Welcome to the first weekly installment of flash narratives! Each flash narrative is no longer than 500 words and is based on real diary entries written by my great-aunt in the first half of the twentieth century. For more background information on the project upon which these flash narratives are based, see What is the book that only you can write?, News Flash! and Hattie’s Blog: Ordinary Work.
Eve of January 16, 1918: Sleeping with the Storm
The floors are scrubbed, and the walls are white with Kalsomine. Guests are tucked away in spare beds, horses fed and sheltered. Hattie lies awake most of the night, absorbing the melody of the escalating blizzard. A trumpet wind wends its way around the house’s wooden frame. Snare snowdrums brush against the windows. The world proclaims that tomorrow she will be not Miss Harriet Elizabeth Whiting, eldest daughter of Edward Lemoyne Whiting, Sr. and Mary Herman Whiting, but Mrs. William John Whitcher. Mrs. Will Whitcher. Mrs. W. J. Whitcher. The thought pleases her to no end.
In the time Will worked on her father’s ranch, he watched Hattie care for the men, the two-story farm house, the animals, the garden, and, when she was needed as an extra hand in the field, the crops. Hattie in turn watched Will watching her. She soon noticed her laugh being a little fuller when he was in the room, her energy level higher, her senses keener. But even she was not prepared for his proposal only two weeks earlier. He came with a draft card rather than a hat in his hand, saying that he wanted her to be here for him when he returned. “We need each other, Hattie,” he had said.
She has been a dressmaker, a traveler, a school teacher, and now a housekeeper for her younger brothers on the ranch their father built. At age thirty-six, she is used to a life that she can call her own, more so than most other women she knows, but she is easily bored. W. J., ten years her junior, is a similarly restless soul, tired of working for others, ready for a place of his own.
Hattie has already told him all. He knows theirs will be a childless marriage. He says he isn’t looking for someone to be the mother of his children. He wants someone with whom he can live and work. Together they will create a new life in a new place.
She turns on her side, seeking a more comfortable position, moving slowly so as not to waken Phoebe, her gentle and frail sister-in-law and matron of honor, who sleeps beside her. She wonders what it will be like to sleep next to somebody every night. Not just anyone. Her husband. Phoebe’s breathing is so light it is drowned by the sounds of the storm. Hattie imagines that sleeping next to a man will be like sleeping next to the storm itself so that together they will be noisy and willful and always interesting.