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Friday, 22 February 2013

Flash Fiction Friday: The Return by Samantha Holt

Today is a flash fiction from our own Samantha Holt. Follow Samantha on Facebook for more fun and free stories.

The Return

What if he no longer loved her? What if he had changed?

Seven summers at war was bound to change a man. Elizabeth chewed at her lip as she peered anxiously out of the window of the keep. Her fingers dug into the cool stone as the flicker of a banner became visible on the horizon, swiftly followed by its bearer and several knights on horseback.

Her legs itched to run as her heart leapt into her throat. She could not tell which one was him at such a distance but she wondered if his eyes were on her window, watching for her.

Oh, how she prayed they were.

Gathering her skirts and pulling her shoulders upright, she carefully navigated the winding stairs and pushed through the busy hall. The whole castle was awash with excitement at the return of their lord and a feeling of anticipation pervaded the air.

Would he still think her beautiful? The passing of time had no doubt taken its toll. Running a keep - and defending it - was no easy task. Elizabeth hoped he would be proud of all she had done for his lands.

The thunder of hooves caused her stomach to clench as she heard them approach the gate. The portcullis rattled and Elizabeth pressed her nails into her palm, feeling the prickle of sweat on her neck. She tucked a strand of pale hair into her veil and adjusted it.

And there he came, as tall and as strong as ever in his chainmail. Elizabeth held her breath as the soldiers led their mounts through the muddy courtyard as the peasants greeted them with cheers.

His eyes. If she could only see his eyes then she would know if her husband had truly returned to her. His grey helm hid his face, though she could not mistake him. Elizabeth knew well enough the breadth of his shoulders and the pride of his stance. She had run her hands often over those broad shoulders during their first year of marriage. With only memories of that year to sustain her, she had imagined herself running her hands over them again many, many times these past years.

The soldiers stopped at the bottom of the steps and Elizabeth felt her legs twitch. She remained rooted. It would not do for her to lose her composure in front of the villeins. And what if he was not pleased to see her? She would do well not to make a fool of herself until she was sure.

Her eyes followed the movement of his body as he dismounted with ease. He pulled off his helm and Elizabeth’s pulse pounded in her ears. His hair had grown long but it was still thick and wavy. War had aged him. A little grey was visible on his temples and in his stubble, and she could see lines around his eyes that had not been there before.

Elizabeth’s heart dropped. His blue eyes cast around the keep, a jaded look just visible in them. His body appeared weary, his shoulders having lost some of that pride that she remembered. Too much blood had been spilled in the Holy land. It was likely that blood had taken her husband from her.

Elizabeth watched as he handed his helm to his squire before turning to face the keep.

And her.

Her hands bunched until the prick of her nails became too much and she held her breath as his eyes came to rest upon her. A gentle grin spread across his face and the light returned to his eyes.

Elizabeth released the breath that she hadn’t realised she was holding and smiled tentatively as he bounded up the steps to her side.

“Lizzie,” he murmured softly.

His hand came out and took hers; bringing it to his lips so that he could brush them over each one of her fingers.

Elizabeth shuddered as the coarse warmth of his hand leached into her arm and she was besieged by the memory of their love. She stared into his eyes, searching. A heat blossomed through her chest and she allowed her smile to expand.

“You have returned to me,” she whispered.

He captured her lips in a searing kiss, bringing her tightly into his embrace. “Aye, Lizzie, I’ve returned to you.”

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