The woodsman stared at the red velvet heart that rested in his tin palm. He hadn’t thought of himself as Nick Chopper for a long time. He wondered if he really wanted that name back–if he even wanted the life he’d been working to win back for so long.
But he’d gone through with the hardest part already. He’d asked the wizard for a heart, so he should be able to love Nimmie Amee again.
He couldn’t even remember her face. Even now, with his new heart, the only emotions that memories of her stirred were of loss and loneliness.
He curled his fingers around the heart. The feelings would come back when he saw her again, and her cottage was just ahead.
Thunder rumbled overhead, and he scowled. If he let his doubts hold him back much longer, the rain would come and rust him solid.
The cottage looked just like he remembered it, except for the man standing outside. He had one tin arm, but the rest of him was flesh. The woodsman didn’t recognize his face, but his limbs looked oddly familiar.
The woodsman stifled a sigh of relief. She was gone. He wouldn’t have to face his past after all.
A woman emerged from the cottage and kissed the stranger’s cheek. She was beautiful, with long dark hair, delicate features, and bright green eyes. The feelings that the woodsman felt when he saw Nimmie Amee’s face were not the tender ones that he had been hoping for.
His fist tightened around the handle of his axe as he stared at the stranger–the thief. As jealousy and anger surged through him, he realized why the stranger’s limbs were familiar. Before his flesh body had been replaced with tin, one of those mismatched legs had been his, and so had the single arm. And Nimmie Amee was his fiancée.
He roared with rage and charged toward the stranger. He cleaved his old arm off of the abomination with a single swing. The stranger fell back and raised his metal arm to defend himself.
"Nick!" Nimmie Amee shouted. She pushed herself between them, and he barely stopped his second swing from cutting her in half. "Stop! Please don’t hurt my husband!"
Thunder rumbled overhead, and the woodsman froze. "Your husband?" His voice sounded rusty and far away in his ears. "How can you be married to this thing? How did he get my–my parts?"
"It’s a long story. Does it really matter?" Nimmie Amee looked up at him. Her eyes were filled with tears.
The woodsman studied her face. Her dark hair was going gray at the temples, and wrinkles marred her heart-shaped face. The girl that he’d loved didn’t exist anymore.
Neither did the man that he’d been when he’d loved her. He thought of all of the things he’d suffered to win back his heart so that he could be with her again. She’d never deserved that sort of devotion. "No. It doesn’t matter."
He drew back his axe and cut her head off in one clean swing. Blood spurted as her body fell, and he felt the hot liquid start to settle in his joints. He buried his axe in the stranger’s chest and left it there. He wouldn’t be needing it again.
He ripped his velvet heart in half and the sawdust stuffing ran through his fingers and drifted down into the pools of blood.
The rain pounded down in torrents, and the water washed away the blood. The woodsman felt his joints starting to rust, but he didn’t move.
It didn’t matter.