Flash fiction by Vanessa Matthews.
It was the last Tuesday in November, but that did not stop the sun from sprinkling promises of new beginnings on the shoulders of the crowd gathered around the oak trees. Elizabeth recognised many of them and delighted in the familiarity of the faces looking back at her. The villagers loved a public display whatever the occasion, but they were particularly joyous today. From behind her veil she could see them all. Mr Parsons and his son, the Corden sisters and Magda, who was wearing her Sunday hat and holding a small posy of meadow flowers.
Several of her neighbours had poured out of their houses, eager with the anticipation of it all. Her mother had shaken out her finest dress and was now standing elegantly at the front of the muttering rabble.
Elizabeth examined her gloved hands and smoothed her petticoats. She was a vision. Edmund had said as much in the brief moment he had caught a glimpse of her. It was bad luck that he had seen her, superstition was quite clear about that. But never mind, she would not let such a minor mishap disturb her now. It was her big day, there was no turning back. Soon she would see Edmund and they would be joined together. He would be hers and she would be his and nothing would separate them. She smiled warmly at the thought of it, her face still obscured by the length of soft chiffon. It would not do to lift it yet.
Her father moved towards her. It was time. His face was ashen and shrivelled, Elizabeth reasoned that this was most likely on account of his nerves. He had always had the most terrible jitters. Her mother clutched at her handkerchief with trembling hands. The crowd bubbled with anticipation as her father handed her into the arms of the man who was to sweep her from her feet. Her mother began to sob and for a fleeting moment Elizabeth felt her heart swell and her throat ache.
Mr Parsons covered his boy’s eyes with a thick forearm as the ruddy-faced vicar read a verse from his book of love and forgiveness. Magda lowered her brim with uneasy respect for village tradition and Elizabeth wobbled on her heels as she climbed the ladder. Still she did not show any remorse for what she had done to Edmund. Rather she was proud at having preserved him. Young, handsome and hers forever. If she had a regret it was that Edmund had not shown her the same dedication, wasting his last breath on telling the doctor of her crime. It really was bad luck that he had caught a glimpse of her.
The late November sun shimmered across Elizabeth’s black gown and her widow’s veil flipped from her face as she was turned off the ladder. Her neck cracked, her mouth gaped, and the villagers danced to the sound of the death knell.
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT FOR HALLOWEEN BUT I DIDN’T GET CHANCE TO POST IT. Vanessa Matthews is the author of The Doctor’s Daughter, a psychological thriller set in Vienna in the 1920s.