W.A.F.F.L.E. Writing Prompt

For our W.A.F.F.L.E. group writing prompt today, we used this pictured that I found on Pinterest:

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We had 20 minutes to write and 5 minutes to wrap up, and here is my short story, unedited:

There was a stillness in the air, an emptiness that was occupied by fog that stretched out in every direction. Hayden could see the trunk of the tree she was leaning against stretching out far above her, but it disappeared into the low-hanging grey sky. The branches arched inward over the dirt road, mirroring their counterparts on the other side. The sight echoed down the road, disappearing into the fog there.

Her feet were tired from the walk, tried from standing, but she didn’t dare sit down. The tree offered some protection from the forest behind, and the purple shawl around her shoulders offered some warmth from the chill of the autumn air, but she felt too vulnerable. She pushed a strand of dirty blonde hair behind her ear, but she was glad she hadn’t braided her hair that morning. As it fell around her neck and shoulders, it added a little extra warmth. If she hadn’t been in such a hurry, she might have grabbed a scarf and cloak instead of just her shawl.

But she had been waiting a long time now, and the chill was starting to nip at her fingertips and toes. Maybe she should give up waiting. Maybe they wouldn’t come today. There had been plenty of days before when they hadn’t come. But the thought of trudging back down the forest path home made her heart shrivel up inside her chest.

Her stomach growled. Only a little while longer, she told herself. It’ll come today. She let out a hot breath and watched it curl and twist in the cool, morning air. It warmed her face and then disappeared.

Hayden refused to return home with nothing again. The accusations from the others that she hadn’t been early enough or waited long enough were almost too much last time. They didn’t care for her reasons or her excuses. And it had made the whole week dreary. Like the fog that had settled over the road, a heaviness had settled over her heart.

She would wait until night came if she had to, just as she had been there before the sun rose. She would wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And if only the delivery wasn’t so unpredictable. But she knew she was well off the usual route, and if there was nothing to delivery, there was no reason to come her way. Last week had been the first time all year nothing had come. What if nothing came today?

Hayden felt her heart beating faster at the thought. Could she survive another week with nothing? She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath and saying a silent prayer. Oh, let it come today.

Squeaking echoed towards her from deep in the mist. It grew louder and closer and more familiar with every moment.

Pushing herself away from the comfort of the tree, Hayden stepped onto the dirt bank of the road, her eyes scanning the fog, waiting for the wagon to emerged. Any moment now. There. The nose of black horse walking lazily forward, pulling the cart behind it. Seating with reins in hand was the same old man as always, with his pointy hat and black jacket.

Hayden smiled, but a new anxiety took hold. A delivery was better than nothing at all, of course, but what the contents would be were always unpredictable.

“Hayden,” the man said with a nod. He reached onto the seat beside him and picked up a small, cream envelope. Hayden recognized the maroon wax seal immediately and ran forward. He extended the letter towards her with a nod. “I hope it’s good news,” he said, but he had more letters and packages to deliver. She could see them piled up in the back of the wagon. Their farm was too far off the path for routine deliveries, but Hayden had made arrangements with Mr. Fletcher to meet him here a little closer to town.

“Thank you, Mr. Fletcher,” Hayden said, bowing her head respectfully as she stepped back from the wagon. He tipped the corner of his hand with a tired smiled and snapped the reins. The tired black horse picked up his pace only slightly.

Hayden looked at the letter in her hands, reading the familiar writing with relief. To the Baxter Family. If the writing was her father’s penmanship, Hayden knew whatever news it carried would be good enough, and she could wait to open it with her mother and brothers when she returned home.

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