Sitting at his workbench, Valentin is trying to modify a pump valve, his hands fumbling with the machinery as if he had forgotten what it was for. He is desperate to lose himself in his work, but his mind keeps wandering to a lovely face. ‘The very idea is ridiculous. I am too old for her.’

The metal parts in his hands felt like strangers, despite having fitted valves to piston’s dozens of times. No matter how Valentin turned the pieces, they would just not fit correctly. This was made all the worse by his increasing inattention. ‘If I were to marry Sophie, Camille would be at peace. Juliene might be safe. I might. No, I cannot ask that of her.’ With a shake of his head Valentin forces himself to pay attention to the task at hand. To the reliability of metal fitting with Metal.

Valentin takes out a file, and shaves a small amount of metal off of the recalcitrant piston. He goes back to trying to jam it back into place, despite the fit still not being quite right. ‘She is everything I could want in a wife. A brilliant mind. Possibly the most compassionate woman I know. She loves knowledge and learning as much as I do. She is beautiful. And she has so many books. I could easily’

Valentin’s inattention causes his hand to slip, throwing him forward. He lets out a gasp of pain as his arm slams into the edge of a nearby metal plate. Looking down he sees the cloth of his shirt has been sliced open, and below that his arm.

“Merde” he mutters under his breath, watching the blood start to stain the white cloth. Crossing the workshop he grab an old piece of mostly clean linen and presses it against his arm. Gritting his teeth, Valentin presses the gashed arm against a work bench while he ties the bandage with his other hand. ‘I don’t need to be happy. I have my work. And I have Julienne to watch over. That is enough.’

Valentin lowers himself into an old chair as he waits for the throbbing in his arm to go away and the sweat to dry on his forehead. Now he has no familiar distraction to pull him away from the thoughts run through his mind. ‘I could be happy with her. But she deserves better than me. Sophie gives so much to Luisant; she has a right to ask for her own happiness.’

Sinking deeper into the chair. Valentin closes his eyes and fights off the pain. After a long time he rises and goes back to work.

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