APROXM: SHORT STORY

THE FLOCKKRIDGE MUSE

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PREFACE: Surprisingly not a school assignment, though it's certainly written like one.



While the comfortable townsfolk of Flockridge were perceptibly aware of the antics of one particular villager, newly arrived maiden Anne Lillian Marie, who did not wish for her name to be deprived of any single facet when introduced, did not understand how to comprehend the post that arrived upon her freshly swept doorstep. The courier responsible for delivering Anne's mail wore a sly smirk across his face, she noticed, but he did not elaborate on the expression and simply left her with a courteous wave and a have-a-good-day, so it was her task to delve within the parcel and discover just what could be so queer. Pulling a needle from her hung-up hair, she sliced through envelopes of different natures, producing greeting cards, initial billing statements, coupons for restaurants within the center of town, a love letter, advertisements for--


A love letter?


Anne did not quite understand why such a letter would be written for one who had settled in not more than four sunsets ago, and--indeed--the mail lacked a name, camouflaging the stranger behind the gesture. She poured over its contents while absentmindedly thinking back towards all of the men (and perhaps women) she had came across that could possibly fancy her, but could not settle on any strong conviction. The letter's contents celebrated the beauty of her wispy, dark hair, of her delicate hands and accompanying neatly painted nails that reflected the sun, of her eyes that were the lighthouse on the shore. The writing continued to compliment her features with both complex metaphors and straightforward celebrations, and while perhaps it was all very sweet, it was ultimately an unwelcome gesture. Anne was no stranger to capturing the attention of suitors wherever she graced, but she did not enjoy the concept of love at first sight and knew quite well that she had not yet established enough of a presence for anyone to lust for anything of hers beyond physical appearance, and the cacophony of compliments embedded within this letter proved this assumption true.


While its envelope did not possess an identity, it did feature a return address, meaning Anne could return, no doubt, her endless affections for the unwelcome love letter. She wrapped her hands around the brass knobs of her dresser and pulled, revealing a freshly stocked art and writing display. Producing a parchment an accompanying inkwell, she set out on her task, although with slight hesitation, as she did not wish to hurt anyone's feelings. Her words were carefully chosen--direct, but not insensitive. Firm, but not inhuman. She expressed an appreciation for the kind words penned towards her image, but did not appreciate the surface level infatuation and, indeed, found it all very off putting. She ended her response with a "thank you, but no thank you."


Dipping back out into the sunshine laden day, Anne approached her newly mounted mailbox and secured the response safely inside, propping up its flag and swiftly returning back inside. As she began to boil water within her kettle in accordance with the imminent tea-time, she wondered if she shouldn't simply just trot over to her admirer's address and deliver the letter herself. After all, it would be a lie to suggest there existed no curiosity within Anne on the subject of this stranger. Pouring her lemon mint tea into a cannikin, she decided that her tea-time's heels would be followed by a visit to this intriguing address--with perhaps a stop at a boutique or two.


~~~


Three stores and one garden later, Anne spent a great portion of her walk properly picking at the hamlet that is Flockridge, curiously examining all of its various nooks and crannies, for while she had properly been living within the village for four days now, only one of them observed Anne spending time outside of her home. Between unpacking, entertaining her visiting mother, and setting up her garden, she had not yet properly felt the need to explore (beyond, of course, the day spent securing groceries, gardening supplies, and a particularly tasty choux pastry from the very welcoming bakery just a corner away. So while Anne's direct mission for today was the delivery of her rejection, there existed no better time than now to form a familiarity with her new surroundings. With sunshine carefully wrapping Flockridge in its warmth, she found herself feeling more comfortable than she could have ever imagined a rejection delivery could be.


Exiting the library squeezed in between Flockridge's official bank and a fishing supplies shop, the curious woman found herself surprised with a cheerful "Anne Marie!" from behind. She whirled around and immediately recognized the source of this greeting to be none other than Shelley Perce, one of seven daughters of the bakery owner she had interacted with before. Anne returned her bright face with a soft smile.


"Anne Lillian Marie, please, if you do not mind," she reminded.

"Oh, that's right! But is just Anne alright with you?", Shelley queried.

"Yes, that's perfectly fine, thank you. Are you off today?"

"That's right, father suggested I take today off to purchase new clothes for my sisters and I," She answered, holding up two bulging sacks of various dresses and attire. "What brings you out here today, Anne?"

"Ah, well, I decided it could be good to go for a small walk. There is still much of Flockridge I have yet to see…"

"Hah! That feeling won't last too long, I think. We really are quite small."

"I suppose I must try to stretch this out for as long as I can before I grow too familiar, then…"


There existed another small pause as Anne considered revealing the true nature of her stroll--for advice? For camaraderie? Perhaps she may know of this mysterious writer, even?


"... There is another reason I'm out today," Anne began.

"Oh? Well please do tell," Shelley said.

"Hm… Well. I received a letter in the mail, today, and it was quite surprising, and I haven't really been able to understand why I received a love letter of all things when my time here has not reached even a week's length, and…"


Anne's words dropped off when she realized Shelley was softly giggling to herself after hearing love letter.


"Forgive me, but why do you find this so amusing?", Anne asked.

"Ehehe, it's just… It's a letter from Byron, isn't it?", Mary suggested.

"Byron…? No name was left with the letter."

"It's almost certainly him, I'm sure. I wouldn't be too offended! He's sent a letter of affection to near every girl, woman, and lady in town. Even myself!"

"He… what?"

"Byron probably was beside himself when he spotted you around town, a face he hadn't yet been able to write about. I wouldn't take it too harshly. Most of the women here are flattered to receive one."

"I'm afraid I don't understand. Does he not actually fancy me, then?"

"Who's to say? He might, or perhaps he just wanted a new muse for his words and nothing more. Are you on your way to reject him in person?"

"Well… I suppose I am."


Shelley pondered the situation for a moment, then offered one last sentiment for the afternoon.


"Don't be too harsh, now. I think he just wants everyone in town to be a little happier with themselves. But do as you think best."


Shelley waved goodbye to Anne, and Anne waved goodbye to Shelley. The sun, still hanging overhead, began to feature its first signs of descent. Anne, clutching her rejection within her delicate hands, looked out towards the row of cottages dotted all along the hills of Flockridge, knowing that her letter's destination lied somewhere within that cluster. And yet, the baker's daughter's words had left a sudden, strong impression upon her that she could not quite shake. Was it really nothing to be upset about? But the words were unwelcome. Was it a kind gesture? But she had not really asked for such a move. With the sun continuing to lower, Anne carefully thought over what decision she should take, and after a great deal of pondering, her feet began to move.