This is the latest entry in the flash fiction challenge posted on author Jeffrey Ricker’s website; the prompt for August was historical fiction in a marshland with a necklace as the object to include. Enjoy!
E.D. Cope rode his dapple gray stallion to the marshland, as instructed in the letter he received from his latest lover. One of many he’d acquired over the years and discarded as if they were unworthy pieces to add to his personal museum.
Cope could charm anyone and anything if he wanted—even the snakes that fled his horse’s approach. This time his lover had long brown hair, large wet brown eyes, and was often overcome with emotion. It had been too much for him to handle, despite his favor of a necklace that he bestowed upon her tenderly at their last secret rendezvous.
He dismounted, his jaw already twitching in fear and anger. He paused, holding his arms behind his back, standing behind the young woman in a long green gingham dress. She had been crying for hours and decided it best to tell him how she really felt in her last letter to him, and in discarding his favor in the process.
“Edward,” she shuddered, her voice gaining strength as she spoke despite her moroseness. She held the necklace over the Erie Canal.
“What are you doing, Louise?!” Cope snapped fiercely. “I promised you I would return! And I have!”
“You’ve come too late,” Louise softly replied, an edge to her voice now. “You promised me many things over the years I’ve waited for you. I dreamed of marrying you, because you made me feel like I had finally met the right person. I thought your woman had mistreated you, and I felt sorry for you. I thought she had left you for someone else. I was foolish to think that. You made me think that.”
“I—I–!” he stammered, watching her turn and stare at him coldly. He shuddered, his face flushing bright red, making his blonde and graying goatee stand out on his narrow cheeks and chin.
“You lied to me, Edward Drinker Cope. Me and dozens of other women, that I do not doubt now. You sicken me.”
“I’m here now, I’m not lying now! I swear it!” he rushed to her, his gaze pleading, but his clenched jaw and bulging neck veins told Louise all she needed to know.
“I’ve done despicable things to keep you happy, to keep your profession intact. I’ve broken away from the church, turned away from God, because of it. I thought you truly wanted me, accepted and loved me for who I am, despite everything—being unable to have children, being different than my peers mentally. You instead pity me and see me as no more than a broken heirloom.”
“That’s not true at all!” Cope’s hand flew out to grab the necklace away before Louise dropped it, but she smoothly avoided the move and turned away from him. He tried to get her to face him, and she yanked her arm away, nearly striking him in the face with her elbow in the process.
“You’re not the first man to lie to me and make me feel wanted, you’re not the first to cajole me into a disastrous affair. This necklace might represent hope, but to me that hope is lost.”
“We can make this right—I—I can fix this, I just need time!” Cope began to plead. I can’t lose that diamond, it’s worth a fortune and Marsh will have my head on a pike for stealing it!
“I’ve given you over ten years,” Louise muttered bitterly. “Ten years you’ve made me wait. I’ve been patient long enough. I deserve better than this, and far better than you. We are finished here!”
On the last sentence, Louise threw the necklace into the canal. It made a heart sinking splash.
Cope screamed, a vile morose wail, and his horse bolted, along with several wading birds.
He ran to the canal and jumped into the river, swimming against the current, snagging the necklace. He dragged himself ashore, gasping and coughing.
His prized possession was glinting in the fading rays of sunlight, cold against the palm of his hand. Cold and dark, like his wounded heart.
Louise, in the meantime, found his horse. She rode it back into town silently, along the bustling cobblestone streets. She dismounted and it ran back toward the marshes, whinnying piteously.
“Dear?” asked her grandmother. Louise stormed past, furious, and stomped up the stairs.
“I will hear no more of Edward Drinker Cope from this day forward,” she snarled, slamming the door.
A terse silence resumed, and Louise’s cat pattered up the stairs, mewling sadly.
This tale, while fiction, is based somewhat on real events–E.D. Cope indeed had several scandalous affairs in his life, recorded in letters which were destroyed by his daughter to preserve his professionalism. The Hope Diamond is part of the Smithsonian Institution, which funded the work of O.C. Marsh, Cope’s rival, during the infamous Bone Wars. It’s also very cursed–everyone who ever owned it fell into a calamity.