Flash Fiction Competition Winner : Jo Tiddy


                                                                                     w/c 486

“That man was back.”


My husband lifts his head. Puts down the piece of wood that he’s whittling.


“What man?” His voice is hard.


“A messenger. Passing through. I gave him water.”


“You shouldn’t have.”


My husband is a man of few words. He watches me for a long moment then turns back to his work. I open the shutters to let the cooler air in. The evening sun catches the silver in his beard. I told my parents he was too old for me that when they made the match, but they didn’t listen. I like to talk, to sing as I work through my chores. He’s not unkind, but there’s no singing in this house, and not much chat.


I lower my head. “If he returns I will send him away.”


“If he returns,” says my husband, “you will fetch me.”


I peek at him. He’s angry at me for speaking to a strange man. But the women in the market place have not been friendly, and I have to find conversation somewhere. So how could I turn the messenger away? The sun was behind him, but I could see his face clear. So serene, so terribly beautiful, it made me dizzy. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. 


Here, in this town, married women do not open the door to strangers.


Married in name only, I might add. My husband seems afraid to touch me, as if I might break. Despite the fact that I am young, and healthy and of reasonable good looks, or so I’m told. I am untouched. I sigh, pull another skein of wool from the distaff. It’s an astonishing blue, and so soft.  I will weave it into a cloak. It will suit me.


My mother has taken to eyeing me sideways when she visits. Looking at my belly, calculating. She hasn’t asked yet. What could I tell her? That my grey-beard husband doesn’t share my bed? She’s been spending too much money on offerings as it is, praying for something that cannot happen.


The stranger does come back; of course he does. It’s as if my hope has summoned him. It’s the ways he looks at me, like I’m a miracle. What girl could resist? This time he comes to the window, away from any prying eyes. I don’t fetch my husband.


The next time my mother visits her eyes widen, and she showers me with kisses. There’s a flutter in my belly, more than just nerves. 

“Have you told Joseph?”


“Not yet.”


“Silly girl, do it now. A child, a blessing. What husband would not be overjoyed at such news?” Her joy spills across the room in a golden glow, so I swallow my fear and go to find my husband. How angry can he be, with a son on the way?


I expect I can talk him around. I expect it will all be alright.