Friday Flash: "Burning Books"
There are three things I know I should never do:
- Marry for love
- Burn books
Apparently these things lead to the ‘destruction of civilized society.’ It’s not what nice girls do: kill people, or marry someone who can’t advance their social standing, or set fire to literature.
So why am I standing on the parapet of this tower, my skirts kissing the zephyr, my hands trembling and clutching the mismatched objects I hold as if they’re the only thing that matter?
Perhaps it’s because they are.
One thing after another is all it took. My mother arranged the meeting with Thomas. Second-cousin twice removed, all very legal and very good for our family’s position. Family be damned. He stunk of herring and tobacco, and his doublet smelled as though he’d just slaughtered the creature and thrown its hide across his expansive girth.
My weak ankle wavers and my breath catches as I thrust my arms out for balance.
A few moments more are all I need.
Thomas. He was nothing like Henry. Poor Henry, whose deep brown eyes I wanted to swim in for the rest of eternity. Eternity. What does that even mean? How could we ever know?
I should be concerned about this, as an active contributor to the destruction of civilized society. But I don’t care.
I hope Henry finds someone worthy of him. I no longer am. I hope he learns the truth and does what I cannot. He deserves to marry out of love, and nothing more.
Over the edge of the tower, I can see the shadowy outline of Thomas’s body, splayed on the smooth, cobbled path that leads to this place. Romantic, they call it. How little they understand.
No future. No love. No hope. My soul is already damned, if that means anything.
Two objects in my hands. I place the heavy book on one of the crenels, bracing myself between the merlons. A tiny box of matches in my other hand slides open. One match is all it will take.
I strike it against stone, and a flame flickers to life. The book beckons to the flame, but now is not the time. I have committed Sin Number One. I almost committed Sin Number Two. I will not commit Sin Number Three, but allow this book to rest here, my words within, in desperation that someone—anyone—will follow the instructions within. Henry needs to know.
I touch the flame to the hem of my dress. I step forward and the air rushes around me, its caresses turning to anger.
I will not burn books. I will not marry for love.
But I’m done with civilized society.
Besides, two out of three isn’t bad.