This is a Flash piece (meaning it is approximately 1000 words, hints of a larger story, and has a twist at the end). This particular piece would work better as a play due to the large number of characters which make it a rocky read as Flash. But I digress… I give you, Scandalon.
“How old is she, anyway?“ Vera set her tea down on the table in the small home where six friends had gathered. She took a cookie from her plate holding her little finger in the air as she nibbled in dainty crunches.
Spoons tinkled. Dishes clanked. Candlelight danced. Aromas teased the appetite.
”She’s barely a woman,” said Lydia. “More like a child. It’s a pity.“
“It’s very sad,” added Rachel, flicking a crumb from her dress to the floor. “Having a child when you’re that young… well, you never really grow up yourself.” She turned to look toward the stove. “Sarah, what is that delightful smell?”
“Well, she should simply feel lucky Joe didn’t leave her,” Lydia interrupted before Sarah could answer Rachel’s question. Lydia’s jet-black hair, streaked with gray from years of worrying about the business of others, was up in a tight bun delicately circled about by small ringlets. Dressed in the finest, most expensive clothing, she presented more as royalty than common.
“I feel sorry for her.” Joanna’s kind and empathetic tone made Lydia’s mouth fall agape. “That’s a long journey and she’s about to give birth. I wonder if she already has.”
“Feel sorry for her?” Lydia was indignant. “She brought it upon herself.”
“Oh my!” Rachel groaned in dramatic sympathy. “The miles must be torture. I never could have made that journey when I carried my oldest. Oh the sickness I suffered!” She stood and made her way to the stove.
Lydia rolled her eyes behind Rachel’s back.
“What is Joe thinking taking her that far?” Joanna added.
“It’s not like he had a choice,” replied Rachel, looking in the oven to find the source of the smell.
“That much is true, very true,” said Ruth, gaining nods from the others.
“What an extraordinary challah! Are those apples?” said Rachel happily, closing the oven. “You’ll have to tell me your secret, Sarah.”
“I’ll take my secret to the grave,” Sarah offered a smug smile.
“Certainly he had a choice!” Lydia said boldly, tapping her finger on the table with authority. “He should have left that unfaithful, pregnant whore behind.”
The ladies gasped.
“Lydia, please!” Sarah corrected. “Such a strong word.”
“He did not owe her a thing,” Lydia continued, wagging her finger in the air. “He should have left. He’s torturing himself and bringing shame on the family. No one approves of the marriage. No one.”
“She’ll do it again,” added Vera, searching the plate of cookies for her favorites. “Those kind always do and the child isn’t his so why should he ruin his life? He’s a fool.”
“I’ll not have them in my home, I’ll clarify that right now!” Ruth declared. “At their wedding she’ll have to find someone to hold the baby. It most certainly will not be me!”
“You won’t catch me anywhere near that wedding,” said Lydia.
“Perhaps she was taken against her will.” Sarah took the challah out of the oven.
“Ha!” Lydia shook her head. “I’ve heard nothing mentioned of such a situation. She’s just lucky she didn’t get caught in the act.”
“Do you think the child is Joe’s and he just made up a story?” Rachel asked again.
“Why would he do that?” Vera asked, mocking Rachel’s question. “If he was trying to clear his name he would have left her.”
“As he should have!” Ruth declared.
“Joe is a good man,” said Lydia. “He never misses services, he prays three times a day, he gives to the poor and he observes all the laws.” Lydia tapped her points out on each finger. “He’s devout. She’s the problem.”
“The young these days. They have no self restraint,” added Ruth. “Rumor has it that she can’t even cook!”
“When would she learn to cook?” Lydia waved her hands at Ruth as if to push her words away. “Lovers take a great deal of time.”
Vera and Ruth chuckled at Lydia’s comment.
Joanna tried unsuccessfully to cover her distaste at the conversation by standing to get hot tea from the pot on the stove as Sarah served the challah.
“She used to be such an example,” said Vera. “Other young women looked up to her and now she’s leading the way for harlotry,” said Vera. “And Joe isn’t a real man if he lets her walk over him like that.”
Sarah served the hot challah to the ladies in small pieces.
“I’ve seen her make eyes at men,” said Ruth. “Her affairs are no surprise to me.”
“I think you’re just jealous that Joe picked her instead of you.” Joanna sat back down with her fresh cup of tea.
The ladies chuckled – all but Ruth.
“You make light of a serious situation,” said Ruth. “Now that I know how foolish and irrational he can be I would certainly never even return his greeting if I passed him on the road!”
“Sarah, I cannot believe it!” Rachel spoke with her mouth full. “You’ve put hard drink in this challah!”
Sarah dismissed the comment with the wave of a hand.
“What is he planning to do? Just raise the child as his own?” asked Vera. “What of the real father? The real father could try to interfere.”
“If it’s a boy, Joe will be handing down his inheritance to another man’s son.” Lydia raised her eyebrows as she took a sip of tea.
The ladies murmured.
“What of their future children?” Rachel asked. “Certainly there is bound to be some animosity if the oldest receives an inheritance ahead of true sons.”
“Thankless, thoughtless whore.” Vera was visibly angered.
“Vera! That word!” Sarah shook her head.
“She’s more than a whore,” added Lydia. “She’s crazy.”
“She’s not crazy,” Joanna said, shaking her head at all the women and their gossip.
“Certainly she is. Haven’t you heard who she says the father is?” Lydia leaned over the table to spill her secret to eager ears.
“She admitted to the impropriety?” Vera gasped. “Why have you not said something before now?”
All the women began to speak at once and Lydia clapped her hands and held them out to calm the ladies. The room fell silent, waiting for the new bit of news.
“Well, who is it, Lydia?” said Sarah. “Is it a teacher?”
“Or a city leader?” Ruth added.
Rachel rolled her eyes. “For goodness sake, Lydia! Don’t leave us in such tension!”
“Are you ready for this?” Lydia said, chuckling to herself. “According to her, the father of the child is none other than… God.”