Read A Second Chance Online

Authors: Shayne Parkinson

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

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David shook his head. Sarah stood up, and
they walked over to Amy.

‘Don’t look so worried, darling,’ Sarah
said, slipping her arm through Amy’s. ‘Dave and I have discussed
the business of your holiday, and we’re in complete agreement.
You’re to come to Auckland with me. Isn’t that right, Dave?’

‘Yes, I reckon it’s a good idea. A trip to
Auckland would be just the thing for you.’

Sarah smiled at being quoted so carefully.
‘And we’ve thought out how to manage looking after Dave while
you’re away. I’m going to talk to Mrs Kelly—perhaps this afternoon,
there’s no point leaving things. Dave and I are quite sure she’ll
take on the organising.’

Amy stared from each of them to the other,
her face a picture of mingled delight and disbelief. ‘I… you don’t
mind, Davie? You don’t mind if I go away for a while?’

‘I want you to go, Ma. You deserve a
holiday.’

‘But—’

‘Oh, what excuse are you going to come up
with now?’ Sarah raised her eyebrows in pretended exasperation.

‘Well, there’s one more thing,’ Amy said.
‘It’s the headstone—Charlie’s headstone. I can’t go away till it’s
arrived, it wouldn’t seem right.’

Trust that man to make things awkward one
last time,
Sarah thought to herself. ‘When’s it to come?’

‘Another three weeks yet, I’m afraid. They
said it’d be here around the end of the month.’

Sarah considered the matter. ‘I can’t stay
here that long myself. It’ll mean you’ll have to travel up to
Auckland alone. Do you think you could do that?’

‘Oh, yes, of course I could.’

‘Very well, then, you’re to come up as soon
as it’s arrived. And I’ll be trusting you to see that she’s on that
boat in three weeks’ time, David.’

‘I’ll have her on the boat all right,’ David
said stoutly. He took Amy’s free arm and tucked it through his.
‘I’m starving, Ma. Is it morning tea yet?’

‘I was coming down to call you in for it.’
Amy caught Sarah’s amused expression, and gave a rueful smile.
‘Well, I suppose it was mainly an excuse to see if you two were
getting on all right.’

‘Of course we are,’ said Sarah. ‘We’re the
best of friends.’ She planted a kiss on Amy’s cheek. ‘Let’s go and
check on these scones of yours. I want to see if they really are as
big as I remembered.’

 

Amy walked between them, revelling in the
closeness to both. Sarah and David were chatting easily, but Amy’s
heart was too full for words as she looked up at first one animated
face, then the other, while she tried to match their long
strides.

‘Hey, I can smell those scones now,’ David
said when they neared the house. ‘Hurry up, Ma, they smell
good.’

‘I can’t keep up with you two. You go on
ahead,’ Amy said, attempting to slip her arms out of theirs.

She saw Sarah catch David’s eye over the top
of her head, a mischievous expression on her face. Sarah gripped
her arm more tightly. ‘Let’s make her run.’

‘I can’t!’ Amy protested. She struggled to
match their fresh pace, laughing helplessly. ‘I can’t,’ she panted
out. ‘I’m too old to run.’

‘Then we’ll have to help you,’ Sarah said,
her smile more mischievous than ever. ‘Ready, Dave?’

He nodded, and took a firmer hold on Amy’s
arm.

‘One, two, three,
up!
’ Sarah
cried.

They hoisted her aloft, the three of them
giggling like children. Amy wanted to shout the news to the world,
but she made do with a wordless cry of delight. It was decided; it
was settled. She was going to Auckland.

 

 

2

There was one task Amy dissuaded Sarah from
attempting.

‘I’ll ask Lizzie about looking after Dave,’
she said. ‘I’d rather do it myself. Not today, either, there’s no
need to rush. And I’d like to… Sarah, would you mind if I told
Lizzie about you? Who you really are, I mean. I won’t if you don’t
want me to.’

‘Tell the world if you want,’ Sarah said
easily. ‘I’m not ashamed of you, dearest.’

‘No, not the world. Only Lizzie, I
think.’

‘You’re not going to tell Dave?’

‘I… I don’t think so,’ Amy said after a
pause. ‘Not yet, anyway. I might one day. Do you think I should?’
she asked anxiously.

Sarah gave a small shrug. ‘It’s your
decision, not mine. I’ll admit to a little idle curiosity as to how
he might react. I’d be able to tell him it’s my right to order him
about, since I’m his big sister.’

It was more than idle curiosity that Amy
felt; it was something akin to fear. How would David take the
knowledge that she had borne a child before her marriage? Could he
ever think of her in the same way again? And the darkest question
of all whispered from a deep recess of her mind: would he still
love her? Why search for the answer when it was so easy to avoid
the question?

 

*

 

Letting Sarah go was a wrench for Amy. But
she had her trip to Auckland to look forward to, and before then
she had a job to do. It was time to go and see Lizzie.

Few enough of Amy’s family had even known of
the existence of her first child; of those few, Lizzie was the only
one who had ever let her talk about the baby. The joy of her new
knowledge bubbled inside Amy, making her step light as she walked
along the track down the valley.

Frank and Lizzie were lingering over a
morning cup of tea when Amy entered the warm kitchen. Frank had
prevailed on Lizzie to let him hold Benjy; the baby waved his arms
and chortled a greeting at Amy. Beth and Maisie hurried to fetch a
cup of tea for her, and when she had fussed over Benjy and kissed
Lizzie she took the seat Lizzie indicated.

‘Well, you look bright as a button,’ Lizzie
remarked. ‘I thought you might be a bit down in the dumps, with
your visitor going.’

‘It did seem a bit flat last night—I missed
Sarah straight away. But do you know what’s happened?’ Amy put her
hand on Lizzie’s arm, wanting to be sure she had her cousin’s full
attention for her momentous announcement. ‘Sarah’s asked me to go
and stay with her in Auckland.’

‘Oh, the silly girl. I hope she didn’t make
a fuss when you said you wouldn’t.’

‘But I didn’t say that. I’ve said I’ll
go.’

‘Don’t talk rot, Amy! Honestly, fancy that
girl getting you to say such a thing. You couldn’t go all that way
by yourself—and to Auckland, of all places. Frank says it’s an
awful place, isn’t it, Frank?’

‘Well, it can be a bit wearying, with the
size of it,’ Frank allowed. ‘It’s a bit of a beggar finding your
way around, anyway.’

‘There you are, then,’ Lizzie said, as if
her case had been proven beyond question. ‘You probably wouldn’t be
able to find her house, even if you did go up there. You just write
her a nice letter and say it was good of her to ask, but you don’t
want to go after all. She won’t mind.’

‘I do want to go, though,’ Amy said
quietly.

‘You don’t really. That Miss Millish has got
you all excited, but once you’ve settled down and had a little
think about it, you’ll see for yourself it’s a silly idea. Going
all that way on your own, and you don’t even know her all that
well. I know she’s sort of Lily’s cousin, but she’s not anything to
you.’

‘She
is
, Lizzie. Sarah’s special.
She’s as special as she could be. She…’ Amy glanced around the
room, taking in their interested audience. ‘I need to talk to you.
Please?’

She met Lizzie’s eyes, and was relieved to
see her catch the message that this talk was not for all ears.

‘Come up to the bedroom for a minute,’
Lizzie said. ‘Frank, mind you don’t go spilling your tea on
Benjy—sit him up properly.’

‘Yes, I’m not too good with babies yet,’
Frank said, trying to assume a suitably humble expression. ‘We’ve
only had the eight of them, after all.’

‘I’m just telling you to be careful, there’s
no need to talk silly. Mama won’t be long, sweetie,’ Lizzie cooed
to the baby. ‘Let him suck on a biscuit, Frank, he might be a bit
hungry.’

She ushered Amy ahead of her, up the passage
and into the bedroom. As soon as she had closed the bedroom door
behind them, she turned to Amy with a mixture of curiosity and
concern in her face.

‘Now, what’s going on? Whatever’s got you so
excited?’

Amy took hold of both Lizzie’s hands in
hers. ‘It’s Sarah.’ She took a deep breath to calm herself as, for
a moment, the wonder of it all threatened to overwhelm her.
‘Sarah’s my little girl. She’s Ann come back to me. She’s my
daughter.’ She savoured the delicious feel of the words as her
mouth formed them. ‘My daughter.’

Lizzie stood as if frozen and stared at her,
not with the delight Amy had hoped to see, but with deep concern.
‘Oh, dear,’ she said faintly. ‘You poor love.’

She took hold of Amy’s hand and steered her
over to the bed, waving aside Amy’s attempts to explain further.
‘You just sit down quietly. I’ll—now, don’t you worry, we’ll have a
little talk and sort it all—I’ll just…’ She stared around the room
with an air of desperation. ‘I’ll get Frank!’

Lizzie flung the bedroom door open and
leaned out into the passage. ‘Frank!’ she called. ‘Come and help
me!’

Frank appeared within seconds, Benjy tucked
under one arm. The baby stared around with an air of mild surprise
at having been so rapidly moved from one room to another, while
Frank’s face was all concern. ‘What’s wrong? Are you all right,
Lizzie?’

‘What do you think you’re doing, carrying
Benjy like that!’ Lizzie said indignantly. ‘Give him here.’

She retrieved the baby and made soothing
noises, rendered quite unnecessary by Benjy’s beaming smile at the
sight of his mother. ‘It’s Amy, not me,’ Lizzie said when she
managed to drag her attention away from Benjy. ‘She’s not
well.’

‘Yes I
am!
’ Amy managed to make
herself heard at last. ‘I don’t think I’ve been so well in
ages!’

‘She looks all right to me,’ Frank said,
taking in Amy’s radiant face.

‘Well, she’s not, the poor thing. It’s all
got too much for you, hasn’t it, Amy?’ Lizzie hurried on, giving
Amy no chance to reply. ‘Having to be brave all these years, with
him
being such a trial. And then the strain of him getting
so sick. Now she’s finally able to take things a bit easier, and
it’s got on top of her at last. Having that Miss Millish to stay,
too, that’s been the last straw.’ She paused for breath, then
announced solemnly, ‘Amy’s got a bit muddled in the head.’

‘I’m not muddled, I’m not!’ Amy protested.
‘It’s true!’

Lizzie nodded sagely, as if Amy’s insistence
was further evidence. ‘You see what I mean? She thinks Miss Millish
is the little girl they took off her.’

‘Oh, heck!’ Frank said, clearly sharing
Lizzie’s alarm. ‘You’d better get her to lie down, take things
quiet. Shall I get her some water? Or laudanum or something.’

Amy looked up at their worried faces, and it
was only gratitude for their concern that stopped her from laughing
aloud. ‘Does Frank know about Ann?’

‘Yes, he does,’ Lizzie admitted. ‘I had to
tell him once—oh, years and years ago—when he’d gone upsetting you,
mentioning seeing the other fellow in Auckland.’

‘I’ve wondered once or twice if you did
know, Frank. I’m glad you do, it makes things simpler—’

‘Never mind talking about it now,’ Lizzie
cut in. ‘You sit there quietly. Frank’s right, you ought to have a
lie down. Yes, that’s a good idea, Frank, get some laudanum.’

‘No,’ Amy said, quietly but firmly. ‘I don’t
want to lie down, and I don’t want any laudanum. No, stay here,
Frank, I won’t take any medicine, so it’s no good you fetching it.’
She smiled at their anxious expressions. ‘And I haven’t gone funny
in the head, either.’

‘Now, Amy, you should just—’

‘Lizzie,’ Amy interrupted. ‘I want to talk.
Will you both be quiet and listen for a minute? Please?’

Lizzie’s worried expression did not ease.
She sat down on the bed close to Amy, while Frank took the chair
beside the bed.

‘It’s all right,’ Amy said. ‘I know it
sounds like I’ve gone silly, but it’s all right. Really it is.’

She paused to gather her thoughts and
arrange them in some sort of order, fit to be shared with
others.

‘Sarah told me herself,’ she began. ‘Those
people, the ones she calls Mother and Father, they weren’t really
her parents at all. They adopted her when she was just a little
baby. When I had to give her away.’

She had thought she could say it calmly, but
the sudden rush of painful memories took her by surprise. She bit
on her lip and stared unseeing at the bedroom window, and felt the
warmth of Lizzie’s hand as it took hold of hers.

‘Lily mentioned once that Miss Millish
wasn’t really her cousin,’ Lizzie said. ‘Her aunt couldn’t have any
more babies, so they adopted a little girl for her. I didn’t think
anything of it at the time.’

‘It doesn’t mean she…’ Frank lapsed into
silence, but Amy could finish the sentence easily enough.

‘It doesn’t mean she’s my little girl.
You’re right, Frank, it wouldn’t mean anything by itself. But
there’s something else.’ She closed her eyes for a moment and
smiled at the memory of the heavy piece of gold lying in her palm,
still warm from being worn against Sarah’s body. ‘There’s the
brooch.’

‘What brooch?’ Lizzie asked.

‘I never told you about it, did I?’ Amy
mused. ‘It was all secrets and hiding things. The brooch was my
Christmas present. He…’ She stopped, then made herself say the
name. ‘Jimmy gave it to me.’

After all those years, the word was so
unfamiliar in her mouth that it almost seemed to burn its way out.
But it would have been foolish to think she could share with them
the wonder of Sarah and at the same time hide from the memory of
Sarah’s father. She had said the name aloud, and felt she had
passed a test.

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