What follows is a piece inspired by the prompt over at Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. The key elements were the photo below, the opening sentence/phrase and no more than 200 words.
A Woman’s Worth – 197 words
“I know it’s only been three weeks, but I want to go home,” one of the new mill girls said when I found her gazing out of the window. The first month was always the hardest.
“You signed a contract for a year,” I told her, but my stomach twinged. She looked about the same age as my ten-year-old sister, Sarah, the only one of us girls still at home. The mills were hiring girls younger and younger these days.
She stared outside, the whirring of the factory behind her. “My mama needs me on the farm.”
I’d heard so many new girls say the same thing over the years. “Your family needs your pay more than you,” I told her, “otherwise they wouldn’t send you here.” It sounded cruel, but the truth helped them settle in faster.
The girl’s eyes flashed in my direction, anger then betrayal and finally resignation. Her body sagged under her surrender.
I held out my hand. It was all I had to offer. “Let’s get you back to your machine before the supervisor notices you’re missing.”
She glanced out of the window once more and then took my hand.
I find this little part of American history fascinating. For more on the Lowell Mill girls, The National Park Service has a great site: Lowell National Historical Park