were married in the Wee School, the church being snowbound but the road from the manse being clear.

The bride wore her best dress with a new lace collar. Isaac Makin was Dreels’s best man, and Jeanie Makin Ella’s maid of honour. Ella’s father stayed at home because of the snow, but a few of their friends made up the rest of the wedding party.

The ceremony was short, the minister’s expression brightening at the aroma from the oven of the big range. With a flourish, Mary Ellen served a steak-pie dinner on a table decorated with white favours and a cake specially iced for the occasion. There was a small sherry for the bride and a dram for the bridegroom. The Makins chose ginger wine. The newlyweds then repaired to Ella’s house, where her father enjoyed a piece of the wedding cake and a small refreshment to mark the occasion, complaining that he hadn’t had his dinner and that they might have saved him a bit of steak pie.


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”.