Read A Second Chance Online

Authors: Shayne Parkinson

Tags: #romance, #historical fiction, #family, #new zealand, #farming, #edwardian, #farm life

A Second Chance (2 page)

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Sarah propped the pillow against the wall as
a back rest and patted the space beside her on the bed. ‘Sit here
next to me. We can both use the pillow if we sit close—though you
can’t help but sit close in here, can you? However did you fit two
big boys in this room?’

Amy joined her on the bed. ‘We managed
somehow. My boys didn’t know any different, so I don’t suppose they
ever thought they should have a bigger room.’

Sarah had touched on the one thing that
troubled Amy about having her under their roof: the plainness of
the lodging. ‘I’m sorry it’s not very flash here—I know it’s not
what you’re used to.’

‘For goodness’ sake, Amy, I didn’t come for
the sake of the accommodation! And you’re not to apologise for the
fact that that man couldn’t provide you with a decent house to live
in.’

‘It’s not as bad as all that. Anyway, I’m
used to it.’

‘Then it’s high time you grew used to
something better.’ Sarah took Amy’s hand and looked straight into
her eyes with that disconcertingly direct gaze of hers. ‘I want you
to come to Auckland with me.’

Amy had been expecting the words for days.
‘I can’t, Sarah. I just don’t see how I can be away from the
farm.’

‘But you
must
come. You know I can’t
stay here for long, don’t you?’

‘No, I don’t suppose you can,’ Amy said.
‘You’ve got your business to look after and everything.’

‘And you surely don’t want us to part again
so soon? Not when we’ve so much catching up to do.’

‘I… well, I hoped you could stay for a bit
longer. I knew it couldn’t be as long as all that, though.’

‘And after my “bit longer”? What did you
expect us to do after that? Make do with letters?’

‘I don’t know. I’ve been trying not to think
about you going away again.’

‘Well, you must think about it,’ Sarah said.
‘I’ve got to go home within the next few days—by the end of the
week at the latest, I’ve a meeting on Monday that can’t be put off.
But I don’t want to go without you.’

‘I wish I could, honestly I do. But how can
I go away and leave Davie? Who’d look after him?’

Sarah gripped her hand hard, then abruptly
let it drop. ‘Must David’s convenience govern your entire
existence? Haven’t you spent enough of your life running around
after him?’

‘It’s not like that, Sarah. Dave works hard,
and he’s got to have someone to get his meals on and everything.
You do see that, don’t you? He needs me.’

‘Dave’s had you for twenty years. Isn’t it
time I had my chance with you?’

‘Not twenty,’ Amy murmured.

‘What did you say? Don’t whisper so,’ Sarah
said, irritation clear in her voice although she kept it low.

‘It’s not twenty years. Dave’s only
eighteen.’

‘Oh, for Heaven’s sake, are you going to
turn pedantic on me now?’ Sarah’s mouth twisted in annoyance.
‘Eighteen years, then, if we must be precise. That’s long enough,
isn’t it?’

Her face hardened, and she stared at the
bedroom wall; directing her disapproval towards the oblivious
David, Amy knew. ‘And for all your fussing over him, David didn’t
concern himself over you, did he? Not when he went wandering off
for years and left you alone with that man. I don’t see that he
thought beyond his own comfort.’

Amy sighed, and wished silently that things
did not have to be quite so complicated. ‘It wasn’t like that. Dave
didn’t want to go away.’

‘Why did he go, then?’ Sarah asked, making
no attempt to hide her scepticism.

‘He…’ Amy hesitated. Sarah felt enough
bitterness towards Charlie without Amy’s giving her more cause.
‘Maybe you should ask Dave yourself.’

‘Perhaps I will,’ said Sarah. ‘Leaving you
with that man! How could he?’ She shook her head in perplexity.
‘However did you cope, Amy? Living all those years with that
coarse, brutish creature! No, don’t you go scolding me, you know
well enough what I thought of him, and I’m not going to pretend
otherwise’

Amy stared at the opposite wall, aware of
Sarah’s careful scrutiny. She tried to keep her expression calm as
memories washed over her.

Twenty-one years since she had come to live
in this house. She had been barely sixteen, haunted by nameless
fears that lurked in the shadows of her awareness. She had learned
soon enough to give names to those fears; learned that this house
held things more substantial than shadows to be afraid of. The
worst Sarah had known of Charlie was his lack of social graces. His
coarse way of speaking had been the last vestige of the terrifying
husband Amy had once known; it had roused more pity than distress
in her.

‘Amy.’ Sarah’s voice dragged Amy back to the
present. Sarah was studying her, a slight frown creasing her
forehead. ‘Do you know, I can see the thoughts writing words over
your face. I almost feel I could read you as clearly as a book if
only I knew the language a little better. What is it, Amy? What are
those thoughts of yours saying?’

Amy gave a rueful smile. ‘Oh, nothing much.
Just things that happened years and years ago. I suppose… well,
it’s a good thing you didn’t meet Charlie earlier. You only met him
once he’d got easy to get along with.’

‘I find that hard to believe,’ Sarah
muttered. ‘Oh, never mind him. Don’t you want to come with me,
Amy?’

‘Of course I do. But I’ve got to try and do
the right thing by everyone—you as well as Dave. That’s what’s so
hard.’

‘Don’t worry about trying to please other
people—me included, come to that. Just do what you want.’

‘But… but that’s what I do want,’ Amy said
helplessly. ‘I want to try and make everyone happy.’

‘Then you may just be doomed to failure,’
said Sarah. ‘Dave’s interests and mine seem to be directly opposed.
I suppose expecting him to consider your wishes is not to be hoped
for? Ah, now you’re going to scold me for criticising your precious
Davie, aren’t you?’

Amy felt tears of frustration pricking at
her eyes. ‘Don’t talk like that, Sarah, please don’t. I wish you
could—’

‘Oh, Lord, now you’re going to cry, and it’s
my doing,’ Sarah interrupted. ‘Come here, my silly Mama, and let
your dreadful daughter try and put things right. No, not a word
from you until I’ve finished.’

She drew Amy within the circle of her arm.
‘Let me finish your sentence for you. “I wish you could get to know
Dave better. I wish you’d make an effort.” There, it’s said now.
But we’ll have no more talk tonight about Auckland or husbands or
brothers, or anything else difficult.’

 

*

 

Sarah was unused to the early hours Amy and
David kept. She emerged for breakfast the next morning some time
after David had finished his meal and gone off about his work,
while Amy was making a batch of scones.

‘Late for breakfast again,’ Sarah said
cheerfully. She kissed Amy on the cheek and gathered up a plate and
knife for herself. ‘No, don’t you go waiting on me, I’m quite
capable of getting myself some bread and jam.’

‘It wouldn’t take me long to make you a
proper breakfast,’ Amy tried. ‘You’re sure you wouldn’t like
one?’

‘Quite sure, thank you. Unlike you and Dave,
I’m doing very little useful work at the moment. I’ve no need for
bacon and eggs. Is that tea fresh?’

‘Fairly. It’s still hot, anyway.’

‘Good. Sit down and I’ll pour us both a
cup.’

Amy wiped her dough-covered hands on her
apron and took a seat at the table. ‘You seem very bright this
morning, Sarah.’

‘Mmm. I took advantage of the still of the
night to think things through. I see now that I’ve allowed myself
to lose sight of the issues of real import.’ She smiled as she
toyed with her cup. ‘Father would have scolded me for that. “Muster
your facts, Sarah,” he used to say. “You can’t expect to convince
others if you’ve only the woolliest notion of what you’re talking
about.” Well, I’ve mustered them now.’

‘Have you?’ Amy said, struggling to make
sense of Sarah’s words.

‘Yes, I have. The facts, then. First: I want
you to come to Auckland with me for a good, long visit—I’ll expect
you to stay three months at least. Preferably four. Next fact, you
want to come as much as I want you to. Are we agreed thus far?’

‘Yes, but—’

‘No buts. They can come later. Now, it seems
that the only thing standing in the way of our getting what we want
is what’s to be done with Dave while you’re away.’

‘Yes, that’s right. There’s his meals to get
on, and washing and everything. That’s why I can’t go away.’

Sarah pounced on Amy’s words. ‘Ah, but it’s
not quite that simple. That’s something Father taught me later—the
facts are not always as clear as they might seem. We’ve looked at
the obvious ones, now let’s probe a little deeper.’

She raised her cup from its saucer and
studied Amy over the rim. ‘It’s not difficult to see what needs
doing about Dave. There are other people in this valley besides
yourself who are capable of cooking meals and washing clothes and
goodness knows what else.’

‘But I couldn’t expect…’ Under the pressure
of Sarah’s steady gaze, Amy heard her voice trailing away. ‘I just
couldn’t.’

‘The real problem,’ Sarah went on
relentlessly, ‘is that you don’t want to upset Dave. Now, that’s
getting closer to the truth, isn’t it? You’re reluctant to tell him
you want to go away for a while. You’ve spent so long trying to
please everyone, trying to keep everybody happy, that taking the
risk of upsetting Dave for so trivial a reason as doing something
you
want is quite beyond you.’

‘It’s not like that,’ Amy protested
feebly.

‘Ah, but it is. And as if that weren’t
enough, you’ve me to cope with.’ Sarah replaced her cup on the
saucer and reached out to stroke Amy’s hand. ‘Whenever you dare
mention Dave to me, I bristle with indignation and start finding
excuses to criticise your darling boy. No wonder you hardly know
what you want, let alone how to go about getting it.

‘So it’s time I helped you along,’ Sarah
announced. ‘Where’s Dave?’

‘Down at the potato paddock, I think. What
do you want him for?’

‘Well, you’ve hinted to me often enough that
I couldn’t help but like Dave if I’d only make the effort to get to
know him better. I’m not saying I’m completely convinced yet, mind.
But we shall see.’ Sarah stood and leaned over to place a kiss on
Amy’s cheek. ‘I’m going to make an effort,’ she said over her
shoulder as she headed for the back door.

 

*

 

She found David easily enough; he was in the
potato paddock as Amy had said, checking on the mound of potatoes
that were to be stored for the winter. He looked up as she
approached, and Sarah saw his smile of welcome replaced by a
somewhat apprehensive expression.

‘I thought you were Ma for a minute,’ he
said, not quite meeting her eyes. ‘Is it time for morning tea
already?’

‘No, not just yet. I left Amy making a batch
of the largest scones I’ve ever seen, so I expect they’ll take a
while to cook. May I join you for a little? I feel the need of some
fresh air.’

‘If you want. I don’t know if there’s
anywhere clean enough for you to sit, though.’ David looked about
for a suitable spot, then snatched up the jacket he had put to one
side. ‘Here, you can have this if you like,’ he said, spreading it
over a dry patch of ground.

‘How chivalrous.’ Sarah lowered herself onto
the makeshift seat. ‘Thank you, Mr Stewart. Don’t let me interrupt
your work, though.’

‘I wouldn’t mind getting on with it,’ David
said, casting a glance at his potatoes. ‘I’ve just about finished,
anyway.’

Sarah attempted a dispassionate study of
David as she watched him spread a final layer of fern fronds over
the potatoes. A handsome man; that was undeniable. He was one of
the few men Sarah had ever met who topped her own height by several
inches, and the well-muscled frame that went with it gave him an
impressive stature. His father had bequeathed his height and build
to David, but that was the limit of David’s resemblance to Charlie.
He had Amy’s dark hair, in David’s case just long enough to betray
a hint of curl, and Amy’s large, blue eyes. Disguised by a bonnet,
his face would have been pretty enough for a woman’s. Sarah briefly
indulged in the mental exercise of surrounding that face with lace
and ribbons, completing the picture with a froth of dark curls.

Yes, he would have made a very pretty woman;
prettier than she was herself. He certainly resembled Amy more
strikingly than she did. Was that why she felt so jealous of
him?

Her musings brought her up short. Jealous?
Of David? How could she be jealous of a man who had spent his life
in a rough cottage, apart from three years in a mining camp? His
entire possessions consisted of this little farm, the earnings of
which, Sarah suspected, would barely be noticed on one of her own
balance sheets. Amy had assured her that David had done well at his
lessons; be that as it might, his father had taken him out of
school as soon as the law allowed, wanting the use of his labour
full-time.

But he had had Amy. All his life she had
been there; he had not had to track her down through vague hints
and dusty certificates. And it took no great powers of observation
to see that Amy loved him with all the depths of affection she was
capable of. How could he have valued that so little as to have left
her alone when he had gone to the mine?

She realised that David had stopped working,
and was aware of her scrutiny.

‘Am I doing something silly?’ he said.

‘I don’t believe so. Why do you ask?’

‘It’s just the way you were looking at me. I
thought you were laughing at something a minute ago—something about
me. Then you looked as though you wanted to tell me off. S’pose
that’s not anything out of the ordinary, though.’

‘Whatever do you mean?’ Sarah asked,
genuinely startled.

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