I saw a painting recently and it inspired a bit of flash fiction. Since it is related to a new free book project, it seemed the perfect way to announce it. I have a new free book: Half Agony, Half Hope: Scenes from Jane Austen’s Persuasion available for download. Click the book cover here or in the sidebar to get the file.
Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite.
An End to Bad News
“Mrs. Smith, a letter just come for you,” Nurse Rook called, shambling into the cramped, dark parlor. “Not through the post mind you, so there weren’t no pennies to pay. Don’t be fearing for your purse none. No, the boy who brung it was dressed right clean and proper.”
Mrs. Smith took the letter, hands trembling. The rest of her body quivered in time. Nurse took her arm and guided her to a stool by the fire.
Yes, the heat would help stop the shaking, at least enough to read.
But did the want to?
She expected no correspondence and the hand look much like the solicitor’s. His letters always brought bad news: further proof of Mr. Elliot’s treachery and Mr. Smith’s foolishness in trusting him.
No, if only solved nothing, and it tormented her soul, stealing the last vestiges of her strength. One more luxury she could ill afford.
The fire crackled with an offer to take the letter from her, unread. It well-knew she had not the strength to take in any more bad news. What difference would she make if she read it or not? Reading it would not change the state of her affairs, and it would make no difference in her behavior. There were no more measures of economy to be taken. Not knowing, for just a little while longer, might preserve her mettle just a bit.
Nurse Rook nudged her shoulder. “Well?”
Just a few months ago she would have accepted the fire’s offer, but today … it was different. Sometimes thing can change, unexpectedly and suddenly. Anne had smiled at her Captain Wentworth when she had said that.
And things had changed. She was no longer alone. She had friends now, friends that would not turn their backs no matter how desperate her circumstances. With their support, she could face this, whatever it was. The flames could sate their hunger from the coal bucket.
She held her breath and tugged away the seal. The pages came loose and her hands protested, quaking. They doubted she was strong enough for more bad news and turned the words into an indecipherable blur.
She dropped the paper on her lap and shoved her hands under her thighs.
Strong, bold loops formed words.
I am not a man to stand by idly whilst one who has done me great good suffers ill-fortune. Thus, I have taken it upon myself to manage those affairs left undone by your late husband’s death. I can offer no assurances, but know I will pursue you interests as vigorously as though they were my own.
Cpt. F. W.
A cry tore from her throat and her head swam. Such friends she had, such friends! She tried to rise, but her knees failed her.
Perhaps good news required great strength as well.