I haven’t done one of Chuck Wendig‘s flash fiction prompts in months. Which is a shame, really; they’re always achingly clever and I should go back and do them for funsies at some point. This week I decided that yes, yes, I really must write. The topic: take a random song title, whichever iTunes or whatever spits out, and use that as the title of your story. 1000 words or less.
I could do that!
The first song I heard was My Boy Builds Coffins by Florence & The Machine.
My Boy Builds Coffins
I sent you a letter last week, dear cousin, telling you about how I was going riding with my brothers. I have been waiting to hear from you to write again, but I cannot wait any longer.
I have met someone, cousin. I think I may have found the man to carry my heart next to his.
He is so handsome. You would laugh, I think, but I idle in the shadows at the door to his workshop every day, now. The way his muscles bunch and stretch beneath his work shirt is like a careful dance, twisting together and apart and back together. I could sit and watch him for hours. I do sit and watch him for hours. Wordless. Breathless.
One of these days, I’ll get up the courage to talk to him. I’m sure of it.
I thought it would be last week. Last week would have been perfect. I saw him for the first time, then, on the afternoon we all went riding. Solemn faced, but his eyes twinkled with mischief and lit up in the early summer sun. He listened carefully to everything said, even though everyone else seemed to be so distracted with the world around and whatever was going on. I wasn’t paying attention to anything but him. I really haven’t been able to pay attention to anything else since I met him.
I hope I didn’t miss my chance. I should have set my hand on his arm then. Smiled. Flirted. My other cousins always said I was the best flirt out of all us girls; remember the picnic last summer? My dance card was filled and three different men went out of their way to stop at our table for a pleasant bit of conversation. None of them interested me, really, but I was polite and smiled and laughed at their silly little jokes.
So when everyone else was distracted. When no one was looking. I should have set my hand on his arm. I would smile, he would smile, and that would be it. That’s how it works, right? I’ve never felt like this before, but I see him smile, and work the way he does. I’ve been here every day since last week. I stay quiet and out of the way, just to watch him work. He knows I’m here, though
His hands, I think, are what drew me to him first. Even though he’s handsome, just one of those faces that will draw you to him, I don’t think I could describe him. Except his eyes. Dark, dark pools you could just fall into forever. Other than his eyes, I watch his hands. They are so careful with all he does; long, slender, pale fingers wrapping around the wood plane as he works. Did I mention that, dear cousin? He’s a woodworker. He arrives at his shop when the sun comes up each day, bundled in a long, dark coat. Every time he’s called away – some days more than others – he carefully puts his plane aside, pulls on his coat, and quietly shuts his shop. The smell of fresh-shaved wood hanging in the air around me now. It reminds me of him.
Talking of his coat reminds me of the most curious thing. I’ve been so cold, lately. I can’t seem to get warm, even in the heat of the midday sun. Maybe I’ll ask to borrow his coat tomorrow. If I look as cold as I feel sometimes, he would have to lend it to me. It would be the gentlemanly thing to do. And we would talk, then.
Dear cousin, I feel like such a silly girl. I don’t even know his name! I haven’t had the courage to speak with him. I only sit and watch him from the shadows. I feel as though I’m in a trance when I’m around him, as though he were the only one that matters. I don’t remember going home, or sleeping, or even getting up in the morning and walking to his shop to watch him. I’m sure papa would have a fit if he knew, but I can’t even remember the last time I spoke with him other than the morning we left for the ride. My brothers are preparing for the hunt, you know, and they wanted to test the dogs and the horses, and they all had new rifles. There was talk of trying to get a pheasant, which made me laugh because I was wearing my new hat; the green velvet one with the pheasant feathers.
Do you think he would like that hat, dear cousin? I should wear it tomorrow.
I think he helps in the fields nearby, as well; there’s a collection of farm equipment hanging on one wall. Scythes, mainly, the same way that your dear father has in his barn. Woodworker and farmer. Grandfather would scoff, I think, but a hard-working man is better than an idle one, don’t you think?
The sun is coming up, dear cousin, and I don’t feel like sleeping. I think I will put on my hat with the pheasant feathers and speak with him. I know he saw me last week. If you don’t hear from me again, dear cousin, know I have drowned in his eyes and gone to heaven smiling.
The dusty hatbox clattered to the ground as Mrs. Framingham opened the creaky armoire door. With a sad sigh she bent, picking up the lid and the hat that rolled free. Green velvet, crushed on one side. A spray of pheasant feathers across the back.
The black-rust stain of blood on the silk lining.
She shook her head with a sad smile. Her grandmother had told her about her cousin. A great beauty, she had said. Kind and caring, but not the smartest woman.
Who would wear a feathered hat on a pheasant hunt?