Austen in Lockdown

A while ago, I entered a short story competition – the inspiration being Jane Austen’s 465 word short entitled ‘The Beautifull Cassandra’. I didn’t win – boo, hiss – but that means I get to put it on my blog instead… 🙂

I hope you enjoy it:

‘ Mrs Reynolds bustled in, placing the day’s post in front of me with what I liked to think was a curtsy, of sorts. I thanked her, setting down the novel I was much enjoying.

That, and the cup of tea which stood at my elbow, would have to wait.

I sorted the pile, taking my time. Allowing the anticipation to build. Would today be the day his letter would arrive? Mine, posted five days previously, would have reached him in plenty of time to be able to expect a reply by today, latest. My hopes had been dashed yesterday, and I wasn’t sure I could take another disappointment.

With no further interest in the day’s news, Mrs Reynolds took herself into the kitchen, where I could hear her consuming her customary beverage without much propriety.

I set to one side items of no immediacy, circulars went into the fire, and I was about to give up hope when, second to last in the pile – there it was. A cream envelope, with the now-familiar handwriting sprawling its way across the paper.

I’m not embarrassed to admit my heart jumped, and my stomach lurched in a similar way to the first time I travelled by boat.

Peeling back the flap, I retrieved the folded contents. Strangely intimate, to hold the piece of paper he had held, to run my fingers across the words he’d written. To press the paper to my nose, and hope for traces of his scent. To wonder how long it would be before I could hold him, rather than his letter. I settled back to read.

The letter, when all is said and done, was a little on the short side.

‘Dear Elizabeth. You are bonkers. Why can’t we just speak on the phone, like normal people,’ it read.

Mrs Reynolds bustled back into the room. I touched her briefly on the head before she flopped down in front of the fire. She was asleep and dreaming of recalcitrant rabbits within seconds.

I picked up my mobile and dialled William’s number. He answered instantly.

‘We do speak on the phone,’ I said. ‘But you can’t beat getting a letter in the post.’ I glanced at the sheet of manilla. ‘If you can call that a letter.’

‘You got it, then,’ he said.

‘Could you go for more than a one-liner, next time?’ I asked. After my outpourings of affection, my regaling of events, my secret messages hidden within my words, it seemed only fair to expect more in return.

He laughed. ‘How is it that I meet the woman of my dreams three weeks before lockdown – on top of which, she turns out to be the only person on the planet who still wants to communicate via paper and pen?’

I fingered the cover of my copy of Pride and Prejudice, the spine so worn it was difficult to make out the title.

‘I miss you,’ I said.

‘I miss you, too,’ he replied. ‘

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