By Eliza Bowen-Smyth
Her chaperone is guileful and audacious. Mathilde will tolerate him; she is fearless, clement.
(And, perhaps, prefers a guard over a cage.)
Water sparkles. Rushes curtsy. Teals glide, heedless, on the lake. Barthélemy has his bird—a handsome thing, she will admit.
Storm-grey, the jerkin waits.
The flush is fast: one pretty little dabbler whirls free. The jerkin follows, climbs, crosses on the wing, and stoops. He foots his quarry like a peregrine—talons vice around its throat. A desultory struggle; then his dagger does its work.
“Marvellous,” says Barthélemy. The waterbird falls limp. “And I’m inspired. Henceforth, you are Teal.”
He slips his ungloved hand around her waist and laughs. She will not laugh with him—this saucy reprobate—but she is drunk on fresh air, freedom, falconer’s rush; she lets him linger at her side. His arm is warm against her.
The flush is gradual and sure.
Eliza Bowen-Smyth is a linguist, sentimentalist and inveterate bullduster. She repudiates prescriptivism and enjoys compiling several-days-long playlists for fictional characters. She lives in Australia with her author wife and their two pets.