A Flash Fiction Piece from Authonomy, the subject was “Growing”.
Sweet May Flowers
The fading light glinted on the snow, tiny diamonds winked and twinkled. Though it was late in the day the snow light meant that she could see the way ahead and so, refusing the offer of a bed at the inn, she set out for home where Ma was waiting alone. Now, Jill dragged her shawl a little tighter around her shivering shoulders. Her feet were wet and ice-cold, the boots were too big but they were the best footwear available. They had been Da’s and as she slogged on they slipped with every step, rubbing blisters onto reddened heels. The snow had found its way down inside and soaked her stockings.
She had baskets hefted on both arms. The one that had been used for carrying the chickens now held a couple of sacks of seed for next summer’s corn. The seed man had gifted her two other tiny packets, a surprise he had said, to brighten her spring. On her other arm the smaller basket held a few packets of provisions. She had been able to buy some flour and a new blade for the garden ho. All in all it had been a pleasing day. It was so very cold though and all she wanted was to throw open the cottage door and feel the warmth embrace her.
Not much longer now, an hour maybe and she would be safe and warm. Ma would have made a broth or maybe some rabbit in a stew.
The wind was freshening, driving new snow before it. This fall was heavier, more threatening. The great branches of the trees beside the road bent and groaned as she passed. Blowing snow eddied and spun, hiding the surroundings under a whirling gauze, visibility was negligible now. She struggled on, head bowed against the blast. Just the great hill to mount, then she could take a short cut across the field where Farmer Platt’s cows grazed away the summer. She would have to trudge through fresh snow, deeper than this on the road, but it was worth it to save the extra half mile.
The thud of hooves took her by surprise, seeming as they did, to come from nowhere. It was the howling of wind in the trees and the noise of her breath in her own throat that was her undoing. She had been lost in the storm and the need to just keep going but now she heard the noise of the approaching animal and reacted without thought. Instinct threw her sideways and ill fortune tipped her into the ditch. The heavy boots grasped at her legs as she twisted. Her feet were planted deep in a drift and the clumsy footwear refused to follow the movement of her falling body. She squealed in anguish and pain as the baskets flew from her arms and her leg twisted with a sickening crack. Head over arse she went down into the deep gully beside the road and she had a glimpse, nothing more, of the horse and rider sweeping past kicking up the snow behind them, the hooves thudding on the deadening carpet. The rider was lost in his snow blinded world and was never aware of the little figure toppling helpless and injured from his path.
For a long, wet, moment she lay still, taking stock, trying to decide if there was real hurt or just shock and fear. She moved her arms and then stretched her legs, a firebrand shot through her drawing a screech of exquisite pain from her throat.
The snow had already soaked her skirt and blouse, the shawl lay in a crumpled heap beside her with seed from the torn package spilled across it. She pushed with shivering hands in the cold wetness and tried to ease herself up the side of the ditch. It was useless, the ankle was swelling now and throbbing as the broken skin and misplaced bone pushed against the leather of father’s old boots. Her leg was a red-hot lump of damaged flesh, ignorant of her frantic efforts to move. Tears froze against her face in the cold wind whistling along the gully.
She shivered uncontrollably, with shock and cold and fear and cried out into the gathering night. She was alone in this great, white, frozen world. Alone and broken and hidden in the depths of the snow filled, drainage ditch. The blizzard was even greater now, she tried to brush the snow aside but the pain from the shattered leg was too great and she fainted. She regained the world some time later, and felt warmer; her body was covered with a diamond spangled coverlet. She didn’t try again to move, it was warm and soft where she was, the pain was gone and the fear. The snow had eased. Moonlight glowed in the deeps and gulleys and painted the tree limbs with silver.
She closed her eyes. The sooty lashes were kissed with flakes of floating lace as they lay upon her cheek. She opened them once more when the light from above needled under her lids. The beautiful countenance hovering above her took her breath and when the gorgeous being reached out a beckoning hand she clutched it without fear and without thought and she followed and she flew and she left the seeds and the shawl in the desperate ditch and entered oblivion.
They searched long and hard, days spent struggling through the snowbound landscape, but could find no sign. In the end they surmised that she had left, run off they said, gone with one of the fair men. Her distraught mother grieved and died and was laid beneath the sod in the graveyard with her husband but not with her child.
As the seasons moved on and the land thawed and the sun warmed the fields and meadows the May procession approached. Young girls ran to the hedgerows to collect the wild flowers from the countryside to trim and garnish their coronets. Deep in the ditch they found her, the pathetic bones scattered by wild things and the seeds from her packets, germinated and burgeoning in the good earth, anemones for her forsaken self and a carpet of forget me nots, but it was too late, all too late.