“Dearest,” he began, but as he hesitated over the next word his pen dribbled ink onto the paper and blotter.
Harry tore the draft letter in two and fed it into the grate with fire tongs. The embers coughed up a meagre flame.
How could she? But The Times announcement left no room for doubt. Hot lead had been translated onto newsprint so that Harry and the whole of London could read that B was engaged to be married. Harry went to his fabric pile and ran his fingers over velvet nap, then ruffled up linens. He turned the stiff pages of his wallpaper pattern book and chewed his moustache. Above him, embroidered by his niece, the words, Art is my salvation.
That afternoon, after a reviving snifter, he turned to The Beauty of Flowers of Field & Wood by John Theodore Barker (1852), then sketched a new design.
On a moony-blue background, he drew his sinuous leafy arms that sheltered her starburst brilliance, her cornflower-blue soul. B, his love, was centre stage. On the right of the design, he drew stems veering away from her. He painted this section with decaying-green leaves, and mustard coloured flowers that exploded like canker. His rival.
The finished piece was alluring, compelling, beautiful and deadly and went into production immediately.
Three months later he presented the happy couple with two button back armchairs upholstered in his latest, popular and most lucrative, textile design. Hemlock.
Grace Palmer loves words and fears heights. Her writing can be discovered in Comma Press, Magma, Riggwelter, FlashBack Fiction, National Flash Fiction Day and Ad Hoc Fiction. She teaches creative writing for Bristol Folk House, The Joy Club and at www.gracepalmer.org and supports writers by running Novel Nights and Flash in Hand. Her MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University was over far too soon.