Turtle Doves, French Hens, and Colly Birds
The curtain fluttered briefly before Magritte opened the door. "Why, Monsieur 'Andover, please come in. What do I owe this pleasure?"
Picking up the birdcage, he entered quickly. A slight chill filled the room, and he noticed just a few coals in the bucket. Perhaps he should've brought her that instead of birds. A ruddy blushed tinged his cheeks as he offered up his gifts. "I wanted to wish you a happy Christmas, Magritte."
Her eyes brightened while she set the birdcage upon the oak table and placed the hen upon the floor. It instantly began to peck at the boards, and the colly bird, shaking its shiny ebony feathers, chirped pleasantly from its cage. Wrapping the threadbare shawl around thin shoulders, she said, "Oh, Mr. 'Andover, you shouldn't 'ave!"
He smiled shyly. "I remembered you saying how much you loved Christmas when you were a little girl in France. I know it is the first year without John, and I wanted you to have something to look forward to."
"I can't believe you remembered that! It is so kind." Pressing her gloved hand to her heart, her lips quirked upwards. She then shook her head. "Where are my manners! Please, sit and stay a spell."
"Thank you, Magritte." Taking off his hat, he sat in a rickety wooden chair. He ran his fingers through his salt-n-pepper hair and couldn't help but notice a few silver strands in her lush dark curls. Magritte had stolen his heart, but she didn't know it. It was improper of him to think about his former servant's wife so.
Sitting down as well, she pinched off a morsel of bread and fed both the colly bird and the French hen. "I used to love the birds in France. We 'ad an aviary for a while, and I remembered the gentle "turr" of the turtle doves as well and fresh eggs every morn."
"Have you considered returning to France?" Although he wanted her to be happy, his heart paused at the thought of her leaving.
She shook her head. "No, England is my 'ome now. I'd love to see one of those doves, though. It's too cold now for them on these moors."
Regret seeped into his bones. He should've thought of turtle doves too. Where would one find them? A park perhaps.
"Oh, forgive me again, sir. I should've made some tea." She stood, but he halted her with his hand.
"Please, don't trouble yourself with it." He desired her company like a dying man desires one more second, but if he stayed any longer, he would cross all proper boundaries. Standing, he put his hat back on. "If you need anything, Magritte, please let me know."
"Merci, Monsieur 'Andover. You've already been too kind." She followed to the door, and the wind snatched at her hair. She gasped and pointed toward a lone, spindly tree set against the unforgiving moorland. "Look! Turtle doves."
A light "turr, turr" sound fluttered to them. The turtle doves nestled together on the branch like lovers before leaping in the air and flying away. George felt a great sense of loss until Magritte's hand lightly touched his arm.